Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tag Team Teaching

Last Sunday, my brother Lowell went with me to the Tellico Plains Church of God to help me teach the Sunday School lesson for the Sanctuary Class. We are coming rapidly to a close of studying "Through The Bible in One Year" in our class and the lesson for the day was on 2nd Peter and Jude. We only have 45 minutes to teach - so naturally we cannot cover all the wonderful teaching contained in those two books - but after 20 minutes on 2nd Peter, I walked back to where he was sitting and gave him the "tag". He immediately jumped into the ring and began to deliver the teachings of the book of Jude about "false teachers" in such a positive and faith-building way! After we arrived and before Sunday School started, Pastor Paul Fritts also asked my brother to deliver the sermon. He did a fantastic job on both presentations! Thanks Lowell!!!

Regrettably I forgot to take his picture while he was teaching or preaching - but here's one of him with son Jonathan graduating from college.

Today I visited the Theological Seminary's Chapel service (11:00 - 12:00) because I had learned that one of my favorite Theologians (Dr. James Beaty) was giving a presentation on the "Continuing Influence of the Church of God Teachings and Practical Commitments". On Tuesday, Dr. R. Hollis Gause (another of my favorites) had taught on "The Historical Development of Church of God Doctrine". It's great to have these men still with us (Beaty and Gause) who were part of shaping our statements - and hearing some of the dynamics that influenced them. I learned today (can you believe it?) that American Wesleyan teaching is a good bit different from what Wesley originally taught. I wish I could remember all the good things they said. It was quite revealing to learn that one of our "prime movers" in the late 1800s and early 1900s was totally against the church having any "creed" or "doctrines of men" and taught that we should use only the New Testament for our statements of faith and doctrine.

Left to right: Dr. Stephen Land; Dr. Hollis Gause; Dr. David Roebuck and Dr. James Beaty. These men are pillars in the movement known as the Church of God with International Headquarters in Cleveland, TN.

The teaching session was followed up with a panel which included Dr's Beaty and Gause, who were joined at the table by Dr. David Roebuck (Church Historian) and Dr. Stephen Land (President of the Seminary). After the session concluded I was able to get this picture of the four leaders. Two of them have agreed to accompany me in the coming weeks as guest Sunday School teacher at the Tellico Plains Church of God where I teach the Sanctuary Sunday School Class. To say "I'm excited" about that prospect is an understatement!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lowell And Janis Singing His Song

I looked back in my files and found this home-made video of my brother Lowell and his wife Janis singing the song he wrote "He's Got It All Under His Control". I have mixed emotions each time I hear them do it - sort of like great joy - swelling up out of a soul that remembers keenly the deep sadness we were feeling while his life was in such turmoil. Does that make any sense? Hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Friday, September 17, 2010

He's Got It All Under His Control

Due to my youngest Brother Lowell's comment on my last post, I am posting again about the general subject of "God In Control" His comment on my last post here was the words to a song he wrote several years ago and that he and his wife sing for us at family gatherings and at church. I'll never forget the day he was in the hospital in Monroe, Louisiana with five major bone breaks in his body, caused by a head-on collision with a drunk driver. His first wife was killed instantly. He was knocked out and did not know anything. He had been there for several weeks and we all thought he might not survive. On Tuesday I was the one sitting with him when the doctor came into the waiting room and called me to show me X-rays of crushed bone marrow that had now entered his lungs. The doc stated to me, "If there is anyone in your family that you want to see your brother before he dies, get them here before Friday. When these crushed pieces of bone enter his brain, he is dead! He cannot survive." I remember saying to the Doctor, "Sir, you do everything in your power to help him and I and our family will be in earnest prayer. We believe that God is able to heal him." Friday came and his body struggled. Our faith wavered but held on tenuously. We were all exhausted from sleepless nights and worrisome days. At times we were ready to give up - But we kept praying. It's hard to believe that it has been so long ago, but he got out of the hospital and returned to his pastorate. He retired about the same time I did. He remarried, fathered two more children (who are now both married) and is a blessing to others wherever he goes. I'm going to look for a picture of him and his new wife.

This picture was made in May of this year at one of our family "get-togethers".

For a long while his signature song was Andre Crouch's "Through It All". Then God gave him the following words - which he titled, "He's Got It All Under His Control". Wish you ALL (my blogger friends) could hear them play and sing it!

During one of those days when our faith was being stretched to the limit, Mama said something like, "If I knew that he would survive this and get his health back - then fall into sin - I'd rather God would take him on now because I know He is ready to meet God." Then one of the family members said, "Well, the same God who can heal him can also keep him saved!" Yes - we believe it in our family...GOD IS IN CONTROL.

Thanks for the words to your song Brother! I love you.

Battles all around me were raging.
The clouds in the sky were so dark.
My ship was tossing on life's sea.
My life was just about to come apart.
But I put my trust in my Jesus,
For I had heard that He's the master of the sea.
He said, "Peace! Be still!" and the winds did obey Him.
Now I'm celebrating victory.

