DayBreaks for 3/15/19 – Perfect Love

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DayBreaks for 3/15/19: Perfect Love

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2009:

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  –  1 John 4:16-18 (NIV)

I think that this passage says more about love than I’ve ever realized or appreciated.  It starts out talking about how we know and rely on God’s love for us, followed by John’s short but simple declaration: God is love.  Isn’t that wonderful news?  What if it had not been so?  What if all John could say about God was something like, “God is anger” or “God is unstable” or “God is vindictive.”  Thank goodness that God is not those things, but that primarily over and above anything else, He is love. 

Secondly, if we live in love, God lives in us.  That suggests, as I wrote about a week ago, that without God we cannot love at all.  He first loved us…and when we live in that knowledge and awareness, then we can love – but not before.  Love is made complete in us (nothing lacking) so we can have confidence that when the judgment rolls around, we have nothing to fear. 

But then comes the point I want to look at today.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  If you are like me, you’ve probably taken this verse about perfect love casting out fear and berated yourself because you fear of God.  First, let me say that it is not such a bad thing to have a healthy respect/fear of God – Jesus in fact told us to fear the one (God) who can cast both body and soul into hell.  Fear, it seems, is not an unwarranted response to the immensity of God’s power. 

That being said, perfect love casts out fear, taking away our fear of punishment in the judgment.  I’ve asked myself over and over many times, why do I remain fearful of God?  Partly it is because I know my sins, and as David put it, they are “ever before me.”  No matter how hard I try to pretend, they are real and they are very, very many.  Partly it is because my love for God is not yet perfected – so my love is not “perfect”, it has holes in it – largely because all human loves have always carried pain with them and we have to protect ourselves from being hurt too badly and too deeply. 

But, as I thought about this passage, I think I’ve got another point of view on it, too.  What love is perfect, or maybe a better way to put it would be “Whose love is perfect?”  Certainly not mine or yours.  There is nothing about us that is perfect or complete.  Only God’s love is perfect.  This phrase “perfect love drives out fear” may be talking more about God’s love for me than of my love for Him.  His love is the only perfect love.  His love drives out the fear that comes from impending and fearful punishment.  It is, as John said, God who lives in us. 

I need to apprehend the love of God more in order to drive out the fear that sometimes invades my soul.  My own love will never be perfect enough to drive it away, but His can…and will.

Prayer:  Amazing love, how can it be, that You my Lord should die for me!  May we apprehend the perfect love You have for us as our Father that will drive away our fear!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

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Daybreaks for 3/12/19 – When the Light Dawns

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DayBreaks for 3/12/19: When the Light Dawns

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2009:

You know how you feel when you re-read a certain passage of Scripture and discover in it a thought that you’d never seen before?  That happened to me as I prepared recently for a sermon on God’s love.  I’ve been preaching a series on the nature of God – trying to understand and know Him better so that we can rest confidently and with peace in Who He Is and what we are to him.  Unless we can rest in assurance that God is every bit as good as His word and unlike people who flip-flop daily, we will never be willing to risk much for a God who is flaky and unreliable.  Why should we?  He might fail us when we need Him most, or He may decide to change the rules of the “game” of life capriciously and viciously.  He is, after all, under no obligation to tell us if He did such a thing.  So, if He’s not trustworthy in Who He Is and what He does, we’re in a world of trouble if we risk anything on or for him.  When I came to the section on dealing with God’s love, I read 1 John 4:19 again (for probably the hundredth time or more) but saw something new in it this time.  You’ve gotta love how the Spirit works!!!

Where does love come from?  1 John 4:19 tells us: We love because He first loved us.  Whenever I’d read this verse previously, I automatically assumed that it was taking about us loving God in response because He loved us first – sort of a cause and effect thing like “Every action demands and equal and opposite reaction.”  But let me encourage us to look more closely at what this verse says.  It doesn’t say that we love God because it’s a response to His love towards us.  It simply says, “We love because He first loved us.”  Was John perhaps telling us something about from where love springs?  Why do we love AT ALL?  Because He loved us first – in the beginning – at the very start of our existence.  Was John trying to tell us that God put the hunger and our need for love within us along with the very image of God Himself?  Maybe you’ve heard the arguments for God’s existence that run along these lines: we have no way to explain the idea of good and evil without there being a Source of good in the universe and a source(s) of evil.  But, because there is good – there must be a God.  I’ll grant you that it’s not the strongest argument for God’s existence, but it is a valid one, I think. 

