DayBreaks for 11/19/19 – The National Rush to Therapy

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DayBreaks for 11/19/19: The National Rush to Therapy

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

Ft. Hood, Texas.  Sadly, that name is now in the archives along with Columbine, Lockerbie, Auschwitz (though this was a much larger scale) and others.  It is a name that will “live in infamy” to borrow a phrase from Franklin D. Roosevelt.  On a beautiful fall day, blood was spilled mixing its color with the leaves.  Thirteen died (as of this writing) and many more were wounded.  It was a tragedy that should not have happened – just as Cain should not have slain Abel, David should not have had Uriah killed, and Saul should not have killed Stephen.  Yet human tragedy seems to be the legacy of the human race.

On November 9, 2009, David Brooks, writing in the New York Times in an article titled “A Rush to Therapy”, analyzed the events and news coverage in the aftermath of Ft. Hood.  I have no interest in sitting in judgment on Maj. Hasan – I am more than willing to leave the judging to God as He alone is qualified to sit in judgment.  I don’t have that right, but He does.  What was interesting about this article was Brooks’ focus on how people have tried to explain away the man’s behavior.  He was stressed out from hearing about others stresses (secondary stress syndrome – we even have a name for it).  As a pastor, I can understand that – I’ve been there before and most assuredly will be again.  Others suggested that he acted out of a fear of going to Afghanistan into a war zone (then why did he create one of his own?)  Others said it was “pre-traumatic stress syndrome” – anticipation of the events of the foreseeable future that cause him to snap like a dry twig (yet couldn’t we blame everything on such a “syndrome” if we want to?) 

I want to be fair and honest about this, so I now tread carefully.  I don’t know what was the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” but it seems to me that all the efforts to explain it away, to reassure us as to why it happened, have missed a very crucial point: the existence of evil.  Major Hasan was not different from anyone you meet on the street.  Everyone has struggles and they’re happy to tell you about them if you’ll stop long enough to listen.  Everyone has things they dread in the future (aging, loss of income, health issues, fear of death or abandonment, fear of conflict.)  But not everyone responds as Major Hasan did.  He chose to act evilly.  Why did he kill and wound so many?  Because of evil in the heart.  So it has always been – and so it will always be until we let God create new hearts within us. 

On the same day as Brooks’ article came out, it was announced that the Beltway Sniper (John Allen Mohammad) would not receive clemency and would be executed that same evening at 9:00 p.m..  Something inside of me “cheered” at that news.  After all, I wanted to see “justice” done to this man who held much of the eastern seaboard hostage to a murderous terror spree some years back.  What beat in his heart?  Evil.  I recall people trying to excuse his behavior, too.  I have no doubt that he suffered disappointments, possibly abuse.  Yet that didn’t make him a murderer.  It was his choice about how to respond to those things that made him a murderer.  He could have chosen to go another way – to become a counselor or social worker who helps people who have experienced the things he did, but that wasn’t what he chose.  He chose to act evilly.

But then God puts a check in my heart.  “How have you responded to evil, Galen?”  Well, Lord, there have certainly been times when I talked about someone who hurt me behind their back.  I’ve thought thoughts about them that should never be thought – let alone spoken.  I may have intentionally wronged someone or acted in an evil manner.  But those, too, were choices.  And where do they come from?  From the same heart that drove Hasan or the Beltway Sniper to do what they did.  Perhaps my actions weren’t as evil in the eyes of society, but they are still evil. 

Enough of the evil.  Enough of denying its existence in the hearts of others – and in our own hearts.  Let us all pray that God creates that new heart within us that David pled for when he recognized his own need: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation and renew a right spirit within me.  (Ps. 51:10) 

PRAYER: Create in us clean hearts, Father and a spirit that is fashioned after Your Own.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/15/19 – Hidden Blessings

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DayBreaks for 11/15/19: Hidden Blessings

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

Franklin and Phileda Nelson went to Burma as missionaries in the 1940s. They served there eight and a half years before the government closed the country to further missionary work. They returned to the United States where Franklin served several churches in various pastoral roles.

While in Burma they worked among remote tribes, and Franklin found his sense of gratitude for God’s providence rekindled. When reflecting on his missions work, he said: “In the Burmese hill country, the only way to get to remote villages was by “shank mare.” (That’s walking, in case you’ve never heard the phrase.) It was not at all uncommon for me to walk twenty miles a day in the dry season. When I got back to the States and worked as a pastor and church leader, I rarely walked a mile a day; the telephone and car made walking unnecessary.

