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GOD’S WORD

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

“What is truth?”

This is the poignant question posed by Pontius Pilate as deliberated the fate of Jesus.

“Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him. “But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?”…

People are often puzzled by this exchange.  Jesus pointedly says “The truth is that I am indeed a king.  I appear in this setting to be the poor abject subject of this so-called legal system  And if you really could handle the truth, you would not need to ask.”

Remember another famous posing of the question, “What is the truth?”  It comes from the movie, “A Few Good Men.”  When challenged by Tom Cruise, the defense attorney to tell the truth, Colonel Jessup responds, “The truth, you can’t handle the truth!”

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Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson) arrogantly believes that has a duty to hide the truth because the world cannot handle the ugly truth of what he has to do to defend America from its ruthless enemies. But behind that version of the truth is just another self-justification of his arrogant use of power.

Pilate throws Jesus’ truth statement back into his face by his question, a question that is a defensive attempt to escape the responsibility of courageously defending Jesus.  He blatantly questions whether there is any absolute truth.  The truth is that Jesus is an innocent man,and is do, probably truly the king he professes to be.  But such a truth would threaten Pilate’ position itself, so he conveniently dismisses the truth that is standing before him.

When truth is inconvenient, or demanding–when it calls into question the lies and half-truths that we have chosen to live by, we often chose to deny that there is any truth at all. For to admit  the truth requires us to change,  Or we resort to the favorite co-opt of the postmodern mind, “Well, it’s all right for you, it’s just not right for me.”

Truth, as Christians understand it, is not situational nor subjective.  Truth is not a moving target or a Wikipedia definition to be updated by the next so-called expert.  Truth is an objective reality and it is rooted in something very concrete–the person of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of John records this set of declarations from Jesus: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8.32Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:36

Truth is a person and that person is Jesus Christ.  What he says and what he represents is the truth upon which all the created universe is grounded and upon which depends.

When we finally submit our lives to that Truth we will indeed be free and our world will have that hope that it most desperately needs.

© 2017 by Stephen L. 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.

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