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 11/08/19 – 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 11/05/19 – 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 10/23/19 – The Message of the Oil of Anointing, #3

Image result for anointing sheep's head with oil

DayBreaks for 10/23/19: The Message of the Oil of Anointing, #3

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2009:

Sheep tend to be very docile creatures.  Most of the time, they are very content to just eat grass, sleep, drink clean water and lay down to rest.  There is a reason that people don’t hook sheep up to wagons to pull them, nor to a plow to create furrows for farming.  Sheep don’t run and jump over hurdles like a horse.  No one keeps sheep as “guard sheep” – the very idea is laughable.  Sheep aren’t very good for much except for wool, living lawn mowers, or if you are so inclined, lamb chops. 

There is an exception to the docile nature of sheep, however.  That is the when mating season rolls around and the rams get rambunctious as they compete for the attention and affections of some of the ewes.  Almost inevitably, if there is more than one ram in the vicinity, the rams will square off and with a sharp crack that fills the air, plunge head-long into one another, smashing their horns together until one or the other gives us and relinquishes his interest in the ewe in question. 

As you might imagine, it is relatively easy for the rams to become injured in those contests of masculinity.  It is possible for a ram to suffer a very severe injury or to even die.  In rare cases, sometimes the rams horns will become locked, and if the sheep are out in a pasture where they are not tended, the rams can die of starvation before they can get unhooked from one another.

This is another use for the oil of anointing – the shepherd uses the oil to try to prevent injuries to the rams.  He coats their heads and massive horns with slippery oil so that when the rams butt heads, their horns slip off their opponent harmlessly.  The result: the rams live to try again.

It’s easy for us to butt heads with others over silly things.  Very seldom do our disputes with other people come about because of big, significant things, but they typically start out from smaller confrontations or slights: we weren’t invited to someone’s home while others were, we weren’t recognized for some small thing we did.  Women may be hurt that their spouses didn’t recognize and comment positively on a new hair style or dress.  Men get hurt that their work isn’t noticed by the boss or because they’re not thanked for taking out the garbage at home.  We have a choice then: we can butt heads, or we can let the smaller and less significant things just slide off before we, or an “opponent,” get hurt.

How do you respond when you suffer what you perceive to be a slight of some kind?  Do you attack?  Do you let the Shepherd’s oil keep you from injury?

PRAYER: Keep us from hurting others or ourselves because of slights and minor hurts!  Give us the grace to be gracious!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/22/19 – The Message of the Anointing Oil, #2

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DayBreaks for 10/22/19: The Message of the Oil of Anointing, #2

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2009:

Oil has always been used in medicinal ways, and when David spoke of the Good Shepherd anointing his head with oil, he had several images in mind.  In fact, in Psalm 23, he combined these images into one comprehensive picture.  Here’s the second lesson we can learn about oil, anointing and the Shepherd of our souls:

Part of the job of the shepherd was to prepare the pasture in the high country for the arrival of the sheep during the season of the year when the grass in the lower country was parched and dry.  Preparing that pasture included clearing it of harmful rocks, brush and thorns.  It involved clearing enough of an area so that any predators could be seen before they got too close to the flock.  It meant making sure there was enough water (still waters – sheep won’t drink readily from rapidly flowing water) and grass (green pastures).  The pasture was generally a relatively flat area – a table land (preparing the table).  It also meant another thing: looking for the holes of poisonous asps that lived in the high country. 

The asp lived in a hole in the ground.  They would attack the sheep by popping up out of their hole in the ground and biting them on the nose.  If the snake was a poisonous one, death could obviously result.  If it was non-poisonous, the bite could get infected and lead to serious, if not fatal, conditions in the sheep that was bitten.  In order to help prevent the asps from claiming the lives of sheep, the shepherd would take oil and pour it around the hole of the asp…and then to anoint the sheep’s head and especially their nose with the slippery oil so that if the asp was still able to get out of their hole in the ground, their attempted bite would strike the oil-slicked nose or head of the sheep and glance off. 

In such a way, the shepherd protected the flock from enemies…and he had prepared the table land in the presence of those very enemies.  God has done the same for us through Christ.  Certainly, we can hear echoes of the communion table that the Lord has prepared – and as Max Lucado noted, it was at the Passover feast where Christ had prepared the table that he also sent the enemy (Judas) out without letting him participate in the prepared table. 

God protects us in ways we will never know or understand.  The sheep don’t understand the anointing with oil – they don’t understand how its viscosity and slipperiness works.  They don’t have degrees in chemistry.  All they can do is lower their heads before the Shepherd and let him anoint them and trust that he knows what he’s doing.  We need to do the same!

