Friday, April 10, 2015

Building Relational Bridges

Dr. John Johnson and Professor of Missions, spoke at a local church where someone asked him this question: “So when you go to other countries, how do you tell other people they are wrong and we are right?”

Johnson, a cross-cultural missionary in Muslim countries for twenty-three years at the time, explained, missions is not about prying people loose from their tightly held cultural and religious beliefs and replacing them with new ones.

“I don’t tell them they are wrong and we are right,” Johnson admitted, “I work to develop relationships with them … Then I try to love them in the name and style of Jesus.”

As professor of ministry and missions in a Christian College, Johnson believed missions begin when we come into relationship with the God through His missionary Son. A passion is birthed in us that the peoples of this world will come to know God and live in relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus.

Pastor, Steve Stone watched this relational bridge become a convenient conveyor of truth between his church in Tennessee and a small Islamic community nearby. As the pastor, Stone went on the initiative by reaching outside the recognized box in his community; he welcomed members of the small Islamic community center into his neighborhood.

CNN later aired the story of the church’s hospitality. Eventually, Pastor Stone received a call from a group of Muslims in Kashmir who’d seen the segment. The callers informed him that after watching the program, one of their community’s leaders said to those who were gathered: “God just spoke to us through this man.”

As a result, one of the men went straight to the local Christian church and proceeded to clean it, inside and out, because of his desire to also be a good neighbor. The Kashmir group informed Pastor Stone “We’re going to keep taking care of this little church for the rest of our lives.”

We draw strength in the confidence that we have found new life in Jesus. It is also true that we desperately want others to know Him as well. Nonetheless, telling others they are wrong and we are right does little to help us establish a constructive relationship. It may, in fact, disrupt any existing relationship and prevent further chance for friendship.

Jesus intentionally broke through barriers that prevented him from befriending, counseling, healing, and serving others. As we follow Him, our mission becomes that of structural engineers building bridges and establishing relationships that allow us to love people and share God’s good news with them.

These necessary relationships become the bridges by which non-believers are enabled to complete their journey to faith. From Warner's World, we are

Thursday, April 9, 2015

"Such Were Some of You"

Doug [not his real name] joined our small self-help group and found new hope of strength for today and new possibilities of an improved life in a better tomorrow. I had recently joined this group that was primarily students, but included a few non-students, and we met at the Seminary where most of us were students.

All of us were active participants and there were no sideline spectators. Some were earning academic credits. A few faced issues with which they needed some assistance. In time, all of us would experience much more than just an academic credit as we discovered areas of personal growth and maturity and became more thoroughly committed disciples, in a group setting that was covenanted together in a circle of trust using the focus of Integrity Therapy developed by Dr. John Drakeford and Hobart Mowrer.

Doug was a member of the group when I came in. He had been dismissed from his Church Staff position after his third arrest, losing first his job and eventually his family. This floundering church musician now existed as a man without a country, until joining this small, close-knit circle of Christians. In the eleventh hour of Doug’s career, he came into the group and they loved him in spite of his homosexual behavior, giving him a place in their circle and room to rediscover himself.

Everyone accepted Doug as he was; socially rejected, personally defeated, without friend and sustenance, and at the end of his rope. He knew he was loved although he no longer loved himself. He had the support of the group just as he was, and time and space to become who he wanted to be, as well as encouragement to become all he could be in Jesus Christ.

Tediously, Doug scratched and clawed his way out of his emotional pit of hopeless disparagement and social abandonment. By the grace of God and the encouragement of his Circle of Support, life took on a new look for Doug, with new meaning.

Life for Doug slowly turned from a journey of repetitious defeat to a life of recovery in which he discovered God’s transforming power of metamorphosis. Like the tiny worm in nature that disappears into its cocoon and later reappears as a lovely Monarch Butterfly, Doug discovered happiness, wholeness, and a whole new sense of personal well-being.

The group taught Doug how to interact--openly and honestly, without rationalization and deception. Each group member became a conduit of God’s grace, as living waters of God’s healing grace flowed through our interrelationships and poured Doug’s life. Doug found new reason to hope for tomorrow through his new relationships with his new friends.

Through Christian discipleship, Doug discovered fresh reassurance when he discovered, “And such were some of you” (I Corinthians 6:22, RSV, italics added). Supported by this trusted circle of friends, Doug took the necessary time and painfully worked his way through responsible restitution and restoration of formerly broken relationships.

