DayBreaks for 5/24/19 – Taking Hold of the Cross

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DayBreaks for 5/24/19: Taking Hold of the Cross

If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give it up for me, you will find it. – Matthew 10:38-39 (NLT)

In a world full of challenges to accomplish much and achieve great things, Jesus’ invitation to lose our life stands in stark contrast to what the world invites us to do.  To accept one’s cross seems counter-intuitive at best, and outright crazy according to human thought. 

There are several things about Jesus’ invitation that we must consider:

FIRST: in taking up our cross, we are following Him.  He invites us to do what He has done before us – accepting that cross that awaits.  Because he took up the cross first, if we fail to imitate him, we are not worthy of being his.

SECOND: Jesus only invites us to do the things that he’s already been willing to do.  He never asks us to go farther than he was willing to go. 

THIRD: Jesus doesn’t invite us to just get tough and pull ourselves up to heaven by our bootstraps.  He knows that isn’t possible.  He is fully aware, as Mike Mason put it in The Gospel According to Job, that “the only bootstrap in the Christian life is the cross.  Sometimes laying hold of the cross can be comforting; but other times it is like picking up a snake.  Christ Himself found this out when He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The cross is the only pathway to heaven.  Dying is the only pathway to life.

Prayer: Lord, we need your courage to be able to follow in your footsteps to our own cross.  As we embrace not only your cross, but ours, may we find life and life to the fullest.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 4/05/19 – The Shape of Christian Victory

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DayBreaks for 4/05/19: The Shape of Christian Victory

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2009:

Wars are fought over silly things: oil, power, insults, a beautiful woman (remember Helen of Troy?), perceived slights – for these things and many others like them, blood has been spilled and lives sacrificed.  It is a sad, strange business this thing called war.

Wars in ancient days were fought with crude weapons such as stones, axes, spears, bows and arrows.  In all modern man’s “wisdom”, we’ve managed to create ever more deadly and accurate weapons.  While once upon a time a man had to stand in front of the other man and look him in the eye as he tried to kill him, we now can launch a missile and destroy millions of people on the far side of the world – never being confronted with their faces and the look in their eyes as they realize they are about to die.  War has become impersonal.  Indeed, remote control aircraft are being used in Iraq and Afghanistan to fire missiles at cars, gatherings of suspected terrorists, etc., and they are piloted by “pilots” sitting in front a computer monitor in the United States…how like a video game we have made war!!!

At the end of World War II, the shape of victory was the mushroom clouds that rose over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Thankfully, due to the horrible nature of those weapons, to date the world has never seen a repeat of their use.  There is no guarantee that this will always be the case, however. 

Of all the battles ever fought, the greatest victory of all time was won on a God-forsaken hillside outside of Jerusalem on a spring day as a carpenter from Nazareth was stripped and nailed to a tree.  His blood, like that of so many before him, watered the earth, turning dust into a red, muddy paste.  How strange that to the Romans and religious leaders that the shape of victory that day was a cross.  Even more bizarre is that the very same cross was also the shape of victory for the God who hung on it and for all who would believe on Him.

As Christians, the shape of our victory is not a mushroom cloud or a sword or a spear or a howitzer or the Gatling gun strapped on the side of an attack helicopter.  No, the shape of our victory is cruciform: What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. – Romans 8:31-37 (NIV)

Prayer: For the victory of the cross we honor You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 01/03/19: Smiley Face Stickers and the Cross

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DayBreaks for 01/03/2019: Smiley Face Stickers and the Cross

From the DayBreaks Archive, 01/01/99, by Tim Dalrymple:

A verse that has been haunting my thoughts recently is Mark 15:34: And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ I had always found this passage extremely disturbing. Could it be? Jesus was left alone, abandoned, forsaken, precisely when he needed the Father most. In his moment of deepest pain and agony, Jesus could not feel the comforting presence and gentle embrace of his Father. Certainly, in the theological sense, Jesus was not abandoned by the Father, the Father still loved him, and didn’t cast him out of His grace. But, at the least, Jesus felt a frightening and agonizing distance from his Father when he was on the cross.

Although this passage always disturbed and even scared me, I’ve come to consider it one of the most profound in all of Scripture. It tells me that when we hear, “By his stripes we are healed”, we should remember that his “stripes” were both physical and spiritual. We do not see a tranquil, dispassionate Jesus easily enduring physical suffering. Jesus comprehends more than just my physical pain – he comprehends my loneliness and abandonment as well.

It would be easy to brush aside this passage, and like a good American, paste a smiley-face sticker on the cross. But this is very dangerous. There is definitely something beautiful in the cross, for it is a profound demonstration of the depth of God’s love for us.

There is also, however, something very terrible: the suffering and abandonment of a crucified God. We gild our crosses with gold and we wreath them with roses, but we should never forget that the cross is, in the final analysis, an extraordinarily ugly and painful thing.

To wipe away the blood from the cross, to polish away the splinters, is to divest the cross of its incredible power. We should never rob the cross of its ugliness and pain, because it is precisely through that ugliness and pain that Jesus identified with, and overcame, our ugliness and pain. We will never walk further (or even as far) down the path of suffering and abandonment than Jesus walked. There is no extent of pain, loneliness, even distance from God, that Jesus cannot understand. It is because of his excruciating suffering that he is ‘God with us’ when we are facing trials. It is because of his sense of abandonment – by the disciples and by the Father – that he is ‘God with us’ even when we are most lonely and forsaken. Jesus walked the length of the path of physical and spiritual suffering so that he could be with you every step of the way. And you’ll never walk further than he can walk with you.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, we thank you for walking with us and for carrying us when we have no strength of our own, and for the amazing demonstration of love that took place on the cross.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 10/26/18 – The Hunger to Be Somebody

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DayBreaks for 10/26/18: The Hunger to Be Somebody

What does success look like to you?

