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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DayBreaks for 3/18/15: The Ascension’s First Ten Feet

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DayBreaks for 3/18/15: The Ascension’s First Ten Feet

When I am lifted up I will draw all people to myself. – Jesus, John 12:32

People like to be exalted, to be lifted up and become visible for their achievements and deeds and intellects.  I suppose it is a normal part of the human condition that we are so self-seeking.  But it’s not a good part.  Even Jesus talked about being lifted up – but he had something far different in mind than seeking something for himself. 

If you are tempted to take Jesus’ statement from John 12:32 to be referring to something flashy and glitzy, John goes on to stick in a little commentary in verse 33 to clarify the “lifting up” Jesus had in mind: it was being lifted up with nails in his wrists and feet – it was the cross. The day would come when Jesus would be lifted up again at the time of his ascension into heaven, but I think it is entirely fair (and appropriate) to say that the first ten feet of the ascension came on the cross.  Jesus’ upward journey started when the Roman soldiers hoisted him up skyward at the Place of the Skull, but it certainly wouldn’t stop there.  It continued when he was lifted up again from the dead…and once more when he lifted off from the mountain top to return to the Father.

In this, as in all things, Jesus is teaching us: if you want to fly off into glory with Jesus, you’ve got to be part of the first ten feet of the trip as well. As Scott Hoezee put it: You can’t prop up a stepladder on the side of the cross, climb it, and then meet Jesus at the top for the balance of the journey to glory. You’ve got to be crucified with him. You have to be the kernel who gets buried into death with him. “Where I am, my servant will also be.” But as a servant, it is not up to you to pick and choose the times and places you want to be with Jesus. You are with him always and everywhere or you are with him never and nowhere.

We look forward to having our bodies lifted up out of the grave when He comes again with a shout and in great glory.  It’s the first ten feet that are the hardest.  The question is: will we take that part of the journey or not?

Philippians 2:8 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.

Read that again carefully: it was precisely because of those first 10 feet of Christ’s rise to glory that the rest of his journey took place, and it is precisely the reason that God has given him a name above every name.

PRAYER: Jesus, we want to be partakers of your victory and to receive the glory that you have planned for us…but we aren’t so anxious about those first ten feet.  Please, PLEASE…give us courage to climb the cross and hang there with you as the starting point of our journey!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 3/17/15 – The Great Unfairness

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DayBreaks for 3/17/15: The Great Unfairness

 

From the DayBreaks Archive, 3/17/2005:

News flash: the world isn’t fair.  Well, I guess you probably already knew that, right?  If you’re a parent, you’ve probably said that to one of your kids at least once.  Kids are great for pointing out that the world isn’t fair, but their problem is that they think the world should be fair, and that they should not ever be on the short end of any stick.  That’s rather humorous in a way, because if the world was never unfair, there’d never be a short end of the stick anyway! 

In his book, Disappointment with God, Philip Yancey wrote about Henri Nouwen and a family he knew in Paraguay.  The father, a doctor, spoke out against the military regime there and its human rights abuses.  Local police took their revenge on him by arresting his teenage son and torturing him to death.  Enraged townsfolk wanted to turn the boy’s funeral into a huge protest march, but the doctor chose another means of protest.  At the funeral, the father displayed his son’s body as he had found it in the jail – naked, scarred from the electric shocks and cigarette burns and beatings.  All the villagers filed past the corpse, which lay not in a coffin but on the blood-soaked mattress from the prison.  It was the strongest protest imaginable, for it put injustice on grotesque display. 

“Isn’t that what God did at Calvary?  ‘It’s God who ought to suffer, not you and me,’ say those who bear a grudge against God for the unfairness of life.  The curse word expresses it well: God be damned.  And on that day, God was damned.  The cross that held Jesus’ body, naked and market with scars, exposed all the violence and injustice of this world.  At once, the Cross revealed what kind of world we have and what kind of God we have: a world of gross unfairness, a God of sacrificial love.”

If there is anything that can redeem gross unfairness, it is an act of sacrificial love, that gives to those who have been unfairly treated a blessing far beyond anything they could have imagined for themselves.  Was the cross fair?  Was it fair that it was God on the cross, dying as the Innocent One on behalf of all those who are guilty?  No.  It was the most unfair thing in the history of the universe.  But it happened.  And the great unfairness has been swallowed up in the immense love and compassion of God.

Ps. 117:2 – For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.  Praise the LORD.

PRAYER: Thank You, Lord, for loving us more than being concerned about fairness!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 3/16/15 – The Last Enemy

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DayBreaks for 3/16/15: The Last EnemyA Lenten devotion by Fr. Robert Barron:

“We are halfway through Lent which means the passion and death of Christ are slowly coming into view. At this point, I would like to spend a little time contemplating what God thinks of death.

“To put it simply, God hates death and wants nothing to do with it. Listen God speaking through the prophet Ezekiel: I will open your graves and have you rise from them. These words are spoken just after the marvelous scene of the enlivening of the dry bones.

“There is an important clue here, by the way. Those dry bones were there because a battle had been fought on that spot. Death, the fear of death, the threat of death-all of this broods over human life and grounds sin and oppression. All sin, which involves the terrible clinging to self and attacking of others, ultimately flows from a fear of death. Every tyrant who has ever ruled has succeeded only by instilling in people the fear of death.

