Thursday, December 9, 2010

Book Reviews: 2010

Following is a list of all my book reviews for 2010 in one post.  Looking forward to a great reading season in 2011.

Anderson, Michael (2005), The Scent of Life: A Pocket Prayer Book for the Discovery of Life.  This book was a gift from John Massey in Durant. It is a brief work that contains quotes and scriptures and prayers set amidst our senses.

Brouwer, Sigmund (2008).  Who Made the Moon? A Father Explores how Faith and Science Agree. Brouwer writes for parents wanting to explain questions of beginnings to their children. In so doing he attempts to reconcile questions of faith as they relate to modern science. Very interesting presentation of elementary scientific principles but without a young earth construct.

Bryan, Patricia and Thomas Wolf, Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America's Heartland. This real life murder mystery was later used as the basis for Susan Glaspel's short story, "A Jury of Her Peers," then later her play, "Trifles."

Hankins, Barry (1996). God's rascal: J. Frank Norris and the Beginnings of Southern Fundamentalism. Hankins approaches the life of Norris regarding his views of populism, fundamentalism, dispensationalism, and crusader against communism, while also discussing Norris' political transformation and views on race.  A fascinating study of the fundamentalist preacher's inconsistencies, and in some cases, downright meanness.  To say Norris was controversial is an understatement; let's face it, shooting and killing a man in your pastor's office is not what you might expect from a preacher of the Word.

Cothen, Grady (1993). What Happened to the Southern Baptist Convention? A Memoir of the Controversy. Dr. Cothen is a former President of OBU and President of the Sunday School Board (now Lifeway).  Having the opportunity to spend a day with him earlier this fall, I found him to be a very engaging and kind gentleman. His memoir of the conservative resurgence in the SBC is at once fascinating and grieving and tells the story from the perspective of a leader who is theologically conservative yet denominationally moderate.

Dekker, Ted (2010), Immanuel's Veins.  New York Times best-selling author,Ted Dekker's newest book is set in the 1770s in Moldavia against the backdrop of the Russo-Turkish war.  This was my first Dekker book and it was interesting reading providing a parable of sorts for the great love story of the bridegroom for the bride and the lengths at which someone will go to win the freedom of the one on whom their hearts desire is set.

Douglas, Frederick, The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglas. Every person who has ever struggled to understand the sad history of slavery in the world should read this narrative, which is both a sad commentary on America's history of slavery and an inspiring story of an individual's ability to persevere in the face of persecution and rise above the indignities of others.

Edgar, William, The Face of Truth: Lifting the Veil. This scholar from Westminster argues that "it is always wise to seek God above all else," in his plea for readers to give biblical faith a hearing.

Eichwald, Kurt, The Informant. The book on which the Matt Damon film was based, this is the account of a complete breakdown in ethical business practices and the problems with too much of modern commerce. The story is told against the backdrop of an informant who himself is complicated and sometimes comical. Caution: language/transcripts of actual testimony and witness accounts very foul.  

Flacco, Anthony and Jerry Clark, The Road Out of Hell: Sanford Clark and the True Story of the Wineville Murders. A haunting story of brutality and redemption, this is an emotionally difficult read that provides the back story of the Jolie/Eastwood movie, The Changeling. Warning: graphic descriptions of the horror that took place in the life and murderous rampage of the chief antagonist.

Grisham, John (2009).  Ford County. In his collection of short stories, the author's tales are great opportunities for fans to get quick fixes of Grisham in small doses.

Grudem, Wayne (2003). Business for the Glory of God: The Bible's Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business. This little volume is a quick read but splendid in its approach to moral goodness of profit and free enterprise.  A must read for any business professional and a should read for everyone else.

Hughes, Lynn (2010). Lame Science Blind Religion.  This book is written by an OBU alum and Profile in Excellence honoree by his alma mater.  Like Brouwer, Hughes attempts to reconcile faith and science through his own personal experiences and perspectives. He unashamedly presents faith and the Bible as true, yet does not hold to a classic creationism or young earth perspective.

Humphreys, Kent (2010). Christ@Work In Your Transition: From the Campus to the Workplace.  Humphreys book is designed to help college students transition from the life on campus to the workplace.Specifically, he focuses on carrying out a graduate's Christian commitment as she moves into the often rough and tumble world of the modern work environment.  This book makes an excellent graduation gift for the college student in your life.

Jones, Larry, I Lost My Ball and Found My Life. Mr. Jones graciously gave me this book on a flight out of Dallas. A very brief novella, the book outlines the harsh realities of poverty in "third-world" nations especially its devastating effect on children. The title is awkward if not descriptive, but I would have chosen the title of "Slice."

Marshall, Colin, and Tony Payne (2009). The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything.  The authors present a model of church management that de-emphasizes corporate business models too often prevalent in modern ministry; they present a very biblical model for ministers.

Moreland, J. P., Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. As a long-time admirer of the work and contributions of Dr. Moreland, we were pleased to host him on our campus last year.  In this book, he does a masterful job of explaining the importance of Christ's Great Commandment to love Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds. 

Parrish, John W. (2010).  Proudly Stand on Bison Hill: A Pictorial History of Oklahoma Baptist University 1910-2010.  Parrish did a wonderful job of documenting through pictures and highlights, the story of Oklahoma Baptist University.  This book is part of the OBU Centennial Series and a must-have for all those who love OBU and Bison Hill.

Phelps, M. William, The Devil's Rooming House: The True Story of America's Deadliest Female Serial Killer. If you've ever seen the old Carey Grant movie, Arsenic and Old Lace (ironically a comedy), you might not know it was inspired by a real-life woman. Her name was Amy Archer-Gilligan, and this is her story told against the backdrop of the newly emerging business concept of caring for the elderly and infirm.

Preston, Douglas and Mario Spezi, The Monster of Florence. Having visited the famous city with Dana a few years ago, this book caught my attention. Set in the beautiful city of Florence, Italy, the authors weave the city's rich history and culture with the cold, hard realities of modern Florence and its pockets of crime and mankind's baser instincts. Caution: graphic depictions of the crimes and rough language.

Puzo, Mario (1969). The Godfather. I've never seen the movie but two good friends constantly quote from the movie, so when I saw the reissue of the classic Puzo novel, I picked it up at Borders.  Two words: violent and gruesome. The novel is a a fascinating perspective on leadership and management but is replete with foul language and explicit scenes inappropriate for most readers.  My friends tell me the movie is not as graphic...

Raley, John Wesley Raley, et. al. (1935). Why Christian Education?  So far ahead of his time, Dr. Raley had this book compiled by the faculty of OBU on the occasion of the University's 25th anniversary.  It has an introduction by the great George Truett--his address on the 25th convocation.  The book explores the distinctives of a Christian approach to higher education that is still timely and a must read for current educators, parents, and students.  I am working on getting this republished and exploring the possibility of having a new edition written by current faculty.

Reichs, Kathy (2007). Bones to Ashes Reichs continues her Temperance Brennan series with a story of a skeleton discovered in Acadia, Canada.  She becomes dedicated to solving the crime as she discovers connections with the mysterious disappearance of a childhood friend.  If you like the TV series "Bones" you will enjoy Reichs' books.

Ritenour, Shawn, Foundations of Economics: A Christian View. This book by a close friend of mine is very readable even for the non-economist. Dr. Ritenour is a brilliant scholar of the Austrian school of economic thought, and presents economics from a biblical worldview.

