Friday, December 30, 2011

Some Thoughts About the Church in 2012

“Church of God Ministries” resides in Anderson, Indiana--a focal point that supplements the combined Church of God preaching-publishing ministries of J.C. Fisher and D. S. Warner. Both were ordained by the General Eldership of the Church of God of North America (John Winebrenner followers), now known simply as the Church of God. However, “The Church of God Movement” occupies a multitude of places and people along a global partyline that brings health and healing to a hurting global community.

Daniel S. Warner launched in Ohio, linked with Fisher in Indiana, and relocated to Williamston, Michigan via Cardington-Bucyrus, Ohio. The Williamston Gospel Trumpet produced a “Trumpet Family“ of volunteer workers. When Fisher forsook his wife, Warner disassociated with him, and the magazine moved on with its message of unity and holiness--Grand Junction--Moundsville--Anderson.

The Church Advocate of January 10, 1877, a Winebrenner publication, noted early, that “Elder D. S. Warner is a model young man, of deep piety and superior courage and means business in the work of the ministry, and if he continues humble will make his mark in the church.” He became a successful pastor, evangelist, and missionary, but it seems safe to say that had he not joined forces with Joseph Fisher, (and Byrum), there would be no Church of God Reformation Movement as we know it.

In his centennial history of the Gospel Trumpet Company--Miracle of Survival/44, Editor Harold Phillips pointed to Warner’s role of pen-preaching, concluding that Warner “wed them into powerful instruments for the spread of the truth to which he was committed.“ That marriage of the printed word with the spoken word produced a people driven by a “flying ministry” of volunteer preachers and workers and the “Trumpet Family”--volunteers.

Working hand-in-glove with the “flying ministers” the publishing ministry created a people out of no people. They created a visible re-formation that became a publishing ministry--Gospel Trumpet Company--and an evolving church body thought of as a “last reformation.”

The Publishing House, as the driving force, created a variety of in-house curriculum materials for feeding the infant church. By extending the company outside the church, a large retail business evolved, including educational materials, greeting cards, worship folders, and a full line of books.

Enoch Byrum, successor to the Fisher-Warner ministry, soon put Amos Radabaugh on the road selling the books they published. They understood--very early--that their church ministry lacked the ability to support their publishing ministry. They resolved this by developing and selling products to the General Public - to subsidize publishing needs.

God blessed! The Company thrived, and that marriage offers the best reason I know for forging a new and contemporary publishing ministry for the 21st century. The church grew early on, but its institutional needs created changes of attitude and practice across the decades, with unfortunate results. After 116 years of movemental institutionalizing, “Vital Christianity”--former Gospel Trumpet--died, amid a restructuring church, forcing a downsized publishing ministry.

A 1971 audience at the Anderson School of Theology Lectures failed to grasp the significance of the question Franklin Miller raised: “In this closing decade of our first century as a movement, [h] ow do we see the future of the use of literature? In the last three or four years, Miller added, several large Religious bodies have found it necessary to discontinue publication of their official journals and magazines (emphasis added), some of which were in Publication for many, many decades “Projections” 11/1971).

Miller pressed his point to no avail: “What do we see in the future of the publication of VITAL CHRISTIANITY And the Church of God? How do we see the future of book publications? Are the destinies of our church’s publishing house to be determined by whatever attitude we take toward freedom of independent action and loyalty to the movement?”

Editor Phillips, added additional warnings. Editor Newell reprinted an editorial from Editor Smith from 1928, with this provocative title: “Voluntary Cooperation or Disintegration.” “Reformation Review” later reprinted that “Smith editorial” in their prototype issue--peeking into our past--without comment. That experimental issue did not make it beyond the prototype issue.

I became a pastor in 1951 and began attending our National Assemblies. There, I frequently heard criticism among my peers--even offered a few. Complaints varied, but they generally concluded that “they sell Holy Trinkets!” Many Warner Press Retail as growing rapidly, making “gobs of money,” and taking commercial advantage of the church .

Meanwhile, in the church body, Agency in-fighting existed. Salary rivalries arose. Turf wars created problems Pastors complained that the “GA” was a “waste of time!“ Some declared business meetings useless. Some business meetings were lack luster, but I never envisioned God’s business as a waste of time--yet, what did this young preacher know?

Eventually, intentional “Bible-based cooperation” replaced the practiced voluntary “disintegration.” Free-wheeling independence ruled the day. Freedom of choice--in! Passion for Publishing [the message]--out!

The Church Body lost sight of the role the Publishing House played as primary “nursemaid” for the Movement during its first 75 years. The Church of God, Anderson no longer appreciated the sacrifices of its elders, choosing to ignore the benefits for its children, youth, families, congregations, and missional outreach.

Yes, we reorganized national structures to function more efficiently, and I voted for it. That well-intentioned effort bore minimal fruit; we were already bare-bones, denominationally speaking. Hindsight says we exchanged bare-bones for an even leaner-meaner structure.

We have now lived more than 130 years, mostly because of dedicated individuals that to some degree follow the spirit of the commission D. S. Warner believed God gave him--wed the spoken-and-written word in proclaiming unity and holiness. Following Warner’s example, they wrapped themselves around that cause--volunteering --sacrificing--and giving until it hurt.

Our 20-20 rear view vision has improved significantly, but, our foresight remains overly self-centered, non-visionary, and too self-seeking.
1) We cannot fill our niche in God’s world without correcting past failures.
2) We cannot adequately fulfill our mission without wedding the passionate publishing and personal proclaiming that birthed us and created a Witnessing Body of Gospel Witnesses.
3) By itself, “Pen preaching” is not a panacea--cure-all; we need to renew Warner’s contract with God and supplement it with the proclamation and witness of individual ministers, congregations, and members.

An excerpt from Warner’s signed document, that December 13th day of 1877, says simply:
In signing my name to this solemn covenant I am aware that I bind myself to live, act, speak, think, move, sit, stand up, lie down, eat (underlined twice), drink, hear, see, feel and whatsoever I do all the days and nights of my life to do all continually and exclusively to the Glory of God.

Warner wanted nothing but what honored God; he wanted nothing in his possession or under his control but such as he could “consistently write upon ‘Holiness unto the Lord.’”

Warner’s devotion--to God--to Scripture, is what we need. We have capable congregations, more than ever. We have “Chog Ministries.” We have on-demand publishing--Reformation Publishers. We have more communication than anytime in history. Our wired online global neighborhood gives us a neighborhood network for talking to one another--sharing with each other--and a means of dialoguing with the world.

Twenty-Twelve demands better of us--our utmost best. Twenty-first century “pen preaching” supplemented by our “practice” of what we “preach” will result in renewed vision of prophetic leaders and passionate people. Joining hands and uniting in plugging into God’s promised mission of John 3:16 will produce “active First Responders” empowered by the Living Christ, authorized by God Almighty, and not somebody’s interpretation of End Times.

From Warner's World,
it is true that “a great tribulation” is taking the lives of many in these days, but it is also true that we face THE GREATEST OPPORTUNITY IN HUMAN HISTORY. What a great time this is to be alive ...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pastor's Christmas Eve Gift

Compass Direct News
reported Islamic extremists threw acid on this church leader in Kampala, Uganda on Christmas Eve. This was the Christmas present given a Christian pastor shortly after a seven-day revival at his church. This hostile act of violence left him with severe burns that blinded one eye and threaten his sight in the other eye. It reads like Judas betrayal of Jesus.

Mulinde was attacked on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) outside his Gospel Life Church International building in Namasuba, about 10 kilometers (six miles) outside of Kampala. From his hospital bed in Kampala, he told Compass that he was on his way back to the site for a party with the entire congregation and hundreds of new converts to Christianity when a man who claimed to be a Christian approached him.

“I heard him say in a loud voice, ‘Pastor, pastor,’ and as I made a turn and looked at him, he poured the liquid onto my face as others poured more liquid on my back and then fled away shouting, ‘Allahu akbar [God is greater],’” Mulinde said, still visibly traumatized two days after the assault.

A doctor told Compass that acid burns cover about 30 percent of his face and has cost him sight in one eye. “We are doing all we can to save his other remaining eye and to contain the acid from spreading to other parts of the body,” the doctor said. His face, neck and arms bore deep black scars from the acid, and his lips were swollen. His face, neck and arms bear deep black scars from the acid, and his lips are still swollen.

Mulinde said Muslim extremists opposed to his conversion from Islam and his outspoken opposition of sharia (Islamic law) courts in Uganda attacked him. On Oct. 15, area Muslim leaders declared a fatwa against him demanding his death. Mulinde is known for debates locally and internationally in which he often challenges Muslims regarding their religion.

Bishop Umar Mulinde, 37, was a sheikh (Islamic teacher) before his conversion to Christianity. Violence in the name of religion seems to me the most hypocritical of all religious heresies. Thus, the words of Jesus were never more true than here: “If you abide in My word … you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

If you pursue Allah (God) far enough, you will find peace, but not violence. Then, you can say of a certainty, Allahu Akbar (God is greater). From Warner’s World ...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day Worship

Christmas Day service was abbreviated--35-40 minutes--warm,receptive,and pungent with Christmas Spirit. Tonya, a local music teacher, led worship. She proved to be a breath of fresh air as a full congregation sang vigorously and joyfully before Tonya introduced Pastor Sparks sermon with her solo.

