"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

To See Jakie Sandefer's Legacy Just Look Around

My friend Jakie Sandefer died last night.

It's an odd quirk of Oklahoma University history that the man who befriended and  helped hundreds of African-American student athletes from the 1955 to 2015 was a white Texan named Jefferson Davis Sandefer III. "Jakie," as he was called, befriended and roomed with Prentice Gautt, the first African-American to cross the color barrier and play football for the University of Oklahoma.  When Prentice Gautt, Ph.D. later was admitted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, it was Jakie whom Dr. Gautt asked to introduce him. When the University of Oklahoma developed its premier student athlete academic advisement facility - and named it the Prentice Gautt Academic Center - it was Jakie who led the way in private donations. Since the heady national championship days of the 1950's when Jakie and Prentice played both offense and defense for the University of Oklahoma, Jakie's benevolent and charitable spirit has been replicated hundreds of times on behalf of Oklahoma's African-American student athletes. He's found jobs for former players, provided funding for postgraduate degrees to those desirous but financially unable, and has opened his personal homes to those in need. Jakie bore no resemblance to the former President of the Confederacy in either internal prejudice or outward behavior.

Jakie Sandefer loved people.

Barry Switzer can recount the number of all-American players who came to play football for Oklahoma University because of Jakie's influence. Players like, Billy Simms, Marcus Dupree, Victor Hicks, Darrell Hunt, Kenny King, George Cumby, Joe Washington just to name a few. I can recount dozens more lesser known names who were helped by Jakie after they graduated from Oklahoma. Football was Jakie's passion; but life was Jakie's priority. He'd rather an Oklahoma football player be known for what he accomplished after graduation than on the gridiron.

I am a pastor and avocational historian. Jakie was an oil man. Jakie and I met at an Oklahoma football game many years ago (where else) and we soon discovered we had a few things in common. One of my ancestors, Rufus Burleson, President of Baylor, was a close friend of Jakie's grandfather, Dr. Jefferson Davis Sandefer, Sr., President of Hardin-Simmons University.  Jakie was fascinated that I knew a great deal about his ancestors and their influence in Texas education. Our friendship grew, and I soon began to understand the influence that both Jakie and his son Jeff were having on the national level in terms of  higher education. Jeff Sandever eventually came to the church I pastor and delivered a Sunday message and then spoke at a luncheon to some of our graduating seniors, giving a speech these kids still vividly remember.

There are a number of new friendships Rachelle and I have developed because of Jakie and his wife Melissa. People like Clendon and Soni Thomas, the Marshes, the Youngs,  and others. When Rachelle was working on her doctorate, it would be Norman Lamb and I who would go to Jakie's house before and after Oklahoma games. Norman and I both thought the conversations we had with people who gathered at Jakie's place before and after the games were absolutely riveting.

But the most meaningful times I had at Jakie's were those occasions when newer graduates of Oklahoma, former football players who didn't make it in the NFL, would tell me what Jakie was doing to help them get started in life. The man who befriended Prentice Gautt in the fall of 1956 didn't change over the last sixty years. Others will tell in the coming days of Jakie's legacy in the oil and gas fields of Texas, some will recount Jakie's contributions to the University of Oklahoma, while a few may choose to focus on Jakie's foibles. I will give a historical anecdote to illustrate what I perceive to be Jakie's greatest legacy.

When Jakie's grandfather died, it was determined that Dr. Jefferson Davis Sandefer Sr. would be buried on the campus of Hardin-Simmons University. When the good people of Abilene decided to plant a small tombstone where Dr. Sandefer was buried, they chose to inscribe these words on it:

"If you would see his monument, look around."

Like grandfather, like grandson.

If you wish to see the legacy of J.D. "Jakie" Sandefer just look around. Look around at the people who will be at his service. Many who are now in the industries of oil, finance, education, business, and manufacturing are there because of the direct influence of Jefferson Davis Sandefer III.

Well done, Jakie. We'll miss you.

The Prescription for Hope In Time of Failure, Brokenness, and Sin

"Put your mouth in the dust, for there alone is your hope." (Lamentations 3:29). 
 
 
 
In the broken world in which we live, experiencing the pain of things gone wrong is shared by all. Shattered marriages, burst dreams, broken friendships, moral failures, and tragic loss are unfortunately too common. The prophet Jeremiah speaks of his own pain of personal failure in Lamentations 3, and gives us a peek as to the only hope for the broken.
 
