BY STEVE DUNN

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Last Sunday, the worst mass shooting in Texas history occurred at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland TX as 28 people were brutally murdered by a gunman.  This was not the first time this happened; in fact, in the past two years “houses of worship” have become soft targets for this type of criminal.

It was ironic that many people who are absolutely obsessed with fighting the terrorist threat from radical Islam were not even using the word “terror” in this instance.  Christopher Kline, a friend of mine from Virginia, posted this comment on Facebook:

“Why is it that following a mass shooting of innocent people we hear from elected officials that we should not politicize what occurred with a discussion regarding gun policy but within hours of a terrorist attack on innocent people we hear about the need for increased vetting, the need to end visa programs, etc.? Why is it okay to politicize the death of innocent Americans in one situation and not another? This applies to elected officials at all levels!”

I suspect that Chris has hit the nail right on the head.  Americans — far too many — so dearly love their right to own guns that I suspect they fear letting any discussion follow a line that might lead to questioning that right in the extremes with which it is defended. In fact, one person responded to Chris with the comment “Guns are not the issue.”

No, they are not the ONLY issue – but the access to assault weapons and automatic ones ARE part of the overall issue.  The violence in America, promoted in our entertainment, video games, and political diatribes are part of the issue.  The failure for the government both nationally and locally to invest in mental health that could identify and keep guns away from those who are mentally disturbed is part of the issue.  Yes, people kill people. Mentally ill and untreated people kill people with guns.

If the NRA and other pro-gun citizens would invest even half of the dollars that they invest in fighting gun control, marketing weapons and ammunition of increasingly deadly force, and other things that add to the gun culture–if they would invest these dollars in mental health, then we might begin to turn the tide on mass shootings like Texas, Charleston, Virginia Tech, Newtown, and Colorado Walmarts.

At the very least they might begin to convince some of us who are increasingly fed up with this nation’s out-of-control gun violence to be more open to their “right to bear arms.”  If this doesn’t stop, you will find more and more people who will even want to take guns away from sportsmen (a position with which I disagree).  (Although the question still lingers in my mind–why does a sportsman need a weapon with which he could wage war to kill a deer or a rabbit for food?)

Some of you will insist on responding to me in a predictable manner and sadly, your responses will too often simply repeat the gun lobby line or question my patriotism.  And this will mean that too many will not even bother to mention the merits of my suggestion that we must get serious about mental healthcare instead of living with the increasing insanity of our out-of-control gun violence.  But I post this in hopes that some of you will enter into that dialogue about mental healthcare and now to fund it.

 

© 2017 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

 

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BY STEVE DUNN

I am thankful to be an American. I live in perhaps the most prosperous nation on earth. I enjoy freedom and security still unequaled around the globe. My neighbors are by and large good people seeking to live at peace with one another. I believe that my nation, despite its flaws and inconsistencies, has done more good for our world than most other countries and has often carried a load for the larger population of this planet far beyond our fair share—and have done so generously and sacrificially. I dislike when others bash our nation because we are a convenient whipping boy while at the same time aspiring to come to our land to find fulfillment, safety, and some measure of prosperity.

As a Christian, committed to living by the truth and facing the consequences of that truth. I am deeply troubled by fellow Americans who would deny the truth because it inconveniences or offends them.   And I am offended by fellow Americans who attack people who simply tell the truth because they do not do it in a politically correct way. (Note: The Left does not have a monopoly on “political correctness.” The Right has its own version and just as resolutely promote and enforce it).

But more than anything, my heart grieves when Christians make earthly political positions and man-made symbols more important than Biblical integrity in their words and behaviors. And I am sure that God is grieved when our words and actions, Facebook posts and Tweets, and other public pronouncements ignore the Second Commandment, “Love thy neighbor as Thyself.” Ignore is not too strong a word.

Although you may be offended by taking a knee during the national anthem, have you bothered to try and understand the motivation behind such exercises of free speech? (Many of those athletes are devout evangelical Christians). You may not agree with them, but have you sought to understand them?

And when several million of our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico have had their lives devastated by two hurricanes, why is all of our attention on sports stadiums and what occurs there instead of getting help to our brothers and sisters in need?

For those who would honestly want to think about the current NFL and MLB protests, you might find this helpful reading.