Without repeating the lyrics of her song, I was moved with Tonya's level of engagement in her song. It was apparent to us in the pew that she was standing alone with God, carrying on a conversation with Him through the lyrics of her song. We were blessed as she simply overflowed--choking back her tears, even ‘tho I had difficulty putting all of her broken lyrics together (being without my hearing aids).

It was a tender and touching moment as Jim stepped forward to deliver his Christmas Message on “Jesus the Immanuel”. Without repeating Jim, he reminded us that had God thought we needed a king, an educator, or whatever, God could have sent that person. What he did, in fact, was to send us a Savior--we needed forgiveness.

A quick glance at Christmas 2011 could reveal the greatest need within humanity is forgiveness. Picking up on Tonya’s tears and brokenness in worship, Jim recognized tears have always been part of the life drama of failure, renewed efforts, transformation, and new opportunity. I have to confess he jerked me up short--thinking perhaps of the whiteness of the fresh snow, the cleansing of a new and fresh start, concluded with the double entendre (with which he sat down): “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.”

We stood to our feet, singing ” with renewed understanding, “Joy to the World.”
…the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King…
Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
…No more let sin and sorrow grow / Nor thorns infest the ground / He comes to make his blessings flow…
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love…

George grew up going to camp meeting in South Dakota, the son of a Wesleyan Methodist pastor. That was what they did. George was also a WWII Bomber Pilot, a churchman, a history professor, a politician. At the core of George is a man acquainted with suffering. He invested his life trying to lift others, and suffered depression from his inability to help his alcoholic daughter, who died in a parking lot falling-down-drunk--the result of a colt-45 at 13 (drink, not gun).

George is a man who has learned to rise above personal depression, as well as the destructive elements that ruin so many lives today. His words reaffirm the spirit of this day--Christmas 2011:

“This is not the time to hide in the shadows or to surrender. This is the time to step out and to step up. This is the time for us to heal our nation’s rifts and to deliver on her promise as we see it: a republic that is good to all. It is not for nothing that I will go to my grave believing that ours is the greatest country on earth.”

Merry Christmas from Warner’s World … for his name shall be called Emmanuel, meaning God with us (cf. Matthew 1:18-25) …

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Celebrating the Prince of Peace

Lawrence Korb is a senior fellow for a Washington Think Tank and former assistant Secretary of Defense under President Ronald Reagan. Korb, and his associate Laura Conley, identified ’unproven, over-budget, or strategically unnecessary’ weapons and weapons programs that could be cut or canceled and not missed.

Among those identified was the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. According to the study, this program has been plagued by so many technical problems since its inception in 1991 that Dick Cheney, then Secretary of defense, called it a ‘turkey.’

Rejecting the Navy’s request for twenty-four new Ospreys would save Taxpayers $9.1 billion--pretty good chunk of change. Cutting the procurement of the Navy and Marine F-35 Joint Strike Fighter variants would save Americans another BIG BUNDLE.

Since 2002, estimates of the lifetime operational costs of the F-35 have more than doubled to $1 trillion. Alternate fighter jets such as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet continues to be effective in the Navy and marines, so cutting their variants while allowing the Air Force to keep its entire buy would control spiraling costs without compromising American air superiority and the savings would be $16.43 billion by 2015.

That raises a question for me on this Christmas Eve - the day celebrated as the birthday of The One announced as the coming “Prince of Peace.” Remember that Bible passage that asks the question, what is it all worth if I gain the WHOLE WORLD and lose my own soul?

I would like to rephrase that question and ask what does it mean (how much is it worth) to be the strongest country on earth … if … our citizens cannot find worthwhile jobs, affordable housing, quality schools, good health care, and a clean environment?

There are those who make a mighty good living spending as much for military related programs as the rest of the entire world. We send our military from one place to another being the neighborhood Cop. Yet, we live in such fear that we strip-search 85-year-old ladies for fear they might have a terrorist explosive hidden in their private places, in their toothpaste, or...

Homeland Security is a $42 million boondoggle for the 200,000 employees. Meanwhile, it costs us an arm and a leg, and leaves us wobbling about like a wounded veteran on a new prosthesis. Our national debt is out of sight. We are at each other’s political throats. Our Congress is engaged in a civil war of deadlock.

To you on my right, the military has no way of resolving the issues--without diplomatic help. To my left, revolution of whatever kind is no solution to the moral re-formation needed by our nation.

Peace, said Dorothy Thompson, has to be created, in order to be maintained. It is the product of Faith, Strength, Energy, Will, Sympathy, Justice, Imagination, and the triumph of principle. It will never be achieved by passivity and quietism (or by military might; I add).

Christmas Eve is the time to celebrate the music of the stars …
a heavenly host praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men
with whom he is pleased!”
(Luke 2:14 RSV).; this is Warner’s World

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Sacredness of the Ordinary

Elton Trueblood described the birth of Jesus bringing the sacred and the secular into a powerful human experience, through what he called “the common ventures of life”--birth, marriage, work, death. Richard Foster insists we can overcome what he terms the “heresy of 5 percent spirituality.” We can turn “ordinary experiences of life into prayer, seeing God in our ordinary life experiences, and praying throughout those ordinary experiences (Prayer, Finding the Heart's True Home/169).

He describes his ordinary, uneventful mother. She lived with neither drama, nor newspaper headline, nor high adventure, but she did live with Multiple Sclerosis. She died an “ordinary death,” he says, after living her “ordinary life,” but he concludes, she “did both well.”

Ordinary living can be so common, so uneventful, so tedious, and so repetitive. Young people today find ordinary life so “boring.” I heard George pray probably hundreds of times in church. If I heard him ask once for power, I heard him ask for power a hundred times; he wanted the extraordinary and asked for it often.

The Jews rejected the authority of Jesus because he was too ordinary. He was only a hometown kid, from small-town Nazareth, where everybody knew him as the son of the local carpenter. Born in a Bethlehem manger--an animal compound. Jesus didn‘t even have enough good social graces to even know how to pick his friends.

Jesus chose to run with a bunch of nobodies--fishermen, tax collectors, unsophisticated men. He ate with sinners. He kept mixed company of the questionable kind. He ignored tradition and social custom, even eating his meals with unwashed hands and neglecting all-important Sabbath-keeping laws. Whatever his moral character, he obviously was not of the kingly stature to lead the Hebrews in overthrowing their Roman conquerors or to make them the United States of the Middle East, while ruling from Jerusalem during an imagined Millennium. He just didn’t qualify as somebody significant.

A while back, a young pastor’s wife was diagnosed with cancer. He sent encouraging "half-time" notes when he could, but now he reports a changed outlook following a full course of chemo treatment. Their outlook has changed. In spite of the best Medical Science can offer, this may be their final earthly Christmas together.

A recent CT scan reveals her cancer has grown. In spite of the chemo--in spite of humanity’s best, the cancer has increased in size where it is. Although not spreading elsewhere, it “now appears more resistant“ - and - “there is nothing further than can be done.”

Further options offer “low success rates” and she finds herself “entirely weakened by the normal chemotherapy, so more and harsher therapy is not an option.” Hospice has come in for as long as needed … the present objective being simply to avert pain.

This family lives in what I call the “tediousness of everyday living. “ Nonetheless, their testimony says “Nobody knows how long she will be with me [us] … This is very difficult news to bear. Our hope has certainly been disappointed but our faith in a Heavenly Father, who can still restore her health or who may call her home, is not shaken. He is loving and good, but situation is hard right now for us. Continue to pray for us”, and that is Christmas at their house.

I remember a day not unlike theirs--3-6 months to complete a terminal illness. Somehow, by the Grace of God, my spouse survived and we anticipate our 65th anniversary within the next few weeks--nobodies in the Kingdom of God.

I think of the words of Richard Foster and the birth of a Christmas baby, to an engaged but unmarried girl, betrothed to a carpenter of unknown stature, born in an animal compound. That baby’s birth in Bethlehem was as insignificant as insignificant can get, but it was the beginning of a journey from Bethlehem to Calvary.

At Calvary, that innocent baby found himself a victim of crucifixion. The road from Bethlehem to Calvary is a transforming journey, and somewhere en route that baby became the embodiment of “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but should have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

The transformation was such that in the most agonizing and terrible moments of his coming death--nailed to a cross he did not deserve--he held on long enough to extend a word of loving hope, and eternal transformation to a criminal he had never met but who deserved his punishment.

Christmas reminds us that everybody is somebody. There is no such thing as an insignificant being--a nobody. Not in God’s sight! As Ethel Waters used to say, "God don't make no junk!" Meaningless moments do not exist. As we travel from Bethlehem (Christmas) to Calvary (Easter), we find the storyline is not about the church discovering God’s gifts and selfishly enjoying them (or Israel living as King of the Mountain in their political community).

