Five days to do what’s right

October 31, 2014

The Oct. 30 issue of The Tennessean in Nashville reported results of a poll conducted by Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro on Amendment 1 to the state constitution.

The poll reveals that 39 percent those polled are for the amendment, 32 percent oppose the amendment, 15 percent are undecided, 8 percent won’t vote at all, and 6 percent did not answer.

Those who oversaw the poll say it “is too close to call.”

Exit polls indicate that some people did not vote on the amendment because they are confused.

That should not come as a surprise. We have published numerous articles and columns, both in the Baptist and Reflector and on the Tennessee Baptist Convention website, urging people not to be misled by ads from those who oppose Amendment 1.

With only five days left until the election ends on Nov. 4, it is imperative that our churches take the lead in educating and encouraging those who have not yet voted to do so. Those who are undecided hold the key to this election. We must convince them to vote “Yes on 1.”

Don’t listen to the misinformation and, in some cases, outright lies by those opposing the amendment. Amendment 1 does not take away a woman’s right to choose and it has nothing to do with rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is at risk.

What Amendment 1 does do is offer a means to provide for informed consent, a waiting period, and inspection of abortion facilities. States surrounding Tennessee already have these common sense restrictions in place. That is why we have become an “abortion destination.” It is too easy to get an abortion in Tennessee and that needs to stop.

We have five days to do what is right for the kingdom of God and what’s right for women and unborn children in Tennessee. If Christians and our churches don’t get it done, it won’t happen.

Let’s get it right. Educate friends and colleagues who may be undecided on the amendment and encourage them to vote “Yes on 1.”  We need to be a shining light in an increasingly dark world.

 

Ebola: Common Sense, Golden Rule Needed

October 29, 2014

I think most Americans have been reading or watching news reports of the Ebola scare in West Africa. In particular we have paid special interest to the cases that have been reported here in our own country.

First and foremost, I want to say how much I admire health care professionals and others (including our military troops) who have been traveling to West Africa to help Ebola patients. This is a devastating, deadly disease and though they take every precaution possible, they are putting their lives on the line. We have seen both doctors and nurses become infected with the Ebola virus.

As more cases are diagnosed in the United States and as more and more people return from West Africa, people are frightened.

Ebola is deadly. There is no disputing that fact.

Will it spread in the United States as it has in West Africa? Probably not, but precautions must (and are) being taken by the Centers for Disease Control and other governing bodies. Governors in at least three states last week announced they would enforce mandatory quarantines for all travelers who had contact with Ebola-infected patients and who were arriving from various West African countries.

As one might suspect, the quarantine did not set well with some of the returning travelers. One nurse from Maine is trying to fight the edict in her state. She currently has no symptoms.

I can’t say that I blame her or anyone else for that matter. If I had been away from home for a period of time, I would not like it if I were told I was going to be quarantined.

The lawyer for the Maine nurse told FoxNews.com that his client “is a very good person who did very good work and deserves to be honored, not detained for it.”

As I said before, I admire all those who have put others before self.

But this nurse is not being “punished” for doing good. Those who are trying to have her quarantined don’t have a quarrel against her. They are simply trying to protect other people.

That leads to this question. If people were willing to put others before self to go to West Africa, why are they not willing to do the same upon returning home?

Yes, it will be inconvenient and a nuisance. Yes, they will not be able to visit with family and friends. But, until I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was disease-free, I would hope that I would be willing to be inconvenienced in order to protect those people I love.

I do understand where this nurse is coming from. No one likes to be “told” you have to do something.

But there are times in our lives when we must use common sense or the Golden Rule. Either one will apply in this situation.

Though the words “Golden Rule” are not found in Scripture, they are the words that have been used to describe Matthew 7:12 which reads “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (KJV).

I would not want to infect anyone with a deadly disease, nor would I want anyone to infect me.

The Ebola scare is not contrived. It is real. Pray for people who have the disease and for those who are providing care to them. Most of all, pray for God’s hand of protection upon our country.

Food for thought

October 15, 2014

I received an interesting news release this week from the Yes on 1 organization in Tennessee. It certainly provides some food for thought.

