DayBreaks for 6/28/18: I Could Have Been Free

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DayBreaks for 6/28/18: I Could Have Been Free

From the DayBreaks Archive, June 2008:

Dr. Ramesh Richard was the final speaker at Promise Keepers in Fresno.  He talked about living a Godly legacy, and he told a story about a man in Alabama who was imprisoned for a crime and given a life sentence.  The man had been wrongly convicted but was in jail serving time.  Over the course of the years while he was in prison, he tried three times to escape but was recaptured each time.  Finally, after many years had passed, the original conviction was overturned.  However, in Alabama, there is a law that says that if you are serving a life sentence and have tried 3 times to escape, that you are automatically sentenced to another life sentence.  As the man said after learning about this law: “I could have been free if I hadn’t run.” 

When a prisoner attempts an escape and goes on the run, they don’t usually end up finding the one-armed man that was guilty of the crime (remember The Fugitive?).  They usually end up getting caught and more time is added because of the escape attempt.  As attractive as running may seem, it is costly.  In the case of the Alabama man, it may cost him the rest of the years of his life.

Think about that in a spiritual light for just a moment.  What usually happens to men and women when they have committed some sin?  Do they typically come running to God or do they run from Him?  There is a part of us, like Adam and Eve demonstrated in the garden, that runs from God when we have done something wrong.  And you know what?  That is exactly the WRONG way to run.  Instead of running from God, we should run to him and take the discipline He has to give us.  Instead of running and trying to pretend that nothing is wrong, we need to be in His Presence, heads bowed and seek His forgiveness.  Then we can be free, but not until. 

Perhaps you’ve been running from God.  Moses tried to run from God with his excuses about why he wasn’t the man God wanted.  Jonah tried to run from God and found that he couldn’t find freedom in that direction.  Perhaps you are running from His calling for your life.  You’ll never find freedom as long as you are running.  Perhaps you are running because of sin that you don’t want to face up to because you’re afraid the discipline will be more than you can bear.  It won’t be.  God disciplines, yes, but He loves you and will not break you (Isa. 42:3): A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice…  Perhaps you are running from making a commitment to the Lord and giving Him your life.  What a tragedy it will be when someday you stand before His throne and say to yourself, “I could have been free if I hadn’t run.”

PRAYER:  Let us run to You, Lord, and cast ourselves on Your great mercy!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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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 10/16/17 – Forgiving Enemies Is Easy

DayBreaks for 10/16/17: Forgiving Enemies Is Easy

One of the things I like best about the New Testament is that it is so practical. It must have been the fact that Jesus had human beings called disciples always with him that forced him to speak in such everyday terms about everyday problems. Sometimes Christians disagree in the congregation of believers. Sometimes they quarrel. Sometimes they hold grudges against each other. The Scripture for today says that we must never tolerate any situation in which there is a breach of personal relationship between us and another member of the Christian community.

In the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, Jesus admits that disciples are going to have conflicts; but they are to resolve them.

It is very true today that the behavior of us church members on this very issue makes Christianity to the outside world either repulsive or attractive.

It isn’t a matter that Christians are perfect and will not have conflicts. There will always be quarrels, differences of opinion on how and who, disappointments with preachers and councils, hurt feelings, bent pride, loss of face, and lots of mistakes. It’s the idea that Christians can resolve these conflicts as no other fellowship can, that Jesus puts before us today.

Comus, a Duke of Florence, had a saying that indicated the limitations of his religion: “You shall read that we are commanded to forgive our enemies, but you never read that we are commanded to forgive our friends.” Isn’t that interesting? I think that sometimes it is harder to forgive our friends than it is our enemies because we expect better treatment from our friends to start with. Enemies we expect to take advantage and betray us, but not our friends. So it is doubly hard to forgive them – including our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We hear a lot from the pulpit talking about how Christians are admonished by Jesus Christ to love their enemies and to pray for their enemies. When in actuality, right there in the pew side by side are Christians who hold grudges, hang on to petty hurts, refuse to forgive and love each other within the fellowship. And when they do this, church and Christianity and the whole practice of religion for them is not the joyful experience it ought to be. They miss a large dimension of belonging to God’s family.

