Saturday, February 16, 2019


Kody & Liz and Austin and Kelsi --Newly-Wedded 

Pastor Boyer delivered a fervent procla-mation of the Church as the Bride of Christ and concluded by requesting a couple seated near the front of the sanctuary to step forward and stand before him. He then led them through their “I Do’s” as he officeated their wedding vows in front of 350 Sunday worshippers at Northside St Louis, MO Church of God.

Following their greeting the congregants while standing beside the Pastor, Associate Pastor Amanda Patton (retired) invited the newlyweds to dinner at her daughter’s home. A happy afternoon followed; complete with an impromptu wedding cake. Later the newlyweds returned to their suburban Belleville bedroom-with-kitchen-privileges, convinced that homes like theirs form the cornerstone of the nation. That was Spring, 1947,shortly after World War Two and we were happy to be together, although BLT sandwiches were the best we could afford at times. Following our military time, we struggled with low income jobs, major health problems and the demands of higher education. Four years into marriage we bought our first car, had our first baby, and simultaneously received that coveted first degree.

Since then, we have observed an increaseingly mobile society decentralize our nation’s families, disconnecting many from their moral moorings. We began as two, in-creased to four, then six. Time watched us transition to nine with a tenth expected and one depart into heaven.

These were years of watching eroding and warping family values, when a quarter-million unwed mothers annually averaged sixteen years of age, forty to sixty percent pregnant on their wedding day. The widening stream of marital melancholy  broadened and deepened into an  overflowing torrent of personal grief, marital instability, abuse and mayhem.

Many Christians  no longer viewed marriage as viable, with little insight into biblical marriage and family life. One troubled teenager confessed,

“I married in haste, and I’m regretting it in leisure. I am seventeen and a half years old. I am five feet ten inches tall. I weigh one hundred forty-five pounds. Physically, I am a woman. And I would have to say – I did say, over and over-that when I married Bill … at age sixteen years and five months, I was mature.”

Marriage follows a courtship that calls for a recipe requiring three ingredients to be anything more than a half-baked cake:

1) Preparation. Look before you leap! Many people prepare better for their driver’s license than for their marriage license.

2) Commitment. The right kind of court-ships do not dock in Reno, meaning that a serious relationship must have a true commitment that results in a mutual covenant.

3) Faith. True marriage builds on a foundation of faith that reaches upward into a triangle that puts God at the apex, where he alone adds the sacredness needed in every wedding vow.


One cannot make too much preparation in readying to commit one’s self. Simply said, one needs to look before leaping. Humpty Dumpty in LOOKING THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS reproached Alice for her rate of growth. “I never asked about growing,” exclaimed Alice indignantly!

“Too proud?” inquired Humpty Dumpty. “I mean,” Alice responded, “that one cannot help growing old.”
“One can’t, perhaps, but two can,” came the reply, and here is the Ode to Marriage, beautiful and true; “two can.”

Universal, compulsory, standardized views of marriage encourage today’s youth to marry and to value themselves primarily for marriageability, but many waste their energy by valuing themselves only by marital rating and adjustment. Couples contemplating marriage will, however, take comfort knowing Metropolitan Life Insur-ance reported four times as many bachelors die of tuberculosis as married men, three-to-four times as many die of influenza and pneumonia. Widowers and divorced men remain three times more accident prone than husbands.

Jackie Loughery. 1952 Miss America, revealed the innermost aspiration of most young women when she confessed,

“I concentrate on my acting career and hope everyone will forget that I once won a beauty contest. Although getting ahead in show business is my main interest in life, I know in my heart—like all women—that a career at best is a poor substitute for a loving husband.”

Comedian Jack Durant advised  Las Vegas visitors to marry early in the day so a divorce would not ruin their whole day. there is more to life than marriage and more to marriage than sex, and some should not marry until they change, but should the church accept divorce?

Paul’s interpretation of Jesus is, “Let everyone lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, in which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches” (I Cor. 7:17). The Church needs to be less negative with divorced people and far more positive about premarital preparation.


Christian marriage brings two people for-saking all others and themselves, to commit to each other permanently. The Old Testament allowed divorce only because of the madness of men’s hearts (cf Mt. 19:1-15 JBP).

