Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Since I am now boycotting America's Got Talent, I thought I'd share some of America's  more talented moments starting with this memorable episode from WKRP in Cincinnati.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Dianne, in her "space" in our family room, enjoying Mother's Day

by Steve Dunn

It is a beautiful springtime Sunday afternoon.  I have just returned from a walk around our neighborhood with Dianne, my wife of nearly 40 years.  You heard me right. In three months and six days Dianne and I will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.

In one sense, however, it seems longer. We met in January 1971 at a fraternity party. Again, you heard me right. Eighteen months later we stood before God and our witnesses (and my father, who was officiating) and said, "We do until death does us part."

In the marriage ceremony long used by the Churches of God we say, "We walk this earth as unfinished creations until we find completion in the love of another." For me that has been more than true. She completes me so completely that I cannot imagine life without her, nor remember any more what life was like before her.

Dianne has the spiritual gift of mercy (that has been extended to me on more than one occasion), a heart for worship that has been infectious to those around us, and a passion for prayer that sustains us every day.  Where I am a man of engagement, Dianne is a woman of reflection. Where I boldly embrace challenges, she prays for the fruitfulness of God's servant.

Dianne taught my children to read (well ahead of school) and taught them about Jesus (while Steve was often busily teaching others about Jesus.)  It was she that invited each of my four children to cross over the bridge Christ's death had laid down for their salvation, and wept for joy when I baptized each one of them as disciples of Jesus Christ.

My children rise up and her call her blessed and my grandchildren think she is really cool.

Today she is a substitute teacher specializing in autistic and learning disabled children.  She leads worship with an unmistakable love of Christ. She wrote a children's book for her grandchildren and encourages me to live a life that is physically and spiritually health.  And give her a classroom with willing students and they are in the presence of a gifted teacher.

She likes to let me cook and does my laundry as an act of love (and also so I don't have to wear dirty socks).  She coaches me to be a saner and more compassionate driver.  She reminds me that patience is a virtue that I still haven't mastered after 60 years. She checks my shirt tail so I won't be embarrassed when I preach and cheers for my Tigers or commiserates with my agony.

I have a good wife--no, a magnificent one.  A trophy wife--if you remember the prize of the high calling of Christ Jesus.

PS - She doesn't know I am blogging this even though she is sitting a few feet away doing jigsaw puzzles on her computer. She won't see this until it is posted tomorrow morning.  She may be embarrassed when she reads it, but I know she will forgive me. - STEVE

Sunday, May 20, 2012


With this post we renew one of our foundational reasons for LIFE MATTERS, answers to good questions about God, the Bible, Christianity, and spiritual things.  It is in response to a question asked of me lately by a Christian who was constantly being challenged about his statements regarding God, 'HOW DO I KNOW SOMETHING IS TRUE?"  There is more to come. - STEVE

In the battles over faith people have often made strident statements, filled with emotion and passion.  On the surface those statements seem to be "faith-filled," but are often more humanistic than biblical.

You have heard the phrase, "GOD said it. I believe it. That settles it."  It's great rhetoric but lousy theology.  This "corrected" billboard is far more accurate.  It is true because God said it.  It's truth doesn't not depend upon your experience of it or your agreement with it.
"To come to faith on the basis of experience alone is unwise, though not so foolish as to reject faith altogether because of lack of experience ... the quality of a Christian's experience depends on the quality of his faith, just as the quality of his faith depends in turn on the quality of his understanding of God's truth." ― Os Guinness

In our postmodern world, experience has become the validation for truth.  It is true only when I have experienced it for myself. More particularly, I will submit to its truth if my experience has taught me that it is good for me or good for my friends. That's why something can be true for one person and not true for another, and the person who has not experienced it as true can discount its authoritativeness.

There is objective truth. That is truth that has a reality of its own. It is not dependent upon conditions or perceptions or adherents. Mount Kiliminjaro is a mountain.  Some clever person might say, "I can make Mount Kiliminjaro, but in reality, even their best engineering genius can only make replica of Mount Kiliminjaro. There is only one such entity, one such reality.

That is objective truth.

