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THE WORLD IN WHICH WE LIVE

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.
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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

One of the songs that has always grabbed me at Christmas is called, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”  It is based on a poem write by that classic American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was written in 1863 in the midst of the bloody, family-dividing American Civil War.

In March 1863 at age 18, Charles Longfellow had joined the Union Army. He was the oldest son of Longfellow and his wife  Fannie Elizabeth Appleton. Two years earlier Fannie had died when her dress caught on fire and Longfellow himself had burned severely while trying to save. Longfellow’s facial burns were severe enough that he was unable even to attend his own wife’s funeral. He would grow a beard to hide his burned face and at times feared that he would be sent to an asylum on account of his grief.  He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry. Charlie was severely wounded in battle near New Hope, Virginia later that November.Before that he had only seen battle partially at Chancellorsville. That Christmas the widowed Longfellow, the father of five children with his oldest in the midst of a long recovery penned the words of the poem that became a classic Christmas carol. (These details based on “The True Story of Pain and Hope Behind ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Justin Taylor.

Listen as Casting Crowns shared their version of the powerful carol.

Christmas 2015 is a time when many around the world from places like Paris, Afghanistan, Syria, northern Mexico, the Ukraine, and even here in the U.S. would echo Longfellow’s sentiment:

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

But in the midst of this we must keep our ears tuned to the Bells that will ring on Christmas Day.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

More than 70 years in the hellish bowls of a Nazi concentration camp, a dying Betsy ten Boom reminded her sister, Corrie– “You must tell them that there is no pit so deep where God is not deeper.”

No matter had corrupt humanity may become, no matter how strong the insanity of violence may grow, no matter how much the shame may mount – we are reminded that God can and will overcome it all.  That;s His role in history. Our is to love and trust Him through it.

Ultimately Christmas is a reminder that gave Longfellow hope in the midst of his pain and suffering.  A hope ground in this confession of the Apostle Paul.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 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 8.35-39

 

 

 BY STEVE DUNN

 

 

     Duck Dynasty is everywhere.  The largely unscripted reality show has captured the cable-waves and rocketed A&E Network to the top of the charts.  It has already generated a fortune for Walmart and other retailers–secular and religious–by pasting the face of the Robertson clan on every imaginable household item.

 

 

     Anyone who has watched the show will know that Phil Robertson and his clan are conservative Christians, staunchly patriotic, sometimes outrageous in their opinions, and firm in what they value–which leans heavily towards traditional American values.

 

 

     I’ve enjoyed a few episodes with friends, but my reality TV tends to lean towards The Voice, The Sing-Off, and Major League Baseball.

 

 

     It was only a matter of time before these high profile and often delightfully humorous self-proclaimed Christian rednecks would fall afoul of the media and liberal political establishment with their narrow definition of “free speech.” Phil set off a firestorm.

 

 

     Now A&E has suspended him, his family has threatened to stop making the show without him. (I don’t believe for a minute that a profit-driven network is going to jettison its most profitable possession nor that the Richardson family will abandon their income and platform.)

 

 

     I am both offended and troubled.

 

 

     I am offended when the self-appointed guardians of the Constitution continue to extend the defense of  free speech to pornagraphers, the worst of America’s haters here and abroad, people whose sexual orientation offends so many of their neighbors, and people whose politics are left of center; but have singled out conservative and evangelical Christians as people whose views threaten to destroy the fabric of society.  The bias has now become so obvious that even some of my most liberal friends have pointed it out (although I see few pushing back against it).

 

 

     Phil Robertson is an American citizen–living in the land of the free and the home of the brave–a land governed by its Constitution.  He is entitled to the same rights and at the very least, the same tolerance that we extend even to most unsavory citizens of this land.

 

 

     But I am also troubled by my conservative Christian friends, many of whom profess to share the same belief in the truth of the Bible as God’s Word and the commitment to live by its commandments and teachings–who roar back like cornered lions every time they are not treated with respect, or where their rights are undermined.  People who now often define their worth and identity by the rights they have in the Constitution, rather than in living by God’s truth.