Stover, Emma (2009), Sirloin Stockade Slaughter: Murder on the Run.  A very brief tale taken largely from newspaper accounts, this 87 page read recounts the terrible tale of Roger Dale Stafford who took the life of a couple traveling near my hometown of Wayne and then committed the horrific mass murder at Oklahoma City's Sirloin Stockade. During the murder trial for the Wayne area murders I would sneak out of school and attend the trial in Purcell and so I was particularly interested in reading the book.

Stott, John, Your Mind Matters. Embracing the life of the mind and the virtue of intellectual pursuit among evangelicals, this brief work by Stott is excellent. This should be on the shelf of all students and faculty engaged in distinctively Christian higher education.

Stokes, David (2010). Apparent Danger: The Pastor of America's First Megachurch and the Texas Murder Trial of the Decade in the 1920s.  In this true story of J. Frank Norris and the killing of an unarmed man that took place in in the pastor's office at First Baptist, Fort Worth, the author covers the crime, trial, and consequences. Norris claimed self defense, however, all witnesses agreed along with Norris that the man was unarmed.

Wester, Ruth Lance, and June Proctor (2007).  Ropin' the Dream: The Story of the Ken Lance Sports Arena 1964-1994.  Told by his former wife and her sister, this story is a memoir of the lifework of Ken and Ruth Lance who built a famous rodeo arena and helped launch the careers of some of the most notable country singers in the world.  A virtual who's who of country music is but one of the story lines in this candid look at a bit of cowboy and western history. Ruth's maiden name is Whitlock and we became friends during my nineteen years of living in Durant, Oklahoma.

Willis, Avery, and Henry Blackaby (2002). On Mission With God: Living God's Purpose for His Glory.  At the funeral of Dr. Willis, his friend Henry Blackaby spoke and the family gave copies of this book to all present.  For those who were changed by reading "Experiencing God," this book is the most appropriate follow-up work to read.  The book is challenging and life changing. 

Willis, Avery and Matt Willis  (2009), Learning to Soar: How to Grow Through Transitions and Trials. My copy was given to me by Dr. Willis and is a most treasured volume.  In the book, Willis and his grandson provide insight into facing transitional challenges.  Using the imagery of the eagle as presented in Scripture, Avery provides wisdom backed up by decades of experience, while Matt writes with the zeal and perspective of a young man at the beginning of a lifelong journey of service. You'll find this book helpful no matter your phase of life.

Winchester, Simon, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. The Oxford English Dictionary is one of the most significant accomplishments undertaken in the English-speaking world. Who knew that one of the major contributors was discovered to be an inmate in an insane asylum, convicted of murder?

Book Reviews: Last Few from 2010

Anderson, Michael (2005), The Scent of Life: A Pocket Prayer Book for the Discovery of Life.  This book was a gift from John Massey in Durant. It is a brief work that contains quotes and scriptures and prayers set amidst our senses. 

Dekker, Ted (2010), Immanuel's Veins.  New York Times best-selling author,Ted Dekker's newest book is set in the 1770s in Moldavia against the backdrop of the Russo-Turkish war.  This was my first Dekker book and it was interesting reading providing a parable of sorts for the great love story of the bridegroom for the bride and the lengths at which someone will go to win the freedom of the one on whom their hearts desire is set.

Stover, Emma (2009), Sirloin Stockade Slaughter: Murder on the Run.  A very brief tale taken largely from newspaper accounts, this 87 page read recounts the terrible tale of Roger Dale Stafford who took the life of a couple traveling near my hometown of Wayne and then committed the horrific mass murder at Oklahoma City's Sirloin Stockade. During the murder trial for the Wayne area murders I would sneak out of school and attend the trial in Purcell and so I was particularly interested in reading the book.

Willis, Avery and Matt Willis  (2009), Learning to Soar: How to Grow Through Transitions and Trials. My copy was given to me by Dr. Willis and is a most treasured volume.  In the book, Willis and his grandson provide insight into facing transitional challenges.  Using the imagery of the eagle as presented in Scripture, Avery provides wisdom backed up by decades of experience, while Matt writes with the zeal and perspective of a young man at the beginning of a lifelong journey of service. You'll find this book helpful no matter your phase of life.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book Reviews Fall 2010

Brouwer, Sigmund (2008).  Who Made the Moon? A Father Explores how Faith and Science Agree. Brouwer writes for parents wanting to explain questions of beginnings to their children. In so doing he attempts to reconcile questions of faith as they relate to modern science. Very interesting presentation of elementary scientific principles but without a young earth construct.

Hankins, Barry (1996). God's rascal: J. Frank Norris and the Beginnings of Southern Fundamentalism. Hankins approaches the life of Norris regarding his views of populism, fundamentalism, dispensationalism, and crusader against communism, while also discussing Norris' political transformation and views on race.  A fascinating study of the fundamentalist preacher's inconsistencies, and in some cases, downright meanness.  To say Norris was controversial is an understatement; let's face it, shooting and killing a man in your pastor's office is not what you might expect from a preacher of the Word.

Cothen, Grady (1993). What Happened to the Southern Baptist Convention? A Memoir of the Controversy. Dr. Cothen is a former President of OBU and President of the Sunday School Board (now Lifeway).  Having the opportunity to spend a day with him earlier this fall, I found him to be a very engaging and kind gentleman. His memoir of the conservative resurgence in the SBC is at once fascinating and grieving and tells the story from the perspective of a leader who is theologically conservative yet denominationally moderate.

Grisham, John (2009).  Ford County. In his collection of short stories, the author's tales are great opportunities for fans to get quick fixes of Grisham in small doses.

Grudem, Wayne (2003). Business for the Glory of God: The Bible's Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business. This little volume is a quick read but splendid in its approach to moral goodness of profit and free enterprise.  A must read for any business professional and a should read for everyone else.

Hughes, Lynn (2010). Lame Science Blind Religion.  This book is written by an OBU alum and Profile in Excellence honoree by his alma mater.  Like Brouwer, Hughes attempts to reconcile faith and science through his own personal experiences and perspectives. He unashamedly presents faith and the Bible as true, yet does not hold to a classic creationism or young earth perspective.

Humphreys, Kent (2010). Christ@Work In Your Transition: From the Campus to the Workplace.  Humphreys book is designed to help college students transition from the life on campus to the workplace.Specifically, he focuses on carrying out a graduate's Christian commitment as she moves into the often rough and tumble world of the modern work environment.  This book makes an excellent graduation gift for the college student in your life.

Marshall, Colin, and Tony Payne (2009). The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything.  The authors present a model of church management that de-emphasizes corporate business models too often prevalent in modern ministry; they present a very biblical model for ministers.

Moreland, J. P., Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. As a long-time admirer of the work and contributions of Dr. Moreland, we were pleased to host him on our campus last year.  In this book, he does a masterful job of explaining the importance of Christ's Great Commandment to love Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds. 

Parrish, John W. (2010).  Proudly Stand on Bison Hill: A Pictorial History of Oklahoma Baptist University 1910-2010.  Parrish did a wonderful job of documenting through pictures and highlights, the story of Oklahoma Baptist University.  This book is part of the OBU Centennial Series and a must-have for all those who love OBU and Bison Hill.


