Sunday, March 31, 2013


At Easter we celebrate the death of death.  The apostle Paul describes it this way in I Corinthians 15:54-57:

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ultimately death comes to us all.  That reality alone shapes much of human life and its living.

The fear of death is one of the greatest destroyers of life.  People struggle to find meaning and purpose in life, pursuing treasures that deteriorate, reputations that are forgotten, and control that forever eludes them. The fear of death makes cowards of us all, often refusing to take the risks that are needed to have life to its fullest.  It makes us hold onto life as we desire it  at the cost of our health, our relationships, and moral integrity.  The fear of death is the tool tyrants use to oppress nations and demagogues use to manipulate masses.

And part of that fear is rooted deeply in the question, "what awaits us beyond the grave?"  Some of humanity simply hopes for annihilation.  Nothing is better than what might be.  Others hope to find heaven on earth only to discover that hell holds the mortgage,  Still others eschew any kind of afterlife believing that giving this earth another try might finally get them what their heart desires--until once again they die.

Jesus Christ came into the world to once reestablish the truth that a world apart from God is destined to self-destruction.   Death will have the last word unless death is defeated.   Jesus Christ came into the world to demonstrate a power greater than death by creating for humankind life as God intended--abundant and eternal and freed from sin's power and death's sting.

Death tried to defeat Christ.   It sought to wipe him out through the manipulations of men who feared the life God intended.  But as Clarence Hall has written: "Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won't stay there."

For on the third day, the stone was rolled away and God raised Christ up and death received its own death knell. The crack of dawn on Easter morning was the resounding trumpet that declared God's victory over death and ours with Him.

(C) 2013 by Steve Dunn

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Each year I try and post some of the works of the late Johnny Hart.  Hart is famous for the comic strips BC and The Wizard of Id.  After becoming a Christian, Hart used his comic forum to share the Good News of Christ.  His Easter strips were the most memorable and for some in Hollywood and the media, controversial.  Nonetheless, to enhance your Easter understanding and celebration I offer you a sampling of my favorites.



Tournament darling (or Cinderella) Florida Gulf Coast went down last night to Florida after being the first 15th seed to make it to the Sweet Sixteen.  When they knocked off Georgetown, most brackets were busted big-time.  Georgetown was the first of my Final Four predictions to bite the dust.

Brackets be darned.  For a time I was hoping for an All Big Ten Final Four (just to silence Charles Bsrkley among other things) but Friday Indiana got busted by Syracuse and my second Final Four pick exited the tournament.  Michigan State's loss last night to Duke reduced that fleeting fancy even further but Michigan's upset of Kansas still makes an All Big Ten Final a possibility. I had just intended for Ohio State to triumph over Indiana instead of the Wolverines.

One of the clear stars of the tournament to date is Aaron Craft, that Findlay OH native (I am a Findlay OH native) who  defended and three-pointed his team to eleven state victories.  He is one of the reasons that the commentators continue to lean towards my prediction of Thad Matta's Buckeyes winning it all.

Today begins the Elite Eight and with my brackets busted, here are my revised prognostications.
Louisville over Duke
Ohio State over Wichita State
Florida over Michigan
Syracuse over Marquette
Ohio State over Louisville
Syracuse over Florida
BIG ONE - Ohio State over Syracuse
Interestingly, I am currently living in Shippensburg PA, the home of FGU's coach Andy Enfield Needless to say, most people were rooting for them in this location, myself included.  Most Buckeye fans have an aversion to Florida sports teams.

Friday, March 29, 2013


It is good Friday and I had not yet found what I wanted to share with my readers about this critical day in human history. Then I read Michael Kelly's blog FORWARD PROGRESS and I knew why I had not yet been inspired personally.  Michael shares something entirely new to me and yet divinely on target.  May this re-posting bless you as it has blessed me. - STEVE


There’s a little detail in the account of Jesus’ crucifixion in Matthew that’s begging to be paid attention to:

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split” (Matthew 27:50-51).

That little detail is about the curtain. There were alot of curtains and barriers in the temple, each forming a barrier of separation. And as you went further in, and closer and closer to God, it became more and more restrictive. This curtain, the one that was ripped, formed the boundary between the “holy place,” the inner sanctuary where it was said that God resided, the place where the high priest could only go one time a year, and those outside.

When Jesus died, the barrier was torn in two. Now, because of Jesus, we have access to that place. Jesus is the only thing now between us and the depths of God. No curtains. No barriers.
But here’s the detail: The curtain was ripped from top to bottom.

Why include that in the account? Why not just say it was torn? If the only thing Matthew wanted to comment on was the removal of the barrier, just saying the curtain was torn would have been more than enough. But he went ahead and included the fact that not only was the curtain torn, but it was torn from top to bottom.

