DayBreaks for 5/21/18 – Before and Now

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DayBreaks for 5/21/18: Before and Now

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2008:

Through some recent reading, I’ve been led to contemplate the importance of the human concept of our origins.  I know the Biblical concept: man was made in the very image of God.  We come from Him, we are to live for Him, and we will some day return to Him – and at that time we’ll all have to give an answer for how we lived in this world (Heb. 9:27). 

It’s quite a different story if you reject the idea of creation and of the existence of a Divine Being.  Without believing in a Divinely ordained destiny for all of creation (including mankind), you are left to believe that everything is the product of chance and mathematical probabilities.  It means that you were born for no reason other than a chance meeting of reproductive materials.  It means that your life has no teleos – no goal toward which it is moving.  It means that when you die, it’s done, period, over and out. 

Jeremiah, at one point in his life, had an encounter with God that reveals the fallacy of such thinking.  In Jeremiah 1:4-5 (NIV), he wrote these words: The word of the LORD came to me, saying,  ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’”

God told Jeremiah wonderful things: “I knew you before you were even formed in the womb.  I didn’t just know that you were going to be, but I knew YOU.”  How could it be that God knew Jeremiah even before he was conceived?  It can only be that God had plans for a particular person (Jeremiah), and that God quite literally knew him.  That was the “before” in Jeremiah’s life.  And it was through understanding that he had a “before”, and a call for the present (he was consecrated) and that there was a purpose for his life (he was given as a prophet to the nations), that Jeremiah found meaning.  It is the “before” that gives the “now” meaning.

God didn’t just know Jeremiah before he was born.  He knew all of us.  David says that God knew every day that was appointed for him to live before he was born, that every thought he’d ever have and word he’d speak was known before he literally had a single thought.  In Ephesians, the great apostle Paul says that God chose us before the foundation of the world. 

What does all this mean for you and I?  It means that there is a definite purpose for our lives and that we are not to think our lives are meaningless, directionless and without value.  It means we don’t have to scurry around trying to find, or even to create, some kind of answers to life.  Instead, we can go to God to discover the reason and truth of our existence.   

Is it any wonder that there is so much despair among those who don’t know Christ?

PRAYER: Fill us, Lord, with the confidence that comes from knowing our before and how that shapes our now and directs our future.  Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

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DayBreaks for 4/30/18 – Everyone in Hell has a Big But

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DayBreaks for 4/30/18: Every One in Hell has a Big But

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2008:     

Let’s take a closer look a favorite saying of those who know little or nothing of Scripture: “If you live a good enough life, you’ll make it to heaven.”

The following is from Greg Stier:

“After preaching in countless churches across the nation, I’m convinced that these fighting words are the biggest lie that is still being bought by millions of professing Christians. There is a mentality that “sure Jesus died for me, BUT…” As a matter of fact, I always say that “everyone in hell has got a big BUT”:

“BUT you also have to live a good life.”
“BUT you also have to obey The 10 Commandments.”
“BUT you also have to live by The Golden Rule.”
“BUT you also have to turn, try, seek, surrender…”

“The way of work and the way of grace are separate ways. If you seek to earn salvation via the way of work, you have to go the whole way. Jesus laid it out pretty clearly in the Sermon on the Mount. When Jesus begins the “You have heard…but I say unto you” list of impossible standards, I’m sure that everyone listening wilted. Those present (save Jesus himself) had unjustly been angry at their fellow man and had lusted at their fellow women. And having lusted, they were busted and unable to measure up to the ultimate standard of entrance into heaven: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48). 

“If our people dare approach Christianity as a religion, then the standard is impossibly high. To get into heaven, we have to be as good as God himself.

“Oops.

“That’s why the offering of salvation is the way of grace through faith and not by good deeds (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Those ways, according to Romans 11:6, cannot be mixed: And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

“We need to do our best to help all of our people embrace the way of grace for the salvation of their souls. What’s interesting is that, when they do, good works will flow out of grateful hearts that long to please the Father who redeemed them through grace.”

