DayBreaks for 1/31/18 – Screaming in the Darkness

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DayBreaks for 1/31/18: Screaming in the Darkness

From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:

From Michael Card’s Immanuel: Reflections on the Life of Christ:  “When Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane, he was already bloody before anyone laid a hand on him.  He had been fighting a battle that would make certain the final outcome on Calvary.  Without Gethsemane, there would have been no Golgotha. The blood and water that flowed from his wounds on the cross were preceded by bloody sweat that poured from his pores as he suffered the agony of a death more painful than the physical death on the cross, the death of the will.”

“Gethsemane literally means “place of crushing,” a place where olives were crushed for their oil.  That name took on an infinitely deeper meaning when Jesus knelt down there to pray that night in the garden.  He was both a man and a child in Gethsemane.  Full of courage, it was a man who faced not an uncertain death, but one that was fully known to him.  Jesus looked the Father in the face with mature, though anguished, honesty and said, “If there is any way for this cup to pass, let it be so!”  The torment of the garden was the confrontation between the Son, whose perfect obedience came crashing down against the human desire to say, “My will be done!”  Jesus began to die in the garden.”

“Did Jesus want to go to the cross?  The garden of Gethsemane tells us, no.  Obedience is perfected not in doing something you want to do but in doing the last thing in the world you want to do.  That is why his sweat flowed with blood.  A man knelt in the garden, a man of unspeakable courage and obedience.  A Man of Sorrows…”

“Yet a child also knelt down there to pray.  We hear the tones of a child in Jesus’ plea, “Abba, anything is possible for you!”  Jesus’ words sound like a child’s cry to his father for help, not a theological statement about an all-powerful Universal Being.  (Every father is, at least for a little while, omnipotent to his children.)  He was a child, screaming in the darkness, as if he were having a nightmare, only this was not a dream.”

Galen’s thoughts: This is apparently the closest Jesus ever came to hanging it up and not going through with what God wanted from him.  Does it scare you to know how close he came?  It was only a few short letters and a twist of the words from “..not my will but thine…” to “…not thy will but mine…”.  We were that close.  If Jesus had refused to surrender his own will we would have been doomed.

The will dies hard, doesn’t it?  As you wrestle with your will and the role it plays in the sin in your life, find comfort in the fact that Jesus knows how hard it is for our own will to die within us.  He, the very Son of God, knew the struggle, too.  He can identify with me when I struggle to put the knife to the heart of my own will.  But he also shows me that it can be done.  The struggle is winnable. He proved it.

PRAYER: The struggle is great within us, Lord, to decide whether to follow you or follow our own ways.  Strengthen us in our obedience to be like our Lord.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/30/18 – Gambling at the Cross

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DayBreaks for 1/30/18: Gambling at the Cross

From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:

John 19.23-24: When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.  “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” So this is what the soldiers did.

Out of all the people who bore guilt at Jesus’ death, the soldiers were probably the most innocent of all.  The religious leaders had put Christ on the cross through their insistence and hatred.  Pilate put him there because he was a coward and was more afraid of Tiberius than of a God he didn’t know or couldn’t see.  We all were party to the event because of our sin.  But as far as the soldiers were concerned, they were just doing their job.  The Romans assigned a quaternion (4) of soldiers to carry out executions.   The Jew typically wore 5 articles of clothing: sandals, a turban, a belt (girdle), an inner garment and an outer coat.  The execution squad was customarily given possession of the clothes and personal effects of the man being crucified.  In Jesus’ case it was no different.  Four soldiers – five pieces of clothing.  When they got to the last piece, rather than tear it into four pieces (which might have been handy only as a dust rag for their wives), they decided to throw dice (cast lots) to see who would get the fifth article.

There, at the foot of the cross, are four soldiers gambling away the time while the Son of God dies mere feet away from where they were.  They were oblivious to what was happening.  Perhaps nothing in the entire bible show clearly shows the indifference of the world to Christ as this.  Jesus is dying in agony and the soldiers are playing games.  As if what was happening didn’t matter. 

