Our First Freedom: What You Need To Know About Religious Liberty

By John Litzler

Religious liberty is a bedrock American freedom, but a number of legal issues related to this freedom are being sorted out in the courts and news media today.

In some ways, the Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the United States raised more questions than it provided answers. In its opinion the Court concluded that “same-sex couples may exercise the right to marry” and also said “the First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faith.” What happens when these two liberties appear at odds with one another?

One example of this conflict between freedoms occurred in both California and Colorado. In each place, a same-sex couple, exercising their right to marry, sought to hire a baker to create a cake for the couple’s wedding and in each case the baker declined asserting that the baker’s religious beliefs prevented the baker from making a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage... [continue]

MLK: Ultimately, Good Friday gives way to the triumph of Easter

Note: April 4, 2018, marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It is good to remember the words of his life. Here are excerpts from one of his speeches.

“The Church on the Frontier of Racial Tension,” April 19, 1961, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary


. . . God is not interested merely in the freedom of black men and brown men and yellow men, but God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race. The creation of a society where every man will respect the dignity and worth of human personality.

So I believe that this is what we can learn from the church, and this is what the church has been teaching in an amazing way, and it must continue to get this over in this very important period of our history. And if we will but do these things, we will be able to move in the great days ahead. Let us realize that the problem will not just work itself out, we have the responsibility of helping to work it out. It will not be solved until men and women all over this nation are willing to stand up with a sort of divine discontent. . . .

There is something at the center of our faith which reminds us of this, . . . something that reminds us that Good Friday may occupy the throne for a day, but ultimately it must give way to the triumph and beat of the drums of Easter... [continue]

Book Excerpt: Leadership in the Black Church

Excerpt from the book: Leadership in the Black Church: Guidance in the midst of Changing Demographics, by Dr. Michael A. Evans, Sr.

African-American clergy are expected to be upfront and outspoken on issues of justice and equality to say the least. The reason it is different in the black community is because of the African-American church... [continue]

A Call to Action and Prayer this Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Like Christmas, Valentine’s Day can provoke a myriad of painful feelings and memories for those who have been abused or lost a loved one.

What if we take February 14 as an opportunity to recognize the pain of those who have been sexually, physically, and emotionally abused? What if we see it as an opportunity to serve our hurting sisters and brothers? This doesn’t mean you need to boycott Valentine’s Day, but it might mean inviting a recent widow to dinner with you and your spouse. It might mean extending sacrificial support, sending flowers to a friend going through a divorce, or volunteering at a ministry aiding victims of domestic violence... [continue]

More than meets the eye

By Caleb Seibert

The recent wave of sexual assault scandals should be a wake-up call to America of a long-overlooked truth: Our sexual obsession has spun out of control. As society searches for an explanation to this tragedy, one culprit lurks in the shadows. That culprit is pornography.

Pornography has become shockingly pervasive, and even more so with the rise of the smartphone and nearly limitless Internet access. A recent survey found that 79 percent of men and 34 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 30 view pornography on at least a monthly basis. A single pornographic website in 2015 reported 4.3 billion hours of viewership - the equivalent of 500,000 years of screen-staring. When Professor Simon Lajeunesse of the University of Montreal began to study porn’s impact on young men, he was hindered in his research because he could not find any men in their twenties who were not already looking at it.... [continue]

Choosing Faithful Obedience in 2018

I love the story of Ruth. I love it so much that in the last few weeks I have taught from this short book of the Bible twice. So in the spirit of the third time’s the charm, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on how Ruth encourages us to boldly follow God no matter what 2018 holds... [continue]

Four Simple Ways to Celebrate Advent in a Meaningful Way

Advent is upon us. Candles burn in Sunday services, Christmas tree lights twinkle, and even a chilly breeze settles in my corner of Texas. Advent is a time set aside to remember and expect our King as He enters into human suffering. The season exemplifies joy and waiting as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. And yet, the excitement of Advent seems like a stark contrast in light of so much pain and darkness in our present society. Everything in our culture seems to breathe a wearied and weathered sigh. The news continues to portray stories of suffering and conflict, such as sexual harassments, shootings,  and uncertainty for DACA recipients and refugees. We mourn the pain of the world and in the same breath we rejoice for the hope the Lord gives. During these few weeks leading up to Christmas, Christians have the opportunity to understand the magnitude of who our King is and worship Him with our whole hearts. He is the God who came into humanity and experienced suffering in order to bring freedom. Jesus is the ultimate bridge builder between God and humanity... [continue]

Sexual harassment needs to be widely addressed at the practical level

Let’s get practical about sexual harassment. This is not just about prominent people and the news they generate; it is about regular folks, as well. The #MeToo campaign illustrated the pervasiveness of sexual assault, and sexual harassment is a close cousin. There are varied behaviors that considered to be sexual harassment... [continue]

Johnson Amendment protects churches from political manipulation

The tax bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and the version now being considered by the Senate would roll back the 1954 law prohibiting partisan political involvement by nonprofit organizations, including churches. This effort to repeal the Johnson Amendment would harm both churches and the American political process. Currently, pastors can speak to any issue that is important to them and their community, but they cannot push particular candidates in their role as pastor. In other words, from the pulpit, pastors can deal with any issue, but not with candidates. And, away from the church, ministers can work for a candidate, but not as part of their work for the church. Any Christian, including any pastor, can endorse and work for any candidate or cause; he or she simply cannot do it as the church organization without the church paying taxes... [continue]

Thanks anyway

Charlottesville. Las Vegas. Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Maria. Sutherland Springs. These are the national crises we have faced as a nation just in the last six months. Not to mention the personal crises that may be enveloping you, your ministry, and your family that no one sees. It feels like we are limping to the end of 2017. Yet, somehow in the midst of all these things, we will stop and give thanks on Thursday... [continue]

Hunger Offering partnering with Refuge and Hope for #GivingTuesday

By Abby Hopkins

Love, peace, and hope embody the character of the holiday season for believers in Christ. It is a wonderful reminder to those who long to embody those same qualities in their personal character. Jesus said,  “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13, NRSV).

While Jesus provided the ultimate sacrifice and perfect gift, he calls us to imitate his actions by laying down our priorities, desires, and needs for the sake of others. We, at Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, would love for you to join us in this “laying down” of self as we participate in #GivingTuesday.


Today, we grieve

Sunday’s tragedy at First Baptist Sutherland Springs is heartbreaking and incomprehensible. These shootings feel incredibly personal. I bet they do for you, too.

A Sunday morning worship service in a Baptist church in Texas -- how many times have I experienced this same scenario? For Sutherland Springs Baptist Church, this ordinary time turned into a horrifying scene.

If you are like me, you have questions about how to respond.

What do I say in the face of such a tragedy?

How do I respond to something so devastating?

Should I be afraid attending my church or living my life?

How can I help?  

A few thoughts for this... [continue]

What do we do in the aftermath of another mass shooting?

As we all grieve over the senseless killings at First Baptist Sutherland Springs, I have grappled with what to say personally at a practical level. I have arrived at this: 

If we are going to have a society that allows virtually anyone to have an assault-type weapon, our churches and other organizations that gather are going to have to pay for professional security. By that, I primarily mean the hiring of off-duty law enforcement for security. 

Many of these public servants could use the extra income because communities generally do not pay them well enough. Also, regarding churches, it would be good to establish closer... [continue]

Thank you for dinner, Texas Baptists -- from Uganda

Hunger Offering Enables Refugee Women to Share a Meal

By Jaclyn R. Bonner

As a former Texas Baptist Hunger Offering intern, I can swiftly list the statistics of how many people are malnourished worldwide, how many families in Texas are food insecure, and how many ministries the Hunger Offering helps fund. A selection of inspirational stories of how God is using the Hunger Offering to mobilize ministries to transform lives is also readily on my mind. The Hunger Offering has impacted me, moved me, and challenged me. This month, it fed me.

I came to Kampala, Uganda, at the beginning of September to serve as a Go Now Missions... [continue]

Reformation is always needed because sin persists in the church

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Such verses in the Bible make it strange to celebrate the division of the western church, which began 500 years ago. It was not, it seems, Martin Luther’s desire to split the church asunder when he posted his 95 theses to the Wittenberg door. He desired to remove sin from the church -- primarily the selling of indulgences.

It is inappropriate to think it is only the Roman Catholic Church... [continue]

By This Everyone Will Know

His name is Pedro — the man on the picture.  I had the pleasure of meeting him outside an industrial refrigerator on a bright Tuesday morning in Cerdanyola, Spain. Carrying a bright smile, cheerful disposition, and a box full of lemons, he jokingly asked my teammate to take a picture of him because the lemons were massive that day — an uncanny size.

Pedro and his wife have faithfully attended Iglesia Evangelica Bautista of Cerdanyola for the past 36 years. The church leads a weekly food ministry that provides groceries for about 50 people in need. Pedro has volunteered since the doors opened 20 years ago.

“As a Christian, it is... [continue]

Walk the Way

The world is troubled. Riddled with confusion, violence, frustration, and divisiveness, there seems to be a general anxiety and irritability in the air. In the past week, I have heard multiple people express how overwhelming everything feels.

