Wednesday, June 20, 2012

THE ONLY WAY TO PLEASE GOD


"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." - Hebrews 11:6
Man years ago, as a younger pastor, I stood at the door of the church and soaked up the "That was a great sermon, pastor" accolades.  We all like affirmation. It is the way God wired us.  I had hit a homiletic home run and was reveling in the "atta-boys'."  
But one of my elders waited until all had passed me by and then simply said, "I perceive you are a people-pleaser."  Trust me, that's not a compliment.  Before I could defend myself he said, "You work hard on your sermons.  You really like it when people tell you they like your efforts.  But here's the problem.  On every given Sunday there is someone in your hearing who should not like your sermon. They are in sin or harboring a sinful attitude and if you are doing God's work, the truth that you speak should make them uncomfortable, feel guilty, maybe even angry. If everyone agrees with what you said, you are probably being disobedient to God as a preacher."
Ouch!
But the more I thought about, he was right.  And since then I have been very careful that the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart are God's words from God's heart, not mine.  And if I speak the truth in love, then I have to accept that the truth is convicting to a person not living with God's heart.  I need to be sure my sermons please God, not the audience.
What pleases God?  Truth, obviously.  But faith in particular.
I have found that some people have a faith and others live by faith.  Some people have a set of beliefs that given them meaning, comfort, and even a sense of order.  Others live by faith -- they simply live in daily obedience to the will and purposes of God--trusting that His will is best and that He provides all things needed for those who live by His will. There is simply no other option in their minds.  They never settle for any lower expectations.
The former can often reduce one to a fairly static walk with God, that never really surrenders to His will because His will rarely is safe and comfortable.  His will takes us out on mission.  "A faith" often allows us to justify inaction because at least we believe the right things.
I think that latter is what Paul meant when he said, "The righteous will live by faith." - Romans 1:17.
Anything that doesn't lead you to pleasing God, even at the expense of displeasing men and making yourself feel uncomfortable, is not faith.
(C) 2012 by Stephen Dunn
This post originally appeared June 19, 2012 on THRIVING IN CHRIST

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A SINNER LOVED BY A SAVIOR

Sarah Pulliam Bailey writes in GLEANINGS a weblog of Christianity Today about Webb Simpson who yesterday won the US Open.  I am reposting because I think it is this kind of unashamed faith that we should honor-STEVE.

Webb Simpson, who won today's U.S. Open golf tournament, might be the newest member of the "holy hall of fame." His Twitter bio describes him as a "*sinner* loved by a Savior."

0618Webb_Simpson_cropped.jpg
Simpson, who trailed by four entering the final day, finished at 1-over-par 281 to beat Michael Thompson and Graeme McDowell by one stroke. He studied religion at Wake Forest University and has hosted a Youth for Christ Challenge golf tournament.

"It was a cool day. I had a peace all day," Simpson told reporters. “I probably prayed more on the last three holes than I’ve ever done in my life, and that kept me calm and got me home in 2 under."
He won his first PGA Tour victory at the Wyndham Championship last August.

“I’d be stupid not to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, because it was tough out there and I was nervous, and I felt his presence all day,” he told CBN.

In an interview with Beliefnet's Chad Bonham, Simpson described how faith directly plays into golf ethics.
Our deposit of the Holy Spirit living inside of us, more than anything, has allowed me to make those tough decisions. It’s happened probably 10 times in my life where I had to make certain calls and call penalty shots on myself. For me, it’s not as much the nature of the game but the fact that the Holy Spirit is prompting me to call a penalty on myself. Within our own nature, we don’t want to call a penalty on ourselves. We want to see how much we can get away with. That’s been a part of every tough decision I’ve made in golf.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

HE'S MY DAD

Dr. A. Gail Dunn and his Theologian's Offspring
This is my father, Dr. A. Gail Dunn.  People who know me, when they meet him, are prone to say, "You look like your son." His predictable replay, "No, he looks like me. I came first." Don't try to match wits with him. Compared to him you are an unarmed man.

Dad is 82 years old. All of his adult life he has been in ministry. Except for a pre-retirement stint as the Superintendent of the East Pennsylvania Conference of the Churches of God, Dad has served as a local church pastor. The churches he served always thrived and grew. He was not a flashy preacher, but he was solid; a person who deeply loved the Word of God and the People of God.

