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.

Friday, July 23, 2010

New Books from OBU Scholars Myers and Bandy

Dr. Benjamin Myers, associate professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University, recently published a volume of poetry titled "Elegy for Trains," through Village Books Press.

"The motivation came when I was approached by the publisher after I read at a local poetry reading," Myers said. "Given the opportunity to publish a collection, I wanted to bring together poems on the theme of loss and redemption, a theme I began exploring in poetry after the death of my father 11 years ago."

The book has been praised by, among others, Jim Barnes, who is the current Poet Laureate of Oklahoma and the former editor of the Chariton Review. "Ben Myers takes us over the hills, through the skies and fields, and down to the bottom of Oklahoma's lakes - from space shuttles to noodling for catfish," said Nathan Brown, poet and winner of the Oklahoma Book Award. "He makes us ghosts in its graveyards and guests among the buffalo grass. And among it all, we can hear the coyotes, frogs and blue herons."

Myers earned his bachelor's degree from University of the Ozarks, and his master's degree and Ph.D. in English literature from Washington University in St. Louis. He has taught at OBU for the last six years.

His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals, including Ruminate, The Mid-America Poetry Review, Möbius, and Byline. His poem "A Small Town Mourns its First Casualty" was included in the illustrated anthology for children, "America at War," edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins and published by McElderry Books (NY, 2008).

Myers won the 1996 Byline Literary Award for Poetry for his poem, "For Jack Kerouac." He has studied in select poetry workshops under B.H. Fairchild, Ellen Kort, Michael Harper and Yusef Komunyakka. His essays on poetry have appeared in several highly prestigious academic journals, including English Literary History, Studies in Philology, English Literary Renaissance and The South-Central Review. He has made presentations on poetry at conferences ranging from the South West Conference on Christianity and Literature at Houston Baptist University to the Ninth International Symposium on John Milton at University College of London.

Myers lives with his wife, Mandy, and their three children in Chandler, Okla.  "Elegy for Trains" currently is available in paperback for $15 through the publisher at villagebookspress@yahoo.com. It will be available through Amazon.com in the near future.


Dr. Alan Bandy, OBU Rowena R. Strickland assistant professor of New Testament, recently published the book, "The Prophetic Lawsuit in the Book of Revelation," through Sheffield Phoenix Pres. The book reveals the language, metaphors and storyline of the Book of Revelation which evoke a cosmic law court setting.

Bandy said the book is a revision of his dissertation on the book of Revelation which started from a seminar paper he wrote on the "witness" terminology in John's Apocalypse.

"What I discovered was that the language of ‘witness' is drawn from the forensic setting in the same sense where we refer to a ‘witness' in a law court," Bandy said. "The more I investigated the legal terminology in Revelation, the more I realized that it is a consistent feature that runs throughout the book. Many articles and commentaries allude to this feature, but no one has argued that it is a motif."

Bandy said his research prompted him to write his dissertation tracing the "lawsuit" motif of Revelation -- a motif which is not unique to Revelation but is common in Old Testament prophetic literature.

"I argue that John is writing to believers who may face the legal threat of persecution by being denounced in a law court," Bandy said. "He writes to encourage them to remain faithful to Christ even if it means death, because God will ultimately reverse the unjust judgments of the earthly courts when he holds the nations on trial and judges them. John's vision is framed as a cosmic lawsuit that results in the just verdict of judgment against the wicked and the saints are vindicated."

In the book, juridical metaphors of a legal contest between the faithful witnesses and the "accuser of the brethren" are intertwined with images of holy war. "The Prophetic Lawsuit in the Book of Revelation" is the first full-length study drawing together the diverse evidence and reading the book through the lens of the controlling metaphor of the lawsuit.

Bandy earned his bachelor's degree from Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, his master's degree from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary and his doctorate from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He joined OBU's School of Christian Service faculty in the fall of 2009. Before arriving at OBU, he served as assistant director of Ph.D. studies for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and as an adjunct professor of biblical and theological studies in Liberty University's Distance Learning Program. He also served as assistant professor of Christian Studies at Louisiana College.

Bandy has served in several ministerial church positions including pastor of Teachey Baptist Church in Teachy, N.C., pastor to students at National Avenue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., and pastor to children/youth at Calvary Baptist in Loyall, Ky.

"The Prophetic Lawsuit in the Book of Revelation" is available through Sheffield Phoenix Press at http://www.sheffieldphoenix.com/ or http://www.amazon.com/

Just saying, great scholar teachers at OBU....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

OBU News Briefs from www.okbu.edu/news




Bison Jazz Orchestra Tours Brazil July 20, 2010

Receiving a rock-star reception, the Bison Jazz Orchestra - Oklahoma Baptist University's 19-piece, auditioned jazz ensemble - traveled to Brazil May 16-27. The group played live before nearly 5,500 people at six venues and during a worship service televised in João Pessoa, a city of 700,000. The concert audiences crowded around the stage following performances to request autographs and photos. Some fans even followed the musicians to their bus, requesting additional photos with the group or individuals.