I get it. I feel the tension, too.

This past Saturday, I sat in a fellowship hall with twenty lovely people. The group was comprised of church members from First Baptist Church Covington, their pastor, Dr. Eric Black, a group of Baylor University’s Garland School of Social Work students, and Dr. Gaynor Yancey, Professor of Social Work and Director of the Center for Family and Community... [continue]

We voyeurs of violence continue to beget real violence

Glitzy Las Vegas provides the most recent setting of violence. Death punctures the illusion of carnival. What happens in Vegas can no longer stay in Vegas; it has become tragic news, the worst shooting in United States history. The concertgoers ran, and we all wish we could run from the malignant carnage that seems to confront us at all corners.

We pray. Even rather irreligious people pray. And as we pray it is as if we think there is nothing else we need to do.

Violence should not surprise us. This world has always been a violent, deadly place. It started with Cain killing his brother out of petty jealousy (Genesis 4:1-16). And... [continue]

Any of us could be the next opioid victim

A few years ago, I lay for three hours on a hospital bed with pain from kidney stones. The first shot of morphine had little impact; the second got me to a much better place.

Now, I read this: “Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent,” from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

I simply have trouble fathoming the potency of this drug. I feared the addictive power of morphine, but fentanyl is in another world.

When you hear of the opioid crisis, think of fentanyl. It’s a big part of it but not all of it.

It takes a doctor’s prescription to get this schedule... [continue]

CLC’s One conference encourages unity and racial reconciliation among Christians

GRAND PRAIRIE – More than 175 Texas Baptists gathered Aug. 26 to pursue racial healing in the wake of a turbulent year of clashes between white, black, and Hispanic Americans.

“The Lord placed this event on my heart last spring because I felt like the Church had not done enough to be a part of the solution,” said Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy for the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission.

The event at First Baptist Church of Grand Prairie sought to equip church leaders and lay members to engage in racial reconciliation in their communities.

“The thing about racial reconciliation is that it’s a process. One... [continue]

CLC Response to President Trump’s Rescinding DACA Protection

Our hearts are saddened today as almost 800,000 young people actively living in our communities have been told they can no longer live among us unless Congress takes action. This announcement throws the lives of these young people into chaos as they are now fearful about their future in this country. These young people have grown up in our neighborhoods, attended our schools and churches and are leaders in our communities.This program allowed them to have legal status, which allowed them to positively contribute to the communities and the country they love.

President Trump’s plan to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals... [continue]

Opioid epidemic leaves trail of pain

A beautiful young woman gets the job of her dreams. A major airline notifies Rhonda she has been accepted as a flight attendant, and she goes out to celebrate, as anyone would do upon getting her dream job.

The dream turned into a nightmare on that evening in 1987. A car crash broke Rhonda’s back, ribs and almost severed her right foot. “Her foot was literally sewn back on,” says her sister, Kathy. “It shriveled up to size 3 while her undamaged foot was a size 5.”

Rhonda could not have known then, but she was about to begin years of living with severe and chronic pain -- the kind that does not go away, that affects everything you... [continue]

White supremacy at odds with Scripture; time to actively reach across racial divides

The staff of the Christian Life Commission condemns the hateful and violent ideology and actions put on display by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend. We also call Texas Baptists to address the less inflammatory aspects of racial division and rhetoric persistent in our culture.

The people who marched in Charlottesville proclaiming messages of white supremacy and hate toward non-whites are speaking against the truth of God as revealed through Jesus Christ and recorded in Scripture.

The Bible says:

-- All people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27);

-- In Christ, all persons, no matter... [continue]

White like me

A picture in the news this weekend showed three white men holding black shields and black flags. It occurred to me that, though younger, they looked like me. Without their foolish garb, we could be mistaken as being very much alike. If I could hear them talk, we might even speak with a similar accent.

But I have little in common with those people. We may both have light-colored skin, but below the skin there is something different. They spew hate; I do not even silently feel that for those who are different from me. They portray an attitude of bravado; I would much prefer to sit and talk. They bear all the signs of being afraid... [continue]

Freedom and equality go together -- the Bible affirms & we proclaim

A community in Quebec has done an interesting thing. The people of Saint-Apollinaire voted to not allow a Muslim cemetery in town.

They did so for a rather high-minded reason. As reported by Peter Stockland in The Globe & Mail, supporters of the ban are against burial on the basis of any faith tradition, period. No Catholic cemetery either.

“They want to stretch egalitarianism beyond the grave so that we are equally dead together,” Stockland writes.

Egalitarianism has a strong appeal to people in North America. It’s an important principle of Western Civilization. All people, we like to say, are created equal. Egalitarianism... [continue]

Short-term Project, Long-term Investment: Hunger Offering provides hope, healing for Ebola orphans

By Jaclyn Bonner

Abandoned, isolated, alone -- this is the fate of thousands of children in Sierra Leone who have been orphaned by the deadly Ebola virus. Although the Ebola scare is no longer prominent in international headlines, the devastating effects of the outbreak have changed a surfeit of lives.

A 2015 report* found that more than 12,000 children in Sierra Leone have lost at least one primary caregiver to the disease. The average Ebola orphan is 9 years old.

Restore Hope, a faith-based ministry that serves Ebola orphans in Sierra Leone, explains that children lose more than just their parents to the disease. The... [continue]

Finding hope on the side of the road

By Analiz G. Schremmer

Baby Benjamin was abandoned on the side of the road wearing nothing but a small white blanket and bearing a note saying that anyone who wanted him, could have him.

“He was found by the villagers who passed by the road and informed the local authority,” said Rosy Lyn Htut, caseworker for Love for Myanmar. “They took the baby to one of our children’s homes called Kid’s Life.

“The home caregiver once showed me the baby photo when they first found him. He was so skinny, having sores on his whole body. He was about to die, and he couldn't even cry because not enough strength.”

Htut added that another baby... [continue]

A Report from the Texas Capitol

After 140 days, the 85th Texas Legislative Session has ended and even though a special session will begin on July 18 several important bills were passed over the last five months.

Religious liberty concerns topped the list of Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission priorities. The CLC helped lead efforts to protect religious conscience rights of faith-based child welfare agencies. HB 3859 protects the rights of religious child welfare agencies to place children in homes consistent with their religious beliefs about the best environment for raising children.  

Additionally, the CLC helped stop bills that would have preempted city... [continue]

Texas Baptist church lives out Isaiah 58

By Jaclyn Bonner

Isaiah 58 is a call to go beyond cultural religious habits and actively live out faith by restoring justice, sharing food with the hungry, and attending to the homeless. This poignant passage reveals God’s heart, as well as expresses immutable truths and timeless instruction.

It inspired Royal Haven Baptist Church in Farmers Branch to address the needs of the surrounding community by starting a Texas Baptist Hunger Offering ministry called i58, after Isaiah 58.

When church members learned many families in the community face food insecurity and children in local schools are often hungry over the weekends,... [continue]

Welcome Neighbor: Hunger Offering Meets Needs, Fosters Community Among Refugees

By Jaclyn Bonner

“It is the first time I have heard the children laughing,” said the apartment complex manager. Although the African refugee families and South and Central American immigrants are all newcomers to Houston, their residence lacks a sense of community and pride.

In one week, the Houston Refugee Project, with assistance of volunteers from Meadow Oaks Baptist Church in Temple, revitalized the fragmented refugee community through a children’s camp. Fifty children and adolescents ages 2-18 years old from diverse ethnicities laughed, played, and had fun together.

This brought their families together for the first... [continue]

Old wolf of racism appears in alt-right sheep's clothing

Alt-right racism is both like and unlike the old racism. Like -- it sees the white race as superior and in need of protection. Unlike -- it is generally educated, secular, and young.

The Southern Baptist Convention brought the alt-right to centerstage last week when it initially failed to consider a resolution condemning racist aspects of the alt-right. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, and SBC messengers approved a revised resolution, which decried “every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Messengers also said, “we denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every... [continue]

Living water brings hope in Southeast Asia

(Author’s name and location are withheld for security reasons.)

Clean water is essential for life. In one Southeast Asian village, clean water brought a community to church.

A newly established church in rural Southeast Asia requested a community-sized clean water filtration system be installed on the front lawn of their church. They desired to share their hope and faith in Christ and wanted to be a blessing to a community that was uncertain and fearful of their presence.

The Southeast Asia Water Relief project, a Texas Baptist Hunger Offering ministry, partnered with different organizations and local church leaders to... [continue]

Teachers, we thank you for helping us become all that God intended

Their names stick in my mind with the glue of memory -- Moore, Smith, Emerson, Coffman, and Sandoz. They left more than their names in my mind; they were my teachers.

Another school year closes, and it seems appropriate to remember our teachers. They pour their lives into their students, and then those receivers of the gift of learning rush out into life. Teachers leave deep impressions whether or not they ever know the specifics. My teachers did -- for good and ill.

Ms. Moore, of grade one, accused me of lying. I hadn’t, and no evidence indicated I had. She, for some reason, simply thought I lied. It struck me as odd and wrong... [continue]

Strength and Dignity -- A Mother’s Day Prayer

Mother’s Day is fast approaching.