© 2017 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

Dan Masshardt is a young pastor in Pennsylvania and a good friend.  He writes an excellent blog called CHOOSE TODAY.  This post is well worth reading.

Is Your Church Like Planet Fitness?

Many of us live in a land of many choices.

If you want to exercise, you probably have quite a few options.  One popular option is Planet Fitness.  This gym is inexpensive, open all the time, and constantly advertises a ‘judgement free zone.’    Those are all good things or can be.

Planet Fitness seems to be driven by the idea that you won’t be intimidated there.  They won’t allow it and will remove anybody deemed intimidating – a lunk.

While there are certainly people in Planet Fitness that are in great shape and word hard, if you went there and just filled up your time doing the bear minimum, you’d likely never know that you were falling short of what you really should be doing.

Some churches seem to be a bit like planet fitness.   They are just happy if someone shows up.  That person is included in the attendance and membership numbers.  They have a few dollars coming in.   People aren’t ever told or challenged to thing that what they are doing is falling short of what they currently are.

And while a church like that might have some really serious and dedicated disciples of Jesus in their midst, the church doesn’t expect people to become all in, sold out, go anywhere and do anything God calls us to do kind of Christians.

I’ve been in some serious gyms.  Filled with powerlifters, bodybuilders and strongman.  Crossfit gyms are like this too.   And I can tell you that in my personal experience, Plant Fitness is mostly dead wrong about the attitude of these serious trainers.  They are glad to be together with older people, newer people just getting started.

People should never be judged for getting started.  They should be wholeheartedly encouraged for getting started.  It’s perhaps the biggest step.

But they should know that the journey is the beginning of being the best you can be.  That may be different for different people when it comes to fitness.  But a serious gym will take people where they are at and encourage them, motive them and challenge them to grow.

 

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BY STEVE DUNN

I came across this T-Shirt in a Facebook ad on my news feed.  (If you want to order click here.)  I love both the message and the presentation (although right now I don’t have spare cash to buy one).

Superheroes are popular today in American culture.  It’s not particularly a new phenomenon but we have certainly ramped up the interest–both in proliferation of heroes and the multiplying media forms which bring them into our world of entertainment. From the cartoon Mighty Mouse to the Marvel comics of Spiderman and Wonderwoman to the television renditions of Superman and Batman, superheroes were around in my childhood more than half a century ago.  Now I have simply lost count of how many of them are sought after, admired and marketed.

Invariably a superhero is called to save a city or a nation or the world from villains that have grown so powerful that humanity has no way to control them or defeat them.  Some superheroes are tragic people who have found purpose (like Spiderman) or children of Middle America (like Superman) who are finally accepting their destiny. (Yes, I know. Superman came from another planet but he was raised by a Norman Rockwell family.)

But here is what I want us to reflect on.  Superheroes are called upon because humanity cannot save itself. That, however, is not a device of literary fiction.  The Bible tells us “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?. Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 7:24-25a

But none of these superheroes can bring a salvation that endures.  Another mutation emerges from the dark side, another planet casts a maliced eye on Planet Earth, and even machines take on a life that seeks to smash all that is good and even normal into submission or oblivion. That, too, although embellished by fresh characters, also matches the Scriptural record: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6.12

In reality, however, there is One who gets it right.  His name is Jesus Christ.  His purpose was indeed to save the world. “For the Son of Man (Jesus) came to seek and save the lost..” – Luke 19.10 “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”- I Timothy 1:15 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” – John 3:17

And the apostle Paul, reflecting on the work of the Savior of the World teaches this: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

I still have enough kid in me to love stories of superheroes.  But in reality, there is only One upon Whom I (and we) can depend to save the world.  His name is Jesus.

© 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

A prayer for America on September 11th: Today is September 11th—16 years ago terror finally reached American shores and in many ways, life in this country began to change. We have yet to face the level and consistency of terror as it has been experienced in other places like western Europe, but terror still disrupts and even alters the lives of people living in this land. It easily has spotlighted the everyday terror we face—not from another nation or fanatical religious group, but from our neighbors. And not because of a specific people group or religion but from the insidious toxic hatred for others that dwells deep in our hearts and is too easily fanned into flame by our fallen nature and minds that are not conformed to Christ. God have mercy on us and forgive us. And transform us into the people of peace you have redeemed us to be. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

candle1

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.