Rather, we find the storyline is about the people of God living as a new community, an outpost where now God dwells and rules, giving allegiance to Him as Lord [rather than to kings and political leaders]. It is about living within that realm wherein “we must obey God rather than human beings (Acts 5:29), and living in-and-under the authority of God--a present authority in this besieged world.

Earth, as we know it, and heaven may be we know not quite where, but they are not that far apart. God’s powerful presence abides and rules in both rooms. Teilhard de Chardin reminds us that the value and interest of life is in the ordinary things rather than the more conspicuous. God is most readily found in the ordinary tediousness of everyday living, including the terminal attacks upon the body by disease and malignancy.

From Warner’s World, Christmas reinforces the reality we experience when we pray “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” God love you and so do I ...

Friday, December 16, 2011

God's Will ... on Earth as...Heaven

The current new reports that Chief executive pay has roared back after two years of stagnation and decline: “America's top bosses enjoyed pay hikes of between 27 and 40%last year, according to the largest survey of US CEO pay.” This dramatic turnaround comes as the latest government figures show wages “for the majority of Americans are failing to keep up with inflation.”

Giving me a face for this story is the veteran nurse I know--hard-working and highly-qualified; she is someone I know has overcome against great odds--severe health issues--to work in a field she loved and respected. Then, the axe fell. She lost her job--unwilling to put her nursing license on the line to support fraudulent claims of an “unqualified” military supervisor who did not accept female equals in his “good ole boy“ system.

Overnight, this highly-skilled industrial nurse that won awards for the lives she saved, went from her very taxing job--well-paying--and good retirement, to no job and no future. This skilled employee was expendable because a government contractor could "bend the rules" and avoid facing legal scrutiny of sometimes operating outside the law.

Not realizing the cards were stacked so high against her, she lived on her retirement fund --until it was gone. Today, she exists from day to day--no income--no future. Unable to find a legitimate job, dependent upon emergency social agencies, she occupies her house, not knowing when the Bank will enforce her unpaid mortgage, which was sold-and-resold leaving a paper trail of legal proportions--of illegal operations.

She lives with circumstances she has not known in her lifetime. She wonders how she got to where she is: she worked long and hard, played by the rules but stayed honest, cared for people, and did everything the right way. I look at her and see a victim of America’s "Corporate Feudalism," in which Corporate CEOs are the 21st century version of Royalty and rule by Divine Right. Peasants (employees) are not of major concern, mere obstructions to those pleasured by divine rule, as it was in the feudalism of the Middle Ages.

After his conversion, William Wilberforce sought out the man he had idolized as a boy, John Newton,former slaver--October 1787. Wilberforce sought Newton’s counsel about how to invest his life as a Christian, thinking probbly he should leave Politics and enter ministry. Newton counseled, “You are the Lord’s servant, and you are in the post He has assigned you.”

Now satisfied that perhaps he could serve God faithfully and remain in parliament, Wilberforce wrote, “God Almighty has sent before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners … Let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its (slavery) Abolition.”

The world honors William Wilberforce as a key component in bringing down the Goliath of human slavery, in spite of impossible odds. Today I pray God’s will be done “on earth” as it is in heaven. This Christmas season is God's reminder that God wants to bless men, women, boys and girls to serve Him in those tedious details of ordinary everyday living.

From Warner’s World,

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Such is the Spirit of Christmas

Sunday was our second Sunday of Advent and a pastoral reminder of the coming Christ’s Birthday Offering (CBO), which many churches take at this time every year. With that reminder came the biblical story of Christmas (not the typical marketers version).

Even the President tried to make this point, if you watched the official lighting of the White House Christmas tree. Recognition was given all around, the tree lost in the storm, even Santa Claus. However, when the President spoke, he referenced the Biblical Story and the faith expressed in this Christian Holiday. The reason for the season is the birth of Jesus, called the Christ--Emanuel: God With Us.

“Tis the season of Christmas, that time of the year following Thanksgiving, when business celebrates “Black Friday”, the day the business community recognizes as the success of American marketers in hijacking Christmas as a secular holiday for receiving gifts and doing 40% or so of their annual business.

I have no problem with gift-giving. I love the spirit of the holiday season. Yesterday, when I came through the Wal-mart line, I handed the clerk several twenty-dollar bills and reached for the change in my pocket. As luck would have it, I came up 2 pennies short, which meant breaking my last $20 bill. Immediately, the lady behind me handed a coin to the clerk and said “Merry Christmas” to me.

Thanking her, I spoke directly to her and her elderly mother sitting in her wheeklchair: “I’m glad you said “Merry Christmas rather than happy holidays.” Without batting an eyelash, she replied, “Without Christ, there is no Christmas!” I left the store with my cart of groceries, but not before leaving with her my blessing of peace: “And may His Peace be yours… “
Such is the Spirit of Christmas.

When I opened my most recent gas bill for the month, it had a seasonal flyer from Semco Energy reminding me of the Spirit of the Season. This special assistance edition informed me how I could apply for Home Heating Credit, if I needed it, or how I could make it easier for someone else that needed it.
Such is the Spirit of Christmas.

Another piece of mail offered me “The Most Important Gift Catalogue in the World” … for people still looking for the perfect gift. Inside, I learned about Since 1944, Heifer International has brought hope and healing to impoverished families (13.6 million) in more than 125 countries.

One example is Citu Liviu, whose family in Plostina, Romania improved their nutrition through sheep received from Heifer supporters. Nsangou Rachidatou, from Cameroon, has a heifer that provides her family with milk to drink while profiting from the yogurt she makes and sells to enhance their limited income.
Such is the Spirit of Christmas.

From my Clay City, KY friend, Don Curtis, came this flyer from “Children’s Lifeline,” founded by Arnold Lemke of Buchanan, MI. Don is president/CEO and spends much of his time in Haiti. By utilizing I could buy a laying hen for $15 and improve the poverty of a Haitian family; they already feed 8,300 children a day. My support would help provide medical care for Haitian children who would otherwise be without such care, or a gift of $4,500 would provide a block home for a homeless family.Such is the Spirit of Christmas.

I don’t recall the goal of our church's Christ’s Birthday Offering (CBO) --I think a few thousand dollars. I know it will help support Christian missionaries abroad. It will enable our church agencies to further perform functions that have become vital to our institutional church life. Most of all, it will enable our congregations to continue cooperatively sharing God’s love story, and I consider that of vital importance to our networking, as well as to our relating as a global community. I believe, of such is the true Spirit of Christmas.

Now, I know that business must make money to stay in business, but I would feel better about it if business did not hijack a religious holiday for the purpose of private profit. I have no objection to giving gifts, but how much better that we teach the true spirit of Christmas--more about giving and less about receiving.

From Warner’s World,
I believe that bible verse that says it is better to give than to receive, and I am concerned that we be more about giving than about receiving, for of such is the true Spirit of Christmas.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Absurd Turkey Terrorist

En route home from the Post Office moments ago, I heard the most absurd turkey story on Michigan Public Radio. It prompted me to look for it online. I found numerous stories of turkey encounters from Louisiana to New Jersey, but not the one I just heard. So, I'll just recount what of it I can.

It seems an animal-loving couple lived either on Long Island, or a nearby coastal island where residents enjoyed semi-rural living, accompanied by a herd of 30-40 wild turkeys. One day this couple rescued a young turkey from the clutches of a predatory hawk. They patched the wounded bird and raised it as a pet, where it eventually became a large and somewhat ferocious Tom.

Whether this big bird was attached and protective of his owners property or was just territorial with the flock he controlled, this big bird became the nemesis of this neighborhood. He kept neighbors and everybody at a safe distance from that property, which I understood was a place that frequently hosted children.

One day, as luck would have it, two delivery people came, only to be attacked by this terrorist, supported by his 30-40 followers. Thinking of children and a fearful encounter, the delivery people called 911 for the local police. Two officers soon arrived and immediately encountered the terrorizing tom. He put one officer to flight, and prompted firepower response from the second officer. This stalwart six-footer, finally shot the bird in self-defense.

A couple shots brought the homeowner flying out into the yard. He arose in defense of his pet turkey and attacked the offending officer shooting his pet. This brought the mistress of the house into the fracas. She called the State Police, because the local officers had her husband handcuffed and were shooting their pet turkey.

Four-or five shots were finally fired, the turkey was killed and bagged for evidence. The police collectively arrested the homeowner for assaulting an officer et al, and jailed him. The case dragged on for 2½ years and $30,000 before being settled, the neighbors being well-pleased that their terrorist had been eliminated.

I listened to this story spin for several minutes--the absurd turkey terrorist, as the reporter narrated a lengthy history. It captivated me, taking me back half a century, to when my 10-year-old son was a fifth grader in Yazoo City, MS.

We were part of a large contingent of rural families, one of whom lived 20 miles over in the Delta, near Sartartia, MS. One Sunday, Rex and Marguerite invited us home for dinner--all-afternoon event,and we had evening church in those days. Our hosts owned numerous farm animals and our children were free to roam, explore, play and and be children.

