Friday, February 25, 2011


A follow-up to yesterday's post of the interview with Bono on grace over karma.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Via Ed Stetzer's blog I came across a fascinating blog called THE POACHED EGG. It contained excerpts from a fascinating interview by U2's Bono. Here is that post (with its links noted above). Especially check out THE POACHED EGG. I've now subscribed.

      Bono Interview: Grace Over Karma

            (Excerpt from the book Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas)
Bono_Rose_Colored_GlassesBono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don't let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that's my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that's not so easy.

Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn't so "peace and love"?

Bono: There's nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that's why they're so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you're a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.

Assayas: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.

Bono: I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It's often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?

Assayas: I was wondering if you said all of that to the Pope the day you met him.

Bono: Let's not get too hard on the Holy Roman Church here. The Church has its problems, but the older I get, the more comfort I find there. The physical experience of being in a crowd of largely humble people, heads bowed, murmuring prayers, stories told in stained-glass windows

Assayas: So you won't be critical.

Bono: No, I can be critical, especially on the topic of contraception. But when I meet someone like Sister Benedicta and see her work with AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, or Sister Ann doing the same in Malawi, or Father Jack Fenukan and his group Concern all over Africa, when I meet priests and nuns tending to the sick and the poor and giving up much easier lives to do so, I surrender a little easier.

Assayas: But you met the man himself. Was it a great experience?

Bono: [W]e all knew why we were there. The Pontiff was about to make an important statement about the inhumanity and injustice of poor countries spending so much of their national income paying back old loans to rich countries. Serious business. He was fighting hard against his Parkinson's. It was clearly an act of will for him to be there. I was oddly moved by his humility, and then by the incredible speech he made, even if it was in whispers. During the preamble, he seemed to be staring at me. I wondered. Was it the fact that I was wearing my blue fly-shades? So I took them off in case I was causing some offense. When I was introduced to him, he was still staring at them. He kept looking at them in my hand, so I offered them to him as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me.

Assayas: Didn't he put them on?

Bono: Not only did he put them on, he smiled the wickedest grin you could ever imagine. He was a comedian. His sense of humor was completely intact. Flashbulbs popped, and I thought: "Wow! The Drop the Debt campaign will have the Pope in my glasses on the front page of every newspaper."

Assayas: I don't remember seeing that photograph anywhere, though.

Bono: Nor did we. It seems his courtiers did not have the same sense of humor. Fair enough. I guess they could see the T-shirts.

Later in the conversation:
Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

Bono: Yes, I think that's normal. It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven't heard you talk about that.

Bono: I really believe we've moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Assayas: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I'd be interested to hear that.

Bono: That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep s---. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.

Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there's a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let's face it, you're not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled . It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Assayas: That's a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it's close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world's great thinkers. But Son of God, isn't that farfetched?

Bono: No, it's not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying I'm a prophet. I'm saying: "I'm the Messiah." I'm saying: "I am God incarnate." And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You're a bit eccentric. We've had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don't mention the "M" word! Because, you know, we're gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you're expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he's gonna keep saying this. So what you're left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we're talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we've been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had "King of the Jews" on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I'm not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that's farfetched

Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:
Bono: If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s--- and everybody else's. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that's the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


It has been my privilege to go to Haiti twice in my life. Once in 1978, then again in 1998. (Guess I'm due.)  People from my churches and many of my friends have been drawn to Haiti because of their love for Jesus Christ and the passion that has created for people in that island nation that are among the least, the last, and the lost of this planet.  Steve Mossburg is the director of my church's ministries in Haiti.  Recently he shared a post from one of his staffers that begins with great humor and ends up with profound reminders of what people on a mission for God can do for others.  Here is a portion of the post:

#5. You don't have to spend time thinking about what you will cook for super, it will be rice & beans. Two thirds of the worlds population if they eat at all will consume rice at possibly their only daily meal.

