Monday, July 25, 2011


Norway is hardly a society synonymous with violence or a place identified with terrorist activity. Yet horrendously, this sturdy and heroic Scandinavian nation experienced an unspeakable tragedy.  94 persons were killed in two separate attacks--one targeted at a youth camp, another at a government building.  The suspect Anders Behring Brievik, is a self-professed Christian fundamentalist and is connected with the Progress Party, a far-right party in Norway.  Like similar parties in Europe, it is anti-immigration and focused around racial issues.  For the past five decades, much of Western Europe had become increasingly secularized, particularly rejecting authentic Christianity. The moral ambiguity it has produced has encouraged the rise particularly of far-right extremism that often claims a Christian foundation, but whose bigotry bears no resemblance to the Body of Christ and the faith once delivered unto the saints.  Mere humanity ultimately does not make moral progress without an anchor in Christ.  Only a genuine commitment as a nation to being the living representatives of the Prince of Peace can combat the latent evil that resides in the hearts of humankind, especially when it is unfettered by a secular world-view.

Tennesee and LSU joined the growing ranks under self-imposed or NCAA-imposed sanctions this week for athletic programs out of control, coaches who have stepped across the line, players who have forgotten that there is no "I" in team.  I have long been a proud and faithful fan of The Ohio State Buckeyes.  And one of my heroes was Jim Tressel, who even wrote a book on leadership and integrity.  Sadly, he has proven in the pressures to win and win in college football--to be a fraud.  In part, I understand the pressure to cheat or cut corners.  When I listen to the almost obnoxious pride that some of my Penn State fan friends who believe that a college football team proves their own moral superiority (or intelligence?) in rooting for the, or hear about boosters gone wild; I realize it takes incredible character and strength to keep your head in these situations.  Yet college football MUST clean up its act.  It is one of the last places in society where the value of team work and character are still valued and taught.  It is one of the last places where the young men who will be our nation's leaders are taught discipline, dedication, and aspiring to their best efforts.  It is one place where there needs to be a "death penalty" (i.e, firings or expulsions when someone clearly cheats) that needs to be enforced.

The Pittsburgh Pirates five games over .500 and one and a half games out of first.  It's one of the best stories in baseball this year. Clint Hurdle has brought a new positive spirit to the club. He also has assembled what has been a phenomenal pitching staff.  Fans are streaming again back into Three Rivers.  Now is those stingy Pirate owners will make some moves to give their team (and their fans) a chance at post-season play.  Hopefully they don't come from the Florida Marlins School of Baseball Management.

Spent an awesome and memorable week helping our Navajo sister church in Tsaile AZ conduct Bible School. 26 of my people had their lives changed and a whole lot of Navajo children were blessed by the love of God. The setting of Tsaile is a place of great beauty, but even more beautiful are the faces of the Navajos themselves and the joy that comes when people are simply trying to bless one another in name of Jesus Christ. Here are a few of the memorable scenes from that week.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Rory McIroy has captured many of our imaginations looking for a new golfer to follow since Tiger's fall.  Ken Kemp has a great story to share about Rory. - Steve

Just last April, Rory McIlroy teed off for his Sunday (fourth) round of the Masters and like today, the whole world was talking about him.  His textbook swing.  His Irish charm.  That four-leaf clover in his wallet.  He led the field by four strokes and all eyes were on him as he put his drive on the fairway more than three hundred yards out.

No birdies on that front nine; and just one bogie.  Not bad.  More than acceptable.  And at the turn, he still led the field, but only by one stroke.  He still had a reasonable shot at a Masters win.

But on the tenth hole, golf did to the twenty-two year old professional what golf does to most everyone who plays the game.  One hole it all it takes.  One tragic, unexpected, unwelcome meltdown.  A triple bogey. 

Deflated, young Rory never recovered.  McIlroy opened the Masters with a stunning 65 first round following up with a 68 and then a third round 70.  His poise and consistency, power and precision, picture perfect swing and boyish magnetism earned him high praise and talk of “the next Tiger Woods.”  But he finished the round with an eight over par 80, dropping from a comfortable lead and predictions of greatness to a shocking fifteenth place.  It not only cost him the coveted Green Jacket, it cost him well over a million dollars in prize money (from $1.4 million to the winner to a paltry $128 thousand for 15th place).

