Monday, January 28, 2013



Blogger Karen Zacharias commented recently on Jodie Foster's confession/nonconfession that many people interpreted as her saying she was a lesbian.  Jodie didn't really out herself but left a lot of people wondering.  Zacharias said Jodie's semi-confession reminded her of an expression they had in the South, "she went all the way around her mouth to reach her elbow."

Transparency is a virtue of the Christian faith, but is generally in short supply in humanity's dealings with another.  And accountability (yours, not mine) is a value rarely embraced without some kind of external enforcement.

Transparency is a Christian virtue because is a value that reflects the nature and person of God.  God is truth.  There can be no truth truly without transparency.   

Read that sentence again.

Jesus said to his followers.  "You are the light of the world."  When light enters the room if drives out darkness. Darkness hides.  Light illuminates and reveals. 

In the Sermon in the Mount Jesus said: "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." (Matthew 5:37)  How's that for transparency?  When we find it necessary to qualify our comments we are taking a step towards deception.  When we find it necessary to say more than "yes" or "no" we are expressing our fear that people will not tolerate the truth.

Now Jesus wasn't saying give one word answers nor was he advocating the brutality that often accompanies human bluntness.  Paul expresses the spirit of Jesus' words when he says, "... speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." (Ephesians 4:15)

Our transparency is intended to be an expression of our love for our brother, our love for our neighbor.  Our transparency says "my love is genuine, my motives are pure."  Transparency also is a statement of your trust of the other person.  Remember Jack Nicholson's famous line in A Few Good Men? "The truth?  You can't handle the truth!:  

Transparency and truth say to the other, "I believe you need the truth and as your friend, I will help you deal with the truth."

Saturday, January 26, 2013



This weekend one of baseball's greats, Stan Musial died.  Although he played for the small market St. Louis Cardinals, Musial left a deep impact on America's game.  Unlike today's "business" side of baseball, Stan played his entire 22 season career with the same team.  During that time he won seven batting titles, five NL MVP awards, and helped his team win .three World Series. His career batting average was an astonishing .331. He was an Allstar 20 of his 22 years as a major leaguer.

His final game was September 29, 1962 at age 42 and in 1969 he received 317 votes on the 340 ballots cast to be named the the baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

But there was more to the man who went by the name "The Man."  He served his country in World War II and in 2011 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Although a superstar, he was a man of humility and hospitality, graciously representing his franchise and baseball.  He was "notorious" for his approachability as a person and his encouragement of young players.

One, named Albert Pujols, remembers Stan this way: "There will never be anyone else wearing that Cardinal uniform who will be the face of the franchise. You can talk (about his accomplishments) but the man himself is what made him so great. What he did for his community, for his country, that's what made him so special."

When Pujols became a Los Angeles Angel last season, he found his new team marketing him as "El Hombre", which infuriated the Latino star.  "There is only one baseball player that should be called The Man ... Musial." The Angels cancelled the marketing.

That person for baseball fans everywhere will forever be "Stan the Man."

Monday, January 21, 2013



Today is Inauguration Day and Barack Obama took the oath of office as President of the United States for the second time.  That itself is historically significant.  Mr. Obama is only the 17th President to be elected to a second term. ( In our most recent history Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush have this distinction, as well.)

But more significant is this reality on the world stage.  Transfers of power across this planet are increasingly not peaceful.  They are not products of the will of the people but often carefully orchestrated charades manipulated by a few powerful people, often military people.  In many nations, the losing side now lives under physical threat.

The inauguration of a president reminds us that DEMOCRACY works.  You may not have voted for President Obama, you may continue to oppose his positions and policies but he is our President.  Having been elected by the democratic process, he will have to govern by it.

And for all of its imperfections and frustrations, democracy continues to be the healthiest and freest form of governance on this planet.

The inauguration of a President is a time for people of all political persuasions to celebrate.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


by Stephen Dunn

 "I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb." - GOD (Jeremiah 1.5)

In the past few weeks, on the heels of the Newtown School shootings; a battle has been enjoined over gun control.  Derided by the NRA and gun right's supporters as histrionics or a plot by the government to take away our "God-given" freedoms, it is an uphill battle.  But on the other side of the debate, people of many political persuasions have said "enough is enough" and it's time to do something to reduce this insane threat to our children.  You need to know that I stand on the "gun control" side of that political equation.  The Bible clearly states that I have an obligation to defend the weak and the powerless and children fit that description perfectly.  Plus, I do not believe an individual's right to pursue his personal desires trumps the sanctity of human life.