#4. You won't have to waste money on a watch. Since we are close to the Equator we get nearly 12 hours of light and 12 of darkness. If you like to know approximately what time it is the sun rises a little before 6:00 am and it sets at around 6:00 pm. Honestly just make your life easy forget the watch nothing ever starts and no one ever shows up on time.

#3. You will gain a greater appreciation of your own government and maybe even your politicians. Government services here are non existence for the most part. No dependable water, sewer, garbage, electric, no highway department nor postal services. Police protection and fairness under the court systems depends on who you know and who you pay.

#2. Learn how to get your priorities in order. In America we spend a lifetime preparing to retire and not going to work everyday. In Haiti they spend a lifetime hoping to find enough work each day so they can feed themselves and their family, retirement is not an option.

#1. Florida just isn't that warm in the winter anymore. No debating global warming here in Haiti it is always warm and I don't see that changing. December through March are the best months with daytime temperatures around 85 and nights occasionally dropping to 70.

Seriously there really are good reasons to come to Haiti so let me do a second list from the perspective of a missionary:

#5. Impacting lives.
It never ceases to amaze me how those who come go away more blessed than when they arrived. I know this because I get e-mails or hear it directly from them during devotions. Seeing tears roll down faces and hearing emotional testimonies is common occurrence from those who come here. In January we had 2 men on separate teams who upon returning home discovered they might be facing life threatening health issues, not because of their having been here. Yet I can't get out of my mind that God brought them here specifically for a reason to draw them close to Him and see them through a difficult time.
#4. Saving lives.
We have a medical team here this week they arrived on Saturday evening. Early Sunday morning they were awakened to an emergency, a multiple vehicle wreck has left one dead at the scene , one dead after arrival at the hospital , one critical insured with a severed intestine and several with minor injuries. The critically insured remains alive because of that team of surgeons were there at Pierre Payen.

#3. Priceless moments
Maybe you remember the Master Card commercial where they put a price on different things you might use your credit card on but then finish with something you can't put a price tag on. A smile, a laugh, a cherished moment those times in a persons life that are remembered forever. Those happen all the time on the mission field they are what keep us missionaries from burning out from the difficulties of working here.

#2. Discovering God among his people
It has been said if you want to really encounter God you have to go and discover where He is working. A good place to start is on the mission field.

The best reason for coming to Haiti or any other mission field is :

#1. Making disciples who make a difference.
This just happens to be our mission statement here at Project Help-Haiti. Though we do lots of ministry work the bottom line is we desire to lead people to be followers of Christ and through our discipling they become agents of change for their country and beyond. It seems like the Holy Spirit is moving in a powerful way from the reports I'm getting from our missionaries. Dozens have been led to and accepted Christ as their Savior the last several weeks even those on short term missions teams have been involved in these wonderful events.


Monday, February 21, 2011


The Obama Administration continues to take steps that further complicates the ability of medical care workers and faith-based health care from operating consistently within their values.  Such intrusion often means that faith-based care and the faith of the workers must operate in ways that violate their conscience. In this case, under the guise of clarifying, Health and Human Services appears to be taking unwarranted steps. Writing in Christianity Today On-Line, Sarah Pulliam Bailey wrote this week:

The Obama administration has changed a George W. Bush provision that was created to allow health workers to opt out of services they find objectionable on religious grounds, Rob Stein of the Washington Post reports. The change maintains the provision that allows workers to refrain from performing abortions.
The Health and Human Services Department eliminated nearly the entire rule put into effect by the administration of President George W. Bush during his final days in office that was widely interpreted as allowing such workers to opt out of a broad range of medical services, such as providing the emergency contraceptive Plan B, treating gay men and lesbians and prescribing birth control to single women.

