Sit up and take notice

December 18, 2014

As Christians we normally put our heads in the sand and try to ignore what’s going on around us.

So when Christians do what they should, they deserve a pat on the back.

Georgia Baptist Convention leaders are strongly supporting Kelvin Cochran, the Atlanta fire chief who has been suspended without pay for a month, forced to undergo “sensitivity training”, and is being investigated for other “wrongdoing.” See Baptist Press story.

His “crime?”

He dared write a book (Who Told You That You Are Naked?) that upholds the Bible’s standard when it comes to human sexuality. What’s more, he had the audacity to give (not sell) copies of the book to people on his staff.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed apparently took issue with the book after some of the staff complained. The mayor suspended the fire chief without pay and took the other measures.

Apparently, freedom of speech applies only when you agree with what the other person says.

Chief Cochran dared to say that homosexuality and lesbianism is sexual perversion. Truth is truth. And sometimes, the truth stings, especially if you are not in agreement with the truth.

Mayor Reed evidently disagrees with his fire chief. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran’s book is not representative of my personal beliefs, and is inconsistent with the administration’s work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all of her citizens — regardless of their sexual orientation, race, and religious beliefs.”

How ironic that he dared to include “religious beliefs” in that statement. Chief Cochran is being punished for his religious beliefs.

As long as the fire chief does not force his beliefs on his department or discriminate in hiring practices, there is no reason he should not be leading the Atlanta Fire Department.

We are getting to the point where Christians in America are being persecuted for their religious convictions.

We either stick our heads in the sand or sit up and take notice and do something about it. We either speak up now or we may be silenced forever. It’s up to us.




A tale of two signs

December 4, 2014

Earlier this week local television stations reported on a billboard on Interstate 24 near LaVergne that has caused quite a stir.

The billboard was put up by American Atheists. It portrayed a young girl writing a letter to Santa which read, “Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church. I’m too old for fairy tales.” At the bottom of the billboard was a plug for the American Atheists National Convention which will be held in Memphis next April.

Some people are upset that the billboard was allowed, but as I see it, they have the right to do so.

Christians who are upset and offended should counteract that billboard with one of their own. Whether that happens remains to be seen.

But in Clarksville, Pastor Jimmy Terry of Tabernacle Baptist Church is putting out his own signs — 10,000 of them. The signs boldly proclaim, “Christmas is all about JESUS.”

While his effort has nothing to do with the American Atheists’ billboard, it is an example of Christians taking a stand for Jesus.

Pastor Terry is concerned that Christians have “abandoned” Christmas and Easter. “We have given it over to the commercial world,” he says.

Residents of Clarksville and other churches have embraced Terry’s effort and so far have helped to distribute more than 5,000 signs (as of Dec. 4). The other signs should be distributed within a few days. (See a full story on this effort in the Dec. 17 issue of the Baptist and Reflector).

He notes that there are more than 70 national emphases (Black History Month, National Pet Month,  National Ice Cream Month, etc.). “But we only give Jesus one day in December” and another day at Easter, he maintains.

His desire is to proclaim the name of Jesus year-round. May Bro. Terry’s tribe increase!



A vote for Thanksgiving

November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Day used to be known as a time to give thanks to God for His blessings, a great turkey dinner, spending quality time with family, and watching football.

Now, it is becoming known as just another day to shop and spend money. How sad.

My daughter Joanna and I established a father/daughter tradition years ago where I would take her shopping on “Black Friday.” It wasn’t the most pleasant thing I ever did (getting up at 4 a.m. to go stand in long lines, usually in frigid weather), but it meant a lot to her and we have continued it for the most part. The only problem now is that a lot of major stores are opening earlier and earlier, with many stores having major sales on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a family holiday. When stores open on Thanksgiving it takes employees away from their families.

A recent nationwide survey of U.S. consumers indicate that at least 50 percent of those polled say that opening stores on Thanksgiving Day is  a bad idea, according to a news release from LifeWay Christian Resources.

One Target (a major nationwide retailer) employee has initiated an online petition asking Target to give employees the day off. To date, more than 90,000 people have signed the petition and more than 100,000-people have “liked” the Facebook group, “Boycott Black Thursday.”

I applaud LifeWay Christian Stores. They have resisted the urge to engage in “retail wars” on Thanksgiving Day. They will remain closed in order  for employees to spend time with their families. May more large retail companies follow suit.

Avoid the temptation to shop on Thanksgiving Day and spend it with your family. You can “shop until you drop” on Black Friday!


A victory that matters

November 5, 2014

As a football fan this season, victories have been few and far between for this South Carolina Gamecocks and Tennessee Titans football fan.

The few victories they have earned, however, cannot compare to the victory earned on Election Day, Nov. 4.

Tennessee voters  approved Amendment 1 which provides an opportunity for needed regulations on the abortion industry in our state. For the past few  years, Tennessee has become an abortion destination for those seeking an abortion. States surrounding Tennessee had in place some common sense restrictions such as a waiting period and inspection of abortion facilities that caused residents of their states to come to Tennessee in increasing numbers for abortions.

Hopefully, that will soon end with the passage of Amendment 1.

Quite frankly, in the days leading up to the election, it didn’t look good. Opponents were flooding the airwaves with misinformation. I am glad now that they did. It provided an opportunity for God to “show out.” This victory is a “God-thing.”

He did it through His people — Christians throughout Tennessee. I am proud of and grateful that Tennessee Baptists helped lead this effort. Randy C. Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, provided key leadership and Tennessee Baptist churches all across the state rallied support for Yes on 1. I am also grateful that the Baptist and Reflector was able to be used as a means to inform Tennessee Baptists about this amendment.

Praise God for this victory that matters and continue to pray. Those who opposed Amendment 1 will not give up now. They will fight any legislation that may be proposed in the future. The battle on keeping Tennessee from being known as an abortion destination will continue. We must keep praying fervently.

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 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.


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