Monday, October 31, 2011

On Glass Windows and Curtains: The Psychology of Withdrawing from Public View

My wife and I watched the 60 Minutes interview with the family members of Bernie Madoff, the man who swindled American people out of 50 billion dollars through an elaborate Ponzi scheme disguised as a top-tier New York investment company. Andrew Madoff and his mother, Ruth Madoff, deny any knowledge of Bernie's twenty year fraud, which is now considered the largest white collar corruption case in America's history. The interview was so riveting that I purchased the book--released today--which compelled the Madoff family to grant their interview with 60 Minutes. Truth and Consequences is the account of life inside the Madoff family from the perspective of Andrew Madoff, Andrew's fiance Catherine Hooper, and Ruth Madoff.

Chapter One, entitled "An Unthinkable Turn of Events" is revealing. Carolyn Hooper recounts the day that her fiance turned his father into the Securities and Exchange Commission for fraud. The couple lived together in a posh Upper East Side apartment with Andrew's two teenage girls and Catherine's three year old daughter. The apartment had floor to ceiling windows, common for New York skyline views. When Catherine, who is an expert in helping Fortune 500 companies survive catostrophic events,  learned of the extraordinary extent of her future father-in-law's fraudulent activities, she says that the first question that came to her mind was one of survival: "How do we get to tomorrow?"

"The answer came to her (Catherine) almost immediately: curtains.
She would put them up within twenty-four hours; everything else, she would deal with later."

I couldn't help but think of Southern Baptist evangelist Sammy Nuckolls and his family when I read the above two sentences. After being arrested on felony charges, Sammy Nuckolls put curtains up. Sammy is an expert in social media, but within hours of the charges being made public, Sammy's Facebook account was deleted, his Twitter account was deleted, and his web page was deleted. Maybe some would find Sammy's actions understandable under the circumstances, but what is surprising to me is how fast the Southern Baptist Convention's Lifeway Resources, who used Sammy as a guest speaker for SBC summer youth camps for the past ten years, immediately pulled down any web page, Internet article or other on-line information that associated Sammy with the SBC.

The curtains were put up very fast.

I realize that in our litigious society the first reaction of people in trouble, or those associated with people in trouble, is to pull the curtains and withdraw from anyone and everyone. In our Internet age, the on-line curtain is thrown up via the DELETE button.

My question is "Why do Christians do the very thing the world does when trouble comes?" Why do we pull the curtains and keep information from people? Why do we hide the truth of what has actually occurred to try to alter or stem public opinion? Why do we try to act as if things have not really happened the way they actually did? Should we not want all information, for the sake of any potential victims, available for review by the public? Should we not be asking questions like, 'How many victims are out there?' Should not the Executive Office of the SBC issue some kind of statement encouraging those who may have been victims of Sammy's crimes to contact law enforcement? Should not we leave the information of Sammy's involvement with the SBC up for all to see and simply issue a statement condemning his illegal activities and expressing our desire to help potential victims?

I have already attempted to contact Sammy and let him know of my prayers for him and his family. He knows of our desire to help him, his wife and child during this justly difficult time. We will not abandon sinners. However, we will also be open and honest about the horrible nature of the crimes Sammy has confessed to committing. He should go to jail to help society understand the danger of such invasive criminal actions. I do not know the victims (they, rightfully, have not been publicly identified). I am just as concerned for them, and if they read this blog, I hope they know that there are people who genuinely care for them.

Christian organizations must learn how to deal with problems and not put up curtains or the they will find it very time consuming as they constantly attempt to re-hang the curtains that others keep pulling  down. The Internet has become a game changer. The professional organizations of the future will get out in front of tough issues--keeping the glass uncovered--and be respected for their actions. Those who continually put up curtains will be seen as organizations with something to hide.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mom's and Dad's Conversation About Twitter with Our 17 and 21 Year Old Sons

The conversation below regarding Twitter occurred between my wife (Rachelle),  me, and our two boys (ages 17 and 21) while at lunch last Sunday.

Mom: Guys, talk to me about Twitter? What is it? How do you sign up for it?

17 year old: It's a way to keep stay up with people and know what they are doing. It's a free service and you can get download the Twitter software on your phone, computer or I-Pad.