As you celebrate your mom or the important women in your life, be sure to pray for women around the world who struggle to support their families.

  • Pray for women who are hungry -- According to Bread for the World, nearly half a billion females around the world do not have adequate nutrition for healthy lives, that’s 60% of people who are hungry.

  • Pray for mothers facing financial adversity -- The Center for Public Policy Priorities reports 42% of single-mother families in Texas live in poverty impacting their ability to provide adequate nutrition and housing for their families.

... [continue]

Satisfying hunger: A Texas Baptist Hunger Offering story

Even as a small child, Terri knew the meaning of hunger. She was poor for as far back as she could remember. Her mom resorted to writing hot checks to buy food and was eventually imprisoned for it.

Her early life took Terri from one challenge to the next. She dropped out of school in 7th grade. At 14, she started drinking and three years later she was using hard drugs.  

By age 40, Terri had already been in more than one abusive relationship and served a 2.5 year prison sentence for a drug charge. Not long after, she became pregnant. Unsure what her future held and with a new life on the way to care for, Terri sought help. She... [continue]

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 room” in my life for people across the world.

Through the Hunger Offering, ordinary believers join... [continue]

Meeting needs on the border: A Texas Baptist Hunger Offering story

Many people who live in Agua Dulce, a small community in the southeast region of El Paso, have limited access to food and medical care. A large percentage of the community consists of undocumented immigrants and many families do not have fathers and husbands to provide for basic needs. Texas Baptists River Ministry Coordinator Jesus Galarza has worked around Agua Dulce for several years and has built trust with the residents in order to help meet basic needs.

This spring, Galarza coordinated a medical mission trip with students and physicians from UT-Southwestern Medical Center Baptist Student Ministry to provide medical... [continue]

Finding freedom in prison

Editor’s note: April is Second Chances Month for the Christian Life Commission in partnership with Prison Fellowship, celebrating a commitment to re-entry ministries, public policy and helping individuals like Lovinah Igbani find freedom through the Gospel.

Prison isn’t a place where people expect to find freedom. But that’s where it happened for Lovinah Igbani.

“In 2010, when my baby was three weeks old, I was charged with manufacturing with the intent to deliver hydrocodone,” Igbani said. “I was sentenced to eight years. My husband kept the girls for about 10 months and after that, he sent the baby to a cousin … and my... [continue]

Pro-life legislation supported by leading pro-life coalition

AUSTIN — Four major pro-life organizations representing more than 10 million Texans have announced support of key bills before the House chamber of the 85th Texas Legislature.

“We are thrilled a wide range of pro-life bills has been filed this session to better protect the life and dignity of the human person,” said Jennifer Carr Allmon, executive director of the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops. “While we maintain the goal of ending abortion in the United States, this bill package makes strategic and incremental progress toward that goal.”

The bills protect women and girls from forced abortions, stop state and local... [continue]

Last Week Today: A Capitol Update

This week, I’d like to highlight several bills the CLC is supporting related to our policy priorities. The CLC public policy priorities are set by 18 Texas Baptists from across the state who represent a wide swath of Texas Baptist life. To review, policy priorities set by our commissioners for the 85th Legislative Session, click here.

HB 1936

HB 1936 prohibits county and city governments from entering contracts with abortion providers. Some city and county governments have entered contracts with Planned Parenthood for health services. While we support access to affordable health care for low income women, we believe local... [continue]

Good Friday takes off the mask of sin

The late African American pastor Gardner C. Taylor once spoke of Jesus’ crucifixion as unmasking sin. This unmasking is the work with Jesus had come to earth to perform.

In John 17:4, Jesus prays to the Father, saying, “I have glorified thee on earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”

Soon afterward, Jesus, on the cross, “waded out into the cold rushing river of death,” Taylor said. “As he nears the other side there is a cry on his lips, ‘It is finished,” and with that shout he passes from mortal sight. So he was claiming completion at the very end. What does it mean?”

The great Brooklyn pastor answers the... [continue]

Sustainability projects lift Indigenous people out of poverty

Hunger Offering ministry strives to end the cycle of poverty among Hondurans and empower individual families through farming sustainability projects and enterprise. 

By Jaclyn Bonner

Five dollars will buy a venticoffee at Starbucks. Five dollars also isthe average daily living wage of the Lenca, the poorest people group in Honduras.

Coffee is a staple of the Lenca lifestyle. Many families harvest coffee during its season, and they likely drink more coffee than the average Starbucks customer. The Lenca live with entrenched poverty, but they also are notably hospitable, willingly offering a cup of coffee and a comfortable seat... [continue]

Christian Life Commission recognizes State Rep. Ashby with Micah 6:8 Justice Award

AUSTIN - The Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission (CLC) honored State Representative Trent Ashby, of Lufkin, with the 2017 Micah 6:8 Justice Award on Wednesday, March 1, during a reception held at the State Capitol. The award was presented in conjunction with the CLC’s Advocacy Day, a time of workshops, training and advocacy engagement for more than 200 Texas Baptists.

In presenting the award, CLC Director Gus Reyes said Ashby was selected, “for his commitment to the common good of public education, and his advocacy on behalf of the 5.4 million children attending Texas public schools.”

Ashby currently chairs the... [continue]

Texas Baptists joins with FBC Waxahachie to send $10,000 in relief to drought-stricken Kenya

When Vaughn Ross, mission team member at First Baptist Church of Waxahachie, received word from Pastor Simon Mwangi in Nairobi, Kenya that the three-year drought in North-Central Kenya was transitioning from severe to acute, he reached out to his church and Texas Baptists for support.

Mwangi, pastor of Koinonia Baptist Church in Nairobi, reports that immediate intervention is needed for close to 54,000 Samburu people who are facing starvation. Koinonia Church and FBC Waxahachie have a partnership to minister to the Samburu people in Maralal and Mwangi has been updating the Texas church on increasingly dangerous conditions for the... [continue]

Becoming Family: Professional development for women transforms lives, fosters relationships

By Jaclyn Bonner

If not for the Heart of Texas Christian Women’s Job Corps sign, you could easily overlook the modest, beige, and olive-colored house on Coggin Avenue in Brownwood.

CWJC is home to transformative learning opportunities and holistic development for women. Established in Brownwood in 2003, the mission of the Heart of Texas branch of CWJC is to “care, guide, and equip women in a Christian environment,” explained Casey Moore, the director. CWJC is a ministry of Texas WMU.

The Texas Baptist Hunger Offering partners with Coggin Avenue Baptist Church to join a network of local churches and volunteers who support this... [continue]

Christian Life Commission to host Advocacy Day in Austin for Texas Baptists

AUSTIN - Texas Baptists’ Christian Life Commission will host 2017 Advocacy Day Feb. 28-March 1 in Austin for ministers, leaders, students and advocates. Workshops and general sessions will be held at Hyde Park Baptist Church Tuesday, Feb. 28, and appointments with legislative offices will take place at the Capitol building Wednesday, March 1.

Featured speakers for Advocacy Day include Vincent Bacote, professor at Wheaton College, and Gabe Lyons, co-author of Good Faith (2016), unChristian (2007) and author of The Next Christians (2010). Workshops will feature a variety of pivotal policy issues including religious liberty... [continue]

6 ways to serve refugees

By Patty Lane

Refugees are some of my heros. They have endured the unthinkable and lived in fear and in poverty for years before arriving in the United States. For the most part, they muster up the courage to learn a new language, find a new job, create a new home, and send their children to schools with people they know nothing about. They do it because they have to, because they are survivors. No matter what life has been, they have a hope of a better future.

Let’s start with the basics. What is a refugee?

According to the United Nations, a refugee is "someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of... [continue]

Bacote: Some practical help to sustain your public witness

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. -- Apostle Paul (Galatians 6:7-10)

Paul encouraged the church in Galatia to not grow weary because he probably knew weariness can so easily overtake those who seek to do what is good and... [continue]

Johnson Amendment protects interests of both church and government

Kathryn Freeman, public policy director of the Christian Life Commission, released the following statement in response to President Trump's announced intention to do away with the Johnson Amendment:

“President Trump said Thursday he would destroy a centerpiece of church-state separation in the the United States -- the Johnson Amendment. This 1954 amendment has clearly protected the tax-exempt status of churches as non-political entities dedicated to the common good of our communities, states and nation. Pastors are free now to express their views on political issues, but they cannot endorse political candidates as a function of

... [continue]

CLC staff: Perspective on refugee resettlement program changes

By Kathryn Freeman and Ferrell Foster

We are praying for President Trump and his administration as they are making many vital decisions that affect the lives of those here and abroad. We prayerfully request that President Trump reconsider the scope and effect of this order and work with congressional leadership to devise a solution that bolsters American security without causing unnecessary delays for refugees fleeing violence or disregarding traditional American values.

Here are our concerns regarding Section 5 of his Executive Order impacting refugee resettlement:

● The order places a 120-day moratorium on the U.S. Refugee... [continue]

Dallas teen works to make a difference in community: A Texas Baptist Hunger Offering Story

Mu was born in Southeast Asia and came to the United States with her family as refugees in 2007. As they settled in the Dallas area, her family found help and support from a Texas Baptist Hunger Offering ministry known as H4R. The ministry provided her family with help filling out government paperwork, ESL classes, assistance with homework and much more.

While she was in junior high, Mu attended a camp for refugee students hosted by H4R and accepted Christ as her Savior. Although her family background was Buddhist, several of her siblings made professions of faith as well. She began to grow in her faith and found encouragement... [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 arborvitae twined around the pews; and a choir singing blissfully about the birth of Christ. He had... [continue]

CLC director Reyes joins Smart-on-Crime Coalition in encouraging criminal justice reform

AUSTIN — Gus Reyes, director of the Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission, joined several key representatives from the Smart-on-Crime Coalition on Wednesday, December 14, for a press conference to encourage criminal justice reform for the upcoming Texas Legislative Session.

During the briefing, held at the Texas Association of Business, Reyes said, “Our commitment to justice is one of the reasons we joined the Smart-on-Crime Coalition. We want a justice system that is just; this means both supporting victims and holding offenders accountable, but also gives former offenders who have served their sentences the opportunity to... [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 and vote for them. 

To borrow from the lyrics of the hit broadway musical, Hamilton,... [continue]

How does religious freedom affect starving children in Nigeria?

By Randel Everett

The United Nations reports that an estimated 75,000 children could die from malnutrition within a year in Northern Nigeria unless food is made available. Members of our 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative staff have traveled to Nigeria twice this year, visiting camps where a million people displaced by Boko Haram and Fulani militants now live. We interviewed dozens of village leaders and victims of this violence, and we heard and saw for ourselves the reality behind the U.N. statistics.

What can we do to alleviate this suffering? One way is by giving money through reputable agencies that provide food for the... [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 of policy disagreements and discussion of facts; I'm speaking of the name-calling, fear-mongering, and... [continue]

Americans care less about personal immorality in politicians

Americans today are more likely to say elected officials can act ethically in office even if they have behaved immorally in their personal lives, according to a PRRI/Brookings survey Oct. 19. And white evangelical Protestants are even more likely to hold this view.

Sixty-one percent of Americans say “immoral personal behavior does not preclude public officials from carrying out their public or professional duties with honesty and integrity.” Only 29 percent disagree. This compares to a 2011 survey that recorded a 44 percent-44 percent split on the question.

The biggest change came among white evangelical Protestants (WEPs), with... [continue]

Last 5th Sunday Hunger Offering of Year and New Video Released

Good news! The new Hunger Offering video is now released and ready to watch.

“Texas Baptist Hunger Offering at work in Spain” highlights Iglesia Evangelica Bautista’s food pantry in Cerdanyola, Spain, a Hunger Offering ministry. 

The video introduces Antonia and Pedro, a couple who struggled financially due to the Spanish economic crash in 2008. After receiving assistance, they answered the call to give back and serve their community on a weekly basis. 

There are two versions of the video. The full-length version is two-and-a-half minutes, while the short version is only a minute long. Both videos are bilingual in Spanish and... [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 majority of cars zoomed by on my left. Some crowded right up behind as if they wanted to... [continue]

Answering the call to justice

“I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.” These words are from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” in which he challenged fellow clergy to get off the sidelines and get involved in the struggle for equality and justice. These clergymen had criticized King, urging patience and restraint rather than protests in Birmingham. Today, just as then, there is a temptation for Christians to ignore injustice. Some will say just "preach the Gospel," but we must engage where we see injustice if we are to be faithful to our call as Christians and Baptists.

We are not faithful to the Gospel, if it has no... [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 one chapter of his book, The Road to Character. The chapter on Marshall is titled... [continue]

Hunger Offering turns 20!

We’re 20 years old! Being out of our teens means that you -- churches and individuals who give -- have helped us grow and mature.

As we look back at two decades of the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering helping people overcome poverty, it is astonishing. In those 20 years, more than $15 million have been raised to help people feed their families and get out of poverty.

So now, we are ready to celebrate as a Texas Baptist family and you are invited.

  • What: 20th Anniversary Hunger Luncheon 
  • Who: You! And our Hunger Offering friends -- churches, past and present CLC staff (with a special video hello from Suzii Paynter), and
... [continue]

'Baptists Oppose Constitution' -- what might have been

By William M. Pinson, Jr.

“BAPTISTS OPPOSE CONSTITUTION” could have been the headlines of a newspaper in 1787.

Why did Baptists strongly oppose the newly drafted Constitution of the United States of America? In brief, because the document failed to provide a guarantee for religious freedom, a belief cherished by Baptists.

From the earliest days of the settlement of America by Europeans, religious freedom was practically non-existent. Persecution for religious views contrary to those of government-supported churches was widespread and severe in most of the thirteen colonies. Although few in number, the Baptists in those... [continue]

Afterschool meals important for students, and churches can help

By Ruben Sanchez

The summer is over and school is back in session. In Texas, that means football is kicking off, temperatures are dropping, and many kids still don’t have adequate access to food.

In Texas, one in four children is food insecure. This means a fourth of the children in Texas live in households that may have to skip a meal or make a difficult choice like deciding between buying food or buying school supplies for the start of a new school year (a true story recently told to me).

Ensuring children have access to three healthy meals a day, seven days a week is a daunting task. Schools across the state are making... [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. Christians should project the idea that all of us need a day of rest. This Sabbath principle, a time of pausing... [continue]

Texas’ Child Protection System is Failing our Children

By Vicki Spriggs

Texas is in the midst of a crisis that, if not addressed with the highest urgency, will create lasting damage for generations to come. Children removed from their homes are placed in a structurally unsound system that is meant to protect them, but in reality often subjects them to further trauma, abuse, and neglect.

News articles continue to expose the failings of our state’s child protection system — and the system shows little indication of improvement. From excessive caseworker turnover and management flaws, to a shortage of placements due to increased removals, the system has reached a breaking point that is... [continue]

Five Ways to Bless Your Child’s Teacher

By Kathleen Hardage

“Back To School.” What do those words mean to you? Certainly they bring memories and emotions, and those are very different for students, former students, parents, and teachers. As a Christian and even as a church, how can we build positive emotions and fond memories for the teachers in our lives?

(In this article, the pronoun “she” will be used to refer to teachers, simply because the majority are female. But please know that this writer values the male teachers out there as well)

1. Pray for a teacher. This is an easy pattern to develop, especially if you are a parent. As you send your student out the door... [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 Williams, Kerri Walsh Jennings -- but most Olympians spend four years in obscurity toiling away... [continue]

Praying for political leaders makes a difference

A former Texas legislator told me the other day of sitting in his chair on the House floor, considering a bill, and thinking about what the Bible says. This man is not a regular churchgoer now, but that day in Austin he remembered the Bible talking about loving the children. He voted for the children of Texas in a vote that shocked some people and promised to cause him political difficulties.

I don’t share his name because we were just visiting about different matters, and this was a passing part of the conversation.

He next said something important for today. Someone complained to him recently about one of this year’s... [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 the flames of our gifts unafraid of obstacles, or the local news, or... [continue]

Let Love Be Genuine: A Texas Baptist Hunger Offering Story

The people of Spain are “really tired of hearing about Christ. ... They need to see real love, real love through real people,” Pastor Antonio Calero Cerrado boldly proclaimed.

Pastor Cerrado heads an outreach ministry of Iglesia Evangelica Bautista La Trinidad in Denia, Spain. He and Pastor Jorge Pastor have co-led the thriving church, averaging 400 in attendance in week, at a Baptist campground for the past 40 years.

Both pastors highlighted the difficulty of evangelism in Spain. The church history is wrought with persecution, dwindling numbers, and community disdain. Despite the barriers, the Lord has answered their prayers... [continue]

Words of peace for our killing days

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

In the aftermath of our recent killing days, many followers of Christ have arisen to take on the mantle of peacemakers. We need all Christians to be peacemakers.

The late Baptist pastor, Herschel Hobbs, said Christ is a peacemaker between God and humanity (Colossians 1:20-22) and between people (Ephesians 2:12-18).

Our peace with God is what causes us to seek peace in all of our interactions. We want to help bring God’s peace to others. And in being such peacemakers, we are revealed as children of God.

That’s the way we are supposed to be.... [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 was too frightened to tell her husband. We were shocked, confused, and angry.... [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 across. The Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission Public Policy Office can help you, as a believer, navigate... [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 other. At church, we didn’t talk to each other. At the dinner table, Dad and my sister argued... [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. Jesus said:

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless
... [continue]

#YesAllWomen: How the Church Should Reflect Jesus’ Radical Ministry to Women

Over the last several days, I have read stories about violence against girls and women with increasing alarm.

Just a snapshot of the headlines:

Teenager Sentenced to 25 years for Killing A Girl Who Said No to Prom

Father of former Stanford swimmer refers to sexual assault as ‘20 minutes of action’

A year after McKinney pool party, teen speaks out

In Texas, our eyes have been laser focused on Baylor, but the problem is bigger than one college campus. In fact, one of last year’s Oscar nominated documentaries, “The Hunting Ground,” explored the pervasiveness of sexual assault on college campuses in America, and three years... [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 do this when we do not hold football players to the same ethical and criminal standards as others.

We... [continue]

Churches provide foundation for active faith

(Rand Jenkins is the newest member of the Christian Life Commission staff. He is in a new role -- CLC specialist. Below, Rand explains some of the things in his background that have shaped his call to this ministry.)

My childhood in community-minded churches provided the foundation for my pursuit of an active faith. Born in Fort Worth and raised in Franklin, Tenn., I have always been part of an active family and vibrant church. In Fort Worth, my dad was on staff at Broadway Baptist Church and in Franklin, he worked at the Baptist Sunday School Board and my mom was on staff at First Baptist Church of Nashville.

At age 8, I... [continue]

New Life In Christian Community - A Texas Baptist Hunger Offering Story

A baby shower seems simple. Gifts, flowers, laughter; the party is a time of preparation and celebration of new life and a growing family. Love and expectancy are the essence of life in Christ. And while this practice may seem commonplace to some, it can make all the difference for a new mom in a new country.

Dr. Samira Izadi Page knows just how impactful a baby shower can be for a refugee mom. As the founder and executive of director of Gateway of Grace, she throws her fair share of celebrations. Gateway of Grace is a Dallas-based ministry that provides services and Christian care for refugees from nine countries, including... [continue]

Education inequity should concern Christians

Some things are simply wrong. They harm people; they dishonor God. And, it is wrong what we are doing to children in Texas. We are failing to educate many of them during a time in which education is essential to their future well-being.

As Christians, we care not only for our own children and the kids in our church; we have a deep concern for all children because they contain the very image of God. Just as our “pro-life” stance causes us to care for the lives of unborn children, we are called to care for them after their birth. ( Christianity Today recently published another article I wrote on this subject, which also deals with... [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 reservations.

The total for my meal was $5.59. Feeding America estimates that a... [continue]

A Christian Response to Reentry

I walked out of prison more resilient than I was at intake, a miracle considering the harsh nature of prison. At intake, I was completely defeated. My addiction had progressed to criminality, and everything in my life that had any value to me was stripped away. I was filled with shame. The Christian volunteers I met while in prison helped me see that I am not defined by the worse thing I ever did. None of us are. They helped me to chart a path to forgiveness and hope.

Along the way, I embraced the limited opportunities available to me. I earned excellent performance reviews in my job as a clerk, and I volunteered as a peer... [continue]

May is a time for celebrating and giving

May is a month of celebration and gathering around the table. As we take time to honor mothers and wish our best to recent grads, several in our communities will face the reality of food insecurity. In Texas, one in six families do not know where they will get their next meal.* Globally, one in nine of our neighbors are malnourished.** Hunger is an overwhelming issue, but we may respond with practical hope.

When facing complex problems, I sometimes find myself feeling frozen by my own questions: "How can I make a dent...What type of food do people need or want?"

To others who may feel small before a giant need, I offer this bit... [continue]

Good things happening in Marshall and at ETBU

Marshall anchors the eastern entrance to Texas near where Interstate 20 crosses from Louisiana. It is a smaller city that is home to East Texas Baptist University, which sits on a hill in the northwest portion of the city.

Once the fourth largest city in Texas (1860), Marshall has been an important community both for the state and its Baptists. Marshall has been a key transportation hub -- first as a stagecoach route, then a railroad center and now with highways (I-20 and U.S. Hwy. 59). But it’s the school on the hill that has been the Marshall focus for Texas Baptists.

Blair Blackburn is the newest president of ETBU. He and I... [continue]

Now What? What to do the Day After A Life-Changing Experience

We have all been there. We’ve gone to a life changing conference or heard an amazing sermon or even just had a really amazing quiet time to start our day and afterwards, we are super charged and ready to do amazing things for God. We are going to change the world!

And then, we step outside our door or return home or enter our churches, and we aren’t quite as sure. We don’t know how to get started, or we do start and are met with obstacles or roadblocks. Other people aren’t excited; the pastor doesn’t want to implement your new missions strategy; your husband doesn’t want to sell all of your possessions and move to an immigrant... [continue]

​Help That Makes A Difference

(Ali hearon will lead a workshop titled "Community Transformation: Foundations for Community Ministry" at the Micah 6:8 Conference March 31-April 1 at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio. The conference will feature authors Jen and Brandon Hatmaker.)

Amy has an outgoing personality, lots of perseverance, and a heart for service. Her welcoming presence and vivacious sense of humor draw others to her in friendship. Amy also happens to be in recovery from an intense addiction to alcohol that has wreaked havoc on her life and relationships.

Amy is now living in sobriety in Trinity, though her name is changed here. She is surrounded by... [continue]

Responding to Same-Sex Issues with Grace and Truth

(Steve Wells will lead a workshop titled "Responding to Same-Sex Issues with Grace & Truth" during the Micah 6:8 Conference March 31-April 1 at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio.)

Grace and truth. Holding them together – that's the difficult thing, isn't it? Truth without grace is cold. Grace without truth can get very mushy. But grace and truth together – there's power there – and in it, a real magnetism.

Grace and truth held together is especially needed when Christians listen and dialogue with our LGBT brothers and sisters, both inside and outside the church. Yes, there can potentially be tension in such dialogue, but when we... [continue]

​Promise & Peril: Preaching Micah 6:8 In 2016 America

How clearly do you see the promise & peril of our country during the 2016 election? Are you able to see that there is an American Dream, and that you share in its promise? Can you see how God's hope is calling us forward? Do you see your part to play in solving our perilous problems? Do you believe that our national motto, "In God we trust", provides our pathway forward?

The Peril

Our greatest challenge as Americans is to identify and claim that "common good" which holds us together. Without a common good we are fragmented by self interests which cause us to war against each other. With a common good we pull ourselves together into a... [continue]

Christian community development brings Good News to the poor

(Jimmy Dorrell will be leading a workshop at the Micah 6:8 Conference March 31-April 1 at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio. His workshop is titled "Christian Community Development: How to Do It Where You Live!")

While the church and her people may have forgotten the poor and the call to justice at various times in history, God has always cared about the whole person and the whole city.

"If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?" 1 John 3:17

The Old Testament Law, the eighth century B.C. prophets, the gospels, and teachings... [continue]

Brokenness is close at hand, but we are together

We've all heard the phrase "it's a small world" and may have even said it ourselves at some point when we realized we knew someone or knew of someone through another person. In fact, for years the idea has been that there are six degrees of separation between people – so much so that years ago it was made into a game – the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. More recently, Facebook has said there are only 3.5 degrees of separation between users.

Why am I talking about degrees of separation? It's estimated that one in five people will experience a mental health issue this year. I'm no mathematician, but I'm pretty sure the number five falls... [continue]

Today we have hope, today we are fed: Texas Baptist Hunger Offering at Work

Ruth sat at a table in the two-room shack where she lived with her abusive husband and four hungry children in the Dominican Republic. She stared at a cup of tea in her hand that would cause her to abort a fifth child she was now carrying.

"Ruth! Ruth!" She heard Rosa Elena calling her name from across the street. It became a God-moment, and the calling of Ruth's name saved the precious life of Ruth's unborn child.

Rosa Elena did not just cry out to Ruth; Rosa Elena fed Ruth and her children, and shared God's love for her and spoke of the gift of life Ruth carried within her.

Today, Ruth serves in a kitchen preparing food for more... [continue]

Let Justice Roll Down

(Dr. Michael A. Evans, Sr., will lead a workshop titled "Let Justice Roll Down -- It's a Big Deal in Scripture & Today" during the CLC's Micah 6:8 Conference March 31-April 1 at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio. He is pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield.)

One of the most prolific martyrs of the civil rights era, namely Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded readers in his "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" of the prophetic words of the Old Testament prophet, Amos.

King wrote these words in the midst of a civil rights movement that had come to a stalemate, caught between pessimism among some of his early supporters, the... [continue]

The lives of immigrants can be seen in the migrants of Scripture

To help our culture and the body of Christ understand immigration, it is helpful to talk about it within the broader scope of migration in Scripture.

The Bible deals extensively with migration and tells stories about real people who went through painful movements from one country to another, facing issues that are still relevant today.

The story of our faith begins with the migrant Abraham, who is commanded by God to leave his homeland and become a blessing to the nations. His great-grandson, Joseph, becomes a victim of human trafficking, then 400 years later and under the leadership of Moses, the people of Israel, in fleeing poverty... [continue]

​In Search of Common Ground: Grand Jury Reform, Black Lives Matter and Pro-Life Advocacy

Our criminal justice system is broken in regard to grand juries.

Many people are familiar with the roles of law enforcement, judges, and lawyers in the criminal justice system. Most people are decidedly less familiar with the important, but often hidden role of the grand jury.

A grand jury is a group of 12 citizens of the county where the grand jury sits, able to read and write, not under indictment, etc. The most common role of the grand jury is to listen to the facts of a case and determine if probable cause exists for charges alleged against a defendant.

