Saturday, November 26, 2016

Liberal? Conservative? Or Christian?

Rather than debate liberal vs conservative  political ideologies, we could spend our time better by advocating for a radical return to biblcal principles of personal worth, social equity, and reconciling justce [both social and economic].We have a good exiting president that some belittle as un-American to say the least. A whole demographic of Americans have arisen to demand a return to days of more nostalgic greatness – I‘m not sure they are even aware there is a whole world of people out there who want to share our greatness, nor am I sure they even care. They want to feel well provided for and live comfortably and safely, as if who doesn’t?

People have voted. They are asking questions. They are demanding change, and I AGREE. So, let me ask you this question: Should a CEO be paid as much as the market will bear? Some will quickly agree believing that is free enterprise. Others will hesitate to answer without considering other possible factors first. Some will say no; that is the way of Pharoah vs Israel.

That question came up in 2006 at which time median family income was up 18%. However, income was up 200% for the top 1% of the wealthiest (16/War on the Middleclass/Dobbs/2006). It has since gone to 400% in some cases.

Dobbs a staunch Republican reported CEOs had been paid over the five years before that an aggregate of $865 million in compensation (CEOs of AT&T, BellSouth, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Lucent, Merck, Pfizer, Safeway, Time Warner, Verizon & Walmart) while shareholders lost $640 billion.

That among many other statistics found in book after book verify the economic trending of the past forty-or-so years in which the gap between haves and have nots has been widening, funneled up in a politically established, economically-motivated ripping of the social fabric of American society. The rich were becoming richer at the expense of the more vulnerable. And so it is today

So, while the masses rant, rave, review, and revolutionize in forms that are sometimes conversational and sometimes violent, I ask for a radical return to the teachings of Jesus, the one who taught us to love our enemies and treat others as we want to be treated. His principles can all be found in the Sermon on the Mount and the four gospels and they form the heart and soul of the Christian gospel.

In Isaiah 58 that Old Testament prophet told his people how to honor God: not with their usual festivals of fasting and flagellating themselves and such but

          “I will tell you the kind of special day I want: Free the people you
           have put in prison unfairly and undo their chains. Free those to
          whom you are unfair and stop their hard labor. Share your food
          with the hungry and bring poor, homeless people into your  own
          homes. When you see someone who has no clothes, give him yours,
          and don’t refuse to help your own relatives. Then your light will
          shine like the dawn and your wounds will quickly heal. Your God
          will walk before you, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from
          behind. Then you will call out, and the Lord will answer. You will
          cry out, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’”

How does this play out in this election? It simply means that if one is pro-life (for example) one is not simply pro-life for a fetus awaiting birth. One is pro-life in recognizing all of life as sacred and of respected value. For a business man, it means treating one’s employees as one wants to be treated and not just as a commodity to be traded for larger profits.

The implications are great and if we would we could dramatically change our lives. We could change our relationships and begin envisioning everyone a winner rather than the current “I win you lose.” We could recognize the global community as a human family.

From Warner’s World
this is suggesting
our biggest problem is not political difference or economic status;
we are our own worst moral problem. It all comes down to the kind of ethics we are willing to live by.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Finding a Working Faith

Al Early went through college and seminary and learned it all well enough that he became a pastor of a church. When he started trying to apply his learning, he did not find it working very well. When God answered his prayer for a parishioner in the hospital one day, he  became so convicted that he promised God he would start doing ministry as if the bible were really true! This resulted in his seeing God more clearly than he ever had.

Now days the Reverend Early prays, does ministry, and lives as if the Bible really is true. That prompted him to begin to challenge people and this is his challenge: I share with you his challenge for today. Decide to live for one year as if the Bible were true.

I will let you work out all the details of how you apply this, given the world of Bible times  and the world of today are so different from one another.

“Don’t get bogged down in that” he advises, but “focus on things like faith in Jesus Christ, salvation to eternal life, trusting God with everything, being a cheerful giver,   noticing the countless miracles going on around you every day and developing a servant’s heart.” He finds these all being good places to srart.