Mom: But isn't Facebook the way people stay in touch with each other?

21 year old: Facebook is for people thirty and older. Twitter is where it's at for the younger generation.

Dad: I have a Twitter account. I can't stand it.

17 year old: What do you mean?Why?

Dad: Because I don't I care about what people are eating, where people are sitting, or what people are thinking about trivial things. And I have zero interest in telling people trivial things about my day either.

21 year old: But it is so cool to be able to read a Tweet from an OU football player or some pro athlete like Kevin Durant and then respond with a tweet of your own. We learned Kevin Durant was at College Corner in Norman last Friday night by reading his Tweet about it.

Mom: But how do you read Kevin Durant's Tweets? Where do you find them?

17 year old: You have to go sign up to follow him on Twitter? He and ohers have tens of thousands of Twitter followers.

Dad: That's just plain silly. Why would someone waste time reading sound bites of famous people that contribute nothing intellectually or historically to conversation?  Tweets are so banal.

17 year old: What's 'banal' mean?

Dad: Banal means trite, obvious, or predictable; when something is banal it is a commonplace thing. Again,  I have no interest where people are eating lunch and I'm definitely not interested in telling people where I'm eating lunch.

21 year old: But sometimes you can learn something from someone before anybody else knows about it. A couple of the OU football players Tweeted that they had been cleared from injury to play on Saturday and those who followed them on Twitter knew before even the press knew.

Dad: How? If you are following someone and they Tweet something new, how do you know they Tweeted? I am at work. I'm writing. I'm doing things. How do I know instantaneously that someone I'm following on Twitter has posted?

21 year old: You program Twitter to "Beep" your phone or your computer when someone you are following Tweets something new.

Dad: You've got to be kidding. My phone goes off a million times a day with emails, phone calls and appointment alerts. There's no way under the sun I want it going off to report to me that somebody is drinking coffee at Starbucks.

Mom: If I signed up for Twitter how do I find other people who have Twitter?

17 year old: You do a search and find different people and then ask to "follow them" on Twitter.

Mom: But then do people ask to follow me on Twitter?

17 year old: It depends on whether or not people are interested in following you on Twitter?

Mom: But why would anybody be interested in following me or anyone else on Twitter?

Dad: That's my point.

21 year old: You guys are too old to understand.

My son may have a point. Laughing.

Bribes, Corruption, and a Lack of Accountability: Whistleblowers Not Welcome

Ron and Beverly Nollner were International Missionaries in India for the Southern Baptist Convention, appointed in January 2009 to New Dehli, India. This week Ron and Beverly filed a $1.5 million dollar suit against the Southern Baptist Convention and the International Mission Board.

According to the lawsuit, the Nollners went to India to oversee the construction of a 15,000-square-foot office building.  The Nollners claim they were fired in retaliation after discovering and then complaining to their IMB supervisors about illegal and unsafe building practices at the job site. Ron Nollner says the project’s architect and builder were paying bribes “in order to obtain necessary approvals and complete the project, including offering Mr. Nollner a luxury SUV," which the Southern Baptist missionary says he refused.

Ron Nollner says he reported his concerns about the bribes and construction practices to International Mission Board officials, but they “seemed unbothered, if not complicit.”  Nollner was subsequently asked to resign, but when he refused, he was told that his position was “no longer necessary.” Nollner was fired, and the stated reason given by the International Mission Board was “false and merely a sham or pretext to hide the true reason.”

The Nollners were left "‘scrambling’ to make arrangements to return and live in the United States,” the lawsuit states, and  “after some difficulty, they returned Stateside and remain in Nashville at this time.” Before the Nollners were appointed to the SBC International Mission Board they had to quit their jobs and sell their home and a car to move to India. Before his work as a missionary, Ron Nollner was in the construction business and served as a councilman for the city of Nashville from 1995 to 2003.

