DayBreaks for 3/31/16 – Snuggling Up to the Old Man

DayBreaks for 3/31/16 – Snuggling Up to the Old Man

In rural China, the black market for female corpses—even already-buried corpses–thrives still (as mentioned years ago by News of the Weird). According to legend dating back 30 centuries, men who die as bachelors will spend eternity alone, and thus their families arrange “ghost weddings,” in which a corpse (presumably, freshly buried) is stolen and relocated alongside the man. (Perhaps more important to the surviving family is the other part of the legend–that any bachelor corpse will “return” to haunt the family.) [Daily Telegraph (London), 2-27-2016, News of the Weird blog]

Let’s face it: no one wants to face eternity alone, but this is pushing it a bit too much. Would you want to be “married” to a dead corpse?

Yet…doesn’t that sort of describe our fascination with the “old man” with its sinfulness? There is something about humans that attracts us to sin. Paul says it is our fleshly nature. But he also says that we have died to those things if we are disciples. That doesn’t mean, obviously, that such things no longer call out to us and that the allure of certain sins don’t still pull on us.

We are dead to the eternal consequences of those sins for we have accepted Christ’s work as being perfect and more than adequate to pay for our sinfulness. But how it still calls to us from time to time!

Would you want to be married to a dead corpse? Me neither. It just doesn’t sound attractive at all. And yet I need to realize that every time I yield to those old temptations it’s like snuggling up to a dead corpse…with all that such a thing implies. Not a pretty picture, is it?

Colossians 3:5 (ESV) -Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Romans 8:13 (ESV) – For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 7:5-6 (ESV) – For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

TODAY’S PRAYER: God, if there is one thing I’ve learned in my decades on this planet it is this: that I cannot overcome temptation on my own. I need you, we need you. Do your work in our hearts and minds and let us long to be part of the pure and spotless bride in the great day of Your revealing! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

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DayBreaks for 3/30/16 – Sticky Labels

DayBreaks for 3/30/16 – Sticky Labels

If I were to mention names of historical people to you and ask you to write down the first word that comes into your mind about that person, we’d probably come up with a wide range of words for the same people. For example: Genghis Kahn. Or, Benedict Arnold (to the Brits, he may be seen as some kind of hero but we Americans wouldn’t.)

When it comes to Biblical characters, the same is true. For example, if I were to mention Judas, many would write down the word “betray” but not everyone. Some might say “traitor” or “back-stabber”, or simply “apostle”. If I were to mention Peter, some would write down “faith,” but not all of you. If I were to mention the names of James and John, some of you would write down the phrase “Sons of Thunder,” but not all of you. But when I mention the word Thomas, there is not much doubt about what folks would write, is there? It would be the word doubt or doubter. We have so closely associated that word with him that someone coined a phrase to describe him: “Doubting Thomas.”
Do you realize that the first three gospels we are told absolutely nothing at all about Thomas? It is only in John’s gospel that he appears as a distinct personality, but even then he only gets 155 words about him. There is not a lot about this disciple in the Bible but there is more than one description. 

Yes, he doubted the resurrection and wanted some tangible proof. But when Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them, we quickly forget it what Thomas said: Then let us go so that we may die with him. It was a courageous statement, but we don’t remember him for that. We don’t call him “Courageous Thomas” but “doubting Thomas.” We fail to point out that in the story of Thomas’ doubt we have the one and only place in the all the Gospels where the Divinity of Christ is bluntly and unequivocally stated. It is interesting, is it not, that the story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, is the same story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith? Look at his confession, My Lord, and my God. Thomas didn’t just say he was a teacher/rabbi. He didn’t just call him “My Lord.” Nor did he say, “You are the Messiah.” He said “My God!” It is the only place where Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind. It is uttered with conviction as if Thomas was simply recognizing a fact, just as 2 + 2 = 4, and the sun is in the sky. You are my Lord and my God! These are certainly not the words of a doubter.
Unfortunately history has remembered him for this scene where the resurrected Christ made an appearance to the disciples in a home in Jerusalem. We do him a great disservice, I fear. I’m glad he wanted proof. I’m glad someone touched him and felt that he had corporality – that he wasn’t just a disembodied spirit hovering ether-like in a room. There was a purpose in Thomas’ questioning and it was a purpose that helps build our faith, two millennia later.

