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 5/08/17 – Don’t Let Being Human Stop You

DayBreaks for 5/08/17: Don’t Let Being Human Stop You

From the DayBreaks archive, May 2007:

One of the most frustrating things that I hear is people who say, “I hope I’m good enough to go to heaven.”  Of course, the corollary to it is: “I’m afraid I’m not good enough to go to heaven.”  Those statements drive me nuts.  Of course you’re not good enough to go to heaven!  None of us are good enough…but that doesn’t mean we won’t go there, thanks to the grace and mercy of God and the sacrifice of the Savior!

Grace.  What a wonder it is, and how little we believe in it!  For those of us who grew up in grace-challenged environments, when the first breath of grace blows through the soul it is like a world that has been dead and frozen for so long has suddenly thawed!  It reminds me of the scene in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe where spring finally breaks in Narnia after a long, long time.  The warmth of the sun is once again felt, the buds open, the flowers appear and the birds sing once again.  Grace.  How little we know of it!

Our world is not fond of grace.  Our world is more than happy, thank you very much, to point out on a constant basis the failures and faults in our lives.  At work you probably hear more about what you’ve done wrong than what you’ve done right.  At school, they mark up your papers with your mistakes, not your successes.  And if you don’t hear it from other folks, there’s that nagging little voice inside your head that says something like this: “I knew you couldn’t do it.  You’re not much good for anything are you?  You can’t even do the simplest things right, can you?  Why don’t you just give up and quit?”  I’ve heard that voice…I’ve had the conversation with myself many, many times.

In Hearing God, Dallas Willard wrote: “The humanity of Moses, David and Elijah, of Paul, Peter and Jesus Christ himself – of all that wonderful company of riotously human women and men whose experience is recorded in the Bible and in the history of the church teaches us a vital lesson: our humanity will not by itself prevent us from knowing and interacting with God just as they did.

Do you think that Moses, David, Elijah, Paul and Peter never made it to heaven?  They were just every bit as human as you and I.  But no one I know thinks that any of those folk are not in heaven.  They’re not there because they were better than anyone else, because they weren’t “too bad” to go, or because they were “good enough.”  There will be a lot more Bob’s, Mary’s, Jane’s and Joe’s in heaven than Moses, Peter or Paul.  And they won’t be there because they’re better, or even as good, as Moses, David and Elijah.  They, like those great names mentioned earlier, will be there because God loves them and they put their trust in His promised son, Jesus.  That’s the only basis for anyone to get there.  Stop hoping and wishing that you were better so you could “get there.”  Start practicing your belief in God’s promises!

John 18:9 (NLT) – He did this to fulfill his own statement: ‘I have not lost a single one of those you gave me.

PRAYER: Father, we listen to the subtle whisperings of the enemy far more than we do to You.  We believe his words of condemnation rather than live in Your victorious grace.  May we become people who trust more in Your Word than in the voices in our head.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 2/13/17 – Neither Do I Condemn You

DayBreaks for 2/13/17: Neither Do I Condemn You

Most readers of DayBreaks are familiar with the story from John 7:53 – 8:11 about the encounter of Jesus with the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. But, in case you’re not, the scribes and Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus. They wanted Jesus to stone her. Jesus’ reply no doubt took them back a bit: Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her. Because of Jesus’ comment, the religious leaders backed off and went away. When you read the story, it is clear that the religious zealots rejected this women and were quick to condemn her. So, what would Jesus do? How will he handle this ticklish situation? Since Jesus knew that her accusers had no right to condemn her (because of their own sins), Jesus turned his attention to the woman after her accusers had left and said five words that must have put her at great ease: Neither do I condemn you.

As a former pastor, I can’t start to tell you how many people I’ve talked with over the years who felt condemned by God. They believed He had turned his back on them because of something they’d done or not done, and the words, “neither do I condemn you” are as foreign to them as someone speaking Martian. Why? Because their view of Christianity is that if you “perform” right, God is for you, and if you don’t, you’re on his “bad” list and you’d better now walk outside for fear of being hit with a lightning bolt.

