Several months ago my wife had a close call. Traveling home from work on the interstate, she was in the left lane preparing to pass a vehicle ahead on her right. Suddenly she found an eighteen-wheeler who had pulled up on her right attempting to pass her. She was not traveling slowly and the truck was at an even higher rate of speed. When she did not slow down to let him in, he accelerated and proceeded to push his way into the space in front her that was barely enough to squeeze in a passenger car. If she had not been alert there could have been a very bad accident caused by a truck driver who was in too much of a hurry.

My wife arrived home shaken and frankly, I was angry. I have seen too much of that kind of driving on the highway where drivers who are breaking the speed limit already aggressively weave in and out of traffic with utter disregard for the safety of the others sharing the roadway with them.

The dangers of such high speed driving are well documented. In this case the aggressive driving at high speed by this trucker created an even greater danger. From my perspective, however, the deeper problem was the self-centeredness of the driver was and is the deeper problem. He was going to do what he wanted to do and everyone else had to live with it.

Jesus had some pointed words about self-centeredness. “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” (Luke 17.33) When we try to control our lives and circumstances so that we always win, so that someone else pays the price for our convenience and desires; we will ultimately lose.

Why, because this is neither the desire nor the plan of our Creator. Self-centeredness in the Bible is equated replacing God’s will with our egos. There is no room for self-centeredness in our lives. God has designed us to serve others, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Paul’s words reinforce that: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” -Philippians 2.3-4

God created us and redeemed us to reflect Christ in the world. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called Jesus as a “man for others.”

It’s time to slow down, abandon our mad pursuit of our own desires–and be the person God desires us to be.
© 2019 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

Part 1 of Series: Journey to Kenya
by Dr. Steve Dunn


January 15th of this year, my wife Dianne and I joined seven others on a journey to Kenya. We went as tourists and also as teachers to provide some training for pastors. It was a trip of a lifetime and a life-changing one at all. Both Dianne and I had traveled to Haiti but neither of us had ever been to any place in Africa. You can only imagine Kenya and your imagination will be inadequate. You have to be on the ground to even begin to grasp life in Kenya.

The reason is that only on the ground will you meet the people. The Kenyan people share many similarities to those of in the States but the culture in which they live, their closeness Islamic terrorist hot spots like Somalia, their history, and their economic state are nothing like we encounter in the US. Kenya is a place of great poverty, some of underneath the gleaming towers of cities like Nairobi.



The city we were located in had no gleaming skyscrapers. It had many poor people and some you would classify as middle class. We found no beggars, just hardworking people. The staff at the hotel where we stayed was just such people. They worked long hours–at least 12 hours a day-often not finishing until nine in the evening. And then there were the overnight people, who we sometimes found were daytime people. They worked diligently, accommodating our requests, and also with a smile. As Christians, we tried to treat them with respect.

One morning, I arrived for breakfast quite early. My body never managed to get used to living in a time zone eight hours ahead of mine back in Pennsylvania.

Breakfast was a buffet, something unusual for up country Kenya. Normally they served us every single dish but the necessities of our conference and the number of participants arriving for a meal at the same time, required some adjustments. I had let a waiter serve me coffee, but after ordering my eggs, I headed to the buffet to pick up my breakfast fruit plate. Matthew, one of the waiters stopped me after I had barely taken a step.

“Please sit down, I want to serve you.”

My journey to the buffet would have taken barely ten steps but I sat down and said, “Thank you.” Quickly, a smiling Matthew placed a plate of that wondrous Kenyan fresh fruit in front me. Of course, I like being waited on but I have no trouble serving myself. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the rest of my breakfast with Matthew serving me every step of the way.

Later, one of my traveling companions when hearing my story, said. “Given the context of what happened, that was a significant act of service. You see, he works from 9 to 9 but he arrived more than three hours early to serve you and the rest of us.”


Sacrificial servanthood is a disappearing value in our culture and even in the church. We have become a nation of takers, not givers, We think too highly of ourselves to inconvenience ourselves in serving. Sadly, Jesus clear words to us are sliding from our spiritual DNA.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10.45

Paul reinforced this core value in his letter to the Galatians:

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. – Galatians 5.13

It’s a lesson we need to learn again. Thankful that Matthew has.

© 2019 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


I was up early today. 5:55 to be exact. Lately that has been “sleeping in” for me. Spending this particular Christmas at home of my daughter Christi and her husband Tim in northern Kentucky. A little after six, I heard the first stirrings of my grandson Jake, a 5th grader, who will have the responsibility of waking everyone “when it’s time.”

Long ago our family began a Christmas tradition that I have discovered is now part of the Christmas tradition in all the families my adult children have established. Before we open the presents, my wife Dianne will read to us from the Nativity account in Luke 2. Then we will thank God for the incredible (and most costly) gift we have ever received–the gift of his Son, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.


