1

BY STEVE DUNN

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, a special day for many Christians around the world. It marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a time for reflection and repentance as we prepare to remember Christ’s death on the Cross to free us from sin and death’s sting.  It will be followed by Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection and the beginning of life as God intended as we are restored to a right relationship with Him and empowered to live that new life to the full.

This Ash Wednesday was marred by the fatal shooting of 17 persons in a high school in Florida.  It was the 29th instance of gun-related violence in our schools in the first 45 days of the new year.  I am sure that there are some of my readers, especially those who believe in their unfettered right to possess weapons, who will consider the picture I have posted as emotionalism.

There indeed is some emotion in it.  My heart breaks for the innocent victims of such violence.  My soul grieves that so many in our society have allowed themselves to be detached from the suffering and loss of their fellow citizens.  My spirit is aroused by the reality that our nation’s leadership can spend so much time and energy and attention on wiretaps and walls and shutdowns and scandals but do not see as a priority the need for intelligent and decisive action to deal constructively with the issue of growing gun violence–a problem that is as dangerous to the moral fabric of this nation as any we have faced.

Christians believe that we have been delivered from the power and the penalty of sin because of what Christ has done on the Cross.  But we still live in the presence of sin.  That reality does not excuse us from dealing with the present effects of that sin and doing our best to combat sin where we see it.  It does not absolve our doing what truly loves and protects our neighbor, sitting on our hands,waiting for Jesus to come with our tickets punched for heaven.

It begins with prayer-prayer for the victims, prayer for the perpetrators, prayer for our leaders,and prayer for the callousness of our own hearts.

And then prayer needs to be matched with action, to work with the mind of Christ and the heart of Christ to help bring about the changes at all levels–our homes, our neighborhood, and our nation that will combat this violence and its effects on our society and its people.

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

Advertisements

to-blog-or-not-to-blog

BY STEVE DUNN

This is a milestone blog. It is the one thousandth time I have posted as LIFE MATTERS. March 3, 2009 was the first offering and spoke of the perception that many persons possess that Christians have closed minds. I hope if you have been reading this blog for any period of time that you have come to the realization that at least one Christian has an open mind.

Now if you think being open-minded means that you think everyone’s opinion is correct or that you should never challenge someone’s ignorance, narrow-mindedness, or prejudices … I do not fit that definition of open-mindedness. As one humorist once wrote, “Some people’s minds are so open that their brains are in danger of falling out.”

As a Christian, I adhere to the belief that it is not my job to persuade people to my understanding. Particularly, as it relates to Truth, persuasion is God’s job not mine. As Ravi Zacharias, Christian apologist, has said about the most important truth there is—that we belong to God. “My job is not to persuade people to agree with me. My job is to simply get them to open their minds. The Holy Spirit does the persuading.”

There is clearly a way of looking at the world that believes God’s truth is unimportant, optional, or even wrong. That way of thinking I believe leads us to be persons who are handicapped in our daily living. It is sort of like walking through a pitch-black room without knowing where the furniture is. Our ignorance is going to get us into trouble. And if there is an open trap door in the floor, crossing that room can prove fatal.

God’s truth applies to every aspect of our lives—business, political, relational and more. Ignoring God’s truth is a dangerous and faulty choice. Paul the apostle of God once wrote: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2

It is my hope and prayer as I move into the next 1000 posts that I can help the process of renewing our mind.

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

renew-your-mind

wapo_1

BY STEVE DUNN

       In America today there is much furor, debate, and suspicion of press coverage–especially coverage by the mainstream media of the President of the United States.  Mr. Trump is constantly rebutting what is said about him with the with the dismissive of “fake news.”  And many others in America dismiss the news outlets supporting the President as creating “fake news.”  We now know there is even a growing industry that proudly claims that it creates fake news (the reason for which defies me).  Many people simply embrace the concept that the best news is negative news and others embrace the idea that unless the news is positive about their side–it should not be reported at all.

The Washington Post carries this banner “Democracy Dies in Darkness” which I understand goes back to the days when Woodward and Bernstein exposed the darkside of President Nixon.  I know my quoting this banner will cause some to dismiss what I say declaring that I have a bias.

I do have a bias. I have a bias–it is a bias towards the light.  In a democracy, especially the democracy that makes me thankful to be an American and causes me to pray God’s blessing on this nation; darkness–hiddenness–secrets–manipulation of the truth–outright lies are the enemies of democracy.  And whoever would want to hide the truth from the American people, especially for their own political purposes undermines our democracy.

My bias, however, does not come from a political position. It comes from my faith and from the Word of God.  Let me quote just a few verses that inform my bias:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. – John 3.19
 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” –  John 8.12

“You are the light of the world (meaning Jesus’ disciples). A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  – Matthew 5.14-16

May we always embrace the light and drive back the darkness.
men-love-darkness
© 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 www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

Happy-New-year-2018-Images-1-1024x538

BY STEVE DUNN

     As you are reading this, I am probably playing with my newest granddaughter, Gracie and her sister, Abby. They’ll probably get a lot of attention today because I am so rarely with them (they live more than 600 miles from my wife and I) plus their household doesn’t have cable TV and most of the football games will basically be inaccessible without a lot of computer gymnastics. I never was that good at gymnastics in any form.

This really is our Christmas with the bulk of our kids and grandkids—Christmas 2017. I serve as an Intentional Interim Pastor and this year had to stay close to home for Christmas Eve services and then lingered a few more days to officiate at the Memorial Celebration of one of God’s everyday saints who struggled his final years with Alzheimer’s. 2017 needed to hang on a little longer.

Nonetheless, 2018 has arrived—the New Year. Like most of you, for me 2017 was a challenging and at times troubling year. I am not going to list my personal ups and downs nor am I going to blemish today with one more analysis and/or diatribe about the politics of the past 12 months.

I really am not sure what 2018 will hold—who among us can truly know? I have some plans like visiting spring training, attending a granddaughter’s high school graduation, serving the church where I am as interim until the new pastor arrives – but I learned a long time ago to hold any plans I make loosely.

Two scriptures inform me as I embrace this new year. “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21.5) and “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13). Those of us who serve God know He is always moving forward—and we know that wherever that takes us, God will work in and through us.

So I leave you to embrace the new along with me and offer this prayer from that prolific saint and author Anonymous.

000af774d8db728dc0e61a10a75d1e43

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

By Steve Dunn

24796671_1758060530879713_7971661230801683160_n

I love this cartoon. I share its sentiments.  I never have met a fruitcake I liked. I think most fruit cakes are better suited as a door stop. I have no one I dislike so much that I would inflict a fruitcake upon them; although I confess that in my early adulthood I did “re-gift” a fruitcake to someone who actually wanted one and was disappointed that no one had given them.  (I think they are still my friend.)

Although a fruitcake is not a person and does not have feelings, I sometimes wonder if my contemptuous dismissal of its attraction and value to someone doesn’t say something negative about me as a person.  Something that might create a hole in my heart as a Christ-followers.

The Bible tells me that sin deserves my contempt but not the sinner.   Although God does not want us to remain in our sin because it ultimately results in our spiritual death, He does not stop loving the sinner. There is no contempt towards the person in the words recorded in John 13:17, “For God did not send His Son into the world condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

 Harboring contempt towards persons for whom Christ died is the first step towards a judgmentalism that stops seeing the value that Christ sees in them.

So maybe I need to give the lowly fruitcake a break.

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

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

 

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