Think about the story for a minute. Did the woman deserve forgiveness? No. Did she deserve justice? Yes. Did she come groveling to Jesus begging mercy? No! But she found it anyway because that’s what Jesus longs to give to us all. 

Of course, the question will always be raised: “Does this mean we can we can do whatever we want? No, because Jesus followed up his statement to her with “Go and sin no more.” But that doesn’t in any way diminish he extravagant statement of grace and mercy.

Perhaps you are in need of hearing both of those statements from Jesus: “Neither do I condemn you – go, and sin no more.”

Then, when you do sin, as you inevitably will, hold on this promise: 1 John 1:9-10 (ESV): If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Perhaps today you need to hear the voice of Jesus saying, Neither do I condemn you. Why? Romans 8:1 (NLT) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Do you belong to Jesus? If you do, there is no condemnation and he does not condemn you. Rest in that knowledge!

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for this story in Scripture and the hope that it offers to each one of us who need to know that you do not condemn us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 10/13/16 – An Open Scandal in Heaven

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DayBreaks for 10/13/16 – An Open Scandal in Heaven

From the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

Genesis 4:8-11 (NIV) – Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.  Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.  Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.

We read this story about Cain and Abel and can easily miss some important things.  First of all, it reads as if it all happens instantaneously, but the fact of the matter is that we don’t know how much time passed between the time Cain killed his brother until God confronted Cain about his actions.  It may have been minutes, hours, days or weeks.  We simply don’t know, and all things considered, it’s not that important – except in this regard: for the period of time that passed (no matter how long or short it may have been), Cain probably thought he’d gotten away with something.  He harbored in his heart the secret vision of killing his brother, of his brother’s blood spilling out onto the ground.  He must have considered what he would tell his mother and father the next time he saw them and they asked where his brother was.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he avoided his parents as long as possible.  It’s a terrible thing to harbor dark secrets in our hearts about the things we have done, wondering, tormented by the fear of discovery, all while hoping that no one will ever find out.

For however long of time that passed, Cain labored under the delusion that his sin was secret, but based on this text, as Chuck Swindoll put it, Cain learned that “A secret sin on earth is open scandal in heaven.”  Rather shocking and frightening when you hear it put that way, isn’t it?  The thoughts that I’ve had today that were angry, bitter, unforgiving, lustful or envious – they cry out to the throne of heaven as clearly and loudly as the blood of Abel.  And they are an open scandal in heaven.  The words I’ve spoken, the bad things I’ve done – they, too, are scandals on the front page of heaven’s newspaper. 

We call it a scandal when a congressman or public figure has their sins and faults splattered across the airwaves and printed on the front page.  Your sins are just as well known to God – even more clearly known, in fact.  And so are mine.

But if you go back and read the rest of the story about Cain and Abel, as Chuck Swindoll put it: “Even after the worst crime ever committed up to that time, the Lord demonstrated grace…God asked the murderous Cain a rhetorical question to convict him of his sin.  But Cain refused to repent.  What will we do?  It’s one thing to repent once your sins find you out, but we need to remember that God always sees our scandalous behavior.  In His grace, He gives us a chance to repent.  May we be wise enough to accept His grace!

PRAYER:  God, help us to remember that our lives are like an open book before you and that nothing we do is really a secret.  May the knowledge that you know, you see, and you are hurt by our sin help us to repent and return to you every time we go astray.  Thank you for your abundant grace and forgiveness.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 9/14/16 – Trophies of Grace

 

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DayBreaks for 9/14/16 – Trophies of Grace

What comes to your mind when you hear the words, “Salvation Army”?  Do you think of Christmas bell-ringers?  Do you think of dark uniforms and people who are working with drunks and homeless?  Do you have a good impression, a positive image? 

The man who started the Salvation Army was named William Booth.  He decided to form a church in the East London area, a down-and-out section of the city.  There were few, if any churches in that area, and what churches were there didn’t accept the kind of people who lived in that part of the city.  William Booth called those people “trophies of grace.”  When he looked at the people of East London, he wasn’t repulsed, but moved with compassion, motivated by Jesus’ love. 