Have you forgiven your friends, your brothers and sisters? I don’t believe that the excuse, “You never said we had to forgive our friends!” will hold water, do you?

PRAYER: Jesus, help us to have the heart that you have shown for all mankind, and be quick and ready to forgive – enemies and friends alike, so we can be like you! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 9/04/17 – As We Forgive Others

DayBreaks for 9/04/17: As We Forgive Others

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

From The Scrivener, blog by Doug Dalrymple:

I know that all the Hutus who killed so calmly cannot be sincere when they beg pardon, even of the Lord. But me, I am ready to forgive. It is not a denial of the harm they did, not a betrayal of the Tutsis, not an easy way out. It is so that I will not suffer my whole life asking myself why they tried to cut me. I do not want to live in remorse and fear from being Tutsi. If I do not forgive them, it is I alone who suffers and frets and cannot sleep… I yearn for peace in my body. I really must find tranquility. I have to sweep fear far away from me, even if I do not believe their soothing words.”  The quote is from a Rwandan school teacher named Edith. She is interviewed in Jean Hatzfeld’s book, Une Saison de Machettes, reviewed here by Theodore Dalrymple.
“Edith’s sentiments are telling, I think. When we withhold forgiveness from someone who has wronged us, we often do so because we feel that to forgive that person would be to give him something beautiful, a gift he manifestly does not deserve.  I think this is an accurate instinct; forgiveness truly is a gift.  Forgiveness may, in measure, relieve the perpetrator from the burden of his crime, or the spiritual consequences of it – provided the perpetrator is, in fact, conscious of that burden or those consequences.
“But not all are conscious of their crimes or culpability.  Speaking from my own experience as a sinner, it is easy enough for a man to remain ignorant (willfully or otherwise) of the hells he’s unleashed in the lives of others.  In his novel, Silence, Shusaku Endo writes that sin “is not to steal and tell lies. Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another and to be quite oblivious of the wounds he has left behind.”  But even in such cases, when we withhold forgiveness we only make ourselves victims twice over.  The perpetrator may never appreciate the gift of forgiveness, but the walls we build in our hearts against our neighbor serve also to separate us from God.  We cannot at once be separated from our neighbor and united to God.  Without forgiveness, there is no peace. As Edith says, “If I do not forgive them, it is I alone who suffers and frets and cannot sleep… I yearn for peace in my body.”

Isn’t it interesting how we want to make everyone pay for the things they’ve done to hurt us?  And how little we want to pay for the hurts we’ve inflicted on others – we usually explain them away with a toss of the hand or head or some remark about how they deserved what they got because of something they’d done.  But I think Doug’s point is valid: “We cannot at once be separated from our neighbor and united to God.”  Isn’t that what it means when we’re told that if we don’t love our neighbor, we can’t love God?  1 John 4:20 (NLT) – If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen?

PRAYER: Jesus, your love alone is fully holy and righteous, and we have so much need to learn to love as you do!  Help us to start by learning to forgive from the heart, not just for the sake of others, but for our own sake as well.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 6/08/17 – Non-remembrance of Things Suffered

DayBreaks for 6/08/17: Non-Remembrance of Things Suffered

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2007:

We wrestle with various problems related to forgiveness.  The willingness to forgive is the first one.  Sure, we know what Scripture says about forgiveness: that we must forgive because we’ve been forgiven, that our forgiveness is to be “70 x 7” (meaning without number).  Yet we hold our hurts close to our hearts, cooing over them, turning them first one way and then another to dissect the wound from every possible direction – while all the time letting the pain build and fester like a pus-filled wound.  We actually nurture our hurts when we do this.

But inevitably, when you get right down to it, we all know we are supposed to forgive.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had Christians say to me, “I know I have to forgive them,” (strange how that’s always still in the future tense, isn’t it?) “but that doesn’t mean I have to forget about it!”  I think they’re wrong.  Seriously wrong. 

I understand that as humans, God didn’t seem to give us the ability to literally block out a part of our brain and the memories it contains.  (Although, I’m not sure about that – repressed memory seems to be possible, indicating that it is a capability that does exists at least to some extent in the human brain.)  Scripture says that when God forgives, He forgets and will not hold those things against us any more, than He throws our sin into the deepest sea.  To the Jewish mind, that meant that they literally became invisible, for in that day and age, no one could travel to the bottom of the sea to see what lay there. 