"Put your mouth in the dust."
 
This is an ancient expression that conveys a suppliant and humble submission to God's dealings as righteous and loving in design. When wrong actions lead to painful consequences, "put your mouth in the dust" for your hope. Charles Spurgeon comments on this verse: "I do believe that some of you are in darkness much longer than you need to be, because you do not stoop to a humble confession of your sins." We often fight to keep our heads high to hide our faults, when the injunction from God is to go low.
 
"Put your mouth in the dust" also means we make ourselves lower than anyone else. We Christians are in adulterous love with Mistress Somebody. "Well, I may be guilty of this, but I'm not nearly as bad as So-and-So." Mistress Somebody can only be seen when the eyes are and the head are up. You can't look at her when the mouth is eating dust.
 
I received a message this morning from a young woman with a marvelous testimony of healing and hope in her marriage. She writes: "I've tried to get my husband to come to church with me the past fourteen years. It was a huge expectation I had for him. I tried asking, begging, guilt trips, throwing fits etc. My dad was a man always in church, and I expected my husband to be there too.  I heard your sermon awhile back dealing and decided to do what I had heard you say -- work on myself and my spiritual relationship -- and just pray for my husband.  The other day I invited him to come, but this time told him I loved him no matter his decision.  I told him I wouldn't hold it against him if he didn't come. He actually came!"
 
"Put your mouth in the dust, for there alone is your hope."
 
When our mouths are in the dust, we have nothing to say of ourselves, nothing to claim for ourselves, nothing to boast of in ourselves. With our mouths in the dust, our thoughts can only be on the Lord, and our boast must be in Him.  
 
This morning, at the beginning of a new week, it is my desire to "put my mouth in the dust" for my hope to be in the Lord Jesus alone. 

The Gov't Should Shut Down Mosques with Ties to Radical Islam Per Thomas Jefferson

This handwritten note (pictured left) from Thomas Jefferson gives instructions for the construction of his gravestone. Jefferson wanted carved into the stone these words: "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom & Father of the University of Virginia" (Source: www.monticello.org).

The former President of the United States, U.S. Secretary of State, and Governor of Virginia only wanted to be remembered for his documents on individual liberties and religious freedom, as well as his educational work.  The principle of religious freedom was at the heart of Jefferson's world view. Though he had his personal flaws, Jefferson helped shaped the religious freedoms we Americans enjoy to worship God as we please.

 In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson wrote: "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It (religion) neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

The basis for Jefferson's belief that the state should not interfere with religion, nor establish a state religion, was that the government 'of the people' was designed to protect citizens from property loss - "(religion) neither picks my pocket") - and personal injury - "(religion) neither breaks my leg."

But what happens when a religion begins to do both? What happens when a religion begins to injure and kill people? What happens when a religion begins to steal from the pockets of citizens? According to Jefferson's logic, the government should intervene.

There is a Jeffersonian American politician named Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, who spoke last week in London on how to confront radical Islam. Jindal's words are potent and direct. The reaction to Jindal's words from CAIR, the Counsel on American Islamic Relations, has been strong.

Before one condemns Jindal for alleged 'colonialism,' we ought to remember the logic of the man who wrote the founding documents of liberty for our country. When religion begins to 'pick my pocket' and 'break my leg,' then the government should intervene and ban such a religion.

The Devolution of Human Language and Literature

The common teaching in our universities and schools is that primitive mankind was virtually wordless and thoughtless. Over time, mankind moved from mindless grunts and groans (i.e. "ug" or "gug") to higher forms of language and literature, from monosyllabic illiteracy to polysyllabic fluency.

Au contraire. There has been no significant development of language and literature since classical antiquity

Language and literature, following the common thread of nature itself, is devolving, not evolving. The more complex and beautiful the language and literature, the older it is. The common objection to this theory of literature devolution goes like this: "Cave drawings are signs of primitive pre-speech and pre-writing cultures prior to man's linguistic evolution."

Not so fast. 

Some cave drawings are magnificent, colorful, and so filled with pictorial narrative, they elicit envy from many modern artists. If it is pointed out that there are also primitive line drawings and stick-figures on cave walls, it should be remembered that similar drawings are found on the inside of most toilet doors in our day. Stick drawings themselves are never proof of a monosyllabic language.
 