My Dad has an inextinguishable sense of humor.  He is the Master Punster and is capable of stringing them together until you cry "mercy."  He loves humor with a twist.  People like me are often called P.K.'s (which translated is, "Preacher's Kids).  He says, "No, my children are T.O.'s-Theologian's Offspring."  And when I tell him to be good, he simply responds, "Why?"

The love of his life was my mother, Marilyn Reames Dunn.  Her calls her "a special person" and credits her as the most significant spiritual influence in his life.  When he first saw her as a student at then Findlay College, he declared, "I am going to marry her."  And he did.  They were faithfully and joyful married for 50 years before my mother died from cancer.  He retired from active ministry for one very specific job, to care for his wife who dying from cancer--to give her the attention and the quality of life he felt she deserved.  My Dad was a model of integrity of the marriage covenant, standing by her and ministering to her at home until death finally did them part.

There's so much I could say about this former denominational president, seminar trustee, distinguished college alumnus, mentor of young pastors, community activist, father of four.  But what I want to say to Dad with pride and thanksgiving, "He's my Dad!"

Monday, June 11, 2012

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS--SCHOOL'S OUT, GAS PRICES ARE DOWN, TIGER WINS, AND--WHY DO WE HAVE TO ABUSE LINCOLN?

Young people like Ivory and Jeremy now begin focusing on the next round of their lives. When September arrives they will not return to the hallowed halls of HHS. Ivory is off to college. Jeremy is going to work to earn money for his next steps in education. The other kids are heading to summer jobs and already this weekend, a whole lot of them and their families headed to the beach. When school is finally out, kids get a respite from their studies and their teachers get a respite from the kids. I suspect the only people who don’t like that arrange are those seniors who are now entering the adult world whether they like it or not.

I was on the road this week. When I left home gas was running $3.37 per gallon. By the time I got to the western part of the state we were in $3.60 territory.  But this morning, back home, gas was down to $3.25. Gas prices are down.  Unfortunately until prices come down more significantly, the savings will barely pay for the coffee at the gas station. (By the way, coffee rose.)  Just a reminder to hold life loosely.

Tiger won the Memorial last week and tied Jack Nicklaus on the all-time wins list.  Very few people I know cheered for him, but I confess, I did.  As a pastor, I am in the redemption business, and when someone can start coming back from a failure or a sinful place in their past, I am thankful.  I still, however, would like to hear that Tiger had done some work on his moral failures, not simply his golf ones.

A new movie is out, based on a morosely popular book in an  even more morosely popular series. Abraham Lincoln-Vampire Slayer. You gotta be kidding?  Why do we have to abuse our 16th president?

Friday, June 8, 2012

JAY AND THE AMERICANS - CARAMIA

Many of you don't know, but many years ago (roughly 40) I was a DJ on WDCV-Carlisle PA. The oldies was my venue. In honor of that I'll be sharing a feature the next few weeks FRIDAY IS FOR LOVING ON THE OLDIES. Here is Jay Black, who was called "The Voice" and the Americans singing one of my favorites, "Caramia."

COMING TO AMERICA

One of the most inspirational pop ballads of the past thirty years in Neil Diamond's magnificent tribute to America and the hope of freedom it represents. Take a few moments and enjoy.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

FACEBOOK HAS A VERY BAD IDEA

 I was appalled at the news that Facebook was planning to open its service to persons under 13.  As I was starting to write my post, this came from Walt Mueller of the Center for Parent Youth Understanding. He speaks both passionately and knowledgeably. He says it better than I. - STEVE

 

Facebook and Kids Under 13. . . Not A Good Idea. . .

So social networking giant Facebook - now the third most populated "country" in the world - is considering a planned "baby boom." OK. . . so they've already got millions of kids under the allowed age of 13 already "living" within their boundaries. . . all of them on there as a result of ignoring Facebook's rules, either with or without parental permission, the former being pretty doggone troubling.