The crowd’s attitude that day went from exhilaration to pity those last nine holes.  As Rory holed out at eighteen that Sunday afternoon, he forced a smile, acknowledging the crowd, but the pain inflicted by a little white ball that refused to find the cup was evident.  Relative unknown Charl Schwartzel took the Green Jacket and the prize money and the accolades.  Read more ...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Casey Anthony has become a household word in the past several weeks. When that name is spoken it is often in a vituperative manner; more often than is civil, accompanied by expletives. Unless you have been on another planet or have not bothered to watch your television; Casey has been on trial for the murder of her daughter Kaylee.  She was acquitted of the horrific crime with which she has charged, and will be released in a very short time. Many persons are outraged by this outcome saying the justice system failed little Kaylee.  To be honest, I do not whether she is guilty or not. Not having sat in that courtroom and heard all the evidenced, it would be presumptuous of me to render a judgement.  At best, I can say she was an immature young woman who behaved irresponsibly and given her priorities, a self-centered one.

My real difficulty is with the judicial setting (better, circus) in which she was tried.  Our judicial system is an adversarial one, where the two sides often engage in combat rather than the pursuit of the truth.  Prosecutors and defense lawyers, posture and manipulate--selectively revealing the "facts" that score points against the other side, going after every bit of dirt that will emotionally impact very human jurors.  I wonder if any one of us, if we were on trial for our lives, could withstand the chainsaw scrutiny without having someone think we are the spawns of Satan even if we are innocent of the crime.  I am also deeply disturbed turning a courtroom into a set for reality TV.  I find reality TV appeals to our worst instincts as human beings.  The way our trials are presented remind me of Madame Lefarge knitting while heads rolled in A Tale of Two Cities.  One of the fundamentals of a judicial system, an essential in a free society, is that we are innocent until proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt.  Do you really want to substitute with trial by public opinion?

I am a huge fan of political cartoons and church signs ... here are my favorites of the week:

Saturday, July 16, 2011


“Yesterday a little girl told me I sounded like Jesus's wife when I sing... and she knows because "she saw the movie." – Stacie Reber

Last week I had the privilege of leading a team of 26 persons to work with our Navajo sister congregation, Tsaile Community Church, conducting a Vacation Bible School for more 100 students. My team ranged in age from 15 through 78.  Some were high school students, several bankers, several school teachers, another pastor, a financial planner, an electrician, a retired middle school principle, a candy-maker, a person who works with autistic adults, a candy maker, a graphic arts specialist, a quality control manager and more.  An eclectic group with a common passion to help children meet Jesus Christ.  We did this through stories and song, crafts and whiffle ball, a lunch, direct explanations of the gospel.  We mostly did it by trying to let people see Jesus in the flesh by meeting him as he worked in and through us.
photo courtesy of Lauren Zimmerman

That's a tall order when you think about it.  We are imperfect vessels of a holy God.  His unconditional love is expressed in his amazing grace, but we frequently hide that love in our actions and daily test his grace.  We talk about Jesus in moment and live for ourselves in the next.  We claim to be transformed into a new creation but reclaim our old nature when it is more convenient or comfortable.

Yet as imperfect as we may be and as inconsistent as we are in our actions, we still have the responsibility to share Jesus.  It's not our plan, it is His.  In John 15:6 we read: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last."   And as if to reassure us in any hesitancy we may be feeling, he adds, "Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name."            

Sometimes the odds before us are almost daunting.  Not all of us have the opportunity as did the folks from the Church of God of Landisville to go work in another culture.  Yet Christians are vividly aware that they live in a culture for whom God is increasingly out of sight and out of mind.  We live among people who have heard many empty words and have grown deaf to many religious expressions.  The first witness is not words, it is a life lived as a reflection of the Jesus that lives within us.   The apostle Paul explained that to the Colossians.
"To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.' (Colossians 1.27)

Tsaile VBS Team from Landisville Church of God (photo courtesy of Stacie Reber)
Hopefully when they hear the words of Jesus spoken they will believe those words because "they have seen the movie."