Calling the Bush-era rule "unclear and potentially overbroad in scope," the new, much narrower version essentially leaves in place only long-standing federal protections for workers who object to performing abortions or sterilizations. It also retains the Bush rule's formal process for workers to file complaints.
 She goes on to quote Dr. Scott Ries of the Christian Medical Association:

Dr. J. Scott Ries, CMA's vice president, said in a statement that the decision "threatens to make the situation far worse for patients across the country who depend on faith-based health care."
The administration has made changes in a vital civil rights regulation without evidence or justification. The administration presented no evidence of any problems in healthcare access, prescriptions or procedures that have occurred in the two years since the original regulation's enactment that would justify any change in this protective regulation.
Read Sarah's article at CT.        There continues to be a not-so-subtle culture war that selectively supports individual rights, and too often is biased against the rights of people to operate consistently within their faith values.  This is a slippery slope.

My Buckeyes to give me great joy, although in the rugged Big Ten (one of top two college basketball leagues in the nation for quality and competitiveness--the other being the Big East) going unbeaten is pretty much impossible.  They racked up 24 straight wins before falling to Wisconsin in Madison (where the Badgers have been unbeaten for more than two seasons).  Yesterday they traveled to Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, a venue where the Boilermakers have been unbeaten this season). The outcome was a Purdue Victory.  Uncharacteristically college shooting and a higher than usual number of turnovers and a player who scored 38 points that the Buckeyes could not shut down.  This is truly one of the great Buckeye basketball teams and what makes them great is their ability to find a way to keep winning, but even more, the utter unselfishness of these players.  Two senior and at least three freshman who would be stars in their own right anywhere, who seem able to pass on their own glory to give it up to a teammate who simply has a better shot.  That and awesome defense.  Thad Motta has insisted on a withering man-to-man effort instead of the usual college zone defenses. Even when they lose a rare one, they are a joy to watch.

First it was Tunisia, then Egypt.  This week Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, and even Iran.  The Middle East is turmoil. Peoples who have repressed by dictators and autocratic monarchies have begun to flex their muscle expressing long-suppressed dreams of greater freedom.  This is a dangerous time in that part of the world and in the world in general.  Even China had to act quickly to quell unrest.  See China.
We should not be too quick to tout this as a triumph for democracy or the unleashing of a new wave of freedom.  The Middle East has never been a hotbed of democracy and parties in power often use that power to enforce their way of life or their agendas.  If anything, it is a time for people of prayer to pray.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Karen Spears Zacharias wrote a powerful post, "Praying With Stranger." In it she shared these thoughts:

"Sometimes it’s like we are all walking through a House of Mirrors, trying to determine which reflection is really us, unaware that every single one of those images is distorted because we are staring at the wrong thing. To really see ourselves we have to step away from the mirrors of self, and get face-to-face with God.

The mystery of us is revealed only when it’s God’s face we seek, not our own." 
Read more

The Bible teaches us that God is our Creator. It also teaches that we are created in His image.  This does not mean that we are gods. It means that we were created to reflect the nature and character of God. It is our identity and our purpose, to be mirror images in the flesh of the One Who created us out of love to be people of His love in a world that He loves for whom He is even willing to die.

Blaise Pascal once wrote, "In each of us there is a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill." That is never so true as when we seek to understand ourselves.  We are not accidents of the universe. We are people who are designed to bring God's blessing to the universe.  Life truly begins--New Life, Abundant Life, Eternal Life-- when finally come to see that about ourselves.

Paul wrote these words of image and purpose:  "For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are." (Romans 8:19)  When we begin to seek the face of God, God reveals that truth to us and we can take the step to become who we really are.           

Saturday, February 19, 2011


"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." - Galatians 6:2

Friday, February 18, 2011


Lynn Byers is a nurse working on a medical mission at Adventiste Hospital in Port-au-Prince.  She is a member of my congregation and has extended her stay until September (she arrived September 2010). Many of us follow her blog MISSIONARY NURSE HAITI for a personal look at what is happening in that nation.  Here is a post typical of what she is sharing. - Steve
31 Jan 11 (2220)