The one deterrent to safety was their overly aggressive turkey tom that they laughingly cautioned us against. Big Rex was perhaps 230 pounds, and able to protect himself, admitted to sometimes being hassled by this obnoxious bird.

Everyone laughed except my son’s mother! She had already warned her son to do whatever he needed, to protect himself from this bird. Midafternoon, the kids were being kids, and that turkey decided to do what he did best; he attacked our undersized son. After the fact, we learned that this preacher’s kid had his baseball bat and when the affronting terrorist made an offensive pass at him, he took careful aim, and with a Babe Ruth swing, laid "Big Tom" stretched flat on the ground - out colder than a mackerel.

This good little "PK", was afraid of offending our hosts, but as I recall, they took it in good stride. They were not at all offended, but our kids had a few terrorizing moments--before and after--wondering what it was all about.

Privately at home, we had a good family laugh, figuring the terrorizing-tom got exactly what he deserved. Moreover, we were the proud parents of an undersized-kid who, inspiteof his small-stature, did not lack in fortitude and bravery.

We raised our two to be children; we expected them to enjoy their childhood. They have long since become adults, but they have faced life with the bravery that goes with knowing who you are as human beings, and they have faced life with integrity, and I could not ask more than that.

Oh yes, that big tom finally revived after a spell. He staggered to his feet, shook his head, and stumbled off to the barnyard. From Warner's World, I can tell you he didn’t chase people any more after that -

Friday, November 25, 2011

Post Giving-Thanks Day Friday

Pictured, Dr. Daisy Century of Philadelphia who presented an outstanding historical monologue of Sojourner Truth's life.

I cling to my right to walk to the Post Office,the same way my wife claims her right to maintain her Driver’s License. I don’t walk like I used to; she does not drive unless she has to. So, when I have a sunny mid-fifties post-Thanksgiving Friday, I take full advantage while the sun shines and the weather holds.

The Post Office, across from Kellogg’s Corporate Headquarters, is a 3 ½ mile walk that I used to do in something under an hour, in the midst of a busy day. It now takes me something over an hour and I take a pain pill before launching.

En route home, I found myself at Monument Park, across from 1st Methodist Church. I observed 3 carloads of African-Americans receiving some kind of lecture from a person obviously addressing the group. Noting the Illinois tag, I surmised they were visitors present for the Sojourner Truth Observance.

Before they left Monument Park, I feel certain they walked over to the 12’ bronze statue of Sojourner Truth nearby. It is a place where I have often stopped to meditate in my own sojourn.I had not known of Sojourner until I moved to Battle Creek in 1973, but it did not take me long to learn that she is the city’s most famous personage, along with Dr. John Kellogg.

Kellogg had the advantage of being white and free, a brilliant medical doctor and a prominent 7th Day Adventist, the man who pioneered breakfast cereals.Sojourner, on the other hand, had the disadvantage of being born black, and a slave, as well as illiterate.

Once she determined that God had not created her for slavery, her slave days were numbered. One day she walked away. She fled to the Quakers, where she learned more about her human birthright. Eventually, she discovered the Methodists, where she learned more about holiness, and she responded to the call of God upon her life--a holiness preacher.

Over the past three decades, I have read Sojourner’s autobiography and numerous other biographies about her. None, more than Nell Painter, catches for me the significance of this humble black female, and former slave. The Princeton historian, describes her as, “Pentecostal that she was, Truth would have explained that the force that brought her from the soul murder of slavery into the authority of public advocacy was the power of the Holy Spirit … Without doubt, it was Truth’s prestigious faith that transformed her from Isabella [Bomfrey], a domestic servant, into Sojourner Truth, a hero for three centuries - at last” (Painter/SOJOURNER TRUTH, A LIFE, A SYMBOL/Norton/2000/4).

Two of the three bronze tablets behind Sojourner in Monument Park remind the public:
“… and Truth shall be my abiding name.”
Another concludes: “Lord, I have done my duty and I have told the truth and kept nothing back.”

Sojourner Truth withheld nothing as she became a simple holiness preacher, woman’s rights advocate, one of the first of a long line of abolitionists, and the first person to bring national prominence to Battle Creek in the late 1800s, following her first visit in 1857.

On this post-Thanksgiving Friday, I view Sojourner Truth as a person who changed her name and spent her life in pursuit of truth. In that pursuit, she maintained her integrity, limited as she was by race and illiteracy. Her life shines like the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor, a beacon of truth pointing out the beauty and blessing of being born American. Her achievements, moreover, reflect the overwhelming redemption found in the Christian Faith.

Tomorrow I hope to be in the audience of those “Celebrating the Legacy of Sojourner Truth” at 2nd Baptist church. Dr. Daisy Century of Philadelphia will present an “Historical Reenactment” from Sojourner’s life, along with other community responses.One person I am certain will be there is Tommie McCleichey, 5th generation descendant of Sojourner, and my friend, with whom I worship on many Sunday mornings at North Avenue Church.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, Bless His Holy Name …
From Warner’s World,

Monday, November 21, 2011


This is Thanksgiving Week - "Blessing" week. Shown in the picture are 2010 Thanksgiving Volunteers at Central Community Church (Riverside, CA, with Pastor Eric Denton).

A few days ago our North Avenue Family gathered for yet another Blessings Banquet. This year proved to be one of our larger dinners. Plentiful food, tastily prepared by the family’s many family cooks, produced a familial atmosphere of genuine caring and happiness. This blessed event left us keenly aware of blessings, abundant both long and short term.

We Warner’s arrived in Battle Creek late in August 1973, to assume leadership of then Capital Avenue Church of God. Coming from California’s Bay Area, our children thought we had landed in the jumping off place. Our move introduced us to a declining ministry at an inner-city church--a new experience.

Over three years, we saw wholesome progress and some of our most difficult times ever. Reduced mortgages, downscaled debt, and stabilized membership, signaled renewal. We purchased 10 acres in the city’s SW quadrant, and eventually sold the facility. Our relationship did not, however, prove long term, and we eventually moved on.

This November 20th, Dr. Bill Jones conducted the final service for that congregation. After about 130 years, it is now closed, sine die. I never thought I would live to see the day they closed, but they were terminally dysfunctional. Even the oldest congregation of the Church of God in Michigan is subject to such measures, and this ministry will now continue, scattered elsewhere.

Of course, I am saddened, but fifteen years into retirement, we are part of North Avenue’s family, a congregation that spun off from Capital Avenue through the "strange politics" that replaced Pastor Emma Burgess with young Henry Hartman of Kalamazoo. The recent Blessings Banquet, thereby, serves as a reminder to me of blessings too numerous to enumerate here.

Greatest of all blessings, is that so beautifully captured by Dottie Rambo, when writing, “He looked beyond my deeds, and saw my need.” That brings all of us to our knees! Good health allowed me to continue to travel several years with Michigan’s Interfaith Council on Alcohol Problems (MICAP) and give more than a dozen years in various capacities with Reformation Publishers, while becoming a care-giver. For these, I am grateful!

I am blessed by the nearly 65 years with the mate for whom I am now primary caregiver. Doctors said she would not finish the year 1948---In September 1947, Air Force Doctors gave her 3-12 months of life---but here we are … such as we are … blessed beyond measure! These have been years greatly blessed by our involvement in the North Avenue family. This marvelously loving church family of more than 400, is wonderfully shepherded by Jim and Susan Sparks, Jim (Lisa) Sirks & Dennis (Jan) Siddal.

I am also appreciative of the good works of the Capital Avenue (1st) Church over the past century. Talking to someone at church this week, I discovered "Hope’s uncle" was V. A. Wilcox who reported to the Gospel Trumpet in 1913 on his leadership at Capital Avenue. As we continue to worship at North Avenue, we want the good things that happened at Capital Avenue to continue, while avoiding the pitfalls that brought dysfunction and demise.

I have discovered in my 80+ years that God has a way of sorting out our lives. We often pay a high price for the bad judgments we make, but God sifts through the good and the bad, as much as we allow Him, and He transforms this accumulation into His creative good. God, as The Creative God, is not yet through creating.

While humanity has now learned to recycle profitably, we can take lessons from History‘s Great Recycler. The greatest lesson of the 7 last words of Christ on the cross is God’s ability to transform humanity’s worst into God’s Best. I tried to capture that thought when writing Conclusions From the Cross in 2002. It is a lesson that releases [un-dams] a fountain of blessing - when we can confess our worst, and trust ourselves to the best of His transforming re-creation.

Pastor Sparks enlarged my understanding of this when concluding his recent sermon series on David. King David was the shepherd boy become King ... a man after God’s own heart. But, how could this adulterous husband and bloody soldier be a man after God’s own heart? By daring to honestly examine himself, confess his sin, and trust in the mercies of God. “The mercies of God are always safer than the securities of humanity.”

We will continue to live in a world polluted by the violence of wars and rumors of war, says the Bible. That is our delemma. Nonetheless, reaffirms the Bible, even as the violence of the human heart escalates, the goodness of Divine Grace proves ever the more powerful (Romans 5:20).

