Saturday, June 1, 2019

FACEBOOK PROPHETS RETURN

Didn't realize it's been six weeks since my last past on LIFE MATTERS.  Thought I'd ease back in by calling on the Facebook Prophets. - STEVE







Sunday, April 28, 2019

SUNDAY FUNNIES - HAVE YOU MISSED THEM

We are in a season when I often want to say, "Lighten up."  Maybe this will help. -  STEVE




Sunday, April 21, 2019

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS - AIN'T NO GRAVE

Easter was yesterday and this song was part of the Easter celebration at my home church.  Love this musical refection on the Cross and the Resurrection.  Enjoy and celebrate the truth that set us free. - STEVE


JOHNNY HART - EASTER MORNING

More from that master theologian, Johnny Hart






Friday, April 19, 2019

JOHNNY HART - GOOD FRIDAY

BY STEVE DUNN


The late Johnny Hart, a devout and highly creative Christian, was noted particularly his Good Friday and Easter comic strips.  Each year at this time I honor his heart and talent by sharing his form of the Gospel message. - STEVE






Friday, April 12, 2019

LAST FULL MEASURE - CHRISTIAN LIVES THAT MATTER

BY STEVE DUNN

There is so much "news."  So much that every hour on the hour the major news outlets could post new stories and not need to repeat themselves in a 24 hour news cycle.  That's not, however, the way it works.  The media decides what stories are worthy of reporting and often repeating what they have saying over and over ad nauseum.  They even run the some video clips, sometimes repeating the clip multiple times in the same brief story.

The production techniques may be annoying but what is troubling is what they choose to report and leaving many of us wondering why they chose those things.   In a week when the airwaves were filled with one more reporting of our mercurial president's impulsive actions (which he often must back pedal on by the next news cycle), the news that a bunch of rich Hollywood celebrities used their money and sense of entitlement to spend ludicrous amounts of money to get their children scholarships into universities with bribes that exceeded the tuition costs, and the Patriots owner Robert Kraft's attempts to make his involvement in a prostitution sting go away; where did you see these stories?  

Hong Kong Pastor Facing Prison Preaches the Sermon of His Life
The Baptist leader, convicted for his role in the Occupy Central and Umbrella Movement protests, takes the stand with a biblical defense for human rights and civil disobedience.
Kate Shellnutt 
Image: Kin Cheung / AP
Chu Yiu-ming, center, appears with Benny Tai and Chan Kin-man before entering court to hear their verdict.
A Baptist pastor in Hong Kong turned the stands of a Hong Kong courtroom into his pulpit, quoting Scripture and calling for justice in the name of God, after he and eight other activists were convicted Tuesday for crimes related to their involvement with pro-democracy Occupy Central and Umbrella Movement protests.
Chu Yiu-ming, leader of Chai Wan Baptist Church, recounted his testimony of finding hope in Christ after a bleak childhood and defended his calling as a minister to fight for human rights, ...
China is in the process of systematically attacking and persecuting the Christian Church.  It has been jailing pastors, closing and even demolishing churches.  On February 17, 2019 China Aid reported: (Chengdu, Sichuan—Feb. 27, 2019) The Chinese government has continued their harassment of members of the Early Rain Covenant Church by arresting 44 more church attendees at two worship venues on February 24.


One church attendee, A Xin, who is a translator, was arrested by nearly 10 policemen at home later that same day. The authorities cited his work, reporting the details of the continual crackdown on Early Rain Covenant Church. A specifically wrote about the mistreatment of the children, seniors, and pregnant women who were arrested and Pastor Wang Yi’s 74-year-old mother, who was beaten by police.

At the end of the day, 44 Christians were arrested, including 11 kids with the youngest being just over two months old. They were detained at the Chengdu Police Station, where their cell phones were confiscated.

According to a statement released by Early Rain Covenant Church, Tang Chunliang and other Christians were violently beaten, and children slept on the cold table and floor. During their time in detention, there was no access to food and some of them were not released until 2:00 a.m.

So far, 11 people have been sentenced to administrative detention. Those sentenced to a 14-day detention are Zhang Jianqing, Wei Zhixue, Zhu Xiaoguang, Hou Hong’en, Luo Zhipeng, Yang Duli, Zhang Guanya, Huang Guangtai, and Tang Chunliang. Both A and Yang Jian were given a 10-day detention sentence.

These arrests are part of a massive crackdown on their church that began on Dec. 9. Within that week, more than 150 people had been taken imprisoned, and several of them remain behind bars, including Pastor Wang and his wife, Jiang Rong.  READ MORE


This is but the tip of the iceberg of the persecution of Christians and the church in China.
There was a great outcry when a shooter massacred people  in a synagogue in Pittsburg and when terrorists homicedally attacked mosques in Christchurch--and well there should have been.  An attack on people gathered in their houses of worship is one of the most despicable of attacks on a basic human right--for people to have the freedom to worship in peace regardless of their faith.