Doug consequently discovered new peace where once he had known only turmoil. New possibilities for further transformation of life invigorated him and he experienced further satisfaction in productive behavior and wholesome relationships. Like the Psalmist David, Doug discovered a new man within--a man after God’s own heart, a man of strong faith, an overcomer in spite of earlier failures.

Like many others whose personal struggles the Bible reveals, Doug eventually found that in his new friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ he had tapped into that power line described in John’s gospel as power “to become children of God” (John 1:12 RSV).

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Renewing the Mind

Roger Hazelton observed: “Difficult as it may be for us, a believing faith in God is all that can save us from our critical intellectual situation.” This teacher of philosophy at Andover Newton Theological School was writing in 1949 rather than 2015. He was also teaching students on their way into religious vocations, not all of which would fill pulpits. The book he wrote was oriented more to Christians than to non-Christians.

What I found most interesting was that he described our current times with almost prophetic accuracy, almost better than his own age when I was just beginning my career (Renewing the Mind, McMillan, 1949). “Such belief is not a residue but a resource,” claimed Hazelton.

This professor-preacher, a man of high intellect, believed, that a “world without God is a world without truth; indeed, it is no world at all, but mere nonsense. No drummed-up atheistic courage, no nihilistic posture of defiance, can long evade this fact. Hence if we are intellectually in earnest about getting well, a lost aptitude must be recovered, an abandoned birthright reclaimed, a precious heritage rewon. Plainly, the renewing of our minds demands that we learn again how to believe in God (emphasis added).

If such a recovery is to take place, insisted Hazelton, “our minds must become more childlike. This does not mean that we ought to be gullible; it simply means that we ought to be docile or teachable. By folk of our generation, at any rate, belief is not to be had on ‘I-told-you-so’ terms; and it cannot be generated and grown in the soil of ignorance and superstition. We do not need to be told what to believe, so much as taught how to believe. To some this may appear a childish and quite preliminary sort of discussion; but since where belief is concerned most of us are in the kindergarten anyway, learning its alphabet and practicing its scales, it may not be the wrong place to begin …” (22-23).

Hazelton saw human intelligence retreating “before the undisciplined squads of raw emotion or goes down before the shock troops of ruthless interest. Thought for power usurps the place once given to the power of thought. Reason gives up the battle for meaning and worth in human life, numbed by disaster and worsened by despair” (p. 6)

He concludes “A great and awful perversion has occurred. Man has sold his birthright of reason, and sold it cheap, for the pottage of a power-centered and power-obsessed culture” (p. 7). If this statement was accurate at mid-century during the Russian cold war, it is accurate many times over today when citizens are totally obsessed with the latest technology and governments are operated by power brokers.

People know how to build smarter computers (eg: the Smart Watch everyone is waiting for) but few people know how to read the signs of the times or tell the difference between truth and half-truth. Alfred North Whitehead once wrote, “The keynote of idolatry is contentment with the prevalent gods.” That describes us as a nation.

Or as Hazelton wrote, “To borrow a useful phrase, idolatry means “absolutizing the relative.” Whenever, we set up fragmentary and finite things as if they merited that full and ultimate concern which only God has the right to demand of us, we are in fact worshiping idols” (p 10).

We are a culture that values athletic coaches more than college presidents, the words of an athlete more than of a preacher. We get all excited when a bunch of one-and-done basketball players who have leased their abilities to a school for  a year, compile a record shattering thirty-eight victories without defeat. Yet I doubt that one of us will concern himself or herself as to whether they further educate themselves for the rest of the lives they will have to live after their professional careers.

After all, life’s bottom line is making money and education mostly concerns itself with making better people. All the while, people know more and more about gadgetry and things and less and less about reading, thinking, and truth (which may in actuality be non-existent).

“The task of Christian philosophy is not to establish an unsteady and artificial peace between the gospel and the world,” insisted Hazelton. “It is to penetrate all the nooks and crannies of human life with the spirit and significance of Christian faith (emphasis added). Morals and science, the arts and industry, letters and government must all be sought out, won, made captive to the mind of Christ” (pp 181-182). Obviously that would completely transform American culture.

The Apostle Paul pleaded with fellow believers “to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” This begins by not conforming to the surrounding world but to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 1:1-2 NASV). And if you read the rest of the chapter, you find a practical manual for everyday living by ordinary people.

We will see more lives changed and experiencing the transformation of which Paul spoke when more Christians get their heads (hearts and minds) really into the ballgame.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Is a New Political System Emerging in This Country? |

Is a New Political System Emerging in This Country? |

Our democratic republic is rapidly becoming an endangered species due to several factors, not least of which is a non-voting citizenry that should be required by law of citizenship. . .

