Archive

WHERE HAVE YOU SEEN JESUS LATELY?

BY STEVE DUNN

This September I will have been in the ministry for 45 years (not bad for a 39 year-old. right?)  I had a part-time job as the Youth Pastor for the Newville PA Church of God. Twenty-five kids from grades five through 12.  An impossible assignment, yet I survived and continued to serve God in a variety of ways.  There have only been two, maybe three times in those years that I gave serious thought to quitting the ministry but each time God caught my falling soul, set my feet on solid ground, and provided me with a vision that moved me forward.  Moving forward even though I knew times of testing would again intersect my life trajectory.

Such stick-to-itiveness is regarded by some as stubbornness and others as stupidity.  But those of following this path know it to be something deeper, more profound. It’s called “The Call.”

Frederick Buechner defines The Call this way:   “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” If you can discern what your greatest joy is and what you believe is a pressing need in our world, and then find where the two intersect, chances are you will begin to understand God’s calling in your life.’

This weekend I participated in the commencement exercises for Winebrenner Theological Seminary.  I am on their adjunct faculty and have taught for them since 2008.  Along the way I have had the chance to teach many men and women who experienced that Call.  At the Commencement I was celebrating the graduation of four of my students in particular.   With all due respect to my other students and all the grads, I celebrated two in particular: Bob Collins and Jeff Musser.

 Both Bob and Jeff found deep joy in serving Jesus and their hearts were moved powerfully, perhaps compelled by the reality that God loved His World and the people He had created.  They deeply desired to share that truth with all people.

 

13920874_10210312916042286_7621163268458419757_n

Dr. Brent Sleasman presents his diploma to Bob Collins, who has been wheeled to the spot by fellow grad, Jeff Musser

Bob and Jeff are what we call second career pastors.  They entered seminary not via the conventional route of a liberal arts education followed by seminary.  They came from industry and entered a program that will allow them to pastor local churches. Jeff worked throughout his seminary time and even planted a church.  Bob followed a different trajectory in part because of physical infirmity.

During his four years of seminary Bob endured eleven surgeries, two of which were amputations and several vascular.  As he entered his last class, Jeff was struck down by a heart attack and had to recover from open heart surgery while finishing his studies.

Yet both believed they had a call from God and knew that by God’s help NOTHING would keep them from completing their preparation for ministry over the long haul.  So as Bob rolled across the stage being guided by Jeff, my heart leaped with joy and I saw one more witness to the power of The Call.

© 2016 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 

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

 

 

 

This was the most awesome picture that I saw on the web this week. This was taken during the lockdown in Watertown MA as police were tracking down the terrorists who appear to have been the perpetrators of the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  A family with two young children confined in the manhunt cordon ran out of milk.  I am sure that these young children had no real sense of the history going on around them nor the gravity of the situation.  In the midst of all of this, a police officer took the time to make a milk delivery.  He helped a family manage a small crisis being played against the backdrop of a community crisis. Hero!

 

 

 

I don’t know about you, but I for one needed this story. I have already sifted through the first stories about the Chechen brothers who are accused of this crime.  Lots of time has already been spent sifting out the tragic details.  The perpetrators will get more air time and head line space than the many public persons, good neighbors and sorrowing families in Boston.

But neither psychological analysis nor heightened security can avert these human tragedies.  It is the nature of our fallen world, where we live daily in the presence of sin, that evil occurs.  And until we let God have a place in a world and allow Him transform us into the people of peace that He created us to be, there will be more lost souls perpetrating crimes against their neighbors, creating collateral damage that horrifies us for a time and stirs politicians; but does not help us live more confidently.

What we need first is a little hope.  And news organizations and  politicians need to lift up the hope that is brought to the surface by the people who quietly go about being instruments of peace and agents of hope even when all hell is breaking loose.

The Christian faith reminds of the vital nature of hope.  These verses come to mind:

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” – Romans 5.5

” … but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40.31

The first verse speaks to the hope that we have because we know nothing can separate us from the love of God.  That love sustains and strengthens and helps us keep on keeping on in a world such as ours.

The second verse reminds us that armed with this hope we will be able to rise above everything that comes our way and still be the people of dignity and integrity and grace that God created us to be.  We need not sink in the mire when we have God working in and through us.

It reminds of the story Corrie ten Boom told after the hell that was a concentration camp,.  Her sister Betsy was dying, a victim of that brutality.  But Betsy was a woman of hope who knew that this world was not all there was.  She told her sister, “You must survive.  You  must survive and tell them that there is no pit so deep that God is not deeper.”

In this time, we need the hope of God–not to deliver us from every tragedy, but to help us rise above the tragedy that inhabits life in a fallen world and thrive in Christ.

