Living the Resurrection Life as the Body of Christ

Archive for the ‘GOD STORIES’ Category

HUNGERING AND THIRSTING AFTER RIGHTEOUSNESS

BY STEVE DUNN

My teenage years were lived out in the Sixties.  It was a highly skeptical age and often quite hostile to faith.  In fact, many persons I knew in those days called themselves atheists or they bought into the philosophical position of one Karl Marx who declared “Religion is the opiate of the people.”  Persons who had a faith, especially if it carried a strong affirmation of the reality of the supernatural, were considered ignorant, naive, or perhaps even dangerous. In the academic world it was a badge of honor to deny that humanity had a spiritual side.  The spiritual side was considered an impediment or an opponent of becoming fully enlightened and fully human.

“I’m just hungry for God.” – Austin Young

Yet as humanity has turned on the hinge of history and moved beyond the narrow framework of the Twentieth Century, we have once again accepted the truth found in the New Testament that healthy humanity acknowledges its spiritual nature.

“Oh, I am a spiritual person” is a proud claim by so many; including those of the emerging teenage generations.

Spiritual is not synonymous with Christian, but it is a common ground for once again introducing people to the “Truth that sets us free.”

Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century: “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

Jesus Christ declared in the first century, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

In this photo is a friend of mine, Austin Young.  In fact, I baptized him a couple of years ago.  A young man with great leadership skills, athletic gifts, a heart of deep compassion and a propensity to action.  But at the heart of his life always seemed to be a hunger for a right-relationship with God that drove his decisions and actions.

Young men like Austin have their ups and downs, their ebbs and flows, their close walks and even their falling always.  But once they have tasted of what God has to offer, they always seem to return to that anchor of personal relationship with Christ.

Easter People are hungry people.

They hunger for a confident closeness to God.

They hunger to embody the love spoken of the Bible.

They hunger to make a difference in their world.

They hunger for justice and mercy to prevail.

They hunger for grace to continue its amazing work.

They hunger to be like Jesus.

So just what are you hungering for these days?

(C) 2o12 by Stephen L Dunn

LOVE WINS–BUT AT WHAT COST?

From Karen Spears Zacharias comes this powerful story ….

I worry about The Marine sometimes.

He would scoff at me for that, so I’ve never made mention of it until now.

The news reports of 29-year-old Jaman Iseminger of Indianapolis, In. are a reminder to me that there is a real cost to serving others the way Jaman did, the way The Marine does.

Jaman, a pastor at Bethel Community Church, was reportedly shot and killed by a 49-year-old homeless woman on Saturday as he and others gathered to clean up a nearby cemetery. Something that many do routinely as part of the preparations leading into Memorial Day.

Those who knew him best say that Jaman “believed the church of Jesus Christ was not to be in these four walls, but to actually love the least of these.”

While others argue about how the Christian life ought to be exemplified, The Marine is out doing what others are arguing about.

I’ve witnessed The Marine’s faith in action.

The way he speaks with respect and honor to the fellow wearing fishnet hosiery and high heels.

The way he coddles the toddler of a teen.

The way he banters with the group of homeless men gathered around a coffee pot.

And I see it in the way the homeless respect him.

He is the real deal and they know it.

Still, I worry when I hear the reports that a homeless man that was drinking coffee the morning before has stabbed someone.

Homeless requires a certain mental toughness and a raw vulnerability.

Mostly it just requires that every other safety net in your life has been ripped wide open.

You become homeless because of a whole host of reasons, but you don’t become homeless because you prefer freezing your ass off or because you like sleeping on hard concrete in a pouring rain.

Living like that could turn most of us into wild-eyed loons.

It might make us act in ways we never imagined.

Not that any of us ever imagine we will be homeless.

And that’s part of the problem.

We might not admit it but there’s this small part of us that entertains the notion that homeless people are homeless because they aren’t as smart as the rest of us, who thus far have managed to escape the fate of the homeless.

The Marine doesn’t think like that.

He understands what most of us don’t.

He understands that the only thing separating “us” from “them” are the numbers in our cell phone.

We have people we can call when things go bad for us.

They don’t.

So he set out to become that person.

The one they can call.

No matter what.

He’s not trying to fix them.

His main agenda is to be a friend to the homeless.

Even if being that friend cost him his life.

The way it did Jaman Iseminger.

In order for love to win, somebody has to be willing to pay the cost.