Have people unfairly captured your “essence” in a single, derogatory word like “ugly”, “stupid”, “dummy”, “fat”, “loser”? I think you’re in very good company!

Have you been guilty of labeling others?

Let’s be careful not to label people unfairly, or better yet, let’s not label people at all. Labels stick – even when they’re grossly unfair.

TODAY’S PRAYER: Our Lord and our God, let us learn from the lesson of Thomas that words and labels stick for even thousands of years, often very unfairly. Let us show the honor and respect to all who are made in Your image. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 3/29/16 – The Language of God

DayBreaks for 3/29/16 – The Language of God

From the DayBreaks archives:

(By Doug Dalrymple) – In the RSV translation of this psalm, we hear the same phrase repeated in v1 and v5: For God alone my soul waits in silence  Later, in v8, we’re told, “…pour out your heart before Him.”

We’re tempted to imagine that these two are mutually exclusive: “waiting in silence” and “pouring out our hearts.”  But in our life before God, I think there is a sense in which each of these is necessary for the other to be effective.  Without a spirit of silence before God it is difficult to pour out our hearts to Him; and we can only truly pour out the contents of our hearts to Him if we nurture a spirit of silence.

Someone once said, “The language of God is silence. Everything else is a bad translation.”  For us, silence is one of the most difficult things in the world.  On the one hand, we desire silence, stillness, rest.  But at the same time we can’t stand it and always feel as though we need to fill up the silence with something, almost any kind of noise, whether in our thoughts or through constant speaking or through some outward means of distraction like television or reading.  Even when we force ourselves to sit still in a quiet room and shut our mouths, our minds fight against real silence.  I know mine does.

But in the context of our life in Christ, silence is about more than simply being quiet.  It is about real prayer, about listening, about expectation, about being fully present, in communion with the God who in His grace calls us into communion with Himself.  I think of psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.”  I think of the verse from psalm 131: “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast.”  I think of the example of Mary the sister of Lazarus who “chose the good portion” and sat in silence at Christ’s feet while Martha served distractedly.  I think of the image of St. John with his head on Christ’s breast at the last supper, listening to the all-encompassing heartbeat of the incarnate God.

When we wait in silence on God, not only do we open ourselves to hear God, but our heart can begin to pour itself out to Him without need of words.  Words, in fact, often get in the way.  There is a place for words in prayer, of course.  But too often we concern ourselves overly much with finding the right words for prayer and fitting our heart’s contents into prefabricated verbal boxes.  Too often we lie to ourselves in our words, in what we say and think of ourselves, of others, and of God.  But practicing silence before God fosters humility of heart, and a humbled heart speaks for itself.  Beyond words, in silence, as St. Paul writes, the Holy Spirit prays for us on our behalf.

Habakkuk 2:20 (NIV) – But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.

TODAY’S PRAYER:  Father, teach us to speak and understand Your language.  Help us to come to You with hearts prepared to listen and learn.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 3/28/16 – The Barrier

DayBreaks for 3/28/16 – The Barrier

It is now the day after Easter and it can be a bit of a downer for us as Christians because we love Easter so much. We may need to be reminded that the good news didn’t stop at sundown on Easter Sunday, but it continues to roll onward like an immense, powerful, irresistible ocean. Consider this devotion from one of the staff at our church:

Mark 16:3-6

And they were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’ And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them: Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here.

RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD share one common characteristic, performance. “What must I do to gain access to my God?” This the fundamental question that every religion seeks to answer.

Notice the question that the women asked as they were drawing near to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body with customary burial spices (you can read the entire passage contextually in Mark 16:1-8). They asked, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” It’s a logical question. There’s a large and heavy barrier between the women and where Jesus was assumed to be; it needed to be moved, but they did not possess the power to move it.

They rightly recognized that there was a problem—a barrier—between where they were and where they wanted to be. However, they assumed that the work that had to be done in order to remove the barrier would have to be done by human hands. This is the approach of religion…this is the default of the human heart…this is the way of performance…and this is terrible news!

Christianity is entirely different.

