Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?"
- Mark 2:19

A wedding is a time for celebration, not grievng. It is a time for great rejoicing, not disciplined self-examination. Life is filled with times and seasons. They arrive, stay for a while, and end. Each season has its perspective and its purpose. We do best when we embrace those seasons and live within them gladly instead of longing for the next to arrive.
Each season has its particular outcome or fruitfulness depending upon that purpose. When we refuse to live within the character of a season. We miss much of what it has to offer.

Fourteen months ago I found myself in the midst of a vacation, a period of time longer than is generally available to me (or than I permit myself to take). I found that I had to "work" to stay within the vacation mode because of the workaholic that resides deep within me. The only thing I brought from work were some professional books I had long wanted to read and my day planner. I only opened the latter to record a note or thought, so that I could release it--and I resisted using it for any long-range purposes. By the discipline of staying "within the season" I felt free to sit on the beach with my wife drinking in the sun; experiencing the adventure of exploring new surroundings, and even testing my meager photographic skills. I simply enjoyed the detachment and abandonment of being on vacation. When I returned to a season of work--it was without weariness or dread.

What season do you find yourself in? Embrace it and see what God will do in your life throught it.

This posting is a devotional is published on behalf of the Church or God of Landisville and its friends. (C) 2009 by Stephen L. Dunn. All rights reserved. To subscribe by regular email feed, send a email to with the word SUBSCRIBE. You can also go to the regular blogspot http://www.drstevesdevotional.blogspot.com/ and register as a FOLLOWER


It's 3:14 am and I cannot sleep. Staying in a hotel while attending a church conference meeting. Decided my restlessness might disturb my roomates, so I went to the business center here at the Day's Inn to do some blog work. I had a post called "Fantasy Baseball" that I had started on April 15th (after finally finishing my taxes) and saved. Finished it and posted it, but the blogger decided to post it as an April 15th publication. So you might have missed it. Scroll down the blog 2-3 days and you will find it. Still trying to figure out the mechanics of this blogging world.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

This post comes from a friend, Micah Brickner, who publishes a blog called ORANGE FAITH.

The More You Know

Posted by orangefaith in , , , , ,

Today in Mechanicsburg many people gathered to celebrate a belated Earth Day. It was a very interesting celebration with music, food, green merchandise. The environmentalist craze has become, well... exactly that: a craze. It makes me think about how God has always been an environmentalist. God created this world and He said it was good. God loved/still loves His creation.

When God created Adam He gave Adam dominion over God's creation. (Genesis 2:15) Some translations use the word "care" instead of dominion, but I prefer the word dominion. This literally means that we have been made rulers over the land. Many people interpret this wrongly by choosing to believe that it means we can abuse God's creation. Masters do not care about their slaves, they only care about the economy that the slaves produce and feed through their labor. And so many people have come to believe that this was what God meant when He called mankind to be lords over the land.

Jesus tells us that a master is no greater than his slave. (John 13:16) If we learn to love God and love people, this also means that we need to learn to love His creation. If we are the master and creation is our slave, should we not care for it with the same tenderness that we have towards our brothers and sisters? It is true that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, but we still have to live here in the mean time. We still need to drink this water, breathe this air, eat this food.

You can call me a hippy, but it does not bother me. God wants us to be good stewards with all of our resources. If God wanted to destroy this planet He could do it without the assistance of mankind. While God is very much alive in our lives, He expects to not just sit around waiting for Him to clean the lakes and recycle our bottles. In a changing world where caring for the environment has become popular, we have a duty to show people that we as the church also care for God's creation. This is just another way of showing our love to the world.

The more you know.


In 1992 Bill Clinton ran against sitting President, George H. Bush. As in all elections, the candidates postured to have particular issues define the race. Out of that particular election came a memorable expression that seems to define what's on the minds of people in 2009. "It's the economy, stupid!"

Our economy has been in turmoil now for almost a year. Even ordinary people watch the ups and downs of the Dow Jones average. People struggle to keep homes and pay utility bills and worry whether or not they will have a job tomorrow. Others know they will not have a job tomorrow and live under the dark cloud of a larger economy that seems to be trashing their personal economy. Cars go unrepaired, medicines unpurchased, vacations untaken.

When the economy is bad, people have great difficulty in generating enthusiasm for anything that they cannot control or that might cost them more they than desire. Churches can suffer from this. Maintenance becomes more important than vision. Taking care of ourselves supplants the needs of our neighbor. Generosity becomes optional. The desire for caution sometimes borders on the absurd. The possibilities of human ability define ministry. No need to expect God to do the impossible.

That's why people who choose to live by faith can have such a powerful witness. When the priests carrying the ark stepped into the swollen waters of the Jordan, God rolled back the waters to let them enter the Promised Land. People of faith show what God can do even in a bad economy, Their generosity reminds their neighbor that sacrifice is still a core value. Their outward focus still shows that love never fails. Their concern for others reverses the "every man for himself" tide that swells up and drowns the weak and helpless.