Curiously, though, some of the same people who stand on the same side of this issue as I do have a limit to their view of what life is sacred.  For many of them, a human life (which they prefer to call a "fetus" to dehumanize it and thus desensitize us) begins when the baby emerges from the womb, not when it is conceived.  Up until then, the need to protect human life does not apply.  A woman's right to choose trumps the sanctity of life.

As a Christian, I believe that our lives matter to God.  Not simply because God likes us but because God Himself is life.  Life is not merely the product of a biological process set into motion when two human beings chose to engage in intercourse.  It is a gift of God. It is a gift of Himself.  Like most of God's gifts, we take the credit or we simply disdain their true and necessary value. The commandment to not murder is not simply a good idea to restrain human madness, it is command to teach us the principle that human life is sacred.  And human life is sacred because God is life.

Note: I think it's curious that some people who are arguing so strongly for their Second Amendment rights would agree with me on the anti-abortion position but still think that their right to any any weapon of their choosing trumps the right of a child to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Somewhere in our society in our worship of the individual over the community we have come to believe that personal rights justify treating some human life as sacred some of the time, but not when it undermines our personal rights.

Somehow, I don't think God agrees. In Psalm 139 we read David's words of praise to His Creator:

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!

Maybe it's time to reclaim that view of human life.

(C) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn

You have my permission to reproduce this blog post without cost if it is reprinted in its original and unaltered form, is not included in a formal publication and is distributed for free, and a link is embedded bringing people to the site along with a copyright notice noting my name.  Any other use is prohibited without my prior consent in writing.

Friday, January 18, 2013



This post marks a milestone. It is the 700th post  of LIFE MATTERS. Since I began posting on Blogger, LIFE MATTERS has been view 41,853 times by people around the world. For blogger such as myself, this is tremendously gratifying. (In 2010, in attempt to increase my audience  I began posting on Wordpress and that version has been viewed now by another 41,853 people.

It seems like number 700 ought to be special–particularly significant.

When I started writing LIFE MATTERS my intention was to have an ongoing dialogue with people in our culture and the broader community. I am unashamedly a Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ. A whole lot of people like Jesus, but they are not too fond of Christians. I am convinced that part of the reason for this is they know only Christians via the media, which loves to focus on the extremists in our midst. An authentic Christian, who is just trying to be like Jesus and do what Jesus would do in a manner consistent with what the Bible teaches us about Jesus — that person is often unknown by the prevailing culture. Part of that is because too many Christians live in bubbles, isolated from people not like them; or they live anonymously, as if their faith is simply a private matter.

Neither of these images match what the Bible teaches about followers of Jesus. Christians are called to be salt and light in the world, which means we must live in the world. Christians are called to embody the DNA of Jesus (we call it incarnate living). Not being representatives of a cultural Christianity that is often personal desires baptized with scripture; but being people on mission with Jesus.

I am who I am by the grace of God. You know the children’s song that goes, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” (John 3)

I am who I am because the God of all the universe intervened in our world to once again create a relationship with humankind who had chosen to be its own God–and that clearly was not working.”In just the right time, while we were yet powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5)

I am who I am not because I have a religion but because I have a personal relationship with Jesus, one where he is the Master and I am the disciple. He is not my co-pilot, he is the captain of my fate, the Master of my soul. I am who I am because by trusting Jesus I have learned that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him and are called by his purpose” and the “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, my Lord.” (Romans 8)

Because of Jesus I believe life matters and my life matters and it is the passion of my heart for other people to find that same wholeness and joy that only Jesus can bring.

(C) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn

Thursday, January 17, 2013



A friend of mine, Jim Wilder, posted this on Facebook today and announced "I'm ready for Spring!"

Well, Jim, I couldn't agree more.

 "Catchers and Pitchers report to camp in Lakeland FL in 25 Days."
Jim and I are devout Tiger fans.  My long-suffering Dianne noted when I made this announcement, "Didn't the season just end?"  When I noted (with joy I might add) the baseball had the longest season off any sport, Dianne just shrugged.