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Show-n-Tell Faith

 “Show yourself an example of those who believe,“ Paul told Timothy  (I Timothy 4:12, NASV). Elsewhere, he instructed believers to “observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us,” (Phil. 3:17 NASV). Paul gave Timothy sound instruction in the art of showing and telling, and his message was “Walk the walk before you talk the talk!” We need to practice what we preach before we attempt to share our proclamation.

John Greenleaf Whittier saw show-n-tell faith in John Woolman the Quaker Christian; thus, he introduced him as “a true life” that is both an “interpreter and proof of the gospel.” Example does more to establish “truth in the hearts of men” concluded Whittier, “than all the ‘Evidences’ and ‘Bodies of Divinity’ which have perplexed the world with more doubts than they solved.“   

One single picture can reveal ten-thousand words, but that places heavy responsibility where it most needs to be--on living the life. Personal examples provide powerful forces for good. On the other hand, half-hearted pursuit of life may reflect a lack of discipline that allows toleration of horrendous evil. John Woolman consequently looked for a sure way to challenge the incredible evil of his world. Believing  that showing by example would prove more effective than giving declaration, Woolman challenged his world with his  best behavior and used words only when necessary.

Woolman frequently hired out to people, contracting to write documents for them. In doing so, he worked hard at personally modelling a true faith. In spite of his being a Quaker and a strong Abolitionist, Woolman agreed on one occasion to write a Bill of Sale that would bind a Negro woman to the man that waited to purchase her.

When it came time for him to write the document, he discovered  that the request was too sudden and that he felt quite uneasy about it. He consequently wrote in his diary, “I was so afflicted in my mind, that I said before my master and the Friend that I believed slave keeping to be a practice inconsistent with the Christian religion.” Upon reflecting further, he concluded, “I thought I should have been clearer if I had desired to be excused from it, as a thing against my conscience; for such it was.”

The seriousness of global conflict today is such that only when we take our biblical beliefs seriously enough to model them in word, thought, and deed will we have any chance whatsoever of changing our culture. We live in a time when people challenge everything and believe nothing. If we want people to take us seriously and follow our faith, we must be extremely sensitive to the small issues that spoil the vine while we struggle valiantly in making the right choices in our larger issues (Song of Sol. 2:15).

               1 The Journal of John Woolman.   (Philadelphia:  Friends Book Store, 1871), p. 44.   
               2 Woolman, p. 65.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Some Historical Tidbits

The following chapter is taken from a pamphlet entitled Our Camp Meeting Heritage. Chapter two begins in Grand Junction, MI in 1908, followed by other historical tidbits. Many of the names and places are well known to this blogger. The scene pictured at left comes from Grand Junction 1939 and is a scene from the life of E. E. Byrum, a service attended by this blogger as a child.


     “Ten Days at Grand Junction” in 1908,was reported by lay-member, Mrs. Mary (McCormick) Rumbaugh, at the request of the editor of the Decatur, MI. Republican . (Names in parenthesis were inserted by this writer; otherwise it is recorded as written and without editing.)


At the request of our editor we will write about the Saints campmeeting and how it is conducted. We will try to give you some idea of how they work and what their plans are.

In the first place the Saints take only the bible for their guide, and while God lives we don’t need anything else. It alone will lead men from earth to heaven: no man made conferences, no class book, not even the scratch of a pen. By the way, you don’t have to join anything to get to heaven.

A company of us attended the Grand Junction campmeeting. It is 28 miles from here. It was a ten days’ meeting with the best of order, no disturbances at all.

There is a tabernacle which holds about 600 people. The Saints buildings on the grounds on which the people are tented are all of lumber. There were only two cloth tents on the grounds. Mr.Palmer’s (A. B. Palmer) and our own.

The first two nights terrible wind storms came upon us. The roar and rumble of thunder and flash after flash of lightning made it frightful. The first night was the worst. Every little while it seemed as though our tent would be torn from its fastenings and lifted into mid-air. It was at the lonely midnight hour and the sharp flashes of lightning followed by the inky blackness made the bravest of us shudder. Mr. Rumbaugh leaped out of the bed, grabbed the ridge pole and above the din of the thunder he sang “Whiter than Snow.”

But just at that time I was not thinking much about snow, we were having plenty of rain. I was afraid we would surely have to part with our tent for the wind was blowing a gale. I got down to the ropes and pole below and hung unto the tent with all my might.