That’s why I worry sometimes.

And pray often for Hugh Hollowell.

 

DO YOU HAVE A GOD STORY?

I have just finished my post on “The Anointing of Ruby.” I have been away from this blog for a while but intend to begin posting at least once a week. But I could use some help. Do you have a “God Story” or something else you would like to contribute to EASTER PEOPLE. This blog has over 669 followers on FACEBOOK as well as regular subscribers.

I would love to see your stories, which we would post under a copyright with your name.

I will reserve the right to publish or not publish, but would be pleased to help you in this way. It might be the start of a blogging career for you. Send your posts to sdunnpastor@coglandisville.org.

I look forward to hearing from you.

THE ANOINTING OF RUBY

BY STEPHEN DUNN

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:13-16

I come from the stream of Christianity that takes the instructions in these verses very seriously.  Those of us who are pastors and elders approach it with fear and trembling because we know that we are going to be instruments of an Awesome God, a God of the Impossible–a God of healing and of hope.

Many years ago I was serving a church that was making its first “baby steps” into a deeper and more authentic discipleship.  I had seven elders. One had been an elder for some time, but by his own admission, at a fairly perfunctory level. One was a life elder, which in that church was an emeritus status. The other five were relatively new as elders, still engaged in some “on the job” training.  Then there was me, the pastor.

We were a church that had a growing reputation as people that love. It was a new direction God had taken a congregation that had sometimes been fractious, a little too worldly, and more works-oriented than grace-formed.  We had gone this direction by simply taking the commandment to love one another and loving God more seriously by being sure that we practiced in the ways that the Bible commanded of us.  We were still forming this new identity, feeling our way through years of confusing church history.

Ruby was one of the members of our congregation who embodied a spirit of love.  She was a widow with a southern drawl.  Gentle-spoken and gracious, always dressed carefully and and with dignity.  Willing to defer to others, gracious in her praise, and confident in her faith.  We all loved and respected Ruby.

The rain falls on the just and the unjust.  Ruby got cancer. They tried many treatments over a long period of time. Nothing worked to arrest its development.  Without extraordinary measures, Ruby would soon die.

Ruby was invited into research protocol at the National Institute in Maryland, more 600 miles from her home.  Ruby wasn’t necessarily gung ho, but she new it was important to her children that she do everything to preserve her life. A few days before she and her daughter would make that journey, I went to visit Ruby.  “You know, Ruby, there is still one thing we can do.  We can anoint you and pray for your healing.”  Ruby was quite familiar with the words from James. She agreed and we set the appointment for the next evening.

I contacted all of the elders,but since only one of them had ever been a part of this kind of service I suggested we meet at the church at 6.30, an hour before our appointment with Ruby. She only lived a few blocks away.

All of them were busy and the schedule would be tight but they agreed to be there at the appointed time.  I was the last to arrive. Just before leaving the house I had gotten into a fight with one of my sons and my attitude was not good.  I wasn’t feeling very spiritual at the moment, let alone righteous. When I arrived I confessed my attitude and my anger to my brothers.

Immediately Glenn, the elder emeritus spoke. “I must confess, too, that I have harbored some attitudes towards people that I know don’t please God and I have not been behaving with a spirit worthy of being a leader of this flock.”

Next another elder opened his Bible and read to us words of counsel and encouragement.  Soon each elder was confessing his own sin,  some sharing scripture that God had been using to convict them.  Then we gathered in that room holding hands and praying for one another that God might do His cleansing work in our lives.  The hour passed quickly.  We set out for Ruby’s.

Ruby greeted us along with her family, inviting us to sit.  “You will stay for tea afterwards, won’t you.”  We agreed. Ruby was not someone to say “no” to.

After a bit, we placed in a chair, read the scripture, anointed her with oil and then each one of us in turn prayed for Ruby.  We declared upon the promises of God that we believed Ruby would be healed.  Then, Ruby prayed for each one of us who had prayed for our wholeness, our healing, our faith.

Ruby left for Maryland.

Each Sunday her son-in-law would greet us before worship to share an update on her progress.  For weeks there was no change.

Then one Sunday, as two of the elders and I stood in the lobby, he came up and said, “I have incredible news.  Ruby’s cancer is gone.  The doctor’s examined her yesterday and said where there had been a body riddled with cancer two days before, there was absolutely no sign of tumor or lesions or anything!”  He said, “We cannot explain it, but Ruby is cancer-free!”

