DayBreaks for 5/19/17 – The Truth About Dead People

DayBreaks for 5/19/17: The Truth About Dead People

Colossians 2:13 (NLT) – You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.

No matter how many sermons you might hear, no matter how many books about God’s grace that you might have read or may read in the future, we keep coming back to a concept that we have to be “good” in order to get into heaven.

Every time we fall into our “sin trap” – that sin that plagues you year after year – we begin to despair and think that surely, we’ve exhausted the grace of God and benefits of Christ’s blood. I understand that way of thinking perhaps better than most because I was raised thinking that if you committed a sin and didn’t get a chance to ask for forgiveness before you were struck by lightning and killed, then you probably wouldn’t go to heaven. Guilt was huge in my early years of faith.

I invite you, though, to look at the passage today. Read it carefully. Let it sink in. See if you really grasp what it is saying.

Here’s the key: we all have read how we were dead in our sins. That’s not hard for any person of faith to understand. But think about the implications of that statement. Here’s the question: how much can a dead person do? Uh, nothing, right? We could do nothing to make ourselves “alive”…it was an act of God that made us alive with Christ because he forgave not some, but ALL our sins. Past, present, future. Period.

Dead people can do nothing. We are TOTALLY dependent on God for our “life” – for our salvation. Isn’t it great to know that it isn’t dependent on us and how “good” we are!

But can we trust Him? If we can’t trust this Father, who can we trust? And remember Jesus statement that he will not lose even a single one that the Father has given him (made alive) (John 18:9) and that no one can snatch people out of the Father’s hand – not even me.

PRAYER: Thank you for these great assurances, and for the power of Your Word to hold us firm and safe. Thank you for making us alive in Christ! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/18/17 – Courageous Faith

DayBreaks for 5/18/17: Courageous Faith

John 12:42-43 (ESV) – Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

Who doesn’t love glory? Who doesn’t love to receive praise and recognition and, yes, honor? On our birthdays we pretend to not care that we’re the center of attention, but we are inwardly pleased to be recognized as having achieved yet another milestone (especially as we get older and the milestones become more significant!) But this is entirely different. Though many leaders of the Jews believed in Jesus (how could they not given all he’d done and how he taught?), they didn’t confess him.

When I read today’s passage, my heart and mind instantly jump into judgement mode: “Shame on them! What cowards!” And to make it worse, I then jump almost instantly to boastful mode, “I wouldn’t have done that! I’d have boldly proclaimed my belief in Jesus – no matter the cost!” But would I really?

We don’t know who these “authorities” were who believed, though we might surmise Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were among them. But there were others, for John says there were “many” who believed in Jesus. To be a Jewish authority, you HAD to be part of the synagogue, part of the heart and soul of the nation’s faith and religion. To proclaim faith in Jesus would have been religious, social, political and even economic suicide to these men – and those who depended on them. When I think of it in that light and think about my own insecurities about my livelihood and finances, I find myself less than certain that I would have stood up to be counted as a follower of Christ.

It is lessons like this that put my weak faith into perspective. In spite of how I might try to honor my own faith by thinking how great or strong it is, if I insert myself into the shoes of those “many” authorities, I realize how weak my faith may truly be. Are you ready to take a stand for your faith in Jesus if it means the loss of your job, your reputation, your income – perhaps even your ability to ever find and hold work again? That’s what was at stake for these men. That doesn’t mean that they made the right choice – but this lesson in human frailty is sobering to me.

One other thing makes it easier to seek the praise of men rather than God. The praise of this world is immediately accessible as long as I do what the world wants me to do and think. God’s praise is primarily held in reserve for the day I stand before His throne. But His approval is the only approval that will endure and that will matter on that day. He won’t give me approval for following the ways of the society and world, but He will give me approval for even my weak faith in Jesus – and that will make all the difference.  

PRAYER: How we need greater, fearless faith, Jesus! Give us bold hearts and the vision necessary to see that it is only the praise of the Father than matters – and then to live courageous faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/16/17 – Drinking With No Complaining

DayBreaks for 5/16/17: Drinking With No Complaining

John 18:10-11 –Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Jesus’ acceptance of the Father’s will for him should be a lesson to us.  He was equally Divine with God, not inferior in any way, yet he submitted himself to the Father’s will without question.  Jesus resolved to drink the cup that the Father had given him to drink – and he would drink it to the very dregs, even as he poured out the cup of his life’s blood to the bitter end. 

How do we respond to the cup that the Father has given us to drink?  We can fight against it, telling Him that he’s asking too much of us, that it’s not fair, that there must be a better way, but in the end drink it through the filter of faith. We can not drink it at all and live our life in rebellion, filling our mouths and bellies with the drink of our own choosing or we can drink it as Jesus did – realizing that it is our sworn duty to obey the One who is the Lord over our very life, who could, if He so chose, un-make us at any moment. 

