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.”

God’s amazing grace

July 10, 2014

Thirty years ago on July 10, 1984, my wife Joyce and I went to the hospital in anticipation of the birth of our first child.

Our joy soon turned to sorrow as the doctor could not find  the baby’s heartbeat. Our first son, David Randall Wilkey, was stillborn, having been strangled by his umbilical cord.

Words cannot express the grief and anger we experienced that day and the days that followed. As always when tragedy strikes we sometimes ask, “Why us?”

Then, I was not a mature enough Christian to counter with, “Why not us?”

We made it through those dark days only by God’s amazing grace.

As I have gotten older, I have forgotten a lot of things, but the memory of those days surrounding David’s death are still vivid.

I remember the comfort and help given by my former pastor Ken Clayton, now retired. He walked me through the process of arranging for my son’s burial.

I remember Rick and Debbie, a couple in our church who were good friends and were there for us when we needed them.

I remember Melody Rankin Ashworth, then a member of the college and career Sunday School class Joyce and I taught. Melody attended the graveside service for David and brought a single rose to place at his burial site. That began a tradition that has continued for the last 30 years as Joyce and I go to David’s graveside on the anniversary of his birth.

I didn’t know it then, but I know now that those kindnesses and other acts of love shown to us then were part of God’s amazing grace.

David’s death was the first major “setback” for Joyce and I as a married couple. We have had plenty more “trials and tribulations” since then, but just as God did when David died, His grace has been sufficient. I may never fully understand why David died before his birth, but I know God used that tragedy to bring Joyce and I closer together than ever before. We knew that if we made it through that darkest hour, we could make it through anything — and we have.

When things appear to be the worse, I lean on this verse, found in John 16:33 (HCSV): “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

To God be the glory for His amazing grace.

The price of freedom

July 2, 2014

America will celebrate another birthday this week on Friday, July 4.

For many Americans, the Fourth of July is a time to cookout, go to the lake, shoot fireworks, etc. I am fearful that many Americans do not take time to remember or, sadly, care that the Fourth of July is Independence Day. It is a day that we should thank God in heaven that He has allowed us to live in one of the greatest nations of all time.

I think too many people have forgotten their history lessons. They forget that we were once under British government.

They have forgotten that approimately 25,000 Americans died in the Revolutionary War and another 25,000 or so were wounded in the battles fought to gain our independence.

They have forgotten  the hundreds of thousands of people who have died in the wars fought since 1776 in order that we can be free today. Our freedom did not just happen. Men and women paid for our freedom with their lives.

Many Americans can put a face on freedom through relatives and loved ones who have died or suffered major injuries in wars. I can’t. I don’t have a relative that I have known who has been killed or injured but I do have a dear friend who paid a price so we can celebrate the Fourth of July.

Jerry Currey is a member of Tulip Grove Baptist Church where I attend and he is a dear friend and hero. We tend to use the word “hero” too loosely in America today. Athletes are not heroes in the truest sense of the word. Jerry Currey is a hero who paid a price for our freedom. In 1968 during the Vietnam War, Jerry suffered severe injuries that left him blind and crippled.

Jerry has shared his testimony many times over the years. One of his main points is that after he was injured in a mortar attack that he lay on the ground wondering if he would ever see his family again. His last thought before he lost consciousness was, “Lord, Lord, if you let me live, I will live for you.”

I have seen the life Jerry Currey has lived for his Lord for more than 30 years. There are days when he literally does not feel like getting out of bed but he never fails to praise Jesus and he will always share his testimony about what God has done in his life.

I wish every American had someone whose very presence or memory is a reminder that freedom is not free. Unfortunately, many do not. Perhaps that is why some people in our country do not truly realize the importance of the Fourth of July holiday.

Pray for our country, our president,  and other leaders of our government on July 4. We must never take our freedom for granted. Once we do, we are in danger of losing it.

No waiting!

June 18, 2014

I don’t know about you but waiting drives me crazy.

On June 17 I had a doctor’s appointment at 10 a.m. That was my first mistake. I normally schedule all my appointments first thing in the morning, but in this case I had to have an MRI done on my shoulder first. I arrived on time and found a seat in the waiting room. I waited and waited and waited some more.

At 11 a.m., one hour after my appointment, I was still waiting. Needless to say, I was “fit to be tied.”

I contemplated going to the front desk and asking how much longer it would be. I decided against it at first because I figured that would definitely send me to the end of the line. Finally, someone got the courage to go and ask how long they were going to have to continue waiting. The person returned to her seat no worse for wear so I decided to be brave and test the water myself.

I was assured I was the next person to be called. I wasn’t, so I waited some more.

Finally, about an hour and a half after my scheduled appointment, I was called back to a patient room where (you guessed it), I waited.

The doctor finally came in and became the first person in his office to apologize for the delay and he actually seemed sorry that I had waited so long. He defused my frustration and we made it through the appointment.

That experience made me so thankful that I never have to wait on the Great Physician. Jesus is always there whenever we take the time to call upon His name. No waiting ever.


Tribute to a mentor

June 18, 2014

A friend and mentor died this week.

Bobby Cloyd no doubt knew that I considered him a friend, but I doubt he considered himself a mentor. But he was, not only to me but to several of my friends as well.

Bobby was not the type of person who stood out in a crowd. He was the type who didn’t say a whole lot, but when he did you knew it was worth listening to.

Jack Lewis, senior adult pastor at Tulip Grove Baptist Church, best described Bobby as the “silent servant.”

He truly was a servant. If something needed to be done, Bobby was always willing to step up. I saw that firsthand while  serving with Bobby and his wife Donna on a mission trip to Missisissippi following Hurricane Katrina.

I learned a lot just watching Bobby. He never did anything for personal glory. He did what he did out of his love for the Lord. That’s what I will always remember most about him. Bobby was not one to tell you what to do. He simply led by example. If Bobby could, he would reach down from heaven and hit the delete button on this column before I posted it. He never sought the spotlight.

God truly blessed me when he brought Donna and Bobby into my life. Continue to pray for Donna and her family in the days ahead. Bobby truly will be missed by all who knew him.


Baptists and mountains

June 5, 2014

We Baptists are a unique group.

Most of the time, we don’t have the faith to move a mountain (which Scripture says is possible), but we have the uncanny ability of making a mountain out of a mole hill at any given time.

We do it in our individual lives as well as corporately. Many a congregation has argued over what color a carpet or pew pad should be and seen members leave because the “wrong” color was chosen.

And, we all have been in denominational convention meetings when budgets for millions of dollars have been approved with little or no debate, yet how a resolution is worded is debated for what seems like an eternity.

Just this week I  read an article about Charleston Southern University, a Baptist college in South Carolina, that is dealing with a public relations nightmare. The crisis probably could have been averted if all parties involved had exercised a little common sense and a lot of prayer.

Instead, the story was played out in the media and everyone is a loser when that happens.

I have come to learn over the years that when Baptists make mountains out of mole hills, the only winner is Satan. His desire is for us to be distracted by the mole hills in order that we do not focus on our  primary task of leading people to faith in Jesus Christ.

In life, we will have enough mountains to climb, without adding the ones we make out of the mole hills.

As Baptists, let us spend more time moving mountains with our faith and allow the mole hills to remain what they are — simply mole hills.


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