Puzo, Mario (1969). The Godfather. I've never seen the movie but two good friends constantly quote from the movie, so when I saw the reissue of the classic Puzo novel, I picked it up at Borders.  Two words: violent and gruesome. The novel is a a fascinating perspective on leadership and management but is replete with foul language and explicit scenes inappropriate for most readers.  My friends tell me the movie is not as graphic...

Raley, John Wesley Raley, et. al. (1935). Why Christian Education?  So far ahead of his time, Dr. Raley had this book compiled by the faculty of OBU on the occasion of the University's 25th anniversary.  It has an introduction by the great George Truett--his address on the 25th convocation.  The book explores the distinctives of a Christian approach to higher education that is still timely and a must read for current educators, parents, and students.  I am working on getting this republished and exploring the possibility of having a new edition written by current faculty.

Reichs, Kathy (2007). Bones to Ashes.  Reichs continues her Temperance Brennan series with a story of a skeleton discovered in Acadia, Canada.  She becomes dedicated to solving the crime as she discovers connections with the mysterious disappearance of a childhood friend.  If you like the TV series "Bones" you will enjoy Reichs' books.

Stokes, David (2010). Apparent Danger: The Pastor of America's First Megachurch and the Texas Murder Trial of the Decade in the 1920s.  In this true story of J. Frank Norris and the killing of an unarmed man that took place in in the pastor's office at First Baptist, Fort Worth, the author covers the crime, trial, and consequences. Norris claimed self defense, however, all witnesses agreed along with Norris that the man was unarmed.

Wester, Ruth Lance, and June Proctor (2007).  Ropin the Dream: The Story of the Ken Lance Sports Arena 1964-1994.  Told by his former wife and her sister, this story is a memoir of the lifework of Ken and Ruth Lance who built a famous rodeo arena and helped launch the careers of some of the most notable country singers in the world.  A virtual who's who of country music is but one of the story lines in this candid look at a bit of cowboy and western history. Ruth's maiden name is Whitlock and we became friends during my nineteen years of living in Durant, Oklahoma.

Willis, Avery, and Henry Blackaby (2002). On Mission With God: Living God's Purpose for His Glory.  At the funeral of Dr. Willis, his friend Henry Blackaby spoke and the family gave copies of this book to all present.  For those who were changed by reading "Experiencing God," this book is the most appropriate follow-up work to read.  The book is challenging and life changing.


For additional Book Reviews, see August 1, 2010 post.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

72 & 316

Sobering statistics: 

Over 6.85 billion* souls in the world.
  8.78
deaths/1000.
56,597,034 deaths per year.
About 155,060 every day.

33% claim to be Christian of some persuasion.
67% claim no Christianity.

Of that 67% 
Over 37,920,000 die every year.
103,890 die every day.
About 4,328 die every hour.
Over 72 people die every minute rejecting 
any form of belief in Jesus notwithstanding Matt. 7:21-23.


72 every minute 
swallowed up in an eternity  
separated from God, 
separated from love.


72 dying and going to hell every minute
 of 
every hour
 of
every day 
of 
every year.

72 

While we watch television. 
While we work. 
While we sleep.  
While we eat.  
While we email. 
While we blog.
While we Facebook.
While we tweet.

72 every 60 seconds.


Don't be one of the 72.

 Admit you're in need of someone to intervene. Turn you back on those things that separate you from God. Turn to God and ask forgiveness through Jesus the Messiah. Trust in His death, burial, and resurrection for your own forgiveness and right standing with the Father in Heaven. 

John 3:16
Whosoever confesses and believes in the Son 
will not perish, but will have eternal life.

72 believing 3:16 = a much sweeter sound at the gates of heaven.

*http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/popclockworld.html

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Father and Son Reunited

Incredible.  Some headlines read, "Miracle."  The story of the trapped Chilean miners is a compelling story.

The last miner was brought back to the surface after over two months of being in a sort of tomb. The moment was moving as he emerged and was seen alive.  More moving was the moment he and his son were reunited.

"Oh, my son...." the miner whispered as the two embraced.

I was immediately struck with another picture that happened over 2,000 years ago and that is even more compelling, more miraculous, more incredible.

Yet in that case, it was the son that was entombed and a father who grieved. In that case, the tomb was real.  The grave was sealed.  And inside was not someone as good as dead; the man was indeed dead and buried. Three days later however, the man named Yeshua rose from the dead.

Imagine the moment when the Messiah emerged from the tomb and was seen alive.

Imagine that moment when the Father and Son were reunited.

The embrace.

The emotion.

The whisper of the Father....

"Oh, my Son..."

Incredible.  Miraculous.  Compelling...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Heaven's Rain

Heaven's Rain is a feature film that's just been released. The true story of Brooks Douglass and his quest to bring justice to his parents' murderers and his sister Leslie's rapists, the movie was written and co-produced by Brooks and he acted the part of his own father in the film. He and his wife Julea are pictured at the movie's premier release.

His father was Dr. Richard Douglass, an OBU alum who served as the Pastor of First Baptist Church, Putnam City, Oklahoma. Brook's mother was Marilyn, an accomplished singer. Having served with the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board (IMB) in Brazil, the family returned to Oklahoma where Dr. Douglass eventually spent the rest of his life pastoring the Putnam City church.

When Brooks was 16 and Leslie was 12, tragedy struck that forever changed their lives. On October 15, 1979, two drifters, Glen Ake and Steven Hatch entered their home, hog-tied Richard, Marilyn and Brook, then took 12 year-old Leslie into her bedroom where both men raped her - Ake twice. Afterward, they robbed the family of less than $50, then shot all four, killing the parents and leaving the two siblings for dead.

The film however, is not so much a story of the crime (told in flashbacks), but a story of forgiveness. The film builds toward a powerful ending and is a definite must-see.

Both Brooks and Leslie endured not just the horror of the crime, but struggled through the emotional and relational consequences. Both have excelled in their respective careers, he as a state legislator, businessman, producer and actor; she as a professional educator. During his service as a State Senator, Brooks Douglass passed his signature legislation granting victim rights.

I remember well the murder and being struck by the knowledge that Brooks and Leslie were the same ages as I and my sisters were. Only a few years prior, we had been living in a small house in Wayne as my parents built our home on farmland outside of town. One day as I rode my bike around the corner I was confronted with police and a small crowd and learned that a boy about my age and his little sister, near the age of my sisters had been murdered by their mother who also murdered their father and then committed suicide.

Close to the same time of the Douglass murders, other crimes happened near Wayne that haunted our community and state. Roger Dale Stafford, his wife and his brother shot and killed the Lopez family on I-35 near Wayne. Lopez, on leave from the military to attend a family funeral, stopped to assist the Staffords posed on the highway as stranded. They killed Mr. and Mrs. Lopez and their 12 year old son. Eventually they robbed the Sirloin Stockade in Oklahoma City, rounding up the night shift including several teenagers my age, forcing them into the freezer and mercilessly murdering them. I remember one was named David, my age, who was working to fix up his old pickup truck. I thought of him often as I drove my own 1957 pickup back and forth to my first job.

Then, a local beautician who operated her shop out of her home was murdered by a high school student from Purcell when she gave him what he considered was a bad haircut. I attended the trials of both of the Wayne crimes, often skipping school to take my seat among the observers in the McClain County Courthouse.

In so many ways those events were intrusions of the reality of evil into my small-town perspective of a simple life that in so many ways had seemed idyllic. I often thought of those my age whose lives had been stopped and who would forever remain the same age in my mind, though I would grow older with each passing year. And I often wondered how Brooks and Leslie had dealt with their own pain. Now I know.

