DayBreaks for 9/25/17 – From Coward to Courage

DayBreaks for 9/25/17: From Coward to Courage

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

From In the Grip of Grace by Max Lucado: “During the early days of the Civil War a Union soldier was arrested on charges of desertion.  Unable to prove his innocence, he was condemned and sentenced to die a deserter’s death. His appeal found its way to the desk of Abraham Lincoln.  The president felt mercy for the soldier and signed a pardon.  The soldier returned to service, fought the entirety of the war, and was killed in the last battle.  Found within his breast pocket was the signed letter of the president.”

Application:

What a poignant story.  A soldier running from duty, most likely because of fear.  Captured, caught, condemned to die, he pleads for mercy – an appeal of the sentence that would have caused him to be hanged and remembered as a coward.  The plea lands on the desk of the commander in chief.  And mercy flowed down to a man who didn’t deserve it. 

We’ve all needed a pardon from time to time.  Just as with the soldier who had exhausted every appeal, except to the commander in chief, we were out of appeals, too. Like him, if our Commander in Chief hadn’t granted mercy, death was certain.  The case had been heard already and sentence passed.  This was the only hope left. 

What touched the heart of president Lincoln?  I don’t know.  By offering a pardon, others might desert when the times got tough and hope for a similar pardon.  Some of the generals were no doubt angry about the president’s pardon – after all, discipline must be maintained in a military organization.  They probably felt he was soft, or too old, or just to tired to think straight and make a good decision.

Imagine the relief and happiness in the heart of the soldier when he heard the president’s decision!  He was free.  He could have gone home.  Who would want him in their unit when the chips were down?  But instead of running home, he ran back to the front lines and fought for the rest of the war, only to be killed in the last battle of that great conflict.  What happened?  He was touched by the president’s act of grace.  His pardon was so precious to him that it changed his life.  He carried his pardon with him the rest of his days.   

The grace of Christ has caused men and women to do strange and heroic things.  To die singing songs of praise, to willingly submit their necks to the noose, their bodies to the flames, or their heads to the sword.  The grace of Christ turned Peter from a denier and coward to a martyr.  The grace of Christ empowered Thomas the doubter to be skinned alive (according to tradition).  The grace of Christ empowered 160,000 Christians around the world last year to say “Jesus Christ is Lord!” before their lives were offered as martyrs.

Have you found courage in the grace of Christ?  Has it changed your life forever?  Tell someone about it.  Don’t run from the battle – run to it.  The cause of Christ will move forward.  He’s looking for good soldiers who will, if necessary, die knowing their pardon has been established by the Commander in Chief.  This IS the call of the Master to us.  What will your answer be?

PRAYER:  Father, make us bold because of our thankfulness of what You’ve done for us!  Thank You for pardoning us and calling us into Your service!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 7/06/17 – Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #4

DayBreaks for 7/06/17: Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #4

Our visit with Caleb comes to an end today, but there are a few more reflections I’d like to share.

Where does Caleb want as his inheritance? The hill country. That shouldn’t surprise most of us as we all love the hills and beauty of the mountains. But I don’t really think that’s why Caleb longed for this territory. Yes, he’d seen it before and gave a glowing report of the area 45 years or so earlier. He’d not forgotten what he’d seen there – and he longed to see it again. It had captured his heart and mind for four-and-one-half decades. But I think there are possibly deeper reasons for Caleb’s desire for this place.

But first, think about it for a minute. Caleb was 85 – get that and let it settle in – eighty-five years old! In order to take that hill country, what must you do?

FIRST: you must overcome the fear of the giants, the descendants of Anak, who lived there. Those very people had terrified the 10 spies 45 years ago and no one had yet routed them from their land. Yet Caleb wasn’t afraid. Why? The rest of the world looked at the giants there and said, “No way! We’d be slaughtered!” The Israelites looked at one another and said, “We’re like grasshoppers in their eyes!” Caleb looked at them and said, “They’re nothing compared to God!” It all depends on our focus, doesn’t it?

SECONDLY: to take hill country, you must attack uphill – and that, my friends, is the recipe for a military disaster. Yet Caleb’s 85-year-old heart and legs were crying out for just one more challenge – one more charge against the greatest of odds. He didn’t want to settle down in the lowlands and live a life of ease! He wasn’t afraid of the giants at the top nor discouraged by the steep slopes. As far as he was concerned, the victory was already won because God has promised it! He wanted one more adventure with God before he was finished. How hungry are you for adventures with Him?

