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

Christ's Kingdom is Both a Kingdom and a Kindom

In preparation for Resurrection services on April 1, 2018, our Production Director, Brian Sallee, placed a "glass globe" within a stage light so a cross made of different English words will be projected on the front wall.

One of the words on the bottom right of the cross looks like a misspelling. It's the word KINDOM

"Somebody forget the 'G'" - will be the response of many on Easter Sunday.

Not really.

It's intentional.

Christ's Kingdom is both a Kingdom and a Kindom.

The Kingdom of Jesus Christ is the place where He reigns in the hearts of His people. He reigns now in our hearts, and one day His reign will be over all the earth when the curse is completely reversed.

Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Therefore, His rule is a Kingdom

But the Father has a family. If you will, you may call them "His kin." We who will live under His rule have a forever family.

Kin-dom is a word that reflects the kin of the King, or in other words, His people.

The Kindom of Christ is a shared community of equals who serve each other under the Kingship of Jesus Christ.

The inspired teaching of the New Testament reflects both concepts of Kingdom and Kindom.

The Apostle Paul plants small house churches, and then later writes to the people worshipping Christ in those assemblies. Paul calls the Christians gather adelphoi, the Greek word for sisters and brothers. 

Christians are united in a family of people who share a common loyalty to the Lord Jesus. 

Paul and the other New Testament writers promised that the Jesus would one day rule over all other empires of this world. His Kingdom and His Kindom will reign forever.

I love talking about Kingdom work, Kingdom service, and Kingdom ministry. When I use the word Kingdom, I'm using it in a biblical sense.

The Kingdom is defined by our King. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We bow to His authority alone. 

But I have no hesitancy speaking of a Kindom.

In the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Kindom is defined by "the least of His kin." Our objective as Christians is to be servants to all. Christ's Kingdom is best represented by a people who understand the Kindom. 

So this Easter, let's be reminded of what our King teaches:
"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me." (Matthew 25:40, 45)
There is no hierarchy of power, potency, and prestige in the Kingdom of Christ. In His Kingdom, worth is measured from the bottom up. Christ is as much in those the world calls the least and the littlest; the frail and the forgotten; the abused and the abandoned as He is anyone else who surrenders to His authority.

Christ's Kingdom is both a Kingdom and a Kindom.

Remember that the next time you hurt one of His kin with your actions and words.

The King does not take lightly the abuse of His kin.

Richard Nixon and Remembering People's Names

Yesterday I had the privilege of having breakfast with 83-year-old Dr. Jack Dancer and his son Brian Dancer. Brian is a new member of Emmanuel Enid, the church that I pastor, and his father was in town for a visit. Brian knew I'd be interested in some of the stories his dad tells, so they invited me to breakfast.

Dr. Dancer is a surgeon and a fascinating man. He is a graduate of George Washington University's medical school, a former professor of surgery at OU Medical School, a highly successful Air Force surgeon who was commissioned to be the surgeon on the Search and Rescue Mission of the only United States atomic submarine to ever sink (the USS Scorpion), and a long-time successful surgeon in Shattuck, Tulsa, and Stillwater. (Edit: Two commenters pointed out that the USS Thrasher also sunk in 1963, making TWO nuclear submarines that have sunk, not one).  Dr. Dancer retired about 10 years ago at the age of 73, but he still serves on many prestigious national medical boards.

Dr. Dancer told me that while he was in medical school at George Washington University (1957-1961), he worked at night (after classes) as the elevator man for the United State Senate elevator in the old Senate building. He regaled me with stories about Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy,  and a host of other U.S. Senators with whom he rode privately on the elevator over the course of four years. His stories and anecdotes of the various senators, including LBJ and JFK before they became President of the United States of the United States were fascinating.

But there was one story that stood out to me.

When Richard Nixon was a Senator from California (before he became President), he used his elevator key and Jack Dancer took manual control of the elevator and went to Senator Nixon's floor. When the elevator opened, Richard Nixon looked at Jack and said, "You're new here, aren't you?"

"Yes sir," Jack replied.

"What's your name?"

"Jack Dancer."

"Whose patronage are you under?" asked Nixon.

It was customary for elevator worker and security guard jobs in the Senate building to be given to students in the Washington D.C. by various U.S. Senators in a patronage program.

"Senator Barry Goldwater," responded Jack.

Jack had attended Arizona University where he obtained his Bachelor's Degree in chemistry and physics before going to medical school. It was while in college at Arizona that Jack met Senator Goldwater.

"Are you still in school, Jack?"

"Yes, sir. I just started medical school at George Washington University."

Are you married?" the future President asked.

"Yes sir, I'm married to Joy Sue."

"Any children?"

"Yes, we have two kids, Sheila and Brian."

"Well, I'm glad to have you on the Senate elevator. Nice to meet you!" With that, Richard Nixon stepped off the elevator in the basement and took the underground trolley to the Capital to cast a late night vote.

Dr. Dancer continued telling me the story.

"I didn't see Senator Nixon again until over two weeks later when once again Nixon used his private elevator key to call me to his floor. When the elevator arrived and the door opened, Senator Nixon got in and I closed the door."

"Hello Jack," said the Senator, "How's medical school?"

"Fine, Senator. I am enjoying it."

"How's your wife Joy Sue?"

"She's doing well, thank you."

"Well, I know it must be a difficult transition for her, especially watching over the two little ones. Tell me, Jack, how are Sheila and Brian doing?"

Jack Dancer was stunned.

He was a lowly elevator boy, and here a powerful Senator from California not only remembered his name, he remembered the name of his wife and two small kids.

The conversation continued until the elevator reached the basement and Senator Nixon stepped off and bid Jack goodbye.

"That conversation occurred 60 years ago and it has never been forgotten by me," Dr. Dancer, said, "but what happened the next time I saw Senator Nixon is what taught me the importance of knowing peoples' names."

A few weeks later Jack was alone in the elevator again with Senator Nixon, and the future President once again inquired about each of Jack's family members by name.

Jack said, "Senator Nixon, I must ask you a question. How can you remember names like you do?"

Nixon paused, looked Jack in the eye and said, "Jack, I'm a politician. I learned a long time ago that names are important."

"Yes, Mr. Nixon, but I ride with other Senators, and they don't even remember my name. Why are you different."

Nixon then reminded Jack of the Bible story where Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord. "What is your name? Jacob cried, What is your name?"

Nixon said, "Jack, Jacob knew what every politician ought to know. When you know a person's name you control that person."

"That lesson," Dr. Dancer told me, "is a lesson on leadership I've practiced since."

As I've since reflected on Dr. Dancer's anecdote, I can't help but reflect on Jesus' words:

"I am the good Shepherd, and I know my sheep" (John 10:14).

Pastors aren't trying to control people, but we are wanting to lead people.

I can't lead anyone unless I know their names.

It's a challenge I give over and over to myself and the other pastors at our 3,500 member church. 

There are many reasons, psychologists say, why we forget names. 

But pastors should work harder than anyone to remember names. 

Nixon's motives for remembering names may not have been the same as ours, but if Nixon can remember everyone's names, so can we.

The Baptist Blogger Calls Upon Guidestone to Help SWBTS Professors with Their Retirement Needs

When Charles Spurgeon picked up his quill and wrote for The Sword and the Trowel Magazine in 1887, the Baptist evangelical world read every word Spurgeon published. Spurgeon blistered the English Baptist pastors and theologians of his day for their departure from orthodox, biblical Christianity.

Spurgeon's very public fight with liberals came to be known as The Down-Grade Controversy.

Another Baptist writer is picking up the proverbial pen 130 years later, and Southern Baptist pastors, trustees, and theologians who have departed from orthodox business practices or others who have been harmed by such practices are guaranteed to be reading every word this Baptist Blogger writes from now until the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, Texas (June 2018).

The modern writings should be called The Sword and Throw in the Towel because each word is a blistering indictment of what is happening at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and I predict that trustee leadership at SWBTS will eventually "throw in the towel" and reverse themselves.

We'll see.

Until then, you can read the Sword and Throw in the Towel for yourself.


The Red River Logjam and Lessons in Leadership

One of the most remarkable but little-known stories of American history is the source of some great lessons in entrepreneurial leadership. It is the story one man's extraordinary and successful effort to remove the longest and most massive logjam in American history, called the Great Raft, or more precisely, the Red River Raft.

When Napoleon sold 828,00 square miles of French land to the United States in 1803, a transaction we call The Louisiana Purchase, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson determined that the United States had better explore this vast new land. Everyone knows that the President appointed Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to investigate the Missouri River, but very few realize that President Jefferson also organized two additional expeditions to explore the two other major rivers that dump into the Mississippi from the west - the Arkansas River and the Red River.

The Red River Basin
The team assigned to explore the Red River was called The Freeman-Custis Expedition, named after Thomas Freeman, a surveyor, and Peter Custis, a medical student, appointed by President Jefferson to lead the scientific team. The expedition was delayed for a variety of reasons but finally set off in May of 1806 from the spot where the Red River flows into the Mississippi River, on the eastern boundary of what we now know as the state of Louisiana. One month into the upriver journey, not yet even halfway across modern Louisiana, the team reached a settlement called Natchitoches. At the time, the Red River north of Natchitoches was unexplored by anyone but the Caddo Indians - and with good reason as the Freeman-Custis Expedition would soon discover.