He's got it all under His control,
And everything is gonna be alright.
He's got it all under His control,
In the day and in the middle of the night.
He's got it all under His control,
And I can see because He is the light.
Though the battle everywhere, all around is raging,
He's got it all under His control.

This is Jonathan (Lowell and Janis' 27 year old son) and his wife, Kristen. Lowell - you may need to correct me on how old he is. They also have a daughter (Jennifer) who is married to a great guy named Bill. Lowell's oldest son, Stephen Brannen, is in the Air-Force band and is an outstanding musician. Stephen's sister Tammy is worship and praise leader in the church she attends. Sorry - but I couldn't find a decent picture of the others tonight.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

God Is In Control

Me teaching the class in Cameroon, Sept 2001

God is in Control!

I had heard that statement many, many times throughout my life. My life had (in some ways) been quite sheltered. First, and foremost, I was shielded by my parents; my school teachers; the police; and I learned in school that we Americans were sheltered by our soldiers. I gave my life in total surrender to Jesus Christ at an old-fashioned altar of prayer when I was only 8 years of age. I accepted His "call" to ministry when I was 11 years old. I felt a "call" to missionary work when I was just 16 years of age. So - yes, I had heard those words many, many times before. "God is in control." At 18 years of age I joined the United States Coast Guard to serve the country which had given me so much. Just a few days after being dis-charged from the service, at the age of 22 I was appointed to be pastor of my first church. On September 11, 2001, I was 62 years of age, having pastored for 24 years. I had served as missionary in Guyana, South America for 3 and 1/2 years. I had lived in Nairobi, Kenya for 10 years and served as Overseer (Supervisor) of our churches in that nation. Now I was serving my 3rd year as Field Director of our Churches in 32 nations on the continent of Africa. (If you think about it - I had to believe that "God is in Control" or I would have fallen out by the wayside by this time.)

Sure. I have had to ask the Lord many questions. I have gone through days, weeks, maybe months of doing what I knew was the right thing to do without feeling that strong assurance that God is in Control. I prayed when I felt nothing. I preached and felt nothing. I read the Bible at times and it seemed to be just words. Then it occurred to me - is this not living a life of faith as opposed to feeling?

Me Teaching in Malawi, East Africa

But today, September 11, 2001, that infamous day of the mass murder and destruction of so many Americans by the radical Al Qaeda movement, when I heard the news from my wife on the cell phone in Yaounde, Cameroon, I FELT it and I knew it. In fact, I was MORE SURE THAN EVER that God is in Control. My most disturbing feeling was the fact that I could not touch my beloved wife and calm her fears. Yes, I tried to say it over the phone with words - but words over a cell phone from far-away Africa seemed so weak to me at that moment. I thought, "If only I could touch her hand, pull her close to me, wrap my arms around her and say it softly and calmly, then she would be comforted." But I heard myself saying with what seemed to me to be empty voice, "It's o.k., honey. God is in control. We're gonna be o.k.."

The leader of our churches in Cameroon only had local TV hook-up but he immediately went out and purchased cable hook-up so that we were able to watch CNN on the TV set in his living room. There was an outpouring of Christian concern shown for me as we watched the repeated reports of the planes hitting the towers, the Pentagon, and the third plane going down killing all on board. The brothers and sisters in the Bible Study asked what I wanted to do.

I remember that it was Tuesday and my plane was not due to leave until Monday. I knew of nothing better to do than continue with our program which was due to close on Sunday. We were starting the morning from 08:00 to 09:00 hours with prayer followed by Bible Study from 0900 to 1200. Lunch was 1200 to 1400. Another Bible Study began at 1400 to 1700. I was being assisted by our Christian Education Director who also sought to comfort me by saying he was willing to take a double load and teach both his subject and mine. I asked, "Then what would I do with the extra time? I would just watch the CNN news and perhaps become depressed. We decided to go ahead with our regular schedule.

How could I be so calm? I was asked. It was because I knew that God was in Control.

Getting Ready to Preach in Zambia, Central Africa

We heard Friday night that planes were moving again. On Saturday afternoon someone took me to the airline ticket office to see if we could re-schedule. "No flights are allowed into or out of America", they said. I then asked if they could fly me up to Zurich where I could find suitable lodging. They said, "We can fly you to Europe but you cannot stay in Zurich for too many Americans are there now awaiting the first flight back to the USA." So - I booked a flight to Bremerhaven, Germany, where we had friends.

Visiting one of our Missionary Doctors in Uganda

There are many other details which would show you that GOD IS IN CONTROL but time and space and will-power to write are lacking. You, dear friend, would grow weary of reading. Let me just conclude that I was able to get to Zurich and purchase the last seat available on the first airplane allowed to fly from Zurich back to Atlanta. I was home with my wife and children 24 full hours ahead of schedule. Yes - Nine years ago today I knew full well that GOD IS IN CONTROL.

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