For an hour we held our frail residence to the ground by main strength until the wind and rain finally subsided. We did have our hands full to keep our tent with us. Mrs. Simmons (Decatur pastor’s wife) and others who had buildings to live in came in the next morning to see if we were alive. They said they thought of us and got up and came down stairs, for the wind was so great that it shook the buildings.

Well, the next night the rain and wind came onto us again, but we all escaped without much trouble this time.

There were 23 preachers at the camp-meeting and we did not pick out any one of them to take the pulpit or to preach. They all sat in the congregation. The Saints all sang the songs of Zion and then prayed and then sang again, and some one would preach and some-times another.

When one would start out to deliver his message there was no end to it. Seemed as though it were like the days of old. In those days they had rolls and they’d keep unrolling and it seemed as though there were no place to stop. They’d read and study the bible, but a Saint never was known to have written sermons. They go far beyond that. They all go to head quarters and get a hearing from their heavenly father. The bible says “Open your mouth wide and I’ll fill it.” Well, that’s the way the Saints all do.

I have seen a poor preacher stand behind his pulpit before a crowded house and a wind storm would come along and, lo and behold, the man’s written sermon was scattered all about. Therefore he lost tract of the thought he had written down. Sad state of things. It would have been better for him if he had been a man of God.

The meetings began every morning at six o’clock. At nine Young People’s meeting was held in the grove nearby, also Children’s meeting by the same time in a tent, led by Miss. Jessie Osborn of Hamilton, assisted by others. Preaching began at 10:30 and lasted till noon, then after service dinner, and preaching at two and at seven.

Two boy preachers were there, one was twenty-one and the other seventeen. Their father was a wonderful preacher. When he would preach he would hold crowds for hours at a time. He was a poor drunken wreck, soul and body. He tried to be a man but failed many times. He said, “I was a traitor doomed to fire, yet my injured Creator has snatched me from the flames by the costly sacrifice of his own dear son.” He finally changed masters and be-came the child of a King. His name is W. (Willis) Brown and his home is Hedrick, Iowa.

His two sons (Charley and Anderson) did a great deal of preaching. I never did hear such preaching from boys. The words came out of their mouths so fast it was something like Niagara Falls. They held the people’s strict attention. There were a number of other preachers who helped to roll the old chariot along.

About forty were baptized: not sprinkled but put under water--by the way there is a lake (Lester) near camp.

We had a fine boarding house. The tables were set and all were welcome three times a day. They had three long tables all filled, also a small box called “free will offering” on each table. People were welcome to put something into the box to help set the table, but all were welcome to eat if they had nothing.

After the meeting closed, Mr. and Mrs. Wraight took us to their lovely home in Bloomingdale, nine miles distance, where we spent many pleasant hours. By the way, we did enjoy the shortcake she made. It was fine. He took us to the depot, about two miles from his home, and we got there just in time to catch our train. We stopped at Kalamazoo and were very kindly received at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Lowell. A fine dinner and then we took the three o’clock train for home.

After the camp meeting a few meetings were held here at the Saints’ chapel. Mrs. Jane (Williams), who was on her way to Virginia and then to the sunny south, her native land, was here. She with some others came from the campmeeting. There were two other Saint preachers here, one from Covert, Mich., by the name of Chapen, the other a black man by name of Ritcherdon. His home is in Reform, Alabama. He has been a slave, and Mrs. Jane’s mother was also a slave.

By the way, speaking of this woman’s going to Virginia reminds me that my father was raised in that place and born in Kentucky, and at the age of 27, married in Plainwell, Mich., at the home of our mother and came here and settled for life.

They came here when there was no depot and no railroad and only a few shanties on the stage of action. Seven of us children were born here and Decatur is the only place we ever lived. It is near and dear to us. Although we have traveled far and wide. this is the dearest spot to me.

Father was the first stone mason here. He was a cooper, too, and also owned a brick kiln on the Congdon farm, a mile north of the village.

But my husband says, “you are off from your subject, better commence where you left off.” Well, where did we leave off? The colored man thinks of buying here. He don’t like the south. He says the rest of his people would leave if they had the money. At his home in Reform, Alabama, the white men whipped a white man for teaching the colored children and gave him a certain length of time to leave town.

In a town called Hartsell, Alabama, were a company of white Saints and black Saints, but they held meetings at different chapels. The white people of the world would not let them meet together. One night a colored preacher stepped into the pulpit at the white Saints’ meeting and began to preach, and outside white people of that town came there armed with guns and began to fire into the chapel. The Saints all ran and made their escape the best way they could, and all this commotion because the black man wanted to preach to the whites.