For those who regularly read my blog and columns in the Baptist and Reflector, it is no secret that I wholeheartedly endorse the support of Yes on 1 which is an effort to educate Tennesseans about the need to vote for Amendment 1 which will appear on the state ballot on election day, Nov. 4. Amendment 1, if passed, can restore some common sense restrictions on abortion that are already in place in states surrounding Tennessee.

According to the news release, the group which opposes Yes on 1 is being funded primarily by eight abortion facilities in Tennessee and even out of state that have given the “No on 1″ organization $1.4 million of the $1.5 million they have received. According to their campaign disclosure, only 100 individuals have given more than $100 each.

By contrast, Yes on 1 reports 600 Tennessee donors who have given $455,968 in itemized contributions.

That says a lot. Tennesseans who care about life (both for the mothers and the unborn babies) are putting their money where their mouths are. By contrast, the opposition is relying on the funding of the parties who will benefit monetarily from providing abortions in Tennessee. Some of them don’t even reside in our state.

I hope voters will see through the confusion and misinformation (even lies) that are being spread by those who oppose Yes on 1.

Early voting began on Oct. 15. Vote Yes on 1 during the early voting period or on Nov. 4.

Confusion reigns

October 8, 2014

In the Sept. 24 issue of the Baptist and Reflector we ran a major story about “Yes on 1.”

Yes on 1 is an effort to educate Tennesseans about the need to vote for Amendment 1 which will appear on the state ballot on election day, Nov. 4. Amendment 1, if passed, can eventually provide some common sense restrictions on abortion that already are in place in states surrounding Tennessee.

Because Tennessee currently has no informed consent, no waiting periods for abortion, and no inspection of abortion facilities, women from other states are coming to the Volunteer State in increasing numbers to have abortions.

Tennessee currently ranks third nationally in the percentage of out-of-state abortions. We have become an abortion destination.

In the Sept. 24 article, David Fowler, a former state senator and now president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, observed, “The other side doesn’t have to convince you to vote no. They just have to convince you that you’re not sure of what you know.”

No truer words could have been spoken. In the past week or so, the opposing side has launched its propaganda which indeed is confusing the issue. To hear the “Vote No on 1″ supporters, voting “yes” on Amendment 1 will do away with abortions and will take away a woman’s right to choose. That is SIMPLY NOT TRUE.

Voting “yes” on Amendment 1 will not do away with abortions (don’t we wish it could). It will enable legislators to enact some common sense protections that surrounding states wisely have.

Don’t be confused by all the rhetoric you will hear.  You will be bombarded with even more misinformation as Nov. 4 approaches.

It’s really simple. If you vote for a governor, you need to vote “yes” on Amendment 1. If you vote for a governor and choose not to vote at all on Amendment 1, you basically have voted against it. And, that is what the opponents want.

As Christians we must hold to Scripture. Pastor Gerald Bontrager of Tulip Grove Baptist Church took a stand on the issue this past Sunday (Oct. 5), basing his sermon on Ephesians 5. Verses 6-7 caution us: “Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for God’s wrath is coming on the disobedient because of these things. Therefore, do not become their partners.”

And then, verse 11 says it well: “Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.”

Let’s not give opponents of Yes on 1 the satisfaction of winning. Vote Yes on 1, either in the early balloting which begins Oct. 15 or on election day, Nov. 4.

Lives truly hang in the balance.

The only way

September 25, 2014

Over the years I have not always agreed with actions taken by the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. Sometimes I have publicly disagreed with them.

So, it’s only fair that I give the Executive Committee credit for an action that I wholeheartedly endorse. Baptist Press reported Sept. 23 that the Executive Committee withdrew fellowship from a California church, where some members, including the  pastor, are in favor of same-sex marriage.

The Executive Committee voted without opposition that New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., “does not presently meet the definition of a cooperating church” under Article III of the SBC Constitution which specifies “churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior” are not cooperating churches.

On the surface, this is a no-brainer and most Southern Baptists will affirm what the Executive Committee did. But there will no doubt be people, including Christians, who will bash the Executive Committee for maintaining a biblical but unpopular stand on homosexuality in a culture that now labels it as “normal.”

Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said it well, noting the church has “walked away from us as Southern Baptists. We have not walked away from them.”

The Executive Committee received a letter from the deacons of New Heart Community Church in which the deacons noted some members believe same-sex marriage can be blessed by God while others hold to the biblical view that marriage is between one man and one woman.

