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.

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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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DayBreaks for 3/31/15 – Death Sentence

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DayBreaks for 3/31/15: Death Sentence

Do you recall either of the movies, Dead Man Walking or The Green Mile?  Both of those movies were about prisoners on death row and their impending execution.  I’ve often wondered what goes through the mind of someone in such a situation as the days pass by and the appointed time of execution comes nearer…and then finally arrives.  What do they think about in their final hours?  What about their feelings and emotions as the seconds tick off along with their heartbeats? 

There are those who have cancer…who also know that their end is approaching.  They may not know a date and time, but they know it is coming. 

Then, there was Jesus.  He was the only one who knew his execution was coming on the day we call “Good Friday”.  But he knew, oh, he knew!  He had spoken of his destiny in no uncertain terms, but his disciples just didn’t get it.  And so he had to bear the foreknowledge alone.  On this day nearly 2000 years ago, Jesus knew that he had 96 hours (give or take) before his execution.  What was the human side of Jesus thinking?  How could he possibly contain his emotions?  What was he thinking on this day 2000 years ago at the very moment you are reading this?

To all appearances, he was the epitome of cool and calm.  Until, that is, the Garden of Gethsemane when he was in “agony”.  Even God has emotions…and Jesus was also 100% human.  I cannot fathom it…

When I was in Gethsemane this summer, we entered the church that contains the stone where it is said Jesus prayed.  I was in tears thinking of what he must have felt and experienced there.

The other day as I thought about this DayBreaks, it dawned on me that we all have a death sentence.  We’ve lived with it from the moment of conception.  We try to pretend it doesn’t exist…but it does.  It is every bit as real as any death sentence handed down from a judge. 

But if Easter means one thing, it surely must mean this: this death sentence can be overturned, and indeed, the ultimate death sentence is overturned for all who put their faith and trust in Jesus.

PRAYER: Thank you, Jesus, for taking our ultimate death sentence onto your own shoulders at Calvary…and then for proving Your power to overturn even death itself!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 06/24/11 – The Sandman of Gethsemane

DayBreaks for 06/24/11 – The Sandman of Gethsemane

NOTE: Galen is on Sabbatical until 7/11.  Until he returns, DayBreaks will be publishing prior devotions (that is, if Galen has access to the Internet!)  Thanks for your understanding!

The Sandman of Gethsemane

I really don’t know where the concept of the sandman came from.  Every parent knows about the “sandman”, and quite often prays for the sandman to come and visit the kids on those nights when the children are full of energy!  The sandman is tasked with bringing sleep to the weary.

Sometimes the sandman is welcome – and then again, there are times when the sandman isn’t welcome – if you are sitting in church, at your desk in school or at work, or when driving a car.  At times like those, the “sandman” is not our friend – he is our enemy.  The “sandman” isn’t new in the 20th century.  Long ago, in a garden on a hillside, the disciples were struck by this untimely visitor as described in Matthew 26:40: “40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.

Have you ever, with the best and most noble intentions, risen up early or stayed up late to spend time in the word or in prayer but fell asleep?  Or, perhaps at a very critical time in your life, when you really needed to talk with God and hear from Him, you start to pray…and pray…and pray…and fall asleep.

Satan is not only the father of lies, but he uses other stratagems to keep us from the things that will strengthen our souls, including weariness that brings either spiritual or physical sleep. 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6 reminds us that we are to be different: “5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.

I’m sure that when the disciples got to Gethsemane, they had no intention to fall asleep during Jesus’ hour of need.  But you see, they had no idea that Jesus was coming into his time of need.  And therein is the challenge.  Perhaps there is someone right now that really needs you and your support.  You may have the greatest of intentions – but when the time of need comes, be aware that Satan will do his best to get you to shut your eyes and miss the opportunity.  Don’t let him lull you to sleep in such a way that you forsake your obligations and miss your opportunities.

Copyright 2001 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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