So why did Caleb want this land? This is conjecture, but again, I think there were several reasons:

I think when he first saw it, he fell in love with the place. Who wouldn’t, after 400 years of slavery in Egypt and the hot burning sands of the Egyptian desert! Here was lush green, fertile land and beauty.

But I think there were far more significant reasons he may have wanted the hill country. I think he wanted the younger generations to learn something from the impending victory over the hill people giants. He wanted them to see and understand that nothing is ever impossible for those who have God’s promises in hand. They’d heard stories of the giants that terrified their parents and grandparents leading to the wilderness wandering. And here was an 85-year-old man with enough courage to take them on..uphill. This generation needed to learn from the older generation. And the younger generations today need to learn from us who are older. But that puts the onus on us, doesn’t it? What kind of example are we setting for them? Are we just getting old and long in the tooth and therefore we have quit attacking hills and giants when the Lord has said we should charge up the hill? Are we content now to settle into a pew and snooze quietly into the sunset? Our giants today are cultural and moral giants, but they can be defeated as surely as Anak’s descendants. No matter how old you are, you can still teach those who are younger about God’s faithfulness and goodness, about how He rewards the courageous who step out on His promises boldly with attack uphill, even in their old age. There is great power in an enduring witness of a life lived well to the end!

There’s an interesting historical note here. Many years after Caleb died, the hill country was still in the possession of his descendants. And finally, a young shepherd king rose to the throne of Israel and put his first capital in Hebron for a number of years. This was the land Caleb had conquered! Why did David choose Hebron? It was partly because of Caleb’s actions around 400 years earlier – it was conquered and secured territory. Jerusalem was not. Why? Because the hearts of the Israelites had grown faint again after coming into the Promised Land and they’d failed to remove the inhabitants of the Jerusalem area. It fell to David to take possession of what would become the new capital, Jerusalem.

One final thought before we say goodbye to Caleb for now. I was reading about endurance runners in Sports Illustrated and one of them made this comment (paraphrased): Endurance isn’t so much a matter of the legs – it is a matter of the heart and the mind.

Let us not think about the age of our limbs or the decades of our service to Christ, but rather about how we can finish well, like Caleb; of our how hearts can rise to a new challenge even now and how we can bless the younger generations as we do.

I don’t know about you, but I sure am looking forward to meeting Caleb who surely must be one of the most neglected heroes in the Bible!

PRAYER: Oh, God, how amazingly wonderful you are! Thank you for such a shining example that Caleb has set before us! Give us hearts and minds to rise to the challenge for as long as we live! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 7/05/17 – Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #3

Hill country, Israel. 

DayBreaks for 7/05/17: Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #3

When I was young, I could run and run and run and seemingly never tire. So, for the most part, I ran longer races when I ran track in high school. And I was fairly good at it – though I knew it was not something I’d ever do as a living or career. Then, seemingly almost overnight, I didn’t enjoy the endurance races any longer. I don’t know why, but they just weren’t fun any longer.

Endurance is a hard quality to cultivate. As we get older, our endurance seems to get less and less physically. That is to be expected, I believe, as our bodies start to show the strains of the decades.

Caleb way a man of courageous endurance. When he approaches Joshua with his request to be given the hill country for his inheritance in the Promised Land, he was 85 years old. He was around 40 when he went into the land as a spy, and around 80 when they returned and finally entered the land. Now, at 85 he stands before Joshua and says, in Joshua 14:10-12 (NLT) – Now, as you can see, the LORD has kept me alive and well as he promised for all these forty-five years since Moses made this promise—even while Israel wandered in the wilderness. Today I am eighty-five years old. I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then. So give me the hill country that the LORD promised me. You will remember that as scouts we found the descendants of Anak living there in great, walled towns. But if the LORD is with me, I will drive them out of the land, just as the LORD said.” That, my friends, is a man of endurance and conviction!

What can we learn from Caleb about this? Several things, I believe:

FIRST: passion for the good needn’t diminish as we get older. While for most of  us our physical strength will decline, our spiritual strength should be growing stronger day by day as we have mounting evidence of the Lord’s faithfulness. Caleb hadn’t forgotten the promise of the Lord concerning the hill country. Now, at 85, he was ready to claim that promise.

SECOND: Caleb recognizes that the victory will be won, but that it won’t be won by his own unabated strength: it will be won if the Lord is with me. I don’t for a second believe that Caleb felt that “if” was up for debate. He knew he’d drive the residents of the hill country out just as the Lord said.