The issue was not the divorce per se; under discussion was the man’s role in marriage. Jesus expected the man to make a commitment to his partner that went further than burned toast. Marriage without commitment provides a contract but builds no re-lationship. Contrary to common practice, Jesus protected the women and children, both in and out of marriage. Rabbi Hillel allowed divorce for any cause and Rabbi Shammai allowed it only in for unchastity. The Jews were divided on the issue, but Jesus never veered from his concept of commitment.

“Is divorce too easy?” writer Howard Whitman asked a judge. “I think marriage is too easy,” the judge replied.

Commitment to one’s marriage becomes an act of obedience to God. Although most people are capable of marriage, not many are prepared for it, as Jesus implied: “It is not everybody who can live up to this” replied Jesus, ‘—only those who have a special gift. For some are incapable of marriage from birth, some are made incapable by the actions of men, and some have made for themselves so for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let the man who can accept what I have said accept it” (Mt. 19:12 JBP).

MOST WEDDING VOWS SAY, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” Christian marriage builds a three-fold relationship that is social, physical, and spiritual. Parenthood provides fulfillment for the physical needs of marriage and the human task of replenishing the earth. As a law of creation, marriage remains open to all.

From a Christian perspective, the spiritual principle holds: only a total and absolute commitment fulfills the marriage ideal (I Cor. 7:3-4). Ideally, a couple entrusts to each other the very best of what they themselves are, all that they may become, and they leave no back doors open. While society holds the door open for all to marry, not all should marry, not without making some changes.

Christian marriage is a miracle of  God. It requires partnership with God as the medi-ator. There can be no ideal marriage with a selfish spouse. Marriage means a lifetime of sharing love unselfishly, concerning itself with the spouse as unconditionally as with one’s own self.

There can be no ideal marriage with a spouse mocking the marriage-bond by sipping irresponsibly from the cup of  love. Such sin only adds misery to the marriage; meaninglessness to men, worthlessness to women, and casualty to children.  Thinking of the immature, Rosalind Russell once quipped, Too many youngsters are setting out on the matrimonial seas before they have learned basic seamanship.”

The church that takes divorce seriously will constructively work at preparing couples for marriage. When a Christian and a non-believer marry, conflicts of faith just will naturally result (I Cor. 7:32-35). When a Christian single dates anyone s/he would not wish to marry, s/he risks emotional involvement that often leads to serious marital conflict of interest. Churches that take seriously the causes of divorce will take even more seriously the needs for preparation for marriage, since insufficient preparation is a major cause of divorce. As suggested earlier, a driver’s license seem-ingly requires more preparation than a marriage license .

Religious faith pffers another key factor. Some say couples have a six-hundred per-cent better chance to succeed when they attend the same church and when they take their religious faith seriously. Others claim common interests improve one’s chances by fifteen percent However, the divorce rate is said to increase nine times when the couple is acquainted fewer than six months.

Finance and Sex each contribute signify-cantly to marital bliss, or failure. Whether a man winds up with a nest egg or a goose egg may well depend upon the chick he marries. Dr. Irving Sands concluded that premarital sex by females blighted their emotions. A certain gossip columnist reported, “For about fifteen years I have been the confidant of /broadway abnd Hollywood actors and actresses who have opportunities to live a promiscuous … life. And some of them … to the hilt … But when they trust you and let down their hair, they will confess how frustrating and unsatisfying it all is.”

The sex impulse involves the deepest emotional levels and cannot be measured by an IBM computer. Without minimizing the physical side of marriage, the marital re-lationship depends more on the merger of one spirit with the other, than upon glandular satisfaction. This suggests compatibility depends more upon emotion-al satisfaction than upon sexual adjustment.

Immaturity provides a powerful area of marital stress. When emotional adjust-ments are poor, sex problems become exaggerated. “What’s Mrs. Monday kicking about,” Mr. Monday asks. “She’s getting her share. I’m providing her a good income and paying the blls. Does she want the world with a picket fence around it.”

Marriage entitles Mrs. Monday to emotional stability with economic support, a normal sex life and children, companionship and normal social interaction. If Mr. Monday has no will to provide them, he has no right to marry. Even before marriage, experience suggests emotionally heathy girls usually reject sex without love and that persistent petting  does exist among those most neurotic.