Galen’s Thoughts: Paul got on the same bandwagon with Jesus when Paul wrote Galatians to show the foolishness of trying to please God by living the Law.  Still, I think Stier is on to a real truth: I think we’ll be surprised when we get to the judgment and we start to hear many say, “But Lord, I lived a good life,” “But Lord, I’m even a better person than some of those so-called Christians,”, “But Lord, there must be some mistake,” and “But Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or naked or in prison?”

There is only “but” that will work: “I am but a sinner, clinging to the cross of Jesus.”

PRAYER:  Father, teach us not to offer You excuses, but penitent, humble hearts.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 4/25/18 – The Surprising Proclamation

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DayBreaks for 4/25/18: The Surprising Proclamation

John 4:25-26 (NIV) – The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”  Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.

The verses above are taken from the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well in Samaria.  It’s a fascinating story for a variety of reasons.  Jesus, a man, initiating a conversation with a woman.  It wasn’t supposed to happen that way – not in that age.  Jesus, a Jew, speaking to a Samaritan.  It wasn’t supposed to happen – Jews and Samaritans were supposed to hate one another.  Jesus was a rabbi, a very holy man – and this woman was, well, less than virtuous.  She had gone from one relationship to another, and was now living with a man to whom she wasn’t married.  No self-respecting rabbi would strike up such a conversation.

But Jesus wasn’t into self-respect, he was into love and sharing that love with anyone who needed it – and certainly, it would appear that this woman had perhaps mistaken many things for love in the past. 

The most amazing thing, however, about this story, was Jesus’ announcement that he was the Messiah.  As far as we know, this is the very first time that Jesus identified himself this blatantly.  He hadn’t made this kind of proclamation to even his disciples, so why this woman?

I believe he announced himself to this woman precisely because she was the kind of person who needed to know that the Messiah had come.  This woman probably had lost most of her hope for her life.  Her track record this far had not been stellar.  With the first relationship, she probably had hoped that “my life is set and I’m on track for happiness.”  But her heart had been broken.  Then came a succession of more men – and with each one, more heartbreak had come and a bit of hope had died as each relationship died.  Perhaps she wondered, deep in her heart, if there would be any hope for her at all.

And to this hurting, shame-filled, discouraged woman, the Messiah is revealed for the first time.  It was for women (and men) just like this one that Jesus had come.  And in revealing himself to her, hope and possibility were reborn.

Our sins burden us and crush us and destroy joy and hope.  Stop by the well and drink the Living Water that the Messiah gives and you will never thirst again.

PRAYER:  Lord, thank you for revealing yourself to sinners like us.  Renew our hope and open our eyes to what it means that the Messiah has come!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 4/16/18 – Can’t You See?

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DayBreaks for 4/16/18: Can’t You See?       

From the Perimeter worship bulletin (this forms an introduction to a series of sermons and DayBreaks from the book of Habakkuk that I’ll share in the coming weeks):

“Can’t you see, oh can’t you see, what that woman, she been doing’ to me? Can’t you see, can’t you see, what that woman, Lord, been doing’ to me?” – lyric from the Marshall Tucker band

It was a question the Marshall Tucker band asked in the 1970’s. Waylon Jennings asked the same question. More recently, the Zac Brown band asked it. The writer is upset because his woman left him, and did not say goodbye. He is at the point of despair. He is “…gonna take a freight train, or find a hole to craw in” because he has no relief. He is asking why the Lord can’t see his misery, or that he’s been “done wrong.”

Have you ever felt that way or asked the question, “Can’t you see, God?” I have asked the Lord that on numerous occasions. It seems funny as I write it, that I would actually ask the omniscient God if he can see. The gentle but firm reality is that he can see. I am the one who cannot see. He may not be telling me what he does see. Be assured that he sees. Sometimes in our frustration at life’s situations, we want to be all knowing and all seeing. Something has not been granted to us, and so we ask, “Can’t you see?” Underneath that question we add a corollary, “Won’t you deal with what I see?”