Now I can also count Brooks among my friends. Dana and I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to meet and host him and his wife for dinner, and hear his story first-hand. Tonight we screened the movie. The film was moving and inspiring and is a profound reminder of the power of forgiveness.

Pray for Brooks and his family, for Leslie and her family, and that God would use this film to point others to the message of Christ, to which Richard and Marilyn Douglass dedicated and gave their lives.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

OBU Centennial Convocation


President's Address
November 1, 2010

As we begin a new academic year together, let me welcome you home to Bison Hill.  We will complete our centennial celebration of Oklahoma Baptist University this year, and what a year it has been!  Over the last year, we have been reminded of the remarkable vision of those who came to this very patch of earth 100 years ago and prayerfully founded a university—a place where serious investigation of facts and the reading of books would result in the pursuit of truth shaped by a worldview grounded on authority of Holy Scripture.

And lest you think that by coming to a Christian university you assume that we are afraid of ideas that run contrary to our theological foundations, you should refocus your efforts on a clearer vision of exactly what is meant by pursuing truth in the context of a faith community of scholars and students brought together by God’s providence.  Former University of Chicago professor, Allan Bloom wrote The Closing of the American Mind over twenty years ago.  Perhaps one of his most telling statements about his experience in teaching comes when he discussed his own interactions with incoming freshman:

“The one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of [is]:  almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.  That anyone should regard the proposition as not self-evident astonishes them, as though we were calling into question 2+2=4.  The danger they have been taught to fear from absolution is not error but intolerance…” Bloom goes on to state, “The point is not to correct mistakes and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all.”

Many in this room today agree with Professor Bloom’s diagnosis–others perhaps not so much.   But of this we can be sure:  The notion of relativism is alive and well and evangelicals had best admit it and seek to remove it from their own ranks or they will be overrun by a tidal wave of sloppy thinking and imprecision regarding everything from algebra to biology to theology.

Perhaps my greatest fear today is that we as a community of learners might find ourselves unwilling to explore the hard questions and give ourselves fully to diligent study and long hours of work required in this age in which we live. Unless you are willing as students to explore all aspects of Euclid’s Elements or the essentials of the Copernican revolution or the principles of Bacon’s Novum Organum, and press your abilities against the wall of your own background, experiences, and personal limits, your time here will not prove profitable or prepare you for the future that awaits.

As faculty we must work to challenge those who are here to study with us in ways that may cause a bit of unease in their lives. To say the least, often the best professors know how to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.  Yet we challenge our students in an environment of Christian nurture.  We approach our mission of higher education with the awareness that a Christian liberal arts education is noble and good and distinct from our colleagues in the secular academy. 

Bloom touched upon this as well, writing, "As it now stands, students have powerful images of what a perfect body is and pursue it incessantly. But deprived of literary guidance, they no longer have any image of a perfect soul, and hence do not long to have one. They do not even imagine that there is such a thing."

Another wise man once wrote: “To attempt to care for the religious and to disregard the intellectual all too often bring disastrous results.  One who would follow such a course would necessarily become purely automatic in thinking, instead of investigative; credulous instead of rational; presumptive instead of maintaining an intelligent faith; and emotional rather than reverent in his attitude toward God.  Man’s intellectual body must be fed. 

“On the other hand, if we ignore the religious element in the nature of man, and develop only the intellectual phase of his being we make of him a cold, heartless, calculating creature who deals primarily in externals and who brands as folly the acceptance of the finer sensibilities of life.  Refusing to accept God in his thinking, he reasons himself into a meticulous machine.  He sins against the refinement of the soul, and, in time, kills his highest nature.  It is essential to man’s well being that both his intellectual and his spiritual natures be satisfied.”  These words are as relevant in 2010 as when they were originally penned in 1935 by OBU President John Wesley Raley on the occasion of OBU’s 25th anniversary.

Within the framework of truth provided for us by divine revelation, we operate in the world as students of both God’s Word and God’s world.  We do not fear what cannot fully be explained, and we work to reconcile difficult intellectual problems through the work of others who have labored before us, trusting God to help us make a significant contribution to the various academic disciplines in which we study.

Some will argue erroneously that if Christian theology and a robust doctrine of Holy Scripture are emphasized too strongly, that academic rigor will be sacrificed on the altar of an overgrown youth camp experience.  Let St. Augustine answer this conundrum for us. 

When Augustine first read the Bible, he found it downright boring and described it to “be unworthy in comparison with the dignity of Cicero.”  His reality check finally came when he recognized one critical fact about himself and wrote, “My inflated conceit shunned the Bible’s restraint, my gaze never penetrated to its inwardness.  Yet the Bible was composed in such a way that as beginners mature, its meaning grows with them.  I disdained to be a little beginner. Puffed up with pride, I considered myself a mature adult. That is why I fell in with men proud of their slick talk, very earthly-minded and loquacious.”

Pride is the primal sin of our race.  We raise up ourselves against God in a myriad of ways most of which are not realized by us unless and until they are pointed out to us—until we are confronted with our own Nathan who would paint for us a picture of one caught and dulled by sin, and with love and courage look us in the eye and proclaim to us, “You are that man.” Part of this responsibility resides in each of us as a community of learners and scholars committed to truth. 

Students, the pride spoken of by Augustine, crouches at the door even as you devote yourself to the Great Commandment—to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind.  You seek to use your God given intellect, you dare to explore the depths of knowledge, yet even then the primal sin of pride will tempt you to fall in with men proud of their slick talk, very earthly-minded and loquacious.  Herein is one of the struggles inherent in the process of doing research and thinking critically within a Christian worldview.  How do we vigorously examine our disciplines, ask the tough questions required, and yet remain faithful to God’s revealed truth in His Word?  

Serving as a professor at a state university when I came to faith in Jesus, this struggle is one that I know personally, both as a member of Christ’s church, and as a member of the academy.  Although my studies had been concentrated in educational leadership, and business administration at the graduate level, my undergraduate study was in pursuit of my degree in chemistry with minors in biology and interdisciplinary studies exploring the liberal arts. 

After I became a believer, I began to wrestle with issues of faith and science, as well as faith and economics.  I discovered that I could not fully reconcile to my own satisfaction some aspects of my education and my faith. Such a realization was uncomfortable and I was tempted to simply walk away—not from educational pursuit of knowledge, and not from faith—but from the struggle to think, write, and teach from a precommitment to Christ and Scripture. Let’s be honest, a commitment to Jesus and God’s Word as we grow in the knowledge of our disciplines and the discipline of our minds, provides challenges that tempt us to separate them artificially and to create a false dichotomy of knowledge and physical reality on the one hand and faith on the other.

Yet such a struggle is worthwhile and healthy as we seek consistency between our faith and learning.  I believe such wrestling is God-honoring and consistent with Christ’s command to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind, and I found that honest and open inquiry of my disciplines actually bolstered my faith.  Such wrestling led to my own discovery that the evidence in chemistry and biology, in economic theory and in history, archeology, and other disciplines indeed provided the evidence for my faith in Christ and for my confidence in God’s Word.  I discovered that my faith is not a blind faith, but an informed faith—a faith backed up by proof. 