As William Barclay put it: “The tragedy is not the hostility of the world to Christ – the tragedy is the world’s indifference which treats the love of God as if it did not matter.”  Indeed, though the world may be hostile to Christianity, it is indifferent to God’s love.  The world seeks to find love in the arms of some man or woman, in the philosophy of being kinder and gentler, in the lyrics of a song.  Do you want to know where to find love?  You can find it in the nails that are in Jesus’ feet and hands.  You can find it in the crown of thorns.  You can find it in the spear-pierced side. 

How are you treating and responding to God’s love?  Through our sin, we are like the soldiers gambling at the foot of the cross.  Every time we sin we are showing God that Jesus’ sacrifice doesn’t mean anything to us. 

I suppose the world will go on gambling at the foot of the cross as long as the world exists.  I hope that you and I don’t join them.  Don’t let the words of Lamentations 1.12 be said of us: Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?

PRAYER: At the cross may we see and begin to grasp Your unfailing love for us and not be found guilty of being indifferent to what happened there for us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/29/18 – So It Is True

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DayBreaks for 1/29/18: So It Is True

From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:

There are those who would tell us that anything we want to believe is true.  I can only laugh.  As if my believing anything makes it true!

I recently spent some time with a friend who was stricken with breast cancer that spread over the course of years into her bones, and now it has spread into her brain.  We went to high school together – and in fact, I wrote about her earlier this week.  I was blessed to go and sit by her side for a while, to hold her hand and reminisce as best we could with her in the condition she’s in.  It is a terrible thing to see the toll that cancer takes on the body. 

At one point in the conversation, as we were starting to talk about how she wanted her memorial service done, she teared up, her lip began to quiver, and it was clear that the spectre of death was very real and close to her at that moment.  It is quite something to look into the eyes of one who knows they are already part way through death’s door.  I’ve been asking myself a lot in the past week or so how it must feel to go to sleep at night and really not know if you’ll awaken again in this world. 

As she cried, I whispered to her, “God loves you.”  She whispered back: “I sure hope so.” 

Death, like its master, Satan, stealthily watches to take its victims – sometimes as a thief in the night, sometimes in broad daylight.  Often, he gives no warning, and thus it is that the Bible gives us the admonition to be prepared to meet not only our Maker, but death, at any time.  We need to pay more attention to that admonition than we do. 

The agnostic professor J. H. Huxley, was on his death bed.  His nurse has told the tale of how, during the very last moments of his life as he lay there dying and breathing his very last breaths, he suddenly opened his eyes and looked up, apparently seeing something that was invisible to mortal eyes.  After staring a short while, he whispered, “So it is true.”

It is true that we are mortal – although we don’t sometimes think death will really come to ME.  But beyond that, it is true – there is a God and we will meet Him.  It is also true that this God loves us deeply.  Why do we resist the idea of God and eternal life so much?  Perhaps because it seems too good to be true.  Perhaps it’s more a matter of thinking that after the things we know we’ve thought and done and not done in life that God must be very, very disappointed and angry at us.  I’m sure he’s disappointed in things we do and he hates the evil we do….but he still loves us. 

It is when we are on our own deathbed that we will come face to face with our faith, and the One in whom that faith has been placed.  May His mercy rest on us all.

PRAYER:  For all who are facing death, Lord, we ask Your Presence, and for Your Spirit to move in their hearts, even as it did for the thief on the cross, and lead them to Paradise through faith in Your beloved Son!  Comfort us in the hour of our death, Lord, and let us wake to see Your face.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/26/18 – Freedom from Certainty

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DayBreaks for 1/26/18: Freedom from Certainty

From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:

I probably need to be very clear today.  What I’m about to say may stir up a ruckus.  Here it is: there are many times in my life that I don’t know what to do, and when God hasn’t given direction.  Whoa!  How’s that for a shocker!?  A pastor saying that he doesn’t know God’s will?  I suppose such a statement could get me booted from some churches, but it’s true.  Let me explain.

