DayBreaks for 5/15/17 – Who Is It You Want?

DayBreaks for 5/15/17: Who Is It You Want?

John 18:3-5 – So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“Who is it you want?”  Jesus was always good at asking questions (still is)!  It isn’t that he didn’t know who they were coming for – he’d made it abundantly clear to his disciples that he knew exactly what was going to happen – and when – and even why.  Jesus asked questions to make those around him probe their real motives and purposes, and to make them think deeply.  His questions often make us uncomfortable – try to imagine how Judas must have felt when he first saw Jesus and Jesus asks this question.  Faced with a phalanx of armed and hostile soldiers and temple officials, calmly asks a question designed to make them contemplate what they’re doing.  It appears that they (especially the officials from the temple) didn’t recognize him – which strikes me as strange since Jesus had been in Jerusalem many times.  He’d been very open in his teaching in the temple in the past.  But they don’t seem to recognize him even though he’d been in their midst often. 

It makes me wonder how often we fail to recognize Jesus.  It was Mother Theresa who once suggested that she did what she did because when she helped the poor and dying in the steaming streets of Calcutta that in their faces she saw Jesus in a distressing disguise.  Some people see Jesus often – in acts of love, compassion, mercy – others rarely, if ever see him or recognize him. 

But as haunting as that may be, the real question is plain, and it echoes through 2000 years and it is a question that we must answer today, because Jesus asks is.  “Who is it you want?”  What a great question!  Who is it that you really want?  Do you want Jesus?  Or do you want yourself?  Or do you want your own idea of what Jesus is? 

Those who Jesus called to himself in life were called in ways that we might find shocking – almost as if Jesus really didn’t want people to come to him.  Consider the rich young ruler – who was told that he had to sell everything he owned, give it to the poor, and then come follow Jesus.  Or the man who said he had to bury his father, but was told by Jesus to “let the dead bury the dead –  you, come follow me!”  But then he’s said it to all of us, hasn’t he: Take up your cross daily and follow me.  In each case, people have to decide who it is that they really want – do we want Jesus, the real Jesus, badly enough that we’re willing to take the challenge he puts before us with this question: “Who is it  you want?”

The question is just as valid today as when Jesus asked it in the garden of Gethsemane.  They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Yes, they wanted him, but not for a good purpose.  The question that Jesus didn’t ask them was why they wanted him.  He already knew.  But we need to ask the question of ourselves again: “Why do I want Jesus?  Do I want him so he’ll make me feel better about myself?  So that he’ll give me a home in heaven when I die?  So I’ll have a friend?”  Those are all things that Jesus can, and will do for us, but they are not the reason we should want him.  We should want Jesus because in the life of Christ is embodied the kingdom of God – the RULE of God – throughout the universe but especially in the human heart.  We should want Jesus because of Who He IS, and not what he can do for us.  That’s what it means when Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind…and then our neighbors as ourselves.  God does care about your eternal destiny, but He’s operating on a much greater scale than just individual hearts and minds.  He’s operating on a cosmic scale to reconcile everything to Himself again through Christ.  And that’s why we should want to find Jesus.

How can I tell who it is that I really want?  Probably the best way is to look at what things in life that I chase after.  How much time do I spend reading the word, praying, memorizing scripture, sharing my faith, in developing a relationship with Jesus instead of reading fantasy novels, watching TV, going to the movies, playing sports, shopping?  Time is perhaps the most precious thing we have – and how we spend it very clearly says something about our priorities and what is truly important to us.  And I need to test my motives for why I want him, too.  In both these areas, I must remember that I cannot fool Jesus – even though I may fool myself very well, thank you.  But when I finally do come face to face with Jesus, I’ll not be able to pretend – like the soldiers, I’ll fall backwards onto the ground with the perfect knowledge that he has seen through me, and always has.

PRAYER: Jesus, help us to want you more than anything else in the universe.  Help us to want you for all the right reasons, and for none of the wrong ones.  Thank you for wanting us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

 

DayBreaks for 2/22/17 – Searching for the Light

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DayBreaks for 2/22/17: Searching for the Light

NOTE from Galen: Sorry about the inconsistent delivery of DayBreaks lately. We’ve been battling internet issues (still are)!