Here and there, human hearts are being transformed and peaceful relationships continue to expand and grow, like the tiny seed of life in the womb of a pregnant mother.And for this, we can continue to be thankful to God -

“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (Psalm 103:1, KJV) - This is Warner’s World,

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Overexposing Human Nature

“When did it become acceptable” to put “explicitly gruesome footage” on newspaper websites? Asked Indian knight. Not only are we now showing pictures of dead people on the front pages of newspapers--which not long ago was considered disrespectful of the dead and lacking in taste--but we are also linking to videos of people being killed.

Last week I received a video link on my Face book page showing the tragic tale of that little Chinese girl being run over twice and left to die. Why did that story need accompanying video footage and “who presses play?” Correspondents point to the exposure of Muammar al-Qaddafi, begging for his life, while being kicked and beaten, and about to die, and conclude, “There is such a thing as too much information, and last week showed that we’re drowning in it--drowning in our own voyeurism, drowning in ghoulishness, drowning in other people’s blood” (p.14, THE WEEK).

We may be drowning in a tsunami of ghoulishness and gossip. Serious consideration of a Biblical perspective of gossip, slander, and idle curiosity would put half of our publications out of business today. Yet, perhaps there is another consideration here.

I did not know of the little Chinese girl being run over, until I received the FB link from a very highly incensed friend who wanted my opinion. I understood her to be greatly offended by the careless neglect of people seeing such an event take place and literally going about their own business ignoring it and doing nothing. She was deeply angered by the passiveness of people too preoccupied--too wrapped up in themselves--too narcissistic, to get involved.

Mostly to answer her question, I studied the link, unable to believe what I saw. I replayed it 2-3 times, questioning whether or not it was merely “staged” video--for effect. What I saw was an inexcusably inhumane act perpetrated for God only knows what reason, but mostly ignored by people overwhelmed by the utter inhumanity of humanity.

There are too many people who have their opinions about things and do not want to be forced out of the rut they are in--the status quo that says “don’t bother me, I am satisfied with me the way I am, and I don’t want to be bothered by the facts of life.” On the other hand, some of us are so deeply offended today by humanity’s inhumanity to humanity that we are determined to shake people out of their bored existence by giving them with a dose of reality.

That may be a little like the old fashioned treatment of electro-shock therapy for emotionally disturbed people, but there are times when I would like to shock some people I know with “some of the reality they conveniently sweep under their rugs.” I would just like to give them a good “jolt” and get them involved in some humanitarian cause outside of themselves.

So, while we drown in this “overexposure of human nature”; which is the more preferable: delete it from public view and deny the existence of what we can do given the right set of circumstances? Or, expose such behavior as a means of protest; renew personal accountability, and reestablish more sociable mores of honesty, integrity, and public trust. Human nature remains highly susceptible to corruption, but the Grace of God remains ever redemptive for the worst of us ...

Without personal and social honesty, integrity, and public trust, we have drifting sand and no relational social structures ... Warner’s World,

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Battle Hymn of Aging

I picked up one of my favorite books this week and unexpectedly found a long-forgotten piece of verse neatly folded inside the back cover. The book was A theology of Aging by my favorite professor of Biblical Theology while at Southwestern Seminary years ago. I have long-forgotten where it came from and have no idea who wrote it.

Now that I am somewhere beyond the 65 mile-marker, I occasionally feel like the bent tree shown above. The following bit of doggerel catches a spirit I want to maintain, so I share it with you for whatever use you might find for it. I passed it out in our Wednesday night group at church.

The lyrics are written to the tune of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic.” It sings easily,recalling a significant time in the lives of some of us. I like the determined spirit of the lyrics … As we go marching on …

For whatever value it may have to a reader, I offer it here FWIW, as the BATTLE HYMN OF AGING:

We reach the age of 65,
Our golden years are here;
They tell us that the age begins
A happy new career;
For now our Uncle Sam becomes
Our permanent cashier,
As we go marching on!

Our Social Security
From Baltimore is sent;
We buy a little bit of food,
And maybe pay the rent;
And after that we’re stoney broke,
And left without a cent,
But we go bravely on!

And as for checks from medicare,
Will someone tell us how,
They always find some doctor bills,
They sadly disallow;
And dental cost, as we all know,
They wholly disallow,
But we go bravely on!

We don’t know how we make it
As we live from day to day;
With income fixed and prices up,
There’s always more to pay;
So minding our arthritis,
Let’s get on our knees and pray,
That we’ll go bravely on!

And first of all, let’s thank the Lord
That we are still alive;
The dreams we have may still come true
When we are ninety-five;
So please Dear Lord, give us the strength,
Our troubles to survive,
As we go bravely on!

From Warner’s World,
as I take my spouse to our all-church BLESSINGS BANQUET this evening;
know that my interactions with you who pass by this blogsite are one of the great blessings of my life …

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Responding Responsibly

One of the blessings I enjoyed in my recent venture to our Lansing Church Assembly was being thoughtfully prodded by guest speaker, Dr. James Earl Massey to think further. In the 7 p.m. service on 11-4-11, Dr. Massey used four scriptural references, beginning and concluding with 2 Timothy 2:8, and including Ecclesiastes 12, Psalm 139, and Hebrews 13.

He launched by reminding us of the unsteady times we find ourselves in. We need to look no further than the Occupy Movement to realize that people everywhere are “reacting.” Just this morning, the news came of the release of the Venezuelan ballplayer from his kidnappers, the kidnappers being reactors of the criminal variety.

People react in all kinds of ways, but the call to Christians is to respond responsibly. While Massey did not enlarge upon this, thought, it is obvious to me that we have a real responsibility for responsible reaction, especially to react thoughtfully and positively in a time when people find it easy to react emotionally, without thought, and more negatively than positively.

The Christian begins by remembering “Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David” (2 Tim. 2:8, NIV). That was Paul’s gospel, and it should be ours. The Christian faith has many facets of truth involved in it, but it begins with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who is the Lord of Life for the People of God (those spiritual descendants of Abraham in the Davidic Kingdom).

In times like these, Massey said, we remember our Creator (Ecclesiastes 12; Psalm 139). As the people of God, our prayer becomes “Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Therein lays the secret of joy.

Hebrews 13 is filled with exhortations to love each other as brothers, to entertain strangers, remember those in prison, and honor the marriage relationship, et al. The writer assures the reader of God’s ever-present help and verse seven declares, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

Here, it is hard for me not to begin recalling leaders who helped mentor my life, from the likes of A. F. Gray and Otto Linn, to Harold Boyer, to Samuel Hines; this list would be endless of people who enriched me by their friendship, example, and teaching. Massey used a political illustration that must be “depoliticized” to appreciate.

Somewhere in his life Barak Obama learned to deeply appreciate Abraham Lincoln and from the day of his inauguration he has periodically returned to Lincoln. His inauguration saw him lay his hand on a Lincoln Bible to repeat his oath of office. More recently, Obama followed Lincoln’s pattern of quietly and rationally speaking to the affairs of the day while the masses clamored for him to respond with confrontation and clamoring. Many criticized him for not “fighting back,” but he followed the example of Lincoln facing a divided nation and “sucking it in” so to speak.

Remember your leaders. The problems we face are essentially the same old problems, just a new generation.

Finally, Massey returned to 2 Timothy 2:8 - Remember Jesus Christ … raised from the dead … At this point, Massey spoke directly to us as Ministers of that Gospel: God will vindicate our ministries. What Jesus taught, he lived intentionally. “Pray for us” the writer of Hebrews continues, and “may the God of peace … equip you with everything good for doing his will” (vs. 18-20).

May the message be fruitful, and “may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (v. 21). The 92nd Michigan Assembly was about following Jesus and about being connected to one another.

From Warner’s World, our times are little different than they have been throughout history. Our First Response as People of God yet remains to respond responsibly …

Thursday, November 10, 2011

From Fugitive to National Treasure

American to the Backbone, is the compelling story of The Life of James W.C. Pennington. Pennington is the Fugitive Slave Who Became One of the First Black Abolitionists, a historical biography by Christopher Webber, who is himself an ordained member of the Episcopal clergy (NY: Pegasus,2011).

James Pembroke (aka James W.C. Pennington) decided at about 20 that he could no longer be a slave, but he had no alternative vision as to what or who he could be. He knew what he could NOT BE and fled to safety. Circumstances led him to William Wright, a Quaker, where Pembroke requested work, Wright invited him in with this life-changing sentence: “Well, come in then and we will talk about it.” That, says the author, was the first of five transforming moments for young Pembroke.

That invitation at Wright's door introduced Pembroke to his first plenteous lunch in many days and an exploration of his life as a human being, no longer simply Master and machine. Webber describes a second defining moment when Wright challenged Pembroke by introducing him to stories of Phyllis Wheatley, Francis Williams, and Benjamin Banneker, black people who demonstrated an ability to be as creative as their white counterparts. That opened a new window for the first time to young James.

The third transforming moment came in a Brooklyn schoolroom when Pennington) discovered there were 700,000 children in slavery. This pointed him in a new for his life, like a child that runs off to share a new gift.