Looking back; we see our preparation and commitment would have been inadequate without a strong faith. Ideal marriage becomes a conspiracy with God. Greatness did not come to Moses by accident. His parents conspired with God (trusted in time of trouble) and birthed a son through whom God could initiate the Exodus.  Giving personal  priority to God’s will and faithfully maintaining one’s relationship with God does much to build a lasting relationship (I Cor. 7:29-31). Successful marriages seldom happen by accident.

Successful marital partners strive consistently for excellency of self: “Make love your aim,” advised Paul (I Cor. 13). There can be no conspiring with God without worship-ping together--regularly. The couple that marries for keeps will avoid the obvious dangers of falling out of love.

When God holds his rightful place in the marriage, the two equals can submit equally and mutually. Husbands will love their wives realistically, but sacrificially, purposefully, willfully and absolutely (Eph. 5:22-31). Wives will be subject to, but never inferior to, their husbands. He is subject to, but not superior to, his wife. The law legalizes marriage and provides a protective environment for procreation, but marital stay-ability comes only through God’s presence to make the relationship a mutual journey of faith.

The marriage that puts God first becomes a quest with each spouse walking the High-way of the Kingdom of God. Without God, marriage as man’s masterpiece easily crumbles into a meaningless muddle that lacks in preparation, in commitment, and in faith with which to maintain it.

This is walkingwithwarner

remembering the three to twelve months Medical expertise promised my bride of four months. God alone transformed months into years, until they became 70.5 years and he honored her “I do” and agreeably called her home_____ 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


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After I retired from pastoral ministry, it became my opportunity to travel with Michigan Interfaith Council on Alcohol Problems (MICAP) for about six years. That organization has roots in the Michigan United Methodist Church and I spent many weekends travelling throughout southwest and mid-Michigan, mostly in UMC congregations, but also a few others that had concerns about alcohol problems. I learned much about the issues of alcohol and gaming (gambling).

Fairly recently, The  Kentucky Bluegrass region experienced one of those horrendous accidents that once more reminded me why I feel so strongly about alcohol-related problems. In this case, a Michigan family-of-five found itself headed back to Michigan in the early-morning hours. Following their Florida vacation, the Issam Abbas family was struck head-on by south-bound driver as they approached Lexington headed north on I75. If memory serves me correctly, this family was the family of a Michigan Physician.

As a result of the crash, a family of five was killed--deleted from existence by a wrong-way Kentucky driver from nearby Georgetown.  Forty-one-year-old Joey Lee Bailey was also killed in the accident—6 people in total—a complete family. After-the-fact Toxicology Reports revealed that Bailey had a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .306 and was at fault. He had driven at least six miles during which others narrowly avoided being struck by him.

Bailey’s BAC was .304, nearly four times the legal limit for drinking and driving, a total of six members of one family are dead because of one man’s determination to exercise his right to drink and drive. There was a time when such a tragedy was defended on the basis of it being accidental but that is no longer true, no matter how much, or how little, you demand your right to justify drinking alcohol.

The drinking of alcohol is a debatable subject among people of strong religious conviction and I would never argue the issue of alcoholic beverage on the basis of one’s religious view. I do contend, though, that drinking alcoholic beverages is a both a matter of personal choice and a moral-ethical question, Moreover,  we know enough about human health and the effects of alcohol on the body today to know that alcohol is not only a depressant, it is highly damaging to certain organs of the human body .

The simple truth is that we know far too much about alcohol today to legitimize it as an acceptable social practice; it is NOT. It is an illegitimate product that destroys human bodies, breaks up families, and rips apart the fabric of our society. Its effects on the human body are sufficient to make it an ethical question when we are choosing whether or not to drink, and especially to combine it with another drug, or insist on the right to drink and drive.

To drink and drive is unquestionably anti-social behavior as illustrated in the willful, self-destructive behavior of Joey Lee Bailey of Georgetown, KY and the Muslim family of five from Michigan that he murdered by driving the wrong way on I75 in Lexington at 2:30 a.m. We know the average American taxpayer pays out four dollars for every dollar of revenue gained when Municipalities license alcohol by the drink and rake in the tax dollars. This makes government (which is us) equally responsible, for we all want the tax dollars to recover part of our costs.

But you say, you cannot charge him with murder. YES I can. He chose to take that first drink and he had no guarantees after that. Alcohol is a proven depressant. The very first drink you take, even .03 lite beer, begins reducing your self-control and your inhibitions. It means with every drop you drink, you speed up just a little bit in your down-hill slide of self-control, and from there-on it is downhill ALL the way. Many states have awakened to this truth and no longer allow DUI as an allowable defense.