I feel confident, he says, “in saying that a year from now you will not have any regrests” (Winchester Sun/10-21-16/pA6).  

“Now” he admits, “I no longer struggle with the truth and authority of scripture. I see the miraculous hand of God at work in my life and ministry every day. It is a wonderful place to be?”

Are you having difficulty finding  life workable? Are you tired of facing life all by yourself? Do you have difficulty in taking the Bible seriously? From Warner’s World, I am 
suggesting that you accept the Reverend’s challenge. 

If you are teachable, you will lose absolutely nothing and you just might come out far ahead of where you are presently. Take the challenge for just a year and “live your life as if the Bible really is true”.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Transformed People

People, like roads, all go to some destination. Otherwise, they are a dead end in themselves and going nowhere in particular. Alice grew up with a privileged Puritan New England heritage. She learned to be responsible, respectful, and resourceful, as well as a religious adult. Preparing for college at Chauncey Hall, she graduated from Radcliffe, in spite of losing her father and caring for her grandmother during her senior year.

With the weakening of the family fortune, Alice became Editor of the Cambridge Press. Becoming a literary success, she soon married a successful newsman. “Sadly,” and at “the height of her literary success” she “seemed to be overshadowed by her health problems” concludes Jerry Davis (Miracle on Caney Creek/1982).

Staunchly immersed ethically and philosophically in helping other people, although chronically ill, partially crippled and somewhat paralyzed, Alice allegedly determined, “…if I have only a short time to live I’m going to use it for some good purpose’” (Davis/26). 

A short time later, Alice encountered one of her Presbyterian minister friends who had built and later abandoned a mission at Ivis, KY on Troublesome Creek.  Alice and her mother occupied that Knott County site of poverty and perversity in 1915 after making the trip via horse and buggy. With that, she launched what was left of her deteriorated life and began pouring her energies and resources into the best possible career then open to an articulate, dedicated, and caring young lady: helping other people to help themselves.

When June Buchanan’s road intersected with that of Alice Lloyd, the two devotees of improving the lot of humanity became lifelong companions. These two young women invested their lives  (42 years together) in the work begun by Alice Lloyd. The rest is a fascinating history of literally creating a community on Caney Creek and developing a role model as a self-help Community Center.

From its very humble beginning, Caney Creek Community Center evolved into an ongoing educational and ministry center that is today Alice Lloyd College. This four-year institution holds a strongly recognized commitment to Alice Lloyd’s original purpose and philosophy. Located in Pippa Passes, KY the college guarantees to meet the financial needs of mountain students. High academic and moral standards are demanded, and all students earn their way toward graduation by working part-time, while also developing personal character and a sense of purpose.

Graduates here are not a dead-end road! They are going somewhere, as all roads (and all people) should do. What many men would not attempt without government subsistence, two uninhibited and idealistic young women that did know any better than to trust in the Christian principles they had been taught from infancy, began helping others become the leaders their region required, if life deep in the mountains was ever going to get any better.

Reading this volume aloud to my wife, we were fascinated (Jerry C. Davis/Miracle on Caney Creek/Host Communications Printing/ Lexington, KY 1982). This was not a book about poverty and pollution, or the pros and cons of the coal industry; this was a book about people and possibilities. 

We were reminded of our friend, the Reverend Garland Lacy and his ongoing Applachian Ministries in Powell-and-Lee Counties, this being a continuation of both the Pine Crest Ministry carried on by Naomi Randal and that of Moses and Ruby Kitchen. We had helped support Garland when still in active pastoral ministry and I was privileged to visit him again only recently. The value of such ministries is beyond any price one can put on such, and is so deserving of ongoing and dedicated support.

When people experience the transformation of Christian character and directed purpose anything becomes possible. From Warner’s World, this is 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Principle and Practice

Editor Harold Phillips (GT/VC) is a friend from yesteryear. He was a friend to all young writers in the church. In the October 19, 1969 issue of “VC”, a year that found me both a pastor and a seminarian, Harold editorialized on the theme of “Principle and Practice”. He told this insightful story from  Daniel Callahan (Honesty in the Church, Scribner 1965).

