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GOD’S WORD

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

The opinion that many people have of Christians is that they are self-righteous and judgmental, claiming a perfection that really is impossible to achieve. Although there are Christians for whom that is indeed true, let me set the record straight.

To the Christian, the goal of righteousness requires a right relationship with God. It is our heart’s desire to be the person God created us to be and for whom Christ died that we could become. People think that righteousness comes from going to church, reading your Bible, living a squeaky clean life–but righteousness (or holiness) is a gift from God to people who choose to let God live in and through them.

Ironically, that righteousness comes from having a heart after God’s own heart. Dr. Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, used to pray this prayer: “O God, break my heart with the things that break your heart.” Christians who are truly righteous (not self-righteous) would pray this prayer daily. They would pray it not merely devotionally but out of earnest desire.

I once read that there were things required for a right relationship with God: SURRENDER, BROKENNESS, and REPENTANCE.

Righteousness comes from surrendering our lives to the will and purposes of God. Surrender becomes really when we are broken, when we come to the end of our self pride and humbly admit our need for God. Repentance comes from recognizing living apart from God is sin–and more than that, keeps us from lives of obedience to God Who created us and saved us.

Righteousness is not a false sense of perfection but a genuine dependence on forgiveness. As we turn our imperfect, broken, prideful lives over to God – we finally connect with His blessing and become the blessed He has blessed us to be. Genuine Christians pray this prayer, penned long ago by a man of incredible imperfection and public sin, King David:

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

I hope this sets the record straight.

God-calls

This post comes from a blogger that I read regularly-Michael K. Reynolds REAL LIFE.REAL GOD. I thought I’d share it with you in honor of all mothers. – STEVE

With Mothers Day here and Fathers Day approaching it’s time to bring up the age-old question: Does God love Moms more?

I am the son of an inspiring Mom, the husband of another, and the father of three daughters–not to mention the owner of one female yellow lab. So you couldn’t be faulted for worrying that this post is merely a prepared statement read by a man in a hostage situation.

But after careful and prayerful consideration, I am telling you the truth: God loves Moms more.

While us ol’ boys are out there attempting to slay paper dragons, climbing ladders to nowhere and bringing home the Bacon Bits, Mom was busy storing her treasures in Heaven.

Let’s face it, if Jesus would have driven a car, it would have been a minivan smelling of soccer socks and sour milk, with squashed Fruit Loops on the carpet and a bumper sticker saying, “My Kids Are Redeemed.”

Don’t believe me?

When God explains the greatness of his comforting touch, he uses Mom as the role model:
12 For this is what the Lord says:
“I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will nurse and be carried on her arm
and dandled on her knees.
13 As a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”
Isaiah 66:12-13

He also compares motherhood to purity:
2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:1-3

Our world seems to devalue the contribution of baby stroller pushers in our society, but not so with the Lord of the Universe. Instead, you could say He is rather defensive about the importance of Mom’s duties.
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
Mark 10: 13-16

He goes on to assert the similarities between childbirth and salvation:
21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.
John 16:21

And what greater love is there for a woman to lay her life down for another…and another. Have you ever considered the profound miracle of motherhood? The moment that child arrives, its life becomes more important to a mother than her own.

Yet, the days of labor have only begun. Just like Jesus, she becomes Rabbi to her children.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
Proverbs 31: 26

When necessary, she isn’t shy about laying down some Godly wrath. Armed with her wooden spoon and pointed finger, she takes the upbringing of her children with utmost responsibility.
15 A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom,
but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.
Proverbs 29:15

Despite bad hair days, barf towels on her shoulder and an apron around her waist, Mom is always at the pinnacle of haute couture:
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
Proverbs 31:25

Her love is everlasting and endures, even when Mom’s teenagers make her park a block away when dropping them off at school. She loves their beautiful eyes, even when they are rolling at her, and doesn’t get offended when her brilliant speeches are always responded to with a ”Whatever”. Mom’s steadfast with her older boys even though they never call. And when they finally do, she forgives them immediately and says, “I was just thinking about you.”

What does God think about Mom? He thinks she is royalty:
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Proverbs 31: 27-29

The world’s greatest evangelists? Paul knows who to thank for the faith of his protégé Timothy:
5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
2 Timothy 1:5

Courageous? While the great Apostle Peter was cowering in the crowd, Jesus’s Mom stood faithfully at His side, while they beat him and tore his clothes. And when He was about to die on the cross, the Son of God’s great concern was making sure Mom was in good hands:
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
John 19:25-27

Who is the greatest of all? When his disciples wanted to know who among them was the most important here was Jesus’s response:
36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Mark 9:36

Raising children? It’s a divine task and no one does it better than Moms.
Of course, God did say David was a “man after His own heart” and he was awfully fond of Father Abraham. So can we really say God loves Moms more?