There are, at times, seemingly huge gaps between theology and real life – at least for me.  Maybe you’re one of those people who never has any doubts, who every time you ask God for direction, you hear a very clear and direct set of instructions on what to do, when to do it, how to go about it and what the result will be.  Well, that’s not me.  I don’t think it was Moses, either, for that matter.  When God first started talking to him, He simply said go down and Pharaoh will let you go.  It sounded that simple.  As Moses found out after his first few ventures into the throne room of Pharaoh, it wasn’t going to be that easy.  Had Moses done what God said?  Yep.  To the letter.  But it didn’t work.  God knew all along that it wouldn’t.  And so Moses comes back to God and complains about it.  I would too, I think.

There are areas of life where the Bible is less than clear.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek answers in it.  It may be there and we’ve just missed it.  It may be we think we know what it says already so we won’t take the time or effort to be in prayer and seek it out. 

I recently preached on 2 Peter 1 where Peter says we’ve “already been given all things” that we need for life and godliness.  I take that, by faith, at face value.  If Peter, inspired by the Spirit, says that’s true, who am I to disagree?  But does it always pan out that way in my life?  No – probably partly because I don’t want to work as hard as Peter says I need to in order to experience it (“make EVERY EFFORT”, Peter says).  And, I also find, that even when I do know what Scripture says (such as “Love your neighbor”) that such general principles are good as long as you are living in a general world without specifics.  Andree Seu wrote (WORLD, 1/5/08): “But I consistently live in an insistently specific world where the issues are: ‘Should I take this job?’, ‘Should I marry this man?’, ‘Should I let Calvin learn on the stick shift?’, “Milk without the bovine growth hormones and antibiotics at $4.19/half gallon, or with the undesirables at $1.95/half gallon?” 

I think she makes a good point, and that’s what I mean when I say I sometimes don’t know God’s specific will in a specific situation.  I think I have a general grasp on the general principles which help guide decisions at such times, but I don’t have a specific answer.  And we don’t like to operate on generalities in situations that demand specifics.  We’re uncomfortable, at best, even distraught at times, wringing our hands in indecision.

Why do we do so?  Don’t we have God’s promise that if we seek Him, and that if we love Him and the promise of His appearing, He’ll make all things work out for good for us?  Yes, we have that promise, but we tend to not believe it very much, methinks.  There are disputable matters (see Romans 14:1).  That verse was written under inspiration.  God could have made it so that there were no disputable things at all – or he could answer our uncertainties instantaneously – but he oftentimes doesn’t.  That’s OK.  We can make decisions with less than 100 percent certainty because He knows our limitations and He knows how to fix things we might unintentionally break.  Mankind hasn’t yet broken anything that God can’t, and won’t, ultimately fix. 

How many things in life are you certain of?  I’m certain of some things: Jesus loves me, He is the Son of God, He died for me, He rose from the dead, He will come back again for me, He sees me and knows me and will keep me from ruin if I just have a bit of faith.  Andree Seu concluded her article this way: “…I can move forward with a spiritual commodity that is more true to the real world than ‘certainty’ – ‘confidence.’  Confidence that God loves me.  Confidence that His Spirit lives in me.  Confidence that if I make a mistake His arms will be there to catch this frail saint and put her back on righteous paths, for His name’s sake.”

PRAYER:  Help us to walk in confidence that You are as good as Your promises, that You are as powerful as You claim to be, and that You are more than able to fix things we do wrong in our ignorance.  Do not let us sin presumptuously, Lord, but forgive us even when we do!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/25/18 – The Rails of Life

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DayBreaks for 1/25/18: The Rails of Life

From the DayBreaks archives, January 2008:

This past Tuesday night when we got back from being with our youth group, I had a phone call waiting on our answering machine.  It was from the mother of a good friend of mine from high school.  I’d not heard this woman’s voice for probably 38 years (could I possibly have graduated from high school that long ago??!!).  She was calling to tell me that my friend, Lesley, who has struggled with cancer for years, is very near the end of her struggle, and that “we’re counting down the days.”  What a contrast to the phone call we received just before going to youth group that night from our youngest son, letting us know that he and his wife are with child – their first.  We were, of course, ecstatic!