A fourth transforming moment came when Samuel Cox introduced James Pennington into the Christian Church. His conversion brought membership in a New Light Presbyterian Church and planted his feet upon a confidant path that believed God’s purpose would prevail as a powerful remedy over the discouragements he would encounter in a culture that was against him because of the color of his skin.

A final and fifth transforming moment resulted through the Negro Convention Movement, in which Pennington became a significant figure. Encountering a strong movement to colonize blacks back in Africa and elsewhere, Pennington knew he was a
3rd generation American slave and “American to the backbone: for better or worse, he was part and parcel of America’s future.

A statement Pennington made to a Scottish audience while traveling abroad, declared:

“The colored population of the United States have no destiny separate
from that of the nation in which they form an integral part. Our destiny
is bound up with that of America.Her ship is ours; her pilot is ours; her
storms are ours; her calms are ours, if she breaks upon any rock, we break
with her. If we, born in America, cannot live upon the same soil upon
terms of equality with the descendants of Scotchmen, Englishmen, Irish-
men,Frenchmen, Germans, Hungarians, Greeks, and Poles, then the fundamental
theory of America fails and falls to the ground”
(Emphasis added).

Nineteen-year-old James Pembroke fled his slave quarters six miles south of Hagerstown, MD in 1827. Although a skilled blacksmith, he remained an illiterate fugitive, yet a curiously determined young man. He quickly became a leading black spokesman against slavery. Ten years after his escape from slavery, Pennington made his way to Yale, became a leader in the Presbyterian Church, a world traveler, and the recipient of a well-deserved honorary doctorate from the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

Pennington wrote the first-ever “History of the Colored People” as well as a careful study of the moral basis for civil disobedience, which would be echoed decades later by Gandhi and M. L. King.

The struggles for human rights versus slavery is one I find especially intriguing, and the thing that challenges me most is that much of the argument between abolitionists and slavers is readily framed in similar arguments yet today between the political powers of the haves and have-nots. I don't find the pre-Civil War era that much different today, with our political struggles between Democrats, Republicans, Tea Partiers, et al.

The Rev. Dr. Pennington became a distinguished pastor, human rights advocate, and academic of international acclaim. I found so much about him that I deeply admire, especially his incisive arguments based on a solid moral defense, anchored in God. Interestingly enough, his profoundly moral insights convinced no more people then, than do such arguments today.

We work up a real sweat over a political debate, but ground it in a moral foundation and commercial pragmatism will win every time. No wonder Jesus said there would always be wars and rumors of wars . . .
From Warner’s World,,
a new book well worth your time.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Us and Them" vs We Are One

The largest surgical procedure in the world is said to be Lansing, Michigan--where I was last Friday--92nd General Assembly of the Church of God in Michigan. Lansing means different things to different people:MSU - Spartan Country - home of Ransom Olds who founded Olds Motor Vehicle Company in 1897.

Some credit Henry Ford for the first assembly line, but that honor belongs to Ransom Olds and his 1901 Olds Curved Dash. Purchased by GM in 1908, Oldsmobile’s brand moved to Detroit, relocated back to Lansing, and played a large role in the life of Metro-Lansing and mid-Michigan--until its demise.

For me, Lansing is where the Church of God in Michigan first organized as a State Organization in 1920. The Church of God in Michigan became the first state assembly in the Church of God. It has remained a leader until today and I attended to represent Dale Stultz and the Church of God Historical Society, to introduce the third volume of the Stultz-Welch trilogy, The Gospel Trumpet Years.

I also went was to see and hear my friend, Dr. James Earl Massey, the Assembly’s Guset Speaker. James is one of America’s premier preachers and as fine an example of personal excellence, academic quality, and pulpit ability as produced in the Church of God. Dr. Massey and I grew up on opposite sides of Michigan. about the same time, unknown to each other. I came from Republican white West Michigan and ”Jim” from strongly black Detroit. As peers, we intersected, bonded, and strongly appreciate each other today.

The theme of Assembly-92 centered in “connections. Dr. Massey and I illustrate that in a social manner. He grew up mentored by Dr. Raymond S. Jackson, a brilliant young man, with a very bright future as a piano prodigy. Music was his forte, but ministry became his calling. I came from a very mediocre white home with a modest future. Our mutual faith led us to fall in love with the Church of God Reformation Movement. At Lansing, we were two native sons nearing the end of our careers, both in our eighties, both deeply immersed in the experience, the importance of, and the joy of connections and “connnectedness.”

The Church of God has always been about connectedness, black and white, majority with minorities, male preachers and women preachers, connected at all levels from local to national to global. We found ourselves a united church in a divided world, where we extended the hand of fellowship to “every blood-washed one.” Unity was our forte, altho we preached it better than we practiced it. And although we had a problem with organizing--being somewhat anti-organization--we were a “family” of faith.

From our beginnings, we rallied together. We now understand that more of our early history came out of Michigan than was sometimes understood, but our first national Camp Meeting and Assembly came to Bangor, Michigan, 1883. In one of those earliest assemblies, a “brother” walked from Ohio to Bangor, some 170+ miles, to attend. Such has always been our love for one another.

As a young pastor living on a shoestring in West Texas, it was nothing for me to drive more than 140 miles to attend camp meeting, or to drive 90 miles to attend and support a revival at my neighbor-pastor’s church in Big Spring. A half-century later, I still recall the warmth and love shared with John & Julia Kolar in Big Spring, formerly of Alpena, MI.

I always called John a “Bohunk!” He thumbed his way out of Bohemia with a knapsack and comforter provided by his uncle, and emigrated to America with $9 in his pocket. Over the 45 years of my pastoral ministry, John represents a “cloud of witnesses” as spoken of in Hebrews 12.

We had to organize as we grew in number, but we have always attempted to remain biblical in our organizational principles, and I believe we have. And, we have always stood on equal ground, as at the foot of the cross. We were interrelated parts of a functioning Body of Christ, under His leadership and mind. We remain are as democratic as our American roots, but we are learning to cooperate together more effectively and efficiently, while seeking His Leadership at all times.

This has proven hard to do in a culture that has become intensely individualistic over the past half-century, selfish, narcissistic, and individualistic, almost to a degree of being politically atheistic. But, as the physical body is “fearfully and wonderfully made,” so is the church of which we are a part.

While technology makes it easy for us to become loners, Lone Rangers, individualists and even anarchists, the Bible points us to the way of bodily “connectedness”. That sense of “body” means we are interrelated and interdependent. I am partly who and what I am today because of … and here, let me throw out a few names and brag like Paul: A. F. Gray, Otto Linn, Mack and Irene Caldwell, D. S. Warner Monroe (a Canadian), or Harold Boyer, chairman of our national General Assembly for 17 years, who read my wedding vows, or Bill Hutton who “brothered” me in some tough times, and the list is endless.

Dr. Ron Duncan of Church of God Ministries has been trying to help us with this problem of authority, hierarchy, and relatedness et al. Some love Ron; some fear Ron as trying to usurp power. Having worked in several state organizations, as well as states with no paid organization, I will affirm unequivocally, that we are closer to the ideals of our Heritage (both theologically and organizationally) than we have ever been.

Michigan’s 92nd Assembly rejected the recent term of State Overseer recently adopted by our Association of State Leaders (by whatever name you know them). Dr. Bill Jones is our Michigan elected leader, now re-named STATE PASTOR. In that position, he works for us and is charged with leading (directing, managing, being CEO) of our state work, under the Board of Directors.

Bill Jones is my elected State Pastor, but first he is my personal friend, and brother. This applies to Dr. Ron Duncan and every Agency Leader in Anderson. I entered Lansing Lexington on Friday intent on unloading my 10-12 heavy cases of books, but I got unexpected help--not from the Lexington Hotel, but from the Board of Pensions of the Church of God. There was my friend Jeff Jenness, Director of the Pensions Board, and his new Associate (Jim, if I remember, a former Indy Banker, now a Ministerial Candidate). These guys were younger and stronger than me and made play out of handling my 900 pounds of books.

I hope you get my message, because it is essential to our mission in the Church of God: we can do so much more (and better) together than we can by ourselves as individuals. We are a voluntary Association, deeply interdependent. One thing we must never become is an occasional gathering of Lone Rangers. We belong to each other as surely as my arm is part of my body.

From Warner’s World,

it’s time to forsake that “us and them” mindset and return to being the Body of Believers God called us to be, and the World needs us to be …

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Psalm 91:4

I’ve been retired from the pastorate 15 years, during which I have missed several of our State Assembly meetings. For me,it was a most joyful reunion to be present for part of this year's 92nd General Assembly at the Lansing Lexington. Most of my failures to attend have been due to conflict of schedlule, and being in Kentucky at Reformation Publishers. In a few instances, I simply did not have the price of registration and lodging.