What a revelation. My faith is not contradicted but supported by the data; my biblical worldview is strengthened as new facts are revealed.  Far from being fearful in our pursuit of academic excellence, as Christians we are created and expected to explore boldly the world around us.  As believers we need not be afraid of testing the truth of Scripture, for God’s Word can withstand whatever questions are posed against it in a genuine search for truth.   

This is one of the unique challenges and privileges afforded in distinctively Christian higher education.  Although secular colleges set the truths of their disciplines up and against the truth of Scripture or attempt to present faith and knowledge as separate spheres, you study at a university unafraid of exploring both as a single harmonious sphere. 

Avoid inflated conceit as confessed by Augustine.  Instead, embrace the Bible’s restraint; let your gaze penetrate to its inwardness.  As you mature, you will discover that God’s Word and its meaning grows with you.  Do not be puffed up with pride and consider yourself already a mature adult, but recognize you have much yet to learn.  In this realization, guard against falling in with men proud of their slick talk, very earthly-minded and loquacious.

In other words, never be afraid to search out the truth and search out the Scripture and ask tough questions.  Never be afraid to devote yourself fully to understand and delve deep into the subjects you study. Never shy away from learning and a devotion to your education.  Yet students, never become so devoted to your own discipline that you relegate the truth of Scripture and the reality of the person and work of Jesus Christ to be subordinated to your academic field of expertise.  

Those of us who teach and lead at OBU should periodically ask ourselves: Is my loyalty, love, devotion, and commitment to my discipline greater than my loyalty, love, devotion, and commitment to Jesus?  Are my loyalties to the creeds of my academic societies and the standards of my field of study greater than my loyalties to the Word of God and the call of Christ on my life?   

As members of the academy and as members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we must honestly ask: Is our primary cause in life the advancement of our own discipline for the sake of the discipline? Or is our primary cause in life to serve Christ and use our discipline and academic preparation as a means to that end?

Our purpose as a Christian community of learners and scholars—as academicians—is to bring all knowledge and every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.  Since all truth is God's truth, it will be necessarily coherent and consistent.   The Christian academician begins with the a priori commitment to the truth of Scripture and the ultimate authority of Christ; therefore she will have no higher loyalty than her loyalty to Christ and His Word.

Students, your generation is poised to have a most profound impact upon the world and upon history.  Our time demands that we be about our business with a sense of urgency. Our nation’s economy teeters on the brink of collapse.  The church of Jesus Christ in our own nation is weak and needs renewal and revival.  The academy stands in need of a renewed sense of purpose and vision to provide both to this campus and to our community a revitalized engagement with our culture.  You are here—each and every one of you—for such a time as this. 

Each of us is called to be faithful to the task that awaits us.  And so we begin.  Today marks a new season in our life together, and we search for meaning in our study and in our life by establishing as our foundation the foundation that stands above the wrecks of time.  Christ remains that sure foundation, and we rejoice to pursue our callings in the power granted to us by the grace of God.

For every student here, study as if your life depended upon it—because it does.  The futures you will face demand that you be prepared.  Resolve today to be about your work in light of eternity to the glory of Christ.  For my fellow members of the academy, invest your life in the future that is before you day after day.  Send a message to a time you will not see, that by God’s grace you labored as unto the Lord Jesus Christ by discharging your duties well.  Lead.  Teach.  Help and push one another as iron sharpens iron.  And above all, love one another. 

For the staff, we need you and can’t do this without you. Your lives and service provide the building blocks on which our students depend. No job is insignificant in this worthy task to which we put our hands.  Everyone and everything matters.  Serve one another in love. 

To our donors and friends, pray for us.  Support our work and know of our deepest gratitude for you because without you we will be unable to continue on the road toward excellence.  Thank you for believing in us and standing with us every step of the way.

OBU family, what we do here on Bison Hill matters.  Building on a century of success, we are shaping the future.  The best is yet to come as we lock arms and explore new academic programs, establish nationally renowned centers of excellence, increase endowments for scholarships, professorships, and chairs, and continue to develop our campus through renovation and new facilities to meet the challenges of the future.

Whatever those challenges may be, OBU will respond, innovate, and lead—faithful to our core values and mission.  As a Christian liberal arts university, OBU transforms lives by equipping students to pursue academic excellence, integrate faith with all areas of knowledge, engage a diverse world, and live worthy of the high calling of God in Christ.

May we pursue this mission together, and in love may we serve one another praying that God would be glorified through our lives.  May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Sprit be with us all now and forevermore.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bison Spirit

In the days of covered wagons and wide open ranges, an old farmer riding his horse over the prairie discovered a newborn bison calf next to its mother that had died giving birth. He took the calf home and raised it with his pigs. The farmer’s neighbors used to come by and watch the young calf as it played with the pigs and rooted around in the dirt. As it grew it became a real sight, this huge bison bull weighing nearly a ton wallowing in the mud with the pigs, content to eat from the same trough and live within the confines of the sty in which he wasted away his hours and days.

Until... One day as he stood above the water hole from which he drank, something caught his eye high on a hill that overlooked the pen in which the bull had spent its entire life. In the distance the bull caught a glimpse of movement, a cloud of dust, and rumbling like thunder. With newfound intensity, he beheld the sight of a herd of bison running. They were magnificent creatures. Noble. Strong. Free.

Cool wind rushed in and stirred the water before him and he gazed at the image that began to emerge as the ripples quieted. As if for the first time he realized the image reflected was his own. Staring back at him was the very image of those magnificent, noble and free creatures he had seen on the hill. Looking back at the herd of bison on the hill high above his sty, his spirit stirred within him and for the first time he knew and understood.  He was a bison.

The bull began to stomp and claw at the ground. His muscles quivered with excitement. His breathing became deep and measured.  His nostrils flared, and he shook his massive frame free of the dust and filth and the stuff of his past, then suddenly leapt forward ran at a speed he had never before believed possible. He easily cleared the hobbled fence of thin-stranded wire strung between short wood posts—nothing more than sticks really—that had restricted his movements his entire life. Free at last, he comprehended who he really was and realized he was meant for a life of nobility, of strength, of freedom.

Too many of us are content to wallow with the pigs when we were created to live a life of nobility. Too many of us have not yet fully understood who we really are, not yet realized our full potential. We have not yet fully comprehended that we were created in the image of God, created for a life of freedom and fellowship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

Take another look at the reflection in your mirror, then gaze back across history at the cross of Christ. Take another look at Christ.  Noble. Regal. Royalty. Realize that you are made in His image, designed, created, and intended for a life of nobility. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2.9–10).

As followers of Christ we are to help others see themselves through the eyes of Christ and help them realize who they are in Christ. Like the story of the farmer’s bison, we are called to inspire others to break out of their sty and begin living the life for which they were designed, created, and intended. We are privileged to share with others that they are better than that for which they’ve settled, that they were created and meant for greater purposes. May we be faithful to help others get out of the mud, away from the swine, and be free from the hobbles that restrain them. As God’s redeemed, we are called to proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Harolda and Lenny

When I entered fifth grade, I started the year as the new kid.  Though terribly uncomfortable, I was used to it.  I had entered kindergarten as a student at Rancho Village in Oklahoma City. Midway through the year I transferred to Wayne Elementary where I also attended first grade.  I began second grade at Kingfisher Elementary then moved midyear to finish at Central Elementary in Moore.  Third grade found me starting as the new kid at Northmoore Elementary in Moore where I also finished fourth. Finally, we landed in Wayne again where I eventually completed high school.