As a pastor, I have gone to the Tavern and taken a friend to my home and helped him sober up after he called me at an obnoxious hour asking my help. As a family member, I am but one of seventy-five million Americans affected by having a problem drinker in the household. I think I have about seen it all.

From – 
How long, or Lord; how long dare we justify the social acceptability of this anti-social practice that justifies murder and excuses the offender while ignoring the civil right of the victim?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019


Science remembers Charles Kettering as the genius of electrical engineering. I remember Kettering as the electrical wizard who pio-neered in creative possibilities. I now have much of my future behind me with only a short future before me and I  am tantalized by Kettering’s declaration announcing: “I am not interested in the past; I am interested only in the future.”

Speaking to his Ohio audience, Kettering delivered what could certainly be one of the shortest speeches on record, which he concluded with this statement: “The future is where I expect to spend the rest of my life.”

Having firmly planted that seed in the heart of his audience, he sat down to a thunderous applause from his audience. His speech resonates with creativity. His vision challenges us. His focus on a positive attitude personally speaks to me for this time of my life. It calls me to spend my remaining small pocket of change as expeditiously as I know how.

It reminds me that in spite of the majority of years I have behind me, I want to spend what future I have left as profitable and expeditious as I possibly can. Kettering’s words offer me the kind of hope we all have available when we stop and take note of where God is at work.

Consider Nathan and Ann Smith, dear friends who gave their lives as full-time career missionaries, only to discover when well along in life that they faced a giant of Goliath proportions. I met Nathan while still in my teens, when I was barely away from my northern home and beginning a secondary education at Anderson College. Nathan was an older student from deep-south Louisiana, married to the daughter of Danish missionaries.

He lost that young wife much too soon in a tragic auto accident but survived his loss and later married Ann Espey, a younger sister to my friend Joe who was a fellow student friend with whom I enjoyed a long fun-filled friendship across the years.

I knew Nathan and Ann best for their long years of post-World War Two Missionary service in Japan and Korea. After spending a lifetime there they still faced their own personal Goliath. Confronted with the discovery that Nathan suffered Multiple Myeloma. They faced an adversity that takes few prisoners and leaves many victims. Nathan had very little hope for today and no promise of tomorrow. His doctors gave him six months to live, not more than four years, a road I know something about traveling on.

Several vertebrae collapsed in Nathan’s upper back as a result of his illness. Yet, he battled as vigorously as a man of his character and stamina could battle, in spite of enduring two long years of chemotherapy. Sometimes he was unable to walk for weeks at a time. He lost more than half his blood supply and, he faced eventual hepatitis that caused cirrhosis of the liver.

Shingles attacked Nathan’s right side. A few months later they struck his left side. They further weakened his immune system and created additional medical issues. His monthly chemotherapy eventually began proving effective and he began slowly mending, even regaining some strength. The cancer in his bloodstream diminished and finally, the doctors initiated oral chemotherapy that allowed discontinuing his monthly hospital visits.

Nathan could now follow a daily regimen of activities relatively pain free, but he stood four to five inches shorter than the sturdily-framed man I knew back in college, Nathan joined Ann and began traveling about the country as they together shared their common faith together and it would be sixteen more years before the Lord would receive Nathan home.

Sustained by prayer, bible reading, and fellowship, and enriched by friends and family, Nathan accompanied Ann and went whenever and wherever the church called them. By the time they visited us in southwest Michigan, I was in my final years of pastoring. It was on that occasion Nathan shared the five ideas that enabled him to maintain his faith-focus while he and Ann sought daily for the fortitude and renewal necessary to complete his journey of faith:

          1.       Find others to cheer.
          2.       Keep a positive attitude.
          3.       Eat and exercise properly.
          4.       Keep goals ahead.
          5.       Learn to relax and laugh more.

Wonderfully sustained, Nathan and Ann created a new and improved future for themselves, all the while living in God’s time and by His grace.

God utilizes that same creativity in our lives. As he blessed Nathan and Ann, he purposefully shares with us. “I know the plans I have for you,” declared the Lord to Jeremiah (29:11). All that God asks is that we patiently pick up the pieces of our hard-to-learn lessons and diligently reconstruct the circumstances of our lives and He will fill in the empty spaces and fulfill the plan He has for us.

