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.

  BY STEVE DUNN

A whole lot of people think that “good” Christians are people who do good things.  In fact, a whole lot of Christians believe that, too.  Usually, though, the measure of that in people’s minds includes keeping the 10 commandments, being a “church goer,” knowing the Bible, keeping Christ in Christmas, not working on Sundays, etc., choosing wholesome activities over “worldly” ones.  Doing typically “religious” things.  This list makes for comfortable people who can call themselves “Christians.”

Ironically, except for the “church-going” part, that is also a description of “good people” who would not call themselves Christians.

The Bible actually teaches something different about this. Christians desire to be righteous (another word for holy).  Not righteous in a prideful or self-serving sense.  Righteous meaning “having the right relationship with God.”  In other words, we desire to have hearts like God’s heart, to live by the values that God intends for us, and behave towards our world as God wants the world treated.

In case you don’t know what the answer to that last statement, you need only read John 3:16 and 17:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Genuine Christians aspire to be the person God desires them to be.  How do they know what looks like?

It looks like Jesus.  


BY STEVE DUNN

 

His name is Donald Trump and this Friday, he will become the 45th President of the United States.  Polls already show that come Inauguration Day he will be the least popular President in history.  I did not vote for Mr. Trump–his “tweeted campaign,” his denigration of so many people groups, his playing on our fears of Isis to badmouth Muslims, his obviously abysmal moral character and his cavalier handling of the Christian faith that I hold dear made it impossible for me to vote for him.  His opponent was really no better–her pandering to special interest groups and almost total ignoring of the needs of the working class and middle class, her hostility towards traditional Christianity and her pledge to wipe out any conservative presence on the Supreme Court made her equally unpalatable  to be me as well. (I registered a protest vote for a third party candidate).

His antics and attitudes during the transition have done nothing to increase my confidence in him or change my opinion.

Nonetheless, we live in a participatory democracy and the primary attributes of that are free elections, civilized and unifying acceptance of the results, and a peaceful transfer of power.  On January 20th those things should happen and we will have a new President.

I believe my job as a Christian is to respect his office and the man in that office, to pray for him, and to do my best to contribute to the betterment of my nation.  That means that sometimes I will simply give Mr. Trump and his policies a chance, I will not engage in the hate-mongering that some extended to Mr. Obama and are not unleashing on Mr. Trump.  I will respectfully disagree with him on other things and try to peacefully and intelligently and prayerfully encourage my senators and Congressmen to do the right thing instead of blindly following the party line or the President.

Mr. prayer is that Mr. Trump will be a great President because my great nation needs a great leader.

BY STEVE DUNN

The news was ugly today.  A little three year old boy shot in a road rage incident.  He died.  In what is suspected to be an Isis terrorist attack, a large truck plows into an open air Christmas market in Berlin killing nine and injuring many others.  The Russian ambassador to Turkey gunned down as he gave a speech by a militant proclaiming retaliation for his country’s participation in Syria’s crushing of rebels in Aleppo, and the utter destruction city at the same time.  Putin’s dark response about retaliation of its own as the Middle East increasingly is feeling the presence of Russia siding with a decidedly antidemocratic Syrian regime.  Double-digit deaths on American highways as a winter storm slams our nation.  Bitter and angry protests as the Electoral College confirms the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.  Parents going into school to stop their son from launching an atack on his fellow students.

The list goes on and I haven’t even gotten to the local scene of poverty, violence, abuse, financial scams targeting the aged and unsuspecting, racism and more.

On this Monday before Christmas our world desperately needs peace.

But not the peace that comes from Christmas truces, or politics and diplomacy; but a peace which will last.  A peace only God can give.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14.27

A peace that comes when people finally acknowledge the One who is the only true Prince Peace- Jesus Christ.  And we need Him now.

Even so Lord Jesus, come quickly.

 

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BY STEVE DUNN

I have been in the ministry for 45 years–starting as a youth pastor back in 1971. Since 2008, I have added teaching graduate students in a seminary to my resume. Since last January I have added teaching history to high school students from Korea to my professional mix. I am about to do both again. Monday Morning Reflections this week is late because I am busy completing syllabi, lesson plans and initial lessons for high schools kids (9th, 10th and 11th graders) and seminarians (only God knows some of their ages and it would be ecclesiastically/politically incorrect to ask). High school starts next Monday, seminary two weeks later.

At this moment I am firmly reminded of the words of Solomon, an ancient wise man of centuries ago:

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As they say in my profession: “That’ll preach.” And so far that is true just for the instructor. It will soon be the lament of my students and their compatriots.

Yet as I wade through all the paperwork and other preparations, it is a labor of love. It is also a critical endeavor. Knowledge is the beginning of power and ignorance is not bliss, it is dangerous.

Education provides knowledge, but more than that–the discipline of learning and the accountability needed not only to get a good grade but to live life with competence, confidence, and significance.