THIRD: though the pathway may be long and arduous, there is a reward at the end of a life for courageous conviction. Caleb trusted in the Word of the Lord. He had seen it come true over and over and over – and had never once seen it fail. In spite of having to endure 40 years of struggle in the desert, Caleb had not forgotten the promise. He had not deserved the desert – he had not been one of the faithless 10 spies. Yet he had to endure it, then he had to survive the battles to take the majority of the promised land. Endurance must have been his middle name.

FOURTH: as time grows shorter for each of us, we need to lay hold of the things that God has promised us. For Caleb, it was the hill country. For you and I, we, too, must press on to take possession of the Promised Land that the Lord has promised us. The promises that the Father has made to us are no different than the promises He made to Moses, Joshua or Caleb. The Father that was faithful and made those promises come true is the same Father who has given you His promise. It may have been many years in the coming, but it will come. Stay strong like Caleb. There are multitudes of blessings for a life of courageous endurance – not the least of which is a place in the Promised Land.

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, for men and women like Caleb who show us that we need not grow faint or weary in our journey. Thank you for being faithful to your promises then and now. Let us rise up to take the hill country you have set before us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 7/04/17 – Caleb and Courageus Conviction, #2

DayBreaks for 7/04/17: Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #2

There are some key statements in Joshua 14:7-8 (NLT) – Joshua 14:7-8 (NLT) – I was forty years old when Moses, the servant of the LORD, sent me from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land of Canaan. I returned and gave an honest report, but my brothers who went with me frightened the people from entering the Promised Land. For my part, I wholeheartedly followed the LORD my God.

First, there is a contrast: 1) Caleb claims that he gave an honest report on his return – a claim that could seem to be full of braggadocio if not for the fact that history proved his words to be true; 2) the 10 spies gave a contrary report – with the truly deadly result being the frightening of the people that in turn led to them all, save Caleb and Joshua, dying in the desert sands of the Sinai peninsula.

The second thing I want to point out is the effect the two varying reports had. Caleb’s report was dismissed, seemingly out of hand, because it would mean warfare to proceed. The 10 spies report only capitalized on those fears and scared the people. Caleb again declares his devotion to God and trust in Him to accomplish the delivery of the Promised Land to Israel.

Today is the 4th of July here in America – our country’s 241st birthday. Not many countries have lasted that long. Part of the reason it’s survived is because of the courage of the men and women who stood up for their convictions. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult (and dangerous) to do so.

It is always right to give an honest report. It pays dividends – it certainly did for Joshua and Caleb – they lived to set foot in the Promised Land as a result.

Today, stop and think about what kind of report you are giving these days. Do your words spell doom and gloom? Do they strike fear, anxiety and distrust in the hearts and minds of others? Satan is a coward and those that follow him are cowards. It takes strong men and women to take a stand, but just as God rewarded Joshua and Caleb, He will always reward those who give “an honest report”.

What you say and how you say it can make the difference in how others live – and in some cases, even in whether they live or not. Being bold in the truth is important. We need more people to take a stand for truth in our churches, families, schools and various levels of government. Will you be one of them?

PRAYER: Lord, I don’t want to be the reason someone become frightened when confronted with what I say. I want to speak truth lovingly – but without wavering. Help all Your children to be as bold as Caleb and may we see Your blessing as a result. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 7/03/17 – Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #1

The hill country of Israel.

DayBreaks for 7/03/17: Caleb and Courageous Conviction, #1

I heard an interesting sermon on Sunday about conviction, and I thought that some of the points were worth sharing, so there’ll be several DayBreaks about it this week.

First, a bit of background. You recall the story of the spies who were sent into the Promised Land to spy out the land. Twelve were sent – and twelve returned, but there were radically different reports given by two of the spies named Joshua and Caleb. We normally think of Joshua as having been the older because he became the leader, however in Joshua 14, we learn that Caleb was 40 years old at the time he went into the land to spy on the Canaanites. Most believe Joshua was perhaps 17-25 at the time, though we don’t know for sure.

What prompted Joshua and Caleb to come back with a different report? That’s a good question. There is a rabbinic tradition that says that one night while they spies were in the land, Caleb arose in the darkness and traveled to Hebron (where the giant descendants of Anak lived) and went into the cave where Abraham and the patriarchs were buried (Numbers 13 does say they went to Hebron.) While there at the cave, he had an encounter with the God of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph that filled him with the conviction about God’s promise to the patriarchs that the land of Palestine was to be theirs.