In a similar vein, I think John was trying to tell us that His love is what awakens love in us at all – otherwise, we’d know nothing of love, period.  Love wouldn’t exist at all in the absence of God.  The lovesickness that often pervades our hearts is there because we are haunted by the memory of God’s love that was put into our souls when He created us.  This love isn’t just mushy sentiment.  It is the kind of love the Father to the prodigal son showed when he hitched up his robes, cast aside his own dignity and ran to meet the returning prodigal. 

Have you ever considered yourself in the story of the prodigal?  Who is it that runs to greet you?  Is it not Christ, risen, yet bearing the scars in his hands and feet and on his back from the scourging and his head from the crown of thorns?  Is it not this Christ who has hitched up his robes and comes running to meet you while you are yet far away?

I love it when the Light of the Word dawns on us!

Prayer:  The mysteries and depth of Your Word is astounding!  We rejoice in the truths You show us about the reality of the world in which we live and the truth about the universe You have created!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 3/8/19 – The Heart of the Scandal

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DayBreaks for 3/08/19: The Heart of the Scandal

From the DayBreaks archive March 2009:

Why was Jesus such a stumbling block to the Jews?  Why is he such a hurdle for modern man to overcome and welcome?  There probably are as many excuses (and perhaps reasons) as there are folks who refuse to accept him – then, or now.  I can think of several reasons:

FIRST: no one wants to be told they have to die to themselves.  After all, haven’t we been raised with the encouragement to “follow your own heart”?  And doesn’t that seem like good advice?  “Be true to yourself.”  But….this is not biblical advice AT ALL!  The heart is “desperately wicked”, Scripture says.  Why follow it?  If anything, we need to lead our hearts to the cross over and over and there kneel down in the dirt realizing that our most righteous acts smell like dirty, rotten, filthy socks or underwear (“rags” as Scripture puts it.)  To follow our hearts will get us in trouble every time.  Jesus said we need to die to ourselves – we don’t want to do that.

SECOND: Jesus says our focus should be on things above – and our concern should be for the coming and completion of the kingdom of God.  Again, this takes the focus off of us.

THIRD: while we aren’t saved by obedience, Jesus made it clear that God cares about holiness.  Sadly, too many of us care more about our own “fun” – which usually means we are doing things which may be unholy that are momentarily fun but which are unholy and deadly in the long run.

FOURTH: here’s the point I really want to make about why Jesus is hard for many to accept.  Do you recall the 1996 song by Joan Osborne titled, “What If God Were One of Us?”  There were those who found the song sacrilegious, and I can understand that.  But that is the very same reason that so many rejected Jesus in his life – including friends and family members – they felt he was sacrilegious when he claimed to be God – “like one of us.”  Phillip Yancey said, “By any measure Jesus led a tragic life: rumors of illegitimacy, taunts of insanity from his family, rejection by most who heard him, betrayal by friends, the savage turn of a mob against him, a series of justice-mocking trials, execution in a form reserved for slaves and violent criminals.  A pitiful story, to be sure, and that is the heart of the scandal: we do not expect to pity God.”

That the Messiah would suffer and die was never in the Jewish psyche.  The Messiah, they thought, would never do those things.  They couldn’t live with a Messiah who would suffer and die – so they killed him to be sure.  And we can’t live without such a Savior. 

