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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




The Front Page: Part Two

June 9, 2013
 

Editorially Speaking: A Sea of Yellow Ribbon Said, "Welcome Back!"
Robert C. Cunningham — February 22, 1981

Robert C. Cunningham served as Stanley H. Frodsham’s assistant editor for several years. Frodsham characterized Cunningham as “a born editor,” so it was no surprise that Cunningham followed Frodsham as editor. Cunningham adeptly guided the
Pentecostal Evangel for nearly 35 years and oversaw a period of progress and explosive growth. This entry takes us back to a significant event in our nation’s history.

“They are free at last! Praise the Lord!”

This was the reaction of praying people all over America to the news that the 52 hostages held captive in Iran for 444 days were alive and well and on their way home.

One of President Reagan’s first acts in his new administration was to proclaim Thursday, January 29, a national day of thanksgiving.

A sea of yellow ribbon greeted the former hostages in the U.S. and the people were singing: “Tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree. It’s been three long years, do you still want me?” The song talks about a man returning to his wife after three years in prison.

Of course, the hostages had not been in prison for any crime, but were innocent victims of Iran’s wrath against the Shah. But there was no doubt about the way America felt toward them. Everywhere they went the welcome was tumultuous. The nation was proud of the rare courage and amazing patience these 52 men and women showed during their imprisonment.

Their first stop in the U.S. was West Point, N.Y., where many loved ones were waiting. Here the liberated hostages “offered prayers of gratitude in a chapel service,” The Associated Press reported, “and sang the songs that kept their faith alive during their long ordeal in Iran.

“The hostages, reunited at last with their loved ones, sang ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ ‘How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings,’ ‘O God Our Help in Ages Past,’ and ‘Now Thank We All Our God.’”

Kathryn Koob, 43, one of the two women among the hostages, was quoted as saying: “The service looked like it had been designed by us. The hymns that were sung were all those very meaningful to us and ones we sang in captivity. It was incredible.” (It was Miss Koob who sang “Away in a Manger” on television last Christmas during the time her captors gave her to send a message home.)

The yellow ribbon was especially appropriate as a mark of humiliation, reminding us of a yellow Star of David the Jewish people in Germany were forced to wear in the Nazi era. The imprisonment of the hostages was a humiliation of the entire American people, and the jubilation over their release was a tremendous sigh of relief that America was hostage no longer.

There is a gospel message in the yellow ribbon. It reminds us how we were separated from God, alienated by our sins. Like the prodigal son, we had wandered far from home; but when we returned to our Heavenly Father, we found Him waiting to welcome us back.

Various versions of the story used to be told a generation ago. One version told of a young man in Pennsylvania who left the farm and went to the city where he plunged deeply into sin. For a long time his parents did not hear from him, but eventually he grew weary of city life and longed to be home.

But he was ashamed of the way he had treated his parents and wondered if they would take him back. He took a train; but when he got to the old home station, he lost his nerve and went on to another station. Then he mailed a letter home and asked his parents’ forgiveness. He told them he would be coming by in a few days, and said, “If you can forgive me, please hang a sheet on the clothesline as a sign.”

You can imagine the rest. When the young man passed the farm, all the sheets in the house were hanging out!

There’s no doubt about the way God receives sinners who return to Him. His mercy and love are beyond measure.


Viewpoint: Church Spectators
Richard G. Champion — September 2, 1990

Richard Champion, who had served as Robert C. Cunningham’s managing editor, followed Cunningham as editor in 1984. The next decade saw the magazine thrive under his leadership. In 1993 Champion was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. He passed away the following year. A moving and extensive tribute to Champion was published in the July 3, 1994,
Pentecostal Evangel.

Maybe the trend has gone too far to be stopped. But I felt it is worth another consideration rather than mere blind acceptance. And since this is Music Month, maybe this is a good time to think about it.

The trend of which I write is our tendency, in church services, to applaud — especially musicians. Now I can appreciate the time and effort that goes into a musical presentation. I can understand the desire of the audience to express thanks to the performers for their talent. But therein lies the problem, as I see it. Applause tends to focus attention on the performer or the performance. Psychologically it makes spectators of the people in the congregation; they are merely expressing appreciation for a job well done. We must never forget we all need to be participants, not spectators. Jesus said His Father desires those who worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).

Another part of the problem is that applause tends to discourage both quiet worship and vocal praise to God. I’m sure you have been in services where spontaneous praise to the Lord followed the special music. Then someone began to clap, and the spirit of praise lifted. I sense a number of people have ambivalent feelings on this. They are uncomfortable with clapping for everyone and everything; yet since this seems to be the trend, they don’t want to be out of step.

Obviously clapping is appropriate at times in church. There is the exuberant rhythmical clapping as we sing a gospel song and the applause of appreciation for someone given a significant honor. I have also seen congregations blessed by a spontaneous clap offering unto the Lord.

But other applause can easily substitute for praise and worship. I raise my voice again on this because I feel it is important for us to think about what we are doing. The Psalms close with, “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord” (Psalm 150:6, KJV). Since He inhabits the praises of His people, certainly part of that praise should be the “fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

Now God doesn’t have to hear our voices; He knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts. I believe we are the ones encouraged and strengthened when we offer vocal praise to the Lord. It helps lift us out of ourselves and our doldrums into an awareness of whom we are serving and how great He is. He is worthy of our praise. Applause tends to make us spectators. Vocal praise helps us to be participants.

Notice Isaiah 40:9,10: “Lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord God will come ... his reward is with him.”

Perhaps it wouldn’t be presumptuous for musicians, before they sing or play, to say, “Please don’t applaud at the end of my song. Let’s give the glory to Jesus.” And we could all say, “Amen.”


Viewpoint: Plumb Lines
John T. Maempa — November 29, 1992

John Maempa served as managing editor of the
Pentecostal Evangel prior to the death of Richard Champion. He stepped in to lead the magazine as interim editor from July 1994 to March 19, 1995. The following Viewpoint is from his tenure as managing editor.

A plumb line is a simple instrument. Rummage through any carpenter’s toolbox, and you will find a heavy cone-shaped object, resembling a top, attached to a long string. When suspended and held motionless, it provides an exact standard for straightness. Placed against a wall it will quickly show whether the wall is straight or “true to plumb.”

Plumb lines have been around for a long time, even dating back to Old Testament days. You will find one mentioned in the Book of Amos. There, however, the issue is not the straightness of the wall, but the walk.

The southern kingdom of Judah had real problems spiritually. It seems the people felt all God required was that they observe certain rites; and once they had done so, they could live as they well pleased. Today they might have said, “I go to church, pay my tithes, sing in the choir, take Communion — and I’m nice to my neighbors. Surely God doesn’t expect any more of me.”

Wrong. In Amos chapter 7 the Lord appeared to the prophet in a vision standing by a wall with a plumb line in His hand. He told Amos, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer” (Amos 7:8, NIV). The nation was not true to plumb spiritually. They had allowed the pagan culture around them to draw them away from the standards set in God’s law. They were going trough the motions and nothing more. Like the Israelites in Isaiah’s day and the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, the condemnation was, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8).

Over the years, many very direct sermons have been preached on the issue of standards. Some have covered the waterfront from clothes to card games, from sports to the electronic media. True, some threw out the baby with the bath water. Others were overly cautious. Yet, as the prophets of old, many of our forefathers and predecessors cast a wary eye toward the horizon and saw the ever-so-subtle encroachments of the enemy. And despite ridicule they sounded warnings to the church.

Today warnings are still being sounded. Some, however, do not give heed. Taboos once strictly regarded are being cast aside. Forms of entertainment and amusement formerly avoided are being endorsed by presence and purse. We must be careful.

Peter wrote, “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15,16). Paul urged the Corinthians to separate themselves from worldly influences (2 Corinthians 6:17). He exhorted the Romans not to be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2). These apply to us today too. The plumb lines of God’s Word have not changed. They remain established where they were set in ages past. Our walk too will be measured by them.


Editor's Journey: Unsung Heroes
Hal Donaldson — December 29, 1996

This editorial introduced a whole issue of the
Pentecostal Evangel on the topic of “The Unseen Faithful.” Hal Donaldson, who served as editor from 1995 to 2008, took the lessons he learned and formed them into a life of service, co-founding one of the nation’s finest compassion ministries, Convoy of Hope, where he serves today as full-time president.

Grand Canyon — Peering over the railing at the maze of hollow ground, I reflected on my first visit to the Grand Canyon as a boy. My eyes welled with tears as I recalled how, at age 12, I sensed God’s presence at the bottom of this massive chasm.

My father had been hit and killed by a drunk driver, and resentment and questions were swirling in my mind: Did God cause my dad to die? Did He allow him to die? Or, did it just happen by chance?

God acknowledged my questions. He took notice of the tears that evaporated into my pillow. He saw my tattered shoes and meager lunches. He watched as I stepped to home plate in Little League games without a father cheering from the bleachers. But God was more than a distant Observer. He sent unsung heroes to remind me of His love and provision.

Bill and Louvada Davis took my three younger siblings and me into their home while our hospitalized mother recuperated from the accident. Pastor Raymond and Barbara Horwege and several youth pastors ensured we stayed on the straight and narrow. And my Sunday School teachers, Bill and Berdie Nelson, accepted me as a son. Each one, in a unique way, conveyed the message that God knew where I was.

The hike

Shortly after my father’s death, a man in the church invited me to join him on a YMCA-sponsored hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Surely Alfred Paul didn’t need another kid to supervise on a bus already packed with teenagers, but he saw it as an opportunity to influence a young life.

After hiking all day, we roasted marshmallows and prayed around the campfire. “God is with you, Hal,” he said. “He won’t let you down. Trust Him.”

Sliding into my sleeping bag one night, I remember staring at the stars and saying, “God, if You can create the Grand Canyon and the universe, I believe You can take care of me. I’m scared. I’m lonely. And I need Your help.”

That night I didn’t witness a darting light in the sky or have some mysterious visitation. But somehow I knew God had heard me, and He would honor His pledge to be a Father to the fatherless. (See Psalm 68:5.)

Faithful

I will never forget the hope and encouragement I received from Alfred — one of God’s unseen faithful. He knew that helping a fatherless boy would not win him stardom or accolades. But Alfred wasn’t interested in earthly rewards. He just wanted to serve God by serving others. (See 1 Corinthians 3:5, NIV.)

This issue of the Pentecostal Evangel is dedicated to the unseen faithful — nursery attendants, Sunday School teachers, Missionettes and Royal Rangers leaders, janitors, greeters, ushers, altar workers, visitation workers, intercessors and more. Thank you for all you do to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Vantage Point: What If We're Wrong?
Ken Horn — March 25, 2001

Ken Horn has been editor of the
Pentecostal Evangel since September 2008. He served as the publication’s managing editor from January 1997 through August 2008.

The fax began, “I usually enjoy your editorials.” Uh, oh. That word “usually” is a tip-off there’s something bad coming. And so there was. The sentence continued, “but this one was nauseating. ... ” For some masochistic reason I kept reading. “You started off with an interesting story and then spoiled it with half-wit, ‘prolier’ rhetoric.”

The writer’s word “prolier” is a play on the word “pro-lifer,” meaning a person holding to the pro-life position on abortion. His fax was a criticism of the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday issue of the Pentecostal Evangel (Jan. 21, 2001). My column took the brunt of the writer’s attack, though four of our other authors in the issue were tarred with the same brush.

After four years at the Evangel, I have learned you have to laugh through some of the criticism (though constructive criticism is appreciated), but this one was too tragic to laugh at.

“Hopefully, you are aware there is no such thing as ‘tiny unborn children,’” the fax continued. “Babies are not aborted,” he said. His description of a 7-week-old fetus: “You could not tell at this stage if it was a chicken or a pig embryo.”

I’d like to approach this issue by asking both sides to consider this question: What if we’re wrong?

What if pro-life, anti-abortion people are wrong? What would the consequences be if abortion were “wrongfully” outlawed?

Inconvenience. Women would have to go through the physical discomfort of carrying a child till birth; men would “suffer” from the necessity to take some responsibility for that life. For couples who choose not to keep the child, there are people all over the nation waiting to adopt babies. Another by-product would be that individuals, knowing they could not easily end a pregnancy, would think twice about promiscuity. It would cut down on sexual license and, thus, decrease sexually transmitted diseases.

What if the so-called pro-choice people are wrong? Then 1.3 million human beings will die needlessly again this year.

Whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, what is the real choice? What are the consequences if you’re wrong?

Pro-life: inconvenience.

Pro-choice: mass human destruction.

And what does each position offer if right?

Pro-choice: freedom to pursue a selfish lifestyle that cares little for how it adversely affects others.

Pro-life: a heightened awareness of the value of life, a more moral society, fewer personal tragedies, and future Beethovens, Einsteins or Billy Grahams given a chance to live.

The choice is obvious, so why is it such a problem? Why do so many intelligent people fight for such a transparent, destructive philosophy? It’s because the real issue is spiritual blindness. What reasonable civilized human being, unless spiritually blind, would even remotely risk taking a human life ... for the sake of convenience?

Email your comments to pe@ag.org.