PRAYER: We are so grateful that you have prepared a table for us in the midst of our enemies, and that you have given the Spirit to anoint and fill us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/21/19 – Understanding the Oil of Anointing, #1

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DayBreaks for 10/21/19: Understanding of the Oil of Anointing, #1

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2009:

I don’t care for mosquitoes, but they don’t bother me as much as many others because mosquitoes don’t seem to like me too much.  Black flies in the woods of Maine were another story – they seemed to love my blood and they bit me a lot!!!!  It’s not fun to be hounded and buzzed by insects all the time.

In Israel there is an insect called the nose fly.  These flies have a fondness for nostrils (hence the name) and especially the nostrils of sheep.  The poor, gentle animals in a pasture can be driven nearly crazy, and according to some shepherds, the sheep can even kill themselves trying to get rid of a nose fly.  The nose flies lay their eggs in the warm, moist nasal passages of the sheep.  In not too long of a time, the eggs hatch into larvae that crawl around in the nasal passages of the sheep.  The sheep toss their heads, rub their faces, noses and heads against rocks, trees, posts – anything they can find, in an attempt to allay the incessant itching caused by the larvae.  Sometimes the sheep will run so hard that they will kill themselves, or wound themselves with the result being an infection that might also kill them.

Now that you know this, perhaps it sheds more light for you on the latter part of Psalm 23:5: You anoint my head with oil.  If you don’t see the connection, let me share it with you.  Part of the job of the shepherd in Israel to was help protect his flock from nose flies.  In order to do that, he would apply an oil-based liquid to the nose and head of the sheep.  This liquid had a smell to it that served as a deterrent or repellant to the nose fly, preventing the nose fly from wanting to lay its eggs in the nasal passages of any sheep who had been fortunate enough to have had its head anointed with oil. 

David used this image to help us understand that God cares for us.  He helps to prevent us from being infested by harmful, hurtful and evil things.  Of course, the sheep does have a role to play in this entire scenario: the sheep must lower its head so the shepherd could tend to it.  We must humble ourselves before the Great Shepherd and let him have his work with us.  We must trust that his medicine for us is good and will benefit us. 

Maybe you have some “nose flies” inside your head right now.  Let the shepherd tend to you in ways that will bring you back to “sanity” and wellness!

PRAYER: We need you to tend to us, Lord, and to anoint us with your healing oil and the preventative power of your Spirit!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 10/18/19 – The Message of I AM

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DayBreaks for 10/18/19: The Message of I AM

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2009:

One could consider the various names used in Scripture for God or Jesus or the Spirit for a long, long time before exhausting all the possibilities.  I’m sure that some of God’s names mean more to you than others and that is only natural.  From time to time, your favorite name of God may change because of the life situation in which you find yourself.  But of all the names of God, perhaps the most mysterious and intriguing was how He identified Himself to Moses and Abraham, and how Jesus referred to himself when responding to the Pharisees: “Before Abraham was, I AM.” 

We sing songs about the great “I AM”.  What’s the point of the name?  Obviously, it indicates someone who IS – not someone who was but is no more, nor someone who is “becoming” something that they are not at the present time.  It speaks, among other things, of the eternal nature of God in an exquisite way.

Still, there is something within me that has always felt like God stopped the sentence prematurely – that He intended to continue with a description of Himself that would be a bit more revealing than just saying, “I AM.”  And maybe that’s where the intriguing mystery of the name comes into play.

What could God have said?  He could have said that he was loving, long-suffering, patient, compassionate, merciful, eager to forgive, the Creator, the King…and the list could go on and on and on nearly for eternity.  But if God had said that, it wouldn’t have been fully accurate.  Love, righteousness, holiness, mercy, compassion…are all part of what God has created and they are part of His nature, but they are not God.  As Athol Dickson said in The Gospel According to Moses, “This is part of the reason God said Israel would know him as “I Am.”  That most personal name for God is significant as much for what it does not say as for what it does say.  For example, it does not say, ‘I am love,’ or ‘I am holy,’ or ‘I am righteous,’ or ‘I am just.’  That would be confusing the effect with the cause.  …When thinking about God’s essence, I must not think that he is love, for example, because even that noble idea leads to a limited conception of God.  God simply is.”

Why did God say that He was “I Am?”  Because it is the only words we lowly humans may have that can encompass all that is our God!

PRAYER: It is a great blessing, Father, to have a God is always has been, always is, and always will be, but it is equally wonderful to be lost in the wonder of Who You are!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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