Lord, life is so short & our lives can be taken away at any moment. This past week has taught me that. We had another patient die today. He was the 55 year old quadriplegic patient I explained earlier. He was in a motorcycle accident on December 25th. He was seen by a hospital, but sent home. They brought him here January 19th in hopes of doing surgery on his neck. They decided he didn't need surgically stabilized; that it would just heal by a brace. In the meantime, he came in with a huge pressure sore (bed sore) on his coccyx (it was all covered with eschar). We were just doing a wet-to-dry dressing, but then he started spiking temps that they couldn't find infection anywhere else & it started draining foul smelling green drainage. So they debrided it 2 times in the OR and it was fine. Today, around noon, we changed the wound vac at the bedside and the wound looked good (no signs of infection. It was deep stage IV down to the bone). But his vital signs were good that morning and for the last 3 days. I reemphasized that the patient will never walk again because his nerve had been damaged and that can't be fixed. I told him & his family no matter how the bone is fixed (by surgery or by brace), that won't make him walk again. Because they were thinking of taking him to another country to get the bone surgery, so I think this was the first time they actually understood why he could never walk again. No more than 30 minutes later, his family found me downstairs to tell me he's not breathing. I got the doctor up there & gave him an ampu bag while I ran to look for other supplies. I ran around for 10 minutes (because nothing is organized here) but the minute I got back up, the anesthesiologist pronounced him dead. They had all the intubation supplies there but it was too late. Everything just happened so fast, I didn't know what to think. I had never seen anything like that. Someone who was stable, just stop breathing. They think he either died of a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot stuck in his lung) or his neck got turned the wrong way & the nerve that controls the diaphragm was injured. I think it hit me so hard because I had just interacted with him and changed his dressing.

Some of the translators were saying that this patient had told them he couldn't live like this anymore. It was a lesson to me, when I give really bad news, that I should offer to pray with the patient after wards. We can't wait because we don't know, they could die anytime after. It was a hard lesson for me and we did pray with the family after he passed, but we never can bring back the chance to do it beforehand. When I was taking out his foley & wound vac, I had the son help me turn the body, but his son asked to leave because he didn't want to see the wound again. All I could do was give his sons a hug because I had spent time with his family & gotten to know them. After the family left with his body (it's the families responsibility in Haiti to take the body in whatever transportation they can find, including the tap-taps), I found a letter under the head of his bed. I asked Orphee to tell me what it said. She said it was a prayer, but not to God. She made me throw it away right away because I think it was some type of voo-doo saying. The patient's pastor did come & pray with them, but I've heard a lot of people practice Voo-doo while claiming to follow Christ. So, all I can do is lift up with family in prayer to God, our rock & redeemer. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011


"But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." - Acts 2:24

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Perhaps you had this experiencing growing up as a child.  You are lingering at the dinner table. No, that's not right. No child lingers at the dinner table. He's got places to go, things to do. If the meal is nearly over and a boy is still at the table, he's stalling. Stalling because there is something still on his plate that we wishes would simply go away.  He has no intention of eating it, especially now that it has grown cold through his intentional inattention.

But his mother comes from the "clean your plate" school of parenting.  And it's worse. She has planned a balanced diet for his long-term health. He wants to settle for imbalance because her plan includes some things he is convinced are not worth the stomach space.

The clock is ticking. Mom is not going to ignore his subtle culinary rebellion.  Having a modicum of parent effectiveness training, she first tries a simple straightforward command, "Finish your food."  A whine erupts and she moves to squelch it with logic. "Just eat it. It's good for you."  Obviously he has a different measure of what is good for him and silence ensues, hoping that his mother will see his logic.

She does not. But now she tries to appeal to his social conscience. "You need to eat this food. You are fortunate." And then comes the tag line, "Think of all the starving children in India."

My Mom and I repeated that scenario many a time when I was a young boy. She loved things like stewed tomatoes, spinach, and meat loaf.  I couldn't stand them.  I came from a pastor's family, so my Mom's approach was a little more sophisticated. "Think of all the starving children in Bangladesh."

