Saturday, January 10, 2009
The Blessing Does Not Leave
Many years ago, when I was just out of college in 1986 or so, I lived in St. Petersburg, Florida for approximately a year before returning to Georgia to become an educational therapist and then, a public school teacher. It was during this time that I was working out my disillusionment with the Reverend Jerry Falwell. I was learning the dangers of placing a person on a pedestal.
I went to Amy Grant and Steve Camp concerts. I listened to groups like 2nd Chapter of Acts, Randy Stonehill, Michael W. Smith and Russ Taff. There was a second hand Christian music store called Weird Al's that I loved shopping in.
Along the way, I happened to pick up a tape of a Christian comedian named Mike Warnke. He was an effective speaker, and had an excellent sense of humor. So, I started buying his cassette tapes as well, whenever a new one would come out. I would listen and laugh, and play his tapes over and over again. I still have several of his cassette tapes to this day, the pack rat that I am.
Mike Warnke had a testimony of being a former satanic high priest, and his account of being rescued by God from this life was quite gripping. He was in high demand as a speaker around the country, visiting churches and auditoriums. Mike was saved in Navy boot camp, so we both had that mutual experience- I had just finished Coast Guard boot camp a year or two earlier.
Unknown by me, however, was the fact that while being a traveling evangelist, Mike himself was an incredibly flawed and very human individual. He was unable to stay faithful to his wife, and the wife he married thereafter, and the wife he married thereafter. His emotional appeals for donations at the end of his services contained stories which were not altogether true. He evidently had obtained some kind of independent ordination so that he might claim the title of "bishop." He had written a best selling book called "The Satan Seller" which contained a detailed account of his testimony, and was quoted by news agencies as an authority on the subject. Some parts of his testimony were evidently, embellished though, and I say this conservatively.
Years went by and I eventually started my career as a teacher. While searching through the internet one day, I happened upon an article that revealed the truth of Mike's hypocrisy. It was filled with footnotes, and the evidence was not pretty. A link to the article can be found [here.]
Was I disappointed and saddened by what I had learned? Sure! But there is more to this story than the fallibility of one man. That is, that all of us, in one way or another are Mike Warnke. We are no more better than he, for if our thought lives were to be exposed in the way that Mike's personal life was exposed in such a public way, there is not one of us who could claim to be "better." Indeed, we are *all* in the same boat, regarding sin. All of us. There is none righteous. No, not one. It was in self introspection that I thought of this man who had started his ministry wanting to serve God. I had considered going into the ministry myself as a senior in high school, in fact, debating between going to Florida Bible College and Maryville College. What had happened along the way? If I had gone into the ministry, could I say that I would have done any better?
So, what can we get from this story?
First, be wary of placing people on pedestals, for as surely as night follows day, people will eventually disappoint you. Whether that will be a pastor, your parents, a teacher, a friend, Billy Graham, George Bush, Barack Obama- we are all tragically flawed, in one way or another. There is only one who will never disappoint, only one who is perfect: Jesus of Nazareth.
Secondly, our sin points to the need for redemption. My sin. Your sin. That redemption is found in the blood that Jesus shed on the cross, God's perfect sacrifice on our behalf. All that is needed to credit this to our accounting is faith.
Third, about two to three years ago I was driving around town in my truck. Along with the other junk I usually carry along with myself is a bunch of old cassette tapes. One of the tapes happened to be one of Mike Warnke's old appearances. As I listened, knowing what I did of Mike's life, I began to cry. Not in sorrow, but in joy, laughing as I did. Why, you ask? Because the blessing of listening to his stories had not left. The blessing had come from God, not Mike. In fact, knowing what I did then made the blessing even more special, as it showed the incredible forgiveness, and love, of God.
Consequently, do not lose heart in seeking to do good, and to help and bless others. For one never knows from the seeds that are sown what may become of them, in spite of our incredible inadequacies. God can use us- all we have to do is yield and say, "Yes."