Just a little common sense

August 26, 2015

Over the years I have bemoaned the fact that plain common sense is on the verge of extinction.

I keep hoping it will be revived, but a lack of common sense actually seems to be getting worse. And it’s no respecter of age, race, education, etc. The most intelligent of human beings can literally have no common sense.

The latest example is a judge who ruled that the band at Brandon High School  in Mississippi could not participate in their high school’s Friday night games because their performance included the song “How Great Thou Art.”

Keep in mind the band plays music only, no words.

I can’t help but wonder how many people at the game would know what was being played, much less its significance. I confess. I am a music illiterate. If I played the old game “Name that Tune,” I would be embarrassed. I would like to think I would pick out “How Great Thou Art” because I was reared in church, but I am not 100 percent sure I would get it right on the first guess. If I had trouble, I can’t help but think those who aren’t as familiar with Christian songs would have trouble as well.

Here’s where some good old-fashioned common sense would have been useful. The judge ruled that the band couldn’t play “How Great Thou Art” because administrators, teachers, and staff in Brandon County are prohibited from sponsoring prayer and religious activities.

A song without words that most people likely would not identify hardly counts as a “religious activity” in my book.

Click on the link above to read some of the comments people have written.

One is the standard argument that is always used against Christians. If the band had been playing a Muslim song the Christian community would have been in an uproar. This Christian would not have been because I would not have had a clue of the song’s origination.

Here’s another example to illustrate the difficulty of identifying music without words. If I asked how many of you are familiar with Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” you probably would look at me with a blank stare. If I asked you if you have heard the theme song of the TV Show, “The Lone Ranger,” you probably would answer in the affirmative. The two are the one and the same.

Now, the story has garnered national attention and people are talking about it. Had the judge exercised some common sense and allowed the band to perform, I doubt it would have been a blip on the radar screen.

It’s yet another growing example of our freedoms slowly eroding.

Some good out of a bad situation actually took place at that first game. I applaud the parents of the band and probably others who stood up spontaneously at half-time and began singing “How Great Thou Art.” Watch the video  on YouTube. It is a blessing to see Christians unashamed to take a stand. The judge didn’t want the music played, yet God won as He always does. The words of “How Great Thou Art” are a powerful witness.

May we all be so bold!

 

 

Taking a stand

August 19, 2015

In today’s society taking a stand for what’s right involves risk, whether it be for an individual, church, or organization.

Taking a stand today for Christian values and beliefs more than likely will pit you against culture or what’s popular.

Taking a stand often means you will become a target for those who want to label you as a bigot or hypocrite.

Christians today, however, need to step to the plate and take a stand regardless of the consequences.

It was refreshing to see one of our Tennessee Baptist institutions take such a stand just last week. Union University announced that it is withdrawing from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).

The CCCU apparently failed to take action against two member institutions that “are going along with the crowd” by endorsing same-sex marriage.

Membership in organizations such as the CCCU is voluntary. Let Union University President Dub Oliver and others on staff there know that you applaud them for taking a stand when some in the educational community no doubt will be critical.

May their tribe increase.

 

 

Much sooner than later

August 12, 2015

It was only a matter of time. And it came much sooner than later.

When the United States Supreme Court ruled in June that same-sex marriage is protected under the Constitution and is legal in all 50 states, concerns were expressed that religious liberty would come under attack.

Questions arose as to whether ministers could speak freely against homosexuality and call it what it is — sin.

At least in Kentucky the answer is no. Fox News reported Aug. 11 that volunteer chaplains had to sign a document promising not to tell inmates that homosexuality is “sinful.”

When Chaplain David Wells said he could not sign such a document, the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice revoked his credentials.

Wells, who spent 13 years ministering to troubled juveniles, had to give up a labor of love.

If anyone is really surprised this has happened, then your head has been in the sand.

And, if you think this won’t happen again and again you are sadly mistaken. And, it will eventually find its way to Tennessee — probably much sooner than later.

Two freedoms that Americans hold dear — speech and religion — are under attack.

We have to be diligent and pray more fervently than ever. And we all need to be able to answer this question: Will we stand boldly for Christ?

That question will eventually come — much sooner than later.

 

Bad things happen when we lose focus

August 5, 2015

Have you ever driven down the highway and taken your eyes off the road for just a split second?

And, no you don’t have to admit you were texting or reading an e-mail or almost spilled your coffee. It may be you caught a glimpse of a deer or other animal out of the corner of your eye. Whatever the case, you took your eyes off the road and let them wander elsewhere.

If you were extremely blessed during that moment, nothing bad happened to you or anyone else.

But when we lose our focus for an extended period of time, bad things can happen.

My daughter Joanna sent me a link to a story in The Greenville News about a church that has lost its focus. It’s a sad story because of the history and tradition of First Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C.