What the women never expected to happen, happened. God did what the women were powerless to do. And in so doing, He gave us a picture of what He does for all of us who trust in Christ. We have an immovable barrier between a holy God and us: sin. The default of our hearts is to assume that we can do enough acts of service, say enough prayers, attend enough church, care for enough orphans, share enough food, help enough people, give enough money…perform enough good to remove the barrier. Here’s the bad news: your performance will never be enough. Here’s the good news: Christ’s performance in your place will always be enough. He did what you cannot do. He rolled away the barrier of our sin by defeating the penalty of sin, death.

Our hope for access into the presence of God does not depend on our ability to move the stone of our sin. Our hope for access into the presence of God is to trust in the one who moved it for us. This is the approach of Christ…this is contrary to the human heart…this is the way of grace…and this is good news!

 

PRAYER: Lord give me strength to rest in your finished and resurrected work in my place. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

DayBreaks for 3/27/16 – Rolling Stones and Broken Things

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DayBreaks for 3/27/16 – Rolling Stones and Broken Things

In the city of Jerusalem is a first century tomb that clearly demonstrates the type of tomb that must have been Joseph of Arimathea’s family crypt. I took the photo in January when we visited this site as the very last location on our Israel tour. The sun was setting and it was chill but there was an excitement about what I was seeing.

I know that this wasn’t the tomb of Jesus…it is believed, as I recall, to have been related in some way to the family of a priest in the first century, though I could have a flawed memory. It doesn’t matter, really…but the tomb ignited my imagination as I contemplated what happened both inside and outside a similar tomb in that same city about 2000 years ago. Though now stuck with mud and the detritus of centuries, the stone will no longer roll to the right to close the entrance to the tomb that is below the archway. But in my mind’s eye, I imagined what it must have been like when that stone outside of Jesus’ tomb began to move.

A few days earlier, a man from Nazareth had been crucified and his body wrapped and stuck into a tomb like this one. But by the Sunday following, he wasn’t there any more. As Christians, we believe he rose. But why was he in the tomb in the first place?  Let me share with you a devotion that one of the worship leaders at our church, Laura Story Elvington, wrote this week:

“And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard…” – Mark 12:1
“Though Scripture doesn’t give us a play by play of every moment between Palm Sunday and Easter, we are given some insight into what Jesus’ last days on this earth looked like. Every word He speaks is heavy with significance, knowing that these are His last words spoken to crowds, His last meals shared with friends and, in this case, His last parable shared in the temple.
“As this story unfolds, we learn that there was a vineyard, and its owner leased it to tenants to work while he was away. When harvest season came, the owner sent a servant to collect some fruit, which was his rightful due as the owner, but the tenants beat the servant and mistreated him. So the owner sent another servant, and then another, one was severely beaten and the other was killed. “Finally, the owner sent his beloved son, saying “Surely they will respect my son”. But the tenants plotted, saying, “This is his heir. Let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours!” So the tenants killed the owner’s son. So what is the owner to do now? Jesus tells the captivated crowd that, “the owner will destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
“Now why did Jesus tell this story? The religious leaders who heard it, felt as though Jesus was speaking about them. They had been given God’s people to care for, yet their greatest concern was their own religiosity. Its also served to foreshadow the atrocity that the Pharisees would perform only days later. But there was another audience present that day the “others.” The commoners. The crowd. Basically, you and me. They listened to Jesus’s teaching, wondering if it could be true. Could the Kingdom of God be given to the not-so-spiritual? “Could the poor have a share in His vineyard? Could those with no status or no title be named the new heirs of such a treasure?
“This is the story of the gospel, told only days before being enacted with real blood, real nails and real thorns. Jesus died, truly paying it all, so that we could gain it all. This is amazing grace: that we, whose sin nailed Him to the tree, also partake in the glory that awaited Him.
“My three year old, Josie, and I were walking on the beach a few days ago, collecting shells to take home to her friends. After digging around and finding some real gems, I noticed that the ones she chose were only fragments, and nothing anyone would want to receive as a gift. “You can have these that I’ve found”, I said to her. “They are much prettier.” But she just smiled and replied, “I like the broken ones.” I smiled.
“This is the beauty of the gospel: God doesn’t owe us the vineyard. And we don’t deserve the vineyard. But, Praise God, we get the vineyard. Why? Because He likes the broken ones.
“Father thank you for the treasure given to us through the finished work of Christ, and making us joint heirs with him. You have made the broken wholly beautiful.”