From walkingwithwarnerblogspot.comwhat puzzle pieces is God waiting to help you find_____?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019


I like people to know who they are, where they are going, and why they are doing what they are doing. It is alleged that when young James Garfield entered Hiram College as a youth, he went with a limited preparation, but that he had one clear purpose in mind. He went for the one-and-only purpose of obtaining the best education he could find.

Garfield’s singleness of purpose allowed him to squeeze six years of study into three and earn the degree he so earnestly coveted degree. Having no other purpose in mind, the future President taught school for a time so he could feed himself, “shut the whole world out from his mind save that little portion of it within the range of his studies, ”and focus upon his one pearl of great price.

James Garfield admitted to knowing “nothing of politics or the news of the day, reading no light literature, and engaging in no social recreations that took his time from his books” (General James S. Brisbin, James A. Garfield. Philadelphia: Hubbard Brothers, 1880, p. 72).

That singleness of focus enabled Garfield to eventually win a seat in Congress and finally ascend to the Presidency of the United States. The intensity of his focus revealed itself when ist came time for him to reflect on the more severe critics of his presidency. Garfield concluded, “I would rather be beaten in right, than succeed in wrong” (Garfield, p. 28l).

So: What is it that captures your attention? What grabs and holds your interest? When Jesus told his disciples to seek the Kingdom of God first, and their needs would be met (Matthew 6:33); what did he mean? Was Jesus telling his disciples that for them to acquire God’s divine dividends, their was no other way than to fully focus on the will of The Father?

When walking with Jesus, if we want to maintain our focus, we must prioritize God’s will, and singularly focus upon His Presence, without regard for other issues. John Egglen was a simple man, without complication, but he was a dedicated deacon in the little Methodist church of Colchester, England.

One snowy night, no more than a handful of people were in attendance for the evening worship. The minister of his church failed to make it. Nonetheless, John Egglen was present, and that night, John Egglen preached the sermon. It was a simple, poorly-prepared sermon. However, it touched a thirteen-year-old visitor who found his way there that cold snowy night.

Later, the young visitor revealed, “Then and there the cloud on my heart lifted, the darkness rolled away, and at that moment I saw the sun.” Today, we remember that thirteen-year-old visitor as the renowned Charles Haddon Spurgeon! Just five years later young Spurgeon took charge of a small congregation at a place called Water-beach, Cambridgeshire. When but twenty years of age, that same young preacher moved on to London where he served as pastor of the famed New Park Street Chapel.

Spurgeon’s immediate popularity made it necessary for them to construct the famed Metropolitan Tabernacle of London in 1861. There, Mr. Spurgeon frequently preached to an audience of as many as 10,000 on any given Sunday. From 1854 on, Spurgeon’s popular sermons, were published weekly and eventually they were collected into 50 volumes, many that are highly valued by multitudes of readers today.

James A. Garfield committed to singleness of purpose that enabled him to acquire his education and qualify himself to become the future president of the United States. Singleness of purpose led John Egglen to obey God on a snowy night with a small attendance, and preach a sermon that led to the conversion of a man who became one of our best-known preachers of the second half of the nineteenth century.

I am
Inviting you to consider the challenge that Jesus issued to all who would become one of his disciples: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” proclaimed Jesus, “and all these things shall be added to. Maintain your focus and you will find interest-paying dividends you can find no where else.  

Sunday, February 3, 2019


Assist News Service (ANS) once described a young Palestinian female victim finding herself alone in the family home in Gaza, bleeding and nearing coma.  An Israeli tank shell had just exploded nearby. It killed her father while she, Amira al-Girim, watched in horror.

As far as Amira knew, her brother and sister had also died in the air strike while running for help. Amira’s family, believing her dead, scooped up the scraps of remaining flesh and buried the box. By the time surviving family members caught up with this fifteen-year-old, she had quietly occupied a hospital bed with an injured leg in traction.

Tears washed her face as she described the Israeli tank shell that killed her father and his friend. In a weak voice she sobbed, "I looked outside and I found my father's car crushed, and his legs cut off. The floor was covered with blood from my leg."

She barely knew her name. Only faintly, she remembered getting a glass of water. “I wanted to fill it with water from the tap, but it fell down on the floor, and then there was blood all over the glass so I couldn't use it. I waited a bit and then I drank directly from the tap."