(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Justin Verlander - a strike out machine
I prepared this post several weeks ago and then in the craziness that was my June schedule, forgot to publish it.  This week I am working with a VBS Mission Team on the Navajo Reservation and did not have time to create a Monday Morning Reflections, so here is the yet unpublished one - hopefully better late than never. - Steve

Thursday night the men of ESPN'S Baseball Tonight engaged in a discussion that stirred many a Tiger fan's heart. After he struck out ten Seattle Mariners, the ESPN guys suggested - "This is the league's (American) best pitcher." Justin Verlander "The most 10 strike out seasons in the past three seasons" - tied for third with Cliff Lee. (The others, besides Lee, Lincecum of the Giants and Halladay of the Phils). His success this season (which includes his second career no-hitter and a week later almost a second in a row) has been with one of the slowest starting teams in baseball this season. It may be why Justin may truly be the best pitcher in baseball - and as the Tigers push on towards the top of the AL Central, he may get the offensive backing to have the wins needed to verify that (despite one of the shakier relief corps backing him up).

The Mavs or the Heat?  Odds are high that you were rooting for Dirk Nowistki and the Dallas Mavericks.  The Mavs may have the most obnoxious owner in the NBA (Mark Cuban) but they don't have LeBron James. When LeBron, Duane Wade, and Chris Bosch blatantly maneuvered to come together as the Miami Heat so that they could get a championship, the Heat gained a lot of haters.  I guess you're allowed to be self-serving as long as you don't set up an ESPN special event to announce it.

The big news from Washington this week was the dismal jobs report and Congressman Wiener.  The jobs issue is very complicated, but the latter is not.  The congressman was exposed for "exposing himself" in compromising and borderline-pornographic tweets to ladies around the country.  Even his colleagues who have their own moral failings are suggesting (strongly in your are a Republican and quietly if you are a Dem--Wiener is a Dem) that he resign and end the embarrassment to Congress.  I do not condone Mr. Wiener's actions, but Congress regularly embarrasses itself and weakens the nation through its representing special interests instead of its constituents, a partisan posturing that is far more concerned with being re-elected than governing the nation wisely.

Maybe our Congress and our Nation need to learn from some of these persons:

"We have much to be judged on when he comes, slums and battlefields and insane asylums, but these are the symptoms of our illness and the result of our failures in love." - - Madeleine L'Engle

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."  - - G.K. Chesterton

"Can man live without God? Of course he can, in a physical sense. Can he live without God in a reasonable way? The answer to that is No!" - —Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God

For more quotations go to QUOTE

Monday, July 4, 2011


Freedom.  It is one of the most treasured things on this planet.  It is also one of the most endangered treasures on this planet as well.  Freedom is often endangered by our very exercise of freedom.  We use our freedom to do what we want, to say what we want, to enjoy what we want - even when our exercise of freedom puts others at risk.  Freedom always carries a price, and that price is the responsible exercise of our freedom.  Paul once wrote to the Corinthians reminding them that we are free in Christ, but we should not allow our freedom to be a stumbling block to others.  Clearly personal freedom has limits even in a free society.

Part of our problem is that we believe freedom is a right instead of a gift.  Freedom is a gift of God. It is part of the awesome expression of His incredible love.  Freedom is part of His design for humanity to become the people He has created and redeemed them to be.  But when our freedom becomes a license for sin, or a justification for aberrant and destructive behaviors that serve only our desires instead of the perfect will of God - freedom exacts a terrible price - upon us and those under our influence.

Freedom without the responsible exercise of that freedom can become the foundation for tyranny.

