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.

The real world

May 30, 2014

It is the last day of the work week and today I am concluding my first week in the new Tennessee Baptist Convention offices at 330 Seven Springs  Way in Brentwood.

It’s been a week of transition as the Baptist and Reflector is working under a new production schedule and we have been unpacking boxes and getting our work space ready for use.

We could not ask for a better office facility than the LifePoint Building. But as I conclude my first week here, it suddenly dawned on me that for the first time in 32 years I am in the “real world” as it relates to the work place.

Since 1982 I have worked in a sheltered environment. When I joined the Education Commission in 1982 I worked in the Southern Baptist Convention building. Six years later I joined the TBC staff and have been here for the past 26 years. In both environments I entered buildings each day where everyone was  a professing Christian.

Now, each day I come to work I encounter people in the parking garage, the lobby, and the elevator who I do not know. If statistics hold true, it’s more than likely that one out of every two of those people do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

I face a greater responsibility as I come to work each day. The employees in the LifePoint Building are aware that Tennessee Baptists/Christians now occupy the third floor of their facility. They no doubt will be watching me and my co-workers to see if we “practice what we preach.”

But, come to think of it, it really shouldn’t matter where I work. My lifestyle should reflect the love of Jesus Christ 24/7 regardless of where I am. My prayer is that I will do just that. After all, the “real world” is watching.

Double standard

May 12, 2014

If you honestly think we are not living in a society with a double standard when it comes to Christianity,  you may want to read this story that was posted by Baptist Press on May 9.

Today’s  television networks promote a homosexual lifestyle and that is deemed “okay” by societal standards. A major television talk show has a self-avowed lesbian host and that, too, is okay. I can accept that.

Yet, an entire show is being canceled simply because the two hosts are not afraid to take a Christian stand and hold to the biblical view of marriage. What a travesty. I have trouble accepting that.

David and Jason Benham were slated to star in a reality show entitled “Flip it Forward” in which they would find “fixer-upper” homes and remodel them for families with limited financial resources.

The Home and Garden Television Network recently informed them the series would not be produced. The decision was made after a liberal website quoted one of the brothers as opposing gay marriage and abortion and stating that Christianity is superior to Islam.

Give these brothers credit. They are not backing down. In a statement they released, the brothers made it clear that their faith and Christian beliefs are more important than a television show.

The statement noted: “The first and last thought on our minds as we begin and end each day is: have we shined Christ’s light today? Our faith is the fundamental calling in our lives, and the centerpiece of who we are. As Christians we are called to love our fellow man. Anyone who suggests that we hate homosexuals or people of other faiths is either misinformed or lying. Over the last decade, we’ve sold thousands of homes with the guiding principle of producing value and breathing life into each family that has crossed our path, and we do not, nor will we ever discriminate against people who do not share our views.”

Therein lies the double standard. Those with a homosexual agenda cannot tolerate those who dare speak against their lifestyle. It’s entirely okay for them to be public about their beliefs, but Christians cannot.

Sadly, Christians have only ourselves to blame for this predicament. We have kept our heads in the sand and have tried to be “politically correct” for so long that we are now unable to stop this freight train that is speeding out of control. I am grateful for people like David and Jason Benham who are willing to stand up for Christ regardless of the consequences.

Christians are being asked to let their feelings be known to officials of HGTV. I love the name of the website, FlipThisDecision.com.

As of late afternoon on May 12, more than 15,000 people had signed  the petition on the website, urging HGTV officials to reconsider their decision. I pray that this decision will be “flipped.” Christians have to start speaking up and out or we will continue to face persecution for our beliefs.

Christians, the ball is in our court. Are we up to the task? We need to be like the Benham brothers and shine our light for Christ.


Remember Mom!

May 8, 2014

Don’t forget to honor or remember your mothers in a special way on Sunday, May 11.

For those whose mothers are still living, and especially if she is a Christian, you could give her no better present than by being in church with her if at all possible on Sunday. If it’s not, give her a call and thank her for all she has done first thing that morning.

If your mother is deceased (as mine is), take time to thank God for her as you remember how special she was in your life.

God has blessed me by putting other women in my life who have been like mothers to me. First, and foremost, there was “Mom,” my maternal grandmother. I spent most of my childhood under her nurture. She probably had more influence on me than most anyone in my life. She was the first person who shared with me on how to become a Christian. We were very close and I still remember her vividly even though it has been almost 36 years since she went to be with the Lord.

