DayBreaks for 3/27/15 – What Troubles God

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DayBreaks for 3/27/15: What Troubles God

My favorite Bible story growing up would change from time to time.  Daniel in the lion’s den, the story of Joseph, even Job and his troubles were from time to time my favorite story.  But for a long, long time now, it is the story of the raising of Lazarus that has held my heart enthralled and my mind intrigued.  I recently received a reflection on that story and I believe it is worth sharing.  This is from Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflections this year:

“The story of Lazarus is rich in meaning for us, especially during Lent. At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus “groaned in spirit.” Jesus’ trouble here is the result of his identification with sinful humanity. He goes all the way to the bottom of it, letting its truth affect him. Jesus does not just love us abstractly or from a distance. He comes close to us.

“More to the point, this groaning of Jesus signals the pain that God feels at our imprisonment. If his glory is our being fully alive, then his agony is tied to our sin. How salvific it can be to listen to this groaning of the Lord at our own lack of life.

“In the same vein, Jesus weeps for his friend. There is something heartbreaking about this for it is the only time in the Scripture that Jesus is described as weeping. Whatever form death takes within us – physical, psychological, spiritual – it is something deeply troubling to God.

“One detail is particularly moving: Jesus asks, “Where have you laid him?” Sin alienates us from our God, making us strangers to him. Just as in the book of Genesis, God looked for Adam and Eve, who were hiding from him, so here God incarnate doesn’t know where his friend Lazarus is.

“Then the Lord comes to the tomb. We hear that it was a cave with a stone laid across it. When things are dead, we bury them away, we hide them. When we feel spiritually dead, we lock ourselves up in the darkness of our own anxiety and egotism and fear. But there is a power, a divine power, sent into this world whose very purpose is to break through all such stones. “Lazarus, come out!” Are there any words more beautiful and stirring in the whole New Testament? From whatever grave we are lying in, Jesus calls us out.

“And the dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth.” Lazarus comes out with all of the signs of death still clinging to him. So Jesus says “Untie him and let him go.” Here we see it: Whatever limits, binds, controls, orders, dominates us – these are the enemies of God.”

PRAYER: Father, it is good to know that what troubles us causes You distress, too, and that You call us out of the graves in which we lay!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 3/26/15 – A Home We’ve Never Visited

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DayBreaks for 3/26/15: A Home We’ve Never Visited From the DayBreaks archive, dated 3/18/2005:

I am often possessed by a sense of great sadness at the amount of pain in the world.  No one – not one – is immune to the suffering, pain and disappointment.   It searches us out as a mother looks for a lost child.  And it always finds us.  Yet there is still nothing like going home.  For anyone who had anything approaching a normal upbringing, “home” is sweet music to our world-weary souls.  It promises remembrances of safety, of love, of belonging and being cherished.  It fires joy into our hearts and longing into our spirits.  Home.  Perhaps the finest place on earth.  But there is only one place that is home, and much of the rest of the world is brutal and heartbreaking.

Philip Yancey, in Disappointment With God, wrote: “For people who are trapped in pain, or in a broken home, or in economic misery, or in fear – for all those people, for all of us, heaven promises a time, far longer and more substantial than the time we spent on earth, of health and wholeness and pleasure and peace.  …The Bible never belittles human disappointment (remember the proportion in Job – one chapter of restoration follows forty-one chapters of anguish), but it does add one key word: temporary.  What we feel now, we will not always feel.  Our disappointment is itself a sign, an aching, a hunger for something better.  And faith is, in the end, a kind of homesickness – for a home we have never visited but have never once stopped longing for.”

T.S. Eliot put it like this:

“And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.”

Rev. 21: 1-4 – Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband.  I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.

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

PRAYER: Lord, we long to come home!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 3/25/15 – Positions of Honor

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DayBreaks for 3/25/15: Positions of Honor

From the DayBreaks archive, dated 3/22/2005:

It is a tragic scenario: very shortly before the death of Jesus, his disciples are quarreling about who will get to sit at his right hand and at his left hand, positions of honor at a feast.  It is inconceivable that they should be arguing about such things even in the looming shadow of the cross, until we remember that they didn’t really understand that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to die.  To the disciples, however, to be at either side of Jesus was glory: folks would talk about how important and worthy and righteous they must be to have found such favor in Jesus’ eyes.  Jesus, however, tells them plainly that they don’t have a clue what they are asking – and he leaves it at that.

Now, days later, Jesus is on the cross.  But he’s not alone.  There is someone on his right and someone on his left – the place that the disciples believed was a place of honor.  But they were no where to be found.  They found out that to be on the right or left hand of Jesus wasn’t all it appeared to be.  In fact, those who were on the right and left hand of Jesus were criminals…vile sinners.  And they weren’t getting praise from anyone…instead they were getting nails and broken legs.