Someone might say, "I don't live in the neighborhood and therefore, Mt. Kiliminjaro  is of little meaning to me." That is a subjective statement. Subjective statements strain at rising to the level of truth.  Trust me, if Mt. Kiliminjaro would explode tonight in a great cataclysmic event--it would affect weather patterns, the earth's gravitational pull, and may even kill your brother-in-law with a piece of debris as his plane flies in the western Pacific.  Choosing to believe that it is not a mountain would not change it's impact upon you.

Christians build their lives, or should, upon objective truth.  Truth like-- God is God and not like men. God is good. God is faithful.  When they base their lives on objective truth and do not try to validate its reliability by how they feel about it, they are on solid ground.

And so God's Word makes objective statements (not the writer's opinion) based on the objective nature of God. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8.28) is not suspended because some things that happen to us are bad or because we can't see what He has done for us lately.  Romans 8.28 becomes foundational for us because it is based on the objective reality that God is good.

Deuteronomy 7.9 speaks an objective reality upon which realities like Romans 8.28 are given even further validity. "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands."

Beware of believing that truth - objective truth - reality, can be dismissed by subjective experience.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Ben Witherington has recently published an excellent post about the death of his daughter and what good grief looks like. It is really what it means to live the Resurrection Life.

The phone rang late Wednesday night near the beginning of the New Year, January 11, 2012. It was Sarangan Sankar, Christy's boyfriend. He was barely intelligible because he was crying so much. He had just been on the phone with the Durham, North Carolina, police who had cordoned off Christy's home. The words he spoke were, "Christy is gone. She was found dead in the house. Christy has passed away."

I was desperate for more information. But Sara was in Philadelphia trying to board a plane for Durham, so I had to let him go. He didn't know any more at that point anyway, and it would have been unkind to press him for details. What did details matter if the fact was certain? Christy was dead. I hollered to Ann, my wife, who was downstairs in our Lexington, Kentucky, home. Suddenly we were hugging each other for dear life. Ann kept saying, "I knew! In my heart, I knew!" Since Monday she had been carrying around a premonition that something was wrong. On that day, she listened to a voicemail from Christy's boss at IBM, Paul Haberman, who said Christy had left a message for him saying she wasn't feeling well. Attempts to call her had failed. That wasn't terribly unusual, but worries arise when you know your child is home alone.

Later we learned that Sara had talked to Christy Monday night, and she had seemed fine then. But she did not show up for the weekly Tuesday night board game party that she so enjoyed. By Wednesday, Sara was worried and asked a close friend to break into the house if necessary. James climbed in through a window. He found Christy lying on the floor upstairs and called 911, but he knew she was gone. Sara arrived at midnight, but he wasn't allowed in the house, a potential crime scene. All he could do was stand outside and talk with the police chaplain. Finally, around 3 in the morning, officials decided there had been no foul play or crime, so they removed the body and took it to the medical examiner's office in Chapel Hill.

We felt a deep need for companionship. Given that we have no family within 500 miles, we called our dear friends, Bill and Susan Arnold, who stayed and prayed with us until midnight. Finally, we lay down in our bed, trying to comprehend the reality until the dawn. My heart was pounding; my breath was short. We both cried; we both prayed. Every parent's worst nightmare had come to pass. So many thoughts and feelings run through your head and heart when you get a phone call like that. My mind darted through instant replays, from waving goodbye to Christy as she drove off to North Carolina on December 31 to holding her after her birth on August 14, 1979, in Durham, England. She is gone from this earth until the Resurrection. Until then, she will not come back except in the form of memories. Was This God's Will?