Amira admitted wanting to leave, but when she found her father lying across the door, she admitted, "I didn't want to step on him in case I hurt him." She slept in the streets for the next two days, then finally made her way to another house. She struggled an estimated 500 meters with her bleeding and badly broken leg, searching for shelter, and all the while the battle continued to rage nearby.

By the time the reporters found her, the Doctors already agreed she had but hours to live. When family members finally discovered Amira had survived, their reuniting became very emotional indeed.

Amira is merely an example, real though she be, of the collateral damages in one hostile pocket of our global community. People like Amira immediately find themselves damaged goods, even when they play only minor roles in the regional conflicts that fail to catch major attention from the world. Victims like Amira, experience life-changing trauma that requires extensive treatment. Should she receive all the care she needs, no one knows if she will ever be the same again? Does she have any idea that the God of Heaven has a great love for her?

Collateral damages never fail to result from our inhumane violence, our misguided politics, and our angry words. Some- how; they become secondary to our seemingly more important political issues of our Nation-states, although we are theoretically more humane in this modern era. Violence remains one of the rare commodities we humans seem to enjoy sharing mutually in common.

It may be only a child gunned down outside a Southside Chicago home. Or, it may merely be the hapless victim of a well-meaning community unwilling or unable to resolve its conflicts. In one way or another, we all appear quite skilled in keeping them outside the scope of our personal and public attention.

Politicians practice petty politics and wage turf wars—all to grasp a clenched fist full of political power. Citizens invest their  lives and their fortunes building self-protective barriers they rationalize as Christian principles, party politics, or protective public policies. Almost to a person, we minimize our “collateral damages” while we ignore that Divine Declaration that announces “God so loved the world…” (John 3;16).

No one ever visualized human beings as fully in the image of God (Genesis 1:26; 9:26) as specifically and as fully as Jesus did. He taught the multitudes on the side of the mountain to “love” their enemies and “pray” for their persecutors (Matthew 5:44).

Violence never fails to destroy more than it achieves. War never fails to produce more broken relationships than it can heal. Wrong methods never fail to fall short of the needed right objective.

Only when we respect each other as individuals, and create relationships that consider the political persuasions and eco-nomic securities of the common good; only then will our military superiorities become unnecessary. We can experience “Community” only when we will willingly risk extending our open palms to those who approach us with their clenched fists.

We will achieve peaceful neighborhoods and enjoy the fruits of global peace ONLY when we purposefully pursue peaceful, non-violent relationships. Violence and war remain our current socially acceptable means for achieving diplomatic and political objectives, but the COLLATERAL DAMAGES we continue to pay are far too high a price for such small gains.

This is  suggesting …
if we wish be called children of God, we must follow the Spirit of God and intentionally activate as the peacemakers Jesus described (Matthew 5:9 et al) throughout his going-about with his disciples.

Thursday, January 31, 2019


My all-time favorite flower is the rose. This genus Rosa belongs to a plant family that includes more than one-hundred plant species. Some are especially fragrant. Others produce jams, jellies, teas and a variety of oils. Yet others go into making skin and beauty makeup products.

Like the rose, Life presents its share of thorny experiences. Lost jobs, nasty divorces, abusing spouses, and unplanned tragedies bring wind clouds and stormy weather. Yet, few plants are more popular, more useful or lovelier, than the rose.

Most of us recognize this wildly popular specimen for its exquisite blooms and fragrant aroma. We value it among our loveliest of specimen plants, in spite of its being well-fortified with sharply-toothed leaves and thorny stems. Like life, this perennial favorite delivers far more than its share of thorns and prickly experiences.

It was in a little known jungle village called Chitana that Missionary Larry Lehman encountered a prickly individual that taught him this lesson (Kreider/The Way of the Cross and Resurrection /Herald Press, 1978/134-35). Most of the villagers in this isolated village feared this prickly personality because of his extra-ordinary strength, but that all changed when he met Jesus and experienced a life-transformation.

 Upon encountering Jesus, strange things began to happen in the life of this much-feared man. First, his cow died quite mysteriously. His pig died shortly, followed by his dog. Soon, his neighbors began avoiding him. Threats became commonplace, first against his life, then against his family. Tough times discourage some people, but adversity seemed to draw this strong man of Chitana closer to God.