As happy as I was and am for our son and his bride, I was crushed by the news of Lesley.  This “girl” (I still think of her as I knew her in high school) has had a difficult life.  Within a few months after we graduated, she was riding in a car when she was struck by a train and severely injured.  It was touch and go to see if she’d live or die.  She was left with some permanent issues from that accident, but she did survive and went on to become the mother of 3 boys. 

When she was first diagnosed with cancer, her husband left her.  He said he couldn’t deal with it.  Eventually, she found another man – a good one – who loved her for who she was and in spite of her cancer, they married.  For years, they fought her cancer side by side.  Now, the end of the fight is near.  Her mother asked me if I would do her daughter’s memorial service.  Such things are the great privilege of a friend and pastor.

As I thought about this situation, in conjunction with the passing of a young girl from our community with cancer, I shared at the youth group last Tuesday night some thoughts about death and loss.  God’s timing, though strange to us, is always perfect.  Little did I know as I stood there with the youth that I’d get to put into practice so quickly the things I was talking about.  We showed a NOOMA video that made the observation that we can choose whether or not we become bitter about life and what happens, and also that we can choose to focus on what we’ve lost instead of what we have.  Good lessons.

Then, on Wednesday morning, I got an email from a DayBreaks reader with an interview from Rick Warren, whose own wife has been stricken with cancer.  In the interview, he talked about life, it’s ups and downs, and how we often think of life as a series of peaks (the good times) and valleys (the bad times) – and how we move from one to the other so often.  But then he went on and made an observation that I thought was really good.  He said that he didn’t see life as peaks and valleys, but more like a pair of train tracks.  One rail is good, one rail is bad, and they run in parallel throughout our life. 

As I considered Lesley’s situation and the impending memorial service, I realized how true the words were from the video and Rick Warren, and how well they fit together.  The train of our life runs on both tracks…the question is, which track are we going to focus our emotions on?  There is always good and bad…simultaneously.  Perhaps that’s why the apostle Paul encouraged us to consider the good things and “think on these things.”  If we don’t, the badness of the other rail can do us in and lead us into bitterness and depression. 

For those of us who are left behind (and today, 1/21/2008, is the 10th anniversary of my father’s passing to glory), we can choose life over death, joyful memories over painful ones, happy times over sad, love and laughter over loss.  We can claim once again and for all time the memories that mean so much to us of those we have loved and lost. 

And one more thing: we can hold with confidence to the truth that God is busy making everything new, restoring all the loss – and that someday, we’ll see that with our own wonder-filled eyes.

PRAYER:  Thank You, Lord, for our friends and family.  Thank You for the hope of all things being made new, and for the ability to choose to see the good and not just the bad.  You are awesomely wonderful, Father!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/23/18 – Dust and Clay Pots

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DayBreaks for 1/23/18: Dust and Clay Pots

Genesis 3:19 (NIV) – By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV) – But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

It didn’t take God very long after the fall of man in the garden of Eden to reset our perspectives.  Do you remember how Satan had tempted Eve?  He told her that if she ate the fruit that “you will be like God.”  That’s the second lie that Satan told.  The first one was spoken in the same breath when he told Eve: “You shall not surely die.”  Both of those things are God-like, aren’t they?  To not die and to be eternal is God-like, and knowledge is God-like.  And Eve fell for it. 

What was God going to do with this situation?  It seems that one of the first things God had to do was to correct their thinking, in no uncertain terms, about whether or not they were like God.  And He did it partly by telling them in verse 19: “…for dust you are and to dust you will return.”  In other words, “You SHALL surely die.”  God has spoken – and suddenly Adam and Eve fall mute.

The apostle Paul was a bit more tactful, or at least a bit more generous, when he referred to us as clay pots, but the point is the same.  We’re hard and brittle and easily broken and shattered and we turn back into the clay/dust.  It’s vital for us to remember: “God made us from dust.  We’re never too far from our origins.”

