Archive for December, 2014

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!