And then, we will open what this year appears to be a “ton” of Christmas presents (the evidence you can see under their Christmas tree).


Last night we kept another tradition, attending a Christmas Eve Service together. Not returning to a church that had been our family church forever (my family church closed almost a decade ago) nor in a small church steeped merely in nostalgia, but this year in a large mega-church quite different than where we would normally gather but in a place but with a group that shared our deep-rooted believe that the Birth of that Bethlehem Baby brought hope, eternal living hope to our world.

My adult children have added to their family traditions – interactive Advent calendars that they use to teach their children and variations on “elf on the shelf” that break the routine of ordinary days by adding little adventures to their day.

Like many others who still value “family” or have families to value, we will intersperse the days with phone calls to loved ones. Those calls used to go to parents and grandparents of our families, but that category is down to one set. Dianne and I are now the grandparents, so our calls go out to children and siblings spread across the land. Still, this tradition persists in our lives reminding us of connections formed first in the birth canal and shaped by shared lives.

Tradition sometimes gets a bum rap in our ever-changing culture. It’s given the labels of progress-impeding or relevance-ignoring. Sometimes, tradition is indeed an justification for not being open to the new thing that God is doing in our lives or in our world. But tradition can also be the anchor that keeps us from shallowly accepting the newest fad which will soon disappear and then struggling to find a new anchor as the rip tides of our this present age send us careening into dangerous waters.

As a Christian I reminded that tradition can also keep us connecting to something deeper. A faith that is ancient, that was conceived in the mind of God at the foundation of the world. Not the empty ritual practiced by so many but the vibrant faith that comes from a religion rooted a relationship that sustains us in all seasons and all decades. Not the faith that worships the forms but the one that serves the Person, who is the living God,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it … The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1.1-5,9-14

I pray that each of you are blessed by and keep those traditions that provide a richness rooted not in the passing, but in the eternal.


© 2018 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

Light versus darkness…

My devotions this morning were from John, chapter 1. It is sometimes referred to as John’s “Nativity Story.” In that chapter speaking of Jesus’ arrival in the flesh, John writes:
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1.4-5 ESV

Sadly this Advent and Christmas I have found myself reflecting too often on the dark times in which we live. Our economy is not in good shape, the homelessness problem unabated,, the worship of guns and the random or terroristic violence in our streets has grown.

The government is now in a shut-down. The President has dismissed or chased away any advisors who disagree with him or would offer a counter way of looking at the world. The political atmosphere in our country is beginning to resemble the Watergate days of my college years. Both major parties seem more intent in cultivating the ideological extremes on both ends of the spectrum rather than find a middle way that is best for all.

Russia and other powers that have long been the enemies of democracy are once again ascending in influence and power. People are fleeing the crime-ridden nations in which they live but are being rejected and feared by a nation that fears they will impact the places where they seek asylum.

Oxycodone and other drugs have invaded the homes of the Middle Class. The Church is viewed with increasing suspicion because of the child abuse coverups in a portion of the churches in our land. Trade wars being fought in the name of our workers are hurting the workers in many industries and on farms. Secularity has taken deep root in the worldview of our culture while evangelicalism has been badly diluted by the so-called “self-identified evangelicals” so pursued by the politicians and media.

It is a depressing list. Yet I could name anecdotally hundreds of stories of ordinary people and local church communities and neighborhoods rallying in their small way to combat the darkness that has descended upon their individual communities

But I know that they alone will not be enough.

What the world needs is the One who is “the light of men. The light that shines in the darkness” The Light which the darkness CANNOT overcome. More than keeping Christ in Christmas, we need to
keep Christ in our hearts transforming into people of light. We need this to be going on daily. And we need to be inviting and assisting people to let this light into their hearts,

It will not be enough for our politicians and leaders and schools and government and communities and churches to become more “enlightened.” The growing belief that there is “fake news” allows us to hold onto darkness and that darkness will always find a welcome home in a heart that is not occupied by Jesus.

Now, more than ever, the world needs Jesus.

© 2018 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


I confess. Dianne and I went a little crazy this Christmas. Our adult children and their families live in four different cities in the Midwest and we live in Pennsylvania. The combination of work, small and school age children, busy lives, and now two adult grandchildren made it impossible for us to gather together for Christmas. (Most years we can only get two of those families together anyway). Since I have just finished a transition interim pastorate, we actually had the freedom to take two weeks and visit them all in their homes.

We also had a little more money than usual at this time and the thought of watching them open their presents, Kohl’s availability and bonus bucks, and my wife’s newfound love of on-line shopping meant that we had a completely full trunk when we headed west–full of presents. (We actually had to stack our suitcases on the back seat). The scene on this post is just some of the aftermath of what will actually be four ” Christmases” by the time we are finished December 26th.