Next in line is my Aunt Lynn. Other than Mom and my mother, she definitely has had the greatest influence on my life and still does today. I can’t remember a trip I have made to South Carolina in more than 30 years when I did not go to see her or my Uncle Bill (unless they were out of town). Most Christmas Eves are spent at their house.

There have been many other women God has used in my life. Two who are still living are Shirley Coggins and Marilyn Eells. Each of them have been an important part of my life. Shirley’s son was my best friend growing up and I spent as much time at her house as I did mine. I didn’t know Marilyn until we moved to Nashville in the early 1980s. She had recently moved to Nashville and we worked at the SBC building when it was still located on James Robertson Parkway. We “adopted” each other and my grown kids even today still call her “Granny Marilyn.”

I imagine most readers can relate and identify their own grandmothers or special ladies who invested in their life. If they are still living take a moment and let them know how special they are to you.

And, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my wife Joyce, who has been a wonderful Mom to our two children, Joanna and Daniel, and Joanna, who is now learning the joys of motherhood with my grandson, Eli.

Mothers are truly a gift from God and so are those “extra” Moms in our lives. I know I have been blessed greatly.

Sunshine after the storm

April 30, 2014

Tennessee, along with several other states, was in the path of a deadly tornadoes which struck the week of April 27.

An F-3 tornado destroyed portions of Lincoln County late Monday evening, leaving two people dead and numerous homes destroyed or damaged.

Yet, the day after the storms, God showed He is still in control. A bright, almost hot, sun arose the next day as people took stock of the damage.

The real sunshine, however, was the response of people, rushing not only to aid their friends and neighbors but strangers as well and people, even those hardest hit. talking about how they prayed for protection and how God answered those prayers.

Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief was on the scene. David Acres, state DR director, delivered a loadof roofing tarps and supplies and TBC Executive Director Randy C. Davis was on the scene as well, ministering to families in need including Pastor Darrell Haney of Grace Falls Baptist Church. Pastor Haney not only saw his home severely damaged, he found his church building had been blown away, leaving only the slab and debris. Yet, he was quick to stress that “God’s hand” protected him and his family.

DR volunteers from William Carey Baptist Association were out in force, their yellow hats a witness to the volunteer spirit of Tennessee Baptists. Director of Missions Randy Maxwell served as a chaplain in the area, talking to families hardest hit by the violent storm.

Shortly after noon, the number of volunteers arriving in the Howell Hill community (where the church was located) had grown to the point that county officials had to limit their entry into the area. What a good problem to have!

We all have to deal with the storms of life. No one is immune. But isn’t it great to know that God always sends the sunshine as well. Continue to pray for the people of Lincoln County and in other states as well who lost family members and/or their homes.

To view photos from Lincoln County, visit the TBC Facebook page.

What we say does matter

April 3, 2014

Christians who may not think it matters what comes out of their their mouths may want to take a quick look at Matthew 12:36 which reminds us, “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak” (Holman Christian Standard Bible).

What we say does matter.

Baptist Press ran an article entitled “Former atheist: ‘Life is better serving God’ on March 31.

The article, written by Rudy Gray, editor of the Baptist Courier in South Carolina, tells the story of Mike Rushton, a former atheist.

Rushton was taken to church by his mother as a youngster but his father saw no value in going to church and eventually Rushton followed the direction of his dad and stopped attending church as a teenager. At the age of 16 he went to work in a local cotton mill. At that point he noted that he “believed there was a God but I didn’t have any place in my life for Him.”

While working at the cotton mill, Rushton had a bad encounter with a woman who had taught his fourth grade Sunday School class. “I have been cussed out before, but I don’t believe any worse than she did,” Rushton said. “That had an impact on my life, and I remember it like it happened yesterday.”

He noted that he began to believe there was no difference between those who professed to be Christian and those who didn’t.

The words of that Sunday School teacher did matter.

While it was ultimately Rushton’s decision to drift from God, that Sunday School teacher was not a good witness.

The good news is that Rushton later gave his life to God and is now living for Him.

His story is a reminder that we, as Christians, must be constantly be on guard and choose wisely the words we use.

What we say does matter.


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