I haven't grabbed my first Fantasy Baseball Preview yet, but soon I'll be visiting to plan my entries in the 2013 Fantasy Baseball Season.  (Five teams last year--two made the playoffs-one made the final).  Because I will be starting a new job in the next month as as Intentional Interim Pastor, I probably can't invest a lot of time planning and strategizing for this season, my heart is already beginning to race with anticipation.  I have many roster changes in the year because I am not afraid to take a chance on emerging talent (watching the "who's hot" sections).  Last year a young man named Bryce Harper was one of my greatest "finds" last season.

We Tigers fans had a close call with destiny last season - overtaking the White Sox at the wire and wiping out the Yankees in the AL Championship.  If we hadn't started channeling the Yankees against the red hot Giants, we might be sporting World Series rings.  But we can celebrate the runaway MVP, Miguel Cabrera, our second MVP in a row.  With the return of  Victor Martinez and the acquisition of Tori Hunter and at season's end one of the lowest ERA starting staffs in all baseball,  it is not too much to anticipate glory in 2013.

I can hardly wait until they shout, "Play ball!"

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Lance Armstrong "coming clean" with Oprah

Lance Armstrong has finally come clean and admitted that he had used performance-enhancing drugs for years.  This is after years of vigorous and sometimes vicious denials of his practice. In fact,for years, during his reign as cycling's ultimate champion, Armstrong went after his critics ruthlessly.  He scolded some in public and didn't hesitate to punish outspoken riders during the race itself. He waged legal battles against still others in court. At least one of his opponents, the London-based Sunday Times, has already filed a lawsuit to recover about $500,000 it paid him to settle a libel case, and Dallas-based SCA Promotions, which tried to deny Armstrong a promised bonus for a Tour de France win, has threatened to bring another lawsuit seeking to recover more than $7.5 million awarded by an arbitration panel.  A lot of lives were ruined by Armstrong's actions or those of his supporters during this time.

USA Today's respected sportswriter, Christine Brennan wrote: "Lance Armstrong is not sorry that he doped. He's sorry that he got caught. The worst cheater in the history of sports has come clean not because it's the right thing to do, but because he must believe it's the expedient thing to do.
Devastated by his new reality, one that prevents him from competing in sanctioned triathlons and marathons for the rest of his life, Armstrong wanted a quick fix. He wanted to take care of his latest and greatest problem the way he has handled every other issue in his career: by getting rid of it."

There is great sympathy for Armstrong, a high profile cancer survivor, whose Livestrong charity has raised millions for cancer research and assistance.  Many are hopeful that Armstrong's revelations will not seriously damage its fine and vital contribution to eradicating this disease.

Yet I find myself agreeing with Brennan. Armstrong's lies were bad enough, but that they seriously damaged the lives of others - including some of his closest friends, fellow cyclers, and family cannot be simply wiped clean because he has come clean.  If Armstrong is truly contrite, if this is not simply a calculated ploy to be reinstated as a cycler, then the time has come for him to seriously, intentionally, and passionately work to make amends and restitution to those he has harmed.  And it should not require a court order or a chance to return to the Tour to bring this about.

As a Christian I believe in forgiveness and restoration.  I also believe in restitution.  When finally opening his heart to God's grace, Zaccheus declares, "If I have harmed anyone, I will repay them threefold."  1st century tax collectors working for Rome were notorious thieves.  Zaccheus was not being dissembling, he was being contrite

David wrote in the Psalms, "A broken and contrite heart you will  not despise, O God." (Psalm 51:17) Tears alone and a public stage are not necessarily signs of brokenness and contrition.  It is what follows that ultimately demonstrates what's in the heart.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


 Continuing the series of reprinted posts from 2010 called "Brian's Questions" one of my most popular since I started writing LIFE MATTERS in 2009, almost 700 posts and 41,000 viewers ago.  Check the archive label for A GOOD QUESTION to see the previous reprise posting.-STEVE

After reading my post on "Lilith" and a follow-up post on "Mysticism," Brian asked me this question:
"I am sorry, still, but in reference to your blog, question1, are you saying that it is not important to focus on this (mysticism) or are you saying that the bible incorporates mysticism?" 