I don’t know about the veracity of that rabbinical legend, but something stirred Caleb’s heart with conviction. In Joshua 14 starting with verse six, Caleb, at this time a man of 85 and most likely the oldest man in Israel (since only Joshua and Caleb who were alive when Israel left Egypt survived the wilderness wandering)  approached Joshua. Because he was the oldest man in Israel, people would listen to him. And he reminds Joshua about what the Lord told Moses about Joshua and Caleb 40-45 years earlier. Basically, Caleb reminds Joshua about how Moses had promised him the land on which Caleb had just walked.

Here’s the point for today: Caleb came back from the spying mission ready to go to war and take possession of the land. If you read his report he is full of courageous conviction about the ability of Israel to take the land. But ten of the spies reported that the band of spies were like grasshoppers to the giants in Palestine.

Therein, you see, is the problem. They were convicted that the people of the land saw them as tiny, puny and weak. But, at various points in the story, we are told that the people of Palestine were shut up in their cities because of fear of the Israelites. The ten spies were convicted and convinced by what they believe the inhabitants of the land thought of them. Joshua and Caleb (and Caleb seems to be the spokesman for the two of the spies who brought back a favorable report) was convicted and convinced by what God had said and promised.

Maybe you need to think about what you believe about yourself. You may think that you are weak, insignificant, powerless, puny and tiny because someone in your past has mocked and ridiculed you to no end. You may have yielded to the whispering of Satan in your ear that you’re too small and weak and sinful to ever be strong and courageous.

Who are you going to listen to? What others (including Satan) have said about you, or to what God says about you when He calls you His child, His beloved, that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? Where will your conviction come from?

PRAYER: God, I thank You for courageous people like Caleb who remembered Your promises in the face of 6:1 odds and who stood on the courage of his convictions about Your faithfulness. For all those who are being convicted by the words others may say about them, I pray that they will hear Your words of love and worth when they are under attack and that they will be convicted by what You say, and not what anyone else says. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. 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 5/01/17 – Obedience

DayBreaks for 5/01/17: Obedience

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2007:

Listen to this story.  I don’t know the source of the story, but here it is:

“How we admire the obedience a dog shows to its master!  Archibald Rutledge wrote that one day he met a man whose dog had just been killed in a forest fire.  Heartbroken, the man explained to Rutledge how it happened.  Because he worked out-of-doors, he often took his dog with him.  That morning, he left the animal in a clearing and gave him a command to stay and watch his lunch bucket while he went into the forest.  His faithful friend understood, for that’s exactly what he did.  Then a fire started in the woods, and soon the blaze spread to the spot where the dog had been left.  But he didn’t move.  He stayed right where he was, in perfect obedience to his master’s word.  With tearful eyes, the dog’s owner said, “I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it.”

Galen’s Thoughts: Loyalty.  Character.  Perseverance.  Courage.  Faithfulness.  These are all words that come to mind.  Sounds like a super-hero.  And then I have to stop myself and remember that I’m talking about a DOG!  But what lessons that dog can teach us!

I’m heart broken by this story for several reasons:

FIRST: I grieve for the dog’s sake.  I can’t imagine what it was like – how great the temptation must have been to cut and run through the forest away from the heat and torment of the flames – yet the dog stayed put.  I mourn the loss of the dog, but at a deeper level it makes me mourn my own lack of courage in obedience to the one I call my Master.

SECOND: I mourn that I am not more broken hearted by the loss of eternal souls than I am in the loss of the dog.  What is wrong with me, with us, when we have deeper feelings about the loss of a dog, albeit a tremendously loyal one, than the lives of those that surround us every day?

FINALLY: I am haunted by the final words of the dog’s master: “I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it.”  What would my Master say about me?  Oh, how I wish Jesus could say, “I always had to be careful what I told Galen to do, because I knew he would do it!”  Instead, in my fear and weakness, I far too often run from the heat of the struggle into perceived safety.  But it is only perceived safety and it certainly isn’t obedience.

The love of the dog’s owner is clear in his tears – he loved his dog.  The pride of the owner is clear in his words – he was justifiably proud of the obedience of his dog.  I look at Jesus and see his tears for me and I know He loves me with all his heart.  I just wish my obedience was loyal enough that Jesus could be proud of me.

PRAYER:  Lord, forgive my lack of obedience and loyalty!  It seems to take no more than even the slightest distraction to pull me away from you sometimes.  Help me to have the kind of character you wish to develop in me.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.