Tennessee: Buckle of What Belt?

“Tennessee is the buckle of the _________ Belt.” I assume you immediately responded, “Bible.” Before a week ago I would have said the same thing, but guess what? We’re both wrong. Unfortunately, according to an article last week in The (Nashville) Tennessean, Tennessee is now known as the buckle of the “Meth Belt.” The belt stretches from Oklahoma to South Carolina. Methamphetamine is an extremely addictive, chemically produced, stimulant drug that is neurotoxic to humans, meaning it damages brain structure, causes psychosis and often leads to post-withdrawal syndrome that can persist for months beyond the typical withdrawal period for other types of abused drugs. Beyond that, you’ve possibly been revolted by the disfigured faces of meth addicts altered by the drug’s traumatic physical effects. The Tennessean article describes meth as a “plague” sweeping our state and reports that, “It touches — directly or indirectly — every person in this state.” The online article included a number of interactive maps. One by one I clicked on our 95 counties and saw we have possibly thousands of meth labs scattered across Tennessee. I can’t adequately express how my heart sank. I pictured the lives, families, and communities ravaged by this epidemic. I ran a gamut of emotion from anger, to compassion, to helplessness, to feeling a sense of urgency. It felt like seeing a commercial about starving Ethiopian children … only much closer to home. “Dear God,” I desperately thought. “What do we do? Where do we begin?” Almost immediately, my mind and spirit raced to the answer: prayer, specifically, praying that the “Lord of the harvest would send laborers into the harvest.” I am two months into making my way across Tennessee, visiting the courthouses of these same 95 counties and asking Christians to pray with me for our state. In each location we’ve prayed three specific prayers. We’ve asked God to revive His people, the church. We’ve asked God to grant wisdom and godly leadership to our political and pulpit leaders, and we’ve asked God to bring the 3.65 million lost souls in our state to saving faith in Jesus Christ. I pray that the gospel would directly or indirectly touch every person in Tennessee. We were praying these requests at each stop before I read this article, but now I believe God directed us to these specific prayer requests because these three converge in the person of Jesus Christ and offer Tennesseans our only hope of rescue from the spiritual darkness enveloping our state. How so? Spiritual awakening has never begun with the lost; it has always had its beginnings with God’s people. We will never experience a change in the spiritual climate of Tennessee if God’s people don’t humble themselves, love one another and pursue holiness with reckless abandon. Brothers and sisters, how will these friends and family members being held in bondage know the freedom granted in Christ if we don’t speak it and live it? There has never been a time in American history that more desperately needed political and pastoral leadership. Yes, we have defeated determined enemies from beyond our borders, but never have we faced so many daunting spiritual enemies within our borders. We are self-destructing. We must pray that our political and pastoral leaders will be people of great integrity and wisdom with a unity of vision to guide us in fighting this cancer that is eating our state’s soul. And certainly we need to passionately pray for the spiritually lost. My soul cries out for God to deliver our millions from their present hell and imminent destruction. We cannot — we must not —  stand silently by and watch as our friends, families, and neighbors trudge along in a death march. Like Peter confessed, we know the One who has the words of eternal life and we must share them. Witnessing to others is testifying about the difference Jesus makes in our lives. I don’t want our state to be known as the “Buckle of the Meth Belt,” and frankly I don’t even care if we’re ever again known as, “The Buckle we used to be.” However, I do care — a lot — that Jesus is widely known throughout Tennessee, and that His Kingdom reigns in the hearts of a multitude of Tennesseans. I care, and most of you do also, that we reach our state for Jesus. That’s what I want Tennessee to be known for. How about you? //

2014: Changing Tennessee’s Culture for Life

According to the latest available government statistics, more abortions are performed annually in Tennessee than in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Kentucky combined.  Think of this if you dare:  over 17,000 pregnancies are ended—unborn children murdered each year in our state. Comparatively speaking, Kentucky sees 4,120 abortions per year.

At the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast held each year in Washington, D.C., Mother Teresa of Calcutta spoke words that still pierce the human heart because of the truth declared.  In her speech she said, “I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child—a direct killing of the innocent child—murder by the mother herself.  And if we accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell the people not to kill one another?”  If the words of this diminutive nun are true, Tennessee, along with New York, Illinois, and California, is the front line of this horrific war on life.

In the November 2014 election, we as citizens of Tennessee have the opportunity to radically change our culture in this arena.  Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 127 will be on the ballot.  SJR 127 is an amendment to the State Constitution allowing for the state legislative body to pass sensible laws regulating abortion, including such measures as a waiting period as well as informed consent laws.  Those kinds of laws were in effect until the year 2000 when the Tennessee State Supreme Court ruled that a right to abortion exists in our State Constitution.  In essence, if Rowe v. Wade were overturned by the United State Supreme Court tomorrow, abortion would still be protected by our State Constitution.  The Court’s ruling in effect said we can’t pass abortion regulations that even the U.S. Supreme Court would uphold.  The only way the decision by our Supreme Court can possibly be reversed is via an amendment to our State Constitution.  People have fought for more than a decade to get this amendment before the citizens of Tennessee.  It will be a massive, hard-fought, and very extensive battle if we are to see the SJR 127 win at the ballot box.  The national pro-abortion crowd is expected to spend millions of dollars in an attempt to defeat this measure.  We must plan, pray, and prepare now for a vote that, if passed, could be a major step toward saving thousands of babies.