There is a problem with doing that. Because we don’t fully see, we may not know how to tell him the right thing to do. A word picture may help. Sit with your back to a window, then try to recall everything that is outside the window. You may be a few things correct, but birds are flying, leaves are falling, and the sun is rising. Things change and often they are in your blind spot, where you cannot notice them. God sees all, all of the time. One pastor put it this way, “We may have a point of view, but God has view!”

So, this week…we wonder if you can praise the Lord for having view, resting in the fact that he has it, he sees it, and he knows just want needs to be done. Yes, he knows “what that woman (or man) been doin’ to you”, so there is no need to take a freight train!

PRAYER: God, sometimes we think we see and understand better than you do. Keep us from this foolish way of thinking and help us learn to trust you and your vision above our own! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 4/3/18 – The Four Saddest Words

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DayBreaks for 4/03/18: The Four Saddest Words

In the 1800s, poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote one of his most quoted poems in the English language. The poem was titled, “Maud Muller.” You’ve never heard of it? Actually, not many people remember this sorrowful poem, but generations of people have quoted two famous lines from its final stanza.

“Maud Muller” is about a young maiden who, while working the fields one day, sees a handsome young Judge riding by on horseback. She offers him a drink of cool water. Their encounter lasts only a few moments, but it makes a deep impression on both of them. Maud is greatly attracted to the Judge, and she dreams of marrying someone of his gentleness and integrity. She could leave the fields behind and live as the wife of a wealthy and powerful man.

At the same time, the Judge is attracted to Maud. He is tired of his career, and he dreams of marrying a warm, compassionate woman like Maud and settling into a simpler life in the country. But neither Maud nor the Judge acknowledges their attraction to one another. They are from different social classes—they cannot risk breaking the bonds of social conformity.

Maud later marries a man who brings her much pain and hardship. The Judge also enters into a loveless marriage. In the final stanza of the poem, Whittier offers us this warning: “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!'”

What are the “might have been’s” in your life? Recall King Agrippa, who said he was “almost” persuaded to become a Christian? There is no evidence he ever did. When he died and stood before God, he may have considered what might have been.

Have you held off from sharing the good news with someone? Or of giving a kind word and a helping hand to someone in need?

We never know what might have been if we only took that small step in faith and obedience.

PRAYER: Lord, help us to live in such a way that our “might have been’s” are few and far between. Instead, let us live boldly in your service, serving your children. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 4/02/18 – The King has One More Move

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DayBreaks for 4/02/18: The King has One More Move

A man was touring the Louvre with his friend who happened to be a chess grand master. They moved along the corridors and rooms admiring the many great paintings and works of art that were on display.

As they came to one particular painting of two people playing chess, titled “Checkmate”, the grand master paused and began looking in depth at the painting. It seemed that moment by moment he became more and more immersed in the work. His companion watched for a while, but eventually grew impatient and suggested that they move on to see more works of art, but the grand master wouldn’t budge. After quite some more time had passed, the grand master asked if he knew if the painter were still alive. His friend replied that he didn’t know. The grand master replied, “We must find the painter. They must either change the painting or change the title. You see, the king has one more move.”

And so it is that Easter 2018 is now truly past and we must move on. We quickly forget the wonder of the Resurrection, of the emotions of holy week, and get absorbed in our everyday lives. We will watch or listen to the news and hear stories that are discouraging, depressing, and yes, even terrifying. The joy of Easter Sunday yields quickly to the fears of Good Friday and the darkness of Saturday, and we start quickly to lose hope and joy.

I hope that this year, whenever you start to lose hope, to get discouraged, to be terrified, when joy begins to fade, that as you face the events of your day that you will remind yourself that the King has one more move. Nothing will stop Him from making that move for he is not just the King, but He is Almighty God and His will prevails. He rules the nations with a rod of iron.