Dear Brian,
That's a fair question and it's always good to ask for clarification. I am saying that people use the Bible to support their mysticism (Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian writer, for one) but the focus in the Bible and on biblical Christianity is what we call incarnational living - i.e., putting our faith to work in our everyday lives and not try to find our meaning by "detaching" from everyday existence or seeing the truth as some hidden secret to be discovered by spiritual elite.  The great Truth of Christianity is that the God of all the universe poured himself into human flesh to reveal to us all that we need to know to have a relationship with Him.  In fact, Jesus refers to Himself as the Truth.  The New Testament book, Colossians, puts it this way: "He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation ... For God was pleased to have all of his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (1:15,19).

People often pursue a mystical approach so that they can get closer to God, The Bible teaches that God himself got closer to us. He did this through what we call the incarnation  taking on a flesh and blood existence so that he could communicate clearly with flesh and blood people.  Non-Christian mysticism becomes a trap because it causes us to pursue some elusive knowledge instead of choosing an everyday relationship with Jesus Christ.  It has us chasing an unknowable idea of God instead of the God who has already made himself known.  

Early Christianity actually battled a Greek philosophical system called Gnosticism that had captured the imagination of some Christians.  It taught an elevation from this life and a pursuit of gnosis, knowledge through a series of levels that actually removed you from the burdens and responsibilities of everyday life.  Gnosticism actually shaped some of the so-called books of the Bible that Christian rejected because they away from the human side of Jesus. In the last analysis, who best can help us--a God who understand us in every way by sharing our existence, or some distant deity that hides behind a curtain like the "great and powerful" Wizard of Oz?  (I think you remember how that turned out.)  



" But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." - Galatians 5:22-23

This is an open letter to my fellow Christians:

You and I are on mission with Jesus. It is not a political crusade or a culture war.  We share with Jesus the responsibility to proclaim the message that he brought into the world when he entered time and space 2000 years ago, "To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God."

There are a lot of people who claim to speak for Jesus; including people who do not follow Jesus but want to use their interpretation of the historical Jesus to make him an ordinary guru of goodness instead of the Liberating King and the Leader of our Lives.

And it's hard for the world to know who to believe.

Jesus gave us a clear set of instructions on how to help them.  "You are my disciples if you obey my commands." There are really just two commands, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength" and "Love your neighbor as yourself."

He did not tell us to be reproductions of the Old Testament prophets.  In fact, we are told that we must read that book through New Testament eyes; i.e., the lens of Jesus' life and words.  He called us to be salt and light - to add seasoning to the world and to truth to the world.  But that is intended to be through lives that demonstrate that God is already at work within us.

Paul gives that a particular focus when he reminds us of the "fruit of the Spirit", the DNA of Jesus that shapes us and defines our actions.  Read those words again at the top of this post. 

Peter, who was martyred on a cross, because of his willingness to be Jesus' disciple added even more pointed counsel.  I Peter 3:8-15 tells us:

"Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  For,whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good;  they must seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect"

Every time I hear you demand your rights, I wonder how that matches Jesus’ command to humble ourselves and serve, or Paul’s reminder that our rights are to be set aside for the sake of the Message.

Every time I hear you defend the NRA passionately, I wonder what that says to the world who were told by Isaiah that Jesus would be the “prince of peace.”

Every time I hear you say hateful things about people who have chosen the homosexual and lesbian lifestyle, I wonder what John is thinking about the Word, “God came not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.

Every time I hear Christians seeking to accepted by being politically correct and attacking the simple faith of sports athletes and belittling those who believe the Jesus is the only way to a relationship with the Father, I wonder if you have not changed the eternal destiny of someone who needs to meet the Truth Who sets us free.

Are people who use their rights to destroy the moral fabric of a community to be honored?  No.  Are people who want to pick and choose what “rights” are politically correct? No. Are people who chose alternate lifestyles right? No. Are people who want to turn Christianity into a water-downed religion instead of a genuine relationship with their Savior to be ignored? No.

But as we deal with these things we must do them with the words and actions of Jesus.  The ends do not justify the means.  And in the end, what does it profit us to win a culture war but forfeit the souls of the people in that culture because we have no redemptive relationship with them?

Please prayerfully think about that.

