DayBreaks for 2/10/20 – The Battleground of the Gods

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DayBreaks for 2/10/20: The Battleground of the Gods

Matthew 15:19 (ESV) – For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

Let there be no doubt, the heart is the battleground of the gods. It is in the heart that the battle rages and will be won or lost. 

In Gods at War, Kyle Idleman talks about a friend of his who is a cardiologist. The doctor was describing arteriograms – injecting dye into a patient’s bloodstream and then watching on an X-ray as the dye goes through the patient’s heart. The purpose is to look for blockages that could lead to a heart attack. The doctor could then treat the blockages.

But the catch is this: heart problems can go undetected and undiagnosed for years. Why? Because no arteriogram is done to test the heart’s circulation because the symptoms don’t seem relevant. Someone may not be able to sleep, have back pain, loss of appetite, anxiety, mild shortness of breath or other issues. The patient will describe the symptoms to the doctor and the doctor treats the symptoms. The patient, after all, is complaining of not being able to sleep or chalks the mild shortness of breath up to normal aging. In reality, the symptom may be caused by a heart issue. If it’s cardiovascular, the patient won’t get better until it is recognized for what it is and treated.

Here’s a spiritual arteriogram for you today. Ask yourself these questions and ponder your responses carefully. They could point to as serious heart issue:

What do you complain about the most: it reveals what really matters to us and whining shows what has power over us.

Where (and for what things) do you make financial sacrifices: where you money goes shows what god is ruling your heart.

What worries you: it could be a person, a job, reputation – anything that has enough power over you to wake you up at night could be a god.

Where is your sanctuary: when you’re really hurting, what do you turn to – is it alcohol, drugs, promiscuity, the great outdoors? The higher ground we seek at such times reveals the values that may be our gods.

What infuriates you: we all have hot buttons that cause us to “lose it”. Those things reveal what is really important to us. It could be winning, lack of comfort or respect, something that embarrasses you. Those things tend to indicate that the oldest idol of all has hold of me – the god of “me”.

What are your dreams: what we long for and dream of is as revealing as the things we fear. Where does your mind go when you choose to let it go freestyle? Aspirations are good – but the question is why do you aspire to those things. Is it so you can give God more glory or have glory, fame and maybe fortune for yourself?

PRAYER: Lord, don’t let us deceive ourselves as we take this spiritual arteriogram! May your Spirit reveal to us what You see in our hearts. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

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 10/15/19 – The Longest Distance in the Universe

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DayBreaks for 10/15/19: The Longest Distance in the Universe

From the DayBreaks archive, October 2009:

If you’ve ever driven across the United States, you know how far it is!  And America is a relatively small land mass compared to Asia or the length of Africa.  Even flying overseas to other countries can be a long, long haul!  Traveling takes time.

I suppose that the longest distance that one could travel and remain on earth would either be around the equator, or the north/south meridian that would take one around the globe in a north to south direction.  I hate to think how long such a trip would take.

Some time ago, I read a statement that the longest distance in the world is the 18 inches between the human mind and the human heart.  What did they mean?  They meant that it’s easy to accept something with the mind and intellect, but very hard to really accept it and believe it with the heart.  For example, the Word tells us that we are no longer his enemies, nor even his servants, but His children.  But does it always feel like it to you?  After you’ve been doing things that you know you shouldn’t have been doing it is hard to believe that he welcomes us.  His promise from 1 John 1:9-10 to forgive us if we confess our sins is easy enough to memorize and tuck away in the gray matter of our brains, but it’s not as easy to really believe we’re forgiven and then to live like it.  And while we nod our heads in the affirmative when he tells us that greater is the One that is in us than the one that is in the world, and that we have His power at our disposal – it is much more difficult to act as if it is true because though we have head knowledge, our heart acceptance is woefully lacking. 

What difference does all this make?  We are hampered by the fact that what we know hasn’t traveled the 18 inches to our hearts.  We know we are to love Him, and that if we do love him, it will mean that we will obey Him – we don’t ever seem to really get to around to obeying him as if we love him. 

I wish there was a silver bullet that would enable all that head knowledge to make the journey to our hearts so we could live it out.  I don’t know of such a silver bullet, other than taking what He says on faith – and then to start to live like we believe it.  That means we will take more risks and step out more on faith than we have in the past.  It means we will take on challenges that are too big for us – and which we know are too big for us – and then watch Him make it happen through His own power so He gets the glory – not us. 