Never did I enjoy being the new kid in school, but everywhere I attended there were friends and teachers who helped me assimilate and who instilled in me a lifelong love of learning.  That process continued through college and graduate school.  Teachers like Mrs. Neva Nemechek, Mrs. German, Miss Baker, Mrs. Troyer in elementary, and Mr. Dawson, Mr. Cail, Mrs. Klepper, Mr. Lucas, Mr. Johnson, Mrs. Martin, and so many others in high school made a difference in my life.  In college, I was influenced by Dr. Gold, Mrs. Engles, Dr. Eggleton, Mr. Walker, Dr. Norris, Dr. Hazell, Dr. Robinson, Dr. McRory, Dr. Green, Dr. Udell, Dr. Fox, Dr. Sharp, and others.

And this brings me to Harolda and Lenny, my high school English and Math teachers, respectively.  They ended up marrying each other, a merging of Browning and Pascal, of language and algebra.  Harolda guided us through the Scarlet Letter and Great Expectations, Poe and rules of grammar.  Lenny and his long hair taught algebraic formulas and geometry and how to use the sine and cosine tables printed on our desktops (I dreamed one day of a desk with built-in calculators that would have four functions).  She was a cool but demanding teacher. He was as laid back as any person I had ever met to that point in my young life. Both took kids from a rural agricultural community and guided them through their classes with the belief and expectations that we would get it, enjoy it, and that their subjects were worth knowing. 

I've often wondered where they went after Wayne and how they were doing.  I just received an email from Mrs. Gibson (calling her Harolda still seems so unnaturally familiar), and we've begun catching up.  She had attended OBU's summer academy as a high school student.  Lenny had studied and received his bachelor's degree from OBU. Now that I too am at OBU, I'm reminded of how small the world really is, and I'm thinking of what a difference my teachers made in my life.  I look forward to seeing them in person sometime soon and saying thank you in person for their influence.

Think about those whose lives have intersected yours, about the persons who invested their life in yours.  Chances are you'll think of parents and relatives and friends. But I imagine that the names that spring to mind in greatest numbers are teachers. I'm thankful for the teachers who have invested themselves in me and instilled a love for lifelong learning; I'm thankful for Harolda and Lenny.

I'm just saying....Maybe you ought to make a phone call or write an email or send a card to a Harolda and Lenny who made a difference in your life.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Whole Note

A favorite activity growing up (in the days of network sign-offs with the National Anthem and before 24-hour news channels, Internet and YouTube) was playing my dad's old LP albums--Herb Alpert, Mitch Miller, the Beatles, the Statler Brothers, the Righteous Brothers, Frank Sinatra, Henry Mancini, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin--and listening to the carousel of 45s on our jukebox stocked with Elvis Presley, Jeanie C. Riley, Roger Miller, Johnny Cash, and the like. On Sunday mornings my mom often tuned the television to the show, Gospel Singing Jubilee, and I heard groups like the Florida Boys and Blackwood Brothers.  

When I got my own hi-fi stereo system with 8-track (then later a cassette deck), my speakers beat with the sounds of the Eagles, Seals and Croft, Simon and Garfunkle, Jimmy Webb, America, Don McLean, the Doobie Brothers, Rod Stewart, James Taylor, Kim Carnes, and Chicago, as well as Willie and Wayland, Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty (yes I know...), Ed Bruce, Crystal Gayle, Eddie Rabbit, Kenny Rogers, Ann Murray, and Glenn Campbell. After becoming a believer, CD purchases of Keith Green music began to make its way into my collection (Green had actually been a pop star in rock and roll before his conversion and dedication to distinctively Christian music).

Occasionally, I will read something about the artists I listened to in my youth and who I still enjoy when I can catch them on the radio or use my iPod. I'm always interested when I discover that some of them have made professions of faith in Jesus.  Here are just a handful of my all time favorite artists who have stated their own  faith in Jesus.

Bob Dylan. Know for his folk, rockabilly, and even jazz, Dylan's music often is interlaced with a biblical worldview.

BW Stevenson. One of my all time favorite singer songwriters who died young years ago, I only recently discovered had become a believer and actually recorded a Christian album before he passed away.

Ed Bruce.  Singer songwriters are among my favorite artists and Bruce like Stevenson has many hits you would recognize but that were probably made famous by other artists. I recently read that some time ago he too has become a believer and begun recording Christian music.

Johnny Cash. A favorite singer of iconic reputation, he is well known to have been a believer having appeared with Billy Graham to share his testimony and sing.  His gospel albums are among his best.

Glenn Campbell. Another iconic star and favorite, his music is easy on my mind, and his songs of faith are outstanding.  Not a perfect testimony but who among us doesn't have regrets.

I'm just saying...I'm looking forward to the concerts that will be held across Jordan....  Of course we'll also be able to enjoy concerts by none less than George Frederic Handel, Ludwig Van Beethoven, and Johann Sebastian Bach!


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Summer 2010 Book Reviews

Reviews:

Bryan, Patricia and Thomas Wolf, Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America's Heartland. This real life murder mystery was later used as the basis for Susan Glaspel's short story, "A Jury of Her Peers," then later her play, "Trifles."  

Douglas, Frederick, The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglas. Every person who has ever struggled to understand the sad history of slavery in the world should read this narrative, which is both a sad commentary on America's history of slavery and an inspiring story of an individual's ability to persevere in the face of persecution and rise above the indignities of others. A must read.

Edgar, William, The Face of Truth: Lifting the Veil. This scholar from Westminster argues that "it is always wise to seek God above all else," in his plea for readers to give biblical faith a hearing. 

Eichwald, Kurt, The Informant. The book on which the Matt Damon film was based, this is the account of a complete breakdown in ethical business practices and the problems with too much of modern commerce. The story is told against the backdrop of an informant who himself is complicated and sometimes comical. Caution: language/transcripts of actual testimony and witness accounts very foul.  

Flacco, Anthony and Jerry Clark, The Road Out of Hell: Sanford Clark and the True Story of the Wineville Murders. A haunting story of brutality and redemption, this is an emotionally difficult read that provides the back story of the Jolie/Eastwood movie, The Changeling. Warning: graphic descriptions of the horror that took place in the life and murderous rampage of the chief antagonist.

Jones, Larry, I Lost My Ball and Found My Life. Mr. Jones graciously gave me this book on a flight out of Dallas. A very brief novella, the book outlines the harsh realities of poverty in "third-world" nations especially its devastating effect on children. The title is awkward if not descriptive, but I would have chosen the title of "Slice."

Phelps, M. William, The Devil's Rooming House: The True Story of America's Deadliest Female Serial Killer. If you've ever seen the old Carey Grant movie, Arsenic and Old Lace (ironically a comedy), you might not know it was inspired by a real-life woman. Her name was Amy Archer-Gilligan, and this is her story told against the backdrop of the newly emerging business concept of caring for the elderly and infirm.

Preston, Douglas and Mario Spezi, The Monster of Florence. Having visited the famous city with Dana a few years ago, this book caught my attention. Set in the beautiful city of Florence, Italy, the authors weave the city's rich history and culture with the cold, hard realities of modern Florence and its pockets of crime and mankind's baser instincts. Caution: graphic depictions of the crimes and rough language.

Ritenour, Shawn, Foundations of Economics: A Christian View. This book by a close friend of mine is very readable even for the non-economist. Dr. Ritenour is a brilliant scholar of the Austrian school of economic thought, and presents economics from a biblical worldview. A must read.

