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LIVING A CHRISTLIKE LIFE

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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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

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 BY STEVE DUNN

“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” – Billy Graham

Early last Wednesday we received word that one of the most significant and influential Christians of the last 100 years, Dr. Billy Graham, had gone home to be with the Lord.  He was the face and the voice of evangelical Christianity.  Not the highly politicized, culturally conservative Christian so often misrepresented by the media as evangelical today; but the simple biblical Christian; intelligent and informed, compassionate,respectful, and focused on one main thing–introducing people to the person of Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord.

We miss him already.  We also celebrate that he is now receiving the only accolade to which he ever aspired–the “well done good and faithful servant” from the lips of his Lord.

My first encounter with Dr. Graham was as a young teenager attending a crusade in Columbus OH–listening to his very simple message (his message was always very simple and straightforward) and the invitation “Come now to Jesus and give him your heart,:

Later as a young adult, attending an Urbana Conference on World Missions as a reporter for my denominational magazine, I sat in on a press conference, a room of men and women who met with him for more than an hour asking probing questions and receiving straightforward and respectful answers even to the more impertinent questioners.  The clarity and dignity I saw that day spoke volumes to me about dealing with others as a leader.

As a middle aged pastor, I was blessed to attend one of his Schools of Evangelism in Lake Louise Alberta Canada.  I went on a scholarship from his association, my only real expense was $55 Canadian per night and meals at a five-star hotel.  He was not there personally–but the speakers assembled gave some of the most helpful and culturally relevant teaching I had ever received on the topic of evangelism, locking down my own passion to help make disciples for Jesus Christ.

His simple wisdom can be found in several quotes now circulating social media:

“I will be a friend to men of both parties, but I would never say that I was, even indicated that I was, for one or the other. I am for God. I don’t think there’s any hope for the world except in God.”

“We are a society poised on the brink of self-destruction. But what is the real cause? What is the problem? The problem is within ourselves.”

“The will of God will not take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.”

“We are the Bibles the world is reading; we are the creeds the world is needing; we are the sermons the world is heeding.”

  “I have never known anyone to accept Christ’s redemption and later regret it.”
“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.”
 “Tears shed for self are tears of weakness, but tears shed for others are a sign of strength.”
“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.”
 “Someone asked me recently if I didn’t think God was unfair, allowing me to have Parkinson’s and other medical problems when I have tried to serve him faithfully. I replied that I did not see it that way at all. Suffering is part of the human condition, and it comes to us all. The key is how we react to it, either turning away from God in anger and bitterness or growing closer to him in trust and confidence.”
“Without the resurrection, the cross is meaningless.”

 

“The cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering, for he took them upon himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. From the cross God declares, ‘I love you. I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pain that you feel. But I love you.’
“The most prominent place in hell is reserved for those who are neutral on the great issues of life.”
 “Courage is contagious. When a courageous man takes a stand. the spines of others are stiffened.”
“Suppose you gained everything in the whole world, and lost your soul.  Was it worth it?”
Do you have a favorite Billy Graham quote?

 

By Steve Dunn

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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

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

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.

  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.