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GOD AND EVERY DAY LIFE

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.

 

4-11-1954

BY STEVE DUNN

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for … These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,  since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. – Hebrews 11.1-2, 39-40

A lot of us live by wishful thinking.  We say and do things that reflect a basic denial of reality.  I cannot tell you how many times as a pastor I heard someone say,”I know what you’re saying, but my experience is different.  I am an exception to that rule.”  Usually what they were saying was, “I want to do what I want to do, but don’t want to be held accountable for my choices.

Before someone accuses me of being a hypocrite or Pharisee,I need to confess something.  Diabetes runs in my family.  Almost 20 years ago my doctors dropped the adjective “borderline” from their diagnosis.  They told me how to combat it, particularly the importance of diet.

I really didn’t make that many changes, except to slow down on regular soft-drinks. I would eat carefully for a few days and then in times of boredom or at buffets, I would abandon all boundaries.  Now hundreds of milk shakes later, I find myself taking drastic measures to get that diabetes under control.

Wishful thinking can be very dangerous, especially when God has made it clear that only His way works.  There are no exceptions to his rules.

But one of his rules is “with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  In our faith life some of us are so grounded in being practical or realistic that we think that only the things man controls are to be pursued.  Comfort zones are where we choose to live.  Walking on water is for Jesus and foolish humans. After all, look what happened to Peter.

The problem with that is that God Who always keeps His promises feels no need to provide instant gratification and whose rewards which are eternal start closer to eternity than the present moment.

Be careful of wishful thinking.  If it is contrary to God’s word or way of acting – it is foolishness, often tragically so.

But when God says let go, look beyond, follow me – the foolishness is in our comfort-zone, control-obsessed response.

© 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

 

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)

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.