A certain Christian layman owned a supermarket. He made the difficult decision to stay closed on Sundays, although that gave a decided edge to his competitors. A short time later he bumped into a friend at church and she encouraged him to continue his announced policy of Sunday closure.

Splendid! That same afternoon, however, the grocer chanced to pass the establishment of one of his competitors and guess who he saw! “Emerging with a heavily laden cart of groceries, was that same lady. Now says Harold: “This is not to say that the matter of matching practice with principle is simple or easy. That is not the case. It’s tough, and elusive, and perplexing. But the gap between professed principles and obvious practices is much too wide today.”

Is it any wonder that we are so often labeled ‘hypocrites’ and ’phonies’, Harold wonders as he calls to mind comments of an anti-Christian philosopher who concluded, You Christians don’t look very redeemed to me.”

This was a problem when Editor Phillips wrote his op-ed. It remains a problem in 2016, even as it was a problem when I accepted my first pastoral charge in Harrison, AR in 1951.

It is the perennial problem of the ages! Matching practice with proclamation, of practicing what one preaches, is always easier said than done. The Editor is quite on target when he opines, “Words cost less than deeds.” I suggest, he added, “that in some cases at least, the ‘conversion’ experience has been only verbal and tearful and not deeply penetrating.”

Is it possible that “believing the doctrine” sometimes becomes our Church of God substitute for actually committing our lives to God and living in biblical obedience to his will? It appears to me to be a problem In this election year, when we are electing a President that will be a global leader of the world God has placed us in, Too often the opinions expressed are political prejudices that shape the contours of our biblical interpretation rather than our principle shaping our practice.

Consequently, too many Christians become so focused on the politics of ne-or-more favorite moral issues that when push comes to shove they simply fail to think through so as to biblically structure their lives consistent with how Jesus lived. I find D. S. Warner a man ahead of his time when he stepped out of denominationalism so as to fellowship every “blood washed believer” as the old song suggests.
I further conclude that “Warner’s followers” may not have always been right in bashing Babylon and insisting on walking the path of holiness and unity in solitude, rather than establishing a basis for cooperating in the larger Christian context.     

May God open our eyes and heal the blindness that in the language of the Editor fails to “see the discrepancies between what the church commonly professes and what the church usually does.”

From Warner’s World this is

offering a prayer that we both see our shortfalls of discrepancy and that we have enough discipline
to be transformed by the renewing of our minds,
thereby proving what is the will of God that is good
and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2 RSV)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Our Friend Pete

I never knew anyone who disliked Pete Meyer. I met Pete in 1945. I was an incoming freshman at Anderson University and he was a popular outgoing senior. Pete later served with the Board of Church Extension and Home Missions back in the days when we maintained in-house Agency people where pastors could find help they could find nowhere else. I had been in pastoral ministry more than four decades when Pete delivered his personal testimony to Park Place worshippers in Anderson, IN, in the Spring of 1993. His cancer hastened his death Christmas week--the following December 23rd.

Pete’s sister Evelyn came from Sweetwater, TX as did Pete. Their parents were sturdy church-going people and essential to the life of the Church of God in Sweetwater. Wife and I were privileged to stay in their home back in the early fifties—lovely people—mom and pop to many of us who were younger then. They enjoyed the strong leadership of such pastors as Robert E. Bowden and Alta, and Frank Couvisier and Roma Lee.

As young pastors frequently cutting out new ministries, many of us benefited from the devotion, dedication and unique skills of Agency personnel like Pete Meyer. In our desire to be ecclesiastically lean and clean we have ridded ourselves of most such services today and have lost our sense of outreach and missionary direction in the process—an unfortunate calamity that we continually pay for with our lack of direction and staying relevant.