Stott, John, Your Mind Matters. Embracing the life of the mind and the virtue of intellectual pursuit among evangelicals, this brief work by Stott is excellent. This should be on the shelf of all students and faculty engaged in distinctively Christian higher education. A must read.

Winchester, Simon, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. The Oxford English Dictionary is one of the most significant accomplishments undertaken in the English-speaking world. Who knew that one of the major contributors was discovered to be an inmate in an insane asylum, convicted of murder?


On the nightstand: 

Moreland, J. P., Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul.

Raley, John Wesley Raley, et. al., (1935) Why Christian Education?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Amplify in Frisco, Texas: A Great Reunion

Tonight I had the opportunity to pray with 2,000+ youth, leaders, and youth ministers in Frisco, Texas at Amplify, the SBTC Youth Evangelism Conference.  I was invited by Jared McIntire.  I've been anxious to see Jared and Michelle and have missed them since we served together at Silo Baptist Church outside of Durant, Oklahoma.  Silo is a wonderful church and when I was on the faculty at Southeastern, I also served as their bivocational pastor.  During my time there, we called a nineteen year-old college student as our youth pastor.  Jared was engaged to Michelle then and they both served faithfully growing a youth group of three to well over 100.  Our years at Silo were so blessed as we saw God bless time and time again.

One of the college students who came to Silo was Cara Puryear.  She knew Jared and Michelle back in Altus where Michelle had grown up and where Jared interned for Zane Newton at FBC Altus. Through them I came to know and appreciate Zane. 

Years later, we moved to  Bolivar, Missouri where I served on the administration at Southwest Baptist University, I also had the chance to serve as a bivocational pastor alongside the founding pastor at Wellspring Baptist Fellowship.  Among the great people I grew to love during my nine plus years preaching there Dana and I became close friends with several students including a young twin--Heidi's sister, Gretchen--and a young man named Josh Trimble.  They were faithful members of Wellspring and among those we knew we'd miss most when we moved back to Oklahoma to serve at Oklahoma Baptist University.

One of our four sons is a student at OBU and is a member of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City where Mike Keahbone serves on the ministry staff. Mike is an OBU graduate who I have gotten to know through his ministry and preaching to my son, and through his visits to the OBU campus.

And here is where all of these threads come together. Tonight, all of us (Jared, Michelle, Cara, Zane, Josh, Gretchen, Mike, Dana and me) found ourselves together in an unplanned, serendipitous way that reminded me of my great love for them and how interconnected our lives become.  The setting was unexpected: Amplify--the Youth Evangelism Conference in Frisco, Texas.  When I arrived, I was escorted to a waiting room and within minutes, all of us were standing together, not realizing that everyone else would also be there. A nice surprise to say the least.

Jared, who had invited me to pray and participate in the YEC, is the Associate for Student Evangelism for the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention and is coordinating the conference.

Michelle, his secret weapon in survival and success and a gifted educator and coach to boot, was assisting with the conference details tonight, herding, directing, and helping with the logistics.

Cara Puryear also works for SBTC as a Ministry Assistant.  She was here tonight also assisting with the logistics and details required for such a large event.

Among the OBU staff who worked this conference passing out t-shirts and meeting and recruiting potential students, was Josh Trimble who serves as an OBU Admissions Counselor.

Josh's wife, Gretchen was volunteering tonight too, pitching in to help distribute shirts to hundreds of young people at a time surrounding the OBU booth.

Mike Keahbone was scheduled to be the preacher for tonight's service and we visited about his influence on my second son.

Zane Newton walked up to say hello and we were both pleased to reconnect and catch up on the families.

What a nice and unexpected reunion and I enjoyed getting to introduce those whose paths have crossed mine to each other as their lives have now also crossed paths.  What a nice reminder that as brothers and sisters sharing a common faith, we have a deep love and affection for each other.  

And what a wonderful glimpse of the great reunion that awaits all those who are members of the family of God and how fun it will be to reconnect, visit, and enjoy the company and shared stories when we are all together one day in Glory. And that reunion will be neither unplanned nor unexpected. It will be providential.

I'm just saying, I'm looking forward to it!

Global Missions Leader Avery Willis Dies

From OBU website:  July 30, 2010

Dr. Avery T. Willis, a global missions leader and 1956 Oklahoma Baptist University graduate, died Friday, July 30, at his home in Bella Vista, Ark., after being diagnosed with leukemia in January. He was 76.

"Dr. Willis was a marvelous servant of God with an unmatched passion for global missions," said OBU President David W. Whitlock. "At his core he was simply a man who truly loved and served the Lord, and only heaven will reveal the true impact of his life."

Willis maintained close ties to his alma mater. The university's Global Outreach Center, which opened in 2005, is named in his honor. He served in an advisory capacity with the center and was a member of the center's advisory board.

"You could not be with Dr. Willis for even a few minutes without hearing his passion for reaching those in our world who have never heard the name and message of Jesus," Dr. Whitlock said.

"This is a loss for the Willis Center," said Dale Griffin, OBU's dean of spiritual life. "Dr. Willis is more than the namesake for our global outreach center. He is a dear friend who cared for and inspired those around him. He was a visionary leader in global missions and we are grateful to have his name attached to our center as we carry forward work toward fulfilling that vision."


In the midst of treatment for leukemia, Willis spoke at a banquet in his honor on the OBU campus March 4, 2010.

In early January 2010, Willis announced he had been diagnosed with leukemia. While undergoing treatments in Texas and Arkansas, he continued to be involved in launching new global missions endeavors, and participated in the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., in June. During the spring, doctors determined the cancer was in remission. However, according to his caringbridge.com website, on July 18 he was told the leukemia "was no longer in remission." His son, Randy Willis, posted a message on the www.caringbridge.com site early July 30:

"My dad graduated to Glory early this morning, July 30. He died peacefully, without pain or anxiety. My mom, sisters and brother were with him. I thank each of you that have visited, called, written and prayed over his past seven months. Your words of encouragement meant so much to him and to all of us. What a privilege to hear of the lives he impacted during his 76 years. May that influence extend through the generations.

"My dad's life verse was Psalm 71:17-18, ‘Since my youth, O God, you have taught me and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation and your might to all who are to come.' And so he did."

Willis is survived by his wife, Shirley (Morris) Willis, a 1956 OBU graduate; three sons, Randy, Wade and Brett; two daughters, Sherrie and Krista; 15 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Missions leaders from Southern Baptists and other global agencies gathered to honor Willis during a banquet titled "Tribute to a Vision" at OBU on March 4, 2010.

At that event, in the midst of medical treatment, Willis spoke for more than 40 minutes, challenging those present to carry on the task of global outreach.

Willis said that as a college student he made an agreement with God: "I am so ordinary. If you do anything with my life, you will have to get all the credit." Through a distinguished career, Willis worked around the world, envisioning plans that would eventually lead countless people to faith in God, followed by deeper discipleship opportunities.

"Avery is, without question, the greatest visionary I have ever met," said Dr. Tom Elliff, a fellow Southern Baptist leader. "He has an incredible sense of vision and can communicate that vision better than anyone else."

"I can think of no finer graduate to point to than Avery Willis," said Whitlock at the event. "There is no question that because of his leadership, OBU continues to lead in the number of graduates who serve as international missionaries. More OBU graduates serve than from any other university in the world."