“In Burma, if one of us got sick, the nearest hospital was ten days away. In the States, medical care is minutes away. In Burma, we’d go months without bread. Once we asked our daughter Karen to say grace before a meal, and she said, “Why do I have to pray for my daily bread when I don’t ever get any?” I have often coveted that experience for our youngest daughter who never had to wonder where her food came from. It’s hard to have that sense of helplessness and humility so vital to prayer when you sit down to your daily bread and don’t even think about how you got it.   

“I don’t in any way blame people here for not knowing what God can do. We’re victims of our prosperity. But I sometimes wish we had a few more hard times so people could experience firsthand how wonderful it is to be totally dependent on God.

Those last six words haunt me.  I know that I should trust God completely.  I know intellectually that I am totally dependent on God.  But I don’t live as if it’s true. The very statement “…how wonderful it is to be totally dependent on God” – how does that make you feel? 

Our feelings, of course, change nothing in regard to the veracity of the statement.  We are – like it or not – totally dependent on Him.  TOTALLY.  Might we not be far better off if we just simply acknowledge that and live in that knowledge constantly?  Our strivings would cease, our worry lines would diminish, and we would find some of the blessings that Franklin and Phileda found in their hardships – a greater trust in Him in all things.

PRAYER: Help us to not thank you only for the good, but to search for the hidden blessings in suffering and hardship.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/11/19 – A Day in the Vineyard

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DayBreaks for 11/11/19: A Day in the Vineyard

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’” – Matthew 20:1-15 (NASB)

The world has been going through tough times economically.  Certainly it has affect you or someone you love.  Jobs are hard to find.  People are taking jobs that they otherwise would not have even applied for, let alone considered.  I know people who would be thrilled to find a job at minimum wage right now.  They would jump at the chance to earn any money.  I’m sure you know people in that situation, too.

The story of the laborers in the vineyard has always been an interesting story to me.  We have a sense of fairness that is built in us by God.  As we consider this story, it is a good exercise for us to put ourselves in the place of those hired first and who worked all day for a denarius (the wages for an entire day’s labor).  We would be glad for the work, right?  We would feel a denarius was fair wages – so there’s no complaint there.  But if we came to the end of that day and learned that people who’d been hired at the end of the day for just one hour got the same pay – wouldn’t you be a bit upset?  Then, let’s place ourselves in the situation of the last-minute hires: we’d be happy for the work and pay and extremely surprised by the unexpected generosity when we received the wages for a full day.  We wouldn’t appreciate the argument put forth by the full day workers – we might be afraid that they’d convince the vineyard owner that he was, indeed, being foolish and not thinking clearly. 

The story is intended to make us appreciate grace – the grace that God has shown to us.  It may be informative for us to hear the rabbinic version of the story.  In the version told by rabbis of the time, the late workers worked so hard that they accomplished in one hour what took the other people a full day to accomplish – and they were rewarded for their extra-hard work.  This, however, is not part of the biblical story.  Jesus says absolutely nothing about how hard either the full-day workers or one-hour workers worked.  That’s not the point.  Jesus’ emphasis is on the generosity of the employer (God in the parable), who lavishes His rewards on both the long-time workers and the newcomers.  As Philip Yancey put it: “No one gets cheated and everyone gets rewarded, far beyond what they deserve.”

PRAYER: Help us not to be envious, Lord, of what You give others nor to compare it to what You have chosen to give us.  May we realize that we have no claim at all on Your goodness, nor any reason to expect goodness from You at all.  Let us understand a bit more fully the depth of the riches of Your grace that abounds toward us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/05/19 – Job and His Complaint

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DayBreaks for 11/05/19: Job and His Complaint

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

If you have been accused (especially wrongly) of something, you want to face your accusers and try to clear your name, don’t you?  This is one of the key rights we have as individuals in America.  It’s not a new idea that came up only when America was founded, it’s been around for years and years.  Witness Job’s complaint from eons past: Job 9:32 – God is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court.

Job’s friends had accused him of great and terrible sin.  To their way of thinking, there could be no other explanation for why Job was in such a pickle.  In spite of all that they’d known of Job and observed in his life, they now were convinced that he’d been secretly involved in massive deception and sin.  Who wouldn’t want to face such accusers?  But Job realizes that for them to really know the truth, God would have to be called to the witness stand.  They certainly weren’t going to take Job’s word for it – not when they suspected him of being such a sinner to start with.  (How quickly the good opinion others may have of us can deteriorate if they suspect we’re sinning!) 