“But what if death – as we know it and experience it – is not at all what God intended? What if it were something that God wanted to deal with once and for all, to get rid of? The book of Genesis tells us clearly that death came from sin. Death as we experience it – as something fearful, horrible, terrifying – comes from having turned from God.

“But Jesus came primarily as a warrior whose final enemy is death. I know how easy it is to domesticate Jesus, presenting him as a kindly and inspiring moral teacher, but that is not how the Gospels present him. He is a cosmic warrior who has come to do battle with all of those forces that keep us from being fully alive.

“Throughout the Gospels, Jesus deals with the effects of death and a death-obsessed culture: violence, hatred, egotism, exclusion, false religion, phony community. But the final enemy he must face down is death itself.”

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we long to see the last enemy finally and totally rendered powerless and defeated forever!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 3/13/15 – Grace Doesn’t Sell

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DayBreaks for 3/13/15: Grace Doesn’t Sell

From the DayBreaks archive, 3/11/2005:

Perhaps the biggest problem that the first century Jews had with Jesus was that he wasn’t hard enough.  He didn’t chew people out right and left.  After all, we only see him throwing out the money changers once, and even though he often “yelled” at the religious leaders, he ate with sinners and tax collectors, partied (in appropriate ways) with prostitutes, touched lepers, talked to women on the streets and at wells, and even let a notorious prostitute who was “caught in the act” get away scott-free in the middle of the public square.  Clearly, certainly, he should have switched all this around: the money lenders were helping people to worship by loaning money to buy sacrifices for the temple, touching lepers meant he could contaminate other people, talking to women on the street (especially one who had been married multiple times!) looks bad for any moral teacher, and letting the prostitute go was nothing short of disobedience.  Right?  Wrong.

Jesus/God has a way of turning everything upside down and inside out.  Up becomes down, success becomes failure and failure success, darkness becomes light, right becomes wrong and wrong becomes right.  The problem that they had was they couldn’t accept the one who was “full of grace and truth”.  They wanted someone who was “full of fire and brimstone”, harkening back to the Old Testament passages about the One to come who would bring judgment and punishment in His hand.  What they got instead was Jesus. 

Oh, yes.  He brought judgment.  He showed evil for what it truly is – a heartbreak committed against God.  He judged those who thought they were righteous by their own deeds and freed those who knew they were guilty and turned to Him for relief. 

“Grace doesn’t sell; you can hardly even give it away, because it works only for losers and no one wants to stand in their line.  The world of winners will buy case lots of moral advice, grosses of guilt-edged prohibitions, skids of self-improvement techniques, and whole truckloads of transcendental hot air.  But it will not buy free forgiveness because that threatens to let the riffraff into the Supper of the Lamb.  And therefore the world of winners is judged already because it will not believe in the name of the only begotten Child who God raised from the dead – in the Loser of God who, in the fullness of his permitting, forgiving love, goes ahead and lays his hands on a bunch of grubby little kids and says, ‘There!  That’s what I had in mind!’”

As humans, we are too prideful to admit we can’t do things on our own.  And so, like Adam and Eve, we decide to take action on our own, taking matters into our own hands that are far too big and complicated for us to understand.  We try to earn our way, reason our way, argue our way or even buy our way – but God doesn’t take any of those options.  Grace can’t be sold or everyone would have it.  It must be accepted.  And then we need to give it away, too.

PRAYER: May we be people who are not only saved by grace, but filled with it, too, Lord!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 3/12/15 – Built Around the Cross

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DayBreaks for 3/12/15: Built Around the Cross     There’s a great story about the artist Rodin, who’s most famous work may be the sculpture, The Thinker, who one day saw a huge, carved crucifix beside a road. He immediately fell in love with the artwork and insisted on having it for himself. He purchased the cross and arranged to have it carted back to his house. But, unfortunately, it was too big for the building. So, of all things, he knocked out the walls, raised the roof, and rebuilt his home around the cross. – (Best Sermons 3, Harper & Row, 1990, p. 115).

Easter is rapidly approaching.  Try to transport yourself into Jesus’ mind some 2000 years ago.  Put yourself in his shoes for a moment and reflect what it would mean and how it might occupy (dominate?) your thoughts.  It is hard for me to see how he could have thought of anything else.  He was the only person on the face of the earth who knew that he was on a collision course with a grisly, gruesome, painful Roman cross.  Yet, he didn’t swerve or waver and walked steadfastly towards Jerusalem and his date with the nails and wood.

If you want a lesson in commitment and dedication to a purpose, look no further than Jesus.

When you hear Jesus’ call to radical discipleship, I hope you will decide to knock down the walls and rebuild your life around two crosses: the cross of Jesus and your own.  Remember, Jesus said, If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Galatians 2:20 (NIV) – I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

2 Timothy 2:11 (NIV) – Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him…

PRAYER: Jesus, I thank you for your unswerving dedication to why you came and who you came for – and that includes me!  Let us learn what that kind of commitment means and let us build our lives around the two crosses!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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