What is the cup that the Father has given you?  A difficult job, a difficult relationship, difficult children, a parent with Alzheimer’s, a failed career, the lack of a job, a physical problem or handicap, emotional troubles?  Why does God put such things in our lives?  He put the cup in Christ’s life not for his own sake, but for ours.  We think it’s all about us, but very, very little of it is about us and what we want.  It’s about God and about others.  Loving God means more than feeling good about Him – Jesus said several times in John that loving him will result in obedience to him.  It can’t be said any more clearly than Jesus has said it.  Sometimes that obedience will lead to a cross, sometimes to an empty tomb, eventually to an eternal home with our Lord.  And loving others as we love ourselves (let’s face it, even though we may at times be frustrated by our weaknesses and failings, we’re pretty fond of ourselves or we wouldn’t still be here) often involves drinking a cup that we’d rather not drink – for we don’t like everyone, we don’t love everyone and we would rather let them alone.  But that isn’t the cup that God passes to us – he puts people and situations in our lives sometimes for our benefit, sometimes for the benefit of others  – but more often than not, those things are to enable us to learn and grow with little or no visible benefit to ourselves.

I need to identify the cup that God has put in front of me – and to realize that it may vary from day to day – but that the overarching cup that He has asked us to take is to pour ourselves out for others, even as Christ was preparing to pour Himself out for us.

PRAYER: This day, Lord, let me drink the cup you’ve given me without complaining – just for once.  Let me realize that if there is struggle that has come into my life, that it is not without Your knowledge, and not without Your decree that should come to me.  Help us to learn this day from the struggles we have and to trust in You even more by the time this night rolls around.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/15/17 – Who Is It You Want?

DayBreaks for 5/15/17: Who Is It You Want?

John 18:3-5 – So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“Who is it you want?”  Jesus was always good at asking questions (still is)!  It isn’t that he didn’t know who they were coming for – he’d made it abundantly clear to his disciples that he knew exactly what was going to happen – and when – and even why.  Jesus asked questions to make those around him probe their real motives and purposes, and to make them think deeply.  His questions often make us uncomfortable – try to imagine how Judas must have felt when he first saw Jesus and Jesus asks this question.  Faced with a phalanx of armed and hostile soldiers and temple officials, calmly asks a question designed to make them contemplate what they’re doing.  It appears that they (especially the officials from the temple) didn’t recognize him – which strikes me as strange since Jesus had been in Jerusalem many times.  He’d been very open in his teaching in the temple in the past.  But they don’t seem to recognize him even though he’d been in their midst often. 

It makes me wonder how often we fail to recognize Jesus.  It was Mother Theresa who once suggested that she did what she did because when she helped the poor and dying in the steaming streets of Calcutta that in their faces she saw Jesus in a distressing disguise.  Some people see Jesus often – in acts of love, compassion, mercy – others rarely, if ever see him or recognize him. 

But as haunting as that may be, the real question is plain, and it echoes through 2000 years and it is a question that we must answer today, because Jesus asks is.  “Who is it you want?”  What a great question!  Who is it that you really want?  Do you want Jesus?  Or do you want yourself?  Or do you want your own idea of what Jesus is? 

Those who Jesus called to himself in life were called in ways that we might find shocking – almost as if Jesus really didn’t want people to come to him.  Consider the rich young ruler – who was told that he had to sell everything he owned, give it to the poor, and then come follow Jesus.  Or the man who said he had to bury his father, but was told by Jesus to “let the dead bury the dead –  you, come follow me!”  But then he’s said it to all of us, hasn’t he: Take up your cross daily and follow me.  In each case, people have to decide who it is that they really want – do we want Jesus, the real Jesus, badly enough that we’re willing to take the challenge he puts before us with this question: “Who is it  you want?”

The question is just as valid today as when Jesus asked it in the garden of Gethsemane.  They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Yes, they wanted him, but not for a good purpose.  The question that Jesus didn’t ask them was why they wanted him.  He already knew.  But we need to ask the question of ourselves again: “Why do I want Jesus?  Do I want him so he’ll make me feel better about myself?  So that he’ll give me a home in heaven when I die?  So I’ll have a friend?”  Those are all things that Jesus can, and will do for us, but they are not the reason we should want him.  We should want Jesus because in the life of Christ is embodied the kingdom of God – the RULE of God – throughout the universe but especially in the human heart.  We should want Jesus because of Who He IS, and not what he can do for us.  That’s what it means when Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind…and then our neighbors as ourselves.  God does care about your eternal destiny, but He’s operating on a much greater scale than just individual hearts and minds.  He’s operating on a cosmic scale to reconcile everything to Himself again through Christ.  And that’s why we should want to find Jesus.