I would side with those who say this isn't only not a good idea, but it's a horribly bad idea. Supporters of the shift will scoff at the notion that allowing young kids on Facebook is anything less than harmless. But will that be the case? My starting point is with what I've been learning as a part of loads of research for our growing Digital Kids Initiative here at CPYU. All you have to do is take a look at some of our handouts and fact sheets, including our Primer on Social Networking and Primer on Electronic Addiction. Then, add just a little bit of common sense that's been steeped in careful observation of the kids and adults that we already know have been shaped in negative ways by too much social media and a lack of personal boundaries or thoughtful engagement.

This week I've been hunkered down with a new doctoral cohort in our Ministry to Emerging Generations track at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. One of our Korean students is passionate about teaching media literacy to his students. He's used the term "mediaholics" several times in his description of their media use.
 I think we need to listen carefully to our Korean friends as they've not only recognized that the South Korean population has a deep documented problem with electronic addiction, but they are wisely and out of necessity working to develop preventive strategies. And that's where I think we need to begin on this question of Facebook and kids younger than 13.

Some initial thoughts on why I think Facebook for the younger set shouldn't be an option. . .

1. Where they're at developmentally. We are learning more and more about the biophysiology of the human brain. Do we really think that removing options for spending time in play, human interaction, reading, writing, etc. and replacing them with static time in front of a screen is a good thing? Take a look around your neighborhood this summer. If your neighborhood is like mine, you're seeing fewer and fewer kids playing outside. It's not because there are fewer kids. It's because there are fewer kids playing outside with each other because they are inside glued to some kind of screen. Do we really need more of that? Let's give it a few years here until these kids grow up and the research starts to roll in. I've got a strong more-than-a-hunch that our mistakes and foolishness will be exposed. Little kids are extremely vulnerable. Their brains are forming. Why would we risk endangering them at the level of their developmental vulnerabilities?

2. The danger of addiction. Sure, people are currently arguing over whether or not electronic addiction is something real to reckon with. At the very least we are messing with potential idols. . . those things that our fallen hearts are drawn to. I believe that electronic addiction is real. Check out our handout. Our South Korean friends will tell you its real. And as with other types of addictions, the fallout is immediate, long-term, and far-reaching. Why would we risk facilitating and feeding electronic addiction?

3. The danger of too-much too-soon. More time online means more exposure to images, ideas, worldviews, etc. David Elkind warned us years ago about the danger of actively or passively pushing kids to grow up too soon. Why would we choose to push them into the world of adult ideas, pressures, and actions when they need to be allowed to be kids?

4. Exposure to advertising. Fact: children and teens are the most targeted market segment in the world. Fact: children are the most impressionable and easily-swayed market segment in the world. Facebook time will translate into exposure to hundreds of thousands of additional advertising messages. Ads sell product. But ads are even more effective at selling a worldview. Why would we want to sit them down in front of even more commercials?

5. Facilitating relational isolation. Flesh-and-blood relationships are increasingly at-risk and even disintegrating. Could a day be coming when they are passe? Proponents will argue that Facebook time is social networking time. . . which is relationship building time. These are not real relationships. Social media can strengthen and deepen a few flesh-and-blood relationships. Why would we want to fracture families, friendships, and communities even more?

6. Retarding socialization. Flesh-and-blood relationships with a diverse multi-aged group of family and friends is necessary to healthy socialization. Sitting on a screen curating yourself through photos and posts fosters aloneness. . . not a well-adjusted socialized self. Chances are we'd be throwing "miracle-grow" into the soil that fosters a lack of ability to look others in the eye, carry on a conversation, and answer with anything but a grunt or groan.

I know that today I'm sounding a little old and cranky. I'd like to think I'm being realistic.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

FOR THE LEAST OF THESE ... ARE YOU IN?

Note from Steve...as a personal favor, I am passing along this blog from Tammie Gitt, one of my blogging partners whose publication is called living3368.  I encourage you to reblog this and/or share it with others.

 People need the Scriptures. I don’t mean that in a spiritual sense. I mean that in a very real physical sense. There are people waking up this morning, going about their daily work and going to bed at night without hearing the voice of God as it is expressed in his word.

The numbers are staggering.

• More than 350 million people are without even one verse of Scripture in the language they speak. • More than 2,000 languages — almost one-third of the languages spoken today — do not have any Scripture.

• More than 70 percent of these Bibleless people groups have fewer than 10,000 speakers; 600 of those have fewer than 1,000 speakers.