Ron Nollner's story reminds me of Brooksley Born's story. Born was the head of an obscure federal regulatory agency called the Commodity Futures Trading Commission [CFTC]. She warned of the potential for economic meltdown in the late 1990s, but also tried to convince the country's key economic powerbrokers to take actions that could have helped avert the crisis. Govenrment leaders, including the revered Alan Greenspan, not only ignored Born, but put the word out that she was argumentative, irascible, and not to be trusted. After the 2007 economic meltdown the former head of the SEC, who said he had initially believed those in authority regarding the character of Mrs. Born, said he realized the error of trusting those in authority--too late.

Some of the problems that arise when an organization gets so large it overruns any possible accountability include:

(1). Individuals padding their own pockets with huge sums of money of which nobody can give an accurate accounting.
(2). Secrecy at the highest levels of authority, a veritable "black box" of information that is obtainable only to those with a "need to know" position, and of course, those positions include only those who actually know what is in the black box. If you don't already know, you will never know.
(3). A shunning of all whistleblowers, including character assassinations, and ultimately the termination of those who ask too many questions.
(4). A desire to perpetuate a feeling among all people that the organization can be trusted, so rather than deal with problems publicly and openly, the whistleblower who points out the problems is the only thing dealt with publicly and openly.
(5). A hard landing for the organization when trust from the people begins to fail.

There are a few questions that Southern Baptists should be asking of the IMB leaders regarding this situation. Those questions might run along these lines:

(1). Is it a common practice to accept bribes or pay bribes to build "offices" for the International Mission Board overseas?
(2). Why, in 2009, is the IMB building a new office building when money for current missionaries, not to mention money for the appointment of new missionaries, is unavailable?
(3). Who ultimately is accountable for finances in overseas operations? Are the people in Richmond (or Nashville) knowledgeable of the way finances are handled in India?
(4). Is it common practice to carry suitcases of cash to places like Turkey or India, and to pay with cash for work among the locals? If so, where is the accounting for this money?
(5). Is there a file in Richmond that that tracks the number of complaints from field missionaries regarding possible financial misappropriation or embezzlement from superiors?

These are just some of the dozens of questions that should be asked by Ron Nollner and his attorneys. The Southern Baptist Convention is doing a good work, but when we crucify our whistleblowers rather than listen to what they are saying, our good work becomes corrupted very quickly. For those Southern Baptist Christians who think that we should not be asking these kinds of questions amongst ourselves, I say that we, above all people, should press for accountability, transparency and efficiency with our mission dollars.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Theological Grace Must Become Practical Grace Or It Is Actually No Grace at All

Yesterday morning I took as a text Hebrews 7:25 where it is said, "He (Christ) is able to save them to the uttermost that come to God by Him." I pointed out that the KJV word "uttermost" is far superior to the actual meaning of the Greek word panteles than "forever," which is the word chosen by the NIV and NAS translators. It is true that God saves us forever, but the teaching of this verse is that Christ saves us to the "uttermost"--which means "completely" or "totally" or "fully."

The million dollar question is "Christ saves us from 'what' to the uttermost?' I pointed out that Christ saves us from "being 'cut off' from the goodness of God." This is the teaching of Romans 11:22 where the Bible says "Behold the goodness and severity of God" and proceeds to identify in the very next verse the people who continue in God's goodness (those who are in Christ) and then identifies the people who are "cut off" from God's goodness (those who are not in Christ). Being cut off from God's goodness is a very severe thing to experience (thus, the imperative "Behold [contemplate] God's severity"). There is a popular saying that "God is good all the time and all the time God is good." This saying contains only partial truth; God is good all the time to those "who come to Him by Christ." Those who refuse Christ are 'cut off' from God's goodness. By the way, to be "cut off" from the goodness of God is the biblical definition of hell. Hell is not Dante's version of a sadomasochist Creator who tortures sinners. Hell, or rather 'the biblical hell,' is a prison where lawbreakers are 'cut off' from the Creator's goodness.

Jesus Christ delivers (saves) those who trust Him from the severe danger of being cut off from God's goodness.

I cautioned everyone yesterday not to consider God's goodness only in terms of health, wealth and other material or temporal blessings. These things are good and definitely comprise some of the blessings that come from God ('for it is God who gives you the power to have wealth'), but these things are not God's greatest blessings. A rich, healthy, powerful man can be 'cut off' from experiencing God's goodness spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. The internal knowledge that God is good to you eternally is far superior to the temporal experience of material blessings externally. A believer in Christ can have cancer, lose a job, or experience family difficulties and still be confident that they are smack dab in the middle of God's goodness. Christ delivers us from ever being, in any form or fashion, cut off from God's goodness, no matter how things seem around us.