While both grand juries and trial juries are made up of lay people who must... [continue]

It is good to stand with God in valuing life

Walking into the airport. Approaching the first security checkpoint.

Officer: Final Destination. Me: Washington. Officer: Purpose of your trip. Me: Evangelicals for Life meeting. Officer: Keep up the good work. (fist bump)

All of us who care about the sacredness of life from conception to natural death need to keep up the good work. We have shown over the past 43 years that the Supreme Court does not determine right and wrong even though it may determine what is constitutional and unconstitutional.

Quite simply, it is wrong to take another life simply because it is inconvenient to someone for the life... [continue]

​Waco ministry digging in the dirt with students

"In the garden you learn a lot about identity," Kaley explained, as we discussed World Hunger Relief's School Garden Project.

WHRI, in Waco, is a "Christian organization committed to the alleviation of hunger around the world" through sustainable farming. While WHRI, supported by multiple Baptist churches, has agricultural programs internationally, such as in Liberia, El Salvador, and Haiti, they also have projects here in Texas.

The Texas Baptist Hunger Offering is a long-time partner of WHRI. Currently, the offering supports the ministry's School Gardening Project in three local schools. The project is an afterschool... [continue]

It's January, but March 1 is coming

Things are about to get crazy in Texas – or crazier. It is less than two months before the Republican and Democratic primary elections here (March 1), and early voting begins Feb. 16.

No party speaks for God. There will be committed Christians, as well as others, running in both parties. Some of them will actually use language that connects deeply with those of us who seek to follow Christ.

Language is a powerful tool for good or evil, right or wrong. As a result, we Christians need to listen with all the intelligence and wisdom we can muster through the help of the Holy Spirit. We listen with the ears of Texans and Americans, but we... [continue]

Spoiler Alert: Christ is Returning

I hate suspense. For as long as I can remember, I've hated that pit in my stomach when I don't know how the story is going to end. My aversion to suspense means reading the end of books when it's not clear who's the villain, it means surreptitiously getting on while watching the latest blockbuster, and it means an aversion to surprises in any form.

You can imagine how the aversion to suspense played out as a child during the Christmas season. I was definitely the kid shaking presents and trying to untape and retape gifts before December 25. Thankfully, I had parents who let us open one gift on Christmas Eve, which... [continue]

Literacy ministry helps church outreach in communities

Language connects people, but Texas is now home to many people who know little of the English language. These residents have their beautiful and valued native languages, but they desire to function more fully as part of American society.

Many churches are stepping up to minister to this need, which also gives them the chance to touch the lives of families in various other ways, including through evangelism and discipleship.

South Main Baptist Church in Houston calls its literacy ministry South Main International Learning Experience, or SMILE. Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo calls their program Learning English... [continue]

New CLC resources posted online -- biblical perspectives

The Christian Life Commission has produced five resources in its new Biblical Perspectives series. The first topics are civility in public discourse, human trafficking, immigration, justice, and pornography. These can be found on the CLC web... [continue]

Pull Up a Chair this November

I am a true fan of November.

Situated at the end of autumn and the dawn of winter, November welcomes scarf weather, soup, apple cider, and of course—Thanksgiving. Even though I am admittedly biased due to my November birthday, I fervently believe that Thanksgiving is the best holiday.

Think about it.

Thanksgiving is a day that solely focuses on gathering friends and family around a table for the sake of gratitude, community, and sweet potato casserole (the perfect food). What an ingenious idea!

My home is no exception. The Hearon family is known for its "open table" policy. I never know who will be attending, but I... [continue]

First Things First

At the Texas Baptists' Annual Meeting, I taught a workshop on "Advocacy As Evangelism." During the workshop, I shared how advocacy could be a tool for evangelism and community transformation.

At the end of the workshop, a gentleman asked if I was promoting advocacy for advocacy's sake. I was prepared for the question, because lately I have been giving a lot of thought to the idea as my generation considers justice and community engagement a part of discipleship. Advocating for justice and promoting community engagement represent an expanded view of discipleship, but sometimes I am concerned my generation has become self-righteous in... [continue]

Video helps us hear a heart

Our eyes can deceive us. We look at someone and think we know what we see. But there is more to knowing that seeing.

A video that has gone viral shows a homeless man with beard and long, scraggly hair and hunger-thin arms. But there is more to the man than his homelessness. Donald "Boone" Gould plays piano beautifully, as captured in the video shot at an outdoor piano in Sarasota, Fla.

Now, we can know a bit more about the man in this video. WWSB, the ABC affiliate in Sarasota interviewed Gould.

The 51-year-old started with a clarinet as a kid, eventually playing the instrument for the U.S. Marine Corps. Shortly after his service, he... [continue]

Religious Liberty in Nepal

People of Nepal have been dealing for months with the aftermath of an earthquake disaster. Now, the Asian nation faces a possible religious liberty disaster that could impact people's lives for years.

The Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission is part of an international Baptist effort to encourage the Nepal government to not include restrictions on religious liberty in its new constitution, as currently proposed.

Working with the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, the CLC staff is encouraging religious leaders to sign a letter to the Nepal government. This needs to happen quickly. To co-sign the letter, send an email with your... [continue]

Moving Past #PrayforCharleston

Last Wednesday evening, a 21-year-old white man walked into Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, sat through Bible study and then murdered nine African Americans: State Senator and Pastor Clementa Pickney; librarian Cynthia Hurd; Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr.; speech therapist and mom Sharonda Singleton; Bible study teacher Myra Thompson; 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders who died trying to save his aunt; Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor; 87-year-old Susie Jackson; and, 70-year-old Ethel Lance.

Before the young man shot them, he stated he was shooting them because, "You rape our women and you're taking over our country." It has since been... [continue]

The Bible and family

Family stands at the core of our social existence. In an ideal world, a family includes a man, a woman, and children. The ideal is lifted up even though we face the reality that some families break apart or never exist as a committed whole.

The Bible talks about some very dysfunctional families. Cain killed his brother, Abel. Abraham lied about Sarah being his sister instead of his wife. Jacob and his mother connived to cheat Esau out of his inheritance. Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery. David committed adultery and ordered the murder of the offended husband. Solomon had way too many wives. Martha complained to Jesus about... [continue]

A primer on biblical marriage

A pastor friend told me recently something like this: "Ferrell, in my ministry I deal with a whole lot more heterosexual sin than homosexual sin."

The truth can hurt. Sexual sin is widespread. In confronting sexual sin, it is important to consider marriage. Here's a little primer on biblical marriage.

What we call marriage today began as an act of creation. The Bible tells of God creating male and female persons. But God did not simply create them and put them in the garden; God told them to do something.

God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the... [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 want government to be like Jesus and help the poor then people on the right think... [continue]

​Help for dealing with a changing culture

The American culture seems to be getting away from us; that, at least, is how many Christians with more traditional values feel.

One of the most seriously threatened values is the sacredness of marriage between one man and one woman for life. First, we saw the "for life" part mostly fall away as divorce grew more common, and now the "one man and one woman" portion hangs in the balance.

Most states already have redefined marriage as including same-sex relationships, and now many experts think the U.S. Supreme Court is about to make that redefinition apply to the remaining 13 states, including Texas.

For many of us, this just seems... [continue]

Advocacy Alert: Stop Telemarketing by Payday Lenders

Ask Your State Representative to Vote Yes on HB 411.

Thanks to your phone calls the House Calendars Committee set HB 411 for the House Calendar on Tuesday, May 5.

HB 411 would limit the telemarketing abilities of payday lenders. We need to protect consumers from unsolicited calls from payday lenders attempting to trap them in unaffordable loans.

We need you to call your State Representative and ask them to support HB 411 on the floor.

To find out who represents you, please click ... [continue]

​Taking in the Stranger

At a point in his ministry, Jesus identified with the stranger among others -- the hungry, thirsty and prisoner -- the people whose lives indicated some sort of social or economic disconnectedness.

Jesus came to show people how to belong with God and each other. Sometimes that relational notion is inappropriately set apart from the way Christians think of justice, but they are closely collected. Justice means doing the right thing as well as restoring broken relationships.

For the believer, the love of justice arises from life with God; it is a by-product and is, therefore, an indicator of holiness encountering sinfulness and... [continue]

Reyes to testify in support of House Bill 3567

AUSTIN–This morning, Gus Reyes, director of the Christian Life Commission, will be testifying in support of a bill by Rep. Scott Sanford (Executive Pastor at Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church in Allen). The bill will be heard in Texas House State Affairs.

HB 3567 protects religious organizations, or entities controlled by religious organization (such as schools) or pastors and staff from having to solemnize or participate in anyway with any marriage that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Below is the testimony Reyes will be giving:

I am Gus Reyes, Executive Director Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission and I am... [continue]

CLC opens doors for advocates to interact at the Capitol

AUSTIN - Advocates work for the best interest of all, the voiceless, or marginalized, Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy for the Christian Life Commission, shared with attendees at CLC Advocacy Day.