Pastor William B. Johnson, who organized the church, would later become the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention. According to the church website, the church once housed Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in its infancy. Now, First Baptist Church is no longer even affiliated with the SBC.

The church has just announced that it will allow same-sex couples to marry in the church, that it will ordain gay ministers, and that it will allow gays to hold leadership positions in the church. In my book, that’s a good indication that the church “has taken its eyes off the road.”

Let me be clear. I understand church autonomy. First Baptist had every right to do what it did. I don’t dispute it. I just disagree with it.

One might ask how such a historic Southern Baptist church can abandon its roots.

Lest we be too harsh on First Baptist, it can happen to any church that takes its eyes off God and looks at things from the world’s perspective. You become more concerned about what the world says than what God’s Word says.

As someone who grew up in Greenville County I am saddened by what this church has done.

I imagine God is too.

 

 

Darker by the day

July 15, 2015

In Nashville today (July 15) the temperature should reach into the 90s and the  sun will be shining brightly. That should be the norm for the rest of this week and month.

On the outside, our world appears bright and cheery. Yet, underneath, where it really counts, our world is growing darker by the day.

Baptist Press posted two stories on July 14 that give credence to my belief. There are many more. Just watch the evening news and pick up tomorrow’s daily newspaper where you live. Space here, however, is limited so I will focus on these two stories.

First, which comes as no surprise, the Executive Committee of the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow gay and bisexual adult leaders. This comes about two  years to the anniversary of the Boy Scouts allowing openly gay  Scouts.

Supposedly, religious organizations, such as churches, that sponsor Scout troops can still choose their own leaders. It sounds good now, but do we really think it will stand the test of time? All it will take is one lawsuit and Boy Scouts of America will cave as they have already.

It’s time for Southern Baptist churches especially to wash their hands of BSA and turn their focus back on Royal Ambassadors. RAs provides many of the same opportunities that Boy Scouts did. Plus it will educate a new generation of boys about Southern Baptist missions.

The second Baptist Press story, if true, and it appears to be, is evil multiplied.

An executive of Planned Parenthood, a national provider of abortions, was caught on video negotiating the sale of body parts gained through partial birth abortions.

Apparently the story is true because the vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood didn’t deny it in a press release.  Instead, he defended it.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Abortion for abortion’s sake is wrong and to sell body parts is not only wrong and evil, it is illegal.  Baptist Press reported that “Selling or buying fetal tissue is a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000, according to Title 42 of the U.S. Code.” I wonder how long it will take a federal judge to strike that law off the books.

The only good thing about the world getting darker by the day is that means the light of Christ will shine even brighter. It’s up to us, as Christians, to proclaim His name and allow Jesus Christ to illuminate the dark world in which we live.

 

Some battles never end

July 2, 2015

Some battles never end and that is certainly true when it comes to good versus evil.

In November of last year, Tennessee voters said “Yes on 1,” approving an amendment which gives lawmakers more power to restrict and regulate abortion.

The voters spoke at the ballot box. End of story, right?

Afraid not. Shortly after the Nov. 4 election, opponents of Yes on 1 filed a lawsuit, saying the state’s vote tabulations were unconstitutional, according to a story in The Tennessean on July 1.

A federal judge denied the state’s request to dismiss the lawsuit regarding the way votes were counted, so the matter is far from settled.

Last week a federal judge issued a temporary injunction to keep the state from enforcing the clinic regulation requirements at two of the state’s clinics that currently do not meet those requirements, according to The Tennessean.

The battle between good and evil continues. And though the battle may seem like a long, winding, country road that seemingly never ends, it will. And, when it does, good will prevail.

Keep praying.

The sun came up on Saturday

June 29, 2015

I woke up Saturday (June 27)  and when the clouds moved away (it rained Friday night in Middle Tennessee), the sun was as bright and beautiful as ever.

That told me all I needed to know.

Despite the troubling news on Friday (June 26) that the Supreme Court had redefined the traditional, biblical view of marriage by ruling that states must recognize same-sex marriages, God is still on His throne.

That’s the message I heard proclaimed in the pulpit at Tulip Grove Baptist Church on Sunday and I imagined it was echoed thousands of times in pulpits all across Tennessee and our nation.

My initial thought was to develop a column based on the headline “Move Over Sodom and Gomorrah, You Have Company.”

But the more I thought about it, it just didn’t fit. Our nation joined the likes of Sodom and Gomorrah years ago while we slept and let abortion become the law of the land. We slept while we continued to elect government leaders who have led our nation on a downward spiral in terms of spirituality and morality.

So, are we really surprised by the Supreme Court’s ruling?

I’m saddened but not shocked.

