DayBreaks for 10/06/20 – Playing Games at the Foot of the Cross

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Matthew 27:35-36 (NLT2) – After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there.

The day started like any other for the Roman soldiers. Another day, another execution. So they went to the hill called Calvary, nailed the offender to the cross and then got down to the serious business of gambling – right at the foot of the cross.

There were items to be divvied up – a cloak, an inner garment and some sandals to be sure. So they bet on who would get what and a few walked away with the spoils from the Nazarene.

Have you thought about how that scene must have looked to Jesus as he looked down at them? It must have been mind-blowing! Here they were, mere feet away from the most important and earthshattering event ever – and they were oblivious to the simple fact that it was God on the tree. At least they all seem to have been oblivious except one who eventually started paying attention and made his own startling declaration about who they were killing.

Oh, it’s so easy to be shocked by their behavior and games they were playing at the foot of the cross! But let’s not miss this: we aren’t that different than those soldiers – even those of us who bear the name of the Crucified One!

Consider: churches fight over a finite population of potential members. We dole out condemnation and judgments. We are seeking our own personal gain (a sandal here, a cloak there) to get ahead, get something for free.

We hold rallies celebrating how righteous my cause is and how unrighteous you are if you differ from my views. We write books about what other believers are doing wrong. We major in telling tales about the “others” and take joy in unveiling weaknesses – not for the purpose of restoration – but to take them down! We argue over points of “doctrine”, about other denominations and whether or not they are “of the Lord”.

And Jesus must look down at us in stunned disbelief.

As Max Lucado put it: “We, too, play games at the foot of the cross…So close to the timber yet so far from the blood…we are so close to the world’s most uncommon event but we act like common crapshooters huddled in bickering groups and fighting over silly opinions.

“May they all be one,” Jesus prayed.

“One, not one in groups of two thousand. But one in One. One church. One faith. One Lord. Not Baptist, not Methodist, not Adventist. Just Christians. No denominations. No hierarchies. No traditions. Just Christ.”

What can we do to stop playing games at the foot of the cross? Build bridges, toss a rope to someone struggling to keep their head above the swelling tide, pray for unity. Choose to “be the soldier who snaps to his senses, jumps to his feet, and reminds the rest of us, ‘Hey, that’s God on that cross!”

There are far too many games being played at the foot of the cross. Let’s refuse to play those petty games any more!

PRAYER: Jesus, take mercy on us! Turn us from game playing to Kingdom building! In Jesus’ name, Amen.Copyright 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple. ><}}}”>

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

Image result for soldiers at the crucifixion

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 11/16/12 – Christian Gamblers

DayBreaks for 11/16/12 – Christian Gamblers

Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. 26 I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. 27 And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another. 28 So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. 29 Welcome him with Christian love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. 30 For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away. – Philippians 2:25-30 (NLT)

I love the way that there are “back stories” behind nearly every passage of Scripture!  This seemingly innocuous passage is quickly passed over in a rush to get through one’s daily Bible reading.  It doesn’t seem very spiritual, does it?  When I was a little kid, the local newspaper from the very tiny little Iowa town that was nearest to our farm would even include news about who got a phone call from someone else!  Or, who had out-of-town guests.  It may seem strange to people today, but it was a very personal and tight-knit little farming community.  So it is with this passage.

Epaphroditus had come to Paul from Philippi.  Paul was in Rome, in chains.  It was risky for Ephphroditus to come, because if Paul were to be killed for his preaching, Epaphroditus could be killed as a follower or “co-conspirator.”  But he came to Paul anyway.  While in Rome, he got sick – and nearly died.  Fortunately, he recovered and now Paul is eager to send him back to his friends in Philippi so they can rejoice in his recovery.

In verse 30, Paul uses an interesting Greek word to describe how Epaphroditus “risked his life” for Christ’s work.  The rather long Greek word was a gambler’s word that described staking everything on a single throw of the dice.  That’s how Paul describes what Epaphroditus had done for the sake of Christ.  But here’s the “rest of the story”:

In the Early Church there was an association of Christian men and women called the parabolani, the gamblers. They weren’t gambling for money.  Rather, their aim was to visit the prisoners and the sick, especially those who were ill with dangerous and infectious diseases. In A.D. 252 plague broke out in the city of Carthage.  In their distress and terror, the heathen tossed the bodies of their dead into the streets and fled the city in terror. Cyprian, an elder in the church in Carthage, gathered his congregation together and charged them to gather up the dead bodies, and to also care for those stricken by the plague in the city.  By doing so, they saved the city, at the risk of their lives, from destruction and desolation.  They were gambling everything on a single throw of the dice – risking their very lives for Christ and the love of their neighbors.

This “gambling” spirit should be in every Christian, an almost reckless courage which makes him ready to gamble with his life to serve Christ and others.  How are you doing?  What have you risked for Him?

PRAYER: We have become so security conscious that we’ve grown risk-adverse, even when it comes to serving You, Lord.  Start today to create a spirit of courage and boldness within us for there is much to be done!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2012 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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