So it is that Job issues his complaint about God.  If God were a human like Job (or you or me), we might be able to compel Him to come to the court so we could confront him and clear our name.  Sadly, it is a case we would lose but for the blood of Jesus – and Job knew nothing about Jesus or his future sacrifice. 

Let us not miss the irony that is so heavy in Job’s statement: what Job was longing for became reality when Jesus (God) became a man like me and was put in the court dock.  As Mike Mason wrote, “…in Jesus Christ the Almighty God has become ‘a man like me,’ and moreover a man who by standing before Pontius Pilate and the Sanhedrin has confronted every one of us in court – and yet not, as we may have expected, in His rightful capacity as Judge, but rather as the accused, the prisoner in the dock.  Through this reversal of roles He meant to show us that it is mankind who first condemned God, not the other way around, and that only by faith in Jesus can this condemnation be lifted so that we can be set free.

We “condemned” God first in the garden when mankind decided pleasure was to be preferred over obedience and we’ve been “condemning” God ever since through every act of rebellion that suggests other things are to be preferred over His will. 

So, millennia later, Job’s statement about God was resolved by Jesus’ incarnation.  Humanity put Jesus on trial then to determine if He was who He said He was.  Many concluded he was not who He claimed to be.  But others had the vision to recognize, as did the centurion who watched him die, that “Surely this man was the Son of God!” 

Here’s what may be a scary thought: as a believer, Jesus is on display through your life and actions and words.  What do people see and conclude about Him because of you?

PRAYER: Thank you for becoming a “man” like us so that we could see, hear, touch and thank you that you have made it possible for us to ask you questions through prayer!  Thank you that we do not stand in the court with you as our accuser, but as our friend, defender and Judge!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/04/19 – Cheap Guilt

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DayBreaks for 11/04/19: Cheap Guilt

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

It was, I believe, Deitrich Bonhoeffer who originated the phrase “cheap grace” to describe the attitude of the heart that cheapens what was necessary for us to receive forgiveness and salvation.  There were some who would say, even in Biblical times, that we should “sin that grace may abound” (Romans 6:1).  Such are purveyors of the doctrine of cheap grace.  We are reminded that we were saved not with the blood of bulls and goats, but the blood of the very Son of God (1 Pet. 1:19).  There’s nothing cheap about that, nor about the sheer volume of grace that flows through Calvary from the throne of God!

But cheap guilt?  Is there such a thing?  In The Gospel According to Job, Mike Mason makes an argument for why he believes such a thing does exist: “But guilt too can become cheap.  Cheap guilt enervates and paralyzes.  Like a giant leech it latches onto the conscience and saps all the dignity and vitality out of it.  True contrition, on the other hand, purifies the conscience, bathing it as in tears even while energizing it with the vision and the power for positive change.”

If I had a nickel for every person and every time that someone said to me that they feel like giving up because of their sin and shame and guilt (suspecting that those things add up to too tall of a pile for God to deal with in His grace), I’d own the L. A. Dodgers!  I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever felt so guilty that I felt like just giving up this relationship with Christ.  That could be because I am in denial about the depth of my sin, or it could be because I understand that I’ve been washed in the blood of Christ and touched by His grace – and that God’s grace is far greater than any guilt I may carry. 

Guilt is a crushing burden to haul around on our backs.  That’s why Jesus carried all our guilt and shame on his back to the cross – so we wouldn’t have to carry it anywhere ever again.  Hebrews 10:1-2 (NLT) says: The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared.  Don’t miss the point of this argument: the old law couldn’t take away sin (“provided perfect cleansing”, vs. 2), but the sacrifice of Jesus which has purified believers “once for all time” (Heb. 10:10) allows “their feelings of guilt” to disappear.  But we have to accept by faith (even if we can’t understand with our minds and hearts that it is so) that we have perfect cleansing and our feelings of guilt should have disappeared.

Have you still been toting a knapsack full of guilt on your back?  It may be because you are victim of “cheap guilt”, letting it paralyze you instead of knowing that your guilt has been removed and that you are freed from guilt for all time.  We must not confuse conviction of wrong-doing in our lives by the work of the Holy Spirit with guilt.  One is positive and leads to repentance and restoration…the other leads to the pit.