How much of what He has said and promised to you has made that longest journey in the world to your heart?

PRAYER: We are so grateful for your patience with us – and we ask that you help us to live what we know intellectually and to live lives of faith, not hesitation!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 7/10/19 – Awake During Open Heart Surgery

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DayBreaks for 07/10/19: Awake During Open Heart Surgery

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

How much pain can one person carry?  I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.  I know that I’ve had very little pain in my life compared to millions and probably billions of other humans who have lived on this blue marble.  I can hardly imagine anyone, though, who perhaps bore so much pain as the ancient hero, Job.  His suffering was emotional, financial, mental, physical and spiritual.  I don’t know anyone else who has lost as much as Job did (especially his children!)  The pain of losing just one child would be unbearable…but try to imagine losing all 10 at once.  And for a time, Job, we are told, said and did nothing amiss.  Then, he finally seems to break.  But it wasn’t the loss of the flocks, herds, buildings.  It had nothing to do with his financial empire.  He didn’t even rail against God when his children died.  I’m sure that wasn’t because he didn’t love them – he surely cared a great deal about them.  No, Job seemed to “lose” it when he felt God has slipped away and left him alone.  It was then that Job began to struggle.  It was then that Job came face to face with a darker side of his nature than he’d probably realized existed. 

In The Gospel According to Job, Mike Mason wrote: “Being a believer in God necessarily implies grappling with the dark side of one’s nature.  Many of us, however, seem to be so afraid of our dark side that far from dealing with it realistically, we repress and deny it.  If we do so chronically, we need to ask ourselves whether we really believe in the healing power of Christ’s forgiveness and in His victory over our evil natures.  Perhaps we have never frankly come to grips with the fact that we ourselves are evil.  If we have not, then we are ill prepared for those times when believing in god is like being away during open heart surgery. For our Creator is not yet finished with us; He is still creating us, still making us, just as He has been all along from the beginning of the universe.   But for the short span of our life here on earth we have the strange privilege of actually being wide awake as He continues to fashion us, to watch wide-eyed as His very own fingers work within our hearts…the only anesthetic is trust…trust is not a passive, soporific thing.  When there is stabbing pain, trust cries out.  It is only mistrust, fear and suspicion that keep silent.”

Your life has had some level of pain.  I am frequently asked “Why?  Why is there so much pain involved with being a Christian?  You’d think that a loving God would do everything possible to spare His children pain!”  There is a certain rationale to that argument.  But I think it misses the point that Mike Mason makes: God is doing open heart surgery on us – our hearts MUST be changed if we are to live forever.  If they are not changed, we will die of our fatal condition.  No one does open heart surgery just for practice or for the fun of it.  It is only done when it is necessary to save or extend a life.  We are awake during the process.  

If God doesn’t do His surgery on our heart, we will most certainly die.  There will be pain.  But would any father not allow the pain in order to spare the life of the child?  Certainly, a good father would agree to have the child operated on so that the child could live.  The pain is part of the process of healing and being made well. 

What makes the surgery on our hearts bearable at all?  Trust.  Trust that God is reliable and doing what is not only good for us, but necessary for us if we are to live with Him in His home.  Belief that God knows precisely what is needed in your heart and mine – and that He will complete the work that is necessary.

PRAYER: Though this surgery is painful, Lord, we open our hearts to You and invite you to do what is necessary to make us fit to be Your children and to live in Your Presence throughout all eternity.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 6/28/19 – The Pure in Heart

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DayBreaks for 06/28/19: The Pure in Heart

From the DayBreaks archives, June 2009:

Matthew 5:8: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Have you ever wanted to see God? Have your ever thought that if you could just see Him for a moment that it would be easier to believe and obey? It might be for a short while, but probably not in the long run. There were many who saw and heard him but didn’t believe. But seeing isn’t believing.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus utters the words found in Matthew 5:8. What is the connection between being pure in heart and seeing God? What is the message Jesus wants us to understand?

Several thoughts come to mind:

FIRST: I’m glad that Jesus said “pure in heart” and didn’t insist it was only those who were pure in deed that would see God. In my heart I want to do what is right, in my flesh I find it harder to live out. While what is in our hearts should find expression in the outcome of our actions, there is sometimes a disconnect. God judges the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).