The event was hosted on April 9, at the First United Methodist Church in Austin, across the street from the State Capitol building. Listen to a review of the day here:

Executive Director David Hardage was in attendance for the day, giving a welcome to Advocacy Day attendees. Hardage was encouraged by the response for the day, noting, "Anybody who is here who isn't familiar with the CLC will learn more about... [continue]

Prepare your church for same-sex marriage ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court is ready to consider the issue of same-sex marriage, and the court's eventual ruling could affect how the State of Texas defines marriage. If change occurs, it will affect the relationship of all Texas Baptist churches in their dealings with local, state, and federal laws.

The Christian Life Commission supports the biblical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman for a lifetime commitment. This has been the marriage standard for Christians dating back two millennia, and reflects an even longer biblical heritage.

On Tuesday, April 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider cases from... [continue]

Texas RFRA Is Both Necessary and Working

Given the current media firestorm around proposed RFRA laws in Indiana and Arkansas, the Christian Life Commission would like to give a brief history of RFRA laws and reiterate our support for state RFRA laws that mirror the federal law.

The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed in 1993 in response to the Supreme Court decision in Employment Division v. Smith, which held that generally applicable laws that conflict with religious beliefs do not violate the First Amendment. The Smith ruling meant that any law, as long as it was not intended to prohibit the free exercise of religion, is valid even if it restricted... [continue]

States need RFRA matching federal model, like Texas

The Christian Life Commission staff believes it is wise for each state to pass RFRA laws or constitutional amendments that mirror the federal RFRA language. The Texas RFRA mirrors the federal RFRA, both passed with bipartisan support and reflecting an appropriate balance between religious freedom and government interests.

The CLC is proud to have worked on passage of the Texas RFRA 16 years ago. We believe respect for religious freedom is an important part of our democracy, and separation of church and state is a foundational Baptist distinctive.

Religious freedom is not a partisan issue. We believe it is possible to... [continue]

Violent tendencies

A violent man is coming to Dallas. He didn't simply pick North Texas as a good place to live; a wealthy family in the city offered him $11 million to come to town.

Greg Hardy is indeed coming to Big D. Hardy will be the newest pass rushing "savior" of the highest profile American football team, the Dallas Cowboys.

Hardy; however, has a past. Last year, a judge found him guilty of assaulting and threatening to kill his girlfriend. Hardy then requested a jury trial, which never happened because the girlfriend would not cooperate with the prosecution. She, instead, accepted an out-of-court settlement. In my neighborhood, we would say... [continue]

​Living as a black man in Ferguson

In the summer of 2012, a 32-year-old African American man sat in his car cooling off after playing basketball in a public park. A law enforcement officer pulled up behind the man's car, blocking him in, and demanded the man's Social Security number and identification.

That's how the story begins. It's part of the U.S. Justice Department's report on racial discrimination in Ferguson, Mo. If those of us who are Anglo Americans do not understand why many African Americans distrust law enforcement, this story offers an example of why.

Without any cause, the officer accused the man of being a pedophile, referring to the presence of... [continue]

Giving to Fight Hunger in the Midst of Lent

For many in the developed world, hunger is the sort of thing one may experience after skipping lunch. At least we call it hunger; sometimes there's a headache to go along with it. Real hunger makes a person unable to think clearly. Chronic hunger, according to the United Nations, is that point when the human body begins to break down its own muscle and fat to survive.

For some of us at this very moment, we are duking it out with carnality and all its snacky vices by fasting for the Lenten season, and that might leave us feeling peckish and contemplative by the day's end.

Fasting is good. It is an important spiritual discipline, no... [continue]

Trying to get this church-state thing right

Some Bible verses are so clear and direct they are like taking a finger in the eye; you can't ignore them. Paul seemed to specialize in the finger-in-the-eye genre, while generally, Jesus was more subtle, as if whispering a word one had to take some time to think about.

In one of Paul's finger-in-the-eye passages, he told the Christians in Rome the following:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur
... [continue]

​Did You Know It Pays to Prey on the Poor In Texas?

An unexpected medical bill, car trouble, buying school supplies, a funeral or a summer utility bill—one or many of these expenses have pushed countless Texans to the financial brink. Needing a way to meet the unexpected expense, many families turn to payday and auto title lenders who are all too happy to profit off of people's misfortune.

Usually payday and auto-title borrowers are already financially fragile and rather than being a lifesaver these loans become an anchor. Payday loans are unsecured short-term loans that simply require a job and access to a bank account. Payday lenders are not required to determine the... [continue]

Anti Human Trafficking Rally

In case you missed it. Here's a look at the anti human trafficking rally last week.

When Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) took to the steps Thursday morning, February 12, at the south end of the state Capitol, she addressed individuals who share a common concern; seeing the end of slavery once and for all in the United States.

She talked about human trafficking, which the State Department of Public Safety defines as the: "Recruitment, harboring, transporting or procurement of a person for labor or services for the purpose of involuntary servitude, slavery or forced commercial sex acts."

Nationally, Texas ranks second... [continue]

Grieving with the family of the cross

They have names - Milad Makeen Zaky, Abanub Ayad Atiya, Maged Solaiman Shehata, and on and on - 21 of them. Their names seem odd to most of us in America, but they are our brothers. Our human brothers. Our Christian brothers.

The Islamic State beheaded these Coptic Christians in Libya. There is no way to ignore the religious nature of this massacre. Muslim extremists killed Christians because of their faith.

The video of the killings is titled "A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross." Of course, we are no nation; we are a family.

Coptic Christianity counts John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark, as... [continue]

Beyond Fifty Shades of Grey

The National Football League is getting serious about the scourge of violence against women. The Grammy Awards show featured the importance of battling domestic violence. But the violence-ridden book, Fifty Shades of Grey, has been extremely popular among adult women, and it now has become a movie.

Here is Time magazine's description of Fifty Shades:

"Nobody gets raped … and all the physical acts are consensual, but a romance about the possession of a virginal college student by a more powerful, older guy that involves her having to bend to his every whim, call him 'sir' and get beaten in the process could be accused of
... [continue]

​Freedom for captives: The CLC is working to end trafficking

As the 84th Legislative Session has begun, the CLC staff wants to provide an overview of our public policy priorities. Last week, we talked about advocacy in general, and this week we explore human trafficking.

Many people assume the 13th amendment ended slavery in America, but there are still slaves among us. Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transporting or procurement of a person for labor or services for the purpose of involuntary servitude or commercial sex acts. Everyday men, women and children are forced into manual labor or commercial sexual acts against their will. This modern day slavery exists in... [continue]

Advocacy: Why Should Texas Baptists Care?

More Texans and more Christians should be engaged in our government, this is especially true of Christians. Only 9 percent of Texans have contacted their elected officials, according to the Annette Strauss Institute Texas Civic Health Index. Given the small number of Texans contacting their elected officials imagine the outsized influence this 9 percent has on the actions or votes of their government representatives?

The CLC has two opportunities for Texas Baptists to come to the Capitol in the next two months to learn more about Christian advocacy and meet with their representatives. First, on February 12, we will be co-sponsoring... [continue]

CLC Advocacy Day

CLC Advocacy Day will be held Thursday, March 5, at First United Methodist Church, Family Life Center, 302 W. 13th St., Austin, TX 78701.

The CLC Advocacy Day is an opportunity for you to participate in the work of the CLC. Your voice is vital to our success so please join Kathryn Freeman and Dr. Gus Reyes for their first CLC Advocacy Day in Austin!

Schedule for the Day

  • 9:30-11 a.m. Legislative Briefing The Legislative briefing is an opportunity to hear from experts on some of the top legislative issues facing our state including predatory lending, immigration, and public education.
  • 11:15 a.m.- 1 p.m. Legislative
... [continue]

Texas Baptists loving neighbors through Hunger Offering

This month, the Christian Life Commission is set to distribute funds to 117 ministries throughout the state of Texas and more than 67 international ones through the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering. That is a reflection of the generosity of Texas Baptists, an indication about the contents of their hearts.

Feeding people who don't have enough to eat and helping others to climb out of poverty is part of our obedience to Jesus' command to love our neighbors as ourselves. Doing so in a way that maximizes the support we can offer to ministries working with hungry people is a Christian responsibility.

Financial support through the Hunger... [continue]

New opportunities in a new year

In Isaiah, the Lord tells the Israelites that His servants will faithfully bring forth justice to the nations and describes them as a light to the nations capable of opening blind eyes, breaking the chains of the oppressed, and setting captives free (Isaiah 42:1-9, Isaiah 58). As the 84th Legislative Session is set to begin next Tuesday, we have a new opportunity to engage in this kingdom work at the Capitol. Here are just a few of the policy priorities the Christian Life Commission will be focused on in the upcoming session:

  • Ending the financial exploitation of the poor
  • Protecting victims of human trafficking
  • Advocating for a "just"
... [continue]

CLC shines the light of Christ

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light." Isaiah 9:2

Just as the wise men were led by a bright star, we too are led by the Light. We are no longer in darkness, but we live in a world surrounded by suffering, famine, sickness, hurt and chaos. During the holiday season, we focus on the gift of Christ to a dying and dark world, but this gift keeps giving and growing because we are Christ's messengers sent to bring hope and light into a broken world.