Sunday Night's Experience of Pain

Twelve hours after preaching that message three times Sunday morning, I am asked to give a death notification to a family in our community. A man in his fifties, a husband and a father, died suddenly of a heart attack. His daughter, a woman in her twenties with two children of her own, heard the news that her father had died from my lips and fell apart emotionally, psychologically and physically. My heart went out to this young lady. She and her husband were recently separated. She had also lost her job as an aid at a hospital this past month, and was without work herself. When I found her to give her the news of her father's death, she was in the process of moving out of her rundown rental home because she and her two kids had been evicted. Her oldest child is autistic and the pressures of her current situation compounded by the shocking news of her father's death caused her to collapse on the front porch. Struggling to breathe, she rasped, "I can't handle this.. I can't handle this..."

I realized at that moment that the message I had preached that morning was completely useless to this young lady. Don't misunderstand; the message of God's grace in Jesus Christ is not useless. It was useless to this young lady at that moment. Theological grace must become practical grace or there is actually no grace at all. Not knowing the truth, it was impossible for her to experience the truth.

On the other hand, there are some who hear the truth at church, but don't put it into practice. Unless we hear the truth of God's grace in Christ, accept it, and then apply the truth in real life situations, biblical truth is just something we learn in Sunday School and church. We preachers have a tendency to spend too much time in the classroom and not enough time in the homes of our students.

Fortunately for both me and this young lady, her grandfather--the very father of the man who had just died--was soon on the porch, offering his warm embrace, gentle comfort, and strong, reassuring words to his granddaughter. The message of God's grace in Christ has made a difference in this man's life. He not only hears it every Sunday, he believes it and applies it ... as evidenced by his reaction to the news of the death of his only son. I overheard him say to his granddaughter, "Sweetheart, this is part of God's plan for us. We can trust Him."

I left that porch questioning my ministry for all the right reasons. Do I understand the mess that many people are in or have made of their lives? Do I truly comprehend the pressures of life? Is Sunday morning more than just a Bible lesson? Could I honestly react to the news of my son dying prematurely in the same manner as the father I had just observed? Is the goodness of God in Christ, particularly when circumstances seem so dark and painful, as easily relayed upon as I make it?

I went to bed thankful for my church member who displayed for me that unless one's theology of grace is actually lived out grace becomes just a word people use in songs and sermons on Sunday.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Real Problem in the SBC is Formulaic Evangelism that is Cultish and Not Christian

When the woman with the issue of blood reached out and touched the garment of Jesus, "power" (KJV: 'virtue') flowed from the Christ to the woman and she was instantly healed. When the blind man needed sight, Jesus put spittle in His eyes and the man saw "men as trees walking." Jesus then put additional spit in his eyes, and the blind man was progressive healing was completed. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead he shouted an imperative and the dead man's name -- "Lazarus come forth." But when Jesus raised the little girl from death He gently took her by the hand and quietly commanded, "Little girl, arise." When Christ fed the five thousand His disciples reached into the baskets and perpetually pulled out the meat and bread. However, when Jesus turned the water into wine, unknown and unnamed servants drew the newly fashioned wine from ceremonial water barrels. When the lame man was lowered through the roof, Jesus forgave the man his sins, and only then healed the man of his lameness to correct the misconceptions of the Pharisees and to prove the lame man's sins were actually forgiven. On the other hand, when the crippled man at the Pool of Siloam found himself laboring under the mistaken belief that angels stirred the waters of the pool and the first person into the pool after the stirring would be miraculously healed, Jesus neither corrected the misconceptions nor used the healing to proclaim His power to forgive sins. When Jesus Christ transformed the lives of sinners during His earthly ministry He sometimes spoke during the healings. At other times Jesus healed silently.  Jesus would sometimes bring healing immediately and instantaneously, but at other times He would heal progressively. Jesus sometimes allowed people to publicly rejoice over His power, but at other times Jesus demanded that those He healed remain silent about Him. 