There is one further troubling comment I feel compelled to make.  These reports, like the ones I commented earlier about the attacks on Christians in Nigeria go largely unreported in the American press.  Most of the reports come from the UK and Asia. It seems a part of a pattern in the media that views Christanity negatively in a culture where many seem to believe freedom of religion or to have no religion requires freedom from Christianity or at least denigrating it.  Ironically, these Chinese Christians are being persecuted because they believe their faith in Jesus Christ compels them to stand up for democracy, justice and basic human rights.  (That message, is unknown to much of the American public more concerned with basketball, gas prices and border walls.)

© 2019 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 

Monday, April 1, 2019

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS: WHEN WE WANT TO SCREAM AAARGHHH !!!!


BY STEVE DUNN

 

“Patience is a virtue.”  I am not sure who first shared this little tidbit of counsel with me, but I have heard it repeated over and over.  And over and over I have said to myself. “Patience is a virtue.”



Sadly, I must confess that I am not a particularly patient person.  My life is so busy, filled with so many responsibilities, with schedules and check-lists a necessity that if something interrupts the flow, I want to push the “arghh” button. 



Fortunately for the world but unfortunately for my wife, I tend to mask my impatience from most everyone but Dianne.  She gently tries to remind me of the need to keep my perspective on the imperfection of people and life in general in a fallen world.  And to maintain a sense of patience as a deal with these things (or at least a quiet expression of impatience.)



Impatience with things – like slow computers and bottom caps that see affixed with super glue – is generally a losing battle.  They express no free will. They are incapable of improving their “behaviors.”



Impatience with people, however, is worse.  Our reactions quickly mount into frustration and frustration is simply low level anger.  And anger with people often devolves into forgetting to love them.  Anger that thwarts the command to love them is not godly anger.



Impatience with people can also shut us off to any message God is trying to communicate to us.  I find this quote from Joni Eareckson Tada on point here: “The times we find ourselves having to wait on others may be the perfect opportunities to train ourselves to wait on the Lord.



Impatience with people also causes us to undervalue the patience God has extended towards us in circumstances far worse than passing inconvenience. That’s why Paul offered this prayer.



May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had. – Romans 15:5

Patience is a virtue.  Be patient with that.


© 2019 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 

Monday, March 25, 2019

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS: JUSTICE AND GENOCIDE

BY STEVE DUNN


The mainstream media has given us extensive coverage of the reprehensible mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand a few weeks ago. And they should. It was a horrific event that the world should absolutely mourn such a senseless act of violence.
While the world expresses its outrage at still another murderous attack upon a place of worship and the targeting of people because of their religious faith, the mainstream media in the US has largely ignored what some have termed a "genocide" going on in Africa,
Church Militant reports (backed up by credible news sources around the world) these facts.
“At least 120 Nigerian Christians have been killed since early February in a string of violent attacks that are being attributed to Fulani militants.
On March 11 alone, a string of attacks left 53 dead and 143 homes destroyed in the villages of Inkirimi and Dogonnoma in the Kajuru Local Government Area in Kaduna State, Nigeria.
Just a day before that, an attack on the village of Ungwan Barde killed 17 people and destroyed dozens of homes. One month prior, about 16 people had been killed in Ungwan Barde village in a series of attacks on Feb. 9 and 10.
The governor of Kaduna State imposed a curfew last week on the local government area owing to the deadly outbreak of violence.
On Feb. 26, some 32 Nigerian Christians were killed in the Maro district of the Kaduna State. The attackers burned down an evangelical church and shot people fleeing. This violence was also suspected to be the work of Fulani militants.
Local lawmakers say the recent attacks have displaced at least 3,000 locals, with many people’s homes destroyed and many others fleeing for safety.
In Benue State, Fulani attacks on several villages on March 4 left 23 dead.
They explain that such acts of violence began about a year ago, and stem from longstanding tensions between the majority Muslim Fulani herdsman and the majority Christian farmers.
In 2017, the Nigerian government passed laws that would prevent the Fulani herdsman from allowing their livestock to graze on the farmer’s private property, hoping it would ease tensions between the opposing groups, but it only made things worse.
And now, hundreds of Christians are dead.”
And so I am compelled to ask, why is this being largely ignored by the press in this nation?  I am not someone who sees a conspiracy behind every troubling development. I am suspicious of the “Jesus’ teaching” ignoring that marks much of American Militant Christianity.  Nor am I a person who believes that such outrages by people from religious group against another (especially when it’s mine) is an excuse to demonize someone else’s faith or justify the same senseless, hateful violence on our part.
But this needs to be a matter if prayer.  It needs to be a matter that is brought clearly into the light.  It is a matter that our nation (and our press) need to take action against.
 And we need to remember that such religious hatred expressed against Christians occurs in all corners of the world.  In some nations like China, it is government sanctioned.
The prophet Hosea reminded us that working for justice is a command of our faith.  It applies to victims and the oppressed regardless of their faith.