The church’s pastor, Danny Cortez, who told his congregation in February that he had “changed his stance on homosexuality,” has called New Heart a “third way” church in which members can hold varying perspectives regarding same-sex marriage.

There is no “third way.” There is the ONLY WAY, and that is God’s way as clearly defined in Scripture.

Christians who continue to preach a message affirming same-sex marriage ultimately will face His judgment. We need to stick to His way, the only way.

 

 

A community comes together

September 3, 2014

A  fire destroyed  the Baptist Collegiate Ministries building at Cumberland  University in Lebanon on Sept. 3, but it did not damage the spirit of the people.

I visited the fire scene later that morning. While it was disheartening to see the BCM building destroyed, it was encouraging to see a community rallying together to support the BCM and Wilson County Baptist  Association which owns the building.

As I walked to the site I witnessed a circle of people praying. The circle included students and staff of the BCM, the association, and Cumberland University.

Dave Shelley, director of missions for Wilson County Association, was pleased with the response of the university and the community to their tragedy. It was terrific, Shelley noted. “I applaud the fire department, the police, and Cumberland University,” he said.

It was evident that those fighting the fire had a vested interest. Chris Dowell, chief of the Lebanon Fire Department, is a member of Hillcrest Baptist Church, and at least three of the firefighters are former members of the Cumberland BCM. “We wanted to get there and do what we could to get it (the fire) out,” Dowell said. He noted this is a setback for the BCM but “hopefully they will come back strong.”

I witnessed something I had never seen before. As the firefighters were preparing to leave, they gathered together with local Baptists and Darrin Reynolds, student pastor at nearby Immanuel Baptist Church, prayed for them and thanked them for trying to save the BCM facility.

With the support of the Baptist churches in the association, along with community and university involvement, I have no doubt that the BCM will rebuild and come back stronger than ever.

Evan Owens, BCM director at Cumberland, said it well: “It’s just a building. We can keep ministering.”

Pray for the BCM at Cumberland University and Wilson County Baptist Association in the days ahead.

Common sense — on the verge of extinction

August 26, 2014

The older I get the more I am convinced that “common sense” will soon go the way of the dinosaur — extinction. And, what’s more, it will be sooner than later.

Just what is common sense? A Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition defines common sense this way: “the ability to think and behave in a reasonable way and to make good decisions.”

Last week I was driving on Interstate 40 near downtown Nashville. I passed one of the signs that are prevalent today on the major roads. Normally the signs warn of traffic delays or ask for help in locating cars suspected of transporting children who may have been kidnapped.

On this particular day the message on this sign just made me shake my head. To paraphrase, it was basically reminding people not to leave their children unattended in a locked car.

Really, do we have to tell people something that is so basic? Unfortunately, we do. How many times this summer have we heard about the tragic death of a child because a parent or someone who was supposed to be watching the child did  just that? Common sense would dictate that one would never leave a child in a car, locked or unlocked, regardless of the weather conditions.

One more case in point. Many people may have heard about the woman in Salt Lake City, Utah, who drank tea that had been inadvertently laced with lye in a local restaurant. What many people may not know is that the woman is Jan Harding whose husband, Jim, is a long time pastor and former executive director of the Utah/Idaho Southern Baptist Convention. She went through nearly two weeks of unimaginable pain and trauma because no one exercised a little common sense.

According to a Baptist Press report  on Aug. 22, restaurant officials knew about the contaminated sugar. In fact one employee had a hole burned in her tongue because of it. Instead of destroying it, the container sat in a manager’s office for about five weeks before someone apparently used the mixture thinking it was pure sugar.

What a senseless tragedy. If some common sense had been used in the first place, sugar would never have come into contact with a cleaning solution that contained lye. Then,  if someone had used some common sense when it was discovered, Mrs. Harding would not have spent nearly 13 days in a hospital with life-threatening acid burns. We can only praise God that He answered countless prayers for this faithful servant and that she has recovered enough to go home.

It all boils down to a lack of common sense which leads to bad consequences.

At some point very soon, common sense must make a comeback in society before it is lost for good.

It doesn’t hurt to explore options

August 15, 2014

As most people are aware, the Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Board sold its property at 5001 Maryland Way in Brentwood late last year for $8.75 million.

Currently, the TBC is leasing property (about two miles from the former location) for three years while TBC leaders are exploring long-term options.

