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 11/18/19 – Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

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DayBreaks for 11/18/19: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

I have long been fascinated by the miracle of creation.  We can’t wrap our minds about how God called things into existence from things that didn’t exist (Romans 4:17), but we believe by faith that He did exactly that.  It is easy in the hustle and bustle of our daily existence to lose sight of the wonder of the creation.  As a means to remedy that failing on our part, I hope to do a series (not every day) of messages on various aspects of the creation that will hopefully lead us to give glory to the Maker of heaven and earth. 

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15-16, NLT)

We can see parts of God’s creation – and then there are parts that our eyes can’t see.  We can’t see the spirit world with the angels and demons, God and the Spirit or the four living creatures – at least not from an earthly vantage point.  No telescope has ever been made that can reveal that invisible domain to us.  Paul offers such things (thrones, kingdoms, rulers and authorities) as part, but not all, of the elements of the “unseen world.”  There is another aspect of the unseen world that we don’t often consider: the minutely small things He has formed. 

Consider molecules and atoms.  Every cubic centimeter contains approximately 45 billion billion molecules (give or take a few, but who’s counting?)  There are that many molecules in every cubic centimeter you see around you.   How many cubic centimeters are there in the world?  When you figure that out, let me know.  Then, consider how many cubic centimeters there are in the solar system – then expand your thinking to the Milky Way and then to the rest of space (the Milky Way consists of perhaps as many as 450 billion stars and is one of perhaps 150 billion galaxies).  Gets mind numbing rather rapidly, right?

But that’s just molecules.  Let’s get atomic.  Molecules are formed by various atoms bonding together.  How big is an atom?  You could line up 500,000 atoms side by side behind a width of a single human hair.  Consider a millimeter – 1/1000ths of a meter, about the length of this – if you printed it on paper.  Cut that up into 1000 equal widths and you have one micron.  Microorganisms (living beings like paramecia and amoeba) are about 2 microns wide (.002 millimeters)  If you wanted to see a paramecium with your naked eye, you’d have to enlarge the drop until it was 40 feet across.  If you wanted to see a single atom in that same drop, you’d have to make the drop 15 miles across.  Each atom is 1/10,000,000 of a millimeter, or to put it in other terms, equivalent to a single page of flat paper compared to the height of the Empire State Building. 

And you are made up of 7 billion billion billion atoms, 7 x 1027 (or 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms which is just a scientific way of saying, “A whole bunch!”)  That’s if you weigh precisely 154.323584 pounds.  If you weigh more, well, you’ve got even more atoms.  If you weigh less, don’t feel cheated.  You’ve still got enough.  Each blood cell in your body contains approximately 1,240,000,000 molecules of oxygen.  Without which – by the way – you’d cease to exist.  Now get this: we are in utter amazement at the scope of the universe (I’ll talk about that in the future), but you have FAR more atoms in your body than there are stars in the entire universe! 

What does all this mean?  It means we can give a shout of praise out to the Creator for we are “fearfully and wonderfully made!”  (Ps. 139:14)

PRAYER: Lord, when I consider the works of Your hands, what is man that You are mindful of him, that You should care for him?  We, though we are just dust, give You praise for the wonders You have wrought!  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 11/08/19 – The Sheepdogs of Jesus

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DayBreaks for 11/08/19: The Sheepdogs of Jesus

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

Everyone is familiar with the various images of Jesus in scripture as the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd is good not only because of what He does for the sheep, but because of who He is in His being.  Much has been written about the sheep and the Shepherd and rightly so, and of course, Psalm 23 is the most well-known passage describing the Lord as our Shepherd.

Max Lucado, in one of his books, was looking at Psalm 23:6 which says, Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever when he suggested that “goodness and mercy” are the names of God’s sheepdogs.  While on the surface it may seem to be a flippant comment, a bit more reflection is perhaps appropriate.  We’ve become so familiar with the words of this Psalm that it’s easy to miss what it is really trying to say to us.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is out in front leading us as a good shepherd must do.  But if he’s out leading, who’s watching the flock as it stretches out behind Him?  “Goodness and Mercy.”

It is goodness (not ours, but His) and mercy (certainly not ours, but His) that follows behind us making sure that none of us fall by the wayside or get so far behind that we can no longer see the Shepherd.  And we need both sheepdogs: we need His goodness for we have none of our own and we need His mercy because we are sinful.  These things, David said, would follow him for all the days of his life.  We might be tempted to think, “Sure, but I’m no David.  I’m not anything like David.”  That may be true but remember that David at times didn’t act like much of a saint, either.  Goodness and mercy didn’t follow David because he had earned it, but because that is the nature of how God deals with His flock…leading them with His Presence, following along behind them with His goodness and mercy.   