But part of it was also a commitment I made to the Lord to be a person who practiced generosity. So much of the time, our sometimes tight finances had caused to hold back when God was prompting me to go the second mile. And also to understand how little people experience generosity that those
“unexpected” acts of generosity often are an incredible encouragement to people who feel unnoticed, unappreciated, and uncared for.

Waitpersons have had tips above the 20% (why quibble about the 50 cents that rounds the tip to the next dollar?) Generosity has led me to listen to what people need at this time and understanding that I am part of the provision.

“You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us.” – 2 Corinthians 9:11″ This is a promise that has reinforced what God was speaking into my heart. In our generosity, God produces thanksgiving in its recipients. Hopefully, that thanksgiving will remind them that God cares because one of God’s people care. Generosity is rooted in God’s blessing to us and that generosity allows us–no encourages us to be the blessing we are blessed to be


Sitting in my warm office on a very cold Monday afternoon. My office is located in a very large church but in an area which during the weekdays sees little traffic. So it’s also very quiet. I arrived at work around seven this morning. Except for a brief lunch of tomato soup and an Ann Hillerman mystery, I have been working non-stop. Working so diligently and productively that most of my “to do” list is done.

Until recently, not many of my days reached this point. Like so many other Americans and religious professionals, I always seem to be working on something. And when you reach the end of the day’s work, there is sometimes a difficult existential moment when you wonder whether or not you should go in search of more work to do. You certainly don’t want to be guilty of becoming “lazy.”

I have met a lot of undisciplined people, but not a ton of lazy ones. I meet a whole lot of driven people, pursuing agendas that will never be accomplished, seeking to possess more and more things which will be obsolete or reduced to clutter far too quickly. Often we use this driven spirit to avoid reflecting on what really matters or “pursuing” it.

What’s the “it?” A relationship with the Living God, a connection with the One who sees us as more valuable than we see ourselves. The One who says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” The One for whom the holiday we are about to celebrate gets it its name – Jesus Christ.

He’s the One who warns us, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”

Is your life too busy or are you too driven to cultivate that relationship? For your sake and the sake of those who you influence or provide for, I hope that’s not true.


© 2018 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

catalinoby Steve Dunn

 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Bailout has become a bit of a dirty word in our language. It implies charitable initiatives intended to help some get back on their feet or stimulus packages to turn under-achievers and failed performers into fruitful workers or industries. Our recent political and economic experience has generally resulted in failed expectations, some times out and out abuse of our generosity, and more often than not increased cynicism and even despair as we spiral deeper and deeper into economic and national chaos.

The problem with mere bailouts is that they assume by a timely addition of resources (like an infusion of capital) that essentially flawed industries can turn themselves around. They assume that the only flaw in those recipients is faulty judgment or bad breaks instead something embedded in the group’s DNA.

The Fall has embedded something relentlessly destructive and deadly into humanity. It’s called sin – and the wages (the returns) of sin is death. And death always collects its due. Although we are created in the image of God, sin corrupts our spiritual hard drive even more relentlessly and completely than the most insidious computer virus. Those of us who experienced such an infection know that at some point the only choice is to completely clean the hard drive or start over with a new hard drive.

When Christ came into the world it was not for a bailout or simple repair. It was for a transformation, an entirely new creation. Only when the image of God is re-embedded through his work of atonement and grace do we have any hope of breaking free from both the power and penalty of sin.

Thank God He provided us more than an incentive or more than a bailout.

© 2018 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


Reflecting on the last words of George Herbert Walker Bush


A man I had come to greatly respect, former President George H. W. Bush passed away Friday, November 30, 2018 at age 94. In his eulogy of his father, son George W. Bush, also a former president, reported that in his final conversation with his father, he told him that he had been a “wonderful dad” and that he loved him.

The elder Bush responded, “I love you, too.” Those were his last words.

Dan Rockwell noted in his blog, “I notice that the younger Bush didn’t say, “You were a wonderful President.”

Clearly his son and many of us considered the elder Bush to be a great president; in fact, what may be the last of a breed of men in that office whose strong faith was reflected clearly and consistently in his love of his wife, his family, his friends, his nation—and the world beyond the boundaries of his country.

The elder Bush’s pastor spoke on the essential expressions of the Christian faith, “Love of God and love of neighbor.” For those of us who genuinely follow Jesus Christ, they are not words to be idly spoken and they are words for which Almighty God will one day call us to accountability.

