Children have a way of getting to the heart of the matter, don’t they? Their questions come at you unfiltered and often at the most unexpected times. That’s the way my daughters were and that is the way my grandchildren are. Their forthright insight can often catch adults unprepared. Continue reading “Having an Answer for the ‘Why’ Question”
Tennessee Baptists stood for life in 2019. In 2020, we need to mobilize for life.
You may recall that back in August I had the opportunity to represent Tennessee Baptists before a special study committee comprised of Tennessee Senators tasked with more comprehensively reviewing pro-life legislation that had been proposed during last year’s legislative session. The bill being considered was in essence what has become known as a “heartbeat bill;” legislation that would protect unborn babies once a heartbeat is detected. Many surrounding states, and other states around the country, have passed similar legislation.
However, there were many concerns expressed with that legislation and it was moved to a summer senate study committee. In the process, the bill that was being considered was reworked and the proposed legislation for which I advocated is titled SB 1236. It potentially represents one of the most – if not the most – comprehensive piece of pro-life legislation ever written. It clearly protects life from the point of conception, even before a heartbeat is detected. For everyone who recognizes God as the author of life, SB 1236 undoubtedly embodies an opportunity to legally protect unborn children in a way that hasn’t been possible since the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Continue reading “It’s Time to Do More Than Simply Stand”
Unfortunately, we live in a culture that not only demands the right to murder these sweet gifts of God, it celebrates the murderous practice. The image is seared in my mind of celebration that followed New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signing into law late-term abortions up to the point of birth. How perverse is that? I never want to see that celebration in Tennessee, and as Tennessee Baptists we not only have an obligation to our Lord to protect unborn children, we have an opportunity to stand and be counted for life. Continue reading “Anti-Abortion to Comprehensively Pro-Life”
President George W. Bush once stood in front of a group of people trying to make sense of the world that seemed to be coming undone around them. “One thing is for certain,” he said. “We did not ask for these challenges, but we will meet them. I say that with certainty because this nation has strong foundations and won’t be shaken. In this hour of our country’s history we stand in the need of prayer.”
That comment was made at the first post-9/11 National Prayer Breakfast and prior to the beginning of the longest war, the war on terrorism, in our nation’s history. I was at that prayer breakfast. I saw the resolute courage in our president’s eyes; I heard it in the tone of his voice. Continue reading “Reasons for Optimism About the SBC’s Future”
I was reminded of this last week when I saw a photo of women vociferously protesting for the right to “keep abortion legal.” How I pray to God that in my lifetime I’d see the end of the systematic killing of the precious babies God knits together in the wombs of their mothers. Unfortunately, the systematic killing of unborn children is a global epidemic of unimaginable proportion.
According to research done by the Guttmacher Institute, an organization founded 50 years ago and heavily supported by Planned Parenthood, more than 55 million unborn lives per year – 55 million per year – are terminated as a result of “induced abortion” as the report describes it.
Let me offer some perspective. That total is the equivalent of annually killing everyone in South Korea (population 50 million), Kenya (48 million), Colombia (48 million), Spain (46 million), Argentina (43 million) and Canada (36 million). In fact, more babies are murdered every year through induced abortion than the population of 198 of the 233 countries listed in the United Nations database. Let those figures sink in. Read this paragraph again. Every year it is like we terminate the people of entire nations.
I struggle to comprehend these numbers. The atrocity of such mass murder is a scourge on humanity and a tangible example of the inherent depravity vigorously alive in the heart of man.
I confess to feeling over-whelmed, and if not careful, I can find myself wringing my hands in despair. I sometimes feel helpless, wondering what one man can do against such a tsunami of death.
But then I remember Scripture like, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21); “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3-4).
And there are so many more passages that call me – call us – to stand against such evil and fight for the unborn.
We are called by a loving Father to love these babies because He loves them.
I wish with one stroke we could end this global genocide, but that isn’t going to happen. We will have to chip away one opportunity at a time.
As a Tennessean and as a Tennessee Baptist, I am proud that nearly five years ago we fought back by voting for Amendment 1, the so-called “abortion amendment” that made it much more difficult to obtain an abortion in our state.
If you recall, Tennessee had become the “abortion destination” for the surrounding states because of how lax abortion laws were here compared to more stringent laws in neighboring states. Tennessee abortion providers even promoted in other states the ease with which someone could travel to Tennessee to obtain an abortion. It was big business. It was an embarrassing stain on a state that claimed to be the Buckle of the Bible Belt.
Fortunately, Christians along with other like-minded people rose up and together led a grassroots charge to change that stigma through the Yes On 1 movement.
Despite organizations like Planned Parenthood pumping millions of dollars into the campaign to defeat Yes On 1, Tennesseans cooperated together and voted in favor of the amendment by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent.
Never one to accept defeat of their murderous practices, Planned Parenthood and others fought back. They appealed the vote through the Sixth Circuit Court then to the Supreme Court, which upheld the circuit court’s unanimous decision that Amendment 1 was legal and could stand.
In December, the Tennessean reported that the last remaining abortion clinic in Nashville was closing its doors. Cooperating together, we struck a blow against evil, but we must not become prideful, satisfied or complacent. Evil does not rest or quietly die in defeat. It fights back with a vengeance.
