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?

 

Some facts about alcohol

May 6, 2015

Besides being consumer products, what do pizza, appliances, furniture, and alcohol have in common?

Nothing yet, but beginning July 1, alcohol joins the list of products that can be delivered to your home.

Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law last week a bill that will allow third-party restaurant delivery services to purchase alcohol and deliver it to the homes of consumers. According to The Tennessean, packaged liquor stores are already allowed to deliver directly to consumers after legislation passed last year, but many retailers opted not to provide that service.

Let’s hope the added cost of delivery will make those home deliveries few and far between.

Am I a prude? No, but I am not for anything that makes alcohol easier for people, especially those with addictive tendencies, to obtain. I have seen alcohol destroy the life of one of the best friends I ever had and almost destroy others I love and care about.

Over the years I have seen alcohol gain more acceptance even among Christians. When I was younger, pastors actually railed against the evils of alcohol. Now, we have pastors who give tacit approval of alcohol use.

Let me be clear so no one misunderstands. I know the Bible does not say it is a sin to drink alcohol.  I do not think a person will go to hell if he or she has an occasional alcoholic beverage. The Bible, however, does have a lot to say about the misuse of alcohol (drunkenness).

Therein lies the problem. Hundreds of thousands of people can’t stop at one drink. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc., (NCADD) reports that alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States and that 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence.

Some will argue that we can’t legislate morality. True, to come extent. But it depends on the substance. We have no problem passing laws that prohibit smoking in restaurants and we extol the dangers of smoking. Smoking is on the “out” list while alcohol is for the “in” crowd. Yet, both can do damage to the body, God’s temple.

Here are some facts about alcohol from  the NCADD.

• 88,000 deaths are annually attributed to excessive alcohol use.

• Alcoholism is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the nation.

• Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 2.5 million years of potential life lost annually, or an average of about 30 years of potential life lost or each death.

• Up to 40 percent of all hospital beds in the United States (except for those being used by maternity and intensive care patients) are being used to treat health conditions that are related to alcohol consumption. That list of health conditions is extensive.

Ultimately, the decision to drink or not to drink must be made by individuals. And while the Bible doesn’t specifically call alcohol a sin, it does warn against engaging in any action that could cause “a weaker brother to stumble.” Read Romans 14:14-21 as a reminder.

Choose wisely and remember that the non-Christian world watches what we do.

 

 

 

 

You can’t fool God

April 29, 2015

In the 1970s there was a popular television commercial about Chiffon Margarine which starred “Mother Nature.”

The gist of the commercial was someone fooled Mother Nature into thinking that Chiffon Margarine was actually butter. Of course, her famous response was, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”

Well, today we have a lot of people who are trying to fool God. Unlike Mother Nature, however, God can’t be fooled.

He can see through utter nonsense.

Recently The Social Club, a “swinger’s club,” applied for a permit next door to Goodpasture Christian School in Madison, a suburb of Nashville. State lawmakers, however, passed legislation to keep sexual swinging clubs from locating within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, daycares, or parks. In addition, Metro (Nashville) Council changed its zoning code to block private clubs from properties zoned for office uses, according to The Tennessean.

Since that didn’t work, owners of The Social Club have filed papers to renovate the building to become a church, according to a number of media outlets. In addition, one owner has become an ordained minister, according to WKRN News (Channel 2 in Nashville). I did some quick research and sure enough just about anyone can become an ordained minister online. That tidbit of information is worthy of its own blog later on.

In a revised floor plan for the facility, the “owners” of the church (who also happened to own The Social Club) have changed the former “dungeon” room to the choir room. Other room names were changed to fit the church motif. They have added a “pastor’s study.”

As the old saying goes, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. They can disguise it anyway they want but it is what it is — and it’s definitely not a church, by its own definition. WKRN News reported that the church’s primary belief is to “do only that which is right.” Funny, I always thought a church’s primary goal is to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Do these owners honestly think they are fooling anyone? These people are making a mockery out of the church and Christianity. What’s more, they are mocking God.

Rest assured, God is not fooled by any of this. He will prevail!