It was incumbent that I be present this year, because I had ten cases of The Gospel Trumpet Years, the new historical pictures-and-text update by Stultz and Welch that so many people were waiting to see. Stultz and Welch, were dependent upon me to represent the Historical Society. People like my new friend Paul Hein of Lansing Pennway--a history buff--were waiting for me to bring their copies of the book. Moreover, it was a day of seeing old friends-and-peers, but also of confirming new friends. Paul and I have been emailing for some time now, sharing our historical interests, but we had not yet met in person--until now.

Instead of staying overnight for the full Assembly, I made one long day of Friday, leaving town at 7:20 a.m. and arriving home to my waiting spouse about 11:15 p.m.. I hope I can follow up with a few appropriate comments regarding the workings of our Michigan Assembly that peers will find relevant, as well as anyone reading me. For today, however, I want to hi-light something that happened en route home last night. If offers a thoughtful perspective,following up on what Dr. Massey said last night.

I had a joyful day ... a beautiful Fall Day, so typical of Michigan football. It offered me a day filled with connecting and re-connecting with this Assembly in which I have been an active participant since 1973--friends old and new. “Connections” was part of the Assembly theme, about which we have in recent times been quite dubious, questioning the value of connections.

For me, it provided a full day of absolute affirmation of the connectedness I have enjoyed since I first became a pastor of what was then a new mission church in Harrison, AR.,--June 1951--a story all its own.

Last night I made my first night drive in a while’. There was a time when I almost preferred night driving, thriving on the quietness of the night, the peacefulness of the traffic, and the general solitude. At my current age, however, I was a bit apprehensive, until I had a chance to cat-nap at the evening dinner hour. So, after I reloaded my cases of books--assisted by Pastor Kerry Hurd--I took off on westbound 496 and was quickly out of Lansing, en route to BC.

It was a pleasant drive, late enough not to be hamopered by “deer” traffic. Approaching Battle Creek, I thought I should try the new I94 exit at the 104 mile marker. It is simple enough, and we had tried it one, except the other time, I jogged left at 11-mile and crossed over to Michigan Avenue, at the familiar intersection.

Last night, I thought I was up to it, so instead of turning left--over to Michigan Avenue--I crossed 11-Mile, certain that I new where I was going. I did as intended, and followed this new exit straight across and intersected Michigan Avenue just west of the main intersection. When I came to Michigan Avenue, I stopped and looked all directions. Any other time, I would have turned right, and drove into town. In the darkness, however, with my tiredness (more deceptive than I realized), the intersection simply did not look right to me.

After a momentary hesitation, I slowly turned left and followed Michigan Avenue for 4-5 miles until - I suddenly realized I was approaching Marshall rather than Battle Creek. Anyone who knows this area is going to enjoy a good laugh at my expense. However, I was just tired enough, and the darkness was just deceptive enough to my aging eyes, that my perception of things was not as clear as it should have been. The consequence was that I had to do a “Georgia Loop” (U turn) and head back into town, somewhat chagrined at my own stupidity.

My reason for telling you is to follow up on Dr. Massey’s sermon last night, regarding the deceptiveness of the times in which we live. The stress, the lack of jobs, the inequity between the haves and have-nots, people losing their homes and/or jobs, and the list goes on--all of which cloud our minds like the tiredness of the evening and the darkness of the night. As hard as we study our situation, it does not look the same in the darkness and weariness as it does in pure daylight. We make wrong turns, wrong decisions. We end up in unintended places.

This morning, after a good sleep, I could hardly believe I was so “foolish” last night as to make a mistake that looked almost too funny to be stupid. Yet, my head reminds me how easily I sometimes get confused in the darkness of the night, when everything looks so different, and the perspective just isn't right.

Are you at a dark intersection and cannot see it clearly? Are you at an intersection you should recognize, but which simply does not “look right”? Look at the picture that follows; see the mother bird with her little ones tucked one under each wing. Remember the words of the Psalmist: “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust…” (Psalm 91:4, KJV).

The times may be difficult and strange. Things don’t look right enough for you to make a clear choice. Yet, your Heavenly Father knows WHO you are and WHERE you are. HE knows your need! He will not forsake you!

From Warner’s World,
I have to remind myself, it doesn’t matter whether or not you have ever been where you currently are, HE KNOWS …

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Acceptable English

Clayton Potter served a church in the North Texas neighborhood where I lived. He described his boyhood years, between thirteen and nineteen, when he engineered for threshing crews in the grain fields of Denton County. When a team of mules balked on the bundle-wagon, or the grain separator broke down, or the pulley-belt came off, or the engine died, or the chuck-wagon arrived late when changing locations, Clayton encountered “first-hand exposure to fervent and sincere profanity and obscenity” erupting from “the lips of real artists!” Adolescent that he was, he tried to emulate them!

We are sometimes told, sdays Clayton, "that we should be ‘relevant and realistic’ in the Church. Yet, after opreaching many years, he realized, “Not a year in thirty years of pastoral ministry but what I’ve had to deal directly with people trapped by alcoholism, homosexuality, drug addiction, immorality, adultery, and what-not. Sometimes my heart has been near-to-breaking as I shared their anguish and tried to bring the redemptive ministry of our faith to meet their need.”

“I don’t believe I’ve been over-sheltered from the facts of life at the more primitive levels!” he adds. Yet, these people, suggests Clayton, “did not have to use coarse, profane or obscene language to tell me their difficulties or to convey their feelings. I could understand what they were trying to tell me and what they were feeling when they used plain and ‘acceptable’ English. They could not have added clarity with crudity” (emphasis mine).

Were I to resort to anything so juvenile, continues Clayton, “there is no doubt in my mind I could produce considerable shock if next Sunday I described the crucifixion of Jesus by saying in the pulpit, ‘Those blankety-blank, double-crossing so-and-sos framed Jesus with a bum rap and may their (censored souls burn in hell…”

In doing so, he would be reporting some of the Christian message and he would also be conveying feeling. But, how much would he have enhanced or clarified the Christian message, which has survived more than two millenia couched in the language of modesty. “It might be considerably debased,” he concluded.

The question is, do we really believe that we should equate crudity with Christianity, or that gentility is unable to convey Christ’s message adequately. As a matter of fact, how much does our conversational crudity, vain vulgarity, and obscene profanity enhance our ability to problem-solve or create friendships, or build bridges over impossible controversies?

I am weary with the coarse, crude, profanity, and the often obscene language that fills our airwaves,movie houses,and now fills Living Room TV screens. It only becomes the more wearisome when protruding into Christian circles. And if you dare protest, you are told, “But, it has a message!”

It may have a message, but it may not be the message intended. It may reflect more intellectual laziness and emotional immaturity, than verbal ability with words and communication skills. Few things are worse than an empty mind occupied with fevered feelings, leftover garbage, and decay. What was it Goethe said? “By nothing do men show their character more than by the things they laugh at.”

It is true that we live in an age of information, but what does our information communicate? From Warner’s World, at

Saturday, October 15, 2011

THE GOSPEL TRUMPET YEARS complete Historical Trilogy

The Gospel Trumpet Years completes the Stultz/Welch trilogy of Church of God historY books. Nine years of work, by two very different men, bonded by a common love of Church of God history, gives us this added research. Until now, we utilized secondary research, using A. L. Byers as the major interpreter, with much second-hand information. Dale Stultz brings us some new and original research that makes these volumes our most authentic todate.

Douglas Welch is a Canadian-born, missionary to Kenya, former teacher at School of Theology, and former Archivist, where this book was conceived, now retired. Stultz is a retired crafts teacher in the Anderson Schools, with excellent skills in photography and digital processing, who dedicated his retirement years to doing original research of people, places, documents, and collecting all kinds of memorabilia.

Bound in common purpose allowed them to combine their editorial skills and creative investigative skills resulting in these 256 pages of text, and pictures numbering in the hundreds, many of which have not been viewed by the public.

The Church of God (Anderson) is an interesting family. “Anderson” is the largest of a disingenuous number of church bodies claiming Daniel Sidney Warner as the Moses of their Theological Exodus. “Anderson” remains the primary body, along with others that have different doctrinal lenses that cause them to perceive “Anderson” as somewhere between liberal and apostate.

The Anderson Body divides itself when interpreting the church and church history. Some view the church through “prophetic” lenses that cause them to view Warner’s Followers as the “final reformation.“ Most of us today view the church through a more commonly accepted historical view. Without drawing conclusions here, this issue seriously affects how followers view Warner’s Anderson Church of God, and how liberal-or-conservative you consider it.

Reading this should help you know better why you stand where you stand. The authors describe the book’s birth (pp 1-7), suitably introduce it (pp 8-13), and give you a good historical overview (pp 14-20).