The power of Jesus Christ to transform broken lives cannot be boxed and bowed in any religious ritual that looks the same every single time.

There are some independent, fundamental Southern Baptists who have left the gospel. They have, for some reason, concluded that the only way Jesus can transform a life is through 'raising a hand' to express a willingness to be saved, to pray a 'sinner's prayer' as a testimony of that willingness, and then 'walking an aisle' during a worship service to 'publicly declare your private prayer.'  The notion that people who struggle with sin in their lives and are in need of a Savior are somehow cured by following this peculiar ritual borders on cultic. There is a 'common language,' a 'common experience,' a 'common ritual,' etc... Check out the definition of the word 'cult' and you will see that it is the root word of 'culture.' Southern Baptists have developed a 'culture' of ritual that is ultimately anti-Scriptural and anti-Christ. It makes no difference that there are good motives in the leaders who continue to enforce the ritual upon unsuspecting men and women. Good intentions don't count. When you replace the Person of Jesus Christ with a process, you have lost the gospel. When you cause a sinner to trust in a ritualistic service and not the Risen Savior, you have made the religious convert twice the citizen of hell.

Massive damage has been done in the Southern Baptist Convention through both children and adults being led to believe that their salvations are tied up in something they do rather than in Person and performance of Jesus Christ on their behalf. It is the righteous life of Christ, the substitutionary death of Christ at Calvary, and the resurrection of Christ from the grave that is to be believed. There is power in the cross. "Asking Jesus into your heart" in a formulatic prayer emphasises a prayer ritual. Believing in what Jesus Christ has done for you as your Savior is transforming faith. Faith in Christ saves, not faith in a ritual. Ritualism in Southern Baptist circles is more damaging than ritualists can ever perceive. Dishonor is given to the name of Christ when our evangelism short cuts the work of the Holy Spirit in conviction, illumination and conversion. Southern Baptist ritualistic evangelism is more damning than an open denial of the gospel. To seek to convince any sinner that a religious ritual magically conveys salvation,  instead of patiently and lovingly explaining the message of the good news in Jesus Christ and urging the hearer to simply believe on Christ, is turning the gospel of Christ's kingdom into a carnival sideshow at best or a spiritualized death chamber at worst.

We have more than a few independent, fundamentalists within the Southern Baptist Convention who are attempting to identify problems we have in the SBC in terms of evangelism.  Until these highly formulaic evangelists turn from their destructive ritualistic methods, their words are empty and powerless.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

{W}hole - by Lisa Whittle: A Book Your Small Group Needs to Read and Discuss

I sometimes find myself cynical when hearing celebrity Christians speak or when reading contempary Christian books. Having learned in my early years about 'the faith once delivered to the saints' from writers like John Owen, Charles Spurgeon and C.S. Lewis, the writings of many modern Christian writers seem peurile and too spiritually sweet and syrupy for my taste. I like Christians who are gritty, honest and transparent; people who don't spiritualize away their weaknesses or act as if their lives are above the doubts and frailties that all Christians experience in their journey. The inspired Scriptures reveal to us weak men and women who find their glory in the power of the gospel. It feels to me like many modern Christians mistakenly believe spiritual power is found in never admitting mistakes.

Lisa Whittle's new book Whole satiates my appetite for a Christian book that speaks the kind of language that rings authentic. She rightly understands that "what happens between Jesus and us in the pages of our earthly journey is our greatest vehicle for showing people the God of transformation." That is our collective story. Or more precisely that is His story in our lives. Lisa's transparent and gritty confession of personal doubt, spiritual game-playing, and failure makes the message of Christ ring powerful. Her gift of writing enabled me to make the transfer from Lisa's own story my own personal experiences and the story Christ is writing in my life. {W}hole helps you understand how God designs the holes in our lives so that He can fill them.

The study questions at the end of each chapter, as well as the study guides, will spark the kind of discussion that grace churches cherish but religious people eschew. They are the kind of questions that get beyond the moral platitudes we so often hear in church, and for that reason alone, your small groups should purchase this book for an eight week study that will lead them to bridge the disconnect between one's confession and experience.