It was ripped in half from the top – where God is – to the bottom – where we are. You see where we’re going with this.

Who ripped the curtain? It was God. He ripped it, and because He ripped it, it was torn from top to bottom. With all our efforts to get to Him, all our self-righteousness, all our good works, all our intellect, the curtain never got ripped from bottom to top. But God? He’s the initiator. He’s the tearer.

And so the curtain came down that day, torn in two by the hands of a God bent on intimacy with His people.

Sunday, March 24, 2013



Our culture has a way of co-opting Christian holidays.  Note that Christians co-opt secular holidays, too, like Mother's Day.  This is not a polemic against the subversion of faith.  It is just a gentle reminder to everyone, but especially Christians, why we celebrate Easter.

People who are unfamiliar with Christianity tend to focus on Christmas as the key holy day of our faith.  The reality is that Christmas is secondary to Easter.  Christmas is the season of Immanuel--God with us.  Or as one commentator has said, "God who is for man."  Easter is the season of the Savior--God with reconciles man to Himself.  Christmas is when God takes on flesh and moves into the neighborhood.  Easter is when God slams the door on death and says we will dwell with Him for eternity.  Christmas is when God identifies with us.  Easter is when God declares that we shall be like Him.  Christmas reminds us that we have not been forgotten or abandoned by God.  Easter is when God comes to dwell in and through us forever.

Christmas is about the Child who is born who is the hope of the ages.  Easter is about the Liberating King who frees us from our sin.

Frankly, if the Easter bunny finds it necessary ride on Jesus' coattails, he's in good company. Humanity does more than ride on Jesus' coattails, it lives in His righteousness.

So this Easter, with March Madness into its Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, with college students invading the beaches of the Gulf Coast, with our children getting a sugar high from all that candy; let us remember that Easter is for Jesus and is about Jesus--Jesus who is alive!

(c) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn

Readers, please note--this is my Monday Morning Reflection for Holy Week 2013

Monday, March 18, 2013



This blog is a bit of a potpourri of reflections rather than a single theme.  Nothing earth-shattering but hopefully some fun.

First, bracketology. That word earns a red underline in my spell-checker but it is clearly part of the language of our culture.  Tuesday the Final 68 begin their mad march in March to the NCAA Basketball title. From office pools to Sunday School classes to web sites to secret notebooks, predictions are being registered for the Final Four and the Ultimate Champ.  So here goes mine.  MIDWEST REGION- The Louisville Cardinals who have been clearly the No. 1 seed as the season ended and the champs of the Big East who put the most teams in the tournament, should prevail in the East.Sentimental choice, St. Louis.  SOUTH REGION:  I see No. 2 seed the Georgetown Hoyas triumphing even though they must knock off many prognisticators favorites, the Kansas Jayhawks.  Call it a gut feeling.  My sentimental choice would have been Butler.  EAST REGION: The Indiana Hoosiers. 'Nuff said except that they are my sentimental choice, as well.  WEST REGION: Ohio State Despite losing their focus at point in January, Fort Wayne IN's Deshaun Thomas is a scoring machine, and Aaron Craft could pick the pocket of the Pope.  AND they came within a breadth of winning the Big Ten regular season after beating the Hoosiers in the toughest league in basketball. AND they were clearly the class of the Big 10 Tournament.  My sentimental choice, too.

FINAL FOUR? Ohio State over Louisville.  It's Thad's time.  Indiana over Georgetown. If Tom Crean can control himself and Oladipo stays out of foul trouble.  Ultimately, THE BUCKEYES.

Things you may relate on a Monday.  For some people Monday is a return to the Madness--and not just in March.  Do you relate to any of these?

Monday, March 11, 2013


By Steve Dunn

“Jesus doesn't need us to reduce Him to a poor puny Jesus just so people can ‘accept’ him. He doesn't want us to accept him, he wants us to follow him.”
 - David Platt

     We apologize for Jesus too much.  We de-radicalize him and spin him, so that people might be willing “friend” him on Facebook.  We want people to like him. We want people to accept him.

      We downplay that his neighbors in Nazareth were offended by him and his family embarrassed by him.  We placed pictures of him with children everywhere but grow uncomfortable with him whip in hand in the Temple.

      So we wipe the blood stains off of our crosses.  We declaw our apologetics.  We want make him into a Republican or a Democrat depending on our political persuasion.  We quote his words on love and yet ignore his probing questions. We talk about His work on the Cross because the suffering is done so we can avoid the pain of eternal separation from God, but downplay what he taught the night before with a basin and a towel.