Paul told us that without love, none of our actions, no matter how popular or even beneficial, mean nothing. Political agendas, economic goals, pursuit of national security, preservation of “our” way of life will mean nothing when we stand before the Judge of All the Universe. Maybe it’s time—no, IT IS TIME for our nation to return to living by those two great LOVE commandments.

When my former President and brother in the faith, stood before God last Friday, I have no doubt that the Lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Welcome into you reward.”


An act of love that embodied the man

© 2018 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

This post originally appeared in a blog of mine EASTER PEOPLE in 2011-Steve



God has always blessed me with a sense of peace in the presence of death. As a pastor I have stood by many a person and their family as the neared that threshold into eternity that is known as death. I have even had the boldness and the God-granted confidence that God will take someone home to be with Him. Funeral homes are not intimidating places. ICUs are simply another place to be the reminder of God’s presence. Even accident scenes, as gruesome as they may be, are not a place I fear to tread.

More than once I have been asked to accompany someone to a funeral home. In hospital rooms where siblings are fighting and grieving while Mom breathes, God has allowed me to be His presence and to anchor them once again to the Rock of our Salvation.

Once I was with a family at the hospital after their father had been taken in following a serious heart attack accompanied by other complications. He had made his living will several years before and had given me a copy. He had explained very carefully to his family that once he reached a semi-vegetative state with his organs only surviving on life support, there were to be no extraordinary measures taken. This was the third trip within a few months and each one had become progressively worse. He was in a coma, non-responsive with only a 10% survival chance and no chance that his organs would operate again without serious and costly assistance. The family had made their peace and said “good bye” and indicated that they were prepared to adhere to the living will. Then the doctor balked saying he’d like another day before withdrawing life support, which then itself sent the family into a crisis mode. And I had to duty to talk the doctor into adhering to the patient’s wishes, the family’s consent and to surrender his feeling that he could not be at peace with allowing a dying man to die. And this I did without hesitation and inner strength.

“I do death.”

No, that does not mean I advocate assisted suicide or callously consent to agreeing to let a patient die because his survival could bankrupt his family.

It’s because I know that one someone has placed their trust into God’s hands of salvation, when I myself have become one of His Easter People – that nothing will separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. I affirm with the apostle Paul that we who have passed from death to life need no longer fear death. It is not an unwelcome intruder. Death has been defanged by our Living Hope.

“Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:54 New Living Translation

So when someone must walk in the deep valley of the shadow of death, they can count on me as a willing travel companion.

© 2011, 2018 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

46431646_267583233961092_4685622317059932160_nBY STEVE DUNN

I admit it. I did some shopping early on Black Friday. I was at the Verizon Store at eight AM to try purchasing a new smart phone at a discounted price. I also dropped in at a LIFEWAY store to pick up something available only on Black Friday that I wanted to give us a Christmas present. Before this, the only time I had entered a store on Black Friday was at Walmart several years ago at 6 PM.

The mea culpa goes a little deeper. I stopped at Kohl’s at 5 pm on Thanksgiving itself to pick up a package for Dianne that she had purchased on-line in the “pre Black Friday” sales and ended looking for some inexpensive Christmas presents. (To be clear, our Thanksgiving celebration had been over for several hours and the only thing the trip conflicted with was the Cowboys-Redskins game. Dianne was down for a late afternoon nap, so relational time was not lost and I had spent time earlier in the day reflecting on and expressing my thanks to God for his blessings.

Sorry if this changes your opinion of me for the worse.

Black Friday has become a cultural tradition in the US, which lately has faced some backlash pushing some of  “Friday” starting on Thanksgiving evening back a little later and causing some retailers to return to a Friday start itself. (A.C. Moore, Christopher and Banks, Costco, Home Depot, IKEA, Lowe’s, Sam’s Club, Staples were among the 70 retailers who chose to wait for Friday.)  Part of the temptation are the deep discounts and as early as we can get to them, we want to do it. (Ironically now, a lot of retailers like Walmart, Kohls and Amazon have had “Black Friday” on-line for several days now.

Hopes for an inexpensive Christmas shopping season are not in themselves a bad thing (unless you overdo it and max out your credit cards). The irony is that we place so many hopes on a commercial holiday and go to great lengths to realize them and often ignore or downplay a more important Black Friday.  It’s one that occurred long before the birth of our consumer culture.  It was the Friday that Jesus went to cross and a dark day on a hill called Calvary, poured out his life so that we might have eternal life.  Today we will call it Good Friday but I guarantee on that day in Israel before the Resurrection, it was the blackest day of all for thousands who had put their hope in Jesus.

The hopes we will realize by a successful shopping season WILL FADE when the wrapping paper is scattered on the floor beneath the tree, or when what we paid so much for is broken or obsolete, or something equally finite is created to long for something new.

But there is only one Black Friday that offers eternal savings.

© 2018 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