 The Spirit of Christ cleansed his heart of hatred and anger. He found that he had a new love for the people mis-treating him. As a result of his persevering faith, thirty-five of his countrymen discovered new life in Christ. The final indignity came, however when fifteen men drew up a paper and declared under oath that this man had removed the images from their local church and burned them.

The authorities soon recognized this as a falsehood and an attempt to destroy this new Christian and they acquitted him. When the day came for the judge to prosecute the accusers; their accusations proved false, and they became subject to perjury. Although this strong man had previously fought everyone who threatened him in anyway, he now pleaded for the judge to pardon the very enemies who tried to destroy him.

The unfolding of this strange drama came when the Judge granted the strongman’s request. As a result of this one man’s powerful witness, the number of believers in that commun-ity increased to one-hundred thirty-five by the end of that year.

Pleading God’s pardon, and experiencing God’s forgiveness, adds a fragrance to life that more than com-pensates for all of its thorns. When we forgive those who would destroy us, we enhance the blooms on life’s plant; we multiply the number of blooms and we discover a fragrance that makes their beauty more satisfying.

This is, reminding you that forgiveness, as Mark Twain discovered, is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

This Reconciliation...

Forrest Plants once told this story that I find humorous and illustrative.

”Excuse me, can you help me?” yelled a hot air balloonist hovering above a pedestrian on the ground. “I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

“You are in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 32 feet above the ground” replied the observer. “You are between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59-60 degrees west longitude.”

“You must be an engineer,” said the balloonist.
“I am,” replied the woman, “How did you know?”
“Well, everything you told me is technically correct” answered the balloonist, “but I have no idea what to make of your information and the fact is I am still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help so far.”

“You must be in management” observed the pedestrian.
“I am, but how did you know?”
“Well, you don’t know where you are or where you are going,” she replied. “You have risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You have made a promise, which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect those beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now somehow, it’s my fault.”

Relational perplexities complicate our conciliatory attempts and disrupt our efforts to co-exist as human beings. When Saul of Tarsus met Jesus on the Damascus Road it became his metamorphosis. It exploded Saul’s cocoon of Jewish traditionalism and emerged a magnificent butterfly we remember as Christianity’s Apostle to the Gentiles.

That encounter launched Saul into a history-changing, life-transforming, miracle-producing ministry as the Apostle Paul. Paul’s view of people changed from his pre-Christian days as Saul of Tarsus. He quit viewing people as human demographics, bad attitudes, wrong caste and culture. He began seeing Jews and Gentiles transformable by God’s metamorphosing. Paul discovered birthright and tradition save no one. He found God had already reconciled Jew and Gentile and “re-created” them into “one new man” (cf. Ephesians).

By making peace; i.e. by reconciling the two, he had already brought Jew and Gentile into “one body to God through the cross.” He put to death (killed) their hostility and introduced reconciliation for all humanity (2 Corinthians 5:16-20; Ephesians 2:15-16, NASV).

Reconciliation means making friendly again. It suggests winning another to our view. It describes harmonizing our different ideas, opinions, lifestyles, and cultures and this often includes our accepting the reality of our own lot in life, and being satisfied with our level of achievement. Reconciliation allows for differences, without demanding division or separation. Our differences remind us God is the author of our diversity. It was God that made us unique and different in our creeds, colors, and cultures.

God gave us our minds and hearts to reconcile—to transform--our differences. By birth, I am Caucasian--mostly German-Dutch. My early friends incuded Afro-Americans and Hebrew Americans in all degrees of orthodoxy. I knew no Hispanics and when I found myself a twenty-year-old U. S. Airman in San Antonio, Texas hearing Spanish-speaking conversation was foreign to me. In spite of such differences, we played together, attended school together; lived in community together, and each held our own views, while recognizing our mutual equality and civil worth. 

In later years, I found I had some flawed views, especially of Jews. My hometown was a tourist attraction, a resort community that catered to a large influx of urban Jews from Chicago-Detroit who vacationed each summer on our Lakeside beaches. These were older Orthodox Jews as well as more-progressive Jews. This mix shaped my early life and colored my opinions. Their views often clashed with our white-European, Anglo-Saxon Protestant Wasp culture. 

