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 11/14/19 – It Is Here

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DayBreaks for 11/14/19: It Is Here

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you. – John 16:1-4 (NIV)

Jesus often couched his messages and teaching in riddles or parables that were designed to be understood only by those who had open hearts and eyes.  In what is surely a sad commentary on human nature, not even those who were the closest to Him often grasped what He meant.  But in this passage from John 16, Jesus spoke in point blank terms.  There was no mistaking His message to those who followed Him: “…a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.” 

We have lived in religious freedom in the United States of America for about 235 years.  What a blessing!  I fear that we’ve come to a point in our country where we no longer experience much religious freedom.  Of course, I’m speaking in relative terms – we have far greater religious freedom than in China where churches are forced underground, or in Muslim countries or even in countries where Buddhism or Hinduism are practices.  In such countries, lives are sacrificed – literally – on the altar of obedience to God every day.  We aren’t there yet in the United States.  I hope we never will be – but such hoping on my part may just be wishful thinking for myself and those I love.  It may be best for the kingdom of God if such persecution were to come to this land. 

Seldom does persecution arrive “full blown.”  There are usually steps and phases – the proverbial slippery slope – where small things are first lost.  Then, if no one notices or raises an alarm, the next step is taken…and the next…and the next, until finally one wakes up to find the persecutor knocking on the door.  Think it isn’t happening here?  Consider this excerpt from “Cross and Culture”, an evangelical blog written by my youngest son, Tim: “Bill McGurn has an excellent article on two “Christian Girls, Interrupted.”  The first girl, Amanda Kurowski, was ordered by a judge to attend public school because, essentially, the judge determined that the girl should be exposed to ways of thinking other than those of her religious parents.  Amanda’s parents are divorced; her mother has primary custody, but her father has been concerned about the effect of home-schooling on her “socialization.” 

“The judge determined “that Amanda is generally likeable and well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level.”  Yet due to her “rigidity on faith,” the court concludes that Amanda “would be best served by exposure to different points of view at a time in her life when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief and behavior and cooperation in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs.”  In other words, the judge determines, essentially, that she must be sent to public school in order to get away from her mother’s narrow religiosity and be exposed to other worldviews.  Pretty extraordinary stuff.  As McGurn writes, “Just how extraordinary [this line of reasoning is] might best be appreciated by contemplating the opposite scenario: the reaction that would ensue were a court to order a young girl out of a public school and into an evangelical one so she might gain “exposure” to other “systems of belief.”

Religious freedom still exists in America – provided you aren’t a vocal Christian of the evangelical stripe.  Are you ready for the knock on the door?  Will your faith stand the test – or has it already been compromised? 

PRAYER: Lord, we pray for renewal and repentance in our country that we might return to You!  We pray that we would love our enemies, regardless of what they might do to us, that Your kingdom may grow.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 11/12/19 – On a River that Winds on Forever

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DayBreaks for 11/12/19: On a River that Winds on Forever

This past weekend I buried my mother’s ashes next to my father in a rural cemetery in Iowa near where they both were born. As we drove to Iowa and as I lowered the container of her ashes into the dark, cold ground, I couldn’t help but think about life.

My first thought was how 90 years of life were, at least in some fashion, reduced to a box of ashes. I realize that’s not the entire picture – not by a long shot – but the mortal remains of my mother were reduced to a box 9”x10”x5”. When I die my ashes will occupy a similar space. But life is much more than the dust from which we were formed.

One of my favorite songs at the moment is Ends of the Earth, by Lord Huron. It contains a line near the end that struck me as I drove across Illinois into the state of my birth that goes like this: “I’m on a river than winds on forever.”

The day will come when my mortal life reaches its conclusion. But just as with my mother and father, that will not be the end of ME. We think of death as being the cessation of life. If we limit our thinking to the life as we have experienced it since our birth we are not seeing life clearly. From the moment of my conception I have been on a river that winds on forever. The river won’t stop flowing when my body dies. I will not be dead. I will be truly alive for the first time. From the time I was conceived my cells started to die as well as replicate and multiply. But when this river that now carries me toward eternity flows onward and actually deposits me on that eternal shore, for the first time in my existence there will no longer be cells that mutate or die. There will be life..and only life that will wind on for the numberless eons of eternity.

Jesus claimed to be the Living Water. He is that River that carries me onward, nudging me day by day to that eternal shore.

PRAYER: For the gift of an unending life I am grateful, Lord. Let me learn to live well here so that I can live well forever. Thank You for this amazing journey! 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 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 10/30/19 – What Will It Be?

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DayBreaks for 10/30/19: What Will It Be?

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2009:

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph. 5:1-2, NIV)

To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? (2 Cor. 2:16, NLT)

Did you take a shower or bath this morning or last night?  Why?  If you really get down to it, most of us shower not so much for purely hygienic reasons, but because we don’t want to…well…smell!  No one wants to walk around stinking.  I’ve been in a closed car with passengers who were from the street or who were homeless and I must say, at times the smell was nearly unbearable – especially in the colder time of the year when the windows couldn’t be put down.  It’s not pleasant!  A little sweat if you’ve been playing basketball or some other sport is one thing, but the odor of a human body that hasn’t been washed perhaps for a few weeks can be overpowering. 

There is a story about a time that Dr. Lyman Beecher had received a letter which was critical of him, and when he was asked about why he didn’t reply to the letter, this is what he had to say: “One evening as I walked through a field toward my home, I encountered one of nature’s most undesirable of all creatures. I had several books in my hand which I began to throw at the creature. Unfortunately, the result of my actions was a horrible smell produced by that animal—a skunk. I determined that such an animal should be left alone.”

To a large extent, how we respond to situations determines whether or not we give off a life-giving perfume or the rotting smell of dead flesh.  There will always be unbelievers (those who are perishing, according to the 2 Cor. 2:16 passage above) who will find anything to do with us to be offensive (because we carry a message that they don’t want to accept).  We can’t compromise that message.  But how we deliver it can also either be sweet smelling, or downright repugnant.  Dr. Beecher understood that it was his actions that caused the skunk to release its powerful odor.  He could have ignored the creature, but his own actions were hostile and elicited the release of “skunk perfume.” 

If we choose to respond to attacks and criticism in a fleshly, non-Christian way, only evil will result.  Even if we respond in a Christian way, we may still be persecuted and the persecution may increase.  But at least if we respond as Jesus would have responded, we will present ourselves as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  And after all, isn’t He who we want to please? 

Let’s not be vindictive and small minded.  There are greater things at stake than just our own comfort.  Jesus took the nails – the least we can do is take some criticism in a God-honoring way.

PRAYER: Our nature, Lord, is to strike back any time that we are hurt, criticized or offended.  Let us learn to place all such things at your feet and trust you to deal with them in due time so that we may present ourselves to you as a fragrant offering!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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