Tuesday, February 28, 2012


From time to time I like to link you to various blogs and postings that spoke to me as a Christian, a pastor, and one who believes passionately that your life matters to God.  Ash Wednesday and Lent have produced several.  In each case, you will need to click a link to finish reading. - STEVE

The Only Begotten Son: Jesus Epithets Continued

posted by Kristina Robb-Dover | 11:34am Wednesday February 22, 2012

"Sorry, you have the wrong guy." - Jeremy Lin, a graduate student in linguistics at NYU
“No one has ever seen God; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has declared him.” John 1:18

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him might have eternal life.” John 3:16

Yesterday NPR interviewed Jeremy Lin.  The Harvard graduate crossed paths with the basketball player in school, but this Lin, instead of playing on the courts of New York’s Madison Square Garden, is studying linguistics at New York University.  At 5’2″ Jeremy Lin described the comedy of often being mistaken by name over the Internet for the much taller Knicks super star:  he tries to break it to people politely that he is not their guy.

When John’s Gospel describes Jesus as “the only begotten God,” the Gospel writer is saying that there can be no mistaking who Jesus is, because Jesus is the only one of His kind.  Jesus can’t be duplicated to the degree that Jesus is God Himself in the flesh.  The Jesus who has the power to forgive and straighten out all of the rough and bumpy patches in our lives is God alone.  If nobody else can reproduce the “Linsanity” of a basket in the last minutes of a nail-bitingly suspenseful game, no other god can truly embody the inbreaking of God’s reign of love on earth. Only Jesus- the One whom Scripture tells us we find it easy to crucify and mock for His foolhardy message about a Love that has the power to save and redeem all creation, including ourselves- can reveal in His very Self who God is and pour His life into us.  As Henry Ward Beecher put it, “Take from the Bible the Godship of Christ and it would be but a heap of dust.”

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/fellowshipofsaintsandsinners/2012/02/the-only-begotten-son-jesus-epithets-continued.html#ixzz1n8Bn3nut

Thomas Merton on Ash Wednesday

“Even the darkest moments of the liturgy are filled with joy, and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the lenten fast, is a day of happiness, a Christian feast.”
In 1958 Thomas Merton wrote an essay titled, “Ash Wednesday,” which offers a reflection on the relationship between penance and joy found in the celebration of the beginning of Lent and the marking of our foreheads with ashes. Instead of me rambling on and on here today, I thought it would be good to share more from Merton himself. You can read the entire essay in Seasons of Celebration (FSG 1965), 113-124.

“Ash Wednesday is for people who know that it means for their soul to be logged with these icy waters: all of us are such people, if only we can realize it.

“There is confidence everywhere in Ash Wednesday, yet that does not mean unmixed and untroubled security. The confidence of the Christian is always a confidence in spite of darkness and risk, in the presence of peril, with every evidence of possible disaster…
“Once again, Lent is not just a time for squaring conscious accounts: but for realizing what we had perhaps not seen before. The light of Lent is given us to help us with this realization.
“Nevertheless, the liturgy of Ash Wednesday is not focussed on the sinfulness of the penitent but on the mercy of God. The question of sinfulness is raised precisely because this is a day of mercy, and the just do not need a savior.” From the blog DATING GOD

Via lifeingrace

“The modern interest in spirituality is a bit like our interest in health.  Our obsession with health is not at all healthy;  in fact, it emphasizes the problems that we have without providing much of a solution to them. So, too, with our concern for spirituality!  Despite the multitude of books on spirituality that can be found in the bookshop, Christians seem to find it harder than ever to practice what they believe.  So many aspire to be spiritual high fliers but never seem to get off the ground for any length of time.  As the failures mount, so does the fascination with what seemingly cannot be achieved.  The only thing we learn is that something is lacking in this part of our lives.  But we end up with no understanding on how to fill the void……If we have problems living the life of faith, if we have challenges in our practice of prayer, the solution is not to be found in what we do, our self-appraisal, or our performance.  The solution to our problems is found in what we receive from God Himself, in His appraisal of us, and in His gifts to us.  Like our physical life and health, our spiritual life is something that is given to us, something that is to be received and enjoyed and celebrated.  Our piety is all a matter of receiving grace upon grace from the fullness of God the Father. “ - John Kleinig  Grace Upon Grace. The blog gives you access to purchasing this book.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Published: Yesterday (2/25/12) NEW YORK (AP) – (Article by Tom Hays) Churches won back the right to hold services in the city’s public schools when a federal judge issued an injunction Friday against its no-worship policy. The city said it would immediately appeal, guaranteeing that a case that has gone back and forth for 17 years will continue. District Judge Loretta Preska ruled in Manhattan that a tiny evangelical Christian church, the Bronx Household of Faith, has a good chance of ultimately winning its lawsuit claiming the policy violates freedom of religion. City lawyers had argued that the church’s use of a public grade school ran afoul of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, the prohibition against governmental endorsement of religion. But the judge said, “In this court’s view, losing one’s right to exercise freely and fully his or her religious beliefs is a greater threat to our democratic society than a misperceived violation of the Establishment Clause.”

