Saturday, November 30, 2013



We have just come through Black Friday, often a day of retail madness and debt enslavement. (Actually this year it became Gray Thursday as the aspirations of Black Friday leaked forward into our Thanksgiving celebrations.)  The basic consumerism of our age rears its ugly head and launches us into Advent thinking of the flesh instead of the spirit.

If we are not careful, the Spirit of God goes almost unnoticed except for Sunday morning worship (unless of course we are skipping worship to do some family Christmas activity, or to snatch some overtime wages).

Rewind the tape to the beginning of the first century.  Let your Google satellite map zero in on the nation of Israel, now called Palestine or “the land of the Jews.”  It is an occupied nation seething with political rebellion. It is a poor land and its people poor from subsistence farms, greedy religious leaders, and ruinous Roman taxation.  It is a nation of wounded pride and frustrated hope where people struggle to keep favor with a God who has been silent for a long time.

It is a place where people live in deep darkness trying to navigate their way through the valley of the shadow of death.

Long before the birth of Christ, a prophet named Isaiah spoke the words we now find in Isaiah 9.1-7.
1. Read verse 2. What is the key word here?
2. What do you believe is the promise contained in “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light”?
3. What does the metaphor of a light appearing at dawn add to that promise?
4.  Where is the area of darkness or spiritual night that you struggle with?
5.  Ask God to bring light into those places for you.
6. Pray that God will bring light for you this Christmas.

(C) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn

Thursday, November 28, 2013


October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States
A Proclamation

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.
         Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, November 24, 2013



"At present we are on the wrong side of the door, but all the pages of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so." - CS Lewis

Tim Hansel once wrote, "The problem with life is that it is so daily."  I would have to qualify that comment with my own statement, "The problem with life it is so difficult."  I am by nature neither a pessimist nor a sayer of doom.  I am, however, that many live each day with a high level of anxiety and frustration.  Some even rise to the level of Henry David Thoreau's critique: 

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” 

I do not always know what to do with fellow Christians who are unrelentingly cheery, especially when I think they life verse is not biblical but something from Madison Avenue, "Never ever let them see you sweat." 

Nor do I deal well with Christians who complain how hard things are or believe their circumstances must perfect or comfortable because they are God's people.  Jesus himself had a thought on this:

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16.33b

Like persons both Christian and non, I have good days and bad ones--days of anxiety and days of confidence.  But in all days I have a sense of peace, a peace that really is beyond understanding.  It is rooted and grounded not in my circumstances nor my moods, but in a relationship.

"If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." - Romans 14:8

And that is grounded in a even greater truth:

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38-39

So for now, I live on this side of the door,with all of its imperfections and limitations, challenges and crises,  content with the "rustling of the rumor that it will not always be so."

(C) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn 

Saturday, November 23, 2013



Tomorrow is the primary day of worship for Christians around the world.  A day on which we celebrate again and again the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross and his resurrection from the dead. This delightful song from the group Glad reminds me of this as I prepare for worship.

Monday, November 18, 2013



Walked into Panera's this morning I order a cup of coffee and a cinnamon crunch bagel.  I needed to get a head start on my sermon for the week.  I was greeted by this sign:

Please do not put the to go cups in the microwave!

My first thought was "of course not," followed by "that's a no-brainer." Apparently from some it's rocket science.

Then there was the girl who was sitting in front of me at a stop light rapidly texting.  "I hope she stops when it's time to drive."  The evidence is overwhelming that texting leads to fatalities on the road.  The light changed, she rolled forward still banging the keyboard.

Or the guy I saw passing me doing 80 in a 65-mile an hour zone and then passing the state trooper who I was following still doing 80.  Soon those red lights began to flash.

The list could go on and probably will. I imagine I will see even more evidences of these kind of behaviors before I get home this evening.

There are times when the level of practical intelligence exhibited is so low that it's ridiculous.  We humans seem intent at times on not using the brains God has given us (if we believe in God at all.)  Remember the lady who sued McDonalds because her hot coffee spilled and burned her as she carried away from the counter?  What did she think hot coffee would do if you walked with it without allowing for the laws of motion and gravity at work in a cup that you had taken the cap from?

Life is not intended to be lived in obliviousness to life.  There are laws of nature, there are laws of action and consequence, there are laws risk and result.  There are laws of our spiritual nature.  These are part of the Creator's design--not to inhibit us, but to give us boundaries that protect us from the foolishness born of our basic depravity.  And He gave us a brain to observe, to learn, to act.

Maybe it's time we learned to use those brains wisely.