George Barna's recently surveyed fifteen thousand people nation wide, and in his new book Maximum Faith, he reveals that less than one in twenty-five people have ever experienced spiritual brokenness. The gospel writers spoke of Christ residing in "clay jars," meaning our lives--which are fragile and breakable--"to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us"  (II Corinthians 4:7). The story of our lives, and every one of us has a story, is a story of brokenness and the power of Christ transforming us through our brokenness.

{W}hole is worth every dollar you spend in getting it for your Sunday School class or small group. Get your copies today.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Shout Out to My Friends at First Presbyterian, Enid, and Pastor Roy Schneider

First Presbyterian Church in Enid, Oklahoma voted yesterday on whether or not members wished to remain a part of the denomination Presbyterian USA. PCUSA claims to have 2.3 million members in all 50 states, but on May 10, 2011, PCUSA joined a long line of mainline denominations in approving the ordination of gays and homosexuals to be pastors within the denomination. Most of the people at First Presbyterian, Enid, and all of my friends at that church were opposed to the denomination's decision to ordain homosexuals.  Yesterday, First Presbyterian, Enid's membership voted 65% to 35% to leave  the PCUSA denomination.

Here's what that means. Unlike independent, autonomous Baptist churches like the church I pastor (Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, Oklahoma), the church members of the non-profit church called First Presbyterian, Enid do not own the buildings (valued in the millions). Neither do the members of First Presbyterian, Enid own the church endowment funds (estimated at $4 million dollars). The denomination owns all the assets. So, even though the members of the church paid for their buildings, gave money to the church's endowment, and have financially supported the church over the more than 100 years of the church's existence, the members who choose to leave First Presbyterian, Enid go without any assets. Further, if Pastor Roy Schneider leaves the denomination, which might happen due to his biblical faith-based convictions, Pastor Schneider will forfeit his retirement account.

Wow. In Enid, Oklahoma there are Christians who cherish the Bible more than the church buildings. There are Christians who are more concerned about their principles than their pocketbooks. Enid, Oklahoma has some Christians who value what God says more than what any denominational leaders say. Those are, in my opinion, the kind of Christians that ultimately make a difference in this world. Kudos to the people of First Presbyterian Church, Enid, Oklahoma. If you start another church, we will support you in any way possible. If you need a church home, our church would welcome with open arms people like you who love Christ and His Word.

And, if nothing else, the issues in PCUSA remind me why I'm glad I'm in a church system that is congregational in polity, autonomous in governance, and ultimately free and independent of any silly and unbiblical decisions of denominational authorities. In other words, the Southern Baptist Convention owns neither the buildings, endowments, or financial assets of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid.

That's the way it ought to be.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Name Change for Southern Baptists Is Not Near as Big of a Deal As Some Would Make It

It's interesting to read the amount of dogmatism prevalent in the words of those pontificating against a potential name change for the Southern Baptist Convention. The natural remedy for such dogmatism is research. Are there organizations that have successfully gone through a name change? Are there historical precedents that would warrant the adoption of a change in name for the Southern Baptist Convention?

In 1813 Baptist missionary Luther Rice returned to the United States from India for the purpose of coordinating a unified effort among Baptist associations and churches to support "foreign missions." The Baptists whom Rice visited in his tour of the major cities of the United States were overwhelmingly in favor of a Baptist organization to fund missions. As a result of Rice's personal labors and extensive correspondence, a meeting of Baptist delegates from eleven States and the District of Columbia was held in Philadelphia on May 18, 1814. The General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States was duly organized. Soon, however, the name of this missionary convention changed to The Triennial Convention for practical reasons, including the fact that Baptists convened every three years and that the simple two word name was much easier to speak and write. Note there was not even the word "Baptist" in the new name Triennial Convention.

It was not long before the Triennial Convention's southern Baptist churches formed the Southern Baptist Convention (est. 1845), splitting with northern Baptists over the issue of slavery. Within 30 years (1815 to 1845) the Southern Baptist Convention evolved through three name changes. You would be hardpressed to find anyone who could logically claim that one name change for the Southern Baptist Convention within the past 170 years (1845 to 2012) might be excessive based upon an understanding of Southern Baptist history.