Part I traces the development of the Gospel Trumpet magazine by examining the editorial lineage, editor by editor, through 1961 when the magazine changed its name to “Vital Christianity”. Of interest here is that we do not traditionally list Joseph Fisher in the editorial sequence. You will also learn more about the Williamston years (1884-1886). You may even wonder why we became Warnerites rather than Fisherites … :-)
Part I: The Gospel Trumpet and Its EditorsThe Gospel Trumpet (1881-1961) 15
Daniel Sidney Warner (1842-1895) 22
Joseph C. Fisher 32
Enoch Edwin Byrum (1861-1942) 36
Frederick George Smith (1880-1947) 91
Charles Ewing Brown (1883-1971) 103
Harold L. Phillips (1913-2006) 111

Part II describes the evolution of the magazine and how the magazine and the supporting church-body developed and intertwined together. This informative section on our church development could shed new light on some of your old questions.
Part II: The Gospel Trumpet and the Church
The Role of The Gospel Trumpet 118
Songs of the Evening Light Saints 122
Camp Meetings 130
Into All the World 137
Mission Homes 152
Theological Education 160
Christian Brotherhood Hour 167
Afterword 173

You will find the 17 appendices in Part III informative reading, and perhaps explanatory of numerous threads of thought regarding who-and-what we are as a Movement. I particularly liked learning more about D. O. Teaseley, whose songs I have sung all my life, but knew so little about. I found this section an invaluable resource.
Appendices 183
Appendix I: The Holiness Movement 183
Appendix II: Restorationism 189
Appendix III: The Ohio Odyssey: 1882-1884 192
Appendix IV: Daniel Sidney Warner, the Son 203
Appendix V: The Gospel Trumpet Company (G. Newberry) 205
Appendix VI: Christian Unity (R.R. Byrum) 210
Appendix VII: Problems of Christian Unity (E.A. Reardon) 212
Appendix VIII: Present Awful Truth (D.S.Warner) 215
Appendix IX: The Anti-Cleansing Heresy (C.W.Watson) 217
Appendix X: The Anti-Necktie Controversy (C.W.Watson) 223
Appendix XI: D. Otis Teasley (David L. Neidert) 232
Appendix XII: The Greater Evangelism (A.L. Byers) 235
Appendix XIII: Divine Healing (G.L. ; C.W. Naylor) 240
Appendix XIV: Russell R. Byrum (Merle D. Strege) 243
Appendix XV: Whatever Became Of...? 245
Appendix XVI: Making of Music 250
Appendix XVII: The Loss of D.S.Warner (F.D. Rayle) 251

As a personal aside
I made some trips with-and-for Dale, to Court Houses, to cemeteries, and around. I observed some of his collectables and spent hours at his home viewing literally thousands of photos he has collected, cleaned, and performed miracles with. I have read documents I never expected to see in my lifetime, let alone read them. I have participated in group sessions, like that day in Grand Junction when a group of us talked and prayed with, and sang to, Jerald Frederik (F.G.’s 101 year-old son that distanced himself from the church but found new life via Dale).

These were times I will take to my grave, but they affirm for me what you can expect to find in the pages of this book. These authors do not walk on water, but they do get their hands dirty, and they have done a lot of thinking about what you will read in these pages. I salute them for their academic integrity and as my friends. Being a friend has been an education all of its own, and I commend this volume to you, having higher hopes than ever for this Church Family known as the Church of God, the Church of the Christian Brotherhood Hour, the Church of God, Anderson, or whatever other handle you use.

From Warner’s World, I am

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Blessings and Cursings

I “heard” a really tough sermon in church this morning. WOW!. It was a lesson I had not recognized in that text and it challenged me down right down to my core values. Using Pastor Jim’s talking points, here are some ways I would say it.

Whatever Jim called his sermon, he talked about contrasting “Blessings and Curses.” That is about as basic as you can get with life; you can bless people and the events of your life, or you can curse them. Either way, life goes on, but the reaction is mostly up to you: life becomes a blessing or a cursing.

Jim has been preaching out of the life of David. Today’s lesson came from 2nd Samuel 16:1-14. Vs 1-4 finds David in tough times, past sins catching up with him, his family in a mess, his son Absalom competing for dad’s kingdom … a real mess.

In v1 David meets Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, who is loaded with goodies for buying favors. Mephibosheth was the crippled son of Saul that David befriended years before. Mephibosheth has sat at David’s Dining table for years, under David’s protection because he respected Saul, as a man God honored, although he replaced Saul as king.

When David inquires of Ziba about his goodies, Ziba lies to the king, thinking to flatter him and curry favor, and maybe regain some of David’s floundering kingdom that had once belonged to Saul.

David accepts Ziba’s answer and extends to him a blessing … “all that belongs to Mephibosheth is yours…” (v4). With that, David proceeds on his journey and meet Shimei, son of Gera. Shimei “came out cursing … threw stones…” and as he cursed him, he declared to David and his party, “Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed and worthless fellow!” (vs. 5-7).

One of David’s defenders, Abishai, offered to cut off the head of this rabble-rousing critic, whereon David responded with a soft answer, a generous blessing, and words that perhaps acknowledged his own shortfalls: “What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah? If he curses, and if the Lord has told him, ‘Curse David,’ then who shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’”

David responded … “…Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him. Perhaps the Lord will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day… “So David and his men … arrived weary and he refreshed himself there” (vss 5-14).

While Shimei cursed and insulted him, David moved on; he trusted God and returned good to Shimei for his evil curses. When David was restored to his throne, and Absalom was dead, Shimei apologized to David for his bad behavior. David, rather than getting even, proved to be a giver instead of a taker. Again, he extended generosity and reconciliation, filled with gratitude to God.

The descendants of Shimei live among us today--in the family, in the office, and elsewhere. They are our critics and competitors, throwing dust, cursing and insulting us.

I liked Jim’s illustration of the 2nd grader. Mom and her 2nd grader are preparing valentines to send to his class mates. All goes well, and he signs each one she hands him, “Love, Jimmie.” … until Mom hands him a card with the name of “that girl” who is mean to him at school. He strikes out “Love Jimmie” in favor of something more fitting.

Wishing to share a “learning moment” with her son, Mom urges Jimmie to be kind to the girl; extend a blessing rather than returning the hurt feelings she causes him. She asks her son to protect the girl from the pain he feels and give her his blessing.

The lessons are obvious. Iranians imprison Americans. Muslims behead Christians. Wealthy Wall Street investors defraud a public that pays via default and is then insulted with higher tax rates because they lack the deep pockets for legal defense. Closer home, thorny issues become even more personal and hurtful.

From our international clashes, to our Wall Street occupation, to our local guerilla sniping in the office, or home, or across the backyard fence, the applications abound. Whether we strive with a sibling, or face our worst enemy, somehow the words of Jesus take new meaning as we hear him say. “if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same … But love your enemies, and go good, and lend, expecting nothing in return … and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men" (Luke 6:33, 37, NASV).

You will bless people, or curse them, and we all do one or the other. What goes around, comes around, and it seems to me that life lives a whole lot happier when we bless people and circumstances rather than cursing them. Thanks Jim, for that word, I will intentionally focus more on what our mutual friend Berquist described as "The Miracle and Power of Blessing."

From Warner’s World, I am

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Recently I read a book describing America’s greed in detail. The author told me how some of our nation’s top financial executives played the game of business versus governmental regulations and parleyed their money and their investor's funds into obscene profits for the top management (only).

I learned how investment bankers tweaked the rules of their game and made huge profits that eventually cost their banks and the public a lot of bailout-money. Even now, hundreds of people are protesting on Wall Street and others are already in jail for their protest efforts.

Such events disturb me, as my blogs reveal. Thus, when I ran across this favorite old poem, it seemed like a timely reminder--probably more to me than anyone else--but I want to share it. Some of you will remember an incident in the Bible where the man asks the Prophet this question, “Is there any word from the Lord?”

Is there any word from God today? I have to tell you there is! This particular word I first found in a collection of poems gathered by the girl I married. I loved the beauty of its message then and I find its metaphor even more meaningful today. Alice P. Moss reminds everyone of us, GOD’S BANK AIN’T BUSTED YET!

The bank had closed; my earthly store had vanished from my hand;
I felt that there was no sadder one than I in all the land.
My washerwoman, too, had lost her little mite with mine,
And she was signing as she hung the clothes upon the line.
‘ How can you be so gay?’ I asked; ‘’Your loss, don’t you regret?’
‘ Yes, Ma’am, but what’s the use to fret? God’s bank ain’t busted yet!’

I felt my burden lighter grow; her faith I seemed to share;
In prayer I went to God’s great throne and laid my troubles there.
The sun burst from behind the clouds, in golden splendour set;
I thank God for her simple words: ‘God’s bank ain’t busted yet.’
And now I draw rich dividends, more than my hands can hold,
Of faith and love and hope and trust and peace of mind untold.
I thank the Giver of it all, but still I can’t forget
My washerwoman’s simple words, ‘God’s bank ain’t busted yet.’

Oh, weary ones upon life’s road, when everything seems drear,
And losses loom on every hand, and skies seem not to clear;
Throw back your shoulders, lift your head, and cease to chafe and fret,
Your dividend will be declared: ‘God’s bank ain’t busted yet.’
Alice P. Moss

Today is the first Sunday of a new month. Social Security checks will be in tomorrow. From Warner‘s World,
I remind “us that God presides over a bank that never has to wait until the first of the month,
never runs short on dividends,
never needs bailing,
and always has a full account whatever the time of the month.
Best of all, God’s Bank is NOT LIKELY TO FAIL anytime in your future ...