PRAYER: Make us sensitive to our sin in a way that leads us to repentance, Lord, not to guilt that you died to take away from us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/01/19 – A Lesson from the Darkness

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DayBreaks for 11/01/19: A Lesson from the Darkness

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

I’ve recently been working my way through the gospel of Mark.  As I’ve wandered those pathways, I’ve come across lots of things that I’d not noticed, or which now puzzle me for some reason but which I’d never considered before.  One such incident is found in the 14th chapter and the 51st verse (in the ESV): And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body.  And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

I knew that this verse was there, but I’d never really pondered why it was included in Holy Writ.  We don’t know who this man was.  There are those who believe it was Mark himself and that because of his shame, he didn’t include his name as part of the narrative.  I’ve also heard suggestions that it was John, but that doesn’t seem too likely because later on we find John entering the courtyard where the trials were being held (he had “connections” we are told).  So, while we won’t know for certain until we get to heaven who it was, I will probably just assume for now that it was Mark.  I wouldn’t especially want to include my name if this had happened to me, not only because of the shame involved of running away naked, but mostly because of the shame of why he ran.

I’ve always considered that it was fear that made the young man run and nothing has caused me to change that opinion.  What struck me this time, though, was how quickly believers (including myself) run from opposition.  I mean, Jesus was right there physically in the presence of this young man, and the approaching gang of soldiers were not Satan himself.  They were just people of the “opposition” so to speak. 

And so I ask myself (as I hope you ask yourself) the question: “Just how much opposition does it take for me to cut and run – even at the risk of losing my dignity in an effort to escape?”  I know this much: it doesn’t take the spectre of Satan himself to send me scurrying into the night.  Far too often all it takes is for the opposition to just “show up” – like in this story from Mark. 

Perhaps God put this story in the Word precisely for us to ask ourselves this very question and to ponder our response.  All I know for certain is that we imagine ourselves as strong and brave and courageous – who doesn’t want to at least think that about themselves? – and to imagine how we’d react in a threatening situation – only to find that when such a situation really happens, we’re scared witless and run off into the darkness like the young man in Mark.

What if we start practicing not running for 10 minutes at a time, an hour at a time, then a day at a time – then an entire week at a time – regardless of whether or not the opposition shows up?  And, of course, we can’t ever afford to overlook the fact that is the opposition Jesus commands us to love.  Of all people, they are the ones who most need to hear from our lips that One has come to love them and set them free from the darkness in their hearts, even as He has set us free from that same darkness! 

PRAYER: In the darkness of confrontation, give us courage to stand our ground and love for the opposition rather than condemnation!  Help us to be compassionate and loving enough to not run and hide!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/31/19 – He Knows the Shepherd

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DayBreaks for 10/31/19: He Knows the Shepherd

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2009:

I have been preaching a series on the 23rd Psalm.  I’ve come to appreciate much about this song of David that I never had seen or apprehended before.  Not only did David know about the life of a shepherd, he knew the Shepherd about whom he was singing.

There is a story told about a famous actor who at a gathering was asked to recite something for those gathered there.  The actor was somewhat taken aback about what to recite when an old preacher who was in attendance suggested the actor recite the 23rd Psalm.  The actor did a great job in his oration and when he was finished, received a long round of applause.  Then the actor turned to the old preacher and suggested that he, too, should recite the Psalm.  The old man, in a weak voice that quivered as he spoke, recited the same words the actor had just quoted.  When the old preacher was done, no one clapped.  It was quiet…except for the sound of sobs as those in the audience subtly began to wipe tears from their eyes.  The actor rose once more to his feet and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I communicated with your ears and your eyes. I know the words. But my old friend here communicated with your hearts. He knows the Shepherd.”

I find myself constantly asking myself the question: do I really know the Shepherd, or do I just think I do?  Do I really know Him, or do I just amass facts about Him?  If I knew Him better, would my witness for Him be more powerful – as were the words of the old preacher in the story?  I must admit that I don’t always like the answers to those questions.  I am convinced that if we really knew the Shepherd as did David or the old preacher man, our testimony and sharing of Him would be more powerful because He would be more powerfully present within us. 

Have you asked yourself lately if you really know the Shepherd or not?  We will never know in full about Him for He is infinite.  But at the same time, we can never know Him too much!

PRAYER: May we come to truly know You, the only One who has the words of life!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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