At the time of the Supreme Court’s decision last fall, Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life said, “Pro-life Tennesseans must be resolute not only in our commitment to defending this victory, but also to being measured in the introduction of new laws that can’t yet be held as constitutional under existing court precedent. Equally important is the election of a pro-life Governor and pro-life legislative super-majorities who understand where we’ve been as a movement, where we want to go, and how to best get there.”
We must be diligent and participate in the process of protecting life. However, this battle is ultimately not won in the court system but in the hearts of people. The greatest way to see abortion die is to see lives changed by the saving power of the gospel. The greatest way we can love Tennessee’s unborn children is to share the love of Jesus with their mommas.
It is a challenging road at times, but it is a joy to be on the journey with you.
We have a problem and we can’t ignore it any longer.
It’s time we were honest with ourselves and with each other. To pretend we don’t face a serious issue would be a life-threatening mistake. I’m talking about depression among pastors and ministers (and everyone else). Depression is a reality, and I can’t bear the thought of losing one more pastor, one more person, to depression that ends in suicide. Continue reading “Depression: It’s Time to Openly Talk About It”
I’ve got an old black and white photo of my father-in-law, Wilkerson V. Jones, standing next to Babe Ruth, one of baseball’s greatest players. Ruth of course, went on to baseball immortality and is among the sport’s pantheon of stars.
But in my book, Wilkerson went on to immortality too. His legacy is revealed in the lives he positively affected, including me. The interesting connection between Ruth and Wilkerson is that they both grew up in boys’ homes. Both had rough starts to life and it was effectively at a boys home where their lives took a turn for the better. It was people investing in them that made a difference. Continue reading “Don’t Forget Tennessee’s ‘Least of These’”
By Randy C. Davis
TBMB President & Executive Director
“… That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words” (Colossians 2:2-4).
London was overrun with orphaned children in the 1830s. Children lived on the streets and those that found shelter often found themselves in squalid conditions subject to harsh treatment by adults who viewed the children as slave labor. It was an abusive, graceless, and dangerous environment. Continue reading “Does Prayer Still Change Things?”
The scenario plays itself out thousands of times a day. A family member or friend is racked with a terminal illness, suffering unbearably and the question comes up: Should they have the right to physician assisted suicide?
That question gained prominence 20-plus years ago with Dr. Jack Kevorkian being brought to trial for helping approximately 130 others end their lives. Right to die activists are back in the news with 84-year-old John Jay Hooker, a lawyer and former Tennessee democratic gubernatorial candidate who is suffering with terminal cancer leading the charge. He is demanding that a state court declare he has a right to end his life on his terms. In truth what he’s looking for is an accomplice to share in the responsibility of his death.
Unbelievably, the demand for assisted suicide is aggressively on the march. Euthanasia is currently illegal in 45 states, but 25 of those states have seen bills filed during their respective 2015 legislative sessions to legalized assisted suicide. Tennessee is one of those states. But what Mr. Hooker, the courts and other advocates of assisted suicide fail to recognize is God alone has the authority to give life and take it, not a human.
I do not make that statement lightly. I stood by my stepfather’s hospital bed last week as he faced brain surgery to remove a brain tumor and blood clot. I was there with my mom who is battling Parkinson’s Disease. My grandfather – my hero – suffered greatly with lung cancer. I’ve stood by hundreds of bedsides of family and friends in 30-plus years of pastoral ministry and agonized in prayer over people I have loved dearly. I am more acquainted with death and suffering than I would have ever voluntarily chosen to be.
The conversation about assisted suicide is wrapped in emotion. Sometimes it is economic when looking at the cost of long-term care. I’ll be honest, some of the situations I’ve stood over have rocked me to the core of my theology. However, right theology must dictate responses to circumstances. We must not allow circumstances to compromise biblical teaching. I am categorically opposed to assisted suicide and here are the three theological pillars that brace me during soul-shattering moments at death’s door.
Suffering is unavoidable. Look around. If you ever wanted a reason to hate sin, look at its effect on God’s creation. Jesus, Paul, Peter, James and John all address suffering in the New Testament and it isn’t exclusively related to persecution. Job in the Old Testament is where our minds immediately turn when we think of suffering. But look again at Jesus. He could have avoided suffering – He even asked the Father to “take this cup” from Him. But in the end he embraced the suffering for a higher purpose.
I had – and constantly have – to resolve that suffering is part of our Christian walk and we are called to persevere in faith, for the glory of God. We are told in 1 Peter 4 to embrace suffering, “so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world.”
God is good…all the time. Job says it best when he asked, “Do we only accept the good from God and not the bad?” (Job 2:10). Think about this, Scripture tells us “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). We also read in Romans 8:28 that God works all things for our good, but how can suffering be for our good? The answer is in how we direct our suffering for God’s glory. This anecdote explains.