When James and John asked Jesus for the places of honor next to him in his kingdom, he told them they didn’t know what they were asking (Mark 10:35-39). Jesus was trying to tell his position-conscious disciples that a person who wants to be close to Jesus must be prepared to suffer and die. The way to the kingdom is the way of the cross.

But, there was truth to part of the disciples’ belief.  For one of the thieves, he found the position next to Jesus to be one not only of honor, but of salvation.  The other, sadly, did not.  One discovered that just being close to Jesus in proximity wasn’t enough.  We have to be united to him in death, alive in him with faith and hope, and in so doing, we will walk the streets of paradise with him in the kingdom.

Do you desire a place of honor and recognition?  Have you come to the cross yourself?  Have you taken up your place on the cross next to Jesus?  Have you died so that you might live?  To die with Jesus is a great thing – once you’ve accepted him through faith.  But dying next to him without faith is the utmost futility.  And if as faithful ones we die with Jesus, how much more glorious is it to live for and with him?

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

PRAYER: It is hard to understand the requests of the disciples until we put ourselves in their place, Lord, and realize that we would have likely done the same thing.  Help us not to seek our glory, but yours!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 3/24/15 – The Thief’s Request

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DayBreaks for 3/24/15: The Thief’s Request

From the DayBreaks archive, dated 3/24/2005:

The focus of history has settled on a lonely hill outside of Jerusalem.  Few that day knew what an impact that day would have on women, men, children, society, culture, history and eternity.  Such is often the way it goes with earth-shaking events.  They seem to pass unnoticed and unappreciated, often until years later. 

On that hill are three crosses.  Three.  Not just one.  The other two are largely forgotten, albeit understandably it is so, and indeed, appropriate.  You know the story: the others were criminals of the vilest sort.  They flanked Jesus, they shared at least a portion of his fate, although they were not nearly great enough to carry the weight of the sins of the entire world on their shoulders.  In fact, little did they know, they didn’t even carry the weight of their own sins on at that moment.  Jesus carried them all.  

One of the criminals sadistically joined in the mockery of his co-suffered.  Perhaps in some strange way, it took his mind off of his own fate and may have made his pain easier to bear as a result.  We don’t know why he did it.  It may have just been part of his character to be mean-spirited. 

But the other criminal was a different story.  Listen to Michael Card, from A Violent Grace: “And then a miracle happens.  The thief turns to Jesus.  ‘Jesus,’ he pleads, ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom.’  (Lk. 23:42)

“With these words, an unnamed thief becomes the only one we know of to speak to Jesus on the cross without derision or mockery.  An unnamed thief is the only person in the Bible who calls Jesus by His personal name, without any kind of title attached, as if their mutual suffering has placed them on an intimate, first-name basis.  In so doing, he becomes the first to address Jesus the way most of us do today.  And with his words, that unnamed thief becomes the first to be drawn to the crucified Christ.  Jesus answers with a guarantee, ‘Today, you will be with me in paradise.’  (Lk. 23:43)

“Was the criminal’s desire for salvation driven only by fear?  Was it a pain-crazed plea from between clenched teeth?  Or was it a sincere leap of faith based on sudden contrition?  We don’t know.  The sentence could easily have been the first prayer of an entirely misspent life.  But the thief asked only once, and needed to ask only once.  The Son of God looked over at him and gave him his answer, ‘Today…’. 

“A few hours later, Jesus died.  The thieves clung to life for several hours more.  When the soldiers saw that they were still alive, they picked up heavy mallets and broke their legs.  No longer able to lift up and draw air into their lungs, the two survivors started a grotesque dance, a losing battle with suffocation.  Soon, they too hung still and lifeless against the sky.

“But one of them awoke in paradise.”

The message: some events shake the world, but they are meaningless and unimportant unless they also shake and affect us as individuals.  Jesus came because God “so loved the world” – all of it – that He gave His only begotten Son so that anyone who believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  But who cares if He loved the world, but didn’t love ME?  We are so self-focused because we are so needy.  And what Jesus did on the cross for the unnamed thief, He did for me and He did for you.  See him, as his pain-wracked face turns to you, and gives YOU His answer: “Today…”.  And whether it is literally today, or tomorrow, or next week or next year or 50 years, it is a guarantee from the center cross, and you will know that when you awake, you will waken in paradise.

Because of HIM!

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

PRAYER: Thank you for loving the thief…and for loving me!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 3/23/15 – Standing in the Darkness

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DayBreaks for 3/23/15: Standing in the Darkness

It was a rough week last week.  There were shootings in several places, bombings in others.  Protests, accusations, incriminations…you name it, the last week saw it.  Can I begin to explain how people strap explosive vests on their bodies, walking into a mosque or church, and detonate it, killing and wounding perhaps 500 people or more!??  No, I can’t.  It escapes me.  And it troubles me.

