Tuesday, June 7, 2016

WISHFUL THINKING OR FAITH-FILLED HOPE


BY STEVE DUNN

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for ... These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,  since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. - Hebrews 11.1-2, 39-40

A lot of us live by wishful thinking.  We say and do things that reflect a basic denial of reality.  I cannot tell you how many times as a pastor I heard someone say,"I know what you're saying, but my experience is different.  I am an exception to that rule."  Usually what they were saying was, "I want to do what I want to do, but don't want to be held accountable for my choices.

Before someone accuses me of being a hypocrite or Pharisee,I need to confess something.  Diabetes runs in my family.  Almost 20 years ago my doctors dropped the adjective "borderline" from their diagnosis.  They told me how to combat it, particularly the importance of diet.

I really didn't make that many changes, except to slow down on regular soft-drinks. I would eat carefully for a few days and then in times of boredom or at buffets, I would abandon all boundaries.  Now hundreds of milk shakes later, I find myself taking drastic measures to get that diabetes under control.

Wishful thinking can be very dangerous, especially when God has made it clear that only His way works.  There are no exceptions to his rules.

But one of his rules is "with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible."  In our faith life some of us are so grounded in being practical or realistic that we think that only the things man controls are to be pursued.  Comfort zones are where we choose to live.  Walking on water is for Jesus and foolish humans. After all, look what happened to Peter.

The problem with that is that God Who always keeps His promises feels no need to provide instant gratification and whose rewards which are eternal start closer to eternity than the present moment.

Be careful of wishful thinking.  If it is contrary to God's word or way of acting - it is foolishness, often tragically so.

But when God says let go, look beyond, follow me - the foolishness is in our comfort-zone, control-obsessed response.

© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com 



Saturday, December 19, 2015

SEVEN MORE DAYS TO CHRISTMAS

BY STEVE DUNN





Reading: Luke 2.1-7

I walked into Walmart Saturday morning to be greeted by their Christmas Countdown sign which read; 7 MORE DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS.  They were wrong.  It was 6 days!  It was early in the morning but someone was not on the ball.  The shelves were filled--jammed, in fact, clearly having been refilled the night before.  Walmart was obviously hoping Christmas did not arrive too soon. They still had tons of merchandise to sell before Christmas Eve evening arrived and even Walmart would be closed. 

I suspect Mary and Joseph, making that compulsory journey to Bethlehem were also hoping that Christmas did not arrive too soon.  Having a baby on the back of a donkey on a rugged road, or nestled in a rock cropping next to that desert  road were not ideal either.

How many of us have such busy lives that one of our more frequent refrains is, "If I just had a alittle more time"?  How many of us are so disorganized that time slips away from us as we occupy it with running in circles instead of getting anywhere useful?

It is important always to remember that ultimately God is in control of Time--He is its Lord.  Time is a ;precious commodity, precious particularly because God gives us time for His purposes under Heaven not for our desires.  So important, in fact, that Paul reminds, "Redeem the time."(Ephesians 5.16-18)

Christmas will arrive now in six days--ready or not. Are you ready?

Christmas also reminds that there is a second arrival of the Christ,  A time when time will be  no more.  Are you ready for that time, as well?


© 2015 by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com 
 




Thursday, December 10, 2015

A WELL FULL OF JOY

BY STEVE DUNN

Reading: Isaiah 12:2-6

     As I drove to work today I have used a seeing eye dog--or a seeing eye "something" to go in front of my Toyota.  The fog was so dense that I barely see 20 feet in front of me and 30 feet beyond me was a total mystery.  Even my memory of the road was not sufficient to give me confidence to drive above snail speed and I was fooled more than once, making me even more apprehensive.

     Fear and apprehension are good words to describe the world how we live in the world today. From Isis to food contamination to winter storms to identity theft hackers, it is very easy to live with the sense that disaster could destroy us in a heart beat.

    Arriving at the office, I began my quiet time and my devotional guide took me to Isaiah 12.2-6.

'God is my salvation;
    I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense[a];
    he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water
    from the wells of salvation.
In that day you will say:
“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done,
    and proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
    let this be known to all the world.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
    for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

     The words that captured me today were in 3 and 4: “he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” It reminds of the lyrics to a contemporary song, “If grace is an ocean we’re all sinking.” People live with a sense of loss, a fear of having their resources diminished.  This brings depression and it is also brings selfishness—an inward focus instead of a Godward one.  If we truly understand what our salvation means and what it affords, should not our response instead be one of joy

     This Advent, when you begin to feel yourself sinking--turn again to Isaiah's source of strength.

Monday, December 7, 2015

UNLIKELY PLACES AND UNLIKELY PEOPLE

BY STEVE DUNN



"'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'" - Micah 5.2

I was making a quick shopping trip after church. Dianne and I were working on our Christmas decorating and we needed some small items.  We slipped into Michael's, the craft store, to pick up what we needed.  We found what we needed quickly and then headed to the checkout line.  The clerk was not nondescript. She had a quasi Goth look, with some well-placed rings about her nose and mouth.  But her perkiness belied the often sullen approach that other Gothic folks take towards people who were dressed more suitably for a fine restaurant and old enough to be her grandparents.

"How are you today?" she asked, genuinely interested.  She laughingly engaged us in a friendly conversation that created some encouraging and pleasant exchanges. And then she concluded the conversation with some words that many big-time retailers have banished. "Have a merry Christmas."

I walked to the parking lot very much surprised and definitely uplifted.

Did you ever have such an experience? Something or someone that you might ordinarily overlook surprises you with a side of them that you normally would have looked for elsewhere? And that surprise was a blessing?

Bethlehem was just such a place in the political and social landscape of Judea but Micah prophesied it would b the birthplace of the Savior all humankind. 

In the economy of God, His greatest of work is done by the least of these.

Perhaps this Advent, instead of looking for the glitter, the glamour and the spectacular to celebrate this Good News, you need to turn your eyes towards unlikely people and places and see just what God will send.



(C) 2015 by Stephen L Dunn

Sunday, November 29, 2015

THE DAY THEY DECLARED PEACE


BY STEVE DUNN



Today is the beginning of the season called Advent.  Note, I did not say the Christmas season.  Although much of our culture tends to blur the whole of late November and December into a single event called Christmas (unless they are calling it the "Happy Holiday"), the four weeks before Christmas are called Advent.  Advent basically means "arrival" or "coming."  It is a time to prepare for the event that we celebrate at Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ.  That day, more than two millennium ago, was the launch point for God's plan to end the war between sinful humanity and a righteous God.  That event was the point where God declared the peace and would establish it forever thirty-three years ago with Jesus' work on the Cross.

Peace is one of the most elusive of dreams pursued by humanity.  Presidents and potentates have pursued it by diplomacy, still others have tried to establish at the end of a sword.  Periodically people began to preach to one another, "let's be at peace" (or in this day, they pay text or tweet). But all human efforts, no matter how well-meaning or passion, ultimately flounder on the rocks of human selfishness and sinfulness.

In John 14:27 we read this promise of Jesus.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."






And Paul would later explain ""... and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Ephesians 2:14)

It is that peace we prepare for in the season of Advent.

(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn

This post originally appeared in this blog in 2011.

Please note that permission is given to reprint this post as long as it is not changed or altered, contain the above copyright notice and a link to this blog.