DayBreaks for 3/24/16 – Making Easter Easy

 

DayBreaks for 3/24/16 – Making Easter Easy

The stores are full of baskets – some woven with brightly colored ribbons.  And just around the corner, you can find that fake green “grass” with which to line the baskets, and close by are the chocolate rabbits, marshmallow bunnies, jelly beans, chocolate eggs and stuffed animals that delight our little ones.  The stores put those kind of things in an area and promote them as “Easter” items.  And, for much of the world, that’s what Easter amounts to.

Is it that we’ve become so commercial that people no longer know what Easter is about?  Or is it just the opposite – that people do indeed know what Easter is all about, and that it is that very knowledge that makes them pretend it’s about bunnies, chicks, colored eggs and all things joyful?  

I must confess that I really don’t know, but I suspect that for many, it is the latter of the two options.  There is something about Easter that makes people uncomfortable.  I think it has to do with two different things:

FIRST: the cross.  There is no Easter without the cross.  And the cross is not as colorful, beautiful or as fun to contemplate as a fuzzy bunny.  There was nothing fuzzy about the cross at all.  It was harsh, bruising – not an object of joy but of suffering and execution.

SECOND: the subject matter of Easter itself – the resurrection – is all at the same time something we hope for and something that people are skeptical of.  It makes them think about death – their own, if not that of Christ.  And the idea of someone coming back out of the grave is enough to send shivers crawling up and down the backbone. 

There is a place for the childish celebrations of “Easter” – the candy and egg-hunts, the laughter of children.  But I don’t think that the church is especially that place.  We struggle enough as humans to get close to the cross and what happened there, and anything that takes us further away from the reality of the cross and the ultimate Truth that happened upon it is unfortunate. 

For what remains of this Easter week, I hope that you will avoid the temptation to run from the cross and will run to it instead.  Jesus went to the cross for you and me.  Will we go there for him?

TODAY’S PRAYER:  Father, as we conclude this “passion week,” may we focus on the truth of what this means.  Help us see the beauty of your love that led to the cross and help us to see the ugliness of our sin that made it necessary.  Keep us near the cross this week – and always.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple

DayBreaks for 3/23/16 – Remain and Watch

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Gethsemane, January 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple

DayBreaks for 3/23/16 – Remain and Watch

Mark 14:34 – My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death, remain here and keep watch.

Jesus, of course, spoke those words to his disciples on the night of his betrayal after he’d led them across the Kidron into the garden of Gethsemane.  He was in agony.  I don’t believe it was because of fear of death at all.  Countless men and women have gone heroically, stoically and quietly to their deaths for various causes throughout history.  Why should we believe that Jesus didn’t have the composure to face death?  Certainly, he was not afraid of death for he holds the keys to “death and hades.”  But he was deeply, deeply grieved. 

As I thought about the verse from Mark, I was again reminded of the parable of the wise and foolish virgins.  The five foolish ones had run out of oil and were gone when the bridegroom came to the wedding feast and they were shut out.  They had not kept watch faithfully until the bridegroom showed up.  Scriptures are full of admonitions to be awake, be alert, be on guard, to keep watch.  Why?  Because we have a tendency to be sleepy, to lose our focus, to get distracted by all sorts of other things of lesser value.

As I thought about Mark 14:34, I thought that he could have repeated those words as he ascended, and I also thought about what Jesus would say to us today.  As he sits enthroned at the right hand of God above the circle of the earth and as he looks down at us, I think he would repeat the same thing he said in the garden: “My soul is deeply grieved…remain here and keep watch.”  He is grieved by what he sees – the hatred, the greed, the abuse and immorality.  But he would reiterate to us our mission: “remain here and keep watch.”  We are his representatives here on this planet.  He’s left us here to continue his work and to keep watch for his interests…and for his return.  What are you watching and waiting for?  How are you spending the time he’s given you here?

TODAY’S PRAYER:  There is so much to distract us from terrorist bombings to toothaches and we are so easily distracted, Lord.  Help us to see the things you see, to care about the things you care about, to do the work that you’ve given us to do.  Help us to watch, and wait, faithfully.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple