Thursday, March 31, 2016

Select Your Sin...Carefully

Billy received a cucumber in a bottle as a gift. Being a curious lad, he wanted to know just how such a large cucumber could be swallowed by such a small-necked bottle. One day Billy watched his next door pick a cucumber out of his garden and slip it into a bottle: his moment of truth had come!
Billy readily understood that the neighbor’s cucumber could never escape from its bottle. But more important, it became deeply personal when he thought about some of the choices he faced that could, like the cucumber, be easily captured in a circumstantial bottle. One small and insignificant sin could easily be defined as a small cucumber; yet when confined by circumstances, that little green cucumber could discover that escape from the bottle was impossible.

“The reason I am here today,” confessed a prison inmate, “is because I stole an apple from a Fruit Market when I was a boy.  I went inside looking for something to go with my lunch. I was in a big hurry so I and crammed the apple in my pocket although I didn’t intend to steal it. I discovered that it was so easy, one thing led to another, without being caught. Stealing that apple became my first step toward committing murder.”

Thoughtless acts and words in our lives can grow rapidly into life-destroying habits. Like the small cucumber Billy’s neighbor put into the neck of the bottle; just one careless behavior can grow into a dwarfed tree. When captured in the dry climate of that empty bottle, it continues to grow by absorbing the sustaining moisture from the air in the bottle, yet adds no lasting value to life.

Given sufficient time, just one small but bad behavior grows easily into a bottle-necked habit that effectively limits your freedom or controls your life. Given sufficient time, a credit card account can accumulate and surpass your ability to maintain payments, eventually destroying your reputation for integrity. Wisdom suggests that we choose our ruts carefully; for we may be in it far longer than we planned for.

On the other hand; disciplined study habits can produce superior scholarship and other academic achievements. The beloved Apostle John understood this when he challenged his first century audience. “Beloved, now we are children of God,” John announced, “and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be,” but “when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as he is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (I John 3:2-3, NASV).

By preparing ourselves for the better things of life, we may well avoid becoming a large cucumber in a small bottle. Better that we follow the example of the old farmer who first sighted his fence post across his field, then pointed his tractor in that direction, plowing while he went.

Joshua modeled Godly wisdom when he made an exemplary choice that we can each follow: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). The poet expressed this eternal truth in readily understood poetic form:

            I took a piece of plastic clay
                        And idly fashioned it one day;
            And as my fingers pressed it still,
                        It moved and yielded to my will.

            I came again when days were passed,
                        The bit of clay was hard at last;
            The form I gave it still it bore,
                        But I could change the form no more.

            I took a piece of living clay,
                        And touched it gently day by day;   
            And molded with my power and art,
                        A young child’s soft and yielding heart.

            I came again when years were gone,
                        It was a man I looked upon;
            That early impress still he wore,
                        I could change the form no more.
The poet’s metaphor underscores an eternal verity that gives new meaning to individual lives, while also underscoring a reason the church needs to return to Sunday school ministries and solid teaching of Christian educators.

From Warner’s World, you can reach me at


Monday, March 28, 2016

The Kingdom of God According to Matthew's Gospel


Wisemen and kings sought the baby Jesus as the King of the Jews.
Mt. 1:1 - traces Jesus’ genealogy back to Abraham via David.
Mt. 2:2 - shows the Wisemen seeking Jesus (Jewish culture was fully aware of this prophetic tradition).
Mt. 2:7 - acknowledges King Herod’s personal belief in the common concept of the authenticity of Jewish prophecy.
I John 5:11-13 - expresses the basic purpose for writing all of the New Testament (Jesus).


1.     Deut 5:15--The Jewish Sabbath was a sign of deliverance and covenant relationship [with Israel], rather than a reason to enforce Saturday worship.
2.     Col. 2:16-17--The Law of Moses was typical of the Law of Grace; a type of … Thus, the NT reflects Christ as the Lamb, our Passover, et al.
3.     RO. 4:13--14--Paul taught the Abrahamic Covenant as being fulfilled through faith in Christ. Millennialists teach that it will restore Israel to a literal and political kingdom.
4.     I Peter 1:16-20; Ephesians 1:4---Christ’s sacrifice was fore-ordained from Creation; thus, Jesus’ death and resurrection succeeded rather than failing! Millenialists claim it faliled because men rejected THE KINGDOM, thereby prompting God to come up with the church concept as a temporary expediency (a parenthesis in time) until political Israel could be restored as a political Kingdom. Millenialists insist upon a literal kingdom, whereas Scripture teaches a spiritual kingdom.

            1. Mt. 3:1-3—JOHN ANNOUNCES JESUS AND HIS KINGDOM; A fulfillment of         Daniel 2:44 and Isa. 40:3. John fulfills Malachi 3:1.
          2. Mt 4:17-20--Jesus issued his kingdom call using Isaiah for a reference (Isa. 61:1. Luke                       4:18-21 describes this as does Mark 1:14-15. Compare Mt. 4:15 with Isa. 42:7 and Luke                       2:32).
          3. Mt. 5-7--The Beatitudes are Kingdom ideals. Note 6:33 and 7:21. Of all the teachings                         of the NT, it is the teachings of Jesus that provide the most primary evidence we have,                         rather than Paul or Peter, or some other interpreter of Jesus. Reformed theologians lean more              toward Paul, yet, Paul was merely a self-admitted interpreter of Jesus. It is the words of Jesus             that form the primary corpus of evidence, and I personally value the words of Jesus while on               the cross as being the most authoritative biblical evidence that we have.
         4. Mt. 10:4--8 John questioned Jesus who gave this as proof of himself and his kingdom                           (The Jews expected Elijah to return; see Mt. 17:13--Jesus says Elias (or Elijah) has
             returned already in John the Baptist (11:14).
         5. Mt. 12:22-28--The Kingdom is come--if Jesus does the works he does … 2:40-41- Son of                    man 3 days dead (40), only sign is that of Jonah (41). 12:43-45--Describes the sin of Israel                  rejecting Christ.
         6. Mt. 13--A Kingdom parable describing a Sower (13:19). 13:30 describes the Tares. He                        leaves the tares with the wheat until judgment, leaving no place for a Rapture as described by              Millenialists. 13:37-38--Jesus is the sower and the seed is the sons of the Kingdom. 13:40, 43              Harvest is the Judgment. 13:44-49--Further describes the Judgment, which the people                          understood (51). The people were offended and disbelieved (57-58), thus Jesus did few works              there (58).
          7. Mt. 16:28--The Greek text here uses a double negative which means “in no way” will they                 taste death before the Son of Man comes in his kingdom.
          8. Mt. 18:1-3--The greatest in the kingdom of God is a child (contrary to the conquering                          Roman generals and other such secular concepts)
          9. Mt. 19:23--Expresses the difficulty of entering the Kingdom, but publicans and                                    prostitutes 21:31-32 ARE entering ahead of the TENANTS (33) who are rejecting Israel                      (42- 45). Jesus told them the Kingdom was taken from them, which is contrary to the                            millennial teachings about the restoration of Israel in our future, and it was at the core of                     their reasoning for killing Jesus: better that he die than the whole nation.
         10. Mt. 22--Describes the marriage feast (also described in Revelation as end-time). The                            invited reject the invitation (5-8); those assembling must be in wedding dress (11-14),                          elsewhere described as robes of righteousness.
         11. Mt. 23:13--Woe to the Jewish system; 33-36, 38 Israel rejected and left desolate.  That                        does not hinder the Messiah’s coming (39).
         12. Mt. 24:14--This was fulfilled at the day of Pentecost (cf Acts); the Gospel Age (the                  last days--Acts 2:17) precedes the end.
         13. Mt. 24:15--Fulfilled (literally) in 70 A.D. when General Titus literally destroyed                                  Jerusalem and national Jewish identity. “This generation” shall not pass before this is                          fulfilled (34).
         14. Mt. 25--Further Kingdom teachings on the end/judgment (1,
         15. MT. 26:1-2--Jesus became the Passover Lamb during Passover (cf 26-29). See                                      Hebrews 8--Christ now THE HIGH PRIEST (no more Old Testament having mediated a                      more perfect covenant (a New Testament (8:6) that makes makes the old covenant obsolete                  (13). Again, we don‘t enforce Saturday worship because we are no longer under the Old                      Testament (Heb. 8:13). The whole book of Hebrews reinforces this right-ness                                        (righteousness) of the New Testament over the old covenant.
         16. Mt. 27:63--Tomb secured to prevent fulfillment of prophecy of rising again (cf Mt.                              16:21, 17:23, 20:19; Mk. 8:31, 10:34; Luke 9:22, 18:33, 24:6-7 and John 2:19).             
         17. Mt. 26:53-54--Jesus accepted death, rejecting 12 legions of angelic help in order that the                    scripture might be fulfilled (42).
         18. Mt. 28:7--Disciples were sent to Galilee to meet the resur- rected Jesus (cf. 26:32).                               28:16--Eleven went to Galilee for Jesus’ first post resurrection appearance. 28:18--The                         disciples received authority of Heaven and Earth to the end of the (gospel) age to spread                       the kingdom teachings (cf 13:40- 43).


1. We conclude that Millennial theology merely postpones the Kingdom until a later time, thereby          leaving it without a theological foundation for the salvation message that heralds the good news of      God’s current rule and reign “on earth as it is in heaven.”
2. Millennial theology offers “another gospel,” which in actual fact becomes a false gospel.
3.     The Gospel taught in Scripture teaches us that
G od
                        O ffers
                                    S inful
                                                P eople
                                                            E ternal
                                                                        L ife
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God” John concluded, “so that you may know that you have eternal life” (I John 5:13, NIV).

The book of Revelation purposefully interprets Old Testament symbolism and powerfully reinforces God’s personal purposes in protecting his people wherever they find themselves on the time-line of history. encourages you to allow God's Word to be your guide for understanding the teachings of the church. Enjoy your walk with our Lord and be blessed as you wak with him.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

D. S. Warner vs Evangelism

As Historian, Merle Strege described our Anderson-based Church of God (once known by many as Evening Light Saints), as believing God had appointed them to a twofold mission. He further noted their conviction of being under divine mandate to reach a world they believed had lost its way. Second but not secondary, Strege recognized their felt-mission to the Denominational System that Warner believed perpetuated divisions within the one true Body of Christ.              

Many a reader has heard someone of our fellowship testify to having “seen the church” and affirming their having “taken their stand” for the truth. We honor one man and his publication as being the root source of that truth. D. S. Warner was the man. The Gospel Trumpet was the vital publication. Warner’s itinerant ministry anchored the flagpole on which we flew our banner of holiness and unity, and Warner and his army of “Flying Ministers” pursued their quest for unity and holiness. 

The charismatic Warner led this diligent charge from about 1878 until his death 12-18-95. The summer of 1887 had seen Warner invite Enoch Byrum to buy into the magazine and manage the Grand Junction print shop. This had allowed Warner to return to his traveling ministry, while positioning Byrum to become heir-apparent to the throne —the Editor’s Desk where the buck stopped.       

Following Warner’s unexpected death, the youthful Byrum led this increasingly diverse band of disciples until 1916, when replaced in his seat of editorial power by F. G. Smith, a boyhood convert of Warner. The Byrum brothers Enoch and Noah Byrum exhibited business forte and organizational genius, aided by the volunteer workforce initiated by J. C. Fisher at Williamston. This combined group learned the publishing business and further supplemented the itinerants forming the “flying ministry.”

They pushed globally in all directions, establishing multiple preaching points, foreign and domestic. When the Chicago Missionary Home began reproducing itself elsewhere, this new trending added additional means of distributing Warner’s “pen preaching.” They also served as “in-service training centers,” playing a prelude to our current system of theological education. They now include some of our oldest settled congregational centers, such as Oakland, CA; Kansas City, MO, St. Paul, MN, St. Joseph, MI., and New York City. 

Filtering Warner’s faith was this personal-faith-in-God-through-Christ theology that came via Warner’s Anabaptist and Pietistic roots. The Wesleyan Holiness Movement resulted after certain Moravians met and witnessed zealously and earnestly to John Wesley. Warner eventually experienced this “power of God;” tied a secure knot in his rope of personal faith and linked his message with this Holiness Movement. Consequently, when John W. V. Smith wrote our Centennial history, he condensed Warner’s ministry into a vehicle that rode on a dual track (cf. The Quest for Holiness and Unity (Warner Press, 1980).

As a people, we have now ridden these twin tracks of holiness and unity for more than one-hundred thirty-five years. During that time, we have succeeded modestly well at institutionalizing our Church Movement, at the same time walking through an organizational minefield of organization while trying to discern the blessings and pitfalls of denominational organization. We have, however, failed to adequately address the third component that brought success to Warner and his peers, while giving us a voice as a Movement, and providing a reason for our existence--our raison d’etre.

Warner’s peers shared his compulsion to proclaim the gospel and they scurried about in every direction witnessing through the “flying ministry.” Believing at first that their time was limited, they rushed about in all directions burning with the fire of the anonymous Texas oilman who pushed up to the airport ticket counter, slammed his fist down and demanded a ticket. When the flustered young agent inquired “where to, Sir?” the hardy Texan declared, “Anywhere, young man, I have business everywhere!” 

The older we have grown as a Movement, the further from Warner and our roots we have moved; and the dimmer has become our vision of what drove him and his cohorts. While we search ever more frantically, if we would better understand Warner and his vision, we must once more feel the fervor that lifted him on the winds of The Spirit and carried him from nowhere to launch him everywhere. Longtime Warner Press Editor, Harold Phillips, noted this entry from Warner’s journal:

Passed by the old schoolhouse 
where I gave my heart to God (February 1865).  
Thank God for that step. 
Oh, how glad I Am it was ever my lot to become a Christian!”1

Born June 25, 1842, Warner consequently became part of that westward push beyond the Ohio Territory, five brief years after Michigan achieved statehood in 1837. Nine years earlier, the 1833 Chicago Treaty had forced the white-educated Potawatomi chief, Leopold Pokagon, to transfer several million acres of Native American ancestral grounds into the Great Lakes Expansion. That opened new highways through Detroit, Chicago and all points west, thrusting Daniel into the Westward push.

His 1865 conversion transformed his fun-loving skepticism into serious-minded discipleship.2 simultaneously he joined the 195th Ohio Infantry regiment as a substitute for his older, married brother. Fortunately, the war’s end freed him to return home, but the nation he went to serve remained in disarray.

The former schoolmaster, now a discharged veteran and young Christian, postponed his marriage to Frances Stocking, needing to reflect upon the life he and Frances would share. He determined to pursue his formal education, selecting Oberlin College. Throughout Warner’s life he repeatedly reflected the character of a man of strong opinion, deep feeling, and one that made decisive choices; not unlike the formidable Oberlin President, Charles G. Finney.

Near Warner’s home, Oberlin also served as a seedbed for social change; especially for women and blacks. It also provided a center for holiness led by Finney, the patron saint of American revivalism then in his last years as President of Oberlin. Daniel openly accepted women and blacks both as social equals and as leaders, but he resisted Finney’s holiness teachings for a decade.

In the eight years following Warner’s Oberlin experience, he preached 1,241 sermons, won 508 converts, and rose quickly among his peers within the Church of God Eldership of North America. Eventually, he found himself a thirty-one year old widower en route to Nebraska’s frontier mission fields--a tribute to his success as an evangelist. Existing in poverty and hardship, Daniel proved a hearty but successful missionary - church planter.

Following his earlier conversion at the Cogswell School revival, he joined the newer, frontier denomination newly-founded by John Winebrenner. Winebrenner, unlike Warner, had already pastored four German Reformed congregations when he experienced Christ personally. Like Warner, however, he became an ardent revivalist. In this new-found zeal, Winebrenner sought and secured help from neighboring Methodist preachers who helped him evangelize their community.

This collaboration prompted Winebrenner’s eventual expulsion for “preaching experience.” With his friend, Philip Otterbein, Winebrenner began sponsoring reforms for personal behavior and pastoral practice, opposed by a majority of Reformed Churchmen. These so-called “New measures” and Winebrenner’s continued resistance led to his inevitable exit from the Reformed Church.

While Lutherans held to their rigid equating of the sacraments with salvation, Reformed influences moved from heart-felt religion to legalistic dogma. Thus, the Winebrennarian-Otterbein reform measures renewed the pietistic practices described earlier by Jacob Spener in his 1675 “Pia Desideria.”

Spener openly called for bible study in small groups, the priesthood of believers, practical and personal faith, loving relationships rather than argument, reforms in theological education, and spiritual preaching. Renewal of practical, bible-based faith formed the benchmark of Pietism and became foundational to the Anabapatist stepchildren of the Reformation and the Wesleyan revivals. This personal walk with God appealed to young Dan Warner.

Warner then spent ten years in successful evangelistic ministry before experiencing a total metamorphosis. At first, he blamed this new doctrine of sanctification on a man’s insanity. After scrutinizing it in the lives of the people he knew best—his wife and family--Warner relented and sought the experience. Midway through 1877, Daniel confessed, “I am resting on the promises of God to my entire sanctification.”3

Now preaching both salvation and sanctification, Warner utilized an additional gift he had discovered--pen preaching. This launched him into a new orbit of influence, submitting magazine articles, helping edit another magazine, publishing books, and writing poetry and music. He now journeyed on a highway that carried him from Rome City and Indianapolis, IN., to Cardington and Bucyrus, Ohio, to Williamston and Grand Junction, MI. The Grand Junction years proved Warner a viable publisher, with a vigorous preaching ministry, and the leading role model for a potentially dynamic reformation.

Warner waxed eloquent when he wrote his verse “Throwing Ink at the devil:”

. . .At a point where two lightning tracks lay crossing,
Northward, southward, east, and west,
God has planted there a Campbell mortar firing ink at satan’s crest. . .4

The lightning tracks reference the rail junction pictured on the left, in the rural community of Grand Junction, MI. It had two strong assets but existed without modern conveniences of any kind: (1) the strong evangelistic ministry of Joseph Fisher supported it, assisted by his supportive body of area believers and (2) a launch pad from which he could fire  his gospel missiles global-wide. Southern Michigan promised cheap fuel to fire his printing presses and offered a rail junction that made shipments of evangelistic literature possible on a global basis, often free and sometimes by the ton. 

Catalysts like S. Michels and J.C. Fisher paved the way for relocating to Grand Junction in 1886. Forests provided cheap wood. The new Kalamazoo-South Haven railroad provided the “two lightning tracks,” by intersecting the north-south Pere Marquette line from Grand Rapids at Grand Junction!      

By 1893, thirty-five adult workers and five children formed a skilled work force that became the voluntary historic “Trumpet Family.” By August 1895, Noah Byrum reported 7,500 Trumpets printing weekly, 3,000 paying customers in North America, 1,500 Trumpets distributed free to the poor and 850 weekly copies of the German Evangeliums Posauna, mostly distributed free (Trumpet/8-22-1895). Noting the shipments of literature sent abroad by the ton, Gale Hetrick concluded this “people who identified themselves with the publishing work had one goal: to get the word out” (Laughter Among the Trumpets/27, emphasis added).

Warner maintained his strenuous preaching pace until 1890 when declining health slowed him to a more studied pace. G. T. Clayton exemplified the feverish pace of Warner’s itinerant evangelism by traveling up and down the Ohio River from Pittsburg, preaching and planting churches wherever his refurbished Floating Bethel could dock. C. B. Mast led a similar venture. Warner dreamed of creating a gospel train for transporting a mobile publishing plant nationwide, but he never found sufficient support.

It doesn’t take very much smarts to know that you cannot know where you are going unless you know where you have been. I dare suggest we hardly know where we are today as a Movement because we so inadequately understand where we have been and what was our destination. Jim Lyons summarized it succinctly when he sent this tweet: “Knowing from where you came, where you are, and to what destination you are headed is key to knowing who you are, defining what you do.

Professor Smith rightfully capsulized our quest for a meaningful message in holiness and unity, but I have long considered our pursuit of Warner’s practice as utterly lacking when it comes to strategizing how to share the love of Jesus with an increasingly hostile world. Warner and his peers were driven by what I suggest is a third component that naturally accompanies holiness and unity. While we were so obsessed with being a “Reformation Movement church,” we simply failed to recognize that the further from Warner we grew in years, the more we lost his “sense” of urgency and passion to share God's love with the unchurched.

Some anguish with our loss of “denominational distinctives” while also  viewing “missional” churches and other so-designated churches as substandard to be avoided. Others are doing all they know to return our focus back toward Jesus and the mission of the cross as expressed in Luke 4:16-18 and elsewhere while trying to overcome the apathy and social disintegration restricting our message and hindering our mission today.   

If I understand anything at all about Warner, it is that he was not only gung ho for holiness and unity but he was for giving his best effort to reach the greatest number of people in the shortest time possible, using every means available.

I’m not sure we can say that today as a Movement. 
this is Warner’s World.