Even a tough economy is a catalyst for powerful ministry, when Christians live by the faith they profess.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I am blessed to serve what Lyle Schaller calls a "seven-day-a-week church." There is rarely an evening and NO day when the church doesn't have some form of ministry going on. This week the church bustled with its normal outreach activities--the Agape Center for youth, the Christian FLOW Center for senior citizens. Today our Preschool Gym will be in operation and the Agape Center will open for middle schoolers. Tomorrow night our Agape Kids (serving elementary age kids) will fill our gym. Saturday our Tsaile VBS Team has a benefit auction at 4:00 pm to help raise monies to operate a Bible school for the Navajos. Sunday morning will be the normal church stuff--normal? Sunday afternoon we will celebrate the life of one of our oldest members, Sam Bender, a World War II hero, who went home to be with the Lord Tuesday. Tuesday night we even had a wedding--at Worship Band rehearsal as Carl Scillia, our drummer was married to Carol Hunt.

The BIG EVENT for us was the celebration of the 5th birthday of our Christian FLOW Center, a monthly ministry to the senior citizens of the Hempfield area that regularly attracts 125-35 people. Pastor Barry Sellers, my Associate heads this up. Congratulations!

And don't forget to support the TSAILE VBS AUCTION. Some really neat things provided by our church members and Lancaster County businesses.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


During the 2008 baseball season, veteran manager Jim Leyland led the Detroit Tigers to the American League pennant. He had taken over the helm of a baseball team that come within a game of setting the modern day record for the most losses by a baseball team in a single season.

Leyland is a leather-faced, chain-smoking "old school" manager, who emphasized hard work and fundamentals. He believed in his players' abilities and demanded that they live up to their potential and play like professionals. He was outspoken and blunt. Loyal to his players, he had already won a World Series with the Florida Marlins. His personal success kept him from being enamored by any superstar. It kept the superstars from thinking they could dismiss him or control him.

His team did not win the World Series. That honor went to the St. Louis Cardinals. Two years later, despite a tremendous spending spree by the front office, his team began the season with one of the most abysmal starts on record. Although he had one of the most awesome lineups in the major leagues, too many players started too late performing at their potential and his pitching staff failed him utterly. Leyland remained unchanged. He took control of his team in such a way that he did not let them descend into mediocrity. He challenged them to live up to their potential ... and his pitchers to stop thinking they were entitled to their jobs.

The 2009 season is still just two weeks old, but already the Tigers are beginning to be the team everyone thought they should be in 2008. And if Jim's leadership skills remain as potent as they have been, you could very well have a repeat of this photo come October.

John Maxwell once said, "Everything rises and falls on leadership." The test of a leader is not triumph but adversity. As Solomon wrote in Proverbs 24:10, "If you fall apart in a crisis, there wasn't much to you in the first place." The Message Translation


Have you ever been really tired? Worn out, too tired to care tired?

As I write this post it is Sunday night and I'm tired. I had a busy day that found me in my study at the church at 5:00 am. I had one more thing to do on a sermon, and then a dozen little clean-up items that needed to be accomplished before worship began. By the time worship began at 8.15 it was already more than three hours into my work day.

Being a pastor and the act of preaching take a lot out of me physically and emotionally. It's always been the case. Even early in the ministry, the most treasured use of a Sunday afternoon was a good nap on the couch watching the football game. At age 58 that need for some rest has grown. Today, however, was a challenge because I ended worship providing spiritual encouragement to someone in distress, went on to a 45-minute meeting of my Finance Commission, stopped at my bank to solve a problem, picked up lunch for my wife and I (she was not well today). By the time I stopped moving at 2:30 pm (9 and a half hours since starting), I was too tired even to nap.

God tell us that we are not meant for relentless activity. We need to work, but we also need to rest. When people are too tired, it becomes too easy to make mistakes and even sin--because we are too tired we often stop listening closely for the quiet voice of God.

Tim Hansel once said, "We are human beings not human doings." Jesus said, "Come to me all you who are weary and weighed down and I will give you rest."

So when you are particularly tired from the demands of living--you need particularly to rest in the Lord.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I love the game of baseball. I revel in its lengthy season. I delight in its strategies and its statistics. I learn the names of players. I even remember who among my friends roots for what team. I gladly go to a baseball game--whether it is our minor league Lancaster Barnstormers or the Philapdelphia Phillies, my close at hand major league favorite. I will travel to an ENEMY ballpark to see my beloved Detroit Tigers.

This year I took the plunge and began playing MLB Fantasy Baseball. I am the manager of the Landisville Sluggers--undefeated and in a tie for 1st in the East. Fantasy baseball is all about statistics. The only strategy here is reading the trends and developments and posting a line-up with the potential to generate the highest stats over a seven day period. This is the sporting world's equivalent of playing the stock market except your portfolio is totally imaginary. An interesting side effect is you begin to root for more than one team, so its players on your roster can gain the success you need to succeed. This is the sporting world's equivalent of globalization. Interdependence is the key to success in fantasy baseball.