       We need to take Jesus seriously and to tell the people the truth. “ Then he said to them all:  ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9.23

Thursday, March 7, 2013


This is a powerful and insightful presentation by a friend and a respected pastor within my denominational stream-Steve

Monday, March 4, 2013



A few days ago USA Today published this picture of a school teacher learning how to handle a gun.  I understand she is involved in this training in response to an initiative to permit schoolteachers to take firearms into their classroom to protect themselves and their students.

Does this image disturb you in any way?  It does me.  It's one in a long line of suggestions that say we handle the impact of a culture enamored with violence with make guns an even more prominent factor in dealing with life.  Again, without asking the question, "How does this affect our children?"  Will children feel secure knowing that the same lady who reads to them Green Eggs and Ham is ready and able to blow away any intruder that enters the classroom? Or will the reality that having an armed teacher add to the fear factor that is already far too prevalent and destructive?  And how long before a harried, overworked teacher loses track of his or her gun and an inquisitive 3rd grader who is already energized by guns from the playing their parents video games--and picks up the gun --- and pulls the trigger?

There MUST be better solutions. There MUST !!!!!!!!!

Saturday, March 2, 2013



Poor President Obama.  As a friend of mine, Harvey Freedenberg, says, "After the 'Jedi Mind-Meld' gaffe, I hear President Obama is looking for a new Pop Culture Advisor."  (Actually, in this day and age of orchestrated political packaging, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a Pop Culture Advisor on the White House payroll.") A little bit of cultural awareness is a dangerous thing, especially when people are so quick to criticize our gaffes.

Once in a sermon I was quickly referring to rock groups and named one, "Stone Dead Temple Pilots." My children were amused and quick to comment to their "perfect" Dad, "It is Stone Temple Pilots. They are not dead, Dad."  Also, the 35 year-old drummer in my church choir also had a good laugh and smirked all the way through my exposition on Nehemiah (at least I think I was preaching on Nehemiah).  It didn't help that I ad-libbed the same gaffe at least twice again--once more than a year later.  Of course, the first gaffe was still etched in the public memory.  I don't think I intended laughter to be the response to my message that morning.

There are times it helps to not take oneself too seriously.

I really doubt that Mr. Obama needs to have his Press Secretary do damage control on this one.  He's got bigger problems and so does our country.  If he can laugh at himself on this one, I guarantee you I will be laughing with him.

Friday, March 1, 2013



Today, March 1, 2013 is a significant day in my life.  I am moving into my office at 121 E. King Street in Shippensburg PA and officially beginning my duties as the Intentional Interim Pastor of the Shippensburg First Church of God.  "Ship" is one of the oldest congregations of my denomination with a rich history of missions. community ministry, and biblical teaching.  The congregation offers multiple worship styles, a solid mission program, a campus ministry, a community kitchen, creative youth and children's ministries.  More than 400 persons call this church their home.

Seven months and one week ago I ended a nearly eleven year pastorate at the Church of God of Landisville PA.  God was calling to a broader ministry and it was time for wonderful outward-focused church to have a younger and more energetic pastor to help them move to the new live of being on mission with Jesus.

When I resigned, except for some working with Bridgebuilders Seminars and a part-time adjunct job with Winebrenner Seminary; Dianne and I did not know what God had in store next for us.  Through a variety of God-shaped opportunities, we found a new form of ministry.  It's called Intentional Interim Pastor.  

Churches are living organisms, communities of people joined together to help one another in their walk of faith and united for the purposes of being Christ's representatives in the world.  When a pastor leaves, there is both grief and also a very natural questioning about that congregation's future.

People naturally just think, "let's hire another one;" but that process in many congregations takes eight months to a year or more.  Often churches lose momentum, treading water until the next pastor arrives.  And when the new one arrives, it often takes years to recover what is lost.

An Intentional Interim Pastor becomes the church's spiritual leader to help the church continue in meaningful ministry.  The IIP does the necessary grief work and conflict management that emerges in these times of transition.  They help the church assess its strengths and weaknesses, and then to identify the next step in ministry it needs to take.  Armed with that focus and building upon a renewed health, they call a pastor whose vision matches what they believe God wants them to accomplish.

Often without an Intentional Interim Pastor, churches choose a new one too quickly and without the necessary work to be healthy.  It's sort of like getting married on the rebound--and marriage on the rebound is usually a formula for failure.

So with 40 years of pastoral experience and a passion for teaching churches about effective discipleship, this is the new chapter God has placed me in.  I look forward to being "back to work" so to speak.  (My wife is happy about it, too, because she can stop being the primary breadwinner, which she was when her hubby was underemployed.)