Many persons are unaware of the "crusade" by the City of New York to end the use of  empty school facilities by churches. Originally the US Supreme Court declined to hear this case that began with a US Circuit ruling that the no-worship policy was acceptable.  The churches, of course, were appealing.

What disturbs me as a person who has been a diligent student of US history is the consistent misinterpretation of the First Amendment prohibition on the establishment of religion.  Anyone who has studied the original documents and the historical setting of those amendments will know that what the Founding Fathers were guarding against a single church (such as the Church of England) becoming the established church of the nation.  It was never intended to drive the practice and expression of religion as a part of public life.

It is only in the last century that a portion of the American culture that embraces a world view that spirituality is an unnecessary part of human life and the portrays churches as an enemy to the common good has been able to manipulate the judicial system into supporting their peculiar and impoverished world view.  The legislative branch at all levels of government (i.e., the representatives of the people) and the executive branch (including the present one) has resolutely worked against such a position.

The church is not the enemy.  And are not the militant proponents of a totally secularized society as much the enemies of the freedom of speech as religionists who seek to impose their understanding of morality via law? I will have more to say about this in future posts.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Like many men over the age 50, I need to get a whole more exercise. I am easily 40 pounds too heavy. I have diabetes which tends to create a rounded stomach. I get winded all too easily and my joints are generally tight. And I am working on it. Walking each day, watching my diet, learning to exert myself physically strategic ways. Yet one of my greatest pleasures is quite sedentary--exercising my mind instead of my calves. I can do it standing, but not for too long. The one thing that contributes to my weight control is that I can get sufficiently immersed in it that I forget to eat. The mental exercises it requires is scientifically proven to help arrest the onset Alzheimer's. It is a sedentary pleasure, but it is a pleasure.

It's fantasy baseball. I am about to begin my fourth year doing something I have come to love deeply. I play the fairly straightforward edition sponsored by Major League Baseball (mlb.com). I have the maximum of five teams. I had ten teams last year in four different groups, but that over-expansion took away some of the joy. If my good friend Jeff Boylan reinstitutes his league in Yahoo, I may make it six.

My first year my only team, the Landisville Sluggers finished third in their division but was one of the two wild card teams in my MLB league, but fell in the playoffs to the champs. Year two I had two teams, both of which finished in third. Last year, one of my teams, Dunn's Tigers Cats lead from opening week until the end of the season and won it all. Year four the Sluggers and the Tiger Cats are back along with the Church Street Giants, the Mendon Pirates and Leylands Allstars. In the MLB.Com a powerful pitching staff makes much of the difference, as did the Braves and the Tigers for me in 2011. This year my five teams have the Phillies, Tigers, Braves, Nationals, Brewers--making four of my teams look very good on paper.

I know some of you are thinking, so what? Remember, it's MY sedentary pleasure.

Monday, February 20, 2012


For a time, I basically skipped the eleven o'clock news--especially the news part of it. Serving as a local church pastor in today's troubled and stressed out world bone-tiring and soul-draining. You didn't need any eleven o'clock anchor person to add to your stress and disturb your sleep. (I might turn on the news in time for the sports scores, unless one of the teams I was rooting for was creating stress with a losing streak).

One Wednesday evening, I broke my rule and absentmindedly watch the news while awaiting that evening's Big Ten basketball scores.  Something seemed odd about the newscaster, but it took me a while to notice. When I finally gave it my full attention I realized he had a black smudge on his forehead.

My initial thought was, "Some make-up girl is going to get chewed out for letting him get on camera like that," and then it dawned on me.  That dark smudge was in the form of a cross.  And then the next thought arrived at the station. "It's Ash Wednesday."

Some of you are at this moment thinking, "Ash what...?"

For the partiers among us, Ash Wednesday is the next day after the debauchery and drunkenness of Mardi Gras.  If you aren't sleeping off that Tuesday (called "Fat Tuesday" by some), you may have actually seen some news person going on air to announce that it "...is Ash Wednesday and the season Christians call Lent has begun."

I was serving a church at that time that considered Ash Wednesday "a catholic thing"and I had actually given it little more thought than as a reminder to get next Sunday's Lenten sermon completed.

You won't find Ash Wednesday in the Bible (nor the word "Christmas"for that matter.)  It is what is called in liturgical churches "a moveable feast." It is the first day of Lent, a season of confession and repentance, and occurs 46 days before Easter.  It was not observed formally until somewhere in the 3rd of 4th centuries.

The Bible tells us that Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness at the commencement of his public ministry--being tempted, and praying.  The church uses the 40 days as a time dedicated to prayer, fasting, and repentance as a way to prepare for Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection.  Sundays are excluded from the fast, hence the 46 days of Lent.

Ashes symbolize this period because ashes were used in the Old Testament.When a mourn repented of their sin, they dusted themselves in ashes as a sign of repentance and the death of the old person.  On Ash Wednesday, ashes are placed on the forehead of the believer in a ceremony called "The Imposition of the Ashes."   They are placed in the form of a cross to remind us that our new life is the result of Jesus' death on the Cross.

For those who take God seriously in their lives (and how serious sin is), it is a great time and service to begin a season of  repentance.

