christian living


Hospitality leads us to "make room" -- for God and others


Lately, God has been putting the practice of hospitality on my heart. Specifically the phrase “make room.”

What does it look like to make room in our lives? I feel compelled to first make room for God. Create space to rest in Him, dwell in His Word, and abide in prayer.

I am also convicted to make room for others -- to practice hospitality. For me, this looks like welcoming guests into my home and connecting with new friends who are different than me.

On a much larger scale, the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering allows me to “make... [continue]

Let the joy of Christmas shine from our lives


A boy trudged through the snow one cold evening in Connecticut around 1820. He spied the town’s “”little brown Episcopalian church lit up like a beacon in the early darkness,” says historian Debby Applegate.

The boy was no Episcopalian. He attended the Congregational church led by the renowned preacher, Lyman Beecher, his dad. Applegate says the boy, Henry Ward Beecher, “was irresistibly drawn to the open door of the church, and as he peered in he was shocked to find candles blazing at every window; boughs of spruce, pine, and... [continue]

Share a Message of Hope This Christmas


“And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes.” --Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Aleppo. Oakland. Walter Scott. The 2016 election. Dallas. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile.

There is no doubt about it, 2016 has been a difficult year in our national conscience. We have been bombarded by images of bruised and bloodied refugees, of tear-stained faces attending prayer vigils from Orlando to Dallas and now Oakland, and of angry politicians asking us to fear our neighbors... [continue]

Here's a tip of the hat to 'Texas Strong'


Charlie Strong is out, Tom Herman is in -- as football coach of the Texas Longhorns.

When Strong first came to Texas, a t-shirt became popular that wasn’t officially sanctioned by the university -- “Texas Strong.” Most of us didn’t know immediately all that Texas Strong meant, but part of what it soon came to mean was football players being dismissed from the squad.

Strong had five core values -- honesty, treat women with respect, no guns, no drugs, and no stealing. It turned out a number of players didn’t hold those same values and didn’t want... [continue]

How to shop like a Christian


Black Friday could use a dose of something sorely missing -- civility. So, if you brave the rude and crude crowd this year may you carry with you something different from the rest.

Jesus’ Great Commandment may be most needed on this crazy shopping day -- love God and love neighbor. All I know about Black Friday is what I hear people say and see on TV. I hide. Based on my limited knowledge, it seems lots of people rapaciously go after a limited number of must-have stuff at lowest-of-the-season prices.

If you are intent on going into the melee, remember to... [continue]

We are a messed up people, by God's standard -- be thankful for salvation


Mark 10 is challenging. In it, Jesus confronts things that are common in our society and churches.

Divorce – “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (v. 9).

Remarriage after divorce -- "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (vv. 11-12).

Wealth -- “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (v.... [continue]

We are in need of a God-produced craving for righteousness


Monday I wrote about righteousness and humility together, but I wanted to share a little more of what the late Quaker Thomas R. Kelly had to say about righteousness in his book,

A Testament of Devotion

.

. . . God inflames the soul with a burning craving for absolute purity. One burns for complete innocency and holiness in personal life.

The key word is “craving.” All of us know we are not absolutely pure. We are sinners, and to our utter disgust we continue to fall short even after deciding to follow Jesus. Sin is not... [continue]

We are in need of God-blinded faith -- true humility


Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you (James 4:10, NRSV).

Monday, I wrote about righteousness and humility together, but I wanted to share a little more of what the late Quaker Thomas R. Kelly had to say about humility in his book, A Testament of Devotion.

Kelly spoke of humility as resting “upon a holy blindness, like the blindedness of him who looks steadily into the sun.” All of us have probably experienced the visual memory that occurs immediately after looking at a bright light, especially the sun. It... [continue]

Jesus confronts us in our religion -- pursue righteousness and humility


“God inflames the soul with a craving for absolute purity. But He, in His glorious otherness, empties us of ourselves in order that He may become all.” --Thomas R. Kelly

God both inflames us for right living and empties us of our sinful pride. God calls us to a different kind of living and stands against our ego-driven desires. God brings to us new desires that are beyond us, yet they become part of us as we seek to follow Christ. There is a battle raging within us between the god of self and the God of... [continue]

San Diego statue reminds of Christ's work


How does Christ’s church, his people, turn the anger and violence of this world into something good? A church statue in San Diego provides a visible guidepost. Here’s the story, not a new one but one worth retelling.