 

 

     And this is my reason–three statements by Jesus.

God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.” – Matthew 5:11 New Living Translation

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16.33 New Living Translation 

 If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.” – John 15.18-19 New Living Translation

     I simply am concerned that we as Christians take the world’s views PERSONALLY, as attacks on us when they are really attacks on Christ. Too many Christians want to stand up for Jesus without paying the price of rejection and opposition that Jesus said to expect if we were being faithful to him in a world that WOULD BACK AWAY.

     We have a persecution complex, or better yet–a rejection complex.

     And in our vehemence and in the manner of our communication we often show the world that we do not really trust in God to make things right-and that the acceptance of men is more important than faithfulness to God.  

      Or that being left alone to believe what we want to believe (even if it is the truth) than paying the price of truly being salt and light where we will stand out from the crowd who often cares little about God.

     Something to think about and to pray about.

(C) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn

 

BY STEVE DUNN
 I have some special friends. They are Egyptian Christians, who have come to the US not to make a better financial life or to compete for jobs with Americans, but because in their homeland they were constantly under threat from Islamic extremists or persecuted by their communities because they are Christians. Some were pastors, whose churches were closed or burned. Others were respected teachers and one even a newscaster who had to leave a land they deeply love because their lives and the futures of their children were being destroyed. In most cases, none of them has found a job commensurate with their positions in Egypt. Between language or certifications and biases, they work as waitresses, laborers, cooks, in small factories. Many were part of the popular movement of the people that led to the ouster as Hasni Mubarak. Many have been part of the day-to-day effort to help all religious parties work in peace and harmony for the liberty and prosperity of their land. And now, once again, the churches in Egypt, the families of these families are under attack. And except for a few Muslim neighbors who respect them, little is being done to protect them at all. Before proceeding, simply look at this fairly simple video provided by CNN on Friday.
Please click below

EGYPT

When I posted this video on Facebook, I simply asked “What is our government doing to respond to this horrendous violation of simple human rights. I am now receiving answers and later this week will share some of those. In the mean time, please be praying. Just this past Saturday and Sunday, 17 more churches were burned in a small region where one of my friends three years ago called home. And the brother and family of another, the brother who is a pastor is now in hiding because the hometown extremists have threatened to simply come and kill his family. Please be in prayer.

Gentle Strengthby Stephen L Dunn

“So is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength.” – Anonymous

“Let your gentleness be evident to all, the Lord is near.” – Philippians 4.5

There is a harshness to life in America that troubles me greatly. People have such critical spirits and the venom of those spirits often go viral spewing their anger and hatred on so many others. This critical spirit has been magnified by a rampant incivility that stomps and bashes and even destroys without a thought to the long-term effect on the well-being of our communities. We are quick to litigate or legislate when dialogue and an attempt at understanding could have saved us from many relational and civil demons. We demonize our opponents in such a way that there can be no wholeness to relationships and no healing to our land.

One of the fruit of the Spirit that I as a Christian pray is evidenced in my life is called gentleness (Galatians 5.22-3). The Greek word has the meaning “restraint coupled with strength and courage.”

It is the opposite of hubris, the Greek word for haughty, boastful insolence. In the Bible gentleness is tied to the idea of humility Gentleness includes true humility that does not consider itself too good or too exalted for humble tasks.

A corporal at Valley Forge who was directing three men as they tried to lift a log into place. It was too heavy, but the corporal commanded again and again, “All right, men, one, two, three, lift!” A man in an overcoat came by and said to the corporal, ‘Why don’t you help them?” The corporal pulled himself up to full height and replied, “Sir, I am a corporal.” Without a word the man stepped over and with his help the log went easily into place. The man was George Washington.

Gentleness is not a synonym for doormat. It is a quality of character that just might start to help to heal our nation.