Jeannie Elliff, wife of former International Mission Board President Tom Elliff, fought cancer until she succumbed last week. It wasn’t an easy road. In reflecting on her battle, Erich Bridges, senior writer for the IMB wrote this of Jeannie. “While in the midst of her final struggle with cancer in recent months, she took the time to encourage my wife (who also has been dealing with cancer) and me. Jeannie encouraged and prayed for countless people over the years; cancer only expanded her ministry.”
God worked His goodness through Jeannie Elliff to deliver His grace, mercy and encouragement. No doubt she experienced, “the wonderful joy of seeing His glory” when she arrived in heaven.
God is sovereign, and we have no right to usurp that. Isaiah 46 states, “I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” A few verses later we read, “For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” Jesus is the Author of all life (Acts 2:10; Colossians 1). Psalm 139 tells us that God ordained the number of our days. Jeremiah 29 tells us He knows the plans He has for us. And on it goes.
The Bible comprehensively establishes God as the sole authority over creation, life and death. He does everything with the purpose of completing the good work He began in us at our salvation. He intends to receive glory through our journey. That is why every breath of life is precious, and exactly why it is not our place to determine our last breath.
Yes, it is sometimes a rough journey through this life, which is why we need to encourage each other’s faith all the way to the finish line.
It is a joy to be on this journey with you.
Marriage is between one man and one woman. Period.
And, it is impossible for any human institution to declare otherwise. Period.
However, the fate of marriage as defined by popular culture has for months awaited a ruling by our United States Supreme Court to codify the definition it wants. What it wants is for marriage to legally mean nothing. Think about it, if marriage no longer is defined as between one man and one woman, then why can’t it include multiple people along with same-sex partners? In becoming anything to anyone, it will become nothing.
But marriage can’t become nothing because it is something established by God, and it is a very good thing. The Supreme Court, or any other human authority, redefining marriage is about as possible as a scientist restructuring the laws of gravity. God established both. Jeremiah 10:12 says so: “But God made the earth by His power; He founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding.” Subjecting the divinely established institution of marriage to the whims of man only invites divine consequences. ”God shows His anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18).
But that brings us to where we are culturally, doesn’t it? You can literally see Paul’s words recorded in Romans chapters 1-3 lift off the pages of your Bible and take the form of our contemporary society. I’ll not wax nostalgic about former days because by nature man has been in rebellion against God since Adam and Eve. However, with our courts redefining marriage we are certainly faced with an unprecedented moment in our nation’s history that exposes accelerated rebellion.
Truthfully, I’m staggered by it. I believe events over just the past five years leading to this point have rocked Christians. We’re caught off balance. We walk out of our church doors disoriented. We wring our hands and mumble, “What are we going to do? What are we going to do?” Well, I’m not one to fade gently into that good night. I want to personally be a person of grace to people who embrace a homosexual lifestyle. These are precious people created in God’s image who need compassion and truth. Here are three things I plan to do in the days ahead as homosexuality continues to dominate our cultural conversation. Join me.
Pray. Commit yourself to prayer. Pray for God’s intervention in our nation’s affairs. Pray for God to grant repentance to our leaders (and to us). Pray that there will be a revival in our country. Pray that God will save the spiritually lost. Pray for God to grant you grace in conversation with homosexuals. Pray that He’d open their spiritual eyes. Pray for our pastors to stand boldly in the face of cultural pressure. Pray that our churches will be places of peace and refuge, and also places of ministry and hope. Pray for our families. We need God to protect and strengthen our families.
Prepare. Expect the momentum to continue now that this frontal assault against marriage is in full bloom. In other words, prepare for the worst. I’m not being cynical; I’m being a realist. We need to prepare ourselves spiritually to understand what Scripture actually says about marriage (and everything else), and we need to be prepared to give a compassionate – but firm – biblical defense of it. We also need to prepare for possible legal ramifications. Your church must absolutely have a policy statement in its bylaws or constitution that defines marriage and includes for whom it will conduct marriage ceremonies. We have churches now in Tennessee where pastors and churches are dealing with both membership and marriage questions related to homosexuals. Where does your church stand right now on these questions. Pastors you must lead your churches to answer these questions now or by neglect you are jeopardizing your ministry and Jesus’ church. The Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission has a great resource to guide in this titled, “Protect Your Ministry.” It is available for download at erlc.com/store. Get it immediately. Another must-have resource is titled: “The President’s Panel: The Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage: Preparing Our Churches.” Go to SBC.net and search the Wednesday afternoon session at the 2015 SBC and watch this video.
Proclaim. Now is not the time to shrink back. Apart from the courts, our culture has made a ruling on marriage with which it is pleased; yet that ruling doesn’t change the culture with which we are engaged. Now is the time to move boldly – and graciously – into our communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ, proclaiming His Good News and leading people to salvation. There are so many people – 3.65 million in Tennessee alone – who are wandering through life spiritually lost. They don’t know they were created to worship God and be in fellowship with Him. We must tell them that Jesus came to bring them peace with God. We must aggressively be salt slowing the decay of our culture while being people of light, graciously sharing the love of Christ through the words of hope. Both require proclamation.
The journey ahead is not easy or comfortable. In fact, Jesus promised it wouldn’t be. However, our ultimate journey leads to the One who “founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding.” It’s a joy to be on that journey with you.