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:

Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
I’ll praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of thy redeeming love

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I come
And I hope by thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home

Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above

Sharon Hodde Miller writes an excellent blog called She Worships that I find an interesting look at practical Christianity and living out our theology in the real world. December 28 she wrote an interesting post called “Here I Raise My Ebenezer.” It begins:

I still remember the first time I learned that “ebenezer” was more than a scrooge-y character in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I was taking an Old Testament class in seminary, and when I came to 1 Samuel 7 I read about God’s saving intervention in the face of great peril. 1 Samuel 7:10-11 recounts,

While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.

In response to God’s faithfulness Samuel does the following:

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” (v. 12)

When I first read this passage I loved the visual, the idea of marking the spot where God had been faithful. Not only did that stone remind Samuel of God’s faithfulness, but whenever Samuel’s ancestor’s would pass by it, they too would remember God’s love.

That’s when I decided to begin doing the same.

Ever since I learned about the story behind the ebenezer, I have periodically paused to raise my own ebenezers, vowing to remember God’s faithfulness whenever He has helped me. And this year, as 2012 draws to a close, I can’t help but raise one now. Read rest of post

Sharon’s post got me thinking about my own Ebenezer’s for 2012:

1. Dianne and I celebrated 40 years of marriage. She is the best thing that has happened to me in my life, standing by me through many challenges and adventures that went with the ministry–including one now where we have moved out of our home and made ourselves available to what God wants to do next in our lives as we serve His kingdom purposes.

2. A sabbatical at Winebrenner Theological Seminary that allowed me take a respite from the daily business of pastoral ministry and re-energized my passion to teach churches how to reach their unchurched neighbors with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

3. The opportunity to take Bridgebuilders Seminars that I had been developing for several years across the country helping reawaken a vision in many churches to once again be identified with the love of Jesus Christ as they reach their neighbors without fighting a culture war.

4. Significant time with all four of my children and their families, something that I have not been able to do in several years.

5. Seeing the Church of God of Landisville that I had helped nurture and equip for vision for 11 years make a smooth and healthy transition to a new and younger pastor, Tim Bistline, who will now be able to reach a whole new generation for Jesus.

6. The return to the Seminary classroom with 16 delightful students in the New Testament Foundations Class for Winebrenner’s Pastoral Training Institute.

7. God selling our house in 28 days so we have had money to live during this time of ministry exploration that Dianne and I have called our “Abraham and Sarah Excellent Adventure” and friends like Dennis and Carol Regitz and Dennis and Ruth Hall who have made their homes available to us during this season of our life.

I am sure there are more, but you can see that I have lots of reasons as I begin 2013 to celebrate what God has provided in 2012.

Here I raise my ebenezer!

One of the blogs I periodically read is called Alan’s Corner.  Several months ago he posted an article by the title, “Where Have I Seen Jesus Lately?”  He opened his post with these lyrics:

Some day you’ll come, darkness will cease.

True light will dawn, everyone will then see.

Everything new, we’ll finally see you.

Awaiting that day, searching for more.

While all along you are

found with the poor.

Help me to see that you’re all around me…


Our praises arise.

As we come to recognize.

Jesus is near.

Glory is here.

Glory is Here”, Michael Gungor Band

As a Christian, I believe Jesus is near.  Nearer, in fact, than most of us think.  Already his glory is reflected in many ways. So, where have I seen Jesus lately?

I have seen Jesus in the heart and the worship of my wife Dianne.  She so very much loves Jesus. Worship is part of her heartbeat and when she leads worship, she helps others know clearly that Jesus is near, glory is here.

That love of Jesus that is evident when she worships has a powerful way of overflowing into the lives of others, especially when Dianne is worshiping by serving Jesus.  She is a teacher with a particular heart for special needs children. Many a child who is at risk or requires early intervention or deals with autism or behaviorial issues has found an advocate and a friend in Dianne. Many of the regular staff members she comes alongside of have found that love of Jesus translated into a love and heart for them.

I have seen Jesus in a friend named Lynda, who simply has a heart that people give their hearts and lives to Christ. A woman of great artistic creativity, who has know many personal challenges in her life has long ago set aside her agenda just to be a willing worker for God. More than once I have observed her go the second mile, step out of her comfort zone, risk being hurt even because she just wants people to find the peace of Jesus Christ.

I have seen Jesus in two of the willing workers of the church I serve, Dave and Donna. My first really encounter was when I asked Donna to help with refreshments for a conference and discovered Dave was the menu planner. Early each Sunday they are on duty at the church to greet people as they arrive (and that’s after they’ve made sure the church is ready and any last minute detail for Pastor Steve has been cared for).  From watching over senior citizens, to getting down on the ground playing crazy games with the children at Vacation Bible School, to know becoming caring adult friends of the little preschoolers in our Sunday School, making the church a safe and welcoming place for those little lives.  That’s where I have seen Jesus lately.