One of my elders, the youngest in fact, spoke with awe in his voice. “We prayed for that! We prayed for that! God has answered our prayers.”  No shouting, just a quiet word of reverence recognizing that God had used them and their prayers as instruments of His healing of Ruby.

Ruby returned two weeks later.  There was great rejoicing. She lived a very long time.

And these seven men, and myself, had a new sense of awe for what God can do and a deeper realization of what we can do when we let God work in and through us.

(C) 2012 by Stephen L Dunn

CHOOSE YOUR ATTITUDE

I have two weeks on sabbatical from my congregation.  When I return you will begin receiving postings on this blog at least once a week. To get us started, however, and reconnected, I offer this guest blog by a good friend and former missionary Dale Miller. -Steve


“Fulfill my joy by being like-minded . . . Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 2:2, 5

A little boy strutting through the backyard, baseball cap in place, toting ball and bat, was overheard talking to himself, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world.”  Then he tossed the ball into the air, swung at it and missed.  “Strike one!”  Undaunted he picked up the ball, threw it into the air and said to himself, “I’m the greatest baseball hitter ever,” and swung at the ball again.  Again he missed.  “Strike two!”  He paused a moment to examine his bat and ball carefully.  Then a third time he threw the ball into the air.  “I’m the greatest hitter who ever lived,” he said.  He swung the bat hard a third time.  He cried out, “Wow!  Strike three!  What a pitcher!  I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!”

I like the kid’s attitude.  I’ll bet he’ll go far, no matter what he chooses to do in life.  His spirit reminds me of something I read about Thomas Edison.  In December 1914, the great Edison Laboratories in West Orange, New Jersey, were almost destroyed by fire.  In one night, Edison lost two million dollars’ worth of equipment and the record of much of his life’s work.  Edison’s son, Charles, ran frantically around trying to find his father.  Finally he found him, standing near the fire, his face red in the glow, his white hair blown by the winter winds.  “My heart ached for him,” Charles Edison said.  “He was no longer young, and everything was being destroyed.  He spotted me. ‘Where’s your mother?’  he shouted.  ‘Find her.  Bring her here.  She’ll never see anything like this again as long as she lives.'”
The next morning, walking among the charred embers of so many of his hopes and dreams, the sixty-seven-year-old Edison said, “There’s great value in disaster.  All our mistakes are burned up.  Thank God we can start anew.”

With an attitude like that, no wonder Edison’s name is still prominent eighty years later.  The point Paul was making in Philippians 2 is that our attitudes are important, perhaps more important than our actions, because they’re the foundation on which our actions are built.
 
As he wrote to his friends at Philippi, the apostle Paul was in prison in Rome.  Paul saw everything that happened to him through the lens of his service to Christ.  Outwardly he was a prison of Caesar, but inwardly he considered himself a bond-slave to Jesus Christ.  Paul’s attitude was one of humble service to the Savior who rescued him from a life of selfishness and self-centeredness.  It’s no wonder Paul had an attitude of love toward everyone he met, even toward the Roman soldiers who guarded him day and night.

Viktor E. Frankl, a prisoner held in a Nazi concentration camp wrote, “Everything can be taken from a person but one thing: the last of human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
And there are always choices to make.  Every day, every hour, offers you to opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determines whether you will or will not submit to the powers that threaten to rob you of your joy.  So my friend, today I challenge you to choose a joyful attitude, to choose an attitude of love, even when others align themselves against you.  Choose your attitude!

Determined to find joy in serving Jesus!
Pastor Dale

Pastor Dale Miller, Jr. is privileged to serve as the Senior Pastor of the Newburg First Church of God
“Where Christ is found, love is felt, and lives are changed!”
260 Newburg Road, Newburg, PA  17240

Mailing address: PO Box 160, Newburg, 17240
Email Address: Newburgfcog@centurylink.net

WAYNE BOYER

A treasured friend of mine and fellow pastor, Wayne Boyer, went home to be with the Lord a few days ago. Another friend of mine, Bill Sloat blogged a tribute to him that I am reposting here for broader distribution of the tribute. – Steve

Cancer stinks.

I’ve smelled the stench in a more up-close-and-personal way than I ever wanted to.

Since her diagnosis, Evelyn has had the joy of walking the cancer road with three people she regarded as friends before cancer came into their lives. It’s a road you don’t want to walk on without human companionship. On Tuesday, Wayne became the last of those three ‘cancer buddies’ to come to the end of the journey.