When I first encountered hardcore Confederate segregation as a young pastor in a southeastern state, it offended my social morality. When riding the San Antonio Transit Lines, I wondered why these “dumb foreigners” don’t learn to speak English, but those were my pre-Hispanic-friends days”. I had not yet learned that Hispanics were NOT all foreigners--or stupid for that matter Yet, I comfortably allowed for my German friends back home to still speak German when going to church. As I matured, I came to envy the bilingualism and celebrate our mutual differences. With new understanding, I celebrated the positive benefits of what became decades of Hispanic friendships. Acquaintance with people like Luz Gonzales enriched my life . The time came when I expected a bear hug from Luz, although his Mexican diet  led him  to enjoy eating his hot peppers as much as I liked slurping ice cream. 

Skin colors and ethnic differences do distinguish us but they need never divide us. In my young adult years, I  served for a time in the Eastern United States where I had Slavic neighbors. I noted that some of them avoided their white Bohemian neighbors. I saw that in some cities crossing a single street signaled a crossed border. Everyone had the same white skin but a different ethnicity. It was no different when I moved west, as a young married Bible-College student. I discovered to my dismay that I fell short of compliance with an old Oregon law on the books at that time that made “unlawful” my marriage of four years. It declared it illegal for a Caucasian (me) to be married to an Indian (my Oklahoma-born English-Irish Cherokee) who had enough Cherokee blood to proudly qualify as a First American--Her father drove a wagon on the “Trail of Tears.”

In later church ministry, I sometimes found it unacceptable to fellowship outside of my established Church of God Reformation boundaries. Some of my peers devalued the Christian Unity they loudly proclaimed by vigorously competing with Christian denominationalism and rejecting any mutual cooperation or fellowship. I learned that reconciliation challenges more than race relations. Social boundaries like divorce, single parenthood, or accepting welfare can still be painful and costly religious border- crossings. It became obvious to me such borders often allowed us to divide from one another because “different”, unacceptable, and even unworthy.

Our colorful shades and multiple hues of color test our being One People. Recon-ciliation calls us to mutual respect, interpersonal sensitivity, and  submission both ways. Experience reinforces for me the truth that reconciliation and Christian unity is easier to proclaim than to practice.

Years of Christian ministry and changing social mores, finally led me to a place where I found it necessary to re-evaluate my practice of marrying people. My traditional views clashed with a changing culture. Whereas I once accepted couples as they were, I found myself feeling overwhelmed by growing numbers of previously married couples, some cohabiting without marriage, some being youngsters caught with a baby en route. Few seemed what I felt “proper” candidates for marriage. I watched divorce decimate my congregation and I felt anger and frustration, and need for a moratorium. Perhaps I should no longer officiate weddings. Or, I might refer prospects to a peer. Depressed and dissatisfied, I was preaching through the Book of Romans when J. B. Phillips’ grabbed my attention: “Do not allow yourself to be overpowered with evil” Rather, “Take the offensive--overpower evil by good” (Romans 12:21, JBP). 

As if God invaded my thoughts, I heard Paul counseling “live fully alive.” Overpower evil by allowing God to re-model from the inside out. A moment of discovery transitioned into a reconciliation that anchored me more firmly in Christ Jesus rather than in my biases. Ministry became a personal reconciliation with God, without reference to achievement, ethnic origin, or other considerations. Reconciliation unfolded as God’s grace; Charis revealed God’s way of transforming me into an open channel of grace that he wanted to dispense through me--at his pleasure, not mine. 

This new concept of intimacy with Christ led to a new sensitivity to God’s call for reconciliation. Our COG Faith Community continues to grapple with varying degrees of challenge and every member is called to personally pursue non-violent means of overcoming the variety of evils confronting us. We are each called to use whatever powers of goodness we have at our disposal (cf. Ephesians 3:20).

As members of the Body of Christ, “WE” share mutual responsibility for influencing the moral consciences of individuals. Is there one word that helps us meet this challenge? Paul called it “reconciliation.” Years ago Pastor Tyrone Cushman preached to a large Youth Convention and I use here his terse conclusion: “Reconciliation -- racial, economic, family, and moral, the works.” What does the Bible say? “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ … and he committed us to this “message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19 NIV). 

I am … and is this not the word we have mouthed as a movement since 1880, beginning with D. S. Warner and his company of Saints? 

Our practice needs to come up to our proclamation, I believe; what do you think?