How can I tell who it is that I really want?  Probably the best way is to look at what things in life that I chase after.  How much time do I spend reading the word, praying, memorizing scripture, sharing my faith, in developing a relationship with Jesus instead of reading fantasy novels, watching TV, going to the movies, playing sports, shopping?  Time is perhaps the most precious thing we have – and how we spend it very clearly says something about our priorities and what is truly important to us.  And I need to test my motives for why I want him, too.  In both these areas, I must remember that I cannot fool Jesus – even though I may fool myself very well, thank you.  But when I finally do come face to face with Jesus, I’ll not be able to pretend – like the soldiers, I’ll fall backwards onto the ground with the perfect knowledge that he has seen through me, and always has.

PRAYER: Jesus, help us to want you more than anything else in the universe.  Help us to want you for all the right reasons, and for none of the wrong ones.  Thank you for wanting us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/12/17 – The World’s Deadliest Illusion

DayBreaks for 5/12/17: The World’s Deadliest Illusion

John 19:10 (NIV) Do you refuse to speak to me? Pilate said. Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?

I’ve got to admit that I’m fascinated by the great illusionists.  To this day, I don’t understand how David Copperfield could make an airplane, the statue of Liberty, or even a nickel disappear like he does!  Fascinating. 

The greatest illusion of life may be the fact that we think we have power, that we put ourselves in a position of judging God.  Of course, there is some truth to this idea that we have power – God has given us the right to choose, but we must not mistake that for having power.  Our choosing is a God-given right and he gives us the power in our hearts and minds to choose many things.  One of those things we can choose to believe is truth – or we can believe lies.  Pilate found himself in a situation where he truly thought he had jurisdiction over Jesus, that he, Pilate, was in charge of the unfolding events and that he would determine the outcome.  He claims to have the power to either free Jesus or kill him.

Think about that a moment: recall how that when Jesus was being tempted to cast himself off a high place so Satan would yield to him, even Satan noted that Jesus had the power to summon angels to come and catch him so he wouldn’t even hit his foot against a stone.  Do you think for one moment that Jesus, as he stood before Pilate, could not have called a million angels to come and obliterate Pilate, the angry mobs, the hypocritical religionists, and the entire Roman army and empire?  In the OT, all it took was a single angel to kill 185,000 Assyrians!  If an angel is that powerful, how much more powerful is the One who created them?!!! 

Pilate had no idea what he was saying because he’d bought the lie of having power over Jesus, and by extension, over God.  We are not so very different.  We think that through our prayers we can manipulate God into doing what we want him to do – and we may even think that He’s obligated to give us what we pray for – but he’s not.  We think that we can lift a passage out of context and make it an absolutely binding promise on God – forgetting that God sets conditions (some of which we know and some of which we don’t), that involves our obedience, or our faith, or our motives.  James says we can ask but not receive because we’re asking for something driven by our own greed and selfishness – not so we can use if for God’s purposes.  So we can’t just take Jesus’ statement that we can ask for anything and that God is under our power to have to give it – we tend to forget the conditions: if you ask in my name, for the things that Jesus wants, that he approves of for us.

If we had power in any way, shape or form over God, He would no longer be God – we would be.  If in any way at any time, humans can force God to do something, God is no longer all-powerful, he would cease to be El Shaddai, The Lord God Almighty. 

The end result of our belief that we have power over Jesus is seen by our rebellion to God’s ways.  If we believe we are in control of our lives, that we have only ourselves to answer to, we will choose inevitably what we believe is in our own best interests.  And because we cannot see the future events before they unfold, we’re at best guessing blindly as to what will be in our best interests in the long run.  Only one who knows the consequence of every decision, the intricacies of every human interaction with absolute clarity, can know what will work out for the best for us in the long run. 

Because Pilate truly believed he had power over Christ, he made the decision to crucify him, not knowing that he was doing exactly what God had planned to have happen from eternity past.  God’s plan will not be thwarted by puny humans who have a god-complex about themselves. 

This calls for deep introspection – not by ourselves, but by the Spirit.  We can’t trust ourselves to be honest or to see the truth.  I need to take some quiet time aside and ask the Spirit to search my heart and show me where I seem to think that I’m God and that He is not.  And then I need to ask God to forgive me, humble me, change me so that instead of being like Pilate, I’m like Jesus, who constantly submitted himself to the will and power of the Father.

PRAYER: God, keep us from the foolishness of thinking that we have any control or power over you.  Help us to remember we are the clay – not the Potter, we are just sheep and You are the Shepherd.  Help us to yield our desire for control to the control of Your Spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/4/17 – Pig Parties

DayBreaks for 5/04/17: Pig Parties

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2007:

From “News of the Weird”, UPI, 5/1/98: When farmers leave for the day, pigs start to party, said agricultural researches in Reading, England, interviewed by the London Daily Telegraph in April.  According to Nick Bird of the Farmex firm, the pigs eat, drink and roughhouse until about midnight before retiring for the evening, at least in buildings that are well lighted.  Farmex now wants to know whether this has any effect on the supply of bacon.

