Living the Resurrection Life as the Body of Christ

Posts tagged ‘AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANS’

GOOD RISING

The first blog in my blogging ministry is called LIFE MATTERS based on the thought that “your life matters to God.”  It is cross-posted on both Blogger and Word Press.  The following post, which originally appeared Easter 2011, is the most popular of my posts on that site. – STEVE

I have a very good friend who is Greek Orthodox. Last week he offered me some words of blessing. He said it in Greek, but I won’t attempt to write in Greek. Roughly translated it means, “Good Rising.” Throughout Holy Week, Greek Orthodox people greet one another or bid each other good bye with these words, “Good rising.” They are words that anticipate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, They remind people to live in eager expectation for that occur.

On Easter the words change. “He is risen.”

For Christians, Easter is the most important day of the year. The Apostle Paul makes it very clear as to why:

“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.’ – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

The resurrection is the foundational event for the entire Christian experience. An empty cross reminds us that all of our sins have been forgiven. An empty tomb reminds us that nothing every again will separate us from God. Empty grave clothes in that tomb remind us that death no longer has the last word.

It is a reminder that there is Truth sets men from, that Truth is a person named Jesus Christ, I love this quote from Clarence Hall:

“Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.”

I love this cartoon by the late Johnny Hart:

 

This is the heart of my reflection for you on this Easter Monday. Christ has risen! May you know “good rising.”

Advertisements

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

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

Permissions: You have blanket permission to reproduce any original post by STEPHEN DUNN on this blog, as long as it is not altered in any way, is not part of a resource for sale, and proper attribution is made to the author.  A link to this blog is appreciated.  A copy of your use is appreciated as well. Send it to sdunnpastor@coglandisville.org

TORNADO !!!! PASTOR DERRICK RESPONDS

Massive destruction at hospital in Joplin MO

There are as few things in all of nature as fearsome as a tornado.  Sunday evening as many as 116 people died in Joplin MO as half-mile-wide tornado blasted much of this Missouri town off the map and slammed straight into its hospital.It was the nation’s deadliest single tornado in nearly 60 years and the second major tornado disaster in less than a month.National Weather Service Director Jack Hayes said the storm was given a preliminary label as an EF4 — the second-highest rating given to twisters. The rating is assigned to storms based on the damage they cause. Winds reached 190-198 miles per hour. At times, it was three-quarters of a mile wide.

A new friend of mine, Pastor Derrick serves the Way Fellowship in Kansas City.  This is a new church plant of the Western Regional Conference of the Churches of God, General Conference.  In many ways it is an atypical church for those of you expecting stained glass and steeples and preachers who look like–well preachers.  But being a congregation on mission for Jesus, it believes in responding to human need, following God’s prompting and going where people need a hand of compassion.  Here is a YouTube video  Pastor Derrick made as they responded almost immediately to this disaster.

Pastor Derrick has been on the road tirelessly and sacrificially, part of the quiet army of volunteers who work alongside the FEMA workers and disaster relief crews.  They are the extra hands and feet and heart that often fills in the gaps.  Pastor Derrick wrote on Facebook Wednesday: “This week I have cried, hit my knees, hugged, kissed, embraced, asked why, shook my head in disbelief, held tight to faith, fed people, clothed people, prayed with people and loved people! It has been a long time since I felt this close to God!”

Since the first century, Christians have been on the ground bringing relief and hope where there are people in deep need.  Despite the criticism heaped upon the institutional church, God’s people who are the church keep moving ans serving.  Thank you Pastor Derrick.  Even if people in Joplin never become a part of your church or any church; you have fulfilled the command of God, bringing God’s light into the darkness.

HELL AND HEAVEN

What happens when you die? Many people today simply believe in a concept called annihilation. You simply cease to exist.  The only thing that lives on is your memory or your legacy; but for you, personally, life is over–no tomorrow nor eternity … you are simply gone.

In some sense, that’s a comforting thought–when it’s over it is over.

Unfortunately it’s not true. The Bible teaches us a hard reality–there is a very real heaven and a very real hell. Not Hell as a metaphor but as a state of existence for eternity.

Popular images of hell like to play up the lake of fire dimension of Hell. A place of eternal torment. The Bible does speak of Hell in this way. But the most powerful image of Hell to me is that it is the place of eternal separation from God. God who is life, love, hope and more will not be where you have chosen to be. That’s a torment far greater than pain inflicted upon my body – even if that physical pain is eternal.

Easter People do not fear Hell but neither do they forget it. They have been delivered from it by the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ. They will be eternally united with Him. The resurrection is the evidence that they will not be separated from God.

But since they what they truly means and they know how, but for God’s grace, that would have been their destiny–they fear that others whom they love might have Hell as their eternal destiny. Easter People live with a compulsion, that no one should have that tragic destiny.

The apostle Paul said it best:

11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

LOVING PEOPLE – REALLY LOVING THEM

One of the great scandals of contemporary Christianity is what Craig Groeschel calls “Christian Atheism.”  This is where we say we believe something and then live like we do not believe it.  The lawyer of Luke 10:25-28 stands up and asks the quintessential question of a seeker,  “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” At the end of the chain of discussion Jesus leads the man to the answer.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ In fact, Jesus punctuates it with, “Do this and you shall live.”

Even non-Christians know, and many practice, the latter half of that commandment. We call it the Golden Rule.

But for many persons, including many Christians, there is more intellectual assent than real life application. We know we should practice it, and we do … up to a point.

Up to the point when….

Demonstrating that love requires us to sacrifice a significant amount of time.

Loving them requires us to wade into the mess in which they find themselves living where we might get messy, too.

Loving them calls us to sacrifice something precious rather than what is convenient or superfluous.

Loving them demands us to see them as persons for whom Christ died rather than simply objects of our good works.

Loving them is met with rejection or contempt.

I am reminded that God loved a world where people were His enemies.

He loved a world that killed his prophets and dishonored His holiness.

He loved a world where people keep asking, no, demanding His help and then squandering the blessing.

He loved a world that He knew would crucify Jesus.

Love, genuine God-inspired and empowered love is unconditional and incarnational and sacrificial.

Any less is not really love.  It is a counterfeit.

(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn