DayBreaks for 1/19/18: The Testimony of Dirk Willems

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DayBreaks for 1/19/18: The Testimony of Dirk Willems

From They Were Strangers blog, by my friend, Ryan McElvey, January 18, 2018:

He heard a loud CRACK, and seconds later the first cry for HELP echoed across the frozen water. Now, a choice had to be made: continue running for his own safety, or run back across the ice of Hondegat pond?

The year was 1569 and Dirk was being held for “rebelling” against the authority of the Dutch government by rejecting his own infant baptism and becoming re-baptized. He was locked in a residential palace prison which was surrounded by a moat and under guard. Dirk had been in prison so long that he had lost weight. He kept tightening his belt, but if a verdict wasn’t reached soon, he would eventually face a death of starvation.

As time wore on in captivity he began planning his escape by taking cloth rags and secretly knotting them together into a rope. Eventually he was able to make his rope long enough to suspend from the window of his prison onto the moat below. Dirk waited until a day when the moat was frozen, and then he lowered himself out of the window and onto its glassy surface. He shuffled across the icy moat away from the palace as quickly and quietly as he could.

But before he was even out of sight of the palace he heard a shout of alarm from the bulwarks. His escape had been discovered. Looking back he soon saw one of the guards running after him. Dirk continued to run, but he felt like his legs couldn’t move fast enough, and he realized that the meager food rations and sedentary life in prison had taken its toll on his body. With the guard gaining on him Dirk set out across the ice of Hondegat pond, hoping to gain some distance by shuffling over its slippery surface.

Then he heard a loud CRACK, and seconds later the first cry for HELP echoed across the frozen water. Now, he was faced with a choice: continue running for his own safety, or run back across the ice of Hondegat pond?

Had the Lord delivered Dirk from his enemy? Had Dirk now gained his freedom because the Lord had allowed the guard to fall through the ice to his death?


Was the Lord giving Dirk the chance to love his enemy in radical obedience by going back to save him?

Dirk knew what he had to do. He turned around and went back. There in the icy hole his pursuer was bobbing in the water, crying out and desperately grasping at the air. In full Christ-like imitation Dirk laid down on the ice, stretched out his arms, reaching out to save his enemy.

But upon saving his enemy’s life, Dirk was immediately taken back into custody and held prisoner in a church tower, from which there was no way escape. Only four days after his recapture Dirk Willems was given the death sentence to be burned at the stake. The story goes that the wind was blowing that day, and because he wasn’t inhaling the smoke, it prolonged his death. His screams were heard from a great distance, but unlike the screams of the guard on Hondegat pond, no one came to Dirk’s rescue.

  1. . .  it seems so long ago, and yet the story echoes across history and we can still hear the cries from the broken ice. Do I love my enemy, or do I see his misfortune as “God’s judgement” on him and as an excuse to leave him behind?

Obviously, loving my enemy doesn’t always have the drama that Dirk Willems experienced, but is my spirit the same as his? What about the co-worker who takes advantage of me? The business that didn’t give me the product or service I paid for? The driver who cut me off? The backstabbing brother in Christ? Do I love in all these situations? Doing good in return for his bad, blessing in return for his curse, praying for those who mistreat me, giving freely to those who take from me?

Why did Dirk Willems go back and save his enemy, only to die for his act of mercy? And why should I love those who do me wrong?

Jesus tells me to love my enemies, because Jesus loves His enemies, even enough to die for them. . . to die for me. To Jesus, I am the guard struggling in Hondegat pond, and He reaches out to save me, only to die Himself.

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps. . . When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.”     (1 Peter 2:21, 23)

PRAYER: Jesus, even though you commanded us to love our enemies, we find it often too much of a challenge to even love our friends as you have loved us. Give us hearts that love as yours does – even for our enemies, that we might be willing to die for them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.


DayBreaks for 1/15/18 – It Is Finished..It Is Just Beginning

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DayBreaks for 1/15/18: It Is Finished…It Is Just Beginning

John 19:30 (ESV) – When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
I honestly don’t know if there are three more poignant words than those three that fell from the lips of Jesus with his dying breath. “It is finished!” Matthew and Mark record that Jesus cried out in a loud voice but don’t tell us what he said. Luke says that Jesus cried out loudly, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit…and then died. I’m not disturbed by this “disconnect” at all and I could see Jesus having said those final two statements in any order.

While I won’t for a second presume to know what was in the mind of Jesus at that moment, I will venture a guess. We know from his evening in the garden that he was dreading the crucifixion that loomed just ahead. He didn’t want to have to go through it, but we are told that he “joyfully” endured the cross and its torments for us. It is possible that Jesus was referring to the suffering (which none of us can imagine) that he had endured for hours suspended between sky and ground. Who could blame him if that’s what was on his mind? That being said, I think that was the least of the reasons for his shout from the cross.

