Attorney Norman Lamb and I made our way this past Saturday to Norman, Oklahoma to enjoy Oklahoma's 24-17 win of UAB. Some might say Oklahoma did not play well, but take it from someone who has seen the majority of home games at OU over the last 20 years --- UAB is a tough football team and will win 8 to 9 games this year.
The Governor's Reception
Prior to the game we attended two functions; a reception for Governor Henry and the dedication of the Heisman Park statue of former Sooner Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens. This post is dedicated to the first function.
The reception for Governor Henry took place at the magnificent home of a Norman, Oklahoma attorney who is assisting the Governor as he seeks to build up steam for his reelection bid this November.
I am a life long Republican. Former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating (1994-2002), a Republican, is a friend of mine who would often use my office in Enid when he was in the Northwest part of the state. Governor Brad Henry, elected in 2002, is a Democrat. However, when he was elected in 2002, he asked me to be a part of his Inaugural Prayer Service the following January. Needless to say I was surprised at his request, but I took the opportunity to try to say something meaningful and personal.
Years ago the Governor and First Lady lost a small child to death, a very painful, heartwrenching experience for both of them. Not many knew of this difficult experience for the Henrys, but I felt impressed by God to honor the memory of their child by weaving a brief message about the goodness and grace of God in times of difficulty.
I sought to show how we have a High Priest who "is touched with the feeling of our infirmities", and that during our times of our darkness and despair, we have a God who is not indifferent or cold, but grieves for us as a human father grieves over the pain in his child. I pointed out, however, that unlike a human father, our Heavenly Father has the power, and the desire, to work all of our trials ultimately for our good and His glory. I encouraged the Governor and his wife to remember that not all his days in office would be good days, but their compassionate God would be faithful to work even the dark, difficult days for their good.
The Governor and Kim seemed to be very grateful for the message, and though I had seen the Governor just a couple of times since the Inaugural, he was always very warm and friendly.
A Surprising Conversation
The attorney's home last Saturday afternoon was filled with prominent Oklahoma Democrats including Attorney General Drew Edmondson, National Democratic Leader Mike Turpin, current Lieutenant Governor hopeful Jari Askins and a host of others from throughout the state.
I tried to be a wall flower until my church member, Norman Lamb, made all the contacts he needed to make as the Governor's liason for Veteran Affairs. I was only there because Norman and I go together to the OU games, but before we left the reception I ended up having a very surprising conversation with the Governor.
When the Governor saw me he stepped out of his receiving line and pulled me aside for a conversation that lasted about five minutes. He said he had been following the events in the Southern Baptist Convention very closely. He wanted to offer me some encouragement. He said that he had been praying for me and my wife, and he was hopeful that the SBC would begin to recognize that we would be far more effective as a Convention if we could work together rather than label one another, take sides, and then seek to defeat one another politically. In other words, said the Governor, we all needed to realize we all are on the same team.
The Governor is a Southern Baptist. He is a member of a Southern Baptist church in Oklahoma that is considered "moderate." I found it interesting, however, that even a politician like Governor Henry, recognized that in the evangelical Christian world there is very little benefit in partisian politics, and a great deal of benefit in teamwork. He then called his wife over and we visited a few more minutes about other matters before he went back to the receiving line.
The Lesson for Me
I have many, many friends who love Jesus, worked hard for the conservative "resurgence" in the Southern Baptist Convention, and are currently leaders in the SBC. I love them all and am grateful for their convictions, their service and their leadership.
Some of my conservative friends are on the direct opposite pole of Governor Henry politically (as am I on many issues), but the last time I checked, the Southern Baptist Convention has as a purpose the propagation of the gospel, not a specific political idealogy. I think one of the reasons I have a personal relationship with the Governor is because I do not let the differences between us put a wedge in our relationship as evangelical Christians, much less Southern Baptists.
I am beginning to see a growing desire among many Southern Baptists, including those of us who are considered conservative, that we lay aside our political differences and third tier doctrinal differences for the sake of the gospel.
It would be a wonderful day in the SBC if the people who make up the Southern Baptist Convention including Democrats and Republicans, men and women, blacks and whites, tongues speakers and non-tongues speakers, one point Calvinists and five point Calvinists, Landmarkers and non-Landmarkers, could lay aside all our differences and join hands for the proclamation of Christ and Him crucified to a world in need of a Savior.
May God grant it.
In His Grace,