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 10/11/19 – Lessons from Legion

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DayBreaks for 10/11/19: Lessons from Legion

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2009:

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

In my opinion, this is one of the more intriguing miracles that Jesus performed.  I have often pictured this encounter taking place in broad daylight, but a close reading of the text would indicate that it was probably not the case.  Jesus and his disciples had left the other side of the Sea of Galilee late in the evening, encountered a storm, and had finally made it to the other shore.  Chances are it was dark – the time when ancients believed demons were especially active.  They also believed demons frequented dirty, filthy places – graveyards, especially.  It seems as if they had just reached shore when this man, who was so strong because of his possession, that he could break metal chains, comes charging out of the graveyard to confront Jesus. 

I won’t go into the details of the story except to make several observations.  It is interesting how the man switches back and forth between singular expressions of speech and plural.  This clearly was a seriously possessed man – and a very confused one, too.  It is interesting that the demons were fearful that Jesus would torture them.  This probably refers to him sending them back to the pit of hell.  What a contrast to the rather comical view of hell that is often presented by many today that would have us believe that the demons shriek with laughter in hell over the plight of the damned.  Such is not the case – it is a place of torture, not just for the condemned, but for the demons, too.  They want no part of it.  How foolish of those who reject God because they think that they’ll be happier with their friends in hell – picturing it as an eternal beer-bust party!

But here’s what really has me thinking about this passage: having stood in the place where this transpired, I’d never tried before to put myself in the place of the possessed man.  No, I am not possessed by demons that cause me to break chains or wander unclothed, yelling and cutting myself with rocks.  But, are we not all possessed at some level by demons that haunt us – be they ghosts of past failings or the present specters of temptation?  I know within myself rage temptations that would want to have nothing to do with Jesus.  And sometimes, I feel as if I’m losing the battle – as this poor man must have felt from time to time.  I need to understand that it isn’t just those foaming at the mouth or who are derelict that need what Jesus has to offer – I, too, am in desperate need.

Here’s what really scares me and bothers me: just as this man didn’t want his demons sent too far away, I have to ask, “Do I want my temptations sent so far away that I can’t recall them and invite them back into my heart when I want them?”  I fear that I can’t always answer in the affirmative to that question.  There is a part of me that longs for that very thing – and another part that longs for the status quo, temptations and all.  And that dichotomy haunt me.

The good news is that the demoniac, once his demons were gone, sat quietly and “in his right mind” at the feet of Jesus.  When I am in my right mind, I will do the same.

PRAYER: Free us, Lord, from the demons of temptation that haunt and pursue us, and for our love of sin that causes us to hold tightly to our temptations when we should be casting them away.  Have mercy on us and clothe us in our right minds that we might sit at Your feet!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 9/26/19 – Struggling With the Will

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DayBreaks for 9/26/19: Struggling with the Will

Matthew 26:39-42 (ESV) – And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

To my way of thinking, this scene in the garden is the crux of all eternity. What transpired there had the ability to doom us forever or open the doorway to paradise.

But what was it that was so hard for Jesus to do? Was it the fear of death? It doesn’t seem possible to me given his power over death. Was it the coming separation from the Father, when God would turn his face away? I’d imagine there was some of that in it. Certainly the humiliation and pain of the crucifixion could not be a good thing to contemplate at all. But I think that we have the clues right in this passage itself.

Jesus gives us the clue twice in this passage. Two times he mentions “his will” versus the will of the Father. And in between he tells Peter that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. I’d always taken that to refer to the disciples who were sleeping, and that is true. But I think it runs deeper than that.

I think what we’re witnessing here is Jesus’ own statement about his struggle with his will. His spirit is willing to proceed full speed ahead, but the flesh and will embodied in that flesh is weak. Let’s not forget that Jesus was flesh and blood just as are we.

And for the first time in all eternity that we’re aware of, Jesus’ will and the will of the Father were at odds. It must have been a very strange thing for Jesus to find himself in that situation. Yet for him to be tempted in all ways that we are, wouldn’t he  need to come to the point that his fleshly will and that of the Father contradicted one another? At this moment his will was clearly different than the Father’s.

So Jesus statement, “not my will”, was the moment of surrender of his will to the Father. One more thing to note from Luke 22:43. It was precisely when Jesus prayed for the Father’s will and not his own that the angel came to strengthen him – not before. As John Ortberg (who inspired these thoughts from his message this past Sunday) put it: “That angel is still on duty and he makes house calls.”

I don’t know about you, but it is worth knowing that Jesus understands how hard the will dies and surrenders. It’s not impossible – but it can be very, very hard. If you are struggling with the will, don’t give up. When you truly surrender, you will find the Comforter immediately by your side.