One of the first missionaries the Triennial Convention supported was Isaac McCoy. Isaac was a missionary to Native American Indians on the American frontier, sometimes called "the wilderness." McCoy is the man who originally surveyed what we now call Oklahoma as he looked for a beautiful and permanent land to resettle the Indians who were being overrun by white settlers. McCoy regularly corresponded with both Luther Rice and William Staughton, the Triennial Convention's secretary/treasurer. McCoy kept these men updated on his mission work as well as his government surveying work.

Unfortunately, in early 1820 McCoy encountered difficulties in the support Luther Rice and William Staughton had given him for the previous six years. It seems the two men had turned their focus and attention on the Triennial Convention starting a new college in Washington, D.C. The men moved the headquarters of the Triennial Convention to the nation's capital and in 1821 opened Columbian College for the purpose of educating people of all sects, not just Baptist. The non-sectarian policy was written into the founding documents by Luther Rice, William Staughton and other leaders of the Triennial Convention.

The college Luther Rice and William Staughton helped found would change her name to Columbian University in 1873. The university's name  would then be changed to George Washington University in 1910. Baptist William Staughton was the first President of Columbian College. The first seven Presidents were all ordained Baptist ministers. Baptist missionary Luther Rice became the treasurer of the university in 1826 and served in that capacity until his death in 1836. It could rightly be said that George Washington University, the most expensive university in America, has more of a Baptist history than Baylor, Samford, Wake Forest or any other Baptist college or university.

George Washington University has educated thousands of well-known Americans. Colin Powell received his MBA at George Washington while serving as a White House fellow.  J. Edgar Hoover studied law at George Washington while working at the Library of Congress. Jacqueline Bouvier (later Mrs. John F. Kennedy) finished her bachelor’s in French literature at George Washington while working as a photographer for the Washington Times-Herald. GWU is considered one of the premier universities in the United States.

Whether or not the Southern Baptist Convention should change her name is a question that will be answered by voters of the Southern Baptist Convention. The two arguments that have no place within the current debate are (1). A potential name change for the SBC has never happened before, and/or (2). A name change will have disasterous consquences for the Convention.

History proves those arguments false.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Test of Genuine Christianity Is Best Conducted in the Crucibles of Life

A crushed flower
Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned by the Soviets for smuggling Bibles into communist countries.  Wurmbrand would spend years in prison, separated from family and friends because of his faith in Christ and his belief that others behind the Iron Curtain should have access to the Word of God. In the face of horrible persecution and mistreatment, Wurmbrandt never accused his tormentors of injustice, never condemned them for their actions, and never treated them with contempt. Rather, Wurmbrand loved his persecutors unconditionally. This kind of love is supernatural, the product of divine grace. Agape love is the mark of true Christianity. Dee Parsons reminded me today of a quote from Richard Wurmbrand that is worthy of our mental memorization and intentional imitation.

“When you crush a flower, it rewards you by giving you back it’s perfume. When you crush a Christian, he rewards you by giving you back his love.”

The test for genuine Christianity is best conducted in the vexing crucible and not the church vestibule.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Roots of the Real Red River Rivalry