SECOND: A French writer, Francois Mauriac, had an interesting insight. He concluded that self-discipline, repression of desires and logical and rational arguments are not sufficient weapons to use in fighting our impulses to sin. And that has been my experience, too. No matter how hard I try to discipline myself, I yield to temptation. Mauriac ultimately concluded that there was only one good reason to be pure, and that is what Jesus was saying in this verse. As Mauriac put it, “Impurity separates us from God. The spiritual life obeys laws as verifiable as those of the physical world…Purity is the condition for a higher love – for a possession superior to all possessions: that of God. Yes, that is what is at stake, and nothing else.”

This was the meaning of the parable of the pearl of great price: there is nothing (no earthly pleasure or heavenly delight) that can compare to possessing God Himself and having Him as your own. The desire to “have” God and to be His, to see His face, is the only motivation that can overcome the impurity of our hearts and make us pure enough to be able to see His face.

Why is it that the pure in heart can see God? Because it is simply the condition to be in His presence.  The point is clear: do you want to see God? Be pure in heart…singularly devoted to Him, seeking Him and His way and will above all other ways and wills…even your own!

Prayer: Cleanse our hearts and make them fully devoted to You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

DayBreaks for 12/04/18 – The Secret to a Wise Heart

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DayBreaks for 12/04/18: The Secret to a Wise Heart

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2008:

We don’t like to think about death at all, let alone our own death.  We’d like to just ignore it until it happens.  We are more than content to live under a grand illusion that we have an unlimited number of days to live.  And so we drift aimlessly from day to day, moment to moment, never considering death.

Moses had an interesting prayer that he offered up in Psalm 90:12 (NIV) –Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  There are two key things in this brief passage that we should note:

FIRST: we have to be taught to number our days correctly.  We can’t figure it out on our own – or at least, we won’t figure it out ourselves.  We are too happily living out our delusion about limitless days, trying as hard as we can to be oblivious to our impending demise.  I don’t know if mankind ever really knew how to number his days correctly.  I doubt that we were created with that sense of limited days because when Adam and Eve were created, they weren’t created to die.  That’s something that came about after the fall.  It was only after death entered onto the stage that it became necessary to learn, to be taught, that we have a finite number of days allotted to us and that we don’t know how many days we have.

SECOND: we can’t have a heart of wisdom until we learn to number our days.  Why?  Because we can’t live wisely until we learn to number our days.  Considering our mortality leads us to view each day of life differently, to cherish it and appreciate it in ways we can’t even imagine if we don’t consider our finiteness.  We can’t live rightly until we know we will die rightly.  And we must contemplate death if we are to live rightly.

Towards that end, as I shared with our congregation last week, I’ve added something to my daily prayer that seems to be helping me to do a much better job of numbering my days and living accordingly.  It’s very simple, and I’d encourage you to add something similar to your morning prayer: “Lord, if this is to be my last day, may I live it in Jesus with great joy and wonder.”

Prayer: We need hearts that are wise, Lord, hearts that consider our deaths so that we can live more appropriately in each moment of the time we have been given.  Teach us, Lord, to number our days.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 4/23/18 – Something Evil This Way Comes

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DayBreaks for 4/23/18: Something Evil This Way Comes   

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2008:

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and author of The Science of Good and Evil, wrote on 3/18/04:

“I once had the opportunity to ask Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s List, what he thought was the difference between Oskar Schindler, rescuer of Jews and hero of his story, and Amon Goeth, the Nazi commandant of the Plaszow concentration camp.  His answer was revealing.  Not much, he said.  Had there been no war, Mr. Schindler and Mr. Goeth might have been drinking buddies and business partners, morally obtuse, perhaps, but relatively harmless.  What a difference a war makes, especially to the moral choices that lead to good and evil.”

Shermer goes on to quote Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.  But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.  And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

This reminds me of the parable Jesus spoke about the Pharisee and that tax collector.  The Pharisee saw himself in rather glowing terms: “Thank you, God, that I am not like others – like this tax collector!”  The tax collector, meanwhile, was downcast and pleaded, “God, have mercy on me a sinner!”

Who do you most closely identify with – the Pharisee or the tax collector?  I hope it is the latter, for we all have the “line dividing good and evil” that cuts right through our own heart.  The sin we do in private goes unseen except by God, giving us all the temptation to sound and act like the Pharisee, but God knows better.  When we approach one another, we’d be wise to recognize that something evil this way comes.

We can’t cut out a piece of our own heart.  We can desperately plead with God to create within us a new heart to replace our diseased one.

PRAYER:  “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!  Cast me not away from Thy Presence, O Lord, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and renew a right spirit within me!”  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.