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AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANS

il_570xN.904032963_99zwBy Steve Dunn

I love this little photo. I have posted it before on my Facebook page and in my church’s newsletter. It is clear that our fascination with our cell phones and texting while driving has developed some seriously deadly implications. Although I use the hands-free Bluetooth feature of my Toyota Camry from time to time, I do not use it in traffic but only when I am alone on the high (i.e., no other cars nearby). Doing anything but driving can be a dangerous distraction—to you if to no one else.

Now look at this cartoon.

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One of the phenomenon of worship in churches today is the texting during worship. Except for those churches that encourage tweeting with the preach mid-sermon, texting is a distraction from the most important activity—worshiping the Lord. It often keeps people from giving their attention and their hearts fully to God and what He wants to communicate to them. A steady diet of this can have some dangerous eternal consequences.

But it’s not just texting. People who inspect other worshipers for what they are wearing, doing or not doing are not giving themselves fully to worship. And I tell my parishioners, “If you can tell me how many mistakes there were in worship or in the bulletin, you are permitting those distractions from truly worshiping.

Take these words to heart from I Samuel.

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© 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

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Barbara Bush will be celebrating her 90th birthday
BY STEVE DUNN

Saturday morning in St. Martin’s Episcopal Cathedral in Houston, America celebrated the life of Barbara Bush. I was amused by a news reporter’s comment that her faith and friends were very important to her, but most important to her was her family.  Mrs. Bush’s quote on the subject earlier in her life was in a different order saying the most important things were faith, family and friends.  In a 2013 interview for a C-Span series on First Ladies, she made that clear: “I’m a huge believer in a loving God,” she said. “And I don’t have a fear of death for my precious George or for myself because I know that there is a great God.”  A lady of great Christian dignity, Cleve R. Wootson, Jr. of the Washington Post added.Even in the 2013 interview she took pains not to sound too sanctimonious. ‘That sounds so arrogant,” she said, turning away from the interviewer. I’m a big shot. I have a faith in God. I do have a faith in God. And I don’t question it. I have no fear of death. And I think that’s very comforting.”  SOURCE: The Oklahoman -News OK website-April 18th, 2018.Cleve R. Wootson Jr. The Washington Post

Her values informed her ideas and thoughts and words.  Here are some of those definitely worth remembering.

To the Wellesley College graduating class: “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a children, or a parent.”

“Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people — your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.”

“When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.”

“I hate the fact that people think ‘compromise’ is a dirty word.”

“Don’t cry over things that were or things that aren’t. Enjoy what you have now to the fullest.”

“Bias has to be taught. If you hear your parents downgrading women or people of different backgrounds, why, you are going to do that.”

 “You have to love your children unselfishly. That is hard. But it is the only way.”

“You have two choices in life; you can either like what you do or dislike what you do. I have chosen to like what I do.”

“Libraries have always seemed like the richest places in the world to me, and I’ve done some of my best learning and thinking thanks to them.”

“Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.”

“I’m a liberal when it comes to human rights, the poor; so’s George Bush. . . . But Liberal and Conservative don’t mean much to me anymore. Does that mean we care about people and are interested and want to help? And if that makes you a Liberal, so be it.”

” If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather that dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.”

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BY STEVE DUNN

We live in a time of cultural warfare. The radical left often seems bent on eradicating Christian witness from the public square and detaching the nation from biblical values. The “church” is perceived as the enemy of politically correct definition of tolerance. Many in the church, especially the fundamentalist right, are vehemently attacking those efforts-and at times demonizing those who choose to even be moderates or to voice the idea that there is some element of truth outside the Christian faith. Both extremes tragically are not serving our nation, simply throwing gasoline on a fire that further damages the well-being of the American people.

I cannot speak for the radical left—nor would even consider doing so. The contempt for even basic Judaeo-Christian values and the worship of every man’s right to do what their heart desires without accountability for its impact are antithetical to my faith and values.

But I can speak to my fellow Christians. The political rhetoric, the judgmental intransigence over every issue facing us as a free people defy the words of the Lord through Isaiah—words not spoken to society in general but to the people of God:

Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. – Isaiah 1.16-18

We need to take the plank out of our own eyes. We need to remember the words and example of Jesus.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:44-48

We have become very adept at turning over the tables. But I wonder greatly if tactics that so much resemble the world’s way of doing things don’t deaden us to the vital truth that the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ must guide our opinions and actions towards others—especially those who we perceive or who declare themselves to be enemies.

The New Testament records only ONE incident of Jesus overturning the tables—and countless examples of the love and graciousness and forgiveness of Jesus.

Please think about this—prayerfully, honestly and apolitically.

© 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

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)

 

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BY STEVE DUNN

“I wasn’t always the cool person you see standing before you today.”
The Fonz.

The Fonz IS cool – or was. Cool is an outdated concept (or at least I don’t hear that expression much any more) but the desire to be concerned special, admired and a little bit intimidating is not. People are still obsessed with image–and the wealthier among us have been known to hire someone to manage that image.

And some of us live in fear of what other people think of us. We go to great lengths–including doing some pretty ridiculous things so people will give their approval of our personhood. A lot of people buy electronic devises the cannot afford, or get elaborate tattoos in embarrassing places, or volunteer for causes they do not understand because they want people to think we are “cool.”