Like other leaders I could name, Pete was not only uniquely skilled, he was also a man of strong spiritual character and disciplined integrity. When finally faced with an incurable cancer, he simply drew closer to the Christ of the Cross and found his answers to life in the power of the resurrection. Following are the printed remarks he delivered that day at Park Place (cf. p20/VC/Apr 1994):

“It is indeed a rare privilege that I have to share with you, my colleagues, and our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. I was asked by the staff just this week if I could muster up the courage and the strength—that’s not only just mental strength but physical strength, because the disease is a debilitating disease. It takes a lot of energy just to take care of the daily functions of life.

“What was Easter like last year? In this intervening twelve months, word has come that I have an incurable disease. There is nothing more that can be done, according to four specialists we’ve contacted. That is not to say there is no hope. That is not to say there is no help. So I would say first of all in this particular Holy Week, the difference between this year and last year is that I am much more focused right now than I was a year ago. I seem to focus in on what is real. It seems that God has given me a clarity of mind and of thought to help me realize that some things are not quite as important as I used to think they were. And so I am a little more focused, I think.

“As I study and reflect and listen to radio and television and other ways of communicating, it would seem our world would have us think that our purpose in life is to be a celebrity—to be a superstar. This Easter the power of the resurrection tells me again that this is not why we are here. We are here to be just simple every day, loving people caring for each other.

“That’s the message of Easter. In living out this Easter I have discovered anew that one of life’s most difficult assignments is that of living with uncertainty. It is true I don’t know how long I have to live, but neither do you. Just because I happen to have a disease that doctors have found no cure for, does not mean that there is no cure. There is uncertainty, but the power of the resurrection takes away that uncertainty.

‘In these past few months many of you have been contacting me through letters with your wonderful support, your love, your prayers, and your reassurances. Some of you get down to the very essence of life itself; you’ve been sharing with me some of your fears. I realize I had some fears; we all have fears, but there is a great deal of fear among us. One of the things I would like to say this Easter is that there is an excessive fear of death.

“I’m not running to death; nor, on the other hand am I running away from it. I feel that death ought not to be looked at as my worst enemy. Just reread your Good Friday story. Jesus did not give up, tough the physical pain he had was such that he couldn’t bear it. Jesus turned it over to God.

‘‘So, let’s take a look this morning at this Easter as the power of the resurrection for ourselves and not view death as the worst enemy. It has already been licked once and it can be licked again (If you will pardon a colloquial expression). Hope offers a great power in our search for healing. You do not know, those hundreds of you who have sent cards and letters, the hope you have brought to my life, which in turn has given me the sustenance I have had olive up until this moment.   

“This hope offers great power in our search for healing. I don’t know if my body will ever be healed. That’s not the point to me right now, but I do have the hope that I will be healed in my mind and in my spirit and in my soul. I do have the hope that God will help me be the best person I can be and continue to be the message to others that God intends for me to be. Life/’s miracle to me is kin the hope rather than in the healing.

“This Easter I have discovered something that is not necessarily brand new but I have renewed its acquaintance. There is great power in humor. I believe that Jesus of Nazareth, the man—the human being—had a lot more fun than a lot of us today who claim to represent him in this life. I think he saw humor in life. He saw the funny things in life. He saw the funny things in life, and humor is a great healer. I thank God for humor and I thank you for sharing your humorous experiences with me.

“The power of the resurrection, the real test, is to leave the future in God’s hands without demanding a detailed road map. That requires much more trust than many of must have. There is the lesson of Easter—the power of the resurrection.

“Let us all ask more for more peace of mind: God, I don’t know about that, but give me peace of mind about my not knowing. There is peace of mind available in that sense. There is hope. God can be trusted. There are no conditions, not even death, that can rob us or have the power to divert us from the path to abundant life. May God make it so in your life.”

From Warner’s World, I am

saying thank you Pete for the lighted torch you held up for us to see and follow ...

we remain better focused in our own spiritual walk as a result … 
*Picture at top shows Jack Barnes (Ft Worth, center) visiting with Rod Bennett (right) and a 3rd unidentified friend in kitchen at former Eastland Camp Inspiration.