Miroslav Volf, a brilliant Christian philosopher and theologian, was driven from his former home in Croatia (the former Yugoslavia) some time back after being arrested for being a Christian under the hostile regime that was there at the time.  He witnessed and suffered horrible things.  He is now the director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture.  He is a man who knows a lot about wrongs suffered and how to deal with them.  Here’s what he wrote in his book, The End of Memory: “But that is exactly what forgiveness does! For herein lies the essence of Christian forgiveness: On account of his divinity, Christ could and did shoulder the consequences of human sin; so the penalty for wrongdoing can be detached from wrongdoers. And since on account of his humanity Christ could and did die on behalf of sinners, they, in effect, died when he died; so guilt can be detached from wrongdoers. When we forgive those who have wronged us, we make our own God’s miracle of forgiveness. Echoing God’s unfathomable graciousness, we decouple the deed from the doer, the offense from the offender. We blot out the offense so it no longer mars the offender. That is why the non-remembrance of wrongs suffered appropriately crowns forgiveness.”

He continues with this line of thinking: “When can we forget the wrongs committed against us?  In a sense, forgetting is given to us as the gift of a healed relationship.  It’s a gift of the new world, which God gives us.  Then we can not remember.  And then our experience is like a person who is sitting in a concert hall and listening to a wonderful piece of music.  Even though just two hours ago she was experiencing hell at her job, she’s taken up into that music.  It’s not that she tried to forget so that she could be in the music; it’s that the music took her out of the remembrance of the past.  God gives us the gift of a healed self, healed relationships, and a reconstituted world, and then we can not remember.”

I pray that we will learn to let the music of the concert of God’s love and forgiveness create that new world in our hearts so that we can no longer remember that which we’ve forgiven and endured.

PRAYER: Father, cleanse our hearts from the hurts we harbor, the forgiveness we fail to extend, the pain we refuse to release.  Instead, fill them with the music of Divinity on high that echoes the very forgiveness and forgetting that characterizes Your own heart.    In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. 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.

 

DayBreaks for 4/10/17 – The Danger of Easter

DayBreaks for 4/10/17: The Danger of Easter

From the Holy Week devotional guide from our church:

“Every year at Easter, Christians from all around the world gather to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. We flood our churches, fill our pews, crowd our auditoriums, cram into our cathedrals, all to hear again the story of one who suffered, died and was raised for the sake of sinners. We come to be moved, to have our hearts softened. To be reminded of the cost of our sins and the hope of Christ’s resurrection.

“Yet, it is here, during the very event where it seems the gospel if most highlighted, that the gospel is in the most danger. Because amid all the hubbub and pageantry, there is this risk: that we would be affected by the spectacle, filled with compassion for the suffering of an innocent one and guilt that we were its cause, but left blind to the most vital piece of all. That what we commemorate is not just the bare historical death of Jesus nor even His resurrection. No. It’s the revelation of the very heart of God for sinners. That this sacrifice was no cold act of duty, but the glorious expression of a compassionate Savior, a Savior whose every step toward the cross flowed out of love for us.

“The great peril is that Easter would come and go and we would not realize that it was for us. That, as Romans 4:26 says, He was delivered up to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification. That Jesus’ willingness to die in our place arose not out of rote submission to the Father, but out of a burning desire to save you and me. Here is the hope of sinners. It is that, as Thomas Goodwin once commented, ‘Christ’s heart was a full in [this pursuit of our forgiveness], as the sinner’s heart to desire it.’ Every breath He expended was in the service of our salvation and pursued out of love for us.

“Our aim with this devotional is not to rehearse mere historical facts. It is not to work up our emotions, though we would love to engage our affections. Instead, our aim is…that each of us would be able to say with full confidence what Paul did in Galatians 2:20: I love by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. That it was for our trespasses that He was delivered up and it was for our justification that He was raised and it was His joy (Romans 4:25; Hebrews 12:2). – Caleb Click, young adults pastor, Perimeter church

PRAYER: Lord, as we enter this week of preparation, help us to set aside the distraction that so quickly take our heart and mind away from You. As we celebrate the finished work of Christ remind us, during this time, that He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.