• Because most of these people groups are small in number, and because many live in remote areas or in regions that are hostile toward Christians, most of these languages have been overlooked or inaccessible.

That is why we are identifying them as the “Least of These” Right now, the church has an amazing opportunity to come alongside the least of these. The Seed Company’s Least of These initiative will help bring God’s Word to the smallest and most marginalized people groups in the world — and to DOUBLE every dollar we contribute toward this effort, thanks to a generous partner. You don’t have to have a large group to participate. It can be a small group, a prayer group, a Sunday school class or, yes, the whole church. Personally, I would love to see a youth group step up to support a project.


So. Are you in? If so, visit the web page for The Seed Company’s Least of These initiative. There you can make a direct donation or fill out a short form to have one of the lovely folks at the Seed Company contact you with more information. Of course, you can also contact me through the blog, Facebook or Twitter. I would be more than happy to come and talk to your church or small group about this opportunity and the work the Seed Company is doing around the world.

Monday, June 4, 2012

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS-HONORING MAGGLIO

FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2006, file photo, Detroit Tigers' Magglio Ordonez hits his game-winning, three-run home run to defeat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 and clinch the American League pennant in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series in Detroit. Ordonez made his retirement official during a news conference at Comerica Park, Sunday, June 3, 2012, ending a stellar career in which the outfielder hit .309 in 15 seasons with the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox. His home run to win Game 4 of the 2006 AL championship series against Oakland sent Detroit to the World Series and remains one of the most memorable moments in Tigers history. Photo: Amy Sancetta / AP
FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2006, file photo, Detroit Tigers' Magglio Ordonez hits his game-winning, three-run home run to defeat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 and clinch the American League pennant in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series in Detroit.  Photo: Amy Sancetta / AP
Sunday, June 3, 2012 Magglio Ordonez threw out the first pitch at the Yankees-Tigers game and made his retirement official. Ordonez played 15 seasons with the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox, durHis 294 homers are the second-most by a Venezuela-born player, trailing only Andres Galarraga's 399.

I began writing LIFE MATTERS in 2009 and have written 52 posts with a sports label during that time. One of the most popular, not only under that tag but of all my posts was this August 2010 post. It is reflective of the character, the class, the leadership that Ordonez brought to the Tigers and to the game of baseball.

MAGGLIO ORDONEZ AND DAGLY 
Posted May 8. 2010
 
Magglio Ordonez has been one of the outstanding players for the Detroit Tigers. He was one of the heroes of their 2006 American League pennant winning season.
 
 But the 2009 season was something very different indeed. The power seemed to leave Mag's bat. He struggled offensively and defensively. Although the Tigers led the American League Central most of the season, only to be overtaken by the Minnesota Twins, Ordonez became the focal point of the frustration of Tiger fans and target of a tremendous amountof vitriol. As the 2010 season has begun, the old Mag is back and in many ways he seems a better player than he has in many years. He is one of the four .300+ hitters at the front of the Tiger line-up that are making fans forget the departure of Polanco and Granderson.
 Only now is the story of 2009 coming to the forefront. It is a love story of Magglio and his wife Dagly. It is a story of dedication and sacrifice, of a man demonstrating that being a husband and a father is far more important than any accolade our sports satiated culture can offer. Dagly found she had thyroid cancer. It is a treatable cancer, but still dangerous. The doctors operated immediately. Then there was the radiation treatment that meant Dagly had to be separated from her family. Magglio had to become a single parent. He didn't talk a lot about his family situation, did not add the spotlight to Dagly's suffering and his children's fears. Later Ordonez would comment: "The thing is, you have to understand that life is first -- life, family," he said. "And the thing is, it's not easy when you're working or you're playing baseball, to try to focus mentally. You see last year at the beginning of the season, I was struggling. My mind wasn't on baseball. But you know, the support with family and friends, when you're in good hands with good doctors, [helps]."

A lot of baseball fans (no, fanatics) are now hanging their heads in shame. Magly is better, doing well, in fact. Ordonez is now turning his attention to cancer victims in his baseball community. Hitting home runs again. Thrilling Tiger fans. Giving the team a great shot at the 2010 pennant.
But on humanity's all stars ... Magglio Ordonez now has earned a place.


Sunday, June 3, 2012