PRAYER: Jesus, I’m glad to know that you didn’t find the surrender of the will to be easy and that you understand my own struggle with my will. Help us all in our surrender.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 9/06/19 – The Tin Man and the God Man

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DayBreaks for 9/05/19: The Tin Man and the God-man

NOTE: Galen is on vacation for the next couple weeks and may not respond to any comments until he returns on 9/9/19.

From the DayBreaks archive, September 2009:

More today on the struggle with sin that wages war within us:

We seem to have a thought that we are to wage war on sin and win the victory.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Sure, we are to oppose evil.  But we need to grasp the truth that the war is not just ours – the war belongs to God.  He was waging war against sin and evil long before any of us were born.  He is the One Who declared war.  He is the One with the tools to fight – and win – this war.  We cannot and will not win the victory.  God must and will win.  He began that long ago, and the major, telling blow was struck at Calvary and sealed on Resurrection Morning.  Yet, even when it comes to dealing with sin, we try to make it all about “me”, “I”, “us.” 

Because of this, the struggle against sin can only be safely and successfully waged if we are in a full, right relationship with Him.  It is when we are not in that kind of close relationship that we will try to fight on our own power and strength – and the result is that we will fall, bloodied on the moral battlefield.  It is in relationship with the Spirit that we will find not only the strength, but the desire to join in the war.  The desire of our heart is evil continually.  That’s why the heart and mind of Christ must be formed in us – and that happens when like Enoch, we walk with Him.

C.S. Lewis, the ever astute observer of things of faith, said that our faith is not a matter of our hearing what Christ had to say a long time ago and then “trying to carry it out.” Rather, he suggests, it is that “The real Son of God is at your side. He is beginning to turn you into the same kind of thing as Himself.  He is beginning, so to speak, to ‘inject’ His kind of life and thought, His Zoe [Greek: life], into you; beginning to turn the tin soldier into a live man.  The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin.”

There is still far too much tin man in each of us, methinks.  The God-man is at our side, walking step by step, waiting for us to give Him more of our tin hearts so He can turn them into life receiving and giving hearts that beat with the passion of the Christ who is our constant companion.

PRAYER: Turn our tin hearts into hearts that are like our Savior’s, hearts that are alive with Truth and power.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 8/6/10 – Pain Relief

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DayBreaks for 08/06/19: Pain Relief

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2019:

Job is such a fascinating study of faith under pressure.  He didn’t always shine brightly throughout the test and perhaps that is why reading his story is so instructive and educational for us today.  Once, in this country, the pressure was on those who had no faith.  They were considered the outcasts, pagan, headed for a horrible end unless they came to Christ.  Today, those tables have largely been turned in our country and it is people of faith who find increasing pressure to abandon faith and doctrine in favor of political correctness and “tolerance.” 

We know that faith is necessary if we are to please God (Heb. 11:6).  But faith discovers what it is really made of in times of trouble, not when everything is peachy.  No one needs faith when things are going well – but turn up the burners and it is quickly seen whether faith goes up in a flash of fire and smoke, or whether it just gets hotter and more powerful. 

It is easy to say that we “know God.”  We even use the phrase, “I have come to know Him” as a statement that we’ve become Christians.  Mike Mason puts a bit of a different spin on what faith really is when he wrote in The Gospel According to Job: “But as we progress in faith we go through times when we are less and less certain that we really know Him at all, and yet more certain than ever that He knows us.”  In Genesis, it was the Egyptian run-away (from Abraham and Sarah), Hagar, who made this incredible statement as she and her son sat dying in the desert: You are the God who sees me. (Gen. 16:13)

Hagar’s statement is perhaps really the essence of faith.  As Mason put it: “Real faith is not so much seeing God, as knowing that one is seen.  Only this kind of faith is resilient enough to embrace ‘trouble from God.’”

When one is hurting as Job was hurting, would it have done him much good to “see God”?  I suspect that it was of much more comfort to Job to know that God saw him in his own suffering, sitting among the dust and ashes, tormented by pain and grief.  It was that kind of faith that allowed Job to say Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?  (Job 2:20)

In pain, our greatest comfort often doesn’t come through morphine or vicodin, but through not being alone.