In about 1980 vandalism to a statue of Jesus at Christ the King Church left the plaster Messiah without hands. Sam Lucero photographed the statue in 1986 and retold the story in 2013. Lucero writes:

Rather than repair the statue, Jesuit Fr. Robert Fambrini, pastor at the time, placed a sign at the base to reflect the mission of the people of

... [continue]

Zacchaeus story teaches much about "sinners" coming to Christ


“Zacchaeus was a wee little man,

and a wee little man was he.

He climbed up in a sycamore tree.

for the Lord he wanted to see.”

This song, burned into the memory of possibly every child Christian in America, is rooted in a story in Luke 19:1-10. Van Christian, pastor of First Baptist Church in Comanche, preached on this story Sunday, Oct. 30, and said some things that need to be heard by many of us.

Two things Dr. Christian said stood out:

1) The crowd tries to keep Zacchaeus from seeing Jesus. Verse 3:

He... [continue]

After a season of harsh words, may we find new ones to heal


A few weeks ago I stopped posting on social media about the presidential campaign. I had not taken sides. I stopped posting because I didn’t trust myself. I was beginning to get angry and wanting to say mean things, to use unkind labels, to disrespect.

It’s been hard to not comment, but I’m glad I refrained. My anger and meanness would not have been of any help to my family, friends, or me.

Now we near the end, and I wonder how the vitriolic language of this campaign will affect us as a people going forward. (I'm not speaking... [continue]

Driving says something about character


Driving on Interstate 35 between Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth is like navigating an obstacle course of construction, heavy traffic, and frequent crashes. It can be a tense, mind-numbing task.

This week I tried an experiment. I set my cruise control on the speed limit and gave my right foot a rest. The speed limit between Austin and the Metroplex varies from 60 to 75 and changes quite often, so it requires multiple resettings of the cruise.

You will not be surprised by what I experienced by driving the fastest speed allowed by law. The vast... [continue]

George C. Marshall & the importance of self-mastery


I wonder today how many Americans are familiar with the name and exploits of one of the greatest persons of the 20th century – George C. Marshall.

Marshall orchestrated one of the greatest military victories of history – World War II -- and then shaped one of the greatest achievements of peace after the war with what came to be known as the Marshall Plan. In essence, Marshall led in the defeat of America’s enemies and then built them back into friends. Truly astonishing!

The New York Times columnist David Brooks highlights Marshall in... [continue]

Labor Day can help us think about work from a Christian perspective


By Bill Tillman

Labor Day — what a novel and paradoxical concept, at least the way many Americans think about it. The day, the first Monday in September, has ambiguous origins. The rationale for the day was that the American worker needed to be honored for the economic and cultural achievements brought in by the national labor movement more than 100 years ago.

A paradox is that no labor is expected on Labor Day! It’s a holiday for many American workers. Christians could offer some perspective on the day off from work.... [continue]

Like Olympians, Christians are in Training, Too


The Olympics started last Friday, and I am already obsessed. I love watching their friends and family cheer them on. I love learning new names, new sports, and obscure countries, but I think for me the most exciting thing is knowing that this moment is the one they’ve waited four years for. This is the moment they bring all of the training, all of the coaching sessions, all of the hard work over the last four years together on the biggest stage of their lives.

We know some of their names going in -- Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas, Serena... [continue]

Fearless in the Fight


Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Desperate for Jesus Women’s Conference with my mom at the church of my youth, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship. This year’s keynote speakers Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer spoke about being fearless and godly women.

Moore’s teaching on 2 Timothy was particularly fitting given the current climate in our country. She reminded us that for Christians time is not going, but coming -- meaning all of time is pointed toward a singular event, the Second Coming of Christ. 

Just as Paul reminded Timothy, she reminded us to fan... [continue]

Chaos should not surprise us


Our world seems to be drifting toward chaos. There is violence in our American streets and in our broader world. The killers of innocent people are moving us toward terror.

In confusing times it can help to look back in time. One hundred and one years ago, a young man graduated from Yale Divinity School and moved to Detroit to become a pastor. His 13 years at Bethel Evangelical Church began years of change for the young minister, and his ideas would impact his nation.

His name: Reinhold Niebuhr.