A native of Lepanto, Ark., Willis earned master of divinity and doctor of theology degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He also received honorary doctorates from OBU and Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo.

He and his wife served as Southern Baptist missionaries to Indonesia for 14 years before returning stateside in 1978. He served as director of discipleship programs for the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources), developing the MasterLife discipleship materials which have been translated into 50 languages and used in 100 countries around the world.

In 1993, Willis became senior vice president for overseas operations at the International Mission Board, overseeing the work of the board's entire missionary force around the world until his retirement in 2004.

After retiring to Bella Vista, Ark., Willis continued active work in missions, traveling internationally approximately 25 weeks per year. He has served as a consultant to the Southern Baptist Convention's Great Commission Task Force. He also served as a consultant to missionaries, as well as chairman of Epic Partners, a coalition of global missionary organizations, including the IMB, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Campus Crusade for Christ and Youth With A Mission.

"As is always true in Avery's life, he had the world in his eyes and in his heart," said Dr. Jimmy Draper, retired president of LifeWay Christian Resources, in March.

Dr. Jerry Rankin, president of Southern Baptists' International Mission Board, attributed much of the planning and decisions still made at the IMB - as well as other accomplishments during his tenure as IMB president - to Willis' mission for global advance of the Gospel.

Rankin said Willis possessed a vision which was unsurpassed as he visualized an entire world worshipping Jesus Christ, a focus which kept the IMB from being diverted by trivial pursuits, and a passion that enabled Willis to motivate and inspire others. He said, like Abraham, Willis never lived for selfish gain but was willing to sacrifice so everyone may come to faith in Christ.

Noting 70 percent of the world's population is functionally illiterate, Willis served as executive director of the International Orality Network, a partnership of major missions organizations committed to using oral strategies such as "chronological Bible storying" as a means of evangelizing and discipling oral learners. Willis said his heart to reach the functionally illiterate focused also on North America and the 80 million people who don't speak English at home.

"For some reason, God began to turn my heart toward home," Willis said.

At the banquet in March, Willis challenged those in attendance to keep pressing on in global outreach.

"How are you going to stand before God and say, ‘We did everything we could to reach these people for Christ?'" he asked. "I am more excited about what God is about to do than I was about MasterLife. I have a deep conviction God is about to do a mighty work."

"What do we do with the days we have left - whether we are gray-haired or just beginning to shave?" he said. "What are you going to do to make disciples of all nations?"

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Praying for Avery Willis

Avery Willis posted to his facebook account that his doctors could no longer effectively treat his leukemia, which has returned with a vengeance.  He has asked for prayer for his family as he leaves the hospital to go home and pass from this life to glory, and that we pray they have a "glorious week."  His family is with him, celebrating his life and bracing themselves for the time that is approaching when they will be separated from him for a period of time.  Dr. Willis is a marvelous servant of God with an unmatched passion for global missions.  We were honored to pay tribute to his vision for reaching the nations with the Good News during a celebration on the OBU campus (his alma mater) not too long ago. During the banquet, he announced that while his leukemia is "on the run," but not yet cured. He asked all attending to pray for a cure.


Dr. Avery Willis Jr. shares how God called him to a life of ministry during his days as a student at Oklahoma Baptist University.

You may him as an OBU alumni, as an international speaker, as a leader of world missions, or perhaps as the author of  the famous "MasterLife," discipleship book.  He is a husband, father, grandfather, and friend to thousands.  But at his core he is simply a man who truly loves and serves the Lord, and only heaven will reveal the true impact of his life. The following are excerpts from the banquet news release: 

Willis testified that, as a student on OBU's Bison Hill campus, he roamed what then were nearby fields, in deep spiritual search of God's plan for his life. He said he made an agreement with God: "I am so ordinary. If you do anything with my life, you will have to get all the credit." God took Willis up on the agreement, directing him around the world to envision plans that would eventually lead countless people to faith in God, followed by deeper discipleship opportunities.

"Avery is, without question, the greatest visionary I have ever met," said Dr. Tom Elliff, a fellow Southern Baptist leader who counts Willis as a close personal friend. Elliff recently served as the International Mission Board's senior vice president for spiritual nurture and church relations, having served as a pastor for 42 years.

"He has an incredible sense of vision and can communicate that vision better than anyone else," Elliff said. "Because he has a vision, he has the ability to inspire folks. I've seen him walk into a room and talk to people about something impractical and even impossible, and they believe they can do it."

Willis, a native of Lepanto, Ark., graduated from OBU in 1956 and has maintained close ties to his alma mater. The university's Global Outreach Center is named in his honor. He earned master of divinity and doctor of theology degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He has received honorary doctorates from OBU and Southwest Baptist University.


"I can think of no finer graduate to point to than Avery Willis," said OBU President David W. Whitlock. "There is no question that because of his leadership, OBU continues to lead in the number of graduates who serve as international missionaries. More OBU graduates serve than from any other university in the world."

Willis and his wife, Shirley, served as Southern Baptist missionaries to Indonesia for 14 years before returning stateside in 1978. While Willis said he didn't understand at the time why God brought him back to the United States from the mission field, in retrospect, his ability to visualize possibilities for expanding God's Kingdom have reached far and wide. He served as director of discipleship programs for the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources), developing the MasterLife discipleship materials which have been translated into 50 languages and used in 100 countries around the world.

"As is always true in Avery's life, he had the world in his eyes and in his heart," said Dr. Jimmy Draper, retired president of LifeWay Christian Resources, pointing to Willis' work both through discipleship materials and his move to an international missions endeavor. In 1993, Willis became senior vice president for overseas operations at the International Mission Board, overseeing the work of the board's entire missionary force around the world until his retirement in 2004. Rankin attributed much of the planning and decisions still made at the IMB - as well as other accomplishments during his tenure as IMB president - to Willis' mission for global advance of the Gospel. 


Dr. Avery Willis Jr. listens as Dr. Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board,
tells how Willis' vision, focus and passion have
positively affected the board's work.
Rankin said Willis possessed a vision which was unsurpassed as he visualized an entire world worshiping Jesus Christ, a focus which kept the IMB from being diverted by trivial pursuits, and a passion that enables Willis to motivate and inspire others. He said, like Abraham, Willis never lived for selfish gain but was willing to sacrifice so everyone may come to faith in Christ.
 

Willis has continued active work in missions, traveling internationally approximately 25 weeks per year. He has served as a consultant to the Southern Baptist Convention's Great Commission Task Force. He also has served as a consultant to missionaries, as well as chairman of Epic Partners, a coalition of global missionary organizations, including the IMB, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Campus Crusade for Christ and Youth With A Mission.

Willis said despite the success of MasterLife aiding people around the world in discipleship, he has realized the materials do not reach the world's oral learners, noting 70 percent of the world's population is functionally illiterate. He currently is executive director of the International Orality Network, a partnership of major missions organizations committed to using oral strategies such as "chronological Bible storying" as a means of evangelizing and discipling oral learners. 


You cannot be with Dr. Willis for even a few minutes without hearing his passion for reaching those in our world who currently have never heard the name and message of Jesus.  As he said at the tribute we held in his honor, "How are you going to stand before God and say, ‘We did everything we could to reach these people for Christ?'  What do we do with the days we have left, whether we are gray-haired or just beginning to shave? What are you going to do to make disciples of all nations?"

Avery, we have heard and accept your challenge. And we are indeed praying for you and your family to have a glorious week.