More on the subject 200 CHRISTIANS ATTACKED

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

LEAVING OPEN THE DOOR TO HELL

BY STEVE DUNN

I am in the process of reading through and reflecting upon the Sermon on the Mount.  Today I found myself in the following text.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.: - Matthew 5.  

We live in an angry, combative and passionately intolerant world today.  Unfounded accusations delivered with virulence, unbridled angry tweeting, the demonization of anyone who does not agree with us--all of become a part of the communication of our culture.

This passage was delivered by Jesus to a 1st century audience that would have contained people who considered themselves religiously superior, others who were tired and/or cowered by such self-righteousness, and others who were relegated to the fringes of their society as sinners and probably chafing under perceived injustice and prejudice they had experienced.

In pronouncing these words, Jesus was not trying to further fuel that contempt and division that marked that 1st century community.  But he WAS attempting to reframe the discussion and open their minds to a difficult truth that their narrow minds had been closed to.

I would say it in this way.  The language of unbridled contempt is the front door to hell for such contempt violates the Law of Love—both of God because it is despising someone for Whom Christ has died and of your neighbor because we are saying that we are worthy of God’s love and respect than another.

Many would, and did, reject this teaching because they were trying to organize their lives and society around the values of a sinful humankind.  Both those then and today, who accept this truth could begin to bring about healing and reconciliation to this troubled American landscape.


© 2019 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 

Monday, March 18, 2019

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS: REBUILDING SEASON

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BY STEVE DUNN

Last Saturday I celebrated my 68th birthday doing something that I really love.  I managed my first trip to Spring Training in almost 10 years.  Dianne and I journeyed to Lakeland FL to spend a week with friends Dennis and Ruth, who have recently retired to Lakeland.  Lakeland is the spring training home of the Detroit Tigers.



Those of you who have followed my blogs for very long know that I a diehard Detroit Tigers fan, the love of both the game and that team planted in my DNA while still a young boy.  The Tigers were hosting the Pirates, the favorite team of my friend Dennis.  The baseball “gods” favored me that day with a Tigers win and my friend Dennis was quite gracious about it.  In fact, he even had arranged for the announcer at Joker Marchant Stadium to wish me a happy birthday.


The joy of that day may be short-lived.  The Tigers are in the second of what may be several “rebuilding” years.  That’s baseballese for “a losing season”, maybe even a “big losing season.” Although Rod Gardenhire’s charges looked pretty good, I suspect there will be some disappointing days ahead in the next few months.



Rebuilding times are often tough to endure.  We have seasons of fruitfulness and success but as the world changes, we find that those changes have rendered us ineffective or out-of-touch.  Successful teams age.  New players come into the league.  Injuries happen and players lose their speed.  For teams to win they often have to stop, shed some old players, disengage from old tactics, and learn how to win in that new day.


In our faith life we can experience the same dynamic.  What used to inspire has lost its edge as we have lived more by habit than expectancy.  Distance from when we first believe has a way of tamping down the holy fire.  The insistence on holding on to past practice keeps us from exercising the faith that steps forward into a fruitful future.


As Christians we affirm the constancy of Christ.  “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.”  But we also embrace the truth that “behold I am making all things news.” Psalm 30:5 tells us, “Weeping may come in the night, but joy comes in the morning.”  The grief and frustration of those times of rebuilding when we are anchored in faith will be bring joy in the morning.  Count on it.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Thursday, February 14, 2019

IN TOO MUCH OF A HURRY



BY STEVE DUNN

Several months ago my wife had a close call.  Traveling home from work on the interstate, she was in the left lane preparing to pass a vehicle ahead on her right.   Suddenly she found an eighteen-wheeler who had pulled up on her right attempting to pass her.  She was not traveling slowly and the truck was at an even higher rate of speed.  When she did not slow down to let him in, he accelerated and proceeded to push his way into the space in front her that was barely enough to squeeze in a passenger car.  If she had not been alert there could have been a very bad accident caused by a truck driver who was in too much of a hurry.

My wife arrived home shaken and frankly, I was angry.  I have seen too much of that kind of driving on the highway where drivers who are breaking the speed limit already aggressively weave in and out of traffic with utter disregard for the safety of the others sharing the roadway with them.

The dangers of such high speed driving are well documented. In this case the aggressive driving at high speed by this trucker created an even greater danger. From my perspective, however, the deeper problem was the self-centeredness of the driver was and is the deeper problem.  He was going to do what he wanted to do and everyone else had to live with it.