When He makes what is truly the final move, the victorious last move, that “Easter” morning will never turn into another burdened Monday but it will last forever.

Remember: the King has one more move!

PRAYER: Jesus, we have rightly celebrated your glorious resurrection. Now we face Monday – a Monday like all the others where we will be challenged on every hand. We will be prone to disillusionment and even despair. We may even think the game is over and all is lost. Remind us, every day, every moment, that You have one more move! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

(For more on the Checkmate painting, see here.)

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 11/15/17 – Disappointments

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DayBreaks for 11/15/17: Disappointments

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2007:

From The Culture Shift, Robert Lewis and Wayne Cordeiro, 2005: 

“The great missionary explorer, David Livingstone, served in Africa from 1840 until his death in 1873.  Pastors Robert Lewis and Wayne Cordeiro tell of an incident from Livingstone’s life that illustrates why we need to be thankful in all things.

“David Livingstone was eager to travel into the uncharted lands of Central Africa to preach the gospel. On one occasion, the famous nineteenth-century missionary and explorer arrived at the edge of a large territory that was ruled by a tribal chieftain. According to tradition, the chief would come out to meet him there; Livingstone could go forward only after an exchange was made. The chief would choose any item of Livingstone’s personal property that caught his fancy and keep it for himself, while giving the missionary something of his own in return.

“Livingstone had few possessions with him, but at their encounter he obediently spread them all out on the ground—his clothes, his books, his watch, and even the goat that provided him with milk (since chronic stomach problems kept him from drinking the local water). To his dismay, the chief took this goat. In return, the chief gave him a carved stick, shaped like a walking stick.

“Livingstone was most disappointed. He began to gripe to God about what he viewed as a stupid walking cane. What could it do for him compared to the goat that kept him well? Then one of the local men explained, “That’s not a walking cane. It’s the king’s very own scepter, and with it you will find entrance to every village in our country. The king has honored you greatly.”

“The man was right. God opened Central Africa to Livingstone, and as successive evangelists followed him wave after wave of conversions occurred.  Sometimes, in our disappointment over what we don’t have, we fail to appreciate the significance of what God has given us.”

Disappointments are a dime-a-dozen.  I just finished teaching the story of Joseph in one of our Bible studies.  The thing that struck me about Joseph is that he had plenty of opportunity to be disappointed and discouraged at many of the things that had happened to him.  The jealousy of his own brothers seemingly knew no bounds.  He was thrown into a pit, presumably to be left for dead, but wound up being sold by his own blood into a life of slavery.  He went to prison after being falsely accused.  He was forgotten by someone he’d helped who could have gotten him out of prison.  He lived with the pressure of answering to the most powerful man in the world, and lived with the risk of failing in his mission to save the lives of the Egyptian people if his plan went awry.  He lived with the frustration of not knowing how his father and brothers were doing – or if they were even alive – for they were alienated by affection and distance.  He had plenty of opportunity to be disappointed in how his life had gone. 

Why didn’t Joseph get discouraged?  Because he knew he didn’t really answer to the most powerful man in the world – he answered to God, the very God who orchestrated all the events of his life.  I’m so impressed with his attitude in Genesis 45, realizing that God had led him through all those things for His purposes. 

If you are living a life of frustration and disappointment, I believe it is because we don’t see God’s hand in everything – turning evil to good for us – and we blame others for bad things, or even ourselves.  And seeing God’s overarching guidance and direction relieves us from the necessity of revenge, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc., as we learn to trust Him and to realize that the things that others may mean for our own harm, will instead turn out to our benefit.  

Are you disappointed with something that’s been taken from you or given to you?  Don’t judge too quickly – God has already given you His scepter to give you admittance to His home!

PRAYER: May we trust in You fully, and in Your goodness to us, even in the face of great evil.  Help us to not be disappointed with the lot in life that You may have charted out for us, but to see all of our lives as opportunities to know and experience Your leading.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.