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REFLECTING ON THE GOSPEL

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BY STEVE DUNN

I came across this T-Shirt in a Facebook ad on my news feed.  (If you want to order click here.)  I love both the message and the presentation (although right now I don’t have spare cash to buy one).

Superheroes are popular today in American culture.  It’s not particularly a new phenomenon but we have certainly ramped up the interest–both in proliferation of heroes and the multiplying media forms which bring them into our world of entertainment. From the cartoon Mighty Mouse to the Marvel comics of Spiderman and Wonderwoman to the television renditions of Superman and Batman, superheroes were around in my childhood more than half a century ago.  Now I have simply lost count of how many of them are sought after, admired and marketed.

Invariably a superhero is called to save a city or a nation or the world from villains that have grown so powerful that humanity has no way to control them or defeat them.  Some superheroes are tragic people who have found purpose (like Spiderman) or children of Middle America (like Superman) who are finally accepting their destiny. (Yes, I know. Superman came from another planet but he was raised by a Norman Rockwell family.)

But here is what I want us to reflect on.  Superheroes are called upon because humanity cannot save itself. That, however, is not a device of literary fiction.  The Bible tells us “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?. Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 7:24-25a

But none of these superheroes can bring a salvation that endures.  Another mutation emerges from the dark side, another planet casts a maliced eye on Planet Earth, and even machines take on a life that seeks to smash all that is good and even normal into submission or oblivion. That, too, although embellished by fresh characters, also matches the Scriptural record: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6.12

In reality, however, there is One who gets it right.  His name is Jesus Christ.  His purpose was indeed to save the world. “For the Son of Man (Jesus) came to seek and save the lost..” – Luke 19.10 “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”- I Timothy 1:15 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” – John 3:17

And the apostle Paul, reflecting on the work of the Savior of the World teaches this: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

I still have enough kid in me to love stories of superheroes.  But in reality, there is only One upon Whom I (and we) can depend to save the world.  His name is Jesus.

© 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.

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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.

Dr. Michael Cheatham, chief surgeon of the Orlando Health Regional Medical Center hospital, addresses reporters during a news conference after a shooting involving multiple fatalities at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. Watching are Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, second from right, and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.                           (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
 by Steve Dunn

A horrible tragedy occurred this past weekend in Orlando.  At a night club popular with gays and lesbians,an attack was unleashed by a man with suspected ties of Islamic terrorism.  At least 50 people were killed and 53 more injured in what is the worst mass shooting in US history.

A year ago another group of people were shocked and saddened as a young man murdered people in a Bible study in Charleston SC. 9 people including the senior pastor and the gunman died when the young man opened fire in a Bible study at the Emmanuel AME  Church.

In between those two of high profile events there have been hundreds of such incidents–often unexpected, mostly inexplicable, filled with fatality and tragedy.  Sadly, such events are almost daily in this country.

I could launch here into an emotional plea for gun control (which I do support) or some theologically judgemental pronouncement about the lifestyle of the victims in Orlando. I could rail against terrorists-Islamic and otherwise.  There are a wealth of responses and comments that can be made and will be made.

But my immediate and daily response was articulated quite well by Southern Baptist ethicist Russell who following the Orlando incident,  tweeted “Christian, your gay or lesbian neighbor is probably really scared right now. Whatever our genuine disagreements, let’s love and pray.”

Why do I say this?  Because this is what the Bible tells me is the appropriate fist response:

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” – Psalm 34:18
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” – Romans 12.15
He heals (God) the broken-hearted and binds up their wound”- Psalm 147.3
Would you join me in this prayer not only for this incident but for our American culture and its people?

BY STEVE DUNN

 

I have long been a fan of Bill Watterson and his comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. His is not as overtly theological as was Charles Schulz in Peanuts, but every once in a while (I suspect inadvertently) Calvin makes a profound statement that triggers a scriptural truth. Here are two that I find in this particular strip.

The first is from James 4:17: “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” New International Version

Then Galatians 5:6.” The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” New Living Translation.

An authentic disciple understands that omission can be every bit as significant as commission when it comes to sin. Too many of us have changed the focus from loving our neighbor as ourselves to love myself and then give my neighbor the leftovers. Or be careful of loving my neighbor too much lest I not have enough for me. Or this one – love myself spontaneously but be sure and schedule how much I will do for my neighbor in need.

Maybe we need to walk through life with eyes wide open to opportunities to be a blessing to others, praying that our love will find greater expression than merely intellectual assent or carefully orchestrated projects.

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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

Blogger Karen Zacharias commented recently on Jodie Foster’s confession/nonconfession that many people interpreted as her saying she was a lesbian. Jodie didn’t really out herself but left a lot of people wondering. Zacharias said Jodie’s semi-confession reminded her of an expression they had in the South, “she went all the way around her mouth to reach her elbow.”TransparencyBlog

Transparency is a virtue of the Christian faith, but is generally in short supply in humanity’s dealings with another. And accountability (yours, not mine) is a value rarely embraced without some kind of external enforcement.

Transparency is a Christian virtue because is a value that reflects the nature and person of God. God is truth. There can be no truth truly without transparency.

Read that sentence again.

Jesus said to his followers. “You are the light of the world.” When light enters the room if drives out darkness. Darkness hides. Light illuminates and reveals.

In the Sermon in the Mount Jesus said: “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37) How’s that for transparency? When we find it necessary to qualify our comments we are taking a step towards deception. When we find it necessary to say more than “yes” or “no” we are expressing our fear that people will not tolerate the truth.

Now Jesus wasn’t saying give one word answers nor was he advocating the brutality that often accompanies human bluntness. Paul expresses the spirit of Jesus’ words when he says, “… speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15)

Our transparency is intended to be an expression of our love for our brother, our love for our neighbor. Our transparency says “my love is genuine, my motives are pure.” Transparency also is a statement of your trust of the other person. Remember Jack Nicholson’s famous line in A Few Good Men? “The truth? You can’t handle the truth!:

Transparency and truth say to the other, “I believe you need the truth and as your friend, I will help you deal with the truth.”speak-the-truth-show-your-love-85089223