(C) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn

Saturday, November 16, 2013


More from the group Jesus Culture to help prepare you for worship.- Steve

Monday, November 11, 2013



"Never was so much owed by so many to so few" - Winston Churchill

I have too few words and none is sufficiently eloquent to express my heart on this day - especially for those men and women - husbands and wives - mothers and fathers who continue to serve in harm's way in places like Afghanistan.  I offer these images which I can only see through tear-drenched eyes.


Saturday, November 9, 2013


Saturday is a day that I try to begin preparing for worship. Here is one a reminder of the reason many of us will go to a church tomorrow. - Steve

Thursday, November 7, 2013


 JD Blom is one of those bloggers that I read regularly.  He writes his own excellent stuff and reblogs items from others.  Here's one that warmed my heart greatly and engages in the whole conversation YOUR LIFE MATTERS TO do.


“Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!”  Psalm 66:1-2
The electron microscope creates images from a beam of electrons.  This microscope reveals details of the microscopic world by exposing it to magnification of up to 10 million times.  These details have never been knowable until Hans Busch developed the first electron microscope in 1926.
Humans have been oblivious to the precision of shark’s skin, the geometric beauty of a fly’s eye, the symmetry of a butterfly’s wing, the wonder of a human egg, for a majority of human history.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013



This past Sunday representatives from this group spoke at the church I serve in Shippensburg PA.
I share this video with you as an excellent example of what you can do if you believe the command found in James 1:27 --  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Orphan Sunday 2012 from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 3, 2013



"If you eat tootsie rolls for breakfast, you'll have to eat broccoli for dinner." 
- Becky Jarrett on Facebook

Becky Jarrett, philosopher and mother
I think it had something to do with the Halloween Aftermath.  You know, that period of a few days when kids have enough candy to set a whole city block on a sugar high and the desire of their heart is to eat everything before Mom and Dad sneak in and eat the Snickers.

Before you think this is one more blog on wise eating, grab a handful of Tootsie Rolls and reflect with me on one of life's important truths.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; ..." - Ecclesiastes 3.1-8, ESV

Most of us live in the moment. That moment's desires and joys or its problems and demands tend to capture our minds and dominate our attitudes.  There is a natural tendency in most humans to binge on the happy stuff and run as quickly as we can from the bad things.  For kids, the seasons to be embraced are the Tootsie Roll ones and the one to skip has broccoli in it.

Yet it is the diversity of these seasons that shape us.  They deepen our self-understanding and grow our character.  Any athlete knows that you learn something from both winning and losing.  You may only want to celebrate the former but the latter is often the greatest test of your resiliency.  Times of preparation are as important as times of celebration.

The seasons of life fill us with a rich diversity of experience.  They give us a time of testing, but also a time of resting.  They remind us that God is a God of New Beginnings.  They remind us that God's presence is so rich that it is with us in green pastures and valleys of the shadow.

I am glad that God gives me seasons for Tootsie rolls; but I am also grateful for the broccoli.

(C) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn

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Saturday, November 2, 2013


Courtesy of Charles Schulz Museum Facebook Page

Have you ever had an experience where something just didn't make sense?  As human beings we want to know what is the meaning of the things that happen to us or we must face.  There is a sense of anxiety that touches when something is unexplainable.  We feel powerless when we must say, "I don't have a clue?"

"God must have a reason," is the response that many Christians give when facing these situations.
"I guess we'll know when we finally get to heaven" and then we try press on with our lives.

Some call such responses, faith.  Some call it naivete.  Some call it stupidity.

And yet, who can explain everything that happens to us in life?  The other day I saw a bumper sticker that said "Logic is my co-pilot."  Yet not everything in the world is logical.  Scholars write massive volumes to try and explain what makes historical figures tick.  But does 400 pages on the life of Adolf Hitler really explain why childhood trauma make a monster when other traumatized persons become saints?

The mind is not the only way people arrive at understanding.  Not everything that gives us assurance or direction comes from some carefully designed algorithm.  Blaise Pascal, the 19th century mathematician and philosopher once said, "The heart has reasons that reason does not know."

In a complex humanity, understanding and meaning have complex routes to the human heart.  This does not imply that we must act impulsively or blindly; but it does say that to live and act we must move forward many times in trust.

This is where faith must come into the picture.  Faith in God in particular.  I know my instincts are not always right and my knowledge of a situation is certainly incomplete.  Simply trusting in myself is ultimately a formula for when failure when life finally asks a question for which I not only don't have an answer, but didn't even know it was a question.

I know that people have free wills and personal agendas and sometimes use others, so simply trusting in some other human is a formula for victimization.  Human nature still produces Adolf Hitlers and Jim Joneses.

As a Christian, the only alternative - logical by the world's standards or not - is to trust God.

Psalm 118:8 “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.”

Isaiah 26:3: You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.

(C) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn