Saturday, December 31, 2016

Can We Just Be Civil this Year?

My mother-in-law moved from New England to Kansas in a covered wagon. She watched her children jet their way around the globe and pass through the door from the space age and transition into the unexplored information age. Today, we pedal hard to keep pace; thus, Taylor Chapman walked into a Dunkin’ Donuts shop with her phone in hand. Once inside, she recorded an eight-minute video transaction with a clerk, launched it globally and received 6.5 million views in return.

In this fast-paced fluidity, people are “testing out the boundaries” of what seems to have suddenly become a “new political climate,” concludes Stephen O’Connor, Louisville Psychiatrist. Such circumstances, avoidable and otherwise, push us into potential hurricane winds as 2017 becomes reality. Viewing our differences as adversarial, and people different from us as adversaries, we demographically dissect ourselves ethnically, politically, and religiously, not to mention economically.

The more we defend this behavior, the more we lose our sense of the common good, which leaves us swimming in shark-infested waters with questionable ability, unpredictable behavior, and untested equipment. That is troubling, to say the least!

Stephen Carter has given thoughtful and constructive thought to this business of relating to one another: Civility Manners Morals and the Etiquette of Democracy Carter/Basic Books/NY/1998). I find his thinking helpful for facing the next four years of our national history. His theme of civility is a quality I find much needed today but very short in supply. Carter suggests, “Nasty language, whether vulgar or violent or simply bigoted, does nothing to encourage a thoughtful and reasoned response. It sparks anger or shame but not dialogue. So it makes it harder for us to talk to each other, and thus hurts democracy.”

If this is true, we are in for some troubled conversations, for if everyone is to be heard today, we will each need to earn the right to be heard by first becoming good listeners. With that in mind, we will need to stick to the thought(s) being discussed; we will find it necessary to value the rights of the person speaking (or writing); and we will attack ideas only, and intentionally avoid attacking the people speaking [or writing].

Such behavior of civility should be the norm of a good team member whether one is red, yellow, black, or white; rich or poor; citizen or emigrant. Carter believes “If we fail to distinguish desire from right, we will not understand that rights are sensible and wise only within particular contexts that give them meaning” (p. 69). To this he would add) “And once we are persuaded that we have no background values in common, it is a very small step to being persuaded that we are not a people at all.” (p.95).

Carter points to a principle reason for our social fragmentation when he concludes too many people “feel” deprived of their proper social status, be it an issue of color, economics, religion, or morality. They feel “their accepted place” in our society has been replaced--wrongly displaced

Civility becomes a very personal issue. It suggests a common code of social behavior, and whether or not we will intentionally live lawfully. Civility is a word that divides us between people who practice civil discourse and live responsibly by intent, and people who by choice reject civility, preferring to live only by their own moral code.

For whatever reason, individual responsibility to maintain “law and order” seems to be in short supply today, leaving everybody free to blame everyone else for whatever the perceived problems might be. Here, Carter draws a sharp distinction; he writes, “Our ability to discipline ourselves to do what is right rather than what we desire is what distinguishes us from animals” (p. 111).

While we debate peripheral issues of whether or not we are Democrats, Republicans, or Libertarians; socialists or capitalists; and we argue that we are a Republic rather than a Democracy, the real question seems to be “Are we going to live like human beings who act thoughtfully, constructively, and intentionally, or will we live like animals that exist by whatever instinct that animal has?

I‘m reminded of Mama Skunk and her two little skunks, In and Out. One day “In” got lost. Mama ordered “Out” to find “In”. Don’t come back without him, she declared. It did not take long before Out found In and the two little skunks returned home together. When Mama asked Out how he found In so quickly, he quickly replied, “In-stinct!”

Playing a huge role in our individual behavior today is a mass communication system that drives our behavior considerably. Thus Carter writes: “So if we glorify killing in our films and our music, select aggressive metaphors in everyday speech, and declare that our every cause is a war, we are proclaiming ourselves to be people of violence” (p. 154).

“Television has grown so violent over the past two decades,” concludes Carter, “that no serious researcher any longer doubts that over exposure to televised images of violence helps transform gentle children into brutal adults” (p. 158).

I have no comprehensive cure-all, no panacea, but I offer two areas pf personal behavior in which every single person will make a personal choice as to which side of the fence they will stand on.

1) We will be civil in all our relationships—by intent. Or, we will reject civility and choose  division, disharmony,  chaos, and destruction of the social structure by which we relate to each other.

2) We will take charge of our entertainment menu and feed our minds a diet of what is good and pure and purposeful, or we will  reject that poppycock and assert our right of war, violence, and self-seeking destruction that will eventually destroy our social fabric and leave us wishing for a return to freedom, with liberty, and justice for all.

Recalling the comment referenced earlier by Stephen O’Connor, perhaps we should give some credence to the “new political climate” and hear his conclusion, which was “And its sort of up to the rest of us to appropriately push back and say that’s not acceptable behavior” (Winchester Sun, 1-7-17-A5).

From Warner’s World, this is

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Peace Be With You...


David Cortright. (Paradigm Publishers, Boulder, CO., 2011)

David Cortright is Director of Policy Studies at Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, South  Bend, IN. David is a Vietnam veteran, as well as Director of SANE, the largest disarmament organization in the United States. He has now helped create Win Without War, a coalition of national organizations opposing the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Following are some Cortright quotes and thoughts, along with some personal reactions on my part both when I read the book several years ago, and now.

p. 12 - “Wars are conflicts between sinners, not between the righteous and the wicked.”

I believe “Just War” is a political rationale for what is otherwise an immoral behavior. Therefore, the “Just War” theory does not deserve political support from the church. War is a non-Christian response.

P12-13 - “When foreign policy is heavily militarized, as in the United States, the use of armed force often becomes a primary response rather than a last resort.” 

It was this current policy that allowed George Bush to invade and occupy Iraq. The U.S. Military-Industrial Complex has now taken over American politics and uses its economic rationale to maintain itself, for so-called “security reasons. This allows it to dominate American Diplomacy, which is precisely why some nations abroad call us “Yankee Imperialists.” Beneath the political umbrella global policing becomes our self-justified American imperialism.

12-13 - Cortright finds the “goal of a ‘more accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan” a worthy goal, but as he points out, that did not necessarily require our military action. In fact, Cortright gives evidence that our military emphasis actually hindered our supposed objectives in Afghanistan.

Al Queda suicide attacks have killed more civilians than have U.S. troop operations.

Our extended military presence in Afghanistan has proven to be the best motivator for enlisting additional suicide attackers; thus, our heavy military presence hindered more than helped our primary goals of protecting civilians and building up the nation.

Afghan women’s rights was more of a political issue than primary goal for President Bush, and using women as a defense for the military action is a questionable ethic,

Cortright suggests women [rape] more justified in Africa than Afghanistan, but not as politically expedient or desirable to military interests.

The author refers to 9400 conflict related civilian deaths in Afghanistan between 2006-2010, and bombings killed hundreds more in Pakistan, 70% of which were caused by Insurgent Forces, whose primary motive for insurgency was American military presence.

p29 - “The greatest threat to U.S. Security is not al Queda itself, but the misguided strategy of countering terrorism with military means.” Cortright insists that “Terrorism” is a police issue and not a threat by a government using military force … Large scale military action caused death and injury to tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers, eroded international relations, and cost more than $1 trillion, in addition to “creating” Islamic recruits.

P32 - Military occupation is the driving force of suicidal terrorism. This point was also made earlier.

P123 - “The current strategy of large-scale counter-insurgency and target bombing is questionable morally, unsinkable politically, and unsustainable politically. The alternative may be risky but it is preferable to the known dangers of war.”

P99 - “To be sustainable, peace must grow from below.”

Peace cannot be forced from the top down by military force. Unfortunately,

P100 - Development and deportation efforts have remained subservient to military operations. Aid programs foundered on intractable problems of insecurity, corruption, and the rejection of foreign intervention [military intervention]. Cortright lists a 5-point development program suggested by aid organizations, but not yet accepted by the military.

P101 - A 2009 Carnegie Endowment Report concluded: “

“U.S.-led forces should halt offensive military operations and focus on protecting civilians.”

P102 - “The increasing involvement of U.S. and allied troops has been a principal cause of insurgency and the growth of Taliban influence” (emphasis added).

Some would find this “dry” reading. As I read it, I wondered to myself, “Am I reading a blueprint of what President Obama is actually trying to bring to fruition as he closes military operations in Afghanistan?” It appears to be an academic approach to resolving an irreconcilable war.

IF our desire is to prove our military might, we are paying too high a price. Politically, we seem to be saying, we can afford a war but we cannot maintain our infrastructure at home. In this case, al Queda is wining, because they are escaping defeat while making us PAY DEARLY.

If our desire is to protect the citizenry of Afghanistan and establish the nation’s governmental powers, then we need to CHANGE OUR MILITARY STRATEGY, REDUCE OUR “PRESENCE”, and turn the job over to the people who know how to do the nation building (which is not in the job description of soldiers of war).


Al Queda remains an illusive, non-governmental  organization of loosely-knit terrorists and global criminals. THE TALIBAN are conservative extremists of Islamic faith, with whom we disagree politically and religiously. They OPPOSE OUR FOREIGN PRESENCE, but if we removed our troops, they would take the lead in opposing Al Queda and work with us in some kind of nation-building effort.

Posted Christmas week, 12-20-16 as we celebrate the birth of whom it was said:

“(23) Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emman uel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (24) Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: (25) And kjnew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS” Matthew 1:23-25 KJV).

Merry Christmas and May the Peace of God rest upon our Global Community. As we celebrate Jesus’ birth his week, we continue a trek that takes us to the Miracle of Easter . . . from

Friday, December 9, 2016

Moral Economics

Well…Republicans won this round. Soon we will have a new President to adulate or hate. What Republicans do with this opportunity God alone can guess. Will Democrats use this as an opportunity to serve the common good or will they play the game of Party Politics? Duh… Who knows; I don’t.

What I do see is that we have a whole new set of demographics. People are demanding that we return to days of more nostalgic greatness. But, what does that mean? I‘m not quite sure who “we think we are or when that was. ” I’m less sure of who we want to be, and even less sure that “we” are even aware there is a world of people out there wanting a piece of “our greatness.” I doubt “we” even care!

I’m satisfied “they” come from less than what most of us take for granted. I’m also convinced they feel they deserve as much as we do to feel equally-well provided for and to live comfortably and safely. After all; who doesn’t? While many continue asking questions … demanding changes … I,  fwiw, agree!

So let me ask an economic question that calls for some moral reasoning (people are pretty well decided on what they agree or disagree about the great moral issues): Will you agree that a CEO be paid as much as the market will bear?

Some of you will quickly say “Yes, I believe in free enterprise.” I ask, “for whom?” Some [like me] hesitate answering before first considering contextual factors. Others could say, “No! That is the way of Pharoah vs The Exodus!”

This question actually came up in ‘06 when median family income was up 18%. Simultaneously, income was up 200% for the top 1% of the wealthiest families (War on the Middleclass/Dobbs/16/2006). It actually climbed to 400% in some cases.

Lou Dobbs, that staunchly Republican standby, reported CEOs at AT&T, BellSouth, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Lucent, Merck, Pfizer, Safeway, Time Warner, Verizon & Walmart) were paid an aggregate of $865 million in compensation over the previous five years, during which time shareholders lost $640 billion.

That widely researched statistic only verified the upward economic surge of the last forty-or-so years, during which time the gap between the haves and have not's widened even further, being funneled upward by a politically established, economically-motivated ripping of the American social fabric.

Becoming richer at the expense of the more vulnerable were the wealthy. The trend remains today, although sounding much like the Biblical stories of Lazrus and Dives, or the farmer that tore down his barns to build bigger ones. Yes, the masses still rant, rave, review, and revolutionize, doing it in forms both conversational and sometimes violent.

All the while, we brand demcratic dissenters as socially elite, liberal left, and mindless media. We call them disingenuous! They should work for a living like we do. We pronounce them liberal, left-wing idiots; some are religious idealists,  but all are products of what we think is an urban socialist society akin to Communism and greatly inferior to our rural-suburban politic. We really want them to know they cannot live at the expense of our supporting them governmentally, as if providing a social safety net is something deeply immoral.

I  believe what we really need is a radical return to the teachings of Jesus. For this, you can call me “an idealist,” a religious fundamentalist (code word for domestic terrorist), even a socialist, left-field liberal or anything but white, evangelical, and male.

It is true, I am a white male. I am also strongly evangelical. And yes, I believe we need to return to the core teachings of Jesus rather than teaching the false gospel some teach, as Scripture warns us. We need to again hear the words of The inclusive Christ, as opposed to exclusive; That One who taught us to love our enemies and treat others as we want to be treated. His principles are laid out in the Sermon on the Mount and in the four gospels, but they are affirmed and taught throughout the Scriptures.

The fact is, Jesus went to the cross rather than compromise his God-given mission. Among his final words on earth were those uttered to a dying thief as Jesus put off his own dying long enough to include one more unregenerate thief, comforting him with his own word, “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

That was the inclusive attitude of the Jesus some of us call “Lord!” There is room at the cross for all of humanity. The way of the cross really does lead homeward. As such, it forms the heart and soul of the Christian gospel that Paul and others only helped interpret. Paul essentially instructed “you follow me as I follow Christ.”

Even the Old Testament Prophet looked forward [with gospel insight] trying to help his people honor God in a God-pleasing way (cf Isaiah 58, especially NCV). Their usual festivals and pilgrimages of ritualistic fasting, flagellating themselves et al, simply fell too far short of personally knowing and experiencing God. They needed to hear God say,

          “I will tell you the kind of special day I want: Free the people you

           have put in prison unfairly and undo their chains. Free those to

          whom you are unfair and stop their hard labor. Share your food

          with the hungry and bring poor, homeless people into your  own

          homes. When you see someone who has no clothes, give him yours,

          and don’t refuse to help your own relatives. Then your light will

          shine like the dawn and your wounds will quickly heal. Your God

          will walk before you, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from

          behind. Then you will call out, and the Lord will answer. You will

          cry out, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’”

Do I mistranslate this when I suggest that if one is pro-life; eg, one will not stop with simply protecting the pre-born fetus but hold all of life, sacred, and perhaps the end of life as well—a sacred and respected value--regardless of color, creed, culture, or …

The business man will begin treating employees as s/he wants to be treated and much more than a bottom-line commodity good only for trade for larger profit.

It could imply a game- change, even for House Leader Paul Ryan et company. If we act consistently with what we claim we believe, it will dramatically change our game plan and that will include dramatically improving the lives of multitudes of vulnerable people--including emigrants. It will change our relationships by envisioning for every other individual “an equal-opportunity to win”rather than the predatory currency of “I win you lose” hard-core capitalism (more gently called free market economy).

It means nationally we will tone down our nationalistic patriotism and recognize God’s Global Community as a human family where ALL are in the ballgame-of-life TOGETHER, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender, ad infinitum.

In as much as you did not do it unto the least of these, Jesus concluded, you did not do it unto me. “How long will we ignore the one person in history who willingly gave himself that ‘we’ might ALL move forward?”

Could it be that our biggest problem is neither our political differences or our economic status but (horror of horrors) our own personal moral issue? Pondering this question from Warner’s World,

I am

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Liberal? Conservative? Or Christian?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 21, 2016

Finding a Working Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Transformed People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Principle and Practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Warner’s World this is

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

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Our Friend Pete

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Warner’s World, I am

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

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

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Democratic Government, for by, and of the People

Historian D. K. Goodwin wrote  regarding William Howard Taft in her history of THE BULLY PULPIT (Simon and Schuster, NY, 2013, p. 741). "While William Howard Taft had embraced the role of the conservative during the presidential race" with Theodore Roosevelt, wrote Kerns, "he, too had long since rejected the laizzez faire philosophy, that had dominated politics since the Civil War, committing himself instead to the progressive belief that the government had a responsibility to remedy social problems, improve working conditions, safeguard public health, and protect our natural resources."

Governments must work hand in glove with the citizenry for the common good. Otherwise that government is a failure, whatever its national status, and its citizenry will be disenfranchised in one way or another. Government that is of, for, and by the people, as most of us believe in America, will be a popular government; i.e. democratic, or of the populace. Dictatorship is an undesireable form of government that is neither of nor by the people. Neither is it for the people in most circumstances. It tends to be autocratic, myopic, self-perpetuating and self-centered, as was the case with England's King George, who claimed the right of divine sovereignty.

Our founding fathers forged a nation together out of the people, that was for the people, and by the people. Government became a cooperative friend rather than a predatory enemy but many Americans forget this today. They revert back to the old laizzez faire that ignores the truth that government should be the friend of the people as practiced by the people, all of which takes education and cooperative practice.

They maintain status quo for the privileged and focus on representing the privileged, and they vigorously oppose efforts to be inclusive of all peoples of all classes, colors, and cultures.
Government cannot replace the people, nor should it be totally responsible for the citizenry, but neither is it the enemy. On the other hand, no nation can long be successful unless the people and the elected governmental officials work together for the common good of the culture, unless they maintain safe and healthy working conditions, and safeguard public health, while protecting natural resources (as opposed to treating our natural as our own to spend without thought of following generations).

By the Grace of God and our own good luck we Americans are a blessed lot of people and we are the envy of the whole global community, none of which can be attributed to our deserving it. We did nothing to be born into it, but in our gratefulness we need to practice the wisdom that former Basketball player and media commentator shared with his son, when the younger Kellogg and his college team entered the NCAA Finals Sweet Sixteen: "Lose yourself in the game."

The world watches as we Americans elect a leader to become the "point man" of our government. That person will also be in a position to morally influence the administrative affairs of global nations around the world. Let us throw off the weights of personality celebs and of misguided issues, and let us lose ourselves in the game of making our society a more fair and just society, and a place of equal opportunity for all of God's Children (red and yellow, black, and white, as the Christian Hymn suggests.

Let us lose ourselves in the game of making this a more livable place for everyone in America so that as a nation we may in turn be used to transform global relationships into something to be enjoyed and shared, rather than feared and avoided.

From Warner's World, I am

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The UNITED States of America

American Creation discusses the Triumphs and Tragedies of the Founding Republic. Written by Dr. Joseph Ellis, the author is a controversial among scholars but his skills are recognized as a foremost University History Professor turned popular author. He is described as likely the most widely read author today on our Founding Fathers. He has authored several award-winning books, particularly on John Adams, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson, in that order. He viewed Adams as greatly under-valued and focused his studies on our earliest founders.

At the time, I noted his thought suggesting the success of the individual (Bill of Rights) came in protection of the whole (Constitution), rather than just Washington, Jefferson et al, including Clay, Lincoln and etc. I further noted how he viewed our first two presidents, which I found most interesting:
               1. Adams - pragmatic provization
               2. Washington - control of space (West of Mississippi)
               3. Control of pace - race put off (slavery) although okay with the Indians.
               4. Space and pace not matched with Race (black).

As Ellis noted, America’s founders developed in an age when they would have been otherwise confined because they lacked aristocracy. When you view our Founding Fathers, whatever else you may determine about them individually; for the most part they offer a group portrait. They were our founding fathers, not just George Washington, or Adolph Hitler, or Donald Trump, they were the group.

As a group, they won colonial independence, established a nation sized republic by popular consent, that was also a secular state (as opposed to a theocracy) that also included overlapping authorities (which I see for example in the balance of power with the presidential leader, the congress, et al, and again in the separation of church and state). Moreover, they established Institutionalized channels for dissent while failing to settle slavery and failing to resolve/implement the issue of Indian settlement.

Ellis suggests to my mind that we can charge America’s founders with failure because of the multiple issues of slavery, Indians, women, equal economics, et al; but he seems to say “not so fast!” He believes they established a context for resolving those issues and the rest is up to us. And that seems to be where many of us hang up and square off at one another today.

I am well aware today of two opposing forces in America. One suggests the Constitution is a sacred document as written, very much like the King James Version of the Bible, and that although it was written expressly by scholars approved by King George of England and had to pass his approval, it was nevertheless good enough for the Apostle Paul and should be good enough for me. 

On the other hand, there are those who accept the fact that the Constitution, as inspired as it was, did not finally resolve for all time the issues of slavery and human rights and that it gave more citizenship rights to a white male landowner than it did to women and slaves etc. Moreover, it was written in a time when we were thirteen separate colonies with each colony having its own independence, infrastructure et al and it left a lot of the development of our nation to be worked out by succeeding governments working in their own times.

The author quotes Adams (p49) in 1776: “When asked, Adams would always concur that a republic was bottomed on the principle of popular sovereignty, but the political expression of that sovereignty in any government must be plural rather than singular because the interests of ‘the people’ were diverse and often mutually exclusive. Hindsight again allows us to detect a truly modern idea entering the conversation in ‘Thoughts,’ the idea of multiple or shared sovereignties.”

Concludes Ellis: “While Adams was a firm believer in making the American Revolution happen slowly in order to cushion the shock of abrupt change, this particular feature of his political thought represented a fundamental break with past wisdom that contained truly jarring implications for any singular definition of political authority.” Thus, Ellis would conclude that Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence owes its acceptance to John Adams “Thoughts” that enabled colonies to oppose King George’s top-down authority from the bottom up.

It is an American tragedy that so many Americans today do not, cannot, will not, accept the wisdom posited by our second president, John Adams, for had not our founders agreed with Adams, they would never have found mutual basis for allowing a bunch of commoners spread across thirteen British colonies in North America to dissent from King George and break away to found the “United” States of America.

I am at Warner’s World, praying

God again enable us to become sufficiently devout so as to be grateful enough to again be the United States of America. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Sudden Wonder: Strange Grief shared by Jeff Ingram the son of our longtime friends

Sudden Wonder: Strange Grief: Because of the layout of our living room, our TV faces the window. I hate it, because it faces the afternoon sun and we're constantly c...

Monday, May 30, 2016

Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!

A Florist received multiple orders for bouquets. One order went to a young housewife on her birthday. The other order went to a young mother on the birth of her first child. Somehow the two cards got mixed.
Consequently, the young housewife received an unplanned birthday card that announced, “Congratulations. Hope the baby is doing fine.”

The other card arrived unscheduled at the home of the new mother and her new child. Her unsolicited greeting declared, “Twenty-seven; hope you have many more!”
Life would be far less traumatic if more of life’s mistakes could be viewed as humorously as most will see this story. How often did I as a pastor hear some anguished parent express concern for an adult child that refused to attend church as regularly as that parent would like. Yet, I knew that same parent seldom attended church during that child’s formative years, if ever.

The unfortunate truth is we reap as we sow. I have now lived long enough to understand that life permits us to choose to travel through life on a various levels of highways.

For the more discerning, there is a high road to be gained with some effort. There is also a low road for those who want to drift along, or who do not wish to choose something that requires choosing to become something beyond the norm.
Natural consequences follow each and every choice we make, or refuse to make. Moreover, God never forces us to choose one road over another. He may nudge us along by allowing some circumstance to encourage us this way or that, but when we make our choice, he allows us that freedom--even when it breaks his heart. The poet expressed it anonymously:
               But to every man there openeth

                              A High Way and a low,

               And every way decideth

                              The Way his soul shall go.
People and circumstances will heavily influence our lives, but when all is said and done, we make the final decision as to what we will do with our circumstances. In effect, our lives are just about what we want them to be. However; after we have decisionally determined what we will do with our lives, we also have the privilege of reaping the results of our choices:

               For those who seek the answer     

                              In houses, lands, and rings,            

               Will someday find that empty things          

                              Are just as empty filled with things.

Mistakes are the trademark of humanity and we each make our share of them. Nonetheless, those daily decisions we make provide the seed that produce tomorrow’s harvest. This is asking “What kind of crop are you planting for harvest?”

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Thinking Man's Choice

Audrey Kushline believed in moderation. Abstinence from alcohol was not only impractical but unnecessary and absurd! In 1993 she thoughtfully organized Moderation Management to provide an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous. Fourteen local chapters eventually organized.

Through attending Moderation Management (MM) sessions, problem drinkers were taught to reduce their drinking rather than totally abstain, as recommended by AA. Moderation Management recommended no more than nine drinks per week for women and fewer than fourteen for men. They insisted drinking was a learned behavior rather than a disease … until Mrs. Kushline found herself facing the Judge in an Ellensburg, Washington court room.

She faced two counts of vehicular homicide that resulted when a young father and his twelve-year-old daughter died as a result of her moderation. Her charges followed a head-on collision with a second vehicle, while driving the wrong way on Interstate I90.  At the time of her accident, Audrey’s BAC (blood alcohol level) was three times the legal limit.

Weeping while making her courtroom appearance, Audrey pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and causing a wreck that killed two people. Following that unhappy experience, Mrs. Kushline disavowed the Movement she had organized. She resigned as the spokesperson and candidly admitted, “MM. . .is nothing but alcoholics covering up their problems.”

As a result of incidents like this, new voices now publicly promote abstinence from alcohol. The Smithers Addiction Treatment and Research Center of New York became one more of the pro-abstinence voices when they issued a public statement reaffirming an earlier commitment they had made to abstinence as the only viable treatment for an alcoholic.

Thinking people do understand that sober people generally think before they act. Bill’s clouded mind, however, no longer comprehends this fine line of thinking. His claim of “moderation” enables him (in his own mind) to deny what everyone else knows is “his problem.” It reveals to both his friends and his family his inability to think clearly; thus, betraying his insistent claim and his flawed condition.

Life offers many experiences that allow us to freely indulge ourselves without harming ourselves. Some other activities call for moderation. There are also those things that are best left alone--except at great risk. We can freely indulge in alcohol only at great personal risk to our health and to our relationships. Phengsene learned his lesson the hard way. The forty-four year-old Laotian emigrant to Minneapolis made the mistake of drinking and driving.

Margaret Zack, Staff Writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, sadly reported Phengsene drove his vehicle the wrong way of the southbound lane of Highway l00 in nearby St. Louis Park. His vehicle struck a second vehicle driven by Kevin Garnett. The impact killed Garnett‘s companion--Malik Sealey, then a guard on the  Minnesota Timberwolves basketball team.

The County Attorney argued that Phengsene made the decision to get in the car and drive the wrong way. The Judge, following state guidelines, sentenced Phengsene to four years in prison. His sentence received the same time given to Lynda Jackson a few months earlier, after she drove the wrong way on the Mendota Bridge and killed Lynda Frein. In addition, Phengsene faced the terrifying possibility of being deported back to Laos.

Whether or not one agrees with abstinence as the right response, one thing is certain: alcohol is a depressant. That means it reduces one’s inhibitions with the very first drink and after that there is no definable point at which a person becomes legally unaccountable for behavior (emphasis added). In other words, that first drink reduces one’s decision-making ability. It greatly reduces one’s ability to say “no!” to that second or third drink. And since alcohol has no definable line by which impairment can be judged, abstinence automatically becomes the one and only logical choice, simply because one loses more controllability with each drink taken.

In September 2002 Michigan’s 91st Legislature consequently eliminated the so-called voluntary intoxication defense by passing House Bill 5398. In the meantime, ten other states have also taken action to clear some of this legal fog, thereby effectively slamming the door shut on “too drunk” as a legal defense.

Simply stated, moderation management, or moderate indulgence in alcoholic beverages, does not work. It effectively puts too many roadblocks into place and seriously threatens personal health, family relationships, and public safety. Abstinence is not the only choice I have, but it becomes my “thinking man’s choice.”

From walkingwithwarner,
It is my choice, but abstinence remains my only safe choice. It remains my most cost effective choice, and the most ethical choice - thus,my only responsible choice!