The Logjam on the Red River
The expedition left Natchitoches and shortly came across an obstacle in the Red River, a hindrance that eventually become known as "The Red River Raft." In essence, the team had found the largest and oldest logjam in the history of North America. The Oklahoma Historical Chronicle describes the obstruction as being over one hundred miles in length. In some places the logjam completely closed the Red River, creating lake lagoons where the water backed up into tributaries. It was not a solid jam the entire way, for a few places along the Red River Raft being comparatively free of driftwood. But in some places men could travel across the Raft on horseback, the logjam being so dense and so aged that a considerable vegetable growth arose, including full grown trees. It was said that in a couple of places along the Raft, extending for several miles, one could even pass over the river itself and be unaware of its presence. In 1941, Dr. Norman Caldwell wrote a fine description of how the great Raft was formed centuries earlier:

Drift formations began at the mouth of the river as a result of a higher stage of water in the Mississippi, the waters of the lower Red River being at such times quiet or "backed up". Below Alexandria the Red River is naturally meandering and of slow current. Drift wood floating in such quiet water would accumulate into obstructions, such formations tending to "tighten" as the waters receded. Once established the raft continued to grow, the average yearly accumulations amounting to about one and a half miles of drift . . . As the obstruction grew and progressed up the river, it rotted away at its lower end and disintegrated, the river thus becoming clear again. The raft was thus like a great serpent, always crawling upstream and forcing the river into new lateral channels.

By the time of the 1806 expedition, the Red River Raft had grown to well over 100 miles in length and was continuing to snake north as the southern end decayed and the northern end grew. It made passage to the northwest via the Red River a journey filled with incessant fatigue, toil, and danger, doubt and uncertainty. In other words, it was unnavigable. This is the reason why the Freeman-Custis Expedition, what Thomas Jefferson himself had called at the beginning "The Grand Excursion," became a grand failure. No new geographic information about the upper reaches of the Red River was obtained.

The Red River mission was a political setback for President Jefferson. The materials that Freeman and Custis did collect were vastly overshadowed by the achievements of Lewis and Clark, who had returned in 1806. The Red River was one vast logjam, and there would be little exploration of northern Louisiana, southern Arkansas, southern Oklahoma and northern Texas because of the inability to navigate the Red River.

Enter Captain Henry Shreve

Henry Miller Shreve ((October 21, 1785 – March 6, 1851) has often been called the "Master of the Mississippi," while others refer to him as the "Father of the Mississippi Steamboat." From an early age, he loved the river. Henry began his career on the river by river working on keelboats in the Ohio and Mississippi valley. In 1807, at the age of 22, Shreve made his first trip to St. Louis from the Ohio River valley. Within a few years, he was captaining his own vessel, transporting goods between New Orleans and St. Louis. Shreve is said to be the first captain of a steamship on the Mississippi, a ship he called "Washington." Though many had predicted the new steamship would fail, its shallow hull and deck-mounted engine allowed for easier navigation. Within a few years, Shreve had a fleet of steamships and revolutionized transportation along the Mississippi and rivers westward. But it was another invention of Shreve's that led to the breaking up of the Red River Raft.

The Snagboat patented by Shreve
In 1827, Shreve patented the snagboat, a boat he used to clear fallen trees and other debris that often clogged the rivers. Just a year earlier, President John Quincy Adams had appointed Shreve as Superintendent of Western River Improvements, a position he held for fourteen years through both the Jackson and Van Buren administrations.

Shreve was ordered in 1832 by Secretary of War Lewis Cass to clear the Great Red River Raft, now over 150 miles of dead wood on the Red River. The task, particularly in 1832, bordered on impossible. But through seven years of incredibly difficult work, extraordinary leadership, and dogged determination, Shreve and the United States Army Corp of Engineers successfully removed the Red River Raft. Shreve constantly battled inadequate funding from Washington, D.C. and the elements, but despite all obstacles, both political and natural, the massive Red River logjam was cleared.

Shreveport, Louisiana, named after Captain Shreve
The area of the Red River where the Raft was most concentrated is now named in his honor - "Shreveport." The people who live in modern Shreveport, much less those who live elsewhere, know very little about Shreve but were it not for his leadership, the areas affected by the flow of the Red River would not be nearly as thriving and progressive as they are today.

It was on April 11, 1833, that Captain Henry M. Shreve and the U.S. Army Engineers arrived at the lower end of the raft and began their work. Shreve brought four "snag boats" and one hundred fifty men to do the impossible. To understand the enormous effort required to clear the Red River Raft, one merely needs to read the contemporary descriptions of the work. Shreve and his men fought the heat, snakes, wild animals, quicksand on the river's shores, all the while fighting a constant battle for supplies from Washington, terrible shortness of funds, mechanical problems, Indian attacks, and a host of other impediments. But Shreve never quit. He never gave up. Eventually, the largest and oldest logjam in North America was cleared.

How Henry Shreve broke removed the logjam of the Red River is a fascinating story, one that teaches us several lessons on true leadership:

Captain Henry Shreve
(1). What some consider impossible is only seen as a challenge to leaders.
(2). The people getting muddy doing the detail work often never see the end result.
(3). It is the ability to see the big picture that gives perseverance through problems.
(4). Logjams that prevent progress must be confronted, tackled, and intentionally removed.
(5). Those who criticize the removal of impediments to progress are the ones history forgets.