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MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS

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BY STEVE DUNN

Today, if all goes well, one of the young couples in the church in which I serve will become first-time parents.   The doctors are going to induce labor and if everything goes smoothly and quickly, they may even be parents by the time that you read this post.  We had special prayer for them and their new daughter in church yesterday and they are at the top of my prayer list today.

Dianne and I have been parents four times and in November will become grandparents for the eighth time.  I can think few greater joys than the birth of a new baby.  They are indeed gifts of God to us who have the privilege of being parents. It is my firm belief that they had been people since the day of their conception.  The Psalmist David declares,

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. – Psalm 139.13-16 NIV

The life of a baby, as with all human life, is sacred.  No laws of any land, nor preferences of a mother or father, can change that reality.  The act of conception is not merely a sexual act, it is partnership with our Creator.  Even if our intention is not so noble does not make it simply a choice.  And even if that life will be a special needs life does not diminish that it is human life and therefore sacred indeed.

I pray that my young couple will indeed treat the life of their daughter as sacred and see their role in parenting is a sacred partnership with God.  If so, their daughter will be blessed beyond measure.

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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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Barbara Bush will be celebrating her 90th birthday
BY STEVE DUNN

Saturday morning in St. Martin’s Episcopal Cathedral in Houston, America celebrated the life of Barbara Bush. I was amused by a news reporter’s comment that her faith and friends were very important to her, but most important to her was her family.  Mrs. Bush’s quote on the subject earlier in her life was in a different order saying the most important things were faith, family and friends.  In a 2013 interview for a C-Span series on First Ladies, she made that clear: “I’m a huge believer in a loving God,” she said. “And I don’t have a fear of death for my precious George or for myself because I know that there is a great God.”  A lady of great Christian dignity, Cleve R. Wootson, Jr. of the Washington Post added.Even in the 2013 interview she took pains not to sound too sanctimonious. ‘That sounds so arrogant,” she said, turning away from the interviewer. I’m a big shot. I have a faith in God. I do have a faith in God. And I don’t question it. I have no fear of death. And I think that’s very comforting.”  SOURCE: The Oklahoman -News OK website-April 18th, 2018.Cleve R. Wootson Jr. The Washington Post

Her values informed her ideas and thoughts and words.  Here are some of those definitely worth remembering.

To the Wellesley College graduating class: “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a children, or a parent.”

“Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people — your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.”

“When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.”

“I hate the fact that people think ‘compromise’ is a dirty word.”

“Don’t cry over things that were or things that aren’t. Enjoy what you have now to the fullest.”

“Bias has to be taught. If you hear your parents downgrading women or people of different backgrounds, why, you are going to do that.”

 “You have to love your children unselfishly. That is hard. But it is the only way.”

“You have two choices in life; you can either like what you do or dislike what you do. I have chosen to like what I do.”

“Libraries have always seemed like the richest places in the world to me, and I’ve done some of my best learning and thinking thanks to them.”

“Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.”

“I’m a liberal when it comes to human rights, the poor; so’s George Bush. . . . But Liberal and Conservative don’t mean much to me anymore. Does that mean we care about people and are interested and want to help? And if that makes you a Liberal, so be it.”

” If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather that dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.”

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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

This is a milestone blog. It is the one thousandth time I have posted as LIFE MATTERS. March 3, 2009 was the first offering and spoke of the perception that many persons possess that Christians have closed minds. I hope if you have been reading this blog for any period of time that you have come to the realization that at least one Christian has an open mind.

Now if you think being open-minded means that you think everyone’s opinion is correct or that you should never challenge someone’s ignorance, narrow-mindedness, or prejudices … I do not fit that definition of open-mindedness. As one humorist once wrote, “Some people’s minds are so open that their brains are in danger of falling out.”

As a Christian, I adhere to the belief that it is not my job to persuade people to my understanding. Particularly, as it relates to Truth, persuasion is God’s job not mine. As Ravi Zacharias, Christian apologist, has said about the most important truth there is—that we belong to God. “My job is not to persuade people to agree with me. My job is to simply get them to open their minds. The Holy Spirit does the persuading.”

There is clearly a way of looking at the world that believes God’s truth is unimportant, optional, or even wrong. That way of thinking I believe leads us to be persons who are handicapped in our daily living. It is sort of like walking through a pitch-black room without knowing where the furniture is. Our ignorance is going to get us into trouble. And if there is an open trap door in the floor, crossing that room can prove fatal.

God’s truth applies to every aspect of our lives—business, political, relational and more. Ignoring God’s truth is a dangerous and faulty choice. Paul the apostle of God once wrote: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2

It is my hope and prayer as I move into the next 1000 posts that I can help the process of renewing our mind.

© 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

       In America today there is much furor, debate, and suspicion of press coverage–especially coverage by the mainstream media of the President of the United States.  Mr. Trump is constantly rebutting what is said about him with the with the dismissive of “fake news.”  And many others in America dismiss the news outlets supporting the President as creating “fake news.”  We now know there is even a growing industry that proudly claims that it creates fake news (the reason for which defies me).  Many people simply embrace the concept that the best news is negative news and others embrace the idea that unless the news is positive about their side–it should not be reported at all.

The Washington Post carries this banner “Democracy Dies in Darkness” which I understand goes back to the days when Woodward and Bernstein exposed the darkside of President Nixon.  I know my quoting this banner will cause some to dismiss what I say declaring that I have a bias.

I do have a bias. I have a bias–it is a bias towards the light.  In a democracy, especially the democracy that makes me thankful to be an American and causes me to pray God’s blessing on this nation; darkness–hiddenness–secrets–manipulation of the truth–outright lies are the enemies of democracy.  And whoever would want to hide the truth from the American people, especially for their own political purposes undermines our democracy.

My bias, however, does not come from a political position. It comes from my faith and from the Word of God.  Let me quote just a few verses that inform my bias:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. – John 3.19
 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” –  John 8.12

“You are the light of the world (meaning Jesus’ disciples). A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  – Matthew 5.14-16

May we always embrace the light and drive back the darkness.
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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

     As you are reading this, I am probably playing with my newest granddaughter, Gracie and her sister, Abby. They’ll probably get a lot of attention today because I am so rarely with them (they live more than 600 miles from my wife and I) plus their household doesn’t have cable TV and most of the football games will basically be inaccessible without a lot of computer gymnastics. I never was that good at gymnastics in any form.

This really is our Christmas with the bulk of our kids and grandkids—Christmas 2017. I serve as an Intentional Interim Pastor and this year had to stay close to home for Christmas Eve services and then lingered a few more days to officiate at the Memorial Celebration of one of God’s everyday saints who struggled his final years with Alzheimer’s. 2017 needed to hang on a little longer.

Nonetheless, 2018 has arrived—the New Year. Like most of you, for me 2017 was a challenging and at times troubling year. I am not going to list my personal ups and downs nor am I going to blemish today with one more analysis and/or diatribe about the politics of the past 12 months.

I really am not sure what 2018 will hold—who among us can truly know? I have some plans like visiting spring training, attending a granddaughter’s high school graduation, serving the church where I am as interim until the new pastor arrives – but I learned a long time ago to hold any plans I make loosely.

Two scriptures inform me as I embrace this new year. “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21.5) and “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13). Those of us who serve God know He is always moving forward—and we know that wherever that takes us, God will work in and through us.

So I leave you to embrace the new along with me and offer this prayer from that prolific saint and author Anonymous.

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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

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