Winning the championship over all the other teams in your sports league?

Checking off every item on your to-do list?

Getting that new job or promotion you were hoping for?

Putting the kitchen in order after making a homemade meal from scratch?

To James and John, success looked like sitting next to Jesus, each on one side of their Lord, basking in his reflected glory. And that’s not particularly bad, is it? Don’t we all long to be next to Jesus? But there’s a problem: perhaps they imagined him as a king seated on a great throne with themselves as his trusted advisors on thrones that were just a little less glorious. Whatever their mental image, their longing for success was so strong that it overcame any reluctance they might have had in approaching Jesus.

At least the way they opened the conversation suggests some hesitation on their part. “Teacher,” they began, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Instead of asking Jesus directly, James and John seemed to test him out first. Like children coming to Mom and Dad with something they know isn’t quite right, they apparently hoped that he would say yes first and ask questions later. But Jesus wisely and quite rightly responded with a question of his own: “What is it you want me to do for you?

Finally the two brothers made their request, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” No wonder they had tried to approach Jesus in such a roundabout way. They hoped to be singled out for places of honor above everyone else, even above their fellow disciples.

Everybody wants to be somebody. Since the dawn of history, human beings have been trying to move up the scale of importance. The clincher used by the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve was “when you eat of [the tree of good and evil], your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Henri Nouwen says that ever since then, we have been tempted to replace love with power. “The long painful history of the church is the history of people ever and again tempted to choose power over love, control over the cross, being a leader over being led.” This is a theme running through the Bible, through human history and through our own psyche. Do you see it in yourself?

PRAYER: Lord, help us to be content with our identity as your beloved children and choose love rather than dominion or favor!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

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 10/31/17 – Where Things Go to Die

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DayBreaks for 10/31/17: Where Things Go to Die

Yeah, I know it’s Halloween, and there will be “zombies” walking around carrying buckets and bags for candy tonight. There will be other “undead” creatures wandering the sidewalks and streets, but this DayBreaks doesn’t really have anything to do with dead things like that. But it does have to do with where things can go to die.

I lived on the farm as a kid, and it wasn’t unusual for a cat or a skunk to go into a crawl space that ran under the side of the corn crib when it came their time to die. You typically wouldn’t see them – you’d smell them before you noticed that they were no longer around. And even for us humans, we have places we tend to die: at home, in a hospital, at a convalescent center. After all, we will all die and we need a place where we can do that.

But what I’m interested in today is a lyric from a song in worship on Sunday that talked about the place where all our sin and shame goes to die. That place? The cross of Jesus, of course!

What does it mean that our sin and shame can truly go there to die? It means that I don’t need to feel crushed any longer by the sin in my life, no matter what that sin may be. It is dead. It is nailed to the cross. And I also no longer have to be weighed down with my shame for all that I’ve done, and all the good that I know I should have done, but which I left undone. That shame, the reports of those things, will never be revealed as I’ve been washed clean and carry the shame of my deeds and thoughts no longer. And if my shame were to be revealed, rather than being embarrassed by it, I should exult in the greatness and completeness of His forgiveness and grace. Instead of dying of my shame, my shame died so I can exalt His greatness!

Some dead things, like cats in a crawl space, stink. My sin and shame is dead, too, and the scent of the grace of Jesus accompanies my soul. In the Father’s eyes, it is as if those things never happened for the price was paid that took those things away…forever!  

PRAYER: Thank you for providing the perfect place for our sin and shame to die and be hidden for eternity! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 4/7/17: Still Running

DayBreaks for 4/7/17: Still Running

It is hard to fathom, but next week we begin “Holy Week”. There are parts about Holy Week that I love, but parts that make me terrified and feel like a worm. It is a week that will take us from the mountain of festive palms in the hands of the cheering throngs to the mountain of Golgatha’s despair. Perhaps that is why I have such strong reactions to it, why some resist it so. I mean, do we really need the emotional rollercoaster of Holy Week? What’s so wrong with just jumping from one parade to the next and skipping all the sacrifice and death stuff? What’s wrong with simply moving on to the joy of Easter, with its white bonnets, Easter eggs, family, friends, big ham dinner, and of course the empty tomb?

I think we already at least suspect, if not know, the answer to that. For starters, an empty tomb, at face value, is a lot easier to deal with than a dying, bleeding Savior on a cross. And then to remember that the bleeding Christ is the same one who invites ME to “Take up YOUR cross and follow me.” (By the way, that’s His invitation to you, too.) We are invited not just to remember His pain and suffering, but to enter into it ourselves – spiritually, emotionally and if it comes to it, physically. So, with all the pain and suffering that comes with Holy Week, is it any wonder that the human tendency is to try and ignore the events of the week and simply move on to the Easter celebration?

But as much as we’d like to skip Holy Week we know that the only way to Easter is through the cross. We know where the parade of Palm Sunday leads and we also know that we’re part of that parade. That is to say, we know this intellectually. Our hearts are another story. Our hearts may be more in sync with the disciples and the fear and disbelief that led them to run away. We do ourselves a favor if we remember that 2000 years ago His disciples ran from Him. It would seem that 2000 years later Jesus’ disciples are still running away.

Mark 14:50 (NLT) – Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away.

PRAYER: Lord, deep in my heart I know that we are meant to walk up the hill to Calvary with you – carrying our own crosses that cannot be denied if we are to be true disciples. But Lord, we don’t want to make that walk. Forgive us, enable us, to walk in your footsteps and not run. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.