I tend to think that there was something much more significant in his heart that led to those words, It is finished! I suspect it was more about the following:

FIRST: rather than focusing on the pain, I think he was focused on the reason behind the pain – the price for sin needed to be paid and now it had been paid in full. The sacrifice was finished. The separation of God from man was no longer inevitable.

SECOND: the rule of death that had held sway from the death of the very first human was finished. The stench of eternal death was swept away with the dying breath of Jesus as he cried out.

THIRD: the power of Satan to claim human souls was finished – at least for those who would accept the One who made the sacrifice. Satan could no longer demand the souls of every human being.

FOURTH: the power of a law that could condemn and convict us of sin but which could never be kept or save was shattered and washed away by the blood he’d shed establishing a new covenant.

FINALLY: the ordeal of the incarnation was finished for all practical purposes. There seems to be something quite different about Jesus in his resurrection body. The humiliation of God becoming man was finished. We have no record of Jesus ever being tempted again after his resurrection as he was in his pre-cruficixion days. He seems to have begun to take back some of the glory of his pre-incarnate state with the blinding light of the resurrection morning, the ability to appear and disappear at will, and to ascend into the clouds.

I suppose it is a combination of the above that led to Jesus’ cry. And while that was finished, something new as beginning: the ability for humans to be sinless in God’s eyes, the ability for humans to be reunited with God. While all those things ended with Jesus’ words, for humanity it was just the beginning. We have been given a new chance, a new hope, and new life – and new we must begin to live like citizens of the Light and not of darkness any longer.

How are you doing with that?

PRAYER: Thank you, Jesus, for finishing what you came to do. Help us to live up to the new beginning you died to give us! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 9/12/17 – Take This Poor Indian, Too!

DayBreaks for 9/12/17: Take This Poor Indian, Too

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

When you go to the grocery store (or sporting goods store!) the next time, if you buy something, you have to give something in exchange to get it.  It may be currency that you hand over, it may be a debit or credit card – but one way or another, in order to get what you want, you have to give up something.  It is at that moment that you make a decision about the value of what you want.  Is it worth $10?  $20?  Are you willing to part with the price that is demanded to get what you want? 

We’re used to having to pay for things.  In fact, most of us who are Baby Boomers grew up really struggling to receive anything as a gift.  There’s a pride in us that blocks our being able to be gracious recipients of anything that we haven’t had to pay for.  We often talk about having to “swallow our pride” in order to take a handout.  Sad, but true, I fear. 

And so it is that when it comes to Christianity, perhaps this is the biggest stumbling block of all.  We want to pay for our salvation.  We just can’t get it through our heads that we can’t do that.  That salvation has to come to us as a gift, freely given, to be freely received. 

An incident is related of a missionary who came into contact with a proud and powerful Indian chief.  The chief, trembling under conviction of his sin, approached the missionary and offered his belt of wampum as atonement.  “No!” said the missionary, “Christ cannot accept a sacrifice like that.”  The Indian departed, but soon returned offering his valuable rifle and the most beautiful skins he had taken in hunting.  “No!” was the reply, “Christ cannot accept those either.”  Again the Indian went away, only to return with a conscience more troubled than ever.  This time he offered his wigwam, together with his wife and child—everything for peace and pardon.  “No,” was the reply even to this, “Christ cannot accept such a sacrifice.”  At this the chief seemed utterly oppressed; but suddenly he somehow sensed the deficiency, for, lifting up tearful eyes, he cried out, “Here, Lord, take this poor Indian too!”

The chief in the story had to weigh values and what he was willing to part with.  He began with a simple wampum belt, escalated to a rifle and skins, only to be rebuffed.  At the next encounter, the chief thought he was giving all he had – his home, wife and child – truly a costly thing.  But even that wasn’t enough.  What God wanted was the man himself.  And when the chief finally understood that all God wanted was “him”, salvation came to that man. 

We’re often willing to part with things that aren’t all that important to us.  Thank goodness God didn’t feel that way.

PRAYER:  I fear, Lord, that I’m not very generous when it comes to giving up my own life and ways.  We’ve grown comfortable in our skins.  We’re willing to pay some price, but often we’re not willing to pay the full price to follow you.  I thank you that salvation cannot be earned, for our striving would become cause for pride.  Help us to open our hands to receive the gift of your life, and in gratitude to give you the gift of ours.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 4/6/17: Join the Winners???

DayBreaks for 4/6/17: Join the Winners???