From the day Christy died, I was determined to be open to whatever positive thing there might be to glean from this seeming tragedy. I clung to the promise of Romans 8:28, that "God works all things together for good for those who love him." The first point immediately confirmed in my heart was theological: God did not do this to my child. God is not the author of evil. God does not terminate sweet lives with a pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolisms are a result of the bent nature of this world. As Ann kept repeating, "God is not the problem; he is the solution." One primary reason I am not a Calvinist is that I do not believe in God's detailed control of all events. Why? First, because I find it impossible to believe that I am more merciful or compassionate than God. Second, because the biblical portrait shows that God is pure light and holy love. In him there is no darkness, nothing other than light and love. And third, the words, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away," from the lips of Job (1:21), are not good theology. According to Job 1, it was not God but the Devil who took away Job's children, health, and wealth. God allowed it to happen, but when Job said these words, as the rest of the story shows, he was not yet enlightened about the true nature of the source of his calamity and God's actual will for his life. God's will for him was for good and not for harm.

continue reading

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


America’s Got Talent premiered last night, a few weeks earlier than usual.  I did not watch it. After years of idolizing it, I voiced my growing disaffection and slammed three X’s into my channel changer and went in search better television fare,  What had possessed them enthrone Howard Stern as their newest judge of America’s talent totally mystifies and only less totally disgusts me. Even Baywatch geezer David Hasselhoff and unamerican Larry King wanna-be Piers Morgan had a better grip on the kind of talent that the average American appreciated.

The downward spiral for America’s Hot Talent began when Howie Mandel was added to the team of judges,  He initially functioned as merely eccentric, obsessed with oddball acts at the expense of true talent. Last year he morphed into demonic as he appeared more intent on making a raging maniac out of Morgan than in finding the next Jackie Evancho.   There were weeks when AGT’s version of The Twilight Zone drove me to reruns of America’s Best Home Videos and the archives of theLifetime Movie Channel.

My sympathies with any one who has auditioned who had real talent.  Unless you wear Seven Dwarf costume or are a drag queen imitator of Tina Turner, you don’t have a chance.  Although taking off your clothes and talking dirty might earn you Stern’s vote.  It sure swayed Hasselhoff and Mandel on more than one occasion.

Get out Sharon Osborne before they try turning you into Rosanne Barr.

Seems like a very long time ago 
This seems like a very long time ago

Monday, May 14, 2012


Courtesy USA Today
The culture war ramped up again last week threatening to swallow up the debate that properly accompanies a presidential election in a free society.  In North Carolina voters rejected same sex marriage, earning the ire of a large part of our prevailing culture.  At the same time, Mr. Obama became the first sitting president in history to publicly support same sex marriage.  I find myself in agreement with creator of this political cartoon published this week in USA Today.

As a pastor, I deal daily with the struggles that the average person and family wrestle with in 2012. There are few greater threats to the well-being of this nation and its citizens than the economy that continues to create one problem after another.  From student loans, to volatile oil prices, to rising grocery costs, to the deterioration of support for mental health care, to the unresolved debates over health care, to an utter impossibility for most Americans to save, to the coming crash of social security; the failure of our political leadership to find a sane and fruitful path to economic health that will rob us of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as surely as an Islamic terrorist, or eroding morality, or laws that empower the worst of human philosophies.

Mr. President, Mr. Boehner, Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Romney - will someone go to work to expeditiously and fairly bring economic healing to this nation.  Stop distracting us with political stunts and sending us down energy-draining side paths that simply reinforce the symptoms instead of finding the cure.  I would vote for a wild-eyed holy man from the far side of Mars for President if he would truly focus on the real issue and find real, viable answers.

Note: I am preparing a post on the same sex issue but am taking some more time to reflect.  In the mean time I would invite to read this post from SHE WORSHIPS which I found very helpful in my own reflections as a Christian.

A little more Monday Morning Reflection that speaks for itself.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


From Los Whit and his blog Ragamuffin Soul

Man’s Agenda Vs. God’s Providence

Providence: God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny
People have agendas.
God has providence.
You have a choice today.
You can live off of the agenda of man…
Or you can live off of the providence of the Maker of man.
The agenda of man isn’t inherently wrong.
It is often right.
Yet the providence of God is ALWAYS right.
The choice seems like an easy one.
Yet it is an extremely difficult one.
Especially since YOU are one of those called “MAN”
I like to look at is as a 3 to 1 choice.
It makes it easier. :)
Choose Father, Son, and Holy Spirit every time.
What are some ways you will intentionally choose God over man today?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


This post via the blog FAITHFUL THINKERS (see the link on the right sidebar of LIFE MATTERS home page.)

