1509758_195621363963931_11133830_nBY STEVE DUNN

“… be filled with the Holy Spirit.” – Ephesians 5:18a

      We often make statements that to others appear as self-deluding.  When I was growing up, such statements were greeted with the comment, “You are full of it.” (We will have to stop there because the etymology of that expression refers to something very nasty that you are full of.) But for Christians, being full of something refers to being filled with the Holy Spirit of God.

Some Christian groups use this command as a code word for a specific kind of religious experience or as a litmus test of a certain type of Christianity that they believe to be superior to all other forms of Christianity.  I tend to disagree with both usages but that is a theological issue beyond the scope of what I want to say today

We fill our lives with many things — jobs, family, and even religion.  All in pursuit of happiness or fulfillment or meaning.  But those things are often delusions because they are expressions of a delusional belief that say, “It’s all about me.”  For too many our highest aim is self-satisfaction not significance.  We believe our lives have meaning when we get to be who we want to be.

Such an attitude ultimately requires us  to ignore our neighbor, be indifferent to our community, and abandon any true responsibility for our world.

The one true antidote to this outcome is not saturate our lives with self but to let the Spirit indwell us shaping us and empowering us to be people whose lives are immeasurably and whose impact brings God’s wholeness to all.

(C) 2014 by Stephen L Dunn (This post originally appeared in my blog THE ROAD TO JOY)

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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.

  BY STEVE DUNN

A whole lot of people think that “good” Christians are people who do good things.  In fact, a whole lot of Christians believe that, too.  Usually, though, the measure of that in people’s minds includes keeping the 10 commandments, being a “church goer,” knowing the Bible, keeping Christ in Christmas, not working on Sundays, etc., choosing wholesome activities over “worldly” ones.  Doing typically “religious” things.  This list makes for comfortable people who can call themselves “Christians.”

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.  


BY STEVE DUNN

 

His name is Donald Trump and this Friday, he will become the 45th President of the United States.  Polls already show that come Inauguration Day he will be the least popular President in history.  I did not vote for Mr. Trump–his “tweeted campaign,” his denigration of so many people groups, his playing on our fears of Isis to badmouth Muslims, his obviously abysmal moral character and his cavalier handling of the Christian faith that I hold dear made it impossible for me to vote for him.  His opponent was really no better–her pandering to special interest groups and almost total ignoring of the needs of the working class and middle class, her hostility towards traditional Christianity and her pledge to wipe out any conservative presence on the Supreme Court made her equally unpalatable  to be me as well. (I registered a protest vote for a third party candidate).

His antics and attitudes during the transition have done nothing to increase my confidence in him or change my opinion.

Nonetheless, we live in a participatory democracy and the primary attributes of that are free elections, civilized and unifying acceptance of the results, and a peaceful transfer of power.  On January 20th those things should happen and we will have a new President.

I believe my job as a Christian is to respect his office and the man in that office, to pray for him, and to do my best to contribute to the betterment of my nation.  That means that sometimes I will simply give Mr. Trump and his policies a chance, I will not engage in the hate-mongering that some extended to Mr. Obama and are not unleashing on Mr. Trump.  I will respectfully disagree with him on other things and try to peacefully and intelligently and prayerfully encourage my senators and Congressmen to do the right thing instead of blindly following the party line or the President.

Mr. prayer is that Mr. Trump will be a great President because my great nation needs a great leader.

BY STEVE DUNN

The news was ugly today.  A little three year old boy shot in a road rage incident.  He died.  In what is suspected to be an Isis terrorist attack, a large truck plows into an open air Christmas market in Berlin killing nine and injuring many others.  The Russian ambassador to Turkey gunned down as he gave a speech by a militant proclaiming retaliation for his country’s participation in Syria’s crushing of rebels in Aleppo, and the utter destruction city at the same time.  Putin’s dark response about retaliation of its own as the Middle East increasingly is feeling the presence of Russia siding with a decidedly antidemocratic Syrian regime.  Double-digit deaths on American highways as a winter storm slams our nation.  Bitter and angry protests as the Electoral College confirms the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.  Parents going into school to stop their son from launching an atack on his fellow students.

The list goes on and I haven’t even gotten to the local scene of poverty, violence, abuse, financial scams targeting the aged and unsuspecting, racism and more.

On this Monday before Christmas our world desperately needs peace.

But not the peace that comes from Christmas truces, or politics and diplomacy; but a peace which will last.  A peace only God can give.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14.27

A peace that comes when people finally acknowledge the One who is the only true Prince Peace- Jesus Christ.  And we need Him now.

Even so Lord Jesus, come quickly.

 

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BY STEVE DUNN

I have been in the ministry for 45 years–starting as a youth pastor back in 1971. Since 2008, I have added teaching graduate students in a seminary to my resume. Since last January I have added teaching history to high school students from Korea to my professional mix. I am about to do both again. Monday Morning Reflections this week is late because I am busy completing syllabi, lesson plans and initial lessons for high schools kids (9th, 10th and 11th graders) and seminarians (only God knows some of their ages and it would be ecclesiastically/politically incorrect to ask). High school starts next Monday, seminary two weeks later.

At this moment I am firmly reminded of the words of Solomon, an ancient wise man of centuries ago:

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As they say in my profession: “That’ll preach.” And so far that is true just for the instructor. It will soon be the lament of my students and their compatriots.

Yet as I wade through all the paperwork and other preparations, it is a labor of love. It is also a critical endeavor. Knowledge is the beginning of power and ignorance is not bliss, it is dangerous.

Education provides knowledge, but more than that–the discipline of learning and the accountability needed not only to get a good grade but to live life with competence, confidence, and significance.

Knowing the details of early American politics may not come into daily usefulness for all of my high schoolers, any more than the nuances of biblical interpretation for my seminarians. But the process of learning with its requirement to live by standards of excellence and to use that learning with integrity are survival values for society and the Church.

I love my students too much to let them be wallow in ignorance, shackled by laziness, and handicapped by an uninformed life. And I love our nation, our world, and the Kingdom of God not to do my part in educating.

So now–back to the preparations. May they bear much fruit which will last.

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© 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 http://www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com