John 18:2-3 (NIV) – Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

Oh, my goodness!  How many times, O Lord, have I read this passage and not seen it?  Sometimes the most amazing truths of scripture are in the most innocent and innocuous phrases and words.  The passage, of course, describes the horrible moment when Judas leads the soldiers and officials out from Jerusalem, across the Kidron valley, to the garden of Gethsemane to earn his 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus.  It is not Judas alone – but an attachment of soldiers (quite a few according to the other gospel accounts.)  But that’s what I’ve always known…but notice the last sentence: “They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.” 

Do you see the great irony?  Loaded with torches and lanterns, they go seeking for the One who is the Light of the World.  How many lessons are here?  I don’t know, but here’s a few thoughts:

FIRST: it is easier to see light in the darkness.  It would have been easier to find Jesus if they had put their own lights out long ago and heard the seen the message that was Jesus.  “The light shines in the darkness” John had written.  He wasn’t in hiding.  The darker the night the brighter the light shines.  On this night, the light was at its brightest, even as darkness raged in the flickering shadows.

SECOND: they carried weapons.  We know they had at least one sword among them – and almost certainly, many more than one.  But the deadliest weapons they carried that night weren’t swords and spears, but hatred, prejudice, learnedness, jealousy and envy.  Those are the weapons that take lives away from the living and leave them as walking corpses! 

THIRD: Jesus was not in hiding.  They didn’t need to search for him.  They didn’t need the lanterns and torches to find him, not really.  Lanterns and torches are merely aids to help feeble human eyes to get past the darkness, to be able to apprehend what is at the edge of our vision.  What is it that we bring when we search for Him?  Are we bringing armfuls of human creations, human reasonings as we come looking for the Light of the World?  Would we not be better to come, as the old song put it: “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling”?  What we need most to bring to Jesus is not the light of human mind or thought, nor even human will, but to simply bring our darkness and the night of our blighted souls to Him to be seen and healed by the Light Himself.

PRAYER:  God, we are so evil and wicked.  And sometimes we come to Jesus armed with all sorts of human creations, even those we have made to make ourselves look or seem more presentable to You.  Help us to understand that what you wish us to bring to the Light of the world is our darkness, to leave it with Jesus and to remain in the Light all the days of our lives.  Forgive us for our foolish pretension and prideful arrogance.  May we come to you humbly in our brokenness.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen 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 2/01/16 – Praying in Deepest Darkness

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Photo, Galen C. Dalrymple, 2013.

DayBreaks for 2/01/16: Praying in Deepest Darkness

I have always been tormented by the prayers of Jesus in Gethsemane. To think of the very Son of God in such anguish – brought about by things he didn’t deserve – and to know that he did it for me is unfathomable.

In the sermon on Sunday, the preacher was talking about prayer and he made reference to this prayer. Many times in prayer, we are formal and stiff in our language, as if we think that sounding proper and saying all the right things in the most pious and holy language we can must will somehow curry us favor with the Almighty. How foolish we are to think that.

The disciples once asked Jesus to teach them to pray, and he did. It was a prayer that is all of 13 seconds long. Jesus was no a pious windbag. He knew how to pray better than any of us. He didn’t use fancy words, but words that could easily fall from the tongues of a young child. “Our Father…”

And so we find this man of prayer prostrate in the garden, stretched out upon the ground, in the deepest pit of agony that any human has ever experienced. I know that others throughout history have died equally painful deaths on a cross and some perhaps even more painful. But the pain that most ripped Jesus’ that night was, I believe, already starting to settle on him: the pain of separation from God as he took on our sin. The darkness of all of history’s evil was falling on his soul. He was alone, and he was terrified.

So how did Jesus pray at that point? Did he summon up the highest theological language that he could (and he was the foremost theologian of all time – for he knew himself!)?

No, he didn’t even address God as YHWH, or Elohim. He didn’t string together lofty, wonderful adjective-lace terms such as Almighty God, Ancient of Days, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or God of our fathers. No, this was a child, this was a son, and he called out to not YHWH, but Daddy! In his anguish, this was a child begging, pleading with his daddy, to let this darkness pass, to let it be over, to let the Light once more be Light.