Some people may have questioned why the TBC sold valuable property, but ultimately it is a matter of stewardship. When the TBC moved to Brentwood in 1969 the area was “in the country.” Property  was not that expensive. As Nashville moved South, Brentwood developed into what it is today and, thus, property values skyrocketed. In addition, changing ministry priorities for the TBC had lessened the need for so much space.

The same thing is true for Southern Baptist Convention entities. Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., (near San Francisco) recently sold its property for about $85 million and has announced plans to purchase property and relocate near Los Angeles. The sale of the property also will enable the seminary to add about $50 million to its endowment fund.

Just this week, Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources announced the entity is exploring the possibility of selling its downtown Nashville property. The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville estimated the value of the LifeWay property at more than $80 million, according to Baptist Press.

Those kind of numbers are staggering. Tradition and history are important for an entity in any location. No entity should sell just for the sake of selling, but Christian institutions especially must consider the stewardship factor. TBC leadership felt it was in the best interest of the convention to sell its property and relocate. Golden Gate Seminary trustees apparently felt the same way.

Will LifeWay sell the property it has owned for 120 years in the heart of Nashville? Only time will tell. They certainly need to consider all options as a matter of stewardship and ultimately make the best decision for the future of Southern Baptists’ publishing arm. It doesn’t hurt to explore options.

We better know our mission

August 7, 2014

Do we know why we do what we do?

That’s a question that everyone would do well to ask him or herself and it involves every area of one’s life, from personal to professional activities.

But it is imperative that  businesses and even churches constantly ask that question as well.

I recently read an article entitled “Why are we here?” published on MyChristianDaily.com. It is well worth the read and be sure to watch the video clip of a documentary entitled “When God Left the Building.”

In the clip, a former engineer at Eastman Kodak Company told of the confusion their company experienced as digital photography began to overtake film photography. The engineer noted the company didn’t know if it was a chemical, film, or imaging company. “We didn’t know what business we were in,” he observed.

The film clip also talked to a pastor of a dying church who, sadly, could not repeat the mission of the church, even though it was printed regularly on all their publications.

If the pastor doesn’t know the church’s mission statement, trouble is on the horizon. But it’s not enough for just the pastor and congregation to know why the church exists. If it exists for any reason other than to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with a lost and dying world, then it is doomed for failure. As reminders of what the church is about you may want to review Matthew 28:19-20 and Ephesians 3:7-13, among others. Scripture is filled with instructions for God’s people and His church.

The article and documentary clip are needed reminders that churches especially must constantly review “why we do what we do.” If we are not telling people about Jesus Christ and leading them into the Kingdom of God, we deserve to close.

 

Nothing is truly free — including salvation

July 31, 2014

Free. We love to hear the word, but it may be one of the most misused words in the English language.

We get offers for “free” stuff all the time, but are they truly free?

How many times have we been offered a “free” trip to Anywhere, U.S.A. All we have to do is agree to hear some kind of sales pitch.

I don’t know about you, but my time is valuable. If I sit through a sales presentation, the trip I received had a cost associated with it. It was not free. A lot of people have spent a lot of money because they thought something was “free.”

“Buy one, get one free.” That might be the closest we get to “free,” but even then you have to buy the first item.

Metro Nashville schools open next week. This year, for the first time, all students (not just those who demonstrate a need) will receive “free” lunches. Parents are no doubt excited they are not having to “pay” for their children’s lunch, but  lunch is not free. Taxpayers (including many of those parents who think they are getting something for nothing) are footing the bill for those “free lunches.” As the old saying goes, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

As Christians, we also misuse the word “free.” We refer to salvation as a “free” gift from God. It is indeed a gift from God, but it’s not free. Somebody had to pay something for you to have the gift. Specifically, Jesus had to pay for you to have the opportunity to receive the gift. Even then the gift requires confession of — and repentance from — sin.

We do people a disservice if we tell them there is no cost involved in being a Christian. Just think of Christians who have lost their lives or been persecuted because of their faith. There is a cost to accepting and serving Jesus Christ, but it is well worth it because He promises His presence and help during the journey and our presence with Him eternally at the end of the journey.

No, people don’t have to work for their salvation, but we also don’t want to leave them with the idea that following Jesus is no more than, as German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer described it, “cheap grace.”


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