When you think about the trophies of grace, you might be tempted to think of Billy Graham, mother Theresa, the apostles, or the pastors of mega-churches who write best-selling books.  And that would be correct – they are trophies of grace.  But let me suggest that they are no more “trophies of grace” than the dying beggars that mother Theresa ministered to who accepted Christ.  Every one who comes to believe in Jesus is a trophy of grace.

William Booth understood something that very few people in history have understood: God’s grace, like a stream of living water, flows downhill to the lowest place it can find.  There will be few of the great and mighty men and women of history who will someday stand before the throne and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  They never considered themselves servants of anyone – they never bent the knee before Christ.  But the waiting room of heaven will be filled with the poor, the destitute, the outcasts of the world who were not too proud to bow.

Everyone that we meet in heaven will be there because they are one thing, and one thing only: trophies of God’s grace.

PRAYER:  Help us, Father, to learn to be grace-filled people.  Thank you for your grace that abounds to us, that you’ve poured out upon us.  We are amazed that you love us and think of us as treasures worthy of the price of the blood of your Son.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

PRAYER: Jesus, I want my life to be something that attracts people to you because they see something irresistible inside of me that they, too, will want. Let it never be about me, though, but always about you! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

 

DayBreaks for 8/1/16 – The Journey of Two Brothers

“The Prodigal Son”, by G.P. Paltz (notice the older brother in the black darkness in the background behind the sheep)

DayBreaks for 8/01/16 – The Journey of Two Brothers

Of all the parables in the Bible, the story known as the Prodigal Son on Luke 15 is by far my favorite. It speaks to me at such a visceral level. Perhaps that’s why I appreciated this Sunday’s message so much. I’m not going to try to re-deliver the sermon to you, but at the end, the key question the teacher posed to us was simply this: “Which brother are you?”

One brother was (at least in the beginning of the story) a prideful rebel. Prideful rebels are deceived by the allure of the world and all it offers, thinking about themselves and acting as if they are the center of the universe. It’s all about their wants and wishes and desires.

The other brother was the religious moralist. He felt he’d done everything right and was therefore better than his prideful rebel younger brother.

Which am I? Well, let me see…

When I was younger, I was much more like the religious moralist. I grew up in a legalistic church where you didn’t dare sin or you could expect the immediate and unremitting wrath of God to descend upon you. One of the common debates was “If a believer sins and dies before they can ask forgiveness, will they go to heaven?” And so, in my zealous youth, I felt pretty self-righteous (most of the time). So in my younger years, I would have been the older brother, the religious moralist who didn’t really feel that God would have to stoop very low at all to lift me and carry me through the pearly gates.

Then, I seemed to move in mid-life, into being more like the prideful rebel. I began to think about all the things I’d missed in my younger years because I was so straight-laced and circumspect. The world and its allure pressed in on me and Satan whispered into my ear about all that I’d not experienced, all those things that looked so fun and fulfilling. I never did go really wild at all (my legalistic upbringing made that impossible for me), but I became ever more conscious that I wasn’t such a good person after all – even if I gave the outward appearance of being one. So, I’d become like the younger brother at least in my mind, if not in my actions.

Then, like the younger brother, I “came to my senses” and realized that my life was not where it needed to be. I also came to realize that it never would be what it needed to be. That is where I find myself today. 

So my answer to the question “Which brother are you?” is simply this: I am both. I have been both. I suspect that I will continue to be both. Why? Because I have moments of being a religious moralist when I compare myself to others who are prideful rebels, and I have moments of bring a prideful rebel when I leave God out of my thoughts.

How do I feel about being both? I think that it is the perspective of the years and the tireless work of the Spirit that has brought me to this point. This point is the point of grace and nothing more: realizing how sinful I am whether or not at the moment I am the religious moralist (older brother) or the prideful rebel (younger brother). I just flat out desperately need Jesus and always will!

I guess another way of thinking about it is that I am “every man”…for I suspect each of us has both the prideful rebel and religious moralist in us.