In Detroit, Niebuhr began to recognise problems in the... [continue]

Beware of payday loan wolves


By Anyra Cano-Valencia

(Adapted from a piece that originally appeared in Christianity Today.)

In the Spring of 2013, my husband, Pastor Carlos Valencia, and I had just finished dinner when we got one of those heart wrenching visits at home, where a church member or neighbor appears broken and suffering. Mrs. Mendoza (not her real name) was desperate, defeated, and ashamed. She didn’t know who to turn to other than her pastor, someone she trusted.

In tears, she said was responsible for her family losing their home, and she was about to lose her car: She... [continue]

Use missional responses on social media during political season


Just a cursory glance at social media will show you the political division that exists in our nation, communities, and even families. In recent days, every statement by a political candidate or pundit brings on either glorious cheers or vitriol hate by one side or the other. Not only do those emotions get turned on the candidates and their campaigns, often times they are aimed at friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites become verbal battlegrounds in the fight to get our point... [continue]

It's not always easy to know right and wrong


Determining what is wrong (sinful) can sometimes be difficult. Here’s a story to illustrate:

I grew up in a family that went to church every Sunday morning and evening and many Wednesdays. Then, in about 1964, we started going to Dallas Cowboys football games on Sunday. This often required missing some church time. Looking back now, those family memories are some of my favorites.

Meals, church, and football games were the three things we did as a family, but only at the football games did we really talk, celebrate, and suffer with each... [continue]

Dealing with complexity in the aftermath of tragedy


The massacre of 49 persons at a gay nightclub in Orlando has produced in many of us a wave of sadness — a deep sadness. Every person is a child of God, and we have now lost 50 of those children -- the victims and their assailant.

To that sad truth is added another sadness. The killer acted out of some kind of allegiance to a terrorist group that claims a religious faith. Most of us, including most Muslims, do not have such a faith. Christian faith, thankfully, moves us to love all persons, especially those with whom we disagree.... [continue]

Many of us share guilt in exalting the false god of football


Like the people of ancient times, we still struggle with false gods. Today's false gods come in the form of money, sexual gratification, fancy homes, political power, romantic love, financial security, our looks, impressive job titles, a collection of some sort, cars, guns, and invitations to exclusive gatherings. I could go on. But one of our biggest -- one of my biggest -- is sports, particularly football in Texas.

We have gotten so out of hand with football that we are putting the safety and wellbeing of women at risk. We... [continue]

CLC offers National Day of Prayer Guide


Today is the National Day of Prayer. As I sat down to compile the the CLC’s prayer guide, the song, “Build Your Kingdom Here,” by the Rend Collective started playing on my streaming service. In it, the band sings, “build Your kingdom here, let the darkness fear, show Your mighty hand, heal our streets and land, set your church on fire...change the atmosphere, build your kingdom here.” Talk about providence! I couldn’t have picked a more appropriate song as the soundtrack of this prayer guide.

The National Day of Prayer is a way for Christians... [continue]

New Hunger Offering video released


Good news! The new Texas Baptist Hunger Offering video is ready to watch and share!

This video provides an overview of the Hunger Offering, highlights footage of people impacted by Hunger Offering initiatives, and displays the gospel in action. Not to mention it has cool graphics created by my friend, Josef.

I recently ate at Whataburger for the first time.

I know. The Texans are shocked.

As directed by the accompanying party, I ordered a Number 1 meal with cheese. Admittedly, I was pleasantly surprised by the experience despite my initial... [continue]

Between a rock and a hard place


A friend shared with me a few days ago of feeling "between a rock and hard place." That's how it can feel when one seeks to stand for Christ in the midst of a wide array of competing interests in the broader public square, including the Christian portion of that square.

Trying to stand for Christ and the things Christ valued is not easy, even among Christians, because good people have come to different conclusions regarding what is right or best in dealing with the details of day-to-day living and societal interaction.

Take politics for instance. If you... [continue]

Spiritual living connects to ethical living


Ethical living and spiritual living are linked; they both connect the believer to the world beyond himself or herself. The spiritual connects one to God, and the ethical deals with how one lives with others.

Thessalonians 5:17 says to pray continually. Structured prayer is difficult for many of us, but we can still cultivate a spirit of continual prayer -- simply praying as we go about our daily activities.

When a person "practices the presence of God," to quote Brother Lawrence, it is as if God becomes a friend, a companion who goes with you to... [continue]