Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Whom He Called; Them He Also Justified

This morning, April 8, 2008, I was reading again from the book of Romans and came across Chapter 8 and verse 30. It reminded me of how God so often has intervened in my life and shown me that He was with me in the efforts I have made for His work. I had been going through a particularly difficult time in my relationship with some of my ministry colleagues. They were saying that my proposed M.E.D.I.C. meeting was too much trouble; too expensive; impractical; would not work; etc. and etc. Still I felt driven to try and make this happen. I wanted to bring all the missionaries, overseers and educational directors and their spouses who were working in the 32 countries of Africa which I supervise to Cleveland, Tennessee for this meeting. After all, they were on their way to the General Assembly and this would save money. I knew it would be expensive as I would have to find funds to pay for their trip from Atlanta and back, plus pay for their housing for three nights in a hotel here, plus purchase food for them. My calculations showed that it would cost around $35,000.00 for this meeting. But I felt compelled to have this meeting for them here, to give them a chance to see their General Headquarters and to meet some of our leadership here.

In the spring of that year, (2006) Frances and I had driven to Indianapolis, Indiana for a missions service on Friday night. We then drove to Mishawaka on Saturday night for another missions service where we were supposed to meet the pastors of two other churches which we were to speak for on Sunday morning and Sunday night. This was a common method of operation for those of us involved in raising funds for World Missions.

When we met the Pastor on Saturday night, his gushing greeting went something like this: "Oh Brother and Sister Brannen! We're SO glad to have you coming to our church in the morning. We SO look forward to ministering to you both and having you with us in our service. -- But, I'll be doing the preaching." Now it seemed awful to me that after having driven over 500 miles one way to represent the World Missions department and speak to the people about missions, that the pastor thought he should do the preaching. My thoughts raced, "Just tell him not to worry...that you and Frances can get a motel on your way home and it will be o.k." However, I swallowed real hard (pride is very difficult to swallow) and said, "O-O-O-O K!" with emphasis on the long, drawn out, “O”.

Needless to say, I was disappointed -- but next morning, before the regular service we met with the "elders" in the pastor’s office to pray. During that prayer the pastor said, “I feel that we need to pray for Sister Brannen. Sister Brannen, is there something special you need from God?” “Yes, I'm diabetic and my sugar is extremely out of balance.” They prayed for Frances and God gave her a healing which brought her sugar down to normal levels for the next several weeks. Then in the service I was given 3 minutes to greet the congregation. I paid close attention to my watch while saying, "Thank You for supporting World Missions and for supporting Frances and me." As the second hand of my watch swept across twelve I was on my way to my assigned seat on the front row.

Then the pastor took the pulpit to preach. However, before the Pastor preached he said he felt led to ask his congregation to come and lay hands on these dear missionaries and pray for them. He asked his "armor-bearers" to bring two chairs and place them in front of the pulpit and asked Frances and me to sit in them and let the people pray for us. As they came to pray they would shake our hands, lay hands on our heads and/or shoulders while some put offerings into our hands. (Just over $1200 in cash was given! Reflecting on this later I thought that was a much better offering than I would have gotten had I preached!)

Of more value than any amount of money was the following incident during the prayer. One of his older men (I assumed to be in his early 50's) stopped everything and said, "Brother Brannen, God has told me to tell you that those whom He has called, these he has also justified. And those whom he justified, them he also sanctified. Now what that means to you is that God is in charge; God is the one who called you, it is He who has put these thoughts and ideas into your mind. You don't need anyone else to approve it."

Others prayed a few minutes and the same man came back and basically stated the same thing again. He said something like, "Brother Brannen, I don't know what it is that God has put in your heart to do -- but God says again that you are to ignore the "nay-sayers" and do what He said to do. Some are saying it is too expensive, too much trouble, it's impractical and you shouldn't try it. But God says to tell you that He is the one who has called you, he is the one who justified you, he sanctified you, he put the ideas into your head and you don't need any committee nor any other person to approve it. Just DO it!!!"

As you might imagine – by that time my chest felt like it was about to explode with joy and confidence and the presence of God! By the way, it is in this context that a favorite verse of mine and of many others is found: “If God be for us, who can be against us.”
A study of Romans 11:29 reveals, "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." I like part of Dake's comments on this verse: "This not only applies to the gifts and callings of Israel, but to any individual whom God calls or gives a gift. God does not change His mind as if He made a mistake. People may fail Him so that He cannot fulfill such callings with them, but when, if ever, they come back to repentance God holds them to the original obligation to obey Him." (Emphasis added) So -- whoever you are, when the enemy of your soul tells you that you are a failure, that you have messed up to0 bad to ever make it again, remember that God knew all about you. He understood your psyche and knew your strengths and all of your weaknesses when He called you to serve Him. He chose you anyway. He does not apologize for it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Real Fred Brannen

Will the real Fred Brannen please step up?