As a result, we should live each day as if we will die before the day is out.  That means we should love while we have a chance, we should forgive when time is still with us to do so, we should embrace the wonder and beauty and miracle of life before it is gone.  We’re all familiar with the old saying to “Live each day as if it were your last.”  Wouldn’t we be better served to live each day as Jesus lived the last day in his life?  I have a hunch that if we did, that last day would be far better than we could come up with on our own.

PRAYER:  May this day be precious to us and a day we live for You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/22/18 – When Salvation Comes to Your House

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DayBreaks for 1/22/18: When Salvation Comes to Your House

We often think of salvation as freedom – at least as being freed from something.  And that’s all well and good, and even accurate.  For those of us born in the United States, we’ve never experienced slavery.  The language of Scripture speaks of the delivery of Israel from Egyptian slavery as a salvation, freeing them from their oppressors.  It’s hard to argue with that, so I won’t even try.

If, however, all we think of when we think of salvation is freedom – the ability to stop being enslaved to someone or something, I think there’s something seriously wrong with our concept of salvation.  Take, for instance, the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus.  I won’t bother going through the story – let’s get to the point, and see something about what salvation really involves.

After Jesus spent some time with Zacchaeus (we’re not told much about their conversation at all), Zacchaeus breaks forth with an exclamation: Look, Lord!  Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.  (Lk. 19:8)  What prompted Zacchaeus to come to this conclusion and decision, we just don’t know.  We can only assume it was either something Jesus said, or just the experience of His holiness that moved Zacchaeus.  Regardless, he meets Jesus and changes his mind about things, but immediately he also changes his ways. 

But what is fascinating is Jesus’ proclamation at that point: Today salvation has come to this house.  Here’s what Mark Buchanan wrote about this incident, in The Rest of God: “When salvation comes to your house, first you think differently, then you act differently.  First, you shift the imagination with which you perceive this world, and then you enact gestures with which you honor it.”

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think that Jesus was saying that because Zacchaeus was taking actions that he was saved because of it.  I think Jesus was pointing out the motive behind the actions: Zacchaeus had been saved, and the evidence of his salvation was a change of both mind and action.

Have you been saved?  What changes in action has salvation wrought in you?

PRAYER:  May our minds be change and our hearts rekindled by the wonder of the salvation that has come to our house, and may we live lives full of the evidence of that salvation.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/19/18: The Testimony of Dirk Willems

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DayBreaks for 1/19/18: The Testimony of Dirk Willems

From They Were Strangers blog, by my friend, Ryan McElvey, January 18, 2018:

He heard a loud CRACK, and seconds later the first cry for HELP echoed across the frozen water. Now, a choice had to be made: continue running for his own safety, or run back across the ice of Hondegat pond?

The year was 1569 and Dirk was being held for “rebelling” against the authority of the Dutch government by rejecting his own infant baptism and becoming re-baptized. He was locked in a residential palace prison which was surrounded by a moat and under guard. Dirk had been in prison so long that he had lost weight. He kept tightening his belt, but if a verdict wasn’t reached soon, he would eventually face a death of starvation.

As time wore on in captivity he began planning his escape by taking cloth rags and secretly knotting them together into a rope. Eventually he was able to make his rope long enough to suspend from the window of his prison onto the moat below. Dirk waited until a day when the moat was frozen, and then he lowered himself out of the window and onto its glassy surface. He shuffled across the icy moat away from the palace as quickly and quietly as he could.

But before he was even out of sight of the palace he heard a shout of alarm from the bulwarks. His escape had been discovered. Looking back he soon saw one of the guards running after him. Dirk continued to run, but he felt like his legs couldn’t move fast enough, and he realized that the meager food rations and sedentary life in prison had taken its toll on his body. With the guard gaining on him Dirk set out across the ice of Hondegat pond, hoping to gain some distance by shuffling over its slippery surface.

Then he heard a loud CRACK, and seconds later the first cry for HELP echoed across the frozen water. Now, he was faced with a choice: continue running for his own safety, or run back across the ice of Hondegat pond?

Had the Lord delivered Dirk from his enemy? Had Dirk now gained his freedom because the Lord had allowed the guard to fall through the ice to his death?