Remember Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

 

Interesting facts about e-mail

April 23, 2015

Do you remember LBE (Life Before E-mail)?

When I joined the staff of the Baptist and Reflector nearly 27 years ago, “snail mail” was pretty much the only game in town.

Then, along came fax machines and e-mail and the way we communicated skyrocketed into the next century.

As a journalist, e-mail made it easier to communicate with people and to gather the facts and information we needed for news and feature stories. E-mail does have its drawbacks. You learn quickly not to respond to a “nasty” e-mail too quickly because once that “sent” key is pushed, there is no turning back. It’s out there.

Raymond Smith, technology services manager for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, recently sent an e-mail to staff about e-mails. He reported on a recent study of e-mail usage done with over 2,000,000 e-mail users by Yahoo.

Raymond pulled the actual study and gleaned some interesting facts about e-mails that I thought might appeal to a larger audience.

Here they are:

• 47 minutes is median response time

• The most common length of an e-mail reply is five words

• The average e-mail reply for teens is 17 words

• The average 21-35 age group will reply to an e-mail in 21 words

• The average 36-50 age group will reply to an e-mail in 31 words

• The 50 and older group will reply to an e-mail in 40 words

• The median e-mail reply is 47 words

• The average teen will reply to an e-mail in 13 minutes

• The average 21-35 age group will reply to an e-mail in 16 minutes

• The average 36-50 age group will reply to an e-mail in 24 minutes

• The 50 and older group will reply to an e-mail in 47 minutes

• For users who receive  lower volume of e-mails the reply rate is about 25 percent

• If a user gets over 100 e-mails a day he or she responds to less than 5 percent of them

• The median e-mail length sent by smartphone is 20 words

• The median e-mail length sent by desktop is 60 words

• E-mails with attachments have the longest reply times

This may be way more than you ever wanted to know about e-mail. If so, just remember the simpler time of LBE.

 

The church and culture

April 16, 2015

If life were a baseball game and the opponents were the church versus culture, then the church would be in trouble.

pastors-nothingwrong-updatedIt’s the bottom of the seventh and the church is behind.

LifeWay Research has just released a study that shows that about 54 percent of Americans believe that homosexuality is not a sin. Another 17 percent is not sure.

Translated, only 30 percent of  Americans (at least those who were polled) are bold enough to say “homosexuality is a sin.”

Just three years ago, 44 percent of Americans were willing to say “homosexuality is a sin.” That’s a drop of 14 percent in just three years. I would definitely say that culture is ahead at this point in the game.

The numbers are very similar when Americans are asked if gay marriage should be legal.

As one might expect, the numbers are not as high among Americans who belong to a faith group, but it is still troubling. According to the article, 56 percent of Catholics and 40 percent of Protestants agree that gay marriage should be legal, compared to 72 percent of those identified as non-religioius.

Among evangelicals, less than 30 percent say that gay marriage should be legal. That number jumps to 38 percent among evangelicals who have gay and lesbian friends. That’s way too high for people who profess to be “born again” Christians.

We are letting culture dictate what we believe instead of God’s Holy Word, the Bible.

The church is losing the cultural war now, but fear not. The game is not over. When the final pitch is thrown, God’s team will win.

In the meantime, we must stand stand firm on our biblical convictions. On April 28 the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for and against same sex marriage.

Their decision could make gay marriage legal across the country or allow states to maintain their right to define marriage as only between a man and woman.

Pray for those Supreme Court justices that they will not be swayed by public opinion (culture) and choose to redefine marriage. The only definition of marriage that the United States needs today is found in God’s Word. It’s pretty clear, if only we will read it and believe it.

 

Remember (and pray for) the good cops

April 8, 2015

Once again, national media attention is focused on a law enforcement officer.

According to news accounts, a police officer in North Charleston, S.C. shot and killed a man who had been pulled over for a traffic violation. The police officer originally said the man took his stun gun and was fleeing from the scene. An onlooker’s video footage at the scene reveals something entirely different.

As a result, police officer Michael T. Slager has been charged with murder, according to an article in The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C.

It’s another tragic incident in which it appears a police officer overreacted and used deadly force when it was not needed.

