BY STEVE DUNN
Tomorrow is the 4th of July -Independence Day for America.  A secular holiday observed in this nation but one with important religious implications.  We but need to turn to the Declaration of Independence signed on July 4, 1776.
In pursuit of their freedom from the rule of England and the tyranny of King George III, our Founding Fathers staked their right to that freedom on the gift of a sovereign God.  The secularization of America has attempted to push such a belief from the public square.  In so doing we forget the admonishment of our first President, George Washington in his Farewell Address.
Very little time will be spent on any kind of serious reflection on the Fourth.  In some concert somewhere they will sing “God bless America,” but sadly more out of sentimental tradition than earnest prayer.  Baseball, picnics and barbecues,, trips to the beach and the pool, fireworks and NASCAR, ice cream and other sweets, and no small amount of drunkenness will take precedence over prayer and any acknowledgement of the deeper spiritual truth that national and political freedom will always will always be dependent on guns and vigilance, human sacrifice and resolve.  But like all other realities of humanity–these can pass away all too quickly by regime change, political greed, or terrorist onslaught.
There is only one freedom which can endure and it is not dependent upon a human liberator, but a divine one.  The apostle Paul tells us of it:
 This Fourth we should indeed give thanks for the men and women whose sacrifice has helped us be free as a nation and whose vigilance protects that freedom.  But ultimately, the only freedom that can endure is that which is grounded in the Spirit of the Lord and obedience to His leadership and dependent upon His power.

This post originally appeared on this blog the summer of 2013.  In three days I head out for vacation and am trying to take the advice in its words, so I thought I’d repost it for you. = STEVE

SweetSimpleThings

BY STEVE DUNN
“First day of Summer supper: Hot dogs, corn on the cob, and sliced tomatoes!!!”
This is what my friend Kay Royer Cocklin posted on her Facebook page yesterday afternoon.  My first response was, “Oh! Yes!!!!!” Made me sad that I had already eaten a bowl of cereal for supper. (My wife is out of town being a grandmother-in-residence and I was too tired after mowing to get very creative.)
Simple things–hot dogs, corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes.  Readily accessible to most of us in America. Better than most things you would have popped into a microwave.  A whole lot cheaper than a steak. Except maybe for the hot dogs, a whole lot healthier, too.
Simple pleasures that those of us who have experienced them–quite satisfying.
Choosing the simple and taking pleasure from it tends to be a counter-cultural concept in 21st century America. Smart phones, smart cars, smart houses, constant digital connection, designer clothes, beds with dual comfort controls, specially manufactured golf clubs, 200 channels of satellite TV–the list goes on and grows more complicated by the second.
And so often those things carry complications that drain the last ounce of simplicity from our lives and replace it anxiety and aggravation.  Ever try to talk to cable company computer?  What happens when your smart car enters a dumb phase?  How much will it cost you to fix it? Do you really have to be available to every human being via phone every moment of your day?  Do the manufactured clubs feel any better when you miss the put or shank the drive?  Do you ever stop working to pay for your smart home long enough to actually be in it?
Don’t all the options of life at times just get overwhelming?  Don’t you simply run so much that you find yourself in a rat race where the rats are winning?
Don’t say “no” because I know you’re lying – to yourself as well as me.
Donald Miller writes:  “It is always the simple things that change our lives. And these things never happen when you are looking for them to happen.  Life will reveal answers at the pace life wishes to do so. You feel like running, but life is a stroll.  This is how God does things.”

I pretty much missed the first day of summer because I let myself embrace the complicated.  I put too many things in my schedule.  I didn’t stop to savor the sunshine or read a good book.  In fact, I didn’t even look at the calendar to notice that it was the first day of summer.  Ironically, it was my sabbath, my day of rest and refreshment and instead I filled it with the things that I hadn’t gotten done on my work days.

And I forgot the hot dogs, corn on the cob, and sliced tomatoes.  Didn’t pay much attention to God either.

My loss.

(C) 2103 by Stephen Dunn

Permission is given to repost or quote provided this copyright notice is included and a link provided to this blogsite. The courtesy of an email with a link to its reposting or a copy of the work it is quoted in would be appreciated.

 

4-11-1954

BY STEVE DUNN

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for … These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,  since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. – Hebrews 11.1-2, 39-40

A lot of us live by wishful thinking.  We say and do things that reflect a basic denial of reality.  I cannot tell you how many times as a pastor I heard someone say,”I know what you’re saying, but my experience is different.  I am an exception to that rule.”  Usually what they were saying was, “I want to do what I want to do, but don’t want to be held accountable for my choices.

Before someone accuses me of being a hypocrite or Pharisee,I need to confess something.  Diabetes runs in my family.  Almost 20 years ago my doctors dropped the adjective “borderline” from their diagnosis.  They told me how to combat it, particularly the importance of diet.

I really didn’t make that many changes, except to slow down on regular soft-drinks. I would eat carefully for a few days and then in times of boredom or at buffets, I would abandon all boundaries.  Now hundreds of milk shakes later, I find myself taking drastic measures to get that diabetes under control.

Wishful thinking can be very dangerous, especially when God has made it clear that only His way works.  There are no exceptions to his rules.

But one of his rules is “with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  In our faith life some of us are so grounded in being practical or realistic that we think that only the things man controls are to be pursued.  Comfort zones are where we choose to live.  Walking on water is for Jesus and foolish humans. After all, look what happened to Peter.

The problem with that is that God Who always keeps His promises feels no need to provide instant gratification and whose rewards which are eternal start closer to eternity than the present moment.

