DayBreaks for 10/11/17 – The Real Opposites

DayBreaks for 10/11/17: The Real Opposites

From the DayBreaks archive:

Salt and pepper.  Day and night.  Love and hate (or apathy).  Men and women.  Freedom and slavery.  Good and evil.  God and Satan.  Hope and despair.  It seems that everything has its opposite.  Perhaps that’s part of the balance that the Creator put into the world at creation.  It sure seems like it. 

The past few Sundays I’ve been talking about faith.  It’s a topic that I suppose could never be plumbed, and as a preacher, it’s hard to know when to stop talking about it and to move on to another topic. 

Throughout the centuries, debate has raged between various camps in the Christian world.  Some push faith; others seemingly push works.  You can read what Paul had to say about faith and how works has nothing to do with it (otherwise we could boast about our role), and then turn to James and read how he seemingly stressed works and how important they are.  I don’t really think that the two are at odds with one another, they were just emphasizing different aspects of a singular truth. 

I think that perhaps Dallas Willard (once again) made some astute observations that are worth considering: “Faith is not opposed to knowledge; it is opposed to sight.  And grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to earning.  Commitment is not sustained by confusion but by insight.  The person who is uninformed or confused will inevitably be unstable and vulnerable in action, thought and feeling.” – Hearing God

I can’t help but think that both camps are right.  We are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-10).  No matter how many good works we might do, not a single one of us will ever be able to stand before God and demand, justifiably, that we deserve to be saved.  We’ll be dependent on grace when all else is stripped away before the eyes of the One who will judge us.  But we are also created for good works in Christ.  It seems to me that much of the confusion has to do with whether or not we’re talking about justification or sanctification.  (These are relatively new thoughts to me, so I hope I’m not off base here!)  Justification has to do with our salvation.  Scripture says that we “have been” justified – once and for all.  So that means that our salvation can’t have anything to do with ongoing works.  But sanctification – the process of becoming more and more set apart and Christlike – requires all kinds of effort and works.  Did Christ just sit around thinking about faith during his time here?  No, of course not!  He was working the will of the Father – healing, preaching, teaching, giving grace and forgiveness. 

I think the effort comes into play with sanctification…it’s why Peter in 2 Pet. 1 says we need to make “every effort” to add things to our faith so we can have the completeness of life God longs to give us.  No matter how hard I work, I can’t work my way into justification.  And even in sanctification, without the help of the Spirit I can’t become Christlike. 

Grace is not opposed to effort – only to taking credit, thinking we’ve earned something by our efforts.

PRAYER:  Thank you for your love, mercy and grace, and the work of your Son on the cross and for the work of the Spirit in the lives of your children.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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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.

DayBreaks for 8/7/17 – Even So Grace Might Reign

DayBreaks for 8/07/17: Even So Grace Might Reign

Romans 5:20-21: And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Where would we be without the book of Romans and its expounding grace to us? There is no greater treatise in print on the subject, of that I’m fairly confident. Without the book of Romans, I fear we’d be miserable people.

We all know the drill: no matter how hard we try, we cannot be perfect, no matter how much we might wish to be perfect. No matter how many times we promise God that “I’ll never do that again!”, we do. In fact, I suspect that our protestations of self-will and self-strength to be able to NOT do something is a virtual guarantee that we will. Just ask Peter and he’ll tell you that the very thing he said he would never do, well, he did it less than 24 hours.

In Romans 5, we’re told that the Law came so that transgressions might increase. What on earth does that mean? Did God give the law so we would sin more? Of course not! But, without the Law we wouldn’t have known what was sin and what wasn’t. So our awareness of sin increased, for sure. Transgressions also increased because humanity grew and became more populous and with each and every human born upon this planet, there was more sin (though that’s not the point of the writer of Romans).

But how pervasive was that sin? It was as pervasive as where its rule was best demonstrated: in death and dying. And how pervasive is that? Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d say it’s darn near 100%. In fact (and I don’t think I’m overstating this) I’d go further: it is 100%. That is how pervasive sin is.

Don’t despair, though, because we need to read the last phrase of the passage again: grace abounded all the more…even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life…

When he says “grace abounded all the more”, what does he mean? More than what? More than death! Why? Because it is grace that reigns to not temporal life, but eternal life in Christ Jesus.

The grace of God is something that we can’t really wrap our minds around. It’s too big for our puny minds. We must take by faith what Scripture says about it, though, we must not ever think that I have sinned too many times, too egregiously, too frequently and that God must be totally disgusted with me. That’s not what grace says. Grace teaches us that God loves us as His children – no matter what. He may at times be disappointed for us, but not with us. He expects childish behavior out of us – believe it or not. And while he may be disappointed that we must bear the consequences for our foolishness, he will still love us now and forever as His children. Grace reigns…because God reigns.

PRAYER: Father, I am so thankful for your grace that abounds even more than sin and the effects of sin! Thank you for always loving me as your precious children even when I am willful and self-centered. Let me love you more so as to hurt you less. In Jesus name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 8/4/17 – Taking Credit

 

DayBreaks for 8/04/17: Taking Credit

From the DayBreaks archive, August 2007:

John Ortberg tells this story: “Not too long ago, there was a CEO of a Fortune 500 company who pulled into a service station to get gas.  He went inside to pay, and when he came out he noticed his wife engaged in a deep discussion with the service station attendant.  It turned out that she knew him.  In fact, back in high school before she met her eventual husband, she used to date this man.