-Or-

Was the Lord giving Dirk the chance to love his enemy in radical obedience by going back to save him?

Dirk knew what he had to do. He turned around and went back. There in the icy hole his pursuer was bobbing in the water, crying out and desperately grasping at the air. In full Christ-like imitation Dirk laid down on the ice, stretched out his arms, reaching out to save his enemy.

But upon saving his enemy’s life, Dirk was immediately taken back into custody and held prisoner in a church tower, from which there was no way escape. Only four days after his recapture Dirk Willems was given the death sentence to be burned at the stake. The story goes that the wind was blowing that day, and because he wasn’t inhaling the smoke, it prolonged his death. His screams were heard from a great distance, but unlike the screams of the guard on Hondegat pond, no one came to Dirk’s rescue.

  1. . .  it seems so long ago, and yet the story echoes across history and we can still hear the cries from the broken ice. Do I love my enemy, or do I see his misfortune as “God’s judgement” on him and as an excuse to leave him behind?

Obviously, loving my enemy doesn’t always have the drama that Dirk Willems experienced, but is my spirit the same as his? What about the co-worker who takes advantage of me? The business that didn’t give me the product or service I paid for? The driver who cut me off? The backstabbing brother in Christ? Do I love in all these situations? Doing good in return for his bad, blessing in return for his curse, praying for those who mistreat me, giving freely to those who take from me?

Why did Dirk Willems go back and save his enemy, only to die for his act of mercy? And why should I love those who do me wrong?

Jesus tells me to love my enemies, because Jesus loves His enemies, even enough to die for them. . . to die for me. To Jesus, I am the guard struggling in Hondegat pond, and He reaches out to save me, only to die Himself.

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps. . . When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.”     (1 Peter 2:21, 23)

PRAYER: Jesus, even though you commanded us to love our enemies, we find it often too much of a challenge to even love our friends as you have loved us. Give us hearts that love as yours does – even for our enemies, that we might be willing to die for them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/18/18 – If We’d Been There

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DayBreaks for 1/18/18: If We’d Been There

From the DayBreaks archive, January 2008:

More from John 11 today: John 11:43-44 (NIV)  – When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out! The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.

I can’t hardly imagine the spectacle around the tomb of Lazarus.  Like most tombs of that time, it was either a cave-like structure carved horizontally into the rock, or a vertical hole in the ground.  Either way, such tombs would have a stone placed over the entrance for at least three reasons: to keep out the wild animals that would tear at the decaying flesh, to keep out vandals that might try to steal any valuables and to keep in the stench of decay. 

We know from several of the verses that people were gathered around.  They’d most likely accompanied Mary and Martha as they made their way to the tomb – it was customary for the mourners to travel together at such times.  And we know that Jesus asked “them” to move the stone.  What we often forget is what else Jesus asked “them” to do. 

When Lazarus came back to life, he was still wound up by the grave wrappings.  I don’t know if Lazarus “floated” out of the tomb, or hobbled mummy-like to the entrance, or hopped.  We don’t know and it doesn’t really matter – somehow Lazarus got there.  But even as he drew his first breath, he may have started to think he was suffocating because of the wrappings around his head and chest.  The wrappings needed to come off.  And Jesus gave the job to “them”.  Surely, if Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead, surely Jesus was capable of removing the grave clothes, either by hand himself, or miraculously.  But he didn’t.  “They” had to do it.

What would you have done if you were one of “them”?  I can imagine several reactions if I try to put myself in their place.  Consider these possibilities and contemplate what you might have done:

ONE: I might have gotten a good whiff of the scent of death (I somewhat doubt that just because Lazarus was alive, that the smell that had been trapped in the linen was gone) and thought, “No way!  I think I’m going to throw up!”

TWO: if I was a perfectionist, I might say: “I’ve never unwrapped a dead person before.  How do you do it?  What if I do it wrong?”

THREE: I might have been too puzzled to do anything.  I might have thought, “This can’t possibly be happening.  There’s got to be some other explanation for this.  Lazarus must not have been dead – we must have buried him prematurely!  It’s a miracle he survived!”

