BY STEVE DUNN
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.
to accept the people I cannot change,
which is pretty much everyone,
since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.
And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.
Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.
grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m
One of the great scandals of contemporary Christianity is what Craig Groeschel calls “Christian Atheism.” This is where we say we believe something and then live like we do not believe it. The lawyer of Luke 10:25-28 stands up and asks the quintessential question of a seeker, “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” At the end of the chain of discussion Jesus leads the man to the answer. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ In fact, Jesus punctuates it with, “Do this and you shall live.”
Even non-Christians know, and many practice, the latter half of that commandment. We call it the Golden Rule.
But for many persons, including many Christians, there is more intellectual assent than real life application. We know we should practice it, and we do … up to a point.
Up to the point when….
Demonstrating that love requires us to sacrifice a significant amount of time.
Loving them requires us to wade into the mess in which they find themselves living where we might get messy, too.
Loving them calls us to sacrifice something precious rather than what is convenient or superfluous.
Loving them demands us to see them as persons for whom Christ died rather than simply objects of our good works.
Loving them is met with rejection or contempt.
I am reminded that God loved a world where people were His enemies.
He loved a world that killed his prophets and dishonored His holiness.
He loved a world where people keep asking, no, demanding His help and then squandering the blessing.
He loved a world that He knew would crucify Jesus.
Love, genuine God-inspired and empowered love is unconditional and incarnational and sacrificial.
Any less is not really love. It is a counterfeit.
(C) 2014 by Stephen L Dunn
Heidi Mikulkin is a young wife and mother from western Pennsylvania — and a seminary student. In fact, it is my privilege to be one of her professors. She is passionate about Jesus and passionate about helping other people meet. She is what I call one of “Christ’s respectful ambassadors.” She posted this story a few days ago on her Facebook page:
“Two young men walked by my front porch today. It was not the first time I had seen them, and I knew the mission they were on. After pleasantries, they asked if I was used to the weather here in PA. These two boys were from out of town, and they were not accustomed to the changes in weather. I asked them what God was inviting them to do today. They began talking about their mission, how they were missionaries away from home to spread news. I asked them to sit and chat with me for a while. The three of us read the Bible. I questioned them, and they asked me questions. As we talked, I shared my Good News. They couldn’t understand the difference in our beliefs, so I asked them to share their testimony. When they had finished sharing with me, I told them my testimony. I got to introduce them to my Jesus, and how He changed my life because He is who He says He is, and He did what He said He did. I prayed with them before they left. Funny, I had expected to have a Bible study on my front porch today, but I could have never guessed who it would be with.”
Heidi’s actions remind me powerful of the instructions the Apostle Peter gave to the Early Church:
Thank you, Heidi, for this reminder to Christians everywhere of how we can continue to proclaim the Good News in a world that is often hostile to our faith.
BY STEVE DUNN
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1
Almost 25 years ago I experienced burnout – for the first time. I won’t share my whole history of working too hard, worrying too much about measuring up, ignoring my need for rest, emptying without filling. (Perhaps some other time when we know each other better.)
At that time, I spent some time with a counselor. He made this observation. “You are one of the most responsible people I know.” (That was not a compliment coming from him.) Later he added, “You need to have a self to give it away.”
So often we put ourselves under too great a burden of performance in our spiritual life. Instead of knowing the joy of salvation, we know only the anxiety of trying to be worthy of it. It doesn’t help when the church has this list of things we MUST do to be a GOOD Christian and create a “to do” list that never gets done-certainly not perfectly nor consistently.
We seek to measure up to what we can never measure up to. And we become enslaved to expectations that were never put on us by God.
The truth is that God in His infinite wisdom and unconditional love knew we could not measure up. We could not be holy and He is holy without His help. So He gave us a wonderful gift–the gift of grace. His unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor.
And the key to that gift is to simply let Him live in and through us. To give up trying to be religious and live in relationship with the Giver of Every Good and Perfect Gift.
You don’t “say”grace-you live by grace.
The result will be a person of joy and wholeness that honors and reflects that God who loves us–created us–and redeemed us as new persons.
It’s time to embrace the grace!
(C) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn
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.
(C) 2103 by Stephen Dunn