What does a Christ-like mind look like as we live in the world? We can see it clearly in the great saints and martyrs, such as Mother Teresa or Albert Schweitzer. I’m drawn as well to the idea William Placher suggests in his book Narratives of a Vulnerable God as he uses an illustration from the world of basketball. Professor Placher writes, “In basketball the players who are always asking, ‘How am I doing? Am I getting my share of the shots?’ Those are the ones who never reach their full potential. It is the players who lose themselves who find themselves. And it’s that kind of self-forgetfulness that makes the best players.” And isn’t that the case with all of us in whatever we do?

I read about one of the fastest growing churches in the world, with branches in 32 countries already. It is called the Winners Church, and according to its leaders, it lives by a motto that comes from America’s religious culture. Here’s the motto: “Be happy. Be successful. Join the winners.” People flock to that kind of church.

But it all depends, doesn’t it, on how we define winning? I wonder what kind of church you would have if your motto were “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.” Or about this one for a motto, “Those who want to save their lives will lose them and those who lose their lives for my sake, will find them.” Or one more, “Take up your cross and follow Him to Calvary!”

Those were Jesus’ mottos. I’m not sure he’d recognize the mottos of some churches today.

What is the “motto” of your life? What are you striving for? When you take your last breath, will it have been worth it or merely chasing after wind?

PRAYER: Jesus, your calling and mottos are hard. They are hard to hear and much harder to accept and live out. Give us the kind of hearts that realize that we only win in and through you and that whatever else we pursue other than that saving relationship with you is foolishness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.


DayBreaks for 3/16/17 – The Power of Going the Second Mile

DayBreaks for 3/16/17: The Power of Going the Second Mile

Matthew 5:38-41 (ESV)“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

Shortly after the battles ended the American Revolution, but before the peace had been negotiated, George Washington was with his troops in Newburgh, New York. But they began to grow very restless because they hadn’t been paid. Washington had begged the Continental Congress to do what they said they would do and pay the soldiers, but they refused.

Well, some of the officers began to organize a rebellion. They talked about marching on Philadelphia, which was at that time the seat of the reigning national government, and overthrowing that government and letting the army rule the nation.

With the fate of America in the balance, George Washington made a surprise appearance before these officers. After praising them for their service and thanking them for their sacrifice, he pulled from his pocket a copy of a speech that he wished to read. But then he fumbled with a paper and finally reached for a set of reading glasses-glasses those men had never seen him wear before. Washington made this simple statement: “I have already grown gray in the service of my country, and now I am going blind.”

Historian Richard Norton Smith wrote: “Instantly rebellion melted into tears. It was a galvanizing moment, and the rebellion…” and the rebellion was put down because they had seen before them a second miler.

Becoming a Christian is one thing; being a Christian is another one. Every chance you get for the glory of Jesus, for the goodness of others, and because of the grace of God, go the second mile.

PRAYER: Lord, we often resent even being asked go to one mile. Give us hearts that are willing to go not just that mile, but more, for Your glory and the benefit of others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 3/07/17 – Replicating the Story of Jesus

DayBreaks for 3/07/17: Replicating the Story of Jesus

From the DayBreaks archive, March 2007:

I was recently blessed to hear Eugene Peterson speak at a conference I attended.  He is a humble, thoughtful man of seemingly bottomless wisdom.  He is slow to speak – weighing his words carefully to be sure they convey truth from the Truth.  I greatly appreciated being able to sit at his feet for a while and learn.

At one point he was talking about the church and how it is perceived by the world.  There is much that can be said on that topic, but what Peterson focused on was how the church itself replicates the life of Jesus.  Consider how Jesus could have come into the world: with great fanfare and leaflets falling from the sky that was magically translated into whatever language was spoken by the person who picked them up.  He could have come with a PowerPoint presentation that flashed across the underbelly of the clouds above our heads, replete with musical background, bold and contrasting colors and maybe some video clips of what hell is like so we’d all be scared straight.  Or, he could have come and spent his entire time upon this earth turning rocks into bread and obliterating hunger and disease so that no one on earth would every go to bed hungry or wake up sick again.  Wouldn’t those things have been spectacular?!?!?!

But, that’s now how Jesus came, is it?  Not one of those things happened when he showed up.  Here’s part of the point: Jesus never, during his entire 30+ years of life on this earth, left the world of poverty into which he was born.  He spent his life as one of the “people of the land” – despised by the ruling religious hierarchy because they were unlearned, sweaty laborers who couldn’t ever seem to put two cents together at one time, but who were always scrambling for their daily bread.  He was humbled, he was broken, he was in the midst of a very sinful people, he seemed powerless before the forces arrayed and conspiring against him.  And, he bled…and bled…and bled…from his hands, back, feet and side.