I could be strong-willed. "Name one!" Mom never had a good answer to that one.

Be careful what you ask for.  My family regularly entertained missionaries home on furlough.  One evening, a  missionary from Bangladesh, Rhoda Kauffman was sitting across the table from me.  I forget what was on the menu, but Mom launched a first strike. "Rhoda, could you give Steve the name of a starving child in Bangladesh?"

Rhoda named several.  Busted!

Thereafter, I could no longer use that defiant response, because Mom would name one.

(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


April 15, 2009 I published a post on LIFE MATTERS called "Fantasy Baseball" which was one of my most read of all time on this blog. Just this week I signed up my next season's Fantasy baseball teams and the draft has occurred. Now we're in preseason trades.  Thought I'd repost this one in honor of the opening of the 2011 MLB Fantasy Baseball Season.

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 Philadelphia 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 significance 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.


This is a special Tuesday Edition of Monday Morning Reflections-I'll be interested in your comments and reflections. - Steve

There is almost universal agreement these days that we need to develop a fair and equitable health care system that is accessible to the citizenry. The plan designed by the Obama administration and passed by Congress, however, will not be it.  This past week Federal Judge Roger Vinson struck down the law empowering this new health care plan.  Judge Vinson wrote:

“I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate. That is not to say, of course, that Congress is without power to address the problems and inequities in our health care system."

“Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void. This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications,” Vinson wrote, adding, “At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

Mr. Obama's health care plan aside, as I think of the inequities existing in the present free market system, I still believe we must find some system that enables our citizenry to basic health care. I am mindful of the burden that mandatory systems place on the small business person; but I also know families that would have been bankrupted in the past year simply because their newborns had a serious problem at birth.  I know elderly persons have to decide between food and heat and paying for their medicines or making a needed doctor's visit.  In society that indulges itself in all manner of high tech communications tools that trivialize our lives or expand our capacity for leisure, why do we begrudge a tax dollar that might actually some form of quality period to a person not blessed with the best knees or heart.

Mubarak has left the building.  Egypt is now essentially in the hands of its military to work towards the goal of democracy for that vital Muslim Nation. The question now is how the military, Egypt's most powerful institution, will handle the transition in power. A military spokesman, in a brief televised statement Friday, said it will not act as a substitute for a "legitimate" government and would later announce measures and arrangements to introduce the changes Egyptians want.One of those measures was to insure stability in the Middle East by reaffirming the peace treaty with Israel.  This is a pragmatic step that will allow Egypt to focus on recovering from Mubarak's authoritarian reign. The US now has a chance to exert some positive influence here, genuinely affirming democracy for this nation. It will have to tread carefully on a tough road, however, because under Mubarak, political organizing and formal opposition was forbidden outside the mosques.  The Muslim Brotherhood, no friend to democracy and the West has a head start on the kind of organizing needed to gain power in democratic elections.

People like to put Christianity under microscope, hoping to identify its defects.  Rarely do people understand that "the Church" is not some monolithic institution seeking to perpetuate hypocrisy on the planet; but people who live as authentic disciples simply seeking daily what Jesus would do.  Here is a FACEBOOK post from my friend George Spangler, Pastor of the Camp Hill PA Church of God just a couple of days ago.  It is the "church" being the church.

Since I leave for church much early than my wife and kids, they meet me in between services for Sunday School. When I got to SS class, no wife . . .so I texted her and turns out she was going to be late . .. Why I wondered? Well she and the kids stopped to buy hot chocolates for the 3 kids from the Four Diamonds Fund who were standing on the street corner "canning". . .Great Stuff... They went to the convenience store, came out with 3 hot chocolates, pushed the walk and do not walk button, crossed the road and handed them the drinks, then they came to church:)

Then there's this bit of creativity on the FACEBOOK page of policeman friend of mine in Pawley's Island SC, Matt Hoffer who has never surrendered his Pennsylvania roots.   Our Father, Who Art in Pittsburgh, Football be Thy Game, Let Mendenhall Run, 6 Superbowls Won, On Earth as it is in Heinz Field. Give Us this Day a Playoff Victory, and Forgive Us Our Penalties, as We Defeat Those Jets (and anyone else in our way) Who Play Against Us. But Lead Us into a Victory, and Deliver Us to Texas. For Thine is the D-Line, the Polamalu, and the Harrison.....A-Ben. GO STEELERS! 