Over the Palm Sunday week-end, while we were celebrating Mom's 87th birthday we stayed at Fred Brannen's home. You see, Fred Hance Brannen, Junior is my first cousin, the son of my father’s brother, the original Fred Brannen (deceased) and ... Fred Hance Brannen, II (the one we’ve always called Fred Junior) lives in Inverness, Florida where he works for the Brannen Banks of Florida. Confused yet? Well there is more. Let me see if I can clarify this.

As my father (Louis Alton Brannen) explained to me, he felt extremely close to his brother, Fred Brannen and would do most anything possible to make him know that. When his brother (Fred Brannen) knew that Dad was expecting his wife to give birth to me, he asked Daddy to name me Fred. Daddy said that he (Dad) protested this request because he figured that when my Uncle Fred had his own son he would name him Fred and there would be confusion. Uncle Fred vowed emphatically that he would NEVER name a son of his, Fred. Never-the-less, because of the very special relationship they had and in honor of his brother Dad and Mom named me Fred Brannen but with Alton, my Dad's middle name, as my middle name. Always, from the beginning, I was called Alton. So when Uncle Fred’s firstborn came along he was true to his word and named his son – guess what? No. Not Fred. William. So, see? No confusion exists yet.

However – by the time Uncle Fred’s second son was born my Uncle’s spirit had mellowed a bit and he named his second son – Yes, Fred. Still no confusion in the family because whenever we got together, which was twice a year (at Christmas and the week school was out in the spring) we called Uncle Fred’s son Fred Junior and I was always known as Alton. So how did I become Fred Brannen? It occurred in 1953 when we moved from the little 5-roomed school house in Campaign, Tennessee to New Orleans, Louisiana (via a three-week tour of Daddy serving as Pastor of the Tullahoma, Tennessee Church of God). At the Campaign school while I was in the 7th and 8th grades the same teacher taught both grades simultaneously. The town of Campaign had about 300 population. Our school teacher not only taught 7th and 8th grades but also served as principal of the school. In addition he was the Sunday School Superintendent and choir leader at the church Dad pastored. Did this give me special status?

If I had any special status or recognition in Campaign it was totally un-recognized when we reached the new church in New Orleans. This town had about 500,000 population (1/2 a million people) at that time. The Francis T. Nichols school which I attended was only one of hundreds of schools in that city. There were as many students in my school as the whole population of Campaign. On registration day I was half scared to death as I sat listening to strangers and trying to fill out my registration cards for each of my 5 (or was it 6?) classes. A strange male teacher took a yardstick in his hand and slammed it down on the desk (flat side down) so that it sounded like a gun-shot. Then he began to give instructions about how to fill out registration cards. “Now! Print!” he barked. “Last name! First Name! Middle initial!” So I printed with trembling hand and ashened face, "Brannen – Fred – A."

So – what’s the big deal? Nothing. Nothing at all. That is until the day I got sick at school and went to the office to ask permission to go home. The secretary asked me for my home phone number. I dutifully gave it to her. She then dialed and said, “Hello, your son Fred is sick and has asked to come home from school. We always check to make sure someone is at home before allowing them to leave school.” I could not hear the other side of the conversation but the secretary soon hung up. Turning to me she said, “Hmmm. Wrong number. Now what did you say your phone number is?” I repeated the number and the secretary dialed and went through the spiel again. This time, Mom repeated what she had said the first time. “I’m sorry, we don’t have a son named Fred – Oh WAIT! I’m sorry. Yes, we do have a son named Fred. He is Fred Alton and you can send him home!”

So still no troubles with Fred Junior here. It was only much later – when one of his daughters and one of my daughters were attending Lee College. We received a letter in the mail from Fred Junior with his personal note inside saying he was happy to receive any mail for our daughter Tabitha – except when they sent him her school bill!

O.K. Now – at the current time there are four living men with the name “Fred” Brannen, and all in our family. There is me, Fred Alton. There is Fred Junior, or Fred Hance Brannen, II. Then there is Fred Junior’s son, Fred Hance Brannen, III, otherwise known as “Son Fred” and there is “Son Fred’s” son, Fred Hance Brannen, IV, who is called “Little Fred”. I’m honored to be just one of those who carry the name of Fred in honor of Fred Hance Brannen the First. Thank’s Uncle Fred!

About Me

My photo
Cleveland, TN, United States
I am Fred Alton Brannen, the son of Louis A. Brannen (deceased) and Bonnie Jones Brannen, Louis was an Ordained Bishop with the Church of God. Bonnie is an Ordained Licensed Minister and at 89 years of age is still actively engaged in speaking and singing engagements. I am married to the former Frances Hildreth. We celebrated 53 years of marriage this past June and we are the parents of 3, grand-parents of 10, and great-grandparents of 10. I pastored in Tennessee for 24 years and served the Church in some capacity in missions for over 23 years. I retired from full-time ministry in August of 2008 but remain active, speaking and singing and teaching whenever opportunity affords itself. In January of 2010 I received a letter of commendation for having been credentialed as a minister in the Church of God for 50 years! My family is very important to me. Our get togethers are always noisy affairs and most times will include family sing-alongs. The children love their Mom's cooking so we have the privilege of seeing them regularly! WE LOVE having them over.

TheCabin on Day One

TheCabin on Day One
Fred Alton