Similar incidents have happened in recent months.

These are inexcusable acts. Period.

But what we fail to see in the media are the thousands upon thousands of police officers who get out of bed each day and put their lives on the line to keep us safe.

I know we all have stories of the police officer who pulls us over and issues a speeding ticket or some other traffic citation that we feel is unwarranted. After all, we were only 10 miles over the speed limit, not 15 or more. And so what that I rolled through the Stop sign. Nothing was coming. Been there, done that.

But the bottom line is that these officers are only doing their jobs.

Yes, there are occasional “bad apples” who give the entire profession a black eye, but I daresay most police officers feel a sense of duty and calling to what they do. Let’s face it, they certainly do not do it for the money (unless they are one of the bad apples). We don’t bat an eye when professional athletes are paid millions of dollars to play a game. We keep watching and supporting the team. But whenever politicians want to increase taxes to give raises to police, fire fighters, teachers, and other public servants, we pitch a fit.

I go to church and have gone to church with police officers who are the cream of the crop. One of my good friend’s son is a police officer who could have gone into a successful business but chose not to. They truly are committed to making their communities a better and safer place to live.

Let’s remember the “good cops” and keep them in our prayers. The horrific actions of a few of their counterparts keep making their jobs even harder.

 

So long Susie

March 24, 2015
B&R staff, from left, Lonnie Wilkey, Mary Nimmo, Susie Edwards, and Connie Bushey

B&R staff, from left, Lonnie Wilkey, Mary Nimmo, Susie Edwards, and Connie Bushey

Twenty-seven years ago I joined the Baptist and Reflector staff and met a part-time employee named Susie Edwards. Little did I know that on that day in May of 1988 I was also meeting a lifelong friend.

Susie spent nearly 30 years on the staff of the Baptist and Reflector, holding a variety of responsibilities over the years. Her favorite title and one that fit her best was “hall minister.” On Tuesdays after the paper was printed on Monday Susie would deliver the paper throughout the Tennessee Baptist Convention offices in Brentwood.

With Susie that 10-minute (at the most) task could turn into a hour. Her reasoning: She couldn’t just deliver the paper and not check on the people she encountered. Translated, she had to talk with everyone she saw and make sure they were doing well.

Susie loved people and people knew it. She could light up any room with her smile.

Susie was an ambassador for the Baptist and Reflector as well as the Tennessee Baptist Convention as a whole. She normally was the first voice people heard when they called the B&R office. I think people actually found a reason to call just so they could talk to Susie. She had the remarkable ability of making people feel good about themselves.

Two years ago I was in my office late on a Friday afternoon when I heard Susie and Mary Nimmo, another staff member, sobbing. I thought something had happened to one of their relatives. But I soon discovered Susie had just heard from her doctor that she had been diagnosed with cancer.

I kept my composure that day for their sake, but I am not ashamed to admit that tears have flowed for Susie in the months since and they continued today (March 24). We learned earlier this morning that Susie is no longer in pain. She is now in the presence of the Lord she loved and served so faithfully, not only as a denominational employee but also as a minister’s wife. Her husband, Mark, is a retired minister of music who served for many years at First Baptist Church, Nashville.

During Susie’s two-year bout with cancer, she handled it with dignity and grace. Susie was an amazing witness to numerous other cancer patients and hospital personnel. As was her “modis operandi,” Susie was more concerned about others than herself and this endeared her to countless people over the years.

Those who knew and loved Susie are grieving because we will miss her greatly. But we also are relieved that she is no longer in pain and that she is enjoying the fruits of her ministry now in heaven. Continue to pray for Mark and her children Nathan and Weslee, along with the five grandchildren who were the “apples of her eye.”

Susie was the chief proofer for the paper for most of her time on staff. We would give her “hard copy” of the stories she was proofing. We usually would type or write “30” at the bottom of the page so she would know that was the end of the story.

There is no “30” on Susie’s story. Those who knew her best will have precious memories of her and the times that were shared and one day we will see her again in heaven. That’s the hope and promise we find in Scripture.

Thank you Susie for your friendship and for the memories. So long, for now.

 


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