Unfortunately for Matt, Rothlisberger must have forgotten to pray.


Sunday, February 13, 2011


I did not post last Monday. A full Sunday of worship, pastoral care, a discipleship class, and then I, like much of America, watched the Super Bowl. But while I and America were consumed with the Steelers and the Packers, the world kept its eyes apprehensively fixed on the fast-moving developments in Egypt. Here, courtesy of USA Today and Associated Press is a recap from Thursday night.

Courtesy USA Today
Courtesy of USAToday

Events in Egypt may have overtaken this post. It is clear that Egypt stands at a crossroads. It may also be teetering on the brink of civil war.  With Hosni Mubarak essentially refusing to relinquish control, people genuinely interested in democracy in Egypt are nearly apoplectic. People looking for a door to trade an Islamic dictatorship for a secular one are maneuvering to gain power.  I find myself deeply concerned.  The US policy (of both Republican and Democratic administrations) to support dictatorships as a way of containing radical Islam has often simply reinforced the message that America will set aside its so-called founding principles in the interest of a so-called pragmatic foreign policy.  It has often left us out of touch with the lives of the people in those nations and handcuffed in providing genuine world leadership in the world. It has also made unnecessary enemies in places like Iran and Pakistan. It is the accommodation with dictators of any stripe that has been a dangerous hypocrisy in a nation that claims to be the defender of democracy. Mubarak must go and we must make it clear to him and to the Egyptian people that we will not support his continued leadership of that nation.

Note added: Events did overtake this scheduled post. For more info go to EGYPT

Back in America, we have been fixated on more trivial pursuits--the Super Bowl.  I like in Steeler territory, unless you are a die hard Ravens or Eagles fan (both teams are closer to my town than Pittsburgh.) But from the Black and Gold that was even worn to church last Sunday, you would have thought Rothlisberger and crew had a lock on the loyalty of our citizenry.
But in what was one of the best Super Bowl games in many years, the Green Bay Packers emerged as the champs.  Although I lovingly sympathized with my Steeler-oriented parishoners and friends, I found myself glad to see the outcome.  The Packers took their identity under the quality coaching of Vince Lombardi, earning my childhood respect for their hard work and integrity as a team.  I had deeper respect for the Packer management, who rejected Brett Farve's self-serving attempts to "un-retire" and their support of the man who had been patiently waiting to assume the QB mantle in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers. He validated their support by leading the Pack back to football's highest honor.  He truly deserved the Super Bowl MVP award.

And the preceding week, all of this fell far below a more elemental concern--the "elements."  Some of the most brutal and widespread winter weather in modern history (especially if you lived in places like Chicago and Oklahoma) paralyzed business, closed schools repeatedly, and killed many.  The effects of the aftermath, from car repair bills to extended school years to municipal budgets stretched to the limit, are a reminder that we do not have the control of our world that we think.  Unfortunately, as average and middle class Americans struggled to keep their driveways cleared and get to work to earn a paycheck, the poor and the homeless across our land were out of sight and out of mind. They became someone else's concern.  Trust me, this weather wreaked even greater havoc--some of it irreparable--on their lives.  I now have a $600 oil bill, but at least I have a home to heat.  I wonder how that $600 would have benefited them.

In all of this, I think of some words of Jesus. Two sets of words.  I leave you with them ...

"God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God." - Matthew 5:9, New Living Translation.  I remind us that there is no peace in our world when people are still deprived of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' - Matthew 25:40, New International Version.  God judges our love for our neighbor ultimately by our love for the least of our neighbors.