Anonymity is to be feared. No one wants to be a number, and few want to be lost in a crowd. So we even pursue notoriety in order to avoid anonymity.

As a result our heroes tend to be celebrities. We overlook their eccentricities. We applaud their narcissism. It is character that is often lost in the cloud of dust raised by a posse pursuing the latest trending idol. Good deeds are done to beef up resumes. The least and the last in our world are dismissed from our responsibility to love our neighbor. Someone else will waste their time and take the risks.

In the end human praise and affirmation is fleeting. The prize we seek becomes worthless in world of planned obsolescence. Even if they raise a statute to us, sooner or later someone is going to gaze on it, read the inscription and say, “Oh, just some old dead guy.”

Jesus challenges us to seek our worth in serving. Mark 9.35 records his words: “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

The ultimate cool in the Kingdom of God is to be a blessing to others, especially to “the least of these.”

THIS ARTICLE IS A RE-POSTING FROM MY BLOG – EASTER PEOPLE … STEVE

BY STEPHEN DUNN

“13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:13-16

I come from the stream of Christianity that takes the instructions in these verses very seriously. Those of us who are pastors and elders approach it with fear and trembling because we know that we are going to be instruments of an Awesome God, a God of the Impossible–a God of healing and of hope.

Many years ago I was serving a church that was making its first “baby steps” into a deeper and more authentic discipleship. I had seven elders. One had been an elder for some time, but by his own admission, at a fairly perfunctory level. One was a life elder, which in that church was an emeritus status. The other five were relatively new as elders, still engaged in some “on the job” training. Then there was me, the pastor.

We were a church that had a growing reputation as people that love. It was a new direction God had taken a congregation that had sometimes been fractious, a little too worldly, and more works-oriented than grace-formed. We had gone this direction by simply taking the commandment to love one another and loving God more seriously by being sure that we practiced in the ways that the Bible commanded of us. We were still forming this new identity, feeling our way through years of confusing church history.

Ruby was one of the members of our congregation who embodied a spirit of love. She was a widow with a southern drawl. Gentle-spoken and gracious, always dressed carefully and and with dignity. Willing to defer to others, gracious in her praise, and confident in her faith. We all loved and respected Ruby.

The rain falls on the just and the unjust. Ruby got cancer. They tried many treatments over a long period of time. Nothing worked to arrest its development. Without extraordinary measures, Ruby would soon die.

Ruby was invited into research protocol at the National Institute in Maryland, more 600 miles from her home. Ruby wasn’t necessarily gung ho, but she new it was important to her children that she do everything to preserve her life. A few days before she and her daughter would make that journey, I went to visit Ruby. “You know, Ruby, there is still one thing we can do. We can anoint you and pray for your healing.” Ruby was quite familiar with the words from James. She agreed and we set the appointment for the next evening.

I contacted all of the elders,but since only one of them had ever been a part of this kind of service I suggested we meet at the church at 6.30, an hour before our appointment with Ruby. She only lived a few blocks away.

All of them were busy and the schedule would be tight but they agreed to be there at the appointed time. I was the last to arrive. Just before leaving the house I had gotten into a fight with one of my sons and my attitude was not good. I wasn’t feeling very spiritual at the moment, let alone righteous. When I arrived I confessed my attitude and my anger to my brothers.

Immediately Glenn, the elder emeritus spoke. “I must confess, too, that I have harbored some attitudes towards people that I know don’t please God and I have not been behaving with a spirit worthy of being a leader of this flock.”

Next another elder opened his Bible and read to us words of counsel and encouragement. Soon each elder was confessing his own sin, some sharing scripture that God had been using to convict them. Then we gathered in that room holding hands and praying for one another that God might do His cleansing work in our lives. The hour passed quickly. We set out for Ruby’s.

Ruby greeted us along with her family, inviting us to sit. “You will stay for tea afterwards, won’t you.” We agreed. Ruby was not someone to say “no” to.

After a bit, we placed in a chair, read the scripture, anointed her with oil and then each one of us in turn prayed for Ruby. We declared upon the promises of God that we believed Ruby would be healed. Then, Ruby prayed for each one of us who had prayed for our wholeness, our healing, our faith.

Ruby left for Maryland.

Each Sunday her son-in-law would greet us before worship to share an update on her progress. For weeks there was no change.

Then one Sunday, as two of the elders and I stood in the lobby, he came up and said, “I have incredible news. Ruby’s cancer is gone. The doctor’s examined her yesterday and said where there had been a body riddled with cancer two days before, there was absolutely no sign of tumor or lesions or anything!” He said, “We cannot explain it, but Ruby is cancer-free!”

One of my elders, the youngest in fact, spoke with awe in his voice. “We prayed for that! We prayed for that! God has answered our prayers.” No shouting, just a quiet word of reverence recognizing that God had used them and their prayers as instruments of His healing of Ruby.

Ruby returned two weeks later. There was great rejoicing. She lived a very long time.

And these seven men, and myself, had a new sense of awe for what God can do and a deeper realization of what we can do when we let God work in and through us.

(C) 2012 by Stephen L Dunn