The church, just like Jesus, could have come in a different way.  God could have preached the first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost by shouting out loud from heaven so that all the entire universe heard and understood every single syllable and word.  He didn’t.  He used a human mouth (just like He did with Jesus).  The church (like Jesus) exists in the middle of a very sinful people (and the church itself, being made up of people, is sinful).  The church seems powerless against the stratagems of Satan, and is made up of badly fractured, dislocated and broken folk.  And (if the church is true to its calling to be the very body of Christ on earth), as the body of Christ literally bled, the church will bleed, too.  We will bleed out mercy and compassion on the downtrodden like the blood of Christ.  We will bleed because of our stand for faithfulness, to accomplish the will of the Father, even as Christ’s blood fell for the same reason. 

Do you ever wonder why the church has such a bad reputation in the world?  Granted, some of it we bring on ourselves with our hypocrisy and leaders who fall like dominoes, but here, I think, is the core reason: Jesus was a stumbling block because he was broken, bleeding, appearing powerless and as one who associated with sinners.  And that is EXACTLY what the church is to be about, too.  We are to be a broken people (because that’s what we truly are – and once our brokenness is seen and admitted – we cannot be hypocrites any longer).  We are to bleed literally and figuratively because of our love for Christ and for the lost that He loves.  And the church appears powerless.  So, why does the church stink to the world?  Because the church, as Jesus’ body, takes on His nature of being a stumbling block. 

Each of us as Christians are to be “little Christ’s”.  Let’s get on with replicating his story and stop publishing our own!

PRAYER: God, we’ve got a long way to go to be very good reflections of Christ.  As His body here on earth, we feel powerless, we feel bloodied sometimes and broken.  Even as we struggle with what we see in the church and in ourselves, let us remember that you see us differently because we are “in Christ.”  If we are to be stumbling blocks to the world and individuals in it, let it be for all the right reasons – because we are living the story of Jesus visibly, out loud, each day.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 1/13/17 – The Man Who Drove the Nails

DayBreaks for 1/13/17: The Man Who Drove the Nails


The Bible doesn’t tell us the name of the man (almost certainly a Roman soldier) who drove the nails into the wrists and feet of Jesus.  The Bible tells us the name of the man who betrayed him, but not of the man who actually crucified him.  It isn’t likely that it was the centurion who stated, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” because centurions typically stood around and directed activities and left the work to the private or corporal.  I wonder, though, what the man must have thought as the afternoon wore on and the skies darkened, the earth shook and Jesus died.  I wonder if I’d have been able to sleep that night.  If my wife asked me, “What did you do today, honey?”, what would I have told her?

As I was browsing a book today in the Christian bookstore (it looked real good but I didn’t buy it yet – you know, cash flow!), I was captivated by a thought in one of the books I read.  The name of the book was When God Weeps (I think that was it), written by Joni Earickson Tada and Steve Estes.  At one point in the book, they were reflecting on the crucifixion of Christ and God’s willingness to endure suffering like one of us rather than to distance Himself from what we have to experience. 

Christ had all power – for in him dwelt the fullness of God.  He could have called legions of angels at any time to do his bidding, for how could one of his angels not have obeyed his command?  But what I’d never quite pictured or thought about was this: Colossians 1.16b-17 tells us that everything that exists was created by Christ.  That includes the mountains, lakes, skies, earth, you, me, our dog, and yes, even the person who pounded the nails into his hands was created by the Crucified One.  But Colossians 1.17 also tells us that “…and in him all things hold together.”  I think that means exactly what it says.  At a subatomic level, what is it that makes all the particles of an atom hold together?  Christ’s power.  What is it that makes atoms bond together to form molecules, compounds and chemicals?  Christ’s power.  What is it that holds people together?  Christ.  What holds the universe in control so the moon doesn’t go spinning off into space, or the earth go spinning into the sun?  Science would say gravity – I would say Christ. 

But here’s the thought that I read that struck me: not only did God have to be willing to suffer as a man for man’s sake, but the same God who was suffering as the nails pierced his flesh was holding together the atoms of the man’s body that was doing the crucifying.  With just one thought, Christ could have willed the man’s atoms to dissociate from one another and the man wielding the hammer would have disintegrated and been no more.  According to Colossians 1.17, Christ was the one who held the man together, who willed the man to stay together, to finish the task that he had begun with the first swing of the mallet.

Commitment to purpose.  Commitment to mankind.  Commitment to obedience.  Commitment to love, no matter what the cost.  “Be imitators therefore of Christ…”

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the commitment of Christ to see the job through, to not just start the ball rolling for our salvation, but to drink the cup to the dregs.  Teach us to be more committed to you and self-controlled.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.