Prayer: Who would have believed our report, that the Son of God should suffer and die for sinners!  Father God, Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit – thank you for this wonder and mystery of your love for us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 3/01/19 – Unwanted

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DayBreaks for 3/01/19: Unwanted

From the DayBreaks archive February 2009:

John 1:10-11 (KJV) – He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

How, I wonder, could Jesus come to his own, God’s chosen people Israel, and they not know or recognize him?  They had been prepared by God Himself throughout thousands of years for the Messiah.  They expected him to come – but tragically, they didn’t see him as anything except a carpenter from Nazareth, a child born out of wedlock, trained in a trade by Joseph.

A widow had children who left her one by one to go to the “new country” (as she called it.)  As they made their tearful farewells, she heard each of them promise her that they’d save money and that they would send for her “very soon.”  Time passed; the children married and had children of their own, but no mention ever came in a letter suggesting they were ready to send for their aging mother.  She deeply longed to see them, but thinking they lacked the means to bring her to the “new country”, she scrimped and saved up enough money to afford on her own to pay them a surprise visit.  She anticipated a joyful reunion with her children and she longed to see them and to meet her grandchildren. Upon arriving her reception was the reverse of what she had hoped and longed for.  Her children had indeed prospered, but seemed annoyed at the surprise visit, and they belittled her old-fashioned clothing and way of speaking.  They had no room for her in their hearts.  The disappointed woman returned home and took up residence in a home for the elderly, where she proved to be a blessing to all about her, pouring out the vast flood of love that her own children had rejected.  She wasn’t bitter.  “It seems to me that I knew what our Lord suffered,” she told a friend, “when He came to His own dear people and they gave Him the cold shoulder.  Just think!  He came unto His own and His own received Him not!  I can understand how that wounded His loving heart.”

Perhaps the Jews failure wasn’t so much that they didn’t recognize Jesus, but that they had no room left in their hearts for this lover of their souls. 

I think we’d best not be too hard on the Jews, however.  How many times have I not found room in my heart for Him when He comes calling?  How many times have I been ashamed or afraid to let people know where I stand, and Who I stand with? 

Jesus loves us.  He came to be with us.  Will we send Him back home alone – and unwanted?

Prayer: Jesus, don’t give up on us!  Keep knocking at the doorway to our hearts.  Transform our hard hearts into hearts that rejoice to see You when You arrive!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 2/14/19 – I AM #3: The Good Shepherd

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DayBreaks for 2/14/2019: I AM #4: The Good Shepherd

John 10:11 (ESV) I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

We’ve all seen people who obviously work just because they want the money. Their attitude, effort and words make clear that they will do as little as they can to avoid being fired and they’re happy as long as their check shows up.

The Good Shepherd is quite the opposite. He’s no hireling. He is deeply invested in each lamb in his flock. He bought them and paid for them, perhaps watched each one being born and rejoiced to see them join “his family”. This is how the Good Shepherd feels about his sheep!

Being absolutely responsible for the welfare of the sheep, in ancient times, if anything happened to the sheep that were in his care, the shepherd was required to show proof that it was not his fault. In Amos, the shepherd was even required to bring a piece of a leg or an ear from the very mouth of the lion or wolf if necessary as proof of the reason for the loss.

The shepherd was sent out among the flock just as soon as he was old enough to go and the animals became his companions and yes, even friends.

Here’s the big difference between the shepherd and the hireling: the shepherd served because of his love for the flock in his care while the hireling only wanted money. Jesus called us his friends and wasn’t just willing to lay down his life for the poor flock in his care, but actually did lay it down. And that’s why he’s not just a good shepherd, he is THE Good Shepherd.

PRAYER: Thank you, Jesus, for shepherding us with love and rejoicing over each one of us! In your name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 1/28/19 – Neon Promises

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DayBreaks for 01/28/2019: Neon Promises

Have you ever really noticed how many neon signs there are in your town? Have you paid attention to what they claim and what they try to sell you?

I recently was listening to an old rock song by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band called Fire Inside. It contains these lyrics:

There’s a hard moon risin’ on the streets tonight

There’s a reckless feeling in your heart as you head out tonight,

Through the concrete canyons to the midtown light

Where the latest neon promises are burning bright…

I had never paid close attention to the lyrics before, but for some reason, the concept of neon promises struck a chord in my thoughts and spurred this DayBreaks. If you’ve been to any big (and sometimes small cities), you’ve probably seen neon signs promoting things like these: “All you can eat! $5.95!”  “Girls! Girls! Girls!” “Paradise!” “Fresh pies!” “B-B-Q!” “Cocktails and Dreams!” “Beer on tap – happy hour – $1!”