Jesus had some pointed words about self-centeredness. "Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it." (Luke 17.33)  When we try to control our lives and circumstances so that we always win, so that someone else pays the price for our convenience and desires; we will ultimately lose.

Why, because this is neither the desire nor the plan of our Creator.  Self-centeredness in the Bible is equated replacing God's will with our egos.  There is no room for self-centeredness in our lives.  God has designed us to serve others, to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Paul's words reinforce that: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” -Philippians 2.3-4

God created us and redeemed us to reflect Christ in the world.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer called Jesus as a "man for others."

It's time to slow down, abandon our mad pursuit of our own desires--and be the person God desires us to be.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

HERE COME THOSE PESKY FACEBOOK PROPHETS

This has become a very popular recurring feature - Steve


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

I WANT TO SERVE YOU

Part 1 of Series: Journey to Kenya

 
January 15th of this year, my wife Dianne and I joined seven others on a journey to Kenya. We went as tourists and also as teachers to provide some training for pastors.  It was a trip of a lifetime and a life-changing one at all.  Both Dianne and I had traveled to Haiti but neither of us had ever been to any place in Africa. You can only imagine Kenya and your imagination will be inadequate.  You have to be on the ground to even begin to grasp life in Kenya.

The reason is that only on the ground will you meet the people.  The Kenyan people share many similarities to those of in the States but the culture in which they live, their closeness Islamic terrorist hot spots like Somalia, their history, and their economic state are nothing like we encounter in the US.  Kenya is a place of great poverty, some of underneath the gleaming towers of cities like Nairobi.

The city we were located in had no gleaming skyscrapers.  It had many poor people and some you would classify as middle class.  We found no beggars, just hardworking people.  The staff at the hotel where we stayed was just such people.  They worked long hours--at least 12 hours a day-often not finishing until nine in the evening.  And then there were the overnight people, who we sometimes found were daytime people.  They worked diligently, accommodating our requests, and also with a smile. As Christians, we tried to treat them with respect.

One morning, I arrived for breakfast quite early.  My body never managed to get used to living in  
a time zone eight hours ahead of mine back in Pennsylvania.

Breakfast was a buffet, something unusual for up country Kenya.  Normally they served us every single dish but the necessities of our conference and the number of participants arriving for a meal at the same time, required some adjustments.  I had let a waiter serve me coffee, but after ordering my eggs, I headed to the buffet to pick up my breakfast fruit plate.  Matthew, one of the waiters stopped me after I had barely taken a step.

"Please sit down, I want to serve you."

My journey to the buffet would have taken barely ten steps but I sat down and said, "Thank you." Quickly, a smiling Matthew placed a plate of that wondrous Kenyan fresh fruit in front me.  Of course, I like being waited on but I have no trouble serving myself.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed the rest of my breakfast with Matthew serving me every step of the way.

Later, one of my traveling companions when hearing my story, said.  "Given the context of what happened, that was a significant act of service.  You see, he works from 9 to 9 but he arrived more than three hours early to serve you and the rest of us."


Sacrificial servanthood is a disappearing value in our culture and even in the church.  We have become a nation of takers, not givers,  We think too highly of ourselves to inconvenience ourselves in serving.  Sadly, Jesus clear words to us are sliding from our spiritual DNA.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” - Mark 10.45

Paul reinforced this core value in his letter to the Galatians:

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. - Galatians 5.13

It's a lesson we need to learn again.  Thankful that Matthew has.






Monday, February 4, 2019

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS: A BRIDGE TOO FAR


Two weeks ago Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a New York statute making abortion legal—not at the standard up to 24 weeks, but until the baby emerges from the womb.  One of friends on Facebook who tries to be sensitive to women’s rights, felt compelled to comment on New York’s action to be “a bridge too far.”

In the last two weeks Rhode Island and Vermont are moving toward towards similar legislation.  Rhode Island’s bill opens to door to post-birth abortion.  Now Virginia is engaged in a similar legislative debate. (It should be noted that these are states that are controlled by the Democrats, who have long made abortion rights on their agendas.)

Today I learned that the Girl Scouts are now participating in a pro-abortion event sponsored by Planned Parenthood.  It is not too hard to imagine that the outbreak of such actions, coming on the heels of the  Democratic Party’s taking control of the House, are an orchestrated effort.

I am a person who believes in the Sanctity of Life which unfortunately has become one side of a political argument with the other side being called “Pro-Choice.”

I make no apologies that my views on abortion are rooted in my faith.  I believe that God is Life.  There life, as a gift from God, is sacred.  And we have laws limiting the taking of life because life is sacred.

I whole-heartedly agree with these two statements.


David wrote centuries ago: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." Psalm 139:13
Jeremiah reminded us that we had a purpose even in the womb, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

 Mother Theresa has said, “A nation that kills its babies in the womb has lost its soul.”  I could not agree  more.  Life Matters.  Let’s defend life passionately.