Attention to detail, being aware of what's going on now in the world (in this case the sporting world), embracing interdependence, taking joy in the process - these are values that have great signifiance as they become our personal modus operandi (mode of operation to those of you with no Latin). Maybe we all can learn a little something from fantasy baseball.

Monday, April 13, 2009


From Rebecca Pippert comes these powerful words about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

"...Christ came. He visited planet Earth---like a meteor from outer space that struck with such an impact that the world has never been the same since. But that was only the beginning. When the worst the world could muster--death--was brought down on him, he rose from the dead. Yes, he blasted it open, brushed it aside and now the entire universe will never be the same. Where once it was a claustrophobic death-locked cell, a gaping hole for freedom has been torn by the resurrection. Those two events, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, have changed everything." from Hope Has Its Reasons, pp. 115

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Every author/blogger wants to know - "Is anybody out there reading this thing?" There's something highly motivating to know that someone goes to the trouble to access your thoughts.

The best way to let me know is to go the "Followers" box on the right hand side of the blog. Tap the FOLLOWERS WIDGET and then follow the instructions. If you sign on as a follower it won't give away your private address, etc. but it will either use your screen name (sdunnpastor) or simply your name (Steve).

The second best way is to use the POST feature at the bottom and post a comment. (If you want that comment to be private it--send it to me by email at sdunnpastor@coglandisville.org.

Or you can simply email me and say "Steve, I'm reading this thing!"

Thursday, April 9, 2009


"It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had comefor him to leave this world and go to the Father, Having loved his own who were in the world, he know showed the full extent of his love ... he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples feet ..." - John 13:1,4b-5a New International Version

My church belongs to the stream of Christianity that practices the Ordinance of Feet Washing. Maundy Thursday (the night of the Last Supper) is the primary time that we practice it. It is a simple service where we humbly and prayerfully wash one another's feet in remembrance and obedient to this act of Jesus towards his disciples. Verse 14 carries that particular admonition, "Now that I, your Lord andd Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet."

All rituals serve the purpose of anchoring us to the key truths of our faith. Feet Washing is that ritual which connects us--in fact, grips us--with a key core value in Christianity. We are called to be servants. Jesus himself was teaching and modeling servantood. It is at the heart of his ministry to us and for us. "...the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28).

Philippians 2 describes what some call "the humiliation of Christ," "he took the form of a servant and humbled himself even unto death on a cross."

The Lord's Supper is the ritual that reminds us that God has forgiven our sins, reconciling us to Himself through Christ. Feet Washing is the ritual that reminds us how Christ accomplished that--and also, how we are to respond to his act of service.

Want to talk more? Post a comment or email at sdunnpastor@coglandisville.org. (Never seen a Feet Washing Service? Join us tonight at the Landisville Church of God, 171 Church Street in Landisville at 7.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Oooppss ... No Palm Branches

We just passed through Palm Sunday. This is the beginning of Holy Week, the most important week in the Christian calendar. After 2000 years, we tend to have the routine down pat. Wave palms, sing Hosanna on the first Sunday, remind people of the importance of praise and the fickleness of the praise of men. Next there's Maundy Thursday--bread and cup (in our church feetwashing) and darkening the sanctuary at the end. Good Friday, somber crosses, reverent reflections, hammering of nails, thinking about death and graves, Easter morning ... lilies, magnificent praise songs, empty tombs, full churches being reminded that death is swallowed up in victory ... thanks be to God!

Except at my church this year, there were no palms waved. Nothing was waved except some worship flags in the contemporary service. Somebody forgot to order the palms. (Actually, the person who has handled this for six years is taking a leave from worship ministry to get some rest.) I noticed, just before the 8.15 service. My worship chairman commented right after the service. Nobody else seemed to notice at all - or if so, kept it to themselves (until one young lady who had brought her Catholic mother to the service with her stopped in my office to ask about the missing palms. Her mother had noticed because in her tradition, she places a palm behind the cross on her mantle until the next Lenten season (which is next year).

Roger, my worship chairman and I, had briefly talked of explaining it as a cost cutting measure during the economic downturn. In the end we settled for transparency ... someone forgot to order the palms. In some churches this would considered a major offense against ritual. It would be grounds for flogging or at the very least a two-hour board meeting. In a week in which we affirms God's unconditional love and amazing grace, a little forgiveness and mercy seems more appropriate.

A religion is not its rituals, at least not Christianity. Rituals are intended to be tools to anchor us to and remind us that which is at the heart and foundation of our faith. God never wanted us to worship the ritual, He wanted us to worship Him. Whenever we begin worshiping our rituals we engage in an exercise in missing the point.

Sometimes I think makes us mess up our rituals so we will once again be reminded of what is really important ... a relationship with Him.

Question: Do you have a thought about the place of ritual or a question, please email me at sdunnpastor@coglandisville.org.