What’s the point of all this?  Simply this: I wonder how we respond when Jesus invites us to do something.  Are we willing to dive into the stink that ministry can sometimes be in order to do what He asks of us?  Are we worried that we’re not good enough or don’t know enough to do what He asks?  Would we seek for another way, some other explanation?

We didn’t have the incredible privilege of witnessing the events of John 11 with our own eyes.  But Jesus still invites us, just as he invited them, to join him in what He does.  Will we?

PRAYER:  Sometimes, Lord, we are frightened and confused and feel too incapable of doing anything meaningful or well enough in life.  We get so down on ourselves because of the enemy’s constant attacks and our all-too-frequent failures to feel we can be of any use to You.  And so we do nothing.  Help us to spring into faithful action when we hear Your voice.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 1/17/18 – God’s Face Streaked with Tears

Image result for God weeping

DayBreaks for 1/17/18: God’s Face Streaked with Tears

From the DayBreaks archive, January 2008:

This past week, our small town suffered a great loss.  A young girl, Courtney, was struck down at the tender age of 16 by Ewing’s sarcoma – a rare form of cancer.  She’d become somewhat of a “celebrity” (in a good sense) in our town for her valiant struggle for the past two years.  Her death has hit our town hard and made us all again aware of the presence of the last enemy that will someday be destroyed.

Perhaps my favorite chapter of the entire Bible is John chapter 11 – the story of the raising of Lazarus.  The emotion of the chapter is intense, the message precious. 

First of all, we need to realize that God is a Spirit.  Spirits don’t have eyes, arms, legs, backs or beards.  Spirits are, well…spirits.  Since I’ve never seen one, I can’t tell you what a spirit looks like, but they don’t have bodies per se.  And that complicated things for God.

When God wanted us to know what He was like, He couldn’t just come down in His Spirit and show us.  (I don’t even know if spirits are visible!)  And that’s why the incarnation was so critical.  For us to see God, we had to see something in the form of flesh and blood.  And that takes us to the story of Lazarus.

The shortest verse in the bible – you know it and can quote it – “Jesus wept.”  Perhaps that’s the shortest verse in Scripture because God knew that for the most part, we’re not very good at memorizing Scripture.  But I think it’s the shortest verse in Scripture for a different reason: God knew how important it would be to us so He made it a simple verse that we could remember.

As Jesus stood at the grave of his friend, Lazarus, John says that Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”  Unlike some political candidates or actors, the tears on Jesus’ face were real, just like ours.  They were no act.  They tasted salty, just like ours.  John saw those tears himself.  Think about that.  When Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, for what may have been the first and only time, humanity saw tears run down the face of God.  And it made such an impression on John that he kept it hidden in his heart until he wrote his gospel and shared it with us.

We needed to know that God weeps with us as we stand at the gravesite.  We need to know that He remembers what it felt like to see death take a loved one in its cold, clammy hands.  We need to know that God, with tears running down his face over what has become of His creation, steps forward at moments like that and says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” And we certainly need to know that as Jesus stands before the resting place of the dead – the most impenetrable fortress of all – he speaks: “Take away the stone.  Lazarus, come forth!” 

It says that those last words were spoken with a loud voice.  Jesus didn’t whisper into the darkness of the tomb, wondering if he could pull this off.  If he hadn’t been sure of his power to do what he was doing, he might have whispered the words where no one could hear – just in case it didn’t work out.  But he didn’t.  He shouted it out so that everyone would know that he held power over the fortress of death.

And as life returned to Lazarus, I feel sure that the tears disappeared from the face of God, to be replaced with smiles and laughter and eyes that sparkled with delight as his friend came forth from the tomb. 

When you weep – remember, God’s face has been streaked with tears.  He knows.  He understands. 

PRAYER: Oh, God, I’m so glad that You have tasted tears.  It is beyond precious that You chose to weep in front of us so that we would know Your love for us.  When we weep, remind us that You still know, You still feel, You still care.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.