Yes. There. I did it.

Because I’m positive that when we arrive in Heaven, the streets of gold will be filled with Soccer Moms.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom. (Your card is in the mail.)

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BY STEVE DUNN
Our culture has a way of co-opting Christian holidays.  Note that Christians co-opt secular holidays, too, like Mother’s Day.  This is not a polemic against the subversion of faith.  It is just a gentle reminder to everyone, but especially Christians, why we celebrate Easter.People who are unfamiliar with Christianity tend to focus on Christmas as the key holy day of our faith.  The reality is that Christmas is secondary to Easter.  Christmas is the season of Immanuel–God with us.  Or as one commentator has said, “God who is for man.”  Easter is the season of the Savior–God with reconciles man to Himself.  Christmas is when God takes on flesh and moves into the neighborhood.  Easter is when God slams the door on death and says we will dwell with Him for eternity.  Christmas is when God identifies with us.  Easter is when God declares that we shall be like Him.  Christmas reminds us that we have not been forgotten or abandoned by God.  Easter is when God comes to dwell in and through us forever.

Christmas is about the Child who is born who is the hope of the ages.  Easter is about the Liberating King who frees us from our sin.

Frankly, if the Easter bunny finds it necessary ride on Jesus’ coattails, he’s in good company. Humanity does more than ride on Jesus’ coattails, it lives in His righteousness.

So this Easter, with March Madness into its Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, with college students invading the beaches of the Gulf Coast, with our children getting a sugar high from all that candy; let us remember that Easter is for Jesus and is about Jesus–Jesus who is alive!

(c) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn
Readers, please note–this is my Monday Morning Reflection for Holy Week 2013

BY STEVE DUNN

“It’s okay, Mayans. We all make mistakes. It’s not the end of the world.” -someone on Facebook

Today is December 23rd. Two days after the world was supposed to end–at least that’s what some ancient Mayans tried to tell us. It’s ironic. Most of us would not have known of the world’s impending doom if someone hadn’t unearthed a prophecy that had long been forgotten. The ancient Mayans were; well, anicent and don’t have too many spokespersons left on this planet. In fact, the only reason most 21st century non-Mayans even knew of this prophecy is someone’s marketng scheme.Olin Yolotzin is spiritual master, who leads the Aztec ritual dance group Cuauatli, is quoted on December 21st as saying: “The world was never going to end, this was an invention of the mass media.” Somehow most of us knew that. Yolotzin’s take on the so-called explosive end of the world:. “It is going to be a good era. … We are going to be better.”

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So days have passed and we’re still here. We’re still planted on an aging planet that is being warmed ever more seriously by things like greenhouse gases. We still live in societies that ignore God and pursue selfish aims making life on this planet at times dark and troubling.

A middle schooler I know named Hannah was engaged in a classroom discussion about this whole Mayan Calendar episode. During a discussion about the Mayan calendar and end of the world, Hannah spoke up said “I am a Christian and I believe the Bible and the Bible teaches that no one knows the time or day of the “end of things.” And that is exactly what the Bible says. We cannot know the time and need not add to our anxiety by obsessing about it.

Actually, I was never worried. Christians do not believe that the world will end in a cataclysmic event. God has told us through the Bible that instead of destroying the planet, that at the end of time as we understand it, He will simply make a new heaven and a new earth.

Don’t get me wrong. Christians believe in natural disasters and human tragedy. Quite often natural disasters which follow the intricate workings on nature itself are made more disastrous by the sinful and unwise way we humans treat Creation. And human tragedy is a direct outcome of mankind’s inherent sinful nature which quite often victimizes others.

As Christians, we are taught that we are to treat this planet with care. We are stewards of what God has created. We are to see that it is used wisely because this planet is the resource that God has given to sustain human life until He comes to make that New Earth. We are taught to work on helping people find healing and hope by being reconciled to the God Who has created them and desires to redeem them.

We believe that we sin when we treat this planet as something to be ravaged and abused because it is God’s gift to us. We do not worship Creation. We worship the Creator. And we believe that we prepare people for living at the end of all history by preparing them to meet God Himself. For we believe that there will not be a place in that New Heaven and New Earth for people who didn’t have a place for God in the Old Earth. The worst part of the human condition is that we make creation and creature man more important than the Creator, and we systematically push Him out of the picture and naively neglect to honor His purposes for the world and for us.

The “end of the world” is not a matter of disaster-proof shelters or religious ceremonies to invoke some unnamed help or comfort us as life as we know comes to an end. The end of the world, which will not come with a bang but as a surprise, is the reason why we call people to turn to God so that time will be something to celebrate, not fear.

(C) 2012 by Stephen L Dunn

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