PRAYER:  How grateful we are today, Lord, that you see each of us exactly where we are, with the pain and suffering that we all experience from time to time.  Thank you for your promises that we will never find ourselves alone as long as heaven endures!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 6/19/19 – A Lesson from Screwtape

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DayBreaks for 06/19/09: A Lesson from Screwtape

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

One of the most intriguing and insightful characters in Christian literature must be Wormwood.  Wormwood is a junior devil in C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters.  The book consists of an exchange of letters from Screwtape (a senior devil) and Wormwood (Screwtape’s nephew and a junior devil) who is learning how to tempt humans. The subject of getting humans to fall and disobey gets a great deal of press. 

At one point, Screwtape has this to say to his nephew, Wormwood: “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality, our best work is done by keeping things out.” 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often thought of the devil as putting tempting thoughts and images into my mind.  I don’t know how accurate Screwtape’s words are, but the point is well made.  Scripture would tend to back it up, methinks:

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. – James 1:14 (KJV)  It is our “own lust” that draws us away.  I don’t know about you, but whatever it is I might be lusting for (members of the opposite sex, chocolate, money, glory, etc.) comes from within me – not from outside me – which says something profound about us as humans and what lurks in our hearts.

Is there some kind of antidote for the poison that dwells with us?  If Screwtape was right, it seems to me that the answer is not in trying to keep things out of my mind, but to keep the right things in my mind: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8 (KJV)

May your mind be filled with these good things so there is no emptiness waiting to be filled by the sinful imaginings of our own hearts.

Prayer: Lord, help us to WANT to think on good things and to learn to abhor the evil we are so prone to contemplate.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 4/10/19 – Loaded with Toxic Assets

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DayBreaks for 4/10/19: Loaded with Toxic Assets

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2009:

I am not an economist – nor do I want to be.  Frankly, studying money and economies has always seemed like a huge waste of time given the fact that it’s all going to be burned up in the end and no one can take any worldly assets to the next world. 

Still, economic crises bring new economic terms and phrases into the headlines and our awareness, not the least of which is this one: toxic assets. While I don’t really understand it all too well, my take is that toxic assets are largely responsible for the trouble that banks are facing right now.  These toxic assets are loans, and it works like this: People owe the banks money.  Normally, banks like this.  Theywant people to owe them money and pay them interest because that’s how banks make a profit. But with the economy in its present condition, especially with the mortgage foreclosure crisis, many of the loans which should have been “assets” to the bank have actually become liabilities because the houses that secured the loans are now worth less than the amount of the loan itself.  So, a home that was purchased for $250,000 may now only be worth $150,000 – meaning that the bank has essentially lost $100,000 on the deal (not counting the interest they’d have made if the economy had held strong.)  So, instead of having several hundred thousands of dollars out of the loan in interest, the bank takes back the property after they’ve loaned out $250,000 – but the property is only worth $150,000 if they were to sell it!  This is a toxic asset, as I understand it.

And I know this much about accounting: when an asset hurts the bottom line of the financial statement, it is no longer an asset, but a liability – a loss or debt. And loss and debt are toxic to business.

I think we can make a spiritual application here: assets are not just a banking phenomenon.  There can be toxic spiritual assets, too. Anything we think is helpful to us in a spiritual way as individuals, but that actually is hurting us spiritually is a toxic asset.

The New Testament writers gave us lists of sins of the flesh.  We may think we aren’t doing the things listed, but in our modern world new and easier ways to sin have become very common.  The advent of computers and the Internet made lust much more easy (and seemingly more “innocent”), illegal drugs are everywhere, obesity is epidemic – these are all toxic assets.  People engage in these and other pleasures because they think that somehow, they will benefit us, not hurt us.  But the opposite is true.

Nearly anything can be a toxic asset, including homes, cars, IRA’s, 401K’s, boats, partying, etc., when they take over your life and push God into the shadows. Even something as seemingly innocent as a job can be a toxic asset. Money, education, family and friends, physical beauty – all these things can be great assets up unto the point where one allows them to take God’s place in their life, and start to live for them or trust in them.  Then, they have become toxic assets. 

Does this sound a lot like idolatry?  It is.  But most of us think we aren’t idolaters.  We have an image in our mind of a statue of some kind when we speak of idols.  That’s just what Satan wants us to think about when we think of idolatry.  He knows most of us aren’t going to fall for that one.  But an idol is nothing more or less than a toxic asset, and toxic assets are spiritual things that we think will help us but which are really just idols.

Banks are trying desperately to shed their financial toxic assets.  We would do well to work even harder at getting the toxic assets out of our own lives.

Prayer: Jesus, help us learn that not all that appears to be beneficial or which promises us pleasure or escape is good.  Give us new hearts and minds to understand how toxic our sin and dalliances are to our spirits.  Renew a clean heart within us, free from toxic things, a heart that longs for that which is pure and holy.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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