Do you remember that old saying about “When the cat’s away, the mice will play”?  Apparently it is not only true of cats and mice, but of farmers and pigs, too! 

I am also aware of the fact that this happens in the world of business.  I know.  I’ve been there and been guilty of it myself.  When the boss is gone, sometimes we don’t give our best effort – or at least not as intense of an effort as when the boss is there.  For some of you reading this today – your boss is out of the office.  How are you doing with your work today?  Are you slacking off – even just a little bit?  If so, do you think that is what God wants you to do?  It comes down to the question of who you believe you really work for, doesn’t it?  Are you working for Mr. or Ms. Smith, or even your family? Or are you working for God and displaying your thankfulness to Him for the job He has given you?

There are biblical parallels to this story.  The parable of the talents was about using what we’ve been given and being faithful with it.  You’ve been given a job, just like the servants were given talents.  The ones that took what they’d been given and worked hard with it while the master was gone were praised and trusted with more.  The servant who didn’t do that had even what he was given taken away from him. 

Another parallel with a different meaning is the wickedness that the Lord said would precede his return.  Matthew 24:37-39 relays to us the words of our Lord: As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;     and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  You see, the Master has been gone for a long time now and the “party” has continued for a long time.  The terrible tragedy of the picture Jesus relates to us is that just as those who were lost in the flood waters had no idea it was coming, so those who “party” while the Master is away will be totally caught off guard by his return. 

How are you spending your time at work?  How are you spending your life?  To be right with God, we need to do both as if He were present all the time for one simple reason: He is.

PRAYER: Lord, many of us will be tempted this day to goof off when we think no one is watching us.  Help us to be the kind of people who don’t even think about trying to get away with less than a 100% effort in all we do that is right.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 5/03/17 – The Problem with Forgiveness

DayBreaks for 5/03/17: The Problem With Forgiveness

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2007:

You remember the well-known passage that talks about forgiveness and how Peter (bless his heart) came to the Lord (after probably being hurt by someone) with the question recorded in Matthew 18:21-22 – Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?  Jesus answered, I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 

We struggle with forgiveness, don’t we?   Who among us hasn’t wanted to ask the same question as Peter?  “But God, you just don’t understand that Ed has hurt me so many times!  I just can’t forgive him again!”  After some time and repeated hurtings, there is just something inside of us that says, “Enough!  No more!  I’m not going to forgive you any more!”  From a human standpoint, it does seem that there should be some limit.  But God’s ways are not designed from a human standpoint. 

Why do we have so much trouble forgiving?  Because we’ve been hurt.  We feel used and abused.  We feel like we’ve been stomped on – again.  Our heart – our emotions – are involved.  And here is the truth that hurts – we want to hurt back.  That’s why we don’t want to have to go on forgiving forever.  We want the person who hurt us to hurt in return so they’ll know what it feels like.  And we want to sit and watch with glee when they “get theirs”!  I wish I could say that it was something noble like wanting justice (which may be the case sometimes), but I’m afraid that more often than not we just want to see the other person suffer like they’ve made us suffer.

Jesus’ response is stunning.  Essentially he tells Peter, “Stop counting.  You just keep on forgiving.  Never hold grudges.”  The rabbis (based on a pattern seen in Amos 1:3, 6, 9, etc.) held that forgiveness should be extended 3 times for a given sin but not a fourth time, so Peter may have felt he was being generous by doubling what was considered acceptable.  Jesus then told a parable about a servant being forgiven a huge debt and then he went out and tortured those who owed him a little.  The point is clear: how can we, who have been forgiven so much, be so quick and anxious and brutal to those who have wronged us and need our forgiveness?

The key is in Matthew 18:35 where Jesus says: This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother FROM YOUR HEART.  The problem we have is that we forgive with our heads, but not our hearts.  Our emotions get the better of us.  We submit with the mind, but not with the heart.  We are quick to appreciate intellectually what God has done for us, but we aren’t so good at translating that into what we should do for others.

The American Indians had a practice of “counting coup” on their enemies.  It involved hitting them after they’d captured or killed one of them.  It showed superiority and proclaimed “victory”.  Are you counting coup by not forgiving?  Is your spirit too prideful to act towards others like God, through Christ, has acted towards you?  I’m sure Peter was stunned and humbled by Christ’s words.  I pray that we will be, too.

PRAYER:  Lord, we have so many things that we need to forgive and move on with life!  Help us to forgive FROM THE HEART, not from our heads.  Thank you that you have forgiven us so completely and so generously.  Make us like you in our forgiveness!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.