Ravi Zacharias on Race and Homosexuality

This quote got me thinking...
"The reason we are against racism is because a person's race is sacred. A person's ethnicity is sacred. You cannot violate it. My race is sacred; your race is sacred; I dare not violate it. The reason we react against the issue of homosexuality the way we do is because sexuality is sacred. You cannot violate it. How do you treat one as sacred and desacrelize the other? Sex is a sacred gift of God. I can no longer justify an aberration of it in somebody else's life than I can justify my own proclivities to go beyond my marital boundaries.

Every man here who is an able-bodied man will tell you temptation stalks you every day. Does it have anything to do with your love for your spouse? Probably not, because you can love your spouse with 100% desire to love the person, but the human body reacts to the sight entertained by the imagination and gives you all kinds of false hints that stolen waters are going to be sweeter. They are not. They leave you emptier. So a disposition or a proclivity does not justify expressing that disposition and that proclivity. That goes across the board for all sexuality.

When God created mankind and womankind, it was His plan, not our plan. It is extraordinary what He said. He said, 'It is not good for man to live alone.' Well, man wasn't living alone; God was with him. Why did He say that? He created the mystique and the majesty and the charm and the complimentary nature of womankind in a way that made it possible for her to meet his emotional needs that God, Himself, put only within her outside himself from himself in her in that complimentariness. It is a design by God." -Ravi Zacharias*


 by Steve Dunn

Last night Cole Hamels did a stupid thing. In a crucial game with the Washington Nationals, Hamels intentionally threw a pitch at Nats rookie phenom, Bryce Harper.  In the first inning he hit Harper in the small of the back.   In the language of baseball, he "plunked" him. "I was trying to hit him," Hamels, a two-time All-Star left-hander, said Sunday night. "I'm not going to deny it. I'm not trying to injure the guy. They're probably not going to like me for it, but I'm not going to say I wasn't trying to do it. I think they understood the message, and they threw it right back. That's the way, and I respect it."

Baseball responded promptly and issued a five game suspension.  It is a small punishment.  He will be pitching again right after the suspension is up without basically missing a beat in the rotation.  One baseball blogger wrote: "In any event, regardless of how you feel about Hamels's "old school" affectations, five-game suspensions of guys who appear only once every five days remain pretty toothless." The Nats Ryan Zimmerman, of course, retaliated.

So often people defend their actions as being "old school" and wear that as a badge of honor  Yet so often "old school" describes out of date and out of step.  Out if date because it lives in the past and excuses not living constructively in the present.  Out of step because it is so often a reflection of a reactionary lifestyle that has not bothered to understand or value the present.

We do not live in the past. We live in the present.  "Old school" seeks to return to a time before the world changed, thumbing its nose at the present and refusing to participate in making a better future.  "Old School" often lays claim to the "values" position as if anything "new" is amoral or immoral.  No, the values are just different.  History will judge which values were better,  God certainly will judge.

"Old School" in America thought separation of the races was the natural order, that women should have no other career than homemaker, that quality music should have a minor key and not played by anything that required electricity.  Yet now we know that that separation foster virulent racism, that women kept the war machine functioning and the national financially healthy while men went off to repel the Nazis. A pipe organ connected to an electrical circuit produces a sound of majesty and joy.

Baseball does not need an "old school" tactic that could seriously injure or even ruin a man's career and lifetime earning capabilities.  Those of us who love baseball  prefer to win because of a timely home run or a daring steal or at light's out pitching with a fastball across the plate as the power hitter flails to catch up with its speed.

Cole, to paraphrase John Kruk on Baseball Tonight,when did the MLB hire you as the welcoming committee for  bright young rookies? Your kind of Old School needs to close its doors.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Maurilio Amorim writes a blog that I really like. Today he posted a great one. - STEVE

 The Fun Theory

Intuitively we know that the more fun we inject in activities, the more likely people are to respond positively to them. When my boys were small I used to play let’s-see-how-fast-we-can-put-up-the toys game. They would clean the room in a matter of minutes as opposed to the whining and gnashing of their teeth that would be manifest during other chores. This video is another reminder that people will choose even a more difficult path if we make it fun.

Where have you experienced the fun theory in your work or ministry?