"I really enjoyed watching the students' reaction to the audiences," said Dr. Kevin Pruiett, associate professor of music and the group's director. "While audiences in the United States are appreciative of our performances, the reaction of the Brazilian crowds is quite stunning."

The tour included stops in Natal, Campina Grande and João Pessoa. While in Natal, the jazz orchestra group visited a second-language school and helped Brazilian students practice their English. The next day, the orchestra performed three times at a school, Colégio Nossa Senhora das Neves. They played for children ranging from elementary school to high school. Later that evening, they played for members of the community.

On Sunday, the group performed for two services at the First Baptist Church of Bessamar in João Pessoa. Each service was shown live on television throughout the city of 700,000. The church has a congregation of about 3,000 people. "We were invited back to perform an evening concert for them two days later which was also shown live on television," Pruiett said. The musicians also performed at the Universidade Federal da Paraíba for music majors of the university.

The trip was designed to give international exposure to the OBU Division of Music and to help recruit students to OBU. It gave the OBU students an opportunity to engage the Brazilian culture and experience touring in an international venue. They managed the logistics of international travel, including getting visas and hauling instruments to another continent. Pianist Lauren McHaney, a junior from Mansfield, Texas, who speaks Portuguese, had the opportunity to practice the language.

"It was my first time out of the country so I was a little nervous about the trip," said Tabitha Wasik, a sophomore music education major from Burleson, Texas. "Going with the jazz band, though, was a good way to go. Having the opportunity to get to know all of the band members is what brings back the most memories. From the unexpected bus rides to sitting back stage waiting hours at a time, each crazy moment experienced in Brazil allowed me to bond with my fellow band members."

Wasik said the trip expanded her personal worldview. "Visiting Brazil helped me realize that there is more to this world than the USA," she said. "There are different ways of thinking or acting. I saw the needs of Brazil, but I also saw things that I could learn from it. One particular thing that stuck with me was the children living on the streets. It broke my heart to see kids of all ages sleeping on the streets and begging for food or money. Seeing them made me realize how blessed I truly am. It also helped me confirm my calling to teach children. Whether I'm teaching in a foreign country or here in America, I know that I am called to teach children through my music."

Miller Serves on OkACE Executive Committee

Stephanie Miller, career planning counselor at OBU, has been selected to serve on the executive committee of the Oklahoma Association of Colleges and Employers as the college member-at-large. The Oklahoma Association of Colleges and Employers (OkACE) is a professional organization which fosters relationships among employer and career service professionals to facilitate the career preparation, development and employment process of the college-educated workforce.

Miller earned a bachelor's degree from OBU in 1994 and a master's degree from Azusa Pacific University in 2002. In her role at OBU, she provides one-on-one career counseling for students and alumni, developing and presenting career-related workshops both in and out of the classroom. She also promotes and advertises available services, resources and career-related events for students.

Just saying, outstanding faculty and outstanding students at OBU...

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Tea Party Truth

From the Baptist Messenger
www.baptistmessenger.com
By Douglas Baker • June 28, 2010 •

The month of February 2009 marks the turning point in the minds of many Americans as the beginning of a decisive push back against government policies designed to halt the country’s economic freefall.

In the waning days of the Bush administration, the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) bailout was conceived by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson as a way that toxic assets from some of America’s premier financial institutions could be purchased by the U.S. government in hopes of avoiding a mortgage subprime meltdown. Early in the month of February, Congress passed the $800 billion stimulus bill by a slim majority and on Feb. 18, President Obama unveiled his own latest program, the “Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan.”

At 8:15 a.m. the next day (Feb. 19), CNBC editor Rick Santelli seemingly could take it no longer. From the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, his voice began to echo throughout the room. At this hour of the morning most of the traders had not arrived at work, and all was virtually quiet until he began to loudly oppose the Obama housing plan. As he continued to speak out about it, traders slowly joined in the protest until a loud group of people were gathered around him agreeing with his every point.

Santelli not only criticized the economic policy of the proposed government program, but the implication also was certainly not to be missed: this program was a moral hijacking of the entire mortgage industry because he thought it rewarded the bad behavior of people who could not afford the homes they were trying to purchase.

“You can’t buy your way into prosperity,” he said.

The idea that the federal government should “spend $1 trillion an hour because we’ll get $1.5 trillion back,” was absurd to him. By the end of the segment on CNBC (which has now been viewed on YouTube by more than 1.2 million people), the Tea Party was born.

The very idea of a “Tea Party” hearkens back to the year 1773, when colonists throughout what was then known as “British America” objected to the Tea Act passed by the British Parliament. The antagonized fervor of the colonists finally rose to the level of an outright refusal to pay tax on something that had not been approved by their own representatives in government. While historians point out that while the actual price of tea had been reduced under the Tea Act of 1773, a more important concern began to be embraced by a large segment of the Whig Party (many of whom called themselves The Sons of Liberty) over the issue of “taxation without representation.”

As a result of the Tea Act, many British ships were turned away from colonial harbors and forced to return to England. In Boston, Mass., however, a standoff between the Royal Governor and a group of colonists led by Samuel Adams resulted in 342 chests of tea being dumped overboard into the waters of Boston Harbor on Nov. 29, 1773. The Boston Tea Party remains one of the most significant historical reminders that American citizens often do not approve of the edicts of government regarding taxation and regarding the lack of representation and accountability of leaders to the taxpayer.