Be careful of wishful thinking.  If it is contrary to God’s word or way of acting – it is foolishness, often tragically so.

But when God says let go, look beyond, follow me – the foolishness is in our comfort-zone, control-obsessed response.

© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn. You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

 

By Steve Dunn

Watching the news lately, I have grown tired, very tired. I am tired of ….

Politicians who demonize people and political positions with which they disagree.

Politicians who spin or even ignore the truth that is inconvenient to them but who insist on

accountability and even punishment for others who do the same.

Politicians who believe that they are above the need for civility and respect towards others.

Politicians who demand absolute conformity and support from people who work for them even

when they are wrong.

Politicians who put their mouth in motion before their mind is in gear.

Politicians who don’t know when to simply keep their thoughts to themselves

Politicians who worship political correctness but who believe people who do not agree with

their definition should ostracized.

Politicians who believe that character is a private matter.

Politicians who do not know how to choose their battles.

Politicians who believe people should never question their motives or integrity.

Politicians who believe they are always right.

Political supporters who support these “leaders” unquestioningly and pounce on those who dare to question their pet politician.

Political supporters who always assume the other side is lying.

Political supporters who justify these actions by saying the other side does it, too.

Neither these political leaders nor their uncritical supporters do our nation a service.

1509758_195621363963931_11133830_nBY STEVE DUNN

“… be filled with the Holy Spirit.” – Ephesians 5:18a

      We often make statements that to others appear as self-deluding.  When I was growing up, such statements were greeted with the comment, “You are full of it.” (We will have to stop there because the etymology of that expression refers to something very nasty that you are full of.) But for Christians, being full of something refers to being filled with the Holy Spirit of God.

Some Christian groups use this command as a code word for a specific kind of religious experience or as a litmus test of a certain type of Christianity that they believe to be superior to all other forms of Christianity.  I tend to disagree with both usages but that is a theological issue beyond the scope of what I want to say today

We fill our lives with many things — jobs, family, and even religion.  All in pursuit of happiness or fulfillment or meaning.  But those things are often delusions because they are expressions of a delusional belief that say, “It’s all about me.”  For too many our highest aim is self-satisfaction not significance.  We believe our lives have meaning when we get to be who we want to be.

Such an attitude ultimately requires us  to ignore our neighbor, be indifferent to our community, and abandon any true responsibility for our world.

The one true antidote to this outcome is not saturate our lives with self but to let the Spirit indwell us shaping us and empowering us to be people whose lives are immeasurably and whose impact brings God’s wholeness to all.

(C) 2014 by Stephen L Dunn (This post originally appeared in my blog THE ROAD TO JOY)

BY STEVE DUNN

“What is truth?”

This is the poignant question posed by Pontius Pilate as deliberated the fate of Jesus.

“Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him. “But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?”…

People are often puzzled by this exchange.  Jesus pointedly says “The truth is that I am indeed a king.  I appear in this setting to be the poor abject subject of this so-called legal system  And if you really could handle the truth, you would not need to ask.”

Remember another famous posing of the question, “What is the truth?”  It comes from the movie, “A Few Good Men.”  When challenged by Tom Cruise, the defense attorney to tell the truth, Colonel Jessup responds, “The truth, you can’t handle the truth!”

th

Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson) arrogantly believes that has a duty to hide the truth because the world cannot handle the ugly truth of what he has to do to defend America from its ruthless enemies. But behind that version of the truth is just another self-justification of his arrogant use of power.

Pilate throws Jesus’ truth statement back into his face by his question, a question that is a defensive attempt to escape the responsibility of courageously defending Jesus.  He blatantly questions whether there is any absolute truth.  The truth is that Jesus is an innocent man,and is do, probably truly the king he professes to be.  But such a truth would threaten Pilate’ position itself, so he conveniently dismisses the truth that is standing before him.

When truth is inconvenient, or demanding–when it calls into question the lies and half-truths that we have chosen to live by, we often chose to deny that there is any truth at all. For to admit  the truth requires us to change,  Or we resort to the favorite co-opt of the postmodern mind, “Well, it’s all right for you, it’s just not right for me.”

Truth, as Christians understand it, is not situational nor subjective.  Truth is not a moving target or a Wikipedia definition to be updated by the next so-called expert.  Truth is an objective reality and it is rooted in something very concrete–the person of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of John records this set of declarations from Jesus: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8.32Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:36

Truth is a person and that person is Jesus Christ.  What he says and what he represents is the truth upon which all the created universe is grounded and upon which depends.

When we finally submit our lives to that Truth we will indeed be free and our world will have that hope that it most desperately needs.

© 2017 by Stephen L. Dunn. Permission is given to repost or quote provided this copyright notice is included and a link provided to this blogsite. The courtesy of an email with a link to its reposting or a copy of the work it is quoted in would be appreciated.

BY STEVE DUNN
 
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” – Romans 5.1-2
 
It is the time of the year when people focus on the future.  The focus might be fleeting as the struggles of every day living draw us into a very destructive kind of focusing – fear over the future with all of its uncertainties.  And because there is so much we cannot control, we begin to worry.
 
We worry over what might go wrong in our lives and in our world.  That worry draws our attention to the mountains that we need to move or it makes molehills grow into insurmountable mountains.  It makes us believe the lie that we must be in control–although such control is futile.
 
It takes our eyes off a vital reality.  We are products of God’s grace.  It is by His power that we live.
The future, which includes ours, belongs to God.  He knows the way from the present to the future and He will shepherd us safely through today into tomorrow.  And tomorrow holds His glory in which we will share.
 
 Never second-guess the Shepherd.