© 2013 by STEPHEN L DUNN

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Thanks to JD Blom, a blogger who reads my evangelism blog,  Evangelism Today, who posted this video from Louis Giglio on his excellent blog A Devoted Life 

Monday, January 7, 2013


Bill O'Brien has made the decision to stay at Penn State.  I would have loved to see what he could have down with my favorite since childhood, the Cleveland Browns.  He obviously is an excellent coach and more than NFL teams have cast a longing eye on his leadership.  But O'Brien recognized that what he has sought to do in Happy Valley is not yet finished. O'Brien commented:  "I'm not a one-and-done guy. I made a commitment to these players at Penn State and that's what I am going to do."

Out of the devastation of Jerry Sandusky's crimes, Joe Paterno's fall from grace, and immense NCAA sanctions; O'Brien held together a storied program and help write a new story with Penn State's success on the gridiron this fall.  He helped put the adjective "character" back into that program and he modeled character for some fine young athletes.  In particular, O'Brien's leadership helped PSU's seniors hold their heads high as they completed the season as a team together, instead of separately on campuses across the nation.  Without negating the crime, nor blunting the passionate sympathy for those abused; O'Brien helped Penn State have a redeemed self-image; the kind of outcome that reinforces a quality education.

All of that would have been muted if O'Brien had departed.  Incoming recruits would have lost something of the promise that had attracted them to play for a school still under sanctions for several years.  I say, "God bless, Bill O'Brien" (just don't help him beat the Buckeyes next year).

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


 Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
I'll praise the mount I'm fixed upon it
Mount of thy redeeming love

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I come
And I hope by thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home

 Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above

Sharon Hodde Miller writes an excellent blog called She Worships that I find an interesting look at practical Christianity and living out our theology in the real world.  December 28 she wrote an interesting post called "Here I Raise My Ebenezer."  It begins:

I still remember the first time I learned that “ebenezer” was more than a scrooge-y character in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I was taking an Old Testament class in seminary, and when I came to 1 Samuel 7 I read about God’s saving intervention in the face of great peril. 1 Samuel 7:10-11 recounts,
While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.
In response to God’s faithfulness Samuel does the following:
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” (v. 12)
When I first read this passage I loved the visual, the idea of marking the spot where God had been faithful. Not only did that stone remind Samuel of God’s faithfulness, but whenever Samuel’s ancestor’s would pass by it, they too would remember God’s love.

That’s when I decided to begin doing the same.

Ever since I learned about the story behind the ebenezer, I have periodically paused to raise my own ebenezers, vowing to remember God’s faithfulness whenever He has helped me. And this year, as 2012 draws to a close, I can’t help but raise one now.  Read rest of post

Sharon's post got me thinking about my own Ebenezer's for 2012:

1. Dianne and I celebrated 40 years of marriage. She is the best thing that has happened to me in my life, standing by me through many challenges and adventures that went with the ministry--including one now where we have moved out of our home and made ourselves available to what God wants to do next in our lives as we serve His kingdom purposes.

2. A sabbatical at Winebrenner Theological Seminary that allowed me take a respite from the daily business of pastoral ministry and re-energized my passion to teach churches how to reach their unchurched neighbors with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

3. The opportunity to take Bridgebuilders Seminars that I had been developing for several years across the country helping reawaken a vision in many churches to once again be identified with the love of Jesus Christ as they reach their neighbors without fighting a culture war.

4. Significant time with all four of my children and their families, something that I have not been able to do in several years.

5. Seeing the Church of God of Landisville that I had helped nurture and equip for vision for 11 years make a smooth and healthy transition to a new and younger pastor, Tim Bistline, who will now be able to reach a whole new generation for Jesus.

6. The return to the Seminary classroom with 16 delightful students in the New Testament Foundations Class for Winebrenner's Pastoral Training Institute.

7. God selling our house in 28 days so we have had money to live during this time of ministry exploration that Dianne and I have called our "Abraham and Sarah Excellent Adventure" and friends like Dennis and Carol Regitz and Dennis and Ruth Hall who have made their homes available to us during this season of our life.

I am sure there are more, but you can see that I have lots of reasons as I begin 2013 to celebrate what God has provided in 2012. 

Here I raise my ebenezer!