Traditional marriage still popular

February 26, 2015

Just listening/reading to the secular media, you can easily get the impression that everyone is now supportive of same-sex marriage.

The gist of those secular messages are: Accept the fact that same-sex marriage is not going away. Christians better get on board.

And, that is true. It won’t. Same sex-marriage is here to stay, but those of us who  believe in the biblical definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman don’t have to “get on board.”

Baptist Press reported Feb. 25 that a recent survey commissioned by the Family Research Council, in partnership with National Religious Broadcasters, found that 81 percent of Americans agree that government should “leave people free to follow their beliefs about marriage as they live out their daily lives at work and in the way they run their businesses.”

What a novel concept (sarcasm dripping).

A small minority is trying to impose their will and beliefs on a vast majority of people (both Christians and non-Christians) who disagree. That is wrong. If those people are comfortable with those beliefs, that is entirely up to them. They ultimately, as will those who believe in traditional marriage, will answer to God.

In the meantime, Christians must continue to stand up for our religious freedom.

Don’t take your health for granted

January 28, 2015

Good health is a blessing that I fear we too often take for granted.

Though I am being treated for a heart-related issue and high cholesterol, I am in relatively good health for someone who will be 57 years old in a couple of weeks.

And though I may complain about an ache or pain occasionally, I know God has blessed me greatly with good health.

All I have to do is look around me. Two very close friends have just finished radiation treatments for cancer and one of them is still taking chemotherapy.

Just within the past few days I have learned of at least four or five friends or family members of friends who have been diagnosed with cancer or had strokes.

And while some things can’t be avoided, we bring some health issues on ourselves. For instance, my cholesterol might not be an issue if I shed the 20 or 30 pounds my doctor keeps telling me I need to lose. And, even if the cholesterol is hereditary, I would be much better off without the additional weight.

Randy C. Davis, executive director/treasurer of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, has written an excellent column in this week’s Baptist and Reflector, challenging ministers (and everyone for that matter) to lose 10 percent of their body weight in 2015.

Davis wrote, “The medical benefits of losing 10 percent of your body weight when you are overweight are well documented. Some of the obvious benefits are reduced stress on our joints and organs, especially our hearts.”

In his column Davis noted he has gone from “obese to overweight” and that his next goal is “chubby.”

So, he has issued the “Chubby Challenge.” I have taken the challenge and I would encourage others to do so as well, even if you only have a few pounds to lose.

Our health is too important to take for granted.

A timely gift for a needed ministry

January 15, 2015

On Jan. 15, the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes, based in Brentwood, received a timely gift for a vital and much needed ministry. See story.

George and Denise Shinn of Franklin gave TBCH a $1 million gift which will be used for the entity’s foster care program which was kicked off last year. While it is still in the early stages of development, some children already have been placed in foster homes across the state.

It is a needed ministry, worthy of Baptist involvement.

The erosion of the American family is real.

Fewer and fewer children are raised in the traditional family with both parents. In some cases, children live with one parent, grandparents, or other relatives.

Sadly, some children have nowhere to go and that is why good foster homes are critical. Children’s Rights, an organization based in New York, reports on its website that on any given day there are approximately 397,000 children in foster care in the United States. That is a staggering and tragic statistic.

Kudos to the Shinns and to Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes for responding to this need. May their tribe increase.

Remembering a friend and mentor

December 22, 2014

The Dec. 31 issue of the Baptist and Reflector actually “went to bed” (newspaper lingo) on Friday, Dec. 19, due to the holidays.

The following day, I learned that Vern Powers had died on Dec. 19 at the age of 94.

After a paper is sent to the press, few things can happen to cause changes to be made. The death of Vern Powers was one of those cases, at least for me.

Vern Powers truly was a Tennessee Baptist statesman and he was an ambassador for not only the convention but for his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, whom he loved with all his heart and soul.

Vern spent nearly all of his 94 years serving Jesus in one way or another.

In the obituary in the print issue, Gary Rickman, another longtime TBC staff member, noted that Powers was a mentor to many pastors of Rickman’s generation. You can add one editor to that list as well.

I had the blessing of becoming friends with Vern when I joined the B&R staff in 1988 as associate editor and Vern was still on convention staff.

Our friendship and mutual respect continued to grow over the years. When I became editor of the paper in 1998, Vern Powers became one of my strongest supporters and confidants.

After he was elected to serve as a member of the Executive Board, Vern served on the committee that related to the B&R. He was a strong advocate of the paper and helped launch an endowment for the B&R.

That support never wavered. About a month before his death I received a phone call from Vern and he asked me to come to his home. He knew his days were numbered and he wanted one last visit with me — a visit I will always treasure.

He gave me a letter and a check for the B&R endowment. In the letter, Vern wrote, “We have had many heart-felt conversations over the years. I want you to know that I value your friendship.”

Well, that was a two-way street. I valued Vern Powers’ friendship more than he ever knew. He was always willing to listen if I needed to talk.

Vern Powers was a true Christian gentleman whose walk matched “his talk.” He truly will be missed by his family and by all who were blessed by God to have been able to call him “friend.”

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 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.


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