That is a lesson of prayer we need to learn. That is how we are to pray.

Maybe right now you are desperate for relief, for deliverance from some torment. Maybe you are so ashamed you feel you can’t go to God. Maybe you are afraid you will be rejected in your darkness of soul. Let Jesus teach you to pray, “Abba, daddy!! If it be possible, let this cup pass from me!”

TODAY’S PRAYER:  Jesus, when I think of the agony of your soul in the garden I am crushed and so ashamed for my sin that added to your darkness and suffering. In my own darkness and shame, I cry out to you, “Daddy, have mercy on my soul and forgive me!”  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Copyright 2016, all rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 8/18/15 – Gethsemane

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DayBreaks for 8/18/15: Gethsemane

Gethsemane was the most moving place I have ever been.  I wept. Yet, perhaps I wasn’t weeping only for my Lord’s suffering and anguish there. I was weeping because I put him there, as did you. I also believe I was weeping because my sin was never so apparent to me as when I knelt by that stone and touched it with my hand.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote a poem simply entitled “Gethsemane”. I want to share it with you.

Down shadowy lanes, across strange streams

Bridged over by our broken dreams;

Behind the misty caps of years,

Beyond the great salt fount of tears,

The garden lies.

 

Strive as you may, You cannot miss it in your way.

All paths that have been, or shall be,

Pass somewhere through Gethsemane.

 

All those who journey, soon or late,

Must pass within the gardens gate;

Must kneel alone in darkness there,

And battle with some fierce despair.

 

God pity those who cannot say,

Not mine but thine, who only pray,

Let this cup pass, and cannot see

The purpose in Gethsemane.

I think there is another reason I wept I Gethsemane. You see, Gethsemane is not only on the eastern side of Jerusalem, across the valley.  Gethsemane is everywhere and we will all spend dark hours there someday if we haven’t already.

It would be dishonest to say that God makes everything all right in this world. The death of 3000 innocent souls who were simply going to work on September 11, 2001, tells me the world is crowded with Gethsemanes. The death of 1000 soldiers in Iraq tells me that peace has an enormous price. The burial of 350 children in a Russian town or Iraq tells me that evil still wins in this world. Don’t get me wrong. I as much as any man have hope in the resurrection. I am simply cannot deny the picture painted by the Psalmist when he asks, Will the Lord cast off for ever? And will he be favorable no more? Is his mercy clean gone forever? Doth his promise fail forever more? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? And I said, this is my infirmity.”

First question: Who do we turn to in our Gethsemane? Answer: God, even in our despair. Second question: What do we do? Answer: Pray to cope. Pray against temptation. Pray for one another. And pray for the Kingdom to come. Third question: Where do we go from here? Ah, now there’s the kicker.

How I wish there were an easy answer, but the answer isn’t easy because life isn’t. When Jesus left Gethsemane he went to Golgotha. At times we all seem to be running from the garden of despair to the hill of suffering. Look at the stories of the bible. At some time or another there has been a Gethsemane for all God’s people. For Abraham it was when he was asked to sacrifice his only son. For Joseph it was those unjust years in jail. Paul had any number of Gethsemanes in his experience; he once listed the number of times he had been stoned, whipped, robbed and shipwrecked.

Where do we go? Where our faith ancestors went…to our Gethsemane, and there we will meet our God.

PRAYER: God, I don’t want to go to Gethsemane. It’s too painful and too dark and it frightens me. I don’t want to walk from Gethsemane to Calvary. But since Gethsemane is part of every life, I pray we will meet You there. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

To email Galen, click here: E-mail Galen.

DayBreaks for 4/07/15 – The Not-So-Helpless Jesus

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DayBreaks for 4/07/15: The Not-So-Helpless Jesus

When thinking of the events of Holy Week, my heart runs to Gethsemane for many reasons.  To me, it was in that garden that eternity and human destiny was settled as it was there that Jesus gave the final “go-ahead” to the plan of the Father, and once the decision was made, there would be no turning back.

One of the things that amazes me is the restraint of Jesus.  Peter, of course, acted out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear…but there was only one sword among Jesus and his disciples.  They were grossly outnumbered and certainly out-weaponed. 