Knowing the details of early American politics may not come into daily usefulness for all of my high schoolers, any more than the nuances of biblical interpretation for my seminarians. But the process of learning with its requirement to live by standards of excellence and to use that learning with integrity are survival values for society and the Church.

I love my students too much to let them be wallow in ignorance, shackled by laziness, and handicapped by an uninformed life. And I love our nation, our world, and the Kingdom of God not to do my part in educating.

So now–back to the preparations. May they bear much fruit which will last.

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© 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 http://www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

BY STEVE DUNN

This September I will have been in the ministry for 45 years (not bad for a 39 year-old. right?)  I had a part-time job as the Youth Pastor for the Newville PA Church of God. Twenty-five kids from grades five through 12.  An impossible assignment, yet I survived and continued to serve God in a variety of ways.  There have only been two, maybe three times in those years that I gave serious thought to quitting the ministry but each time God caught my falling soul, set my feet on solid ground, and provided me with a vision that moved me forward.  Moving forward even though I knew times of testing would again intersect my life trajectory.

Such stick-to-itiveness is regarded by some as stubbornness and others as stupidity.  But those of following this path know it to be something deeper, more profound. It’s called “The Call.”

Frederick Buechner defines The Call this way:   “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” If you can discern what your greatest joy is and what you believe is a pressing need in our world, and then find where the two intersect, chances are you will begin to understand God’s calling in your life.’

This weekend I participated in the commencement exercises for Winebrenner Theological Seminary.  I am on their adjunct faculty and have taught for them since 2008.  Along the way I have had the chance to teach many men and women who experienced that Call.  At the Commencement I was celebrating the graduation of four of my students in particular.   With all due respect to my other students and all the grads, I celebrated two in particular: Bob Collins and Jeff Musser.

 Both Bob and Jeff found deep joy in serving Jesus and their hearts were moved powerfully, perhaps compelled by the reality that God loved His World and the people He had created.  They deeply desired to share that truth with all people.

 

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Dr. Brent Sleasman presents his diploma to Bob Collins, who has been wheeled to the spot by fellow grad, Jeff Musser

Bob and Jeff are what we call second career pastors.  They entered seminary not via the conventional route of a liberal arts education followed by seminary.  They came from industry and entered a program that will allow them to pastor local churches. Jeff worked throughout his seminary time and even planted a church.  Bob followed a different trajectory in part because of physical infirmity.

During his four years of seminary Bob endured eleven surgeries, two of which were amputations and several vascular.  As he entered his last class, Jeff was struck down by a heart attack and had to recover from open heart surgery while finishing his studies.

Yet both believed they had a call from God and knew that by God’s help NOTHING would keep them from completing their preparation for ministry over the long haul.  So as Bob rolled across the stage being guided by Jeff, my heart leaped with joy and I saw one more witness to the power of The Call.

© 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 

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BY STEVE DUNN

Note: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago but forgot to post it. Summertime. – STEVE

Summer officially began a week ago. Cool mornings and sunshine.  Later in the day, hot breezes and the sound of lawn mowers and children at play.   At night, fairs and festivals and baseball games. And sometimes thunderstorms rolling in to rock the night and mess up your satellite TV reception. Dips in the pool and Dairy Queen runs.  The smell of backyard barbecues and colorful boom of fireworks.

Although I don’t like the dryness and heat that accompany summertime, I love the season.   If I allow myself to shift gears mentally, summer often brings more freedom and spontaneity to my days.  If I have some money left over after all the bills, I might even manage a vacation somewhere.

This summer I have only a part-time job working for my seminary (to read more about my seminary click WINEBRENNER)  Half-time means 20-25 hours, basically three days a week.  Although it will be tight this summer financially, I never had a summer when I had four days a week off.  A day to do household things and pay the bills–but still with three more days at my discretion and Gods’ prompting.

I am. however, a planner.  I make lists, and keep a paper planner.  I enjoy the thrill of checking things off those lists because I take energy from knowing that I have done something useful, even if half the list or more is yet to be done.

There is a danger in overplanning.  It’s called overdoing.  And overdoing is antithetical to resting, relaxing and refreshing.  So my plans this summer are simply–more aimed at enjoying and stretching my boundaries.  Here is my short list.

* Finish unpacking and hanging the last of the pictures on the wall.  We have only loved in this house for eight months, but there are still boxes in the garage to be unpacked.  We have some great pictures that bless no one in a box.

* Spend more time with Dianne, being in one another’s presence and enjoying one another’s company.  It helps that see in willing to watch the Mlb Channel with me.

* Work on that mystery novel that has lain dormant on legal pads for  too many years.

* Spend more time alone with God and His Word.

Do you have a list?  Summertime has a way of disappearing for those  forget that “to everything there is a season …”  So ENJOY your summer.

 

© 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