On Thursday night last week, I attended a dinner for the Jesus film.  I was moved by the dozens who have been martyred just because they showed that film.  I was touched by stories of indigenous people who, upon viewing the beatings and crucifixion of Jesus as depicted in the film, attacked the screen with arrows, spears and machetes in an attempt to stop the soldiers from their brutality.  But perhaps most of all, I was touched by the faith of brothers and sisters in Africa (and elsewhere) who are ready to hop on a motorcycle and take the Jesus film throughout Africa, including northern Africa, where they may lose their very lives for Jesus.  One brother had already been there with a partner.  They were arrested and the partner was executed, but this man had managed to escape.  Now, he has been provided a motorcycle…and where do you think he wants to go?  Back to the people who arrested him and killed his partner – to show them the movie, Jesus.

All of those things were on my heart this morning in worship as we sang songs about faith that went along with the topic of the sermon today.  But then we sang In Christ Alone, and came to the part that says: Till He returns, Or calls me home, Here in the Power of Christ we stand!

That is our calling, is it not?  Our calling is to stand…and above all, to stand.  We shouldn’t (easier said than done) fear the one who can kill the body but not the soul.  We need to stand.  We shouldn’t fear the drum beats of Satan’s army.  The church need not fear for the gates of hell shall NOT prevail!

But we must stand.  We must stand beside our Elder Brother and represent truth and righteousness, love and mercy, justice and grace.  We MUST stand. He stood alone for us once…let’s not leave him to stand alone again.

Ephesians 6:11Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints…

PRAYER: Jesus, oh Lord, give us the courage of Your Spirit so we will not be afraid to stand!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 3/20/15 – God’s Conduct

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DayBreaks for 3/20/15: God’s ConductYou’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “…for conduct unbecoming an officer…” or something very similar.  I guess it can be grounds for being removed from the service or at the very least, disciplinary measures.  There are simply certain standards that we expect of those in positions of authority.

You may also be old enough to remember when the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets were the rage.  You can still find items marked with WWJD in Christian bookstores from time to time.  While it may have been a bit trite or a marketing idea, it did pose an intriguing question: What would Jesus do if he were in my place at this very moment?  That was the point of the bracelets – to cause the wearer to consider their next action/thought and then try to emulate what they believe Jesus would have done in their situation.  I suspect that sometimes, we may have gotten it right – but I also fear that we would still often make the wrong choices.  Jesus just didn’t act the way people thought he should act.  And it caused him trouble.

Philippians 2:8 (KJV) – And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

When it comes to those in positions of authority, you can’t get any higher than Jesus, who bears the name above all names and who has been exalted above every power in heaven or on earth.  What conduct should we therefore expect from Him?

John Wesley wrote to his people giving them what he called the Rule of Conduct:

Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.

This is the meaning of the Passion. How does God act?  You need look no further than the cross, the crucifixion of Jesus, to see God’s conduct; it is the rule for our lives as long as we shall live.

Now that we know WWJD, are we really ready and willing to try to emulate Him?

PRAYER: Jesus, help us understand that trite slogans and tricks to pause us to think about how you would act don’t impress you one iota.  What does have value to you is a life of sacrifice and surrender.  Help us not just to ask the question, but to live the answer as exemplified in the crucifixion!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 3/19/15 – God Has Loved My Matthew

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DayBreaks for 3/19/15: God Has Loved My Matthew

Walter Wangerin is an American author and educator who is best known for his religious works and children’s books.  He has many delightful stories, but one in particular is very touching: “Matthew, Seven, Eight, and Nine” about how he tried to stop his son Matthew from stealing comic books. He tried various uses of the law over several years and continued to fail.

Finally, he resorted to something he rarely used: a spanking. He did it deliberately, almost ritualistically, and he was so upset when he finished that he left the room and wept. After pulling himself back together, he went in to Matthew and hugged him. A number of years later, Matthew and his mother were doing some general reminiscing, and Matthew happened to bring up the time when he kept stealing comic books. “And you know why I finally stopped?” he asked. “Sure,” she said, “Because Dad finally spanked you.” “No!” replied Matthew, “No, because Dad cried.”

Wangerin concludes with these words: “Hereafter, let every accuser of my son reckon with the mercy of God, and fall into a heap, and fail. For love accomplished what the law could not, and tears more powerful than Sinai. Even the Prince of Accusers shall bring no charge against my son that the Final Judge shall not dismiss. Satan, you are defeated! My God has loved my Matthew” (Walter Wangerin, Jr., The Manger Is Empty, pp. 116-132).

What the law can never do, love does.  And God weeps over us.

PRAYER: Jesus, I suspect that the tears you shed at Lazarus’ tomb were tears shed for all of us in our sinful and fallen state.  I am touched by your care for us and the love evidenced by your compassion toward us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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