Rest assured. The Supreme Court decision didn’t catch the God of the universe by surprise. He has had a master plan since He formed the world and it’s still in place.

It’s up to Christians to be included in His plan. At a time when the world appears to be cloaked in spirtual darkness, the light of Christ can shine brighter than ever.

It’s entirely up to us. We can bemoan what has happened or we can spring to action.

Due to when the announcement was made, most of the July 1 issue of the Baptist and Reflector was already complete.

Our July 15 issue will carry articles and columns designed to help our churches in the days ahead.

While God is on His throne, that does not mean Satan won’t stir up trouble for God’s churches and people. In baseball terms, Satan will throw his best fastball and curves against us.

Churches need to know how this decision will impact them and get their “houses in order” with bylaws and proper legal documents.

In the meantime, it can’t be business as usual. That’s what brought us to this place in history.

We have to be out front more than ever, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in a world growing darker by the hour. May our lights shine!

Say something nice — all the time

June 4, 2015

There must be a “Sunday” or a day of the week for just about every topic imaginable.

I just learned of a new one — “Say Something Nice Sunday” which happens to occur this year on June 7.

I can’t argue about the topic. It’s kind of ironic, however, that we would observe the day in church. If we are ever going to say something nice, isn’t that where it would be expected? I started to say that I have never heard a cross word in church, but I almost forgot I was a Baptist. Unfortunately, I have heard a few unkind words spoken at church over the course of my lifetime.

Say something nice to someone on Sunday, June 7, just for the fun of it. But also do it on Monday, June 8; Tuesday, June 9; Wednesday, June 10; you get the picture. Make it a daily habit.

Jesus did it. He expects it from us. Scripture reminds us: “And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:32, HCSB).

 

Our tax dollars at work

May 28, 2015

Co-worker Tammy Harris sent me an interesting link today about  a Marine who was court-martialed in 2014 for  — get this — daring to display a verse of Scripture.

Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling has recently filed an appeal of the guilty verdict to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. She was demoted to the rank of private and dishonorably discharged from the Marine Corps after being found guilty of not following orders to remove Scripture taped to her computer.

Apparently another Marine was offended to see the Scripture “No weapon formed against me shall prosper” posted for display on Lance Corporal Sterling’s computer.

I can’t help but wonder what the offended person would have done had he or she been in a foxhole with Lance Corporal Sterling with rounds of ammunition being fired over their heads. Would the individual have stopped her from saying a prayer of protection? I kind of doubt it.

It’s just a another example of our religious freedoms slowly eroding away.

Just as appalling is the amount of taxpayers dollars that were used for the trial and now the appeal.

Evangelist Franklin Graham summed it up well in this Twitter post on May 27. “A Marine being prosecuted for posting a Bible verse? Today our culture tolerates everything — except for God’s Word.”

Pray for God’s will in this issue and for a Marine who dared to display her faith. We need more men and women serving our country who have such courage.

 

Are Christians caving to culture?

May 20, 2015

Baptist Press reported  May 12 on findings from a Pew Research Center study that indicate the number of Christians in America has declined by almost 8 percentage points since 2007.

The story also indicated that the number of religiously unaffiliated adults (commonly referred to as “nones) increased by almost 7 percentage points over the same time frame.

That begs the question, “Why?”

I’m not a math major (that’s why I became a journalist; didn’t have to take as many math courses in college) but 8 percentage points reflects a huge number of people within the Christian community.

There are probably several reasons for the decline. Among them are a natural decline by death, a lack of evangelism, and what I fear the most, apathy, along with a fear of standing up for one’s beliefs in a culture that looks down upon Christianity.

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, does not believe that Christianity is dying but he did note in the Baptist Press article that it is becoming “less nominal, more defined, and more outside the mainstream of American culture.”

He wrote in a recent blog, “For example, the cultural cost of calling yourself ‘Christian’ is starting to outweigh the cultural benefit, so those who do not identify as ‘Christian’ according to their convictions are starting to identify as ‘nones’ because it’s more culturally savvy.”

We are living in a day and age where Christians are afraid to speak up and stand boldly for their convictions. Christians are caving to culture. And, we are paying the price.

The numbers will continue to decline unless we, as Christians and Tennessee Baptists, get out of the pews and into the marketplace. We must live our faith so people see a difference and be willing to build relationships so we can earn the right to share the gospel.

Tennessee Baptists adopted Five Objectives during their annual meeting last November. The first one is to see at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship by the year 2024.

I encourage Tennessee Baptists to embrace that goal. It will go a long way in reversing the decline in those identifying as Christians. If we are seeing people saved, baptized, and then discipled to be followers of Christ, they will remain faithful and help win others to faith in Christ.

The disturbing trend cited by the Pew Research can be reversed. Are we up to the challenge?

 


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