For more information, I would direct you to the Family Action Counsel of Tennessee website (www.FACTn.org).  Together, we can change Tennessee’s culture for life.

//

The Supreme Court and a Call to Prayer

On Wednesday, June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that married, same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits and, by declining to decide a case in California, effectively allowed same-sex marriage there.  With the decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act as well as California’s Proposition 8, the highest court in our land has affirmed gay marriage.  In the words of SBC President, Fred Luter, “Nothing is politically right if it is biblically wrong.”

These decisions handed down this week, as well as the recent policy change by the Boy Scouts of America, are clear indicators of the spiritual climate of our culture, and a stark reflection of the spiritual darkness of our society.
How shall we respond?

Should we be fearful or faithful?
Should we be aggressively angry or convictionally compassionate?
Should we march militantly or take a strong stand mercifully?
Do we respond in Christ-likeness or react legalistically?

Allow me to suggest three courses of action:
PRAY WITH BROKENNESS.  There have been calls all across our country to make this Sunday a day of prayer for our nation.  II Chronicles 7:14 has never been more relevant and applicable than today.  A dramatic God-focused, heart-breaking, sin-confessing, Christ-exalting, spiritual awakening is the only hope of our nation.  That kind of event does not begin with a pagan culture, but with passionate Christians.

See excellent post by Don Biser at
http://danbiser.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-day-of-mourning-and-prayer-june-30.html

PREACH WITH CLARITY, CONVICTION, AND COMPASSION.  Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s idea—any alternative perversion is birthed in the wicked heart of man.  We must lift up with certainty the plain, biblical precept of marriage.  We must teach and equip a young generation biblical standards.  What the world is throwing at our children and grandchildren is a tsunami of ungodliness.  We cannot imagine (not that we want to try) where all we are experiencing in our present culture is going to lead.  Perhaps, Romans 1 gives us some indication.

See excellent posts by Russell Moore at
http://erlc.com/article/your-church-and-the-same-sex-marriage-decisions
and by Lonnie Wilkey at
http://lonniewilkey.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/62613-a-sad-day

PRESS ON WITH JOY.  “Let your light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify the Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:17).  We who are fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ have been tasked with both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission by our Commander in Chief.  Hospitality and graciousness must be the door through which we point people to The Cross who are coming out of any “alternative lifestyle,” be it homosexuality, adultery, addiction, gossip, hatred, pornography, etc., etc.  We can choose to be angry at what’s happening around us that is anti-everything we hold dear in our culture, or we can choose to point people to the answer that is Jesus Christ.

We can have real joy in the middle of a sad and sin-sick society because of the grace and mercy that we have experienced firsthand.  The Eternal Hope we possess is non-perishable.

We can be confident knowing that our Savior, Jesus Christ, still reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

See excellent post by Ed Stetzer at
http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/june/prop-8-doma-and-christian-response.html

Read His Holy Word…WE WIN!

2014: Changing Tennessee’s Culture for Life

According to the latest available government statistics, more abortions are performed annually in Tennessee than in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Kentucky combined.  Think of this if you dare:  over 17,000 pregnancies are ended—unborn children murdered each year in our state. Comparatively speaking, Kentucky sees 4,120 abortions per year.

At the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast held each year in Washington, D.C., Mother Teresa of Calcutta spoke words that still pierce the human heart because of the truth declared.  In her speech she said, “I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child—a direct killing of the innocent child—murder by the mother herself.  And if we accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell the people not to kill one another?”  If the words of this diminutive nun are true, Tennessee, along with New York, Illinois, and California, is the front line of this horrific war on life.

In the November 2014 election, we as citizens of Tennessee have the opportunity to radically change our culture in this arena.  Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 127 will be on the ballot.  SJR 127 is an amendment to the State Constitution allowing for the state legislative body to pass sensible laws regulating abortion, including such measures as a waiting period as well as informed consent laws.  Those kinds of laws were in effect until the year 2000 when the Tennessee State Supreme Court ruled that a right to abortion exists in our State Constitution.  In essence, if Roe v. Wade were overturned by the United State Supreme Court tomorrow, abortion would still be protected by our State Constitution.  The Court’s ruling in effect said we can’t pass abortion regulations that even the U.S. Supreme Court would uphold.  The only way the decision by our Supreme Court can possibly be reversed is via an amendment to our State Constitution.  People have fought for more than a decade to get this amendment before the citizens of Tennessee.  It will be a massive, hard-fought, and very extensive battle if we are to see the SJR 127 win at the ballot box.  The national pro-abortion crowd is expected to spend millions of dollars in an attempt to defeat this measure.  We must plan, pray, and prepare now for a vote that, if passed, could be a major step toward saving thousands of babies.

For more information, I would direct you to the Family Action Counsel of Tennessee website (www.FACTn.org).  Together, we can change Tennessee’s culture for life.