PRAYER: Jesus, thank You for leading us.  Thank You for pursuing us with Your goodness and mercy.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/07/19 – The Tragedy of Life

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DayBreaks for 11/07/19: The Tragedy of Life

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

What are your plans for the rest of your life?  Are you planning for and looking for a “day” to arrive when you will do this, or that, or stop doing something (like work) so that you can “really live”?  We are all, to some extent, awaiting something to change so that we can feel freer or can retire only to do what we want to do and not what we have to do.  So, we make plans…

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil. – James 4:13-16 (NLT)

Is there anything wrong with making some plans?  No, there’s not.  There are plenty of scriptures that teach us that very lesson by encouraging us to even look at creatures as simple as the ant who stores up for the rainy season.  So, I don’t think that’s what James had in mind when he wrote his epistle.  What is wrong is that we take God out of the entire scheme of things and forget about what He may want, or what He may do.  That’s always the key message I’ve taken away from this passage.  In a way, it’s like making myself into God and deluding myself into thinking that because I planned something, that it will inevitably happen because of who I am. 

But perhaps there’s another message for us in this passage that I’ve missed.  Remember the old saying about “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”?  Our plans tend to involve the future.  We put things off that are unpleasant (tasks we don’t like) or that are delightful (like taking the time to enjoy something God has given us – like our present level of health.)  We put off so many things! 

But is not part of the argument from James that we don’t know if tomorrow will come?  Therefore, we should live life today – not always looking to the future.  If we don’t, we’ll be deaf and blind to what God has already placed immediately before us, we will fail to appreciate enough the blessings of today if we are so focused on how we will enjoy things in the future (even eternal life!) 

Richard L. Evans said: “The tragedy of life is not that it ends too soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.”  We are told that we “have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, among others).  Why aren’t we living like it? 

PRAYER: Lord, may we find the glory in each day and the blessing in each moment rather than being consumed by bitterness, despair and longing for the future.  Open our eyes to allow us to live in eternal life this day and every day hereafter.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/06/19 – Come to Me or Die

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DayBreaks for 11/06/19: Come to Me or Die

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

John Ortberg told this story in one of his sermons: “My friend, Jimmy, and his son, Davey, were playing in the ocean down in Mexico, while his family—his wife, daughters, parents, and a cousin—were on the beach. Suddenly, a rogue riptide swept Davey out to the sea. Immediately Jimmy started to do whatever he could to help Davey get back to the shore, but he, too, was soon swept away in the tide. He knew that in a few minutes, both he and Davey would drown. He tried to scream, but his family couldn’t hear him.

“Jimmy’s a strong guy—an Olympic Decathlete—but he was powerless in this situation. As he was carried along by the water, he had a single, chilling thought: My wife and my daughters are going to have to have a double funeral.

“Meanwhile, his cousin, who understood something about the ocean, saw what was happening. He walked out into the water where he knew there was a sandbar. He had learned that if you try to fight a riptide, you will die. So, he walked to the sandbar, stood as close as he could get to Jimmy and Davey, and then he just lifted his hand up and said, “You come to me. You come to me.”  (To escape a riptide, rather than swimming directly toward the shore it is necessary to swim parallel to the beach until one is out of the riptide current. – GCD)

“If you try to go the way your gut tells you to go—the shortest distance into shore—you will die. If you think for yourself, you will die. God says, ‘If you come to me, you will live.’  That’s it—death or life.”

Galen’s Thoughts: in Mark’s gospel, I’ve been struck by the differences between those who belief and those who don’t.  We are seldom, if ever, given reasons for why people choose not to believe, but they certainly do choose to not believe.  In chapter 16, it twice says that Jesus’ own disciples didn’t believe the resurrection stories.  While that may seem incredulous to us, I think it makes perfect sense.  Which is harder to believe – that a person has risen from the dead or that they’ve been cured of some disease that may not even have been visible on the outside?  The resurrection has almost always been one of the greatest stumbling-blocks for unbelievers.  It’s not that people don’t want to believe in life after death – it’s just that no one that I know of who is alive today has seen a person walking and talking who was dead for 3 days. 

Jesus (and God) seem perfectly willing to leave it up to us to choose whether or not to believe for our own reasons.  On the one hand, a centurion watches him die (probably the first time he’d seen or heard Jesus) and concludes he was the son of God.  On the other, the disciples who’d seen him and heard him many times, didn’t reach that conclusion for some time.  Jesus was taunted on the cross to “come down” and show everyone that he was who he claimed to be.  He didn’t do it – not because He couldn’t have – but because He shouldn’t have.  Belief must come to us as individuals as the conviction of the heart. If it had been me or any other human being that I’ve ever met who had been taunted as Jesus was, I’d have come down and proved my point – so strong is our desire for affirmation.  Jesus wouldn’t have any part of that – no forcing of faith. 

God is so gentle with us.  We’d break otherwise.  So we must come to Jesus because we hear his call, as Jimmy heard the call of his friend on the beach: “Come to me.  Come to me and live.”  We can’t force faith any more than we can swim against a riptide.  It is a work of God’s Spirit. 

PRAYER: Thank You, Father, for sending someone to stand on the shore of this earth and call to us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…come to me, and find rest for your souls!”  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.  ><}}}”>