Languages and literature are devolving, not evolving. Why is this true? Because mankind is also devolving. C.S. Lewis gives the best explanation for this devolution of mankind.
"God invented mankind as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended - civilisations are built up - excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards, and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to us humans." (Excerpt from C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity).
Only those with a connection to God make progress in this life, including writing beautiful literature. My friend, Dr. George Ella, puts it like this: "You are never far from heaven when reading the best of Christian literature. However many blessings you have received in this way, there are still many to come."

C.S. Lewis would agree. William Cowper would nod his assent. George McDonald would have voiced his vocal affirmative. The only hope for the devolution of literature to end, and for literature and language to begin moving from lesser to greater is for an entire host of writers to come in contact with the Author of life.  The dumbing down of human language and literature is a direct result of mankind living life without the 'right juice.'

So though Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook all seem to point to a bright age of communication, the reality is much darker. Mankind is devolving and carrying the beautiful complexity of human communication into the proverbial toilet.

Jesus' Plain Talk and Our Willing-Yes!

I'm preparing a series entitled Plain Talk, based on Jesus' Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6. In this sermon, Jesus plainly says, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."

In research for the series I came across the following video that shows a Christian man loving his enemy. Gary Ridgeway, known as the Green River Killer, confessed to murdering at least 48 women near the Green River in the Pacific northwest.

At his sentencing on December 18, 2003, various family members of the murdered women spoke with trembling, angry voices as victims' relatives "damned him and mocked him." But then the emotionless Gary Ridgeway broke down when an old man, the father of one of those murdered by Ridgeway, walked to the front of the room and actually did what Jesus said. Watch this short video.
How would the world and our lives be different if we always did what Jesus plainly said?

Self-Awareness Is Crucial in Moving the Love of God from Simply Knowing to Experientially Feeling

It's amazing to watch how we all fight so hard to prove we aren't spotty in character, wrong in choices, or out of sorts in behavior. The basic premise upon which we build our lives is that we are good and deserving, and we're going to prove to others that we're even better than they think. The king to which we all bow in our natural state is self-promotion. Life becomes all about fighting hard to get others to acknowledge how valuable and good we already know ourselves to be; deserving of everything anyone can give us.

However, when the Spirit of God first begins His work of conversion in us, He moves us to bondage and fear (Romans 8:15). We fear failure. We fear discovery. We fear exposure. We fear rejection by people. We fear life. We fear rejection by God. We fear death. Life becomes a form of bondage where we fight to control peoples' perceptions and our environment to prevent discovery of who we really are. Ironic, is it not, that what many call 'dysfunctional living' may actually be the Spirit of God moving a person toward Jesus?  If you find it difficult to see how the Spirit works during pre-conversion  to lead us to a deeper awareness of our sinfulness, I invite you to listen to this brilliant sermon by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones on Romans 8:15.

My son tells me that he glances at my posts and if they are long, he doesn't read them. I laughed when he told me this, but I recognize the truth behind his statement. In this Twitter age, people don't like long platforms of truth. So, I am going to give you a stunner of truth in the next three paragraphs and hope you read it and stew on it for a few days!

The entire purpose of the Spirit's work within us is to bring to us the self-awareness that there is no greater sinner than I.  Self-awareness is defined as the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals. Why should the Spirit of God aim to bring us to the place of wrestling Paul for the title "worst of sinners."? When I refuse to blame other people or my environment for my faults in character and failures in life, then I can begin to feel the gospel of God's grace and love for sinners.

Where my sin is great, God's grace is greater (Romans 5:20) . Where there is remarkable ungodliness, God's eternal and unconditional love for me is even more remarkable (Ephesians 3:14-21). "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst." (I Timothy 1:15). Churches seem to lose sight of this transforming power because church people are constantly looking to 'blame others' for sin, to promote inauthentic leaders that manipulate and control environments to prevent disclosure of any imperfections, and to point the proverbial finger at the world as 'the source of all sin.' No wonder God's love is only something we sing about, but not something that sinks in. In order to experience the unconditional love of God we've got to come to self-awareness of our own failures, and the beauty of defining our personhood by the love and grace of God in the midst of our failures.

So, when's the last time you've taken inventory of your life, spoken of your failures to a friend, and then celebrated the love and grace of God in the midst of them?  If you have no concept of how this can be done, then the Spirit may be still in His pre-conversion work in your life which leads to fear and bondage. Open your heart to His unconditional love and cry, "Poppa, I've failed." And hear Him say, "It's okay, my child.  I'm in love with failures."