I have now seen this post through Ed Stetzer and Christianity Today.  I share this  because I applaud Dan Cathy’s (head of Chick-fil-a) response to the attacks on his company and himself personally by the LGBT movement for his stand against same-sex marriage.  All Christians need to learn a lesson from this for how to deal with people who opposed their biblical values.  I am a firm believer that this will draw more people to Christ than the rhetoric and demonstrations and cultural warfare tactics.  He is truly trying to be “salt and light” as the Headline News interview with LGCBT activist Shane Windemeyer demonstrates. – Steve

FRIENDSHIP HEALS CHICK-FIL-A DIVIDE
by Url Scaramanga CHRISTIANITY TODAY

Last summer controversy erupted when Dan Cathy, president and COO of Chick-fil-A, gave an interview expressing his opposition to same sex marriage based on biblical teachings. Gay rights activists also reacted to the fast food company’s financial support for organizations that sought to block SSM.

In the weeks that followed, supporters of Chick-fil-A and traditional marriage showed their solidarity by lining up at the restaurants for a fried chicken sandwich, and members of the GLBT community rallied protests to block the restaurants from entering some cities. The entire episode highlighted the widening divide between conservative Christians and the gay community, and few had hope that reconciliation was possible.

What we did not know was that Dan Cathy, rather than fighting this battle in the media, chose to pursue a more Christ-honoring way. He reached out to Shane Windmeyer, the leader of Campus Pride–the pro-LGBT organization that was leading the fight against Chick-fil-A. Cathy developed a friendship with Shane and his husband, and a foundation of mutual respect was created.

Earlier this week Windmeyer “came out” about his friendship with Cathy in a column for Huffington Post

He writes: Throughout the conversations Dan expressed a sincere interest in my life, wanting to get to know me on a personal level. He wanted to know about where I grew up, my faith, my family, even my husband, Tommy. In return, I learned about his wife and kids and gained an appreciation for his devout belief in Jesus Christ and his commitment to being “a follower of Christ” more than a “Christian.” Dan expressed regret and genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-A — but he offered no apologies for his genuine beliefs about marriage.

Windmeyer continued:

In many ways, getting to know Dan better has reminded me of my relationship with my uncle, who is a pastor at a Pentecostal church. When I came out as openly gay in college, I was aware that his religious views were not supportive of homosexuality. But my personal relationship with my uncle reassured me of his love for me — and that love extends to my husband….

 

My relationship with Dan is the same, though he is not my family. Dan, in his heart, is driven by his desire to minister to others and had to choose to continue our relationship throughout this controversy. He had to both hold to his beliefs and welcome me into them. He had to face the issue of respecting my viewpoints and life even while not being able to reconcile them with his belief system. He defined this to me as “the blessing of growth.” He expanded his world without abandoning it. I did, as well.

In Cathy and Windmeyer we have a model of a Christian response to the tensions between the church and LGBT community. Rather than fighting battles in the courts, legislatures, and public square, we ought to begin by loving our neighbors and establishing genuine friendships.

Throughout the conversations Dan expressed a sincere interest in my life, wanting to get to know me on a personal level. He wanted to know about where I grew up, my faith, my family, even my husband, Tommy. In return, I learned about his wife and kids and gained an appreciation for his devout belief in Jesus Christ and his commitment to being “a follower of Christ” more than a “Christian.” Dan expressed regret and genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-A — but he offered no apologies for his genuine beliefs about marriage. Windmeyer continued:

In many ways, getting to know Dan better has reminded me of my relationship with my uncle, who is a pastor at a Pentecostal church. When I came out as openly gay in college, I was aware that his religious views were not supportive of homosexuality. But my personal relationship with my uncle reassured me of his love for me — and that love extends to my husband…. My relationship with Dan is the same, though he is not my family. Dan, in his heart, is driven by his desire to minister to others and had to choose to continue our relationship throughout this controversy. He had to both hold to his beliefs and welcome me into them. He had to face the issue of respecting my viewpoints and life even while not being able to reconcile them with his belief system. He defined this to me as “the blessing of growth.” He expanded his world without abandoning it. I did, as well.

In Cathy and Windmeyer we have a model of a Christian response to the tensions between the church and LGBT community. Rather than fighting battles in the courts, legislatures, and public square, we ought to begin by loving our neighbors and establishing genuine friendships.
For more on this story, here’s an interview with Shane Windmeyer from Headline News: