Sunday, September 30, 2012

Warner's World: Pastor Appreciation Month

Warner's World: Pastor Appreciation Month: Over a period of four and one-half decades I was the Pastor: the scholar with the ability to always find something new and personally cha...

Pastor Appreciation Month

Over a period of four and one-half decades I was the Pastor: the scholar with the ability to always find something new and personally challenging (interesting); the preacher that would woo growing numbers of visitors from the community; the teacher that fed the flock, always with steak & potatoes, and the finest salads; the expected (demanded) visitor when visitation was in order; the administrator that kept life exciting with vision, practical, and individually satisfying; and the friend with an open ear whenever someone wanted to spend a few minutes chattering, meaningful or otherwise.

Sound like a plate full; it was! It was interesting. It was demanding-24-7. It brought something new, constantly. Going into this October 2012, never have I appreciated a Pastor more than right now, as we prepare for “our Pastor” (shown above) to transition into retirement. Frankly, I do not know what I am going to do.

When we retired, our visits to the former Church at Minges Hills never were quite comfortable; we found it necessary to give North Avenue a trial run. For most of these years, we have been out a lot; we needed a church home, a base where we had a sense of belonging, where we could run to and from in keeping with what was going on in our own lives.

For several years, I traveled around Michigan with MICAP, speaking in numerous United Methodist churches + others on alcohol related subjects. Since that time, we have spent much time away, working both in Kentucky and at home with the ongoing ministries of Reformation Publishers.

Throughout the years, Jim and Susan Sparks have remained our friends and our pastors. Needless to say, it has been an interesting ride--a mutual appreciation--watching them grow in their own development, and being their friends (sometimes from a distance) - peers in ministry. We insisted we did not need their special recognition, and they have seldom been in our home, or vice versa. However, with online access et al, we have consistently stayed within hearing distance, done a few things together on occasion, and been mutually supportive sounding boards back and forth. The rest of the time we have tried to be their best Cheer Leaders, while staying out of their way as they ran at their own fast pace.

As they now lead the congregation, assisted by State Minister Bill Jones, we dread the day when Jim no longer stands in the North Avenue pulpit. Very early, Jim was our number one attraction to North Avenue, although we have longtime acquaintances in the congregation, and have made many more new and meaningful friends. All I can say, for the pastor that succeeds Jim is -- Jim set a high standard!

Jim preached a heap different from Lee Sickal (Gloria Gaither's father), who hammered home the doctrinal distinctives of our Movement back in the sixties. At first, I questioned his seeming lack of “evangelistic” preaching, but I quickly discovered new people were in attendance, people were receiving The Word, new Christians were developing, and the old Saints were getting balanced Biblical meals. Moreover, I found that I was learning as well, carrying home sermon outlines that continued churning around in my mind; I found he was churning some pretty good butter--more on this in another blog.

Jim and Susan will continue to live in our city, but they will attend elsewhere, at least for a while--the congregation will need that forced break, for the sake of the new pastor, although the new pastor will have NOTHING to fear.

Thanks to James Dobson, October is now celebrated widely as Pastor Appreciation Month. With that thought in mind, I pay my respects to our senior Pastoral team in particular. We love you, Jim and Susan. We never thought we would see this day of needing to give you up. Perhaps the best thing we can say is that WE HAVE NEVER APPRECIATED THE WORTH OF A PASTORAL COUPLE MORE THAN WE DO TODAY, as we grapple with the huge hole you leave as you prepare for this new stage in your life’s journey.

This brings a change for the rest of the clergy staff as well (and should not be overlooked)--James Sirks, and Dennis Siddal. Jim has done what few Youth Ministers have been able to do and that is to successfully grow into a 21-year ministry at North Avenue. Jim is a Youth Pastor, and while the church has insisted he double as Worship Minister; youth is Jim's niche, not worship.

As for Dennis, it took me a while to become aware of our Children’s Pastor; I‘m not a child, but if I were, I would love Dennis with all the love that children have to give! His journey within the Assemblies of God and the United Methodist Church have left Dennis competently skilled, thoroughly Christian, and deeply appreciated.

North Avenue Church of God is about to discover just how fortunate they have been for the past sixteen years, under the skilled leadership of James Leslie Sparks and wife Susan. Jim Sirks was already on board; Dennis came on board later. They have been as fine a Pastoral Team as could be found anywhere.

As our mutual friend Dr. Bill Jones works with the church to make this pastoral transition, Bill may have his hands full with … the difficult job of maintaining a new high standard … and a congregation that may have to stretch to maintain that standard.

From Warner’s World, this is

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Warner's World: Our Leaking Faith

Warner's World: Our Leaking Faith: Dave Coolidge recently acknowledged his privileged friendship with Jim Williams, dating back to college days at AC/AU where they were fel...

Our Leaking Faith

Dave Coolidge recently acknowledged his privileged friendship with Jim Williams, dating back to college days at AC/AU where they were fellow members of the Booster Club. Dave’s acknowledgement also informed us about the passing of our longtime colleague in Church of God ministry, Dr. James E. Williams.

My earliest acquaintance with Jim probably resulted when he accepted a staff position on our former Division of World Service. Jim had already served thirteen years in pastoral ministry before returning home to Anderson, where he served the church for another thirty-one years.

His passing leaves a vacancy in his position, but we remember him for his humility, his positive smile, and his professional skills. As I pondered the family’s loss, and the departure of another of our Ministry-seniors, I was struck these words of Dave Coolidge: “Though he and his medical team had battled valiantly, Jim finally succumbed to lung cancer (which had come as a big surprise to Jim when it was first diagnosed because he was a non-smoker).”

We all give thanks to God for this our friend Jim. Yet, my mind went off in another direction, and I frankly felt a wee little resentful. I am happy to have achieved five years beyond Jim’s lengthy span of eighty years. Granted, he achieved his three score and ten years. No complaints; yet, I cannot help thinking about how difficult it is for us to correlate our beliefs and behaviors into a pattern of consistent faith.

We Church of God people are fundamentally a non-smoking people. We believe our bodies are temples of God’s dwelling place, and that we have a stewardship to God to be proactive for good health. We do not hesitate to proclaim our belief in what we call “Divine Healing“; we often pray and ask God to answer our prayers for healing and health.
Moreover, we believe the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, or so the Psalmist suggested. In spite of our beliefs, we are hardly surprised when one in our midst dies from lung cancer. Many people die of cancer these days, cancers of all kinds, and from a variety of causes.

I find it difficult to reconcile our theology with the inconsistency of our beliefs and behaviors. For example: few of us question why so many die from cancer and why we are so unwilling to take corrective measures about known carcinogens. I suggest we are very inconsistent in our issues of faith.

Smoking is a BIG no-no; yet we accept the rights of corporations to produce, market, and sell those carcinogens. Although there are far fewer smokers today than yesterday; we are told “passive smoking” is equally or more dangerous than the habit. That leaves many of us helpless to avoid over exposure.

On the other hand, it is more difficult to get a hearing on other carcinogens, like those that pollute the air we breathe, or the water we drink, or that contaminate the food we eat. If we support governmental measures to minimize air and water pollution, we are told that adds to production costs, it costs jobs, and it really is not a function of government.

I have to admit that all sounds like gobbledygook to me. Government is obligated to hire soldiers and policemen to protect my safety as a civilian, but government cannot protect the health of my family without being oversized and interfering in free enterprise. I cannot advocate for such things without being labeled a Socialist, a liberal, a left winger, anything but a Christian, especially a socially responsible Christian.

This opens large areas for us to dialogue about as Christians. It could mean becoming more involved in transforming our culture. It could call for personalizing our faith and subjecting our political views to stricter biblical interpretations - if we are not too closed-minded.

As for Jim, I have no way of knowing why he died of lung cancer. I don’t know that it was caused by anything he breathed or ate; I don't believe he smoked it. I can accept that he died of that cause just by the fate of a long life, but how can I accept the fact that we continue to allow financial interests to sell known carcinogens for profit; that we allow them to pollute our air and our water (to say the least), but we dare not dialogue about it in church because that is politics, and politics do not belong in the church--so someone told me.

It is politically incorrect to advocate for clean air, clean water, or to say that a product that harms people more than it helps them is unethical to sell. As a matter of personal faith, at what point do people become more important than profit? Can people of faith support political views that are inconsistent with their faith, and still be consistent as Christians? Do we have a leaky faith?

From Warner’s World,
I am,
full of questions I wish someone would answer for me.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Warner's World: A Word for Communities in Flames

Warner's World: A Word for Communities in Flames: A traveler found a beautiful marble statue of Jesus in a small French village during World War Two. Jesus stood in the courtyard of a quain...

A Word for Communities in Flames

A traveler found a beautiful marble statue of Jesus in a small French village during World War Two. Jesus stood in the courtyard of a quaint little church, hands outstretched. One day a bomb struck too close and dismembered the statue. After the battle was over and the enemy had passed through, village citizens thought to reconstruct the pieces of their beloved statue.

This statue was no work of art by Michelangelo or Bernini, but it was part of their lives and they loved it. They gathered and reassembled the broken parts, but could not find the statue’s hands. “A Christ without hands is no Christ at all,” a villager lamented.

“Hands without scars … yes. But what’s a Lord without hands? We need a new statue,” others exclaimed.

Another idea finally prevailed. They attached a brass plaque to the base of the statue that read, “I have no hands but your hands.” Years later someone saw that inscription and wrote:

I have no hands but your hands to do my work today.
I have no feet but your feet, to lead men on the way.
I have no tongue but your tongue to tell me how I died,
I have no help but your help to bring men to God’s side.

Pastors are not mechanics to keep the church in good repair. Their call involves equipping the saints for the ministry. In following Christ, we learn that it requires more than we have, so we ask for what we need with obvious faith, and depend upon Him rather than ourselves. Sister Theresa dreamed of building an orphanage with three pennies. Her superiors told her it was impossible. Smiling, she said in her dream, “I know, but with God and three pennies, I can do anything!”

Our world struggles in a climactic battle between good and evil, between the way of the cross and the shadow of the sword. As we search for solutions, there is one thing we can know: with God, and our best; we can achieve, whatever it is God wants us to do!

From Warner's World, this is

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Kempin Kindles

The Church of God [Anderson] has long been about the fact that truth matters. Movementally, we have long affirmed the truth that there is ultimate truth, beyond the portable relevancies of humanity. As you would expect, we have also affirmed a theme suggesting God as Loving Grace, to use a title from Dr. Barry Callen.

In that volume, Barry reminded us “a keynoting and enduring characteristic of this reformation movement of the Church of God is its consciousness of God and its radical commitment to God, and to God alone” (Evangel/1996/70). Very much within this tradition comes a new title that reveals both a man and his message.

I first met this man in January 1948 when I relocated from Anderson, IN to enroll in Bible College in Portland, where I began attending the Holladay Park Church. I never forgot that man and his books. Truths That Matter was compiled out of Dr. Kempin’s personal papers in 2010, after receiving them from his daughter Naomi Wright, now deceased. It reveals this man and his message.

Pastor Albert J. Kempin Ph. D. (1900-1974), remained eminent on the horizon throughout my earlier pastoral years. As a man, he was esteemed by the church, a gifted pastor, evangelist, educator, pen preacher; and a friend to many, as he modeled the best of Christian ministry. He served churches between 1927 and the mid-fifties. He was an academic pioneer (Ph.D. East Los Angeles Seminary) and noted for his work among our early pioneers, for his educational pioneering, and for devoting his best years to pastoral ministry.

He modeled good pastoral relations, consistently exemplifying the highest of professional qualities in Christian Ministry, while authoring several books via Warner Press: How to Live a Christian Life; Daniel For Today; The King’s Parables; Twelve Great Chapters; and, Why the Millennial Doctrine is Not Biblical.

Comfortable as a man among the people, Albert Kempin was always a man of The Book; he was a thorough Bible teacher, equally at home in the pulpit or classroom. Truths That Matter offers readers a comfortable compilation of Kempin, an opportunity to discover an early leader biographically they might not know as well as some others, while selectively scanning the fruits of his productive pen preaching.

Last but not least is the news that Reformation Publishers recently began producing early Church of God writings in a Kindle foremat, available at Reformation Publishers, Amazon and such. Coordi-nating this effort is Dr. James Fleming (D. Min. SOT 2012), Ocala Florida pastor.

I believe the Kempin Kindles are among the first to become available. This testifies to more than mere church marketing. It witnesses to the church’s commitment to the truth of Scripture, of God, and of ultimate authority.  Finally, it attests to the commitment of all of us in the Movement to be God's people on mission...

I am comfortable with my computer, but I am not yet into Kindle. Yet, I am told it is a comfortable and convenient way to read. Although some may see this only as a marketing tool, I see it as a church aggressively sharing its marketable truth. Oh but you say, that is only Reformation Publishers, or Pastor’s Fellowship, or … yes …it is a diverse church, not in competition with anyone, but united in Christ; it is a church aggressively searching for more ways to share its message in an acceptable manner - all of which inspires me to take the church more seriously than ever.

From Warner’s World, I am

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Losers

Some years ago a Science Fiction movie came out titled "The Running Man". This same Stephen King novel, first published in 1982 under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, unfolds several themes.

One shows a country obcessed with gambling, while sliding a slippery slope into further social darkness. Pursuit of this theme reflects an oppressive government utilizing "Gaming Television" as its strongest weapon for controlling the Nation. We see the nation's obsession [will] to win, which seems to further confirm the direction the Nation drives, and the accuracy of the "Social Metaphor".

Did King intend to point out the social "Horrors" of gambling? I doubt it! It does appear, however, that "Running Man" provides a vehicle for expressing one mans struggle with personal tragedy. Other issues thread their way through the film, although maintaining the focus of "Sordid" events that continue to fill our national pastime with pleasure and gambling, and its inevitable economic and social ruin.

These reflect a force that has few contemporary equals and dramatically hint at the potentially tragic state of affairs of a society that continues to find its relief in even more Gambling.

From Warner’s World come some shared online conversation between my longtime friend Ron and me shared here FWIW, after we chewed on it several times ...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day 2012

Labor Day means the end of Summer; it is our prelude to the Fall term of school. Research indicates President Grover Cleveland signed Labor Day into law only six days after the end of the Pullman Strike, following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike. The US Congress then voted unanimously, approving the rushed legislation to make Labor Day a national holiday

By 1894, when it became a federal holiday, thirty states already celebrated it. Oregon became the first state to declare this day a holiday (1887). All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the territories now celebrate it as a statutory holiday.

Our September date was originally chosen by New York’s Central Labor Union, and observed by many of the nation's trade unions. This September date was selected over the more popular International Workers' Day because President Cleveland was concerned that observance of the latter would be associated with the nascent Communist, Syndicalist and Anarchist movements that, while distinct from each other, rallied together in commemorating the Haymarket Affair on International Workers' Day.

The Haymarket affair was a peaceful Chicago rally gone sour in 1886, when someone threw a bomb that resulted in numerous deaths. This calls to mind J. Edgar Hoover’s seeing Communists behind the Civil Rights activities of M. L. King, now known to be false. More recently, Wis-consin’s Governor Walker eliminated bargaining rights for Wisconsin’s Muncipal employees.

Growing up in a Republican household, as I did, we viewed the labor movement as tools of the Mafia and urban Mobsters. Democrats, especially from Detroit,were considered Socialists, Communists, and unAmerican. That was long before I grew to maturity, learned better, and gained a more Biblical perspective.

As an older adult Christian today, I now view all people as God perceives them (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21). That means I do not reject people just because Communists say the person has certain rights. It means I do not support Governor Walker because I see him treating a segment of labor as he would not accept being treated himself, nor would I want such treatment.. Few, if any, of the Governor’s constituents would agree to being treated as the Governor is now treating Wisconsin employees. Financially expedient or otherwise; it is contrary to the Golden Rule.

Somehow, we have obscured the values of ordinary working people. There was a day, when many Americans agreed that the way to obtain laborers was to enslave them. Here, I take the liberty of quoting from Carter Woodson (The Negro In Our History/Associated Publishers, Washington, D.C./1941 7th ed./p216 ff). He describes a slave drive to the Southwest, and the unusual hardships of such a drive … quoting:

"Featherstonaugh mentions his meeting in southwestern Virginia a camp of negro slave drivers just packing up to start. He said, ’They had with them about three hundred slaves who had bivouacked the preceding night in chains in the woods. These they were conducting to Natchez, on the Mis-sissippi River, to work upon the sugar plantations in Louisiana. It resembled one of the coffles spoken of by Mungo Park, except that they had a caravan of nine wagons and single-horse carriages for the purpose of conducting the white people and any of the blacks that should fall lame. The female slaves, some of them sitting on logs of wood while others were standing, and a great many little black children, were warming themselves at the fire of the bivouac. In front of them all, and prepared for the march, stood in double files about two hundred men slaves, manacled and chained to each other...

“Josiah Henson, a Negro brought into this traffic said: ‘Men trudged on foot, the children were put into the wagon, and now and then my wife rode for a while. We went through Alexandria, Cul-pepper, Fauquier, Harpers Ferry, Cumberland, and over the mountains to the National Turnpike to Wheeling. In all the taverns along the road were regular places for the droves of Negroes con-tinually passing along under the system of internal slave trade. At the places where we stopped for the night, we often met Negro drivers with their droves, who were almost uniformly kept chained to prevent them from running away.

“Edwin L. Godkin said: ‘The hardships these negroes go through who are attached to one of these migrant parties baffles description … Thousands of miles are traversed by these weary wayfarers without their knowing or caring why.”

In discussing the establishment of the Plantation system, Woodson quotes one reference to certain older states annually exporting 80,000 slaves to the South, and when the African Slave Trade was restricted, “One writer estimates the number of slaves exported from Virginia at 120,000” (219).

Why remember this ignominious history? Why remember the Holocaust? Or, the first atomic bomb? Because there is a sameness of attitude regarding labor today! When Lou Dobbs wrote his best seller a few years back, CEOs had been paid over the five years prior to his writing 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 were losing $640 billion. That is to say nothing of the male and female employees.

Statistics are abundant; books are voluminous. They suggest that working people have no more value today than did the slaves during Plantation days. The bottom line is everything! People who criticize the system, who defend the working people and demand more equality are labeled as left field liberals, Socialists, and supporters of Obamania.

I do not ask that we conform our society to Christianity, and I strongly support separation of Church and State. I am convinced, however, that the decadent powers driving today's politics -- those most enjoying the fruits of their Capitalism and unvarnished greed by enriching themselves at the expense of the more vulnerable middle and lower classes, have yet to deal with the eternal verities spoken by Jesus when he said (Matthew 25:31-46):  AND THE KING SHALL ANSWER AND SAY UNTO THEM, VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU, INASMUCH AS YE HAVE DONE IT UNTO ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE MY BRETHREN, YE HAVE DONE IT UNTO ME.

Today’s political decisions that allow the privileged to economically enslave others will meet their political choices again in the Judgment Hall of God’s Eternal Verities. There will be no changing of one’s party or view, then. The way we treat one another has a strong correlation with our relation-ship to the Eternal!

From Warner’s World, I am

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Fruits From Our Behavior

Someone challenged us a while back to remember Enron. That is old hat by now, but the song seems to survive like a cat with nine lives, each time with a different verse: Enron … S&L Scandals … Wall Street breakdown … Real Estate Market … The Bush Depression … the list only gets longer!

Mit Romney is now charged with using business interests to ram-rod a Federal bailout of Bain Capital back in the 90s--a 360 degree inconsistency with his presidential “anti-Obama” rhetoric (cf Rolling Stones Magazine, 8-29-12.

While nothing new for a politician, it reminds me of the comment my friend Ron made to his broker back in 70's . While discussing differences between upper middle and lower classes, Ron popped of with "A poor mans dreams, can be found in the lining of some Rich mans Pocket".

With due respect to the writer that first called us to remember Enron; we should remember Enron as we view the political mess we’re in these days.

Runaway executive pay.
Enron paid its CEO Ken Lay $140 million in 2000, including $123 million in stock options. They set the standard for outrageous CEO pay, and demonstrated how, in search of ever-larger paychecks, CEOs lead companies into ever-riskier schemes that endanger both shareholders and the economy as a whole.
Tax evasion.
Despite reporting huge profits, Enron paid no taxes in four of its last five years and used tax scams and offshore shell entities to dodge paying its fair share. Today, dozens of U.S. corporations use similar tactics not only to dodge Uncle Sam, but claim huge tax rebates. Enron was a catalyst for today’s corporate tax cheats.
Corporate conflicts of interest.
Enron’s chief financial officer profited by using his own company, LJM, to do deals with Enron to cook its books. Heedless of Enron’s example, banks such as Goldman Sachs and Citi later set up synthetic securities, sold shares to clients, and profited by betting against their own clients. Enron helped create a culture of corporations failing to do right by their clients.
Accounting conflicts.
Enron’s accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, approved financial statements loaded up with fraud. Despite Enron’s cautionary tale, so did accountants for Madoff Securities, Olympus, and other firms that have collapsed in years since, damaging investors, consumers and market stability. Enron showed how accountants reliant on revenues from clients can be convinced to look the other way. It’s still happening today.
Credit rating conflicts.
Credit rating agencies gave Enron AAA ratings until it collapsed. They have given the same AAA ratings to toxic securities, failing corporations, and deadbeat banks, often because issuing tougher ratings would cost them business. Enron exposed the unreliability of credit rating agencies that place the search for market share above the need for objective analysis.
Excessive speculation.
Enron speculated and manipulated electricity prices for big profits. Today, speculators whipsaw the American economy with roller coaster energy, metal, and food prices. Enron jacked up the commodity business to everyone’s detriment but the speculators; and without tough enforcement of anti-speculation laws, the damage will continue.
Financial engineering.
Enron designed countless financial engineering gimmicks that served its financial interests but endangered clients and investors. Today, financial firms rave about financial “innovations,” while pushing toxic products like auction securities, naked credit default swaps, and worse. Enron showed how financial engineering creates weapons of mass destruction; a decade later, exotic financial products helped bring the U.S. economy to its knees.
The need for regulators to stop the madness.
In response to Enron, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act banned multimillion-dollar corporate loans to corporate insiders, forced CEOs to certify their internal financial controls, and created new accounting oversight. Those changes helped curb Enron-style abuses.

Congress did minimal reform in 2010 through Wall Street reform legislation, but fell far short due to the anti-regulation atmosphere in Washington that continues to overly protect business. We should all keep Enron in mind as the country elects a new President and hopefully addresses the strong rules that we need for protecting both consumers and the economy.

The Bible says we will know them by their fruits. We are eating the fruits of rampant selfish CEO’S the greed of corporate corruption, and the deviousness of sinful men. It remains to be seen whether or not we can rally together sufficiently to re-write some of our behavioral rules in favor of the common good of America.    

Or, must we have a total breakdown of national morality and become complete victims to America’s need for a moral revival. From Warner’s World, I am