As a human, if I had been Jesus, I would have been very tempted to resist – to fight back.  But we are told that Jesus was calm and led silent as a lamb to the slaughter.  Some might think that he knew resistance would be foolish – that in the face of such numbers who came to arrest him, he was helpless.

Let me challenge that assumption.  We are told in Scripture that Jesus could have summoned twelve legions of angels to come to his defense.  A Roman legion consisted of 6000 soldiers.  That means that Jesus could have summoned 72,000 angels (or more!) to come to his rescue!  Now the numbers would have been decidedly in Jesus’ favor!  But wait – there’s more to this. 

2 Kings 19:35 – And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.

Math is not my strong suit, but let me walk you through this.  Jesus could have called 72,000 angels.  The question here isn’t “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin”, but “How many humans can one angel slay in one night?”  We know that “the” (singular) angel of the Lord killed 185,000 humans in one night.  The math works out like this: the 12 legions at Jesus’ call could have destroyed 13,320,000,000 people in one night.  That’s right, 13.3 billion of us.  That many people have not lived on earth since the beginning of human history. 

Jesus was not helpless in the Garden.  Far from it!  Jesus, during Holy Week, was not at the mercy of the religious leaders or Rome.  We were at His mercy.  Had He chosen to bypass the agonies of the cross and return to glory, all He had to do was speak one word: “Come!” 

What does this mean to me?  It speaks to me of His love that DROVE Him through the pain of the crucifixion and the cross.  It drives me to my knees in humility and gratitude and fills me with wonder at the restraint of Christ.

PRAYER: Your reticence to use your power for your own benefit amazes me, Lord!  That you chose to go through all that you did rather than save your own life leaves me breathless – and eternally grateful!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 4/03/15 – Are We Still Running?

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DayBreaks for 4/03/15: Are We Still Running?

Matthew 26:56b (NIV) – Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Holy Week is such a conundrum.  It drags us through the entire gamut of human emotions: from the great celebration of Palm Sunday, through conflicts in the city and temple, to a cherished feast with disciples, an agonizing night in a garden of olive trees, a contrived trial, a grisly and gruesome death – to the greatest celebration of all time as death was defeated by the Risen Christ!  All of that in just a matter of seven days!  Yet many resist this week.  Why?  Maybe it is because we don’t need that much emotional angst in our lives.  After all, what would be so wrong with just jumping from one parade to the next and skipping all the bloody whipping, crucifixion and death stuff?  Why not just get on to the good part – the joy of Easter, with its white bonnets, Easter eggs, family, friends, big ham dinner, oh, and of course – the empty tomb!

Jeffery London suggests the following: “Well, I think we 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. Add to that 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. It would seem that 2000 years later Jesus’ disciples are still running away.”

You know, it was nearly 2000 years ago last night that Jesus’ disciples made their fear-filled sprint through the darkness of the olive grove in Gethsemane and went into hiding.  When I try to put myself in their sandals, I am ashamed to admit that I would probably have been among those running.  Why should I think that my faith would be stronger than that of Peter, James or John?  They’d spend three years watching him heal the sick, give sight to the blind, make the lame walk and dumb to speak.  They’d watched him raise not just one, but several people from the dead, for Pete’s sake!  And yet they ran.  They ran like scared rabbits.  I, God knows, I would have, too. 

Maundy Thursday is a reminder to me of how I would have run and left Jesus standing alone amid the throng of soldiers and others.  And I suspect I would have ran all the way to Tarshish (like Jonah).  I suspect you would have, too.

Right now the Lord is calling for disciples who won’t run, who won’t shrink back in fear into the shadows, who won’t compromise, but for those who will stand, even if it means they lose their life for His sake.  Will I be that kind of disciple?  Will you?  If you think you would have held firm, be careful, for those who think they stand will fall.  Just ask Peter and the rest of the disciples.

Ephesians 6:13 (NIV) – Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

The day of evil has come.

PRAYER: For your loneliness in the garden, I am ashamed.  For my running, I am ashamed.  For the times I still run, I am ashamed.  Have mercy, O Lord!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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