One more key point that I’d heard for the first time today: in the culture of the day when this parable was spoken, the older son would have been honor bound to go out searching for the younger brother until he’d found him and brought him “home”. For all of us who are frequently religious moralists, that should pin us to the wall in repentance…for all too often our attitude toward the prideful rebel is to avoid them, shun them and stay as far away from them as possible. In Jesus’ parable (which was Jesus’ own self-defense of his ministry to teach the Pharisees and scribes why he was hanging out with the tax collectors and sinners), the very point was that the religious moralists (Pharisees/scribes) were angry with Jesus for being with the prideful rebels. Religious moralists have a tendency to not only be angry, but jealous in their hearts of the experiences of the prideful sinner (we get that sense from the older brother’s words in the story.) Jesus’ point is clear: you have been blessed with the truth and therefore you have obligations to the prideful rebels. Rather than spitting on them with your words and actions, go out and bring them home!  If that doesn’t give us all pause as Christians when we see the iniquity of the prideful rebels around us, shame on us. For religious moralists may be farther from the kingdom than the prideful rebel will ever be.

Thank God for His grace!

PRAYER: Lord, I can look back from the perspective of nearly 6-1/2 decades and see how desperately I needed you, and need you, to save me. I will be eternally grateful for the fact that you ran to greet me when I’d been far away and that you have always been with me and that all you have is now mine through Christ Jesus. Keep us from willful rebellion and from religious and moral pride…and let us always be filled with the deepest appreciation for teaching us our true nature and need for you! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2006:

 

DayBreaks for 7/12/16 – Why I am Thankful for My Sin

DayBreaks for 7/12/16 – Why I Am Thankful for My Sin

Though it is a rapidly fading memory, I can recall how I thought about myself when I was young. Boy, was I stupid! I was so full of myself and proud that it makes me sick to my stomach now to even think about it.

You see, I thought God was getting a pretty good deal with me. I was very straight laced and I imagined that I had a level of self-control that bordered on the perfect. I thought I could will myself out of any temptation, will myself into near perfect obedience. I was much like the Pharisees of Scripture.

What was the result? I suppose it was that I didn’t feel all that much need of either Jesus or forgiveness – let alone grace and mercy. After all, I was so much better than everyone else – or so I thought. After all, I was the one who knew all the answers in Sunday school class. I was the one who always won the Bible memory contests. I didn’t drink, dance, play cards, do drugs or smoke. I was as straight laced as one could be and I was sure that God was very, very happy with me.

It was only later on in life that I learned that I didn’t have such strong will power after all. I found myself falling into sin that I couldn’t have anticipated and to which I would have said “Never, Lord!” in my earlier years. But those “never’s” have a way of coming back to haunt us, don’t they? (Yep, I’ve learned to never say never!) 

At first, this growing awareness of my sin brought me great shame and despair. I began to believe that not only had God not got such a great deal with me being a follower, but that He was extremely angry with me, that when He looked down from on high He must be disgusted and totally ready to just dump me on the brimstone piles in hell.

But then, by the grace of some teaching and some “mentors” that I read (Philip Yancey, Brennan Manning, the book of Romans, John Ortberg, Mark Buchanan and others) I found the lifeline that I desperately needed – the grace of God. I grew to realize that I wasn’t nearly as “hot” as I thought I was – in fact, I was horribly flawed – but God didn’t hate me for it or reject me. He opened my eyes to grace and to my absolute need for grace – not perfect obedience – through my sin.

If it hadn’t been for the magnitude of my sin, I would have never really come to understand what grace was, the depth of God’s love, and how badly I needed Jesus. I would have just kept thinking I was good enough (maybe) and didn’t have need for much forgiveness. What a fool I would have been to think such a thing about myself as I believed when I was young!

And that is precisely why I am thankful for my sin!

PRAYER: God, thank you for being so long-suffering with me in my pride and foolishness and for opening my eyes to my need for Jesus and grace through my sin! Thank you that you are powerful enough to even use sin to lead us to salvation!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.