No words from Jesus about the Super Bowl. Jerry Jones thinks God is a Cowboys fan.


Thursday, February 10, 2011


I started this post several weeks back and it got stuck in my “draft” file.  But right now, as many of us, are enjoying the final month of what has been an exciting college basketball season, I thought it would be good to remind you that the college game is intended to help shape character and to embed life-long values.  Jim Valvano is one such leader whose life has come to represent the best of this process.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Brian's Question -  Do you think we could learn more about the history of the world by communicating between religions, to fill in the gaps, instead of trying to figure out which one is right? The arrogance that Faith instills in mankind is powerful and has caused many wars over many years, but would it not be more beneficial to cross-reference?

First of all, I would agree, how people understand their faith can (and has) produce(d) great arrogance. I am not certain whether the arrogance of one's faith has been the cause of many wars or just the arrogance of men who think they know all there is to know about their faith.

I am somewhat curious about your question itself. What are the "gaps?"  It's difficult give a clear answer because it is unclear what you mean by that. Does this mean things that are explained in one faith and not in another? Does this mean that you believe that each faith has part of the truth, but not the whole truth and that somehow if we had the whole truth every one would "see the light" and live by the light?

Here are some initial thoughts on your question:

Knowing the truth (i.e.,, seeing the light or have the knowledge that comes from that truth accessible) does not mean that all of us would choose to live by the truth.  There is a little problem called sin, inherent, according to the Bible, in each and everyone of us.  The famous anglocatholic scholar, G.K. Chesterton once wrote: "The doctrine of original sin is the only philosophy empirically validated by centuries of recorded human history."

Then there is the sociological evidence about the impact of sin upon people's decision-making.  Rebecca Manley Pippert has written "Human beings have an amazing capacity for denial and rationalization."  In other words, we are perfectly capable to denying obvious truth--especially when it challenges our personal assumptions and preferences.  We are can see our lives as exceptions to every rule, because postmodern people see truth as relative, subjectively based on experience instead of eternal, grounded in an objective fact that is beyond our personal definition or control.

The next observation is that sometimes there is only one right answer. And whether people like it or not, it is not Christians who say that Jesus is the only way to God. It is Jesus himself.  "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me."

Final observation. To quote Henry Blackaby, "Truth is not a fact. It is a person."  Christians believe that they have a relationship, not a religion. The relationship is with the Living God, the Resurrected Jesus.  It is more than simply a set of facts that we have acquiesced to for our own good.  It is a Person who has transformed our lives.  It is more than information, it is a lifestyle that has reasons beyond bullet points in an argument.  Blaise Pascal said it best, "The heart has reasons that Reason does not know."

This question probably has more to it from your perspective so send me your comments and I will try and expand into a more appropriate answer.

(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn

Saturday, February 5, 2011


 Karen Spears Zacharias pointed me to a new blog and these profound words:

"Poor communication doesn’t disconnect souls. It’s the disconnected souls who poorly communicate." - Ann Voskamp,  A HOLY EXPERIENCE

As a pastor, I deal frequently with the effects of poor communication.  Lives broken because someone was not careful in their communication, embedding lies into someone's heart through de-humanizing or manipulative communication.  Relationships gone sour because someone did not understand that listening is part of communicating. Dreams unrealized because of a fear of expressing one's heart or dreams shattered because someone crushed the vulnerability of the dreamer beneath words spouting from a critical spirit. "Speaking the truth in love," is the counsel of the Bible but a soul disconnected from the Source of that Love will never truly communicate truth.

Not only is communication a lost art for many, but the commitment to communicate in civil and constructive ways has become a forgotten value in our culture.  Such a development is a measure of the poverty of our souls.

Friday, February 4, 2011


I know the church gets a lot of bad press these days. Some churches, deservedly so. But this video describes the church as the Bible describes it and I believe Jesus intended it to be, I pray that the people I lead would be able to make a similar video confession. This is one church, I believe many of us would desire to be a part of.