Satan is no idiot. He knows how attracted we are to beautiful, shiny, colorful and bright things. And he knows how those things draw us with promises of dreams about to be realized, hopes fulfilled, pleasures and freedom to do as your heart pleases without consequence or regret.

But, in reality, all they are is empty neon promises. They shine bright for a while but they are empty, filled with nothing more than the hot gasses contained in glowing glass tubes.

I thought about how the promises of God offer things so different than neon promises: “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  “I will remember your sins no more.” “I have come that you may have life and life overflowing.” “Come to me and I will give you rest.”

Does the different between those promises strike you as much as it does me? God’s promises relate to the deepest desires of my heart and soul rather than simply the desires of the flesh. Even if you eat all the food you want for $5.95, you’ll be hungry again tomorrow, but Jesus gives us the bread that makes it so that our souls will never again hunger.

I’ve had enough of neon promises that can’t fulfill. I hope you have, too, and that we will all recognize them for what they are: just tubes filled with glowing gas.

PRAYER: Father, than you for your promises which are real, deep and eternal. Keep us from falling prey to the neon promises of this world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 1/22/19 – The Lesson of the Maggies

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DayBreaks for 01/22/2019: The Lesson of the Maggies

From the DayBreaks archive, January 2009:

“A film made in 2002, The Magdalene Sisters, told the sad story of the “maggies” of Ireland. They got that nickname from Mary Magdalene, a revealing story in itself. The gospels mention only one fact of Mary Magdalene’s past, that Jesus had driven seven demons from her. Nevertheless, a tradition grew that Mary Magdalene must have been the same woman as the prostitute who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair. Hence when a strict order of nuns agreed to take in young women who had become pregnant out of wedlock, they labeled the fallen girls “maggies.”

“The maggies came to public attention in the 1990s when the order sold its convent, bringing to light the existence of the graves of 133 maggies who had spent their lives working as virtual slaves in the convent laundry. The media soon scouted out a dozen such “Magdalen laundries” across Ireland—the last one closed in 1996—and soon relatives and survivors were spilling accounts of the slave-labor conditions inside. Thousands of young women spent time in the laundries, some put away just for being “temptresses,” forced to work unpaid and in silence as a form of atonement for their sins. The nuns took away illegitimate children born to these women to be raised in other religious institutions.

“A public outcry erupted, and eventually campaigners raised money for a memorial, a bench in St. Stephen’s Green, a park in downtown Dublin. I determined to visit the memorial on a trip to Ireland. It was a typical gray day in Dublin, with a sharp September wind and the threat of rain in the air. I asked a policeman and a park guide about the memorial to the maggies, and they both looked at me quizzically. “Dunno that one. Sorry.”

“One by one, my wife and I examined the bronze statues and impressive fountains, mostly honoring fighters for Irish independence. Only by accident did we stumble across a modest bench beside a magnolia tree. A couple was sitting on it, but behind their backs we could see brass-colored lettering. We asked if they would mind moving aside for a moment so we could read the inscription. The plaque reads, “To the women who worked in the Magdalen laundry institutions and to the children born to some members of those communities—reflect here upon their lives.”

“Walking away from the humble memorial, I found myself reflecting not simply on their lives but also on the sharp contrast between how Jesus treated moral failures and how we his followers often do. Jesus appointed the Samaritan woman as his first missionary. He defended the woman who anointed him with expensive perfume: “Wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” And Mary Magdalene, she of the seven demons, he honored as the very first witness of the Resurrection—a testimony at first discounted by his more prestigious followers. Where we shame, he elevates.”  – Philip Yancey, Christianity Today, 5/1/2003

Prayer:  May we learn from Your grace and be imitators of Your mercy!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>