BY STEVE DUNN
“Christmas is the end of thinking you are better than someone else,
because Christmas is telling you that you could never get to heaven on your own. God had to come to you.” – Tim Keller
We live in an arrogant world in arrogant times. “It’s all about me” is the self-talk of fallen humanity. “Me-first” is measure of relationships. “I deserve the very best” is the ambition of our actions. Humility is viewed with suspicion. Entitlement trumps sacrificial servanthood. The Golden Rule is considered the philosophy of losers and the naive.
Twenty centuries ago Paul wrote these words explaining the meaning of the first Christmas:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5.6-8
The first sin was that of idolatry, to replace our Creator God with ourselves. To be our own God. Twenty centuries later, humankind continues to pursue this lie with deadly results on our planet and its people. Christmas was the First Strike that God launched to to set things right again.
And it came, ironically, through the humble instrument of a baby in a borrowed manger of rough-hewn wood in the presence of the “least of these.”
This is what Christians affirm and celebrate when we celebrate Christmas.
© 2014 by Stephen L Dunn
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BY STEVE DUNN
Saturday a good friend of mine and highly regarded Churches of God pastor, Andrew Draper posted this on his Facebook timeline:
Andrew Thomas Draper
Yesterday at 12:15pm ·
“Fox News and the Southern Baptists are accusing President Obama of “rewriting” the Bible in his speech on immigration and not quoting any particular verse.
Obama: “Scripture tells us, we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too.”
Exodus 23:9: “You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
We can debate the hermeneutic choice, disagree about the extent of presidential authority, and even wonder about appeals to the Bible in public policy. However, it seems like a pretty accurate paraphrase to me.”
Andrew is the Senior Pastor at the Urban Light Community Church in Muncie IN, a graduate of Winebrenner Theological Seminary, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Christian Education at Taylor University. I think his hermeneutic credentials are more than solid.
Within a few hours 67 persons clicked the LIKE box and 16 others commented on the post, some objecting to the assumed endorsement of President Obama but NONE debating the accuracy of the scriptural teaching.
The reality is that the current policies of this nation and the general political mindset of our nation are at variance with the clear teaching of the Word of God. I am not saying that the nation’s policies are obligated to follow the Bible (although our nation would find its elusive healing and hope if we did). But I object strenuously to Fox News (which claims to be the most truthful of media) and the Southern Baptists (who should know better) misrepresenting an important prophetic truth from God’s Word.
I understand the necessity of the rule of law and the need to affirm obedience to the laws of a democratic nation. I hear the complaints about jobs being taken from honest Americans by the “illegals”, although the evidence is mounting that these aliens are holding down jobs that honest Americans eschew. But I urge Christians, especially politicians who claim to be Christian, to remember that God of the Bible is the Protector of the alien and stranger in our midst and seek some solutions which are true to that truth by which we as Christians and we as a nation will ultimately be judged.
BY STEVE DUNN
Thanksgiving is over. The only remnant may be those turkey leftovers jammed into the refrig. Black Friday has come and gone, except you now have a sore feet and a nasty hangover on your credit cards. In my part of the country, the male population of whole villages have ascended into the hills. Hunting season has begun. And the Disney Channel and assorted retailers are reminding you another season is underway. It’s called the Christmas Season, often accompanied by reminders of how many shopping days are left in the season.
Unless you were in a church this Sunday or a part of Christian community, you may be unaware that yesterday another season began. It is called Advent and it is observed beginning on the first of four Sundays and the intervening weekdays until Christmas actually arrives – December 25th.
Advent is a celebration of an Arrival. The arrival of God in the flesh in the person of a baby, whose name was Jesus. (Jesus means, “He shall save his people.” It is also spoken of as the First Coming, the first time God took on human flesh to reveal who he is and what he intends. This implies a Second Coming, which Christians look forward to when God will return to put an end to sin and its deadly impact on our world. When God will create a New Heaven and a New Earth in which all people will enjoy the eternal blessing of living in His undeniable presence.
Christians believe that the purpose of Christmas was for God to declare once and for all that He shall bring peace and wholeness and salvation to His people. Advent helps once again prepare to focus on the purpose of that First Coming so that we will be ready for His next one.
Let me note this report from the Associated Press:
Reverend Franklin Graham, son of world renowned evangelist Billy Graham, said the Muslim prayer service on Friday at the Washington National Cathedral, an Episcopal church established under a charter granted by Congress more than 100 years ago, is “sad to see” because the church should only open its door for worship of “the One True God of the Bible.”
In a Facebook post on Thursday, Nov. 13, Rev. Franklin Graham, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said, “Tomorrow, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. — one of the most prominent Episcopal churches in America — will host a Muslim prayer service to Allah.”
“It’s sad to see a church open its doors to the worship of anything other than the One True God of the Bible who sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth to save us from our sins,” said Graham. “Jesus was clear when He said, ‘I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’ (John 14:6).”
Muslim prayer carpets will be laid out inside the cathedral facing east, towards Mecca, for the prayer service. They will also be “to the side of the sanctuary,” reported Voice of America, so that worshippers will not see the crosses or Christian icons, because “Muslims are not supposed to pray in view of sacred symbols alien to their faith.”
According to Pew Research, Muslims represent about 0.6% of the U.S. adult population.
I cannot agree with Mr. Graham more. Although it is a church that received a charter from Congress, it is still an Episcopal Church–and the last time I looked Episcopalians were still proudly proclaiming that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” The “rearrangement” of the sanctuary dedicated to the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to make it inoffensive to Muslim worshippers dishonors the One True God that Christians worship.
I cannot imagine a Grand Mosque in any city in the world allowing a pastor or a priest to celebrate the Lord’s Supper within its walls, nonetheless proclaim “Jesus as our Savior and Lord.”
There. Now I’ve said it.
.BY STEVE DUNN
Football is working hard to combat a “bad boy” image. The recent highly publicized assault of Baltimore Ravens star, Ray Rice, has led to NFL players joining “NO MORE” Campaign giving the serious problem of domestic violence a platform. Although we have a tendency at times to elevate athletes to a celebrity status that excuses bad behavior and encourages immature athletes to have a foolish sense of self-entitlement, it is always great when we see our athletes to use their celebrity to combat dangerous trends in our culture. This video is worth sharing again and again.
Way to go NFL. Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry and Pop Warner would be proud.
BY STEVE DUNN
I have a confession to make. I don’t remember if I registered to vote. I moved to a new community early last year and was out of town on election day. Because I work as an Intentional Interim Pastor, I anticipated being in a new community at this time. My job, however, depends on someone dying, being fired, unexpectedly quitting, or retiring. I would not wish the first three on anyone. There have been no such changes since I completed my last assignment, so I am still living in this community.
Tomorrow is election day and I need to call the election board and see if I am registered. If I didn’t or if I did and don’t go the polls, I will be part of what is wrong with our nation. People don’t vote. They do not participate in the process. A healthy body politic requires an informed and responsible citizenry who actively participates in the political process and then holds those they elect accountable to do what is in the best interests of the nation.
But a healthy body politic, especially in a democracy requires more. It requires a civil citizenry that is concerned with what is best for all its citizenry–not just its party or special interest group. We are often so divided and hostile before we go to the polls that we elect leaders who reflect this and the nation suffers accordingly.
On Facebook this week I came across a post that reflects an attitude I believe we need to embrace if ours is to be a nation that works for the good of all of its people–and makes us a stronger and more unified nation as a result.
I know that many young people have opted out of the political process because they no longer have confidence in their politicians and are fed up with our political parties.Maybe we would restore their confidence if as Americans–voters, citizens, leaders – we heeded this simple counsel.