On this Independence Day when we celebrate the gift of freedom in this nation, I find there is much that I must grieve. In particular I grieve the decision by the New York legislature to legalize homosexual marriage further erodes the moral fabric of our nation under the guise of guaranteeing personal freedom. I know this will label me in some people's mind as a homophobe, but that would be inaccurate.  I grieve because I believe same-sex marriage is contrary to our Creator's plan and that cannot be ignored without consequences.  Many years ago Thomas Jefferson wrote, "I tremble for my nation when I consider that God is just."  I believe we will continue to see consequences in our land that our nation can ill afford because God calls to judgment not blessing when we ignore His will.  The fact that this occurred in a legislature controlled by the Republican Party is a terrible shame upon that party and that state.

Quite often this moral confusion is created by the people of God who choose cultural acceptance over the clear teaching of God's Word.  We as Christians will be held accountable when the Church steps away from being salt and light holding back the darkness.  That is why I applaud an Anglican Church in Canada, a nation that has gone even further down the slippery slope of moral confusion.  Scott McKnight shared this post yesterday from Ottawa, Canada where a church leaves is building over the same-sex controversy.

It was a historic moment in Ottawa as a subdued crowd of about 300 filed out of St. Alban’s Anglican Church on King Edward Avenue on Sunday, leaving behind a place where some have roots going back to Confederation.

Founded in 1865, the church where Sir John A. Macdonald worshipped has been in the spotlight ever since a showdown over same-sex marriage and other issues led the congregation of St. Alban’s to leave the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, and, after a bitter battle, the building they have called home for 146 years.

“This is kind of historic. We’re in a new era,” said Sheila Lang, 79, as her grandchildren — the seventh generation of her family to attend the church — played in the reception hall of the Ottawa Little Theatre, where the congregation, now called the Church of the Messiah, will meet until it finds a permanent home. Meanwhile, the diocese will establish a new congregation at St. Alban’s, with a relaunch planned for Friday

The move is historic in a broader sense, Ms. Lang added: “This is a societal shift,” in which traditional Christian values are “eroding and we see the church trying to accommodate the eroding values.

“But we are not deviating…. We stand on the Bible and the Word of God.”
Reverend George Sinclair urged the congregation not to dwell on grief over losing St. Alban’s, but instead to embrace the change as an opportunity for renewal.

“We are entering a time of new dreams and new visions,” he said on the stage of the theatre, flanked by reproductions of three stained-glass windows Macdonald’s wife donated to St. Alban’s after his death. “A church that just has the building, but does not have the dreams and visions that come from God, is on its way to dying,” he warned.

The service was lighthearted, with Rev. Sinclair remarking at the beginning, “You’re all looking pretty frisky for 146 years old,” and quipping that everyone would be glad of the air conditioning.
Nevertheless, some members were overcome with emotion. “It’s very sad. It has been my church for 33 years,” said Barbara Allen, 72.
“It is an emotional day,” said Lisa Moore Ede, a member of the church for 17 years. “But overall I’m excited to see where God is going to lead us,” said Ms. Ede, whose nine children also attend the church.

In an interview after the service, Rev. Sinclair said the move was “an issue of conscience, and for us. Conscience trumps buildings.”

The immediate catalyst for the church’s break with the diocese was the latter’s 2007 decision to allow the blessing of same-sex marriages. But Rev. Sinclair added that his church was also responding to a general sense that the Anglican Church of Canada has been drifting away from Jesus’s teachings.

“If you end up thinking you’re smarter and nicer and wiser than the master, in what way are you still his disciple? The Bible is very clear on certain things, as to what is right or wrong,” he said.
A few months after the diocese gave same-sex marriage the green light, his congregation voted almost unanimously to leave the diocese and the national Anglican body, realigning instead with a breakaway organization called the Anglican Network in Canada. In October 2008, St. George’s Anglican Church on Metcalfe Street in Ottawa followed suit. Read more
We are on an increasingly slippery moral slope.  For me, it is a matter of great concern and the focus of many a prayer.


Note from Steve - forgot to post this last Thursday. Better late than never.  Independence Weekend is fast arriving. In fact, at my favorite breakfast hang-out, they were already celebrating the holiday. Although a secular holiday, it is one more time to celebrate the blessing of living in a land that protects our freedom of religion and worship. A cousin sent me this YouTube clip that I'm sharing to help get you in the mood.