Methinks the poor white people of the south won’t have much time to devote to killing the black people when this old world is on fire. They will have their hands full attending to their own business.

By the way, when we were down in the sunny south last winter we were afraid to speak to the colored people: we did not know how soon some white man would shoot us down. We had to be careful and watch.
     --Mr. U. R. and Mary Mc. Rumbaugh


This second story showed up in the files of the Decatur, MI. “Republican” from the year 1932, regarding “THE SAINTS CAMP MEETING held at Grand Junction last summer.

At that time Harry and Thelma Foster were living in South Haven, MI., after coming to America from England to be associated with their native American friend, minister Edward Ronk, then of Detroit.

When Lyle Warner secured the services of Brother Ronk, for the South Haven congregation, Harry and Thelma eventually followed from Detroit. The Ronks’ served only a couple of years (1930-31), which left Harry and Thelma staying on with Lyle and Ruth Warner as Interim pastors for a couple of months following Ronk’s resignation and departure (Life on Broadway/ Reformation Publishers/2002).

The lyrics that follow were composed by Harry Foster who served as the Song Leader for the camp meeting that year, as reported to the Decatur, MI. Republican by Mrs. Mary Bernath at the request of the local editor.

Both of these reports were photocopied from the Decatur newspaper files by Susan Stace and shared with me because of our mutual involvement  over several years at Warner Camp (and camp meetings)--once called The Saints Camp Meeting.  

Harry’s composition was introduced and sung by the congregation on the departing day of camp meeting. According to that reporter, Mrs. Mary Bernath went to the Saints’ camp meeting that was held at Grand Junction last August.

The Church of God, which is the same organization, owns a big farm with woods on it and have held camp meetings there for many years.

Besides Mrs. Bernath many other Decatur people went, so many that she could not give us the list, but will next year. Some went for a day or so and some stayed and camped right through. The meetings lasted ten days.

The campers camped in tents and some occupied the cottages and two dormitories. The church furnished public cook stoves out of doors.

Rev. T. Harry Foster was the song leader and a wonderful man. He composed a song entitled, “Salvation is for All,” and it was sung there the last day. The men named in the song were all preachers who had taken part in the meeting.

Mrs. Bernath got a copy of the song and here it is:

I have a gospel message that I want to sing to you,
It is about salvation, for the Gentile and the Jew,
It is for every nation, yes, for all and not a    few.
Salvation is for all.

Listen, hear the invitation,
Jesus offers you salvation,
Then, you’ll be a new creation,
Salvation is for all.

Salvation for the Chinese, who must walk on little feet,
Salvation for the Danish whose good butter is a treat;
And there’s that man from Italy, Joe Cirone’s hard to beat,
Salvation is for all.

Salvation for the Hebrew man, much laughter does he bring,
We won’t forget the Colored man, who makes his banjo ring,
And when they get to heaven they will both join in and sing,
Salvation is for all.

Salvation for the little man, whom many call the Jap,
And there’s that man from Germany, whose name is Martin Raab,
And there’s that portly Irishman, O. L. Yerty is his tab,
Salvation is for all.

Salvation for the Russian under Communistic rule,
And there’s the Norway children who skate on the ice to school,
Salvation for the Mexican who loves  to drink white mule,
Salvation is for all.

Salvation for the Belgian, though there are but just a few,
And there’s our friend from India, C. L. Bleiler, is here too,
And there’s the Gypsy people who would steal a hen or two.
Salvation is for all.

Salvation for the Scotchman, Earl Martin is his name,
And too, his fellow countryman, A. F. Gray, D. D. he claims,
And they are both from Anderson, so let’s   join in and sing,
Salvation is for all.

Salvation for the Spaniard, who is branded with tatoo,
Salvation for the Yankee, and Wayne Cross, you all know too,
And there’s that peculiar Hollander, Dad Hartman, is true blue,
Salvation is for all.

Now, if my friends, you find you’re not included in this song,
Just put your nationality in the “Whosoever” throng,
Just give yourself to Jesus, then to Him you will belong,
Salvation is for all.

These last two verses were written by one of Mrs. Bernath’s Decatur friends:

This verse is finely written, but there’s this I wish to say,
Salvation’s freely given to choir leaders every day,
And Reverend Harry Foster gets his share along the way,
Salvation is for all.

When Reverend Foster leads us in the morning hymns     divine,
The air resounds with happy strains of music so sublime,
The clouds break from the heavenly sphere and lo, the sun doth shine,
Salvation is for all.

         1    William G. Schell, “We Have a Hope.” (Anderson: Warner Press, Inc., 1989), p. 727.

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