(C) by Stephen L Dunn


Whitney Houston died this past under circumstances still being investigated.  A Christian, she was unfortunately not immune to the temptations and pressures that accompany superstar status in our pressurized, celebrity-driven world.  There are allegations of prescription drug addiction.  A well documented, yet still somewhat understood spiritual journey to Israel, shared center stage with memories of some great movie roles (The Bodyguard was my personal favorite).  For the time I choose to remember her for one of the most stirring performances of The National Anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl.  I repost it here.
Speaking of The National Anthem - one theory for the Patriots' Super Bowl loss is Steven Tyler's abominable and irreverent rendition of the anthem at the AFC Championship Game two weeks earlier in Foxboro. Singing The National Anthem is an honor and a trust.  I wish more people DID NOT sing it like they were auditioning for American Idol.

23-year-old Jeremy Lin appears to the necessary spark to elevate the New York Knicls to a championship contender in the NBA.  I, among many, believe Lin has redeemed the NBA for a hideous season that was damaging them as severely as any lockout.  By the way, all you Tebow-despisers, Jeremy Lin is another straightforward and open follower of Jesus Christ (USA Today reports the wristband in this photo says "In Jesus Name I Play.") See more ...

As I post this I am in the fourth week of a five week sabbatical from my ministry role at the Church of God of Landisville PA.  It is the longest period of time I have taken off from a church in over twenty years.  Sabbaticals come in several forms--mine if for rest, renewal, and restoring passion to what I do as pastor.  Still have people that think blogging is work.  No, I blog for enjoyment, as much as anything, having a venue for my love of creative writing.

Dianne, second from the left with three girls from our church (Kelsey, Lauren, Michaela) on  mission trip
The person, however, who makes this sabbatical the most possible, is a loving and caring wife and partner in Christ--now for almost 40 years, Dianne.  She has remained at her work as a substitute school teacher specializing in special needs and autistic children.  I love her.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


It's Saturday night and I am on sabbatical.  Awaiting the commencement of the Ohio State-Michigan basketball game on the tube.  Had dinner earlier tonight with part of my family at Los Saltos in Maumee OH, but now--all by myself--things are sort of dull.  Gasoline jumped 35 cents today.  No sermon to preach tomorrow.  Going through my blog file and I came across a smorgasbord of "wisdom" and commentary.  If you're having a boring Saturday night, maybe this will spice it up a bit.

Friday, February 17, 2012


1 LORD, our Lord,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!
   You have set your glory
   in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
   you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
   to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
   the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
   which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
   human beings that you care for them?[c]
 5 You have made them[d] a little lower than the angels[e]
   and crowned them[f] with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
   you put everything under their[g] feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
   and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
   and the fish in the sea,
   all that swim the paths of the seas.
 9 LORD, our Lord,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!
- David, Psalm 8

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


One of my passions is evangelism.  I know it’s the dreaded “E-Word” in many church circles, a rouser-of-hostility in parts of the broader culture.  But evangelism is the “Good News of the Kingdom.”  It is the awesome and life-transforming proclamation that our Holy God chooses mercy over judgment, loves us enough to take the penalty of our sin, and give is new life as part of His Kingdom of love, wholeness, and peace.  It’s the Good News that we are destined for joy!

One of the things I teach is a discipline known as apologetics, explaining the faith to people.  It is sometimes called defending the faith, but it is my experience that what I do best is to re-present the faith so that people discover the Good News that God loves them and wants them to be a part of the awesome thing He is doing to bring abundant and eternal life to humankind.

The Apostle Peter challenged us: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”  I do not believe that means it is my job to persuade men to agree with me, but to help men see the truth and agree with God. When I have a reason that can be articulated intelligently and lovingly, the Holy Spirit finds fertile ground for life transformation.

Austin Farrar once wrote:  “Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”

Ravi  Zacharias has  that the purpose of apologetics “is not to get someone to change their mind, but to open their mind.”

The apostle Paul said that the ultimate process of becoming a disciple requires a renewing of our mind (Romans 12:1).

So an open mind—which is an honest mind—is a mind that is receptive to the Truth—the One who sets us free.

So it is my prayer each day that I will say or do something that helps people open their minds to the great Good News that God loves them and wants to make them New.
© 2012 by Stephen L. Dunn

Monday, February 13, 2012


Josh Hamilton is a Christian athlete that many of us have come to admire. A whole lot has been of his relapse as an alcoholic. I, for one, appreciate his candor in the aftermath. Instead of covering it up or running away, he humbly admitted it. I understand he did this without prompting and later kept a speaking engagement commitment at a church where he shared even more. Listen to part of his public statement. Thank you, Josh, for your honesty. I hope this humble honesty itself is a witness to many of us in our lives - Christian or not.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Saturday, February 11, 2012


That which matters which makes life matter – Steve on sabbatical

Friday, February 10, 2012


I am finishing the second week of a five week sabbatical. I am not blogging regularly again until March 5, 2012. Periodically, however, I am doing simple posts of which will speak for themselves without any real verb-age from me. Hope they are helpful in remembering that your life matters to God.- STEVE