This Saturday the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas will play in a ball game the media calls The Red River Rivalry.  The game rattles the nerves and boils the emotions of people in Oklahoma and Texas. What most don't realize is that there was a real Red River Rivalry that has lasted for 150 years. The Oklahoma and Texas border dispute which involves the Red River began with a navigating error by a soldier who would become a Civil War general, necessitated a U.S. President calling out federal troops to clear the disputed land of Texans, and ultimately would only be resolved by a decision of the United States Supreme Court.
       In 1803 Thomas Jefferson purchased land from Napoleon in a transaction that became known as The Louisana Purchase. The southern most portion of the land, including modern day Oklahoma, formed the United States border with Spain. The 1819 Adams-Onis Treaty with Spain established the Red River, the river that now forms the border between Texas and Oklahoma, as the southern boundary line between the U.S. and Spain. In addition, the 100th Meridian, north from the Red River to the Arkansas River (a river in the territory that would eventually become Kansas), was established as the western boundary of the United States.  When Mexico became independent of Spain in 1821, the U.S. signed a treaty recognizing Mexico's boundaries as the same as the 1819 treaty. In 1837, Texas seceded from Mexico and proclaimed itself an independent nation. The following year the Republic of Texas concluded a treaty with the United States, and once again, the United States recognized the same boundaries.
Though the Red River and the 100th Meridian were considered the boundaries between the U.S. and Texas, nobody really explored the boundaries to set definitive markers until the summer of 1852. In that summer, two young U.S. soldiers stationed in Indian Territory (Oklahoma), Captain Randolph Marcy and Captain George B. McClellan,  were sent by the government to explore the upper Red River to find its source and mark the 100th meridian. Captain McClellan, who himself would later (1861) become a general and be appointed by President Lincoln as general-in-chief of the Union Army, used astronomical observations to establish the 100th meridian. However, McClellan made a mistake in his navigation. He placed the meridian one degree east of its actual location. This made the meridian intersect the Red River at a point near the mouth of the North Fork of the Red River. McLellan and Marcy followed the North Fork of the Red River north, falsely believing the North Fork to be the Red River.
          McClellan's mistake would not be discovered for five years, but by that time, Texans had already taken up residence in the area between the North Fork of the Red River and the real Red River (the light red colored land pictured in the map). On February 9, 1860, Texas called this land Greer County, named in honor of John A. Greer, the former lieutenant governor of Texas. The new county's boundaries were the area east of the 100th meridian and between the north and south forks of the Red River,  Texas recognized the true 100th meridian as the eastern boundary of the Texas Panhandle but claimed the North Fork as the main branch of the Red River. Texas argued that General McClellan had claimed the North Fork was the main fork of the Red River back in 1852. Based on McClellan's error, Texas would claim sovereignty over Greer County for almost forty years.
           In 1890 the United States sought to establish Oklahoma as a new Territory. A lawsuit was filed by the attorney general  the United States to recognize Greer County as part of Oklahoma and not Texas.  After hearing all the testimony and after examining all the documents, the Supreme Court held that the central issue was "what did the negotiators of the Treaty of 1819 believe the boundary to be at the time they were presenting the treaty for ratification by both national governments (Spain and the U.S.)." In the end, the Supreme Court ruled that the southern branch of the Red River was the main original border of 1819. As a result, the land between the North Fork River and the Red River belonged to the United States (and Oklahoma) and not Texas. In 1896 Greer County became part of Oklahoma Territory and in 1907 the new state of Oklahoma divided the 1.5 million acres into four counties: Beckham, Harmon, Greer and Jackson counties.

However, the border dispute between Texas and Oklahoma did not end. In 1918 wildcat oil men found oil in north Texas. Wells were drilled by Texans as close to the Red River as possible, peven actually drilling into the river. Oklahoma land owners asserted that oil was being pumped from the Oklahoma side into Texas pocketbooks.   Oklahomans demanded royalty payments asserting that the middle of the Red River to the south bank was Oklahoma land. The State of Oklahoma filed suit in the U.S. Supreme Court against the State of Texas.  Eventually the courts decided that the entire Red River was in Oklahoma and the state of Texas only begins on the south bank. However, the bed of the Red River expands and contracts through the natural processes of erosion and accretion. The question eventually became "Where is the south bank of the Red River?"   Determining the exact location of the south bank required a great deal of legal work and surveying. In 1991 the state legislatures of Oklahoma and Texas created Red River Boundary Commissions and charged them with establishing a fixed and permanent boundary. In the spring of 1999 the commissions decided "the vegetation line along the south bank of the Red River extending on a line from the 100th Meridian east to Lake Texoma as the northern border of Texas."  The 1999 agreement required the Oklahoma/Texas border be marked with visible landmarks. Texas Gov. George W. Bush signed the resulting legislation into law on May 24, 1999 and Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating signed the agreement into law on June 4 of the same year. In Washington, D.C., Congress affirmed the agreement, which became federal law on August 31, 2000.  150 years of border dispute was finally resolved at the dawn of the 21st millenium.

The only remaining Red River battle will take place Saturday.