The cancer road is such a strange one. Though he’d been on it long before Evelyn, she endured a particularly harsh chemo drug before Wayne was put on it. So, she was able to describe for Wayne its horrid effects before he experienced them. And, we were able to understand what he went through during those treatments and to appreciate the faith, the grace and the courage with which he embraced that incredible suffering.

Not long ago, I could not get Wayne out of my mind and so, as I was driving, I phoned him. From the instant he answered, I could hear the smile in his voice. I actually heard his laughter as he told me that he knew that the cutting-edge drug he was on was not working and that he knew that it would not extend his life and that that was okay. He talked about the joy he still felt in the Lord’s salvation. He expressed his only real regret that Kay would be left alone. When we hung up, it was with laughter and a naive, “Talk to you later.”

Two days after that, the final onslaught overwhelmed him and he was rushed to the hospital.

Cancer killed Wayne. It did not beat him.

Wayne followed Jesus. He set his heart on living out obedience to the greatest of all the commands in the Law: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

Thanks, Wayne, for letting me see that.

Talk to you later.

TOM AND THE MENSA SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS

I once had a church with a very small senior high Sunday School Class. Small, but extraordinary.  They came from two high schools, and the valedictorian of each school was in the class. One other was in the top five of their class. The other two in the top 5%.  All were headed to college, basically on merit scholarships.  One of them was under appointment to the US Naval Academy.

Their teacher was a single mom who was an R.N.  A cancer survivor, she had been abandoned by her husband following her recovery for a trophy wife.  She first worked as a pediatric ICU nurse and when that got to be too much, switched to geriatrics.  A passionate and caring Christian, she was a superb life mentor but by her own admission, outmatched intellectually by her “Mensa Sunday School Class.”

Jan was the teacher’s name.  She believed firmly that Christianity was not about knowledge but application.  Love was not a concept. It was a lifestyle. So she urged her students to adopt a grandfather.

The grandfather was a man named Tom in a nursing home that our church provided ministry.  He had been married but they had no children.  He had outlived his wife and any family he had had.  Tom was very much alone in the world.  And he was quiet, sometimes crochety, not an easy man to like.

The kids were undeterred and regularly visited him after school, or sometimes during the Sunday School hour.  They brought him out of his shell.  He didn’t become a motor mouth, but he did begin to talk a little.  They learned he liked chocolate milk shakes.  So when they would visit, they would bring him a shake.  The cool offering warmed him up.

Tom contracted an illness and after a while was hospitalized.  The hospital was not as convenient as the nursing home, but the kids continue to visit him–sometimes one-on-one, often armed with a milk shake.  As he grew sicker, he grew quieter. Yet Jan and her Mensa Sunday School Class moved beyond the awkwardness to walk through that valley with Tom.

Tom died.  And the nursing home contacted me to do the funeral.  “He has no family,” they said, “but he deserves a decent burial.  His only religious contact is with these kids and you’re their pastor.  Will you do his funeral?”

I agreed.

The funeral was actually held in the chapel of the mausoleum where his remains would be laid to rest.  A cold room, decorated in somber colors, illuminated almost too subtly other than to suggest death.  A couch was placed before Tom’s closed casket, and as his family, the kids crowded with Jan on this oversized piece of upholstered furniture.

As I entered the room, I saw the kids squeezed awkwardly onto that couch. Uncertain about what was happening or what they thought. At the back of the room was someone from the nursing home, standing next to the undertaker.  A sad scene, inviting sadness.

But then God spoke to me, and this is what He prompted me to say.  “Kids, you all know Tom had no family.  No one in this world to love or to be loved by.  And if you kids had not entered into his life there would only be three of us in this room right now–myself, the undertaker, and the lady from the nursing home.  And we are paid to be here.

“But because you entered his life, you became his family.  You are the people who brought love and happiness to his last days.  You are the people that he still mattered to God and that someone cared whether he lived or died.

“Your love and attention for a lonely old man was the best gift he ever received, because you put God’s love into action.

“So on his behalf and in the name of God, thank you. Thank you for being God’s people and Tom’s family.”

As I reflect, I simply ask – is there someone lost and forgotten, abandoned or uncared for, who needs to encounter the love of God with flesh on?  Are you that person?

(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn

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