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 7/01/15 – We’re Not Climbing Jacob’s Ladder

DayBreaks for 7/01/15: We’re Not Climbing Jacob’s Ladder

Today’s DayBreaks is from the 2005 DayBreaks archive:

Do you remember the Christian children’s song from your childhood that included the words, “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder?”  It comes from the story of Jacob in Genesis as he was running for his life with his brother Esau chasing him.  Jacob, after a hard day of running, lay down to sleep at night and had a vision of a ladder reaching from heaven to earth with angels going up and down the ladder.  The old song suggested that each round we went in life, we got higher and higher up the ladder, nearer and nearer to God’s throne.  It’s a cute song, but it’s not biblical in its imagery.

The idea that we can climb up a ladder to God is no different than the suggestion that was put forth by the men of Babel long ago who decided that they’d build a tower to let them get to heaven.  Didn’t work for them – and if we do anything to try to reach God through our own efforts, it won’t work for us, either.

Therein is the problem with the song about Jacob’s ladder: the ladder wasn’t so we could walk up the ladder to God, but so that God could come down to the earth, to the place where Jacob was, and years later on in Jacob’s life, to wrestle with him.  And therein is the wonder: that God would come down in such a way to the place where we live.  Jacob, we’re told, wasn’t aware until he awoke that God was in that place.  I can’t help but wonder how many places that I’ve been where I had no inkling of His presence, too. 

God came down to earth in the garden of Eden, He came down to visit Abraham, He came down in the shape and form of a baby, and He came down in the Spirit to live with us.  God is still in the business of coming to earth.  He comes to us each and every day as we move through life.  He watches us, encourages us, corrects us, counsels us and delights in our Presence. 

I’m thankful that God chooses to come down and spend each day with us.  Let’s make Him welcome!

Copyright by 2005 Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 11/22/11 – One Drop Less

DayBreaks for 11/22/11 – One Drop Less

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ – Matthew 25:37-39

One interesting way to read Scripture and gain new insights is to emphasize different words when we read.  Then, meditate on each word, one at a time, to mine the riches buried in a passage.  I’ve used this technique before, but not in conjunction with the passage above.

I’ve read this story many times, but never using this tool…but what if we stop to think about the seemingly insignificant adverb, “when.”  ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or when did we see you thirsty, or when did we see you naked, or when did we see you sick?’  It is interesting that both those in the parable who see, and those who fail to see the needs of those around them ask the same question “When…?”  Also revealing is the fact that those who helped didn’t remember helping, while those who passed by didn’t remember passing by.  The common question that will be asked by both groups on the last day is “When? Lord?”

Mother Theresa once said, “I never look at the masses as my responsibility, I look at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. So you begin with one. If I didn’t pick up that one person, I wouldn’t have picked up 42,000. My whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if I didn’t put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less.”

It takes a lot of water to fill the ocean.  But it can be filled – one drop at a time.  In this analogy, each act of kindness is a good thing done in love for someone else.  And to the person who receives that drop of water, it is life-giving and life-sustaining.

Find a way today to put a drop into the ocean of need and hurt that surrounds you.  Just as the world is diminished by each act of evil, it is blessed by each act of good.

PRAYER: Jesus, help us be influences of good, not evil this day.  Let us not lose heart because of the size of the task, but let us join in spirit with Your Spirit to help righteousness flourish!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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