Taxation—A Theological Issue?
“And yet, taxation and other areas of economics are seldom discussed accurately among the vast majority of Americans because so many feel economic policies are too difficult to understand,” stated Oklahoma Baptist University’s president, David W. Whitlock. “The very fact that more people are not better informed about what is taking place in major American corporations and small businesses in our nation is enough to give pause to reaction of citizens to government policies that seem, in many ways, designed to stymie growth rather than release the power of markets to enhance business research and development.”

A former professor of business, Whitlock is concerned that vast numbers of American citizens seemingly know very little about the general principles of business and how the market works. He points to a new textbook by Shawn Ritenour, Foundations of Economics: A Christian View, as a helpful resource for government officials and policy makers as well as the church.

“Ritenour presents the general principles of economics in a way that makes people want to read more about the subject,” he said.

Whitlock said he thinks Ritenour, associate professor of economics at Grove City College, provides a concise and easy to understand definition of taxation.

“A tax is a coerced levy paid to the state,” Ritenour writes. “As such, all taxation is a forced exchange between the citizen and the government.”

The Tea Party movement can, in some ways, be explained as a reaction to policies that seemed to be created against the will of the majority of Americans.

“There are legitimate differences of opinion,” Whitlock states, “but the entire movement emerged from a pronounced dis-satisfaction with the status quo of government intervention in areas which were once off limits to governmental power.

“Theologically, there is every indication that many Christians view the Tea Party movement as a moral imperative, and thus drives them to act out of duty to the Gospel. But, while we should remain vigilant to maintain our responsibilities and freedoms as citizens of this nation, we must never confuse political philosophy with Bible doctrine and suppose that they are one in the same.”

Through his years of study of the free market and reading the Bible, Whitlock has come to the conclusion that the theological planks of creation, the fall, redemption and restoration through the person and work of Jesus Christ serve as the overarching story and plan of God through every age and in every nation as time marches forward toward the return of Jesus Christ to the Earth.

Whitlock is quick to point out that while a market-based economy often allows the greatest religious liberties for nations, he warns that “we should not equate the government with the Gospel or confuse political freedom with gospel freedom granted to those who trust in the provision of God for salvation.”

Whitlock believes that while we should not shirk our responsibilities as citizens of our coutry, the chief responsibility of all Christians is to glorify God and share the good news of Christ in ways that penetrate the various areas of darkness in American society.

“The great challenge for the church is to take seriously the call of Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations beginning with the mission field next door to our homes,” he said.

While he believes protests and public policy disagreements are important and must be maintained with integrity and fervency, Whitlock maintains “political freedom is a byproduct of spiritual freedom in ways that cannot be overlooked or swept away under ideas which seek to denigrate or dethrone God from His rightful ownership of this present world. So many challenges and dangers to our nation seem to be coming from within our own ranks, but the church still has standing orders to preach, teach and live the Gospel in ways that manifest the power and goodness of God to everyone—everywhere.”

Douglas E. Baker is Executive Editor for The
Baptist Messenger and Communications Team Leader for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma

Mr. Baker's just sayin', dont confuse political victory with the primary calling of the Christian to know God better, seek His face and will, and spread the Good News..

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Striper Fishing

For the first time since moving back to Oklahoma I had the chance to go striper fishing on Lake Texoma. I used to say that I enjoyed catching fish but not necessarily just fishing. Not so anymore. I found myself thoroughly enjoying fishing even in the longer stretches between successful catches. The quiet, the water, the lack of urgency...all conspired to make me more relaxed than I'd been in some time.

...Just sayin' though that catchin', fryin' and eatin' em' still awful good too.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Sweet Old Dog

No matter what may have transpired during the day, when I arrive home I am always greeted by a sweet old dog named Hershey. She is a chocolate lab mix that was a "rescue" animal we adopted years ago when she was about 5 years old.

She had been abandoned, run over and her left back hip shattered. She was found infested with worms and lacking in body weight and muscle mass. A veterinarian nursed her back and pinned her leg, but when they brought her to our house she looked so bad that I worried my four little boys might witness their new pet die. But she began to heal and the movement to her leg returned.

Hershey became a member of our family and took to the boys like a typical lab. She is a sweet old dog, nearly 17 years old now. Cataracts cloud her eyes, she's lost much of her muscle mass and like so many old dogs, her hair is dulled and graying. But she's still a sweet old dog.

When I came home today, she was in a particularly good mood and did her best to dance around like she did when she was still in her prime. It was good to see her happy, even though her back leg is once again stiff with little movement and she stumbles when she gets too excited, and sometimes bumps into things. No matter what I'm doing if she sees me she gets up real close and pushes her head between my arm and body. She can't seem to get close enough and always seems to make me smile.

I'm identifying more and more with Hershey as I age. I hope I grow sweet and good-natured and can still bring a smile to the face of others when I'm nearly blind, stumbling around, and my hair is dulled and graying.

Just sayin.'