DayBreaks for 11/30/16 – The Greatest Reunion in History

 

DayBreaks for 11/30/16 – The Greatest Reunion in History

Luke 23:50-56 describes some activities that went on after Jesus expired on the cross.  It is the story of Joseph of Arimathea who went to Pilate and requested permission to take the body of Jesus and bury him in his own tomb.  The story is told much as a journalist would report on any activity on a normal day.  Luke has a way of lulling us to a comfortable spot only to make us jump awake again.  But not in this instance.  Jesus was in the tomb – the hero of the story has been taken out of the picture for the time being.

As I pondered this passage, I found myself asking, “Where was Jesus when this was going on?  What was he doing? Is this when he descended into hades to preach to the dead? Was he in the Father’s Presence (“This day you shall be with me in paradise….”)? We can speculate, but we don’t know for sure.

But if we are to understand his words to the thief on the cross as I believe Jesus intended for us to understand them, I think he was in Paradise, and I found myself wondering what that reunion was like? Can you picture the reunion between the Father and Son and Spirit as they hugged in joyful reunion? Were there tears? What words were spoken between them? What must the song of the angels have been like at Jesus’ homecoming? (Not just now, but after the ascension, too!) We have no answers to these questions because ultimately, they are irrelevant. Our curiosity can distract us from what is important: Jesus’ substitutionary death, vicarious, bloody, sacrificial. Jesus (God) died. Nietizsche was right – but he just had the timing all wrong.  And he didn’t anticipate the events of the following Sunday.

PRAYER: Father, how You must have delighted to greet Your Son after His sacrifice and work was completed! I believe Your joy wasn’t just for Him, but also for us being able to be freed and cleansed from our sin! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 4/18/16 – The Lesson From the Darkness

DayBreaks for 4/17/16 – The Lesson From the Darkness

It is at night when thoughts come to haunt me.  It is at night that I do most of my worrying and when my fears are the most pronounced and find their greatest freedom to rampage inside of my head and heart.  And, often, I am unable to put them back into a cage until the sky brightens and daylight arrives. 

It has always been darkness that has bothered us the most.  Yet, now that Easter is over, I want to look one more time at the story of the Resurrection “morning.”  Here is the text: John 20:1-2 (NLT) – Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, ‘They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and I don’t know where they have put him!’

Do you see it?  The Resurrection didn’t happen in the morning.  John, being an eyewitness to the events, is very, very clear about it.  When Mary came to the tomb, it was still DARK.  And Jesus was ALREADY gone!  He had already risen.  Christ rose in the darkness of the night.  None of us know exactly what hour or minute it was – but it was dark.  We know that much.

So what’s the big deal?  It struck me that Christ died in the daylight and rose during the night, in darkness.  It might seem to us that it should have been the other way around.   If Christ had risen in the middle of the day, more people would have seen the resurrection (in fact, there was no human who witnessed the actual moment of resurrection.)  If he had died at night, wouldn’t it seem to have been more fitting?

Here’s what I think we should make of this:

I think Christ died in the daylight because we needed to see it happen, for several reasons:

FIRST: we needed to be able to see the ugliness of what happened.  The ugliness of sin, the hatefulness of the human heart.  It could have happened in the dark, but we’d have missed it.  And God didn’t want us to miss the meaning, or historical fact, of the death of His Son.

SECOND: we needed to be able to see the love of God in all its fullness – and it was never seen so clearly or fully as on the cross.

I think Christ rose in the darkness because, as he had put it, it was the hour and time of the darkness’ power.  Over and over, darkness is linked with lies, deception, sin…and with the rule of Satan.  Jesus rose in the dark of the night to:

FIRST: show us that we need not fear the dark any longer, because our Friend is there.

SECOND: to show us his power – he went straight into the world of darkness through Calvary, and he rose at the height of the power of the enemy – while it was dark (both in terms of light and in terms of the darkness that settled upon with world because of sin and death.)  Jesus didn’t need to wait until the darkness faded to have enough power to rise – he rose when the darkness was the fullest!  If Jesus had risen in the daylight, would we have fully understood his victory over the darkness? 

When the sun comes up, my fears and torments cease.  The Son has risen…the Son has come up and the time for fear is over and the time for rejoicing has come!

TODAY’S PRAYER:  We praise you, most Holy Lord, for your great power that drives way our fears and replaces them with hope, joy and love.  Thank you that you allowed us to see the ugliness of sin in its fullness.  May we repent in tears and ashes for our waywardness.  Lead us safely through this darkness to your glorious home!  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

DayBreaks for 4/20/15 – He Somehow Got Up

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DayBreaks for 4/20/15: He Somehow Got Up

I know Easter is over, but today I was struck anew with the hope that is born from the resurrection.  The entire passion story presented a great conundrum to the ancients because they thought is unthinkable that the Messiah, that anyone who was God or was even favored by God, could be crucified. In our modern day, sadly, most of us acknowledge that the world and societies can cruelly dispatch even the finest of God’s people through a variety of cruel, barbaric means. We know such a claim will neither create a scandal nor being thought silly-we’ve seen it on TV too often. At the same time, the resurrection was a total surprise to the disciples.  One they understood it, however, it was a source of great joy to them.  It is the great stumblingblock to many and there are vast multitudes who view it as a fool’s belief. After all, how does any intelligent person living in the world of modern 21st century science believe in a walking dead man?

Frederick Buechner believes exactly that.  He says, “But I can tell you this: that what I believe happened and what in faith and with great joy I proclaim to you here is that he somehow got up, with life in him again, and the glory upon him. And I speak very plainly here, very un-fancifully, even though I do not understand well my own language. I was not there to see it any more than I was awake to see the sun rise this morning, but I affirm it as surely as I do that by God’s grace the sun did rise this morning because that is why the world is flooded with light.”

Think about it: even if Jesus had promised us a resurrection of our bodies, but had not raised himself, who would believe him?  Who would have reason for hope?

Fortunately, Jesus was a man not of just words, but of action.  He backed up his words through what he did, and never was that more important than when he exited the tomb as a living, breathing human being.  I don’t know how precisely, but “somehow he got up”…and that makes all the difference between hope and despair.

PRAYER: Thank you, God, for Your great power that raised Jesus from the dead in great power and glory! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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