“The CEO got in the car, and the two drove in silence.  He was feeling pretty good about himself when he finally spoke: ‘I bet I know what you were thinking.  I bet you were thinking you’re glad you married me, a Fortune 500 CEO, and not him, a service station attendant.

“No, I was thinking if I’d married him, he’d be a Fortune 500 CEO and you’d be a service station attendant.”

We all want to take credit, don’t we?  It doesn’t matter if it is on the job, at school or in the home.  We want the credit for what goes well.  We want to take credit when someone tells us how well behaved our children are, or how much they’ve achieved.  We want to take credit for our brilliance and skill that has made us successful at our jobs or in our classes.  We like the praise of men and women.

We really have a problem with pride.  Pride, if not satisfied by the praises and recognition of others, will draw things to their attention hoping that we receive praise.  This is different than merely wanting to do a good job – it’s wanting to be recognized and acknowledged.  It’s about someone saying to us, “Wow, you’re good.  You did a terrific job!” 

Our pride demands feeding.  In the case of the CEO and his wife, which one of them gave the man the ability to earn the money and rise to the position he’d achieved?  Certainly neither of them did.  They only took the raw materials that God had poured into this man and worked with it.  God gave the ability. 

Grace is about not getting credit.  It is about recognizing that not only didn’t we do something good, but we did something poorly (obey!) and God still did something good for us.  If we understand grace, we’ll realize we can’t claim the credit for anything good.  All we can do is fall before the cross and praise Him for His love and grace that “saved a wretch like me.”

PRAYER:  Our hearts are full of pride and desire for recognition, Lord.  Purify our hearts of this pride.  Give us this grace this day: to recognize that we have been called your children not by our might or power, but only by Your grace.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/24/17 – Enough, but not Enough

DayBreaks for 7/24/17: Enough…but Not Enough

I have never seen him, but today the preacher was talking about an insight by a comedian named Louis C.K. Apparently the comedian had gotten onto a plane to fly somewhere and the people next to him were complaining about the fact that they’d had a three-hour layover before the flight between the American coasts. Louis found himself a bit incredulous that the people could be complaining about that three-hour layover when in 4.5 hours they’d have traveled from Los Angeles to New York. He thought about how amazing it is that we can fly through the air like a bird, inside of a huge machine that is so heavy that it should never get off the ground, and that journey could be completed in about five hours – something that used to take between 4 to 6 months on a horse. And yet, they were grumbling about it. As Louis C.K. put it: It’s amazing, but it is never enough.

Have you ever grumbled about a layover or delay? Why is it that we grumble and complain so much? Perhaps it is because we, too, have forgotten the wonder of the situation in which we find ourselves.

Ephesians 2:1 says, Once you were dead because of your disobedience and many sins. (NLT) It’s important to get the reality of that verse firmly rooted into our minds – both conscious and unconscious. Paul says you were dead…not that you were sick, were injured, or even that you were dying, but that you WERE dead. It was a fait accompli. It wasn’t a potential possibility, it was accomplished fact.

But he goes on: Ephesians 2:4-5 (NLT) – But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)

The point was simple enough. We grumble and complain because we forget the wonder of the work of Christ on the cross and the grace that has been extended to us. The Israelites grumbled and complained when they took their eyes off the grace of God that pulled them out of Egyptian slavery.

Grumbling and complaining is never pretty. Grace is beautiful. As the preacher put it today: In the presence of grace, grumbling ceases.

PRAYER: God, let me live consciously in the constant presence of grace that I may never again be a grumbler. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/10/17 – Writing Checks You Cannot Cash

DayBreaks for 7/10/17: Writing Checks You Cannot Cash

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2007:You may have heard the phrase, “You’re writing checks your body cannot cash.”  More often than not, it applies to either an athlete or some famous person who is demanding more of their body than they can reasonably do.  Sometimes it might be some ingénue or party guy who stays out until the wee hours of the morning partying, drinking…and then has to get up and go to work the next morning – and the scenario is repeated over and over again, each and every day.  Sooner or later, as another saying goes: the chickens come home to roost.  The Holy Word puts it a bit differently: You will reap what you sow.Thanh Nhat Le, 51, was arrested in Dorchester, Mass., in April, when he tried to cash a check he wrote to himself for $7,550 on his account at a Sovereign Bank.  He had opened the account two weeks earlier, handing over $171 in small bills.  He was certain that he had plenty of money in his account, though, because in the interim, he had also mailed the bank three checks for deposit:  one for $250,000; one for $2 million; and one for $4 billion.We laugh at Mr. Le, knowing how silly and foolish his actions (and apparently his thought processes!) were.  Now, if Mr. Le were Bill Gates, he might have been able to cash that check for $7,550, but alas, he was just Mr. Le.  Yet, how the question begs to be asked: are you thinking that you’ve been making deposits of good deeds into an invisible heavenly account, thinking that the day will come when you will meet your Maker and that you’ll cash them in so that you can gain admittance to heaven?  It won’t work.  The price of admittance to heaven is too steep of a price for any of us to pay – not even Bill Gates can pay it!  It’s foolish to think that we can build up enough good deeds to please God.  Does that mean that God doesn’t like it when we do good things?  No, he loves it.  But, good deeds won’t get you any further than $4,002,250,171 of “deposits” got Mr. Le.  With our most righteous acts being like nothing more than filthy rags, our hope of heaven must rest on something else.  Jesus wrote the check and paid the bill that was as far beyond our ability to pay than the heavens are above the earth.  May we with humility and gratitude accept the gift He has given us!

PRAYER: Lord, may we bow before you as foolish children, yet grateful for what You have done.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for giving us hope!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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.