Before the baby was laid in the manager, the entire world was shrouded in darkness. We are thankful for the the light of the world who came to take away darkness, sin... [continue]

Political leaders still need to address immigration issues

Recently, President Obama announced steps he is taking to help undocumented immigrants living in our country. The executive action increases border security in addition to providing temporary relief for some families and individuals.

Despite the President's actions, the immigration system remains broken and in need of significant attention. We still need a permanent, holistic immigration bill that secures the borders, affirms families, treats people with dignity, and gives clarity with regards to status in this country.

My hope is for our legislative leaders to work together with the President to bring resolution to the immigration... [continue]

Thanks for letting the CLC share about its work

Thanks to Texas Baptists for giving the Christian Life Commission the opportunity to share about its ministries this week at the BGCT Annual Meeting. The CLC staff is proud to serve you day in, day out; it was especially rewarding to share about that work in this special setting.

A special word of thanks to Dennis Parrish, whom we contracted to produce our main stage and exhibit stage production. His design and production skills helped us greatly in presenting the ministries and impact of the CLC.

A.C. Miller, Foy Valentine, Jimmie Allen, James Dunn, Phil Strickland and Suzii Paynter established a tremendous direction for the... [continue]

Dramatic presentations part of this year's annual meeting

"Theatre for the Mind and Spirit" is coming to the Texas Baptist annual meeting Monday, Nov. 17. This is how Bruce Kuhn describes his dramatic presentations. Kuhn will be part of the morning and evening worship services at the Waco Convention Center.

Bruce's presentations bring Scripture alive. The words are literally from the biblical text, but Bruce helps them breathe with human passion. Below are 2 seven-minute videos of Bruce presenting a portion of the Gospel of Luke and Tales of Tolstoy, and there are other videos listed on his website.

More videos...

A number of Texas Baptists saw Kuhn's presentations at... [continue]

'The Blind Side' couple to end BGCT Annual Meeting

The BGCT Annual Meeting this year will end with a special event on the Baylor University campus. Baylor President Ken Starr will host a "conversation" with Sean and Leigh Anne Touhy, the couple featured in the book and movie, "The Blind Side."

It is part of the university's "On Topic" series of events at Waco Hall. Tickets are required but are free and will be available Sunday and Monday, Nov. 16-17, at Waco Convention Center during the BGCT Annual Meeting. Tickets also will be available Tuesday, Nov. 18, at Waco Hall before the event.

"The Blind Side" tells the story of Michael Oher, a homeless teenager turned first round draft pick... [continue]

Election Day provides opportunity to express citizenship

The Bible exhorts Christians to be good citizens while on earth (Romans 13:1-8). Voting is one of the foundational requirements to good citizenship. With Election Day quickly approaching it is important to head to the polls. We, as believers, should actively engage in understanding the policy issues affecting our communities and neighbors. We should vote in accordance to God's agenda for this world and not just on blind allegiance to a political party or person.

To that end, we should evaluate for ourselves, in accordance with Scripture, which candidates''stated priorities best align with the Word of God. These are some good... [continue]

Houston subpoenas raise religious liberty concerns

The City of Houston gained national attention last week as a result of subpoenas sent to five local pastors seeking "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by or approved by you or in your possession."

CLC Director Gus Reyes spoke out against these subpoenas because they appeared to be designed to intimidate pastors and make them think twice about speaking on this critical social issue. Texas Baptists President Jeff Johnson, Executive Director David Hardage and Reyes also joined other Baptist leaders from around... [continue]

CLC director expresses concern regarding Houston subpoenas

Gus Reyes, director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, has released the following statement regarding the City of Houston's subpoenas sent to five churches:

"We are glad Mayor Annise Parker now agrees with critics that the initial City of Houston subpoenas were overly broad.

"The U.S. Constitution protects religious freedom, and that includes the right of pastors and church members to speak on social and community issues without fear of intimidation by the government.

"We now wait to see what city officials do next. We hope they display a renewed commitment to religious liberty and recognize that efforts meant to... [continue]

Texas Baptist Hunger Offering needs end-of-year boost

Texas Baptists are generous, but our giving to fight hunger and poverty has lagged this year. Through August, Texas Baptists gave $548,395 through the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering. That's a lot of money, but it is significantly less than we gave last year -- $727,877 or 75.3 percent.

As we give millions of dollars to support church programs, it is important to remember that Jesus said care for the poor is a key indicator that a person is seeking to follow Him. When we seek to follow Christ we will have a Spirit-inspired burden to care for those who suffer. If we don't, something's wrong with our spiritual life.

Despite the lag in... [continue]

Racism undermines justice and unity

"But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." (Amos 5:24)

A young man has been killed in Missouri. Michael Brown, an unarmed African American man, died from six gunshots fired by a white police officer. Race should not be an issue, but far too many African American men have died under similar circumstances. Black men simply face a different social calculus when it comes to interactions with the justice system in America.

The frequency of such incidents has led some African Americans to have an inherent mistrust of the justice system because it has not consistently protected the rights of... [continue]

Attorney named CLC’s director of public policy

AUSTIN – Kathryn Freeman has been named director of public policy for Texas Baptists' Christian Life Commission (CLC).

The CLC helps Texas Baptists, churches, communities and government leaders give voice to critical issues in society from a Christian and biblical perspective. Freeman will lead the CLC's efforts related to government and legislation.

“I'm very encouraged that we will have Kathryn alongside Dr. Gus Reyes and Ferrell Foster as a strong presence in Austin at the legislative session this next spring," said David Hardage, executive director of Texas Baptists.

Freeman earned her bachelor's degree in English from... [continue]

Following Christ involves welcoming children

Parents will do just about anything to help their children. In Central America, parents are trying to help their children in ways that may seem odd and downright unwise to those of us in the United States, but their circumstances are very different. Their children's lives are at stake.

Drugs, violence, and lawlessness threaten to engulf their children, so they do what must be heartbreakingly difficult -- they send them away on a long, perilous journey to a place that seems to offer hope for their children. Many of those children make it, and they cross the border into their place of deliverance -- the United States.

Children are... [continue]

CLC approves Resolution on Immigrant Children Crisis

DALLAS -- The Christian Life Commission has called on Texas Baptists to respond in a compassionate way to the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children and teenagers along the southern United States border.

Commissioners approved a resolution Friday, June 27, outlining the current situation involving immigrant minors who are fleeing poverty and violence in Central America. More than 46,000 immigrant children have crossed the border since October 2013. The CLC is the Texas Baptist body which deals with ethical and public policy issues.

In affirmation of the resolution, Texas Baptist Executive Director Dr. David Hardage said, "Texas... [continue]

Christian Life Commission announces office relocation to Austin

DALLAS -- The Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission has announced a relocation of all offices from Dallas to Austin effective Sept. 1.

"This is an exciting decision that will enhance the effectiveness of the Christian Life Commission," said Dr. David Hardage, executive director. "Having the CLC in one location in Austin makes it easier for our churches to engage with the CLC's ministry and mission. It also positions us in close proximity to the state government to better garner support for our legislative priorities."

The CLC, currently under the leadership of Director Dr. Gus Reyes, has served as the ethics agency of the Baptist... [continue]

Union Association fighting human trafficking

Union Baptist Association, our state's largest regional body, is taking a leadership role in the fight against human trafficking in Texas. The association's UBA E-Notes this week highlights two human trafficking items.

The first connects to a YouTube video and a web page titled "Where Do I Start?" The page stresses the three steps of learn, pray and act.

The second item gives information on a Sept. 20 event at South Main Baptist Church in Houston. It will feature presentations by experts, a tour of high-risk local areas, and times of worship.

Thank you, Tom Billings, for your leadership of the UBA in regard to this... [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 all places and through all moments. A cynic could say that we are only silently... [continue]

Trafficking -- the difference between victims and criminals

The Dallas Morning News carried an excellent opinion piece in its Feb. 23 edition about children and prostitution. The article, by Malika Saada Saar, expresses a broad national perspective. In Texas, we are actually doing better than reflected in Saar's article, but we still have lots of work to do.

Saar points out that about 293,000 U.S. children are "at risk of being exploited and trafficked for sex, according to a 2011 FBI report on trafficking. Most are girls ages 12 to 14. They often are abducted or lured by pimps and traffickers, beaten into submission and sometimes even branded with the pimp's name." She tells of one... [continue]

Internet lawsuits remind us of the importance of truth

A Washington contractor is suing a Virginia woman for posting scathing reviews online about the contractor's work, according to the Washington Post.

This is one of a growing number of cases alleging Internet defamation. "Lawyers across the country are more aggressively using a combination of legal maneuvers and computer forensics to help uncover the identities of anonymous commentators and sue them," the newspaper reports.

Such lawsuits have the potential of dampening consumer reviews, which can be of great help in today's over-crowded marketplace. Most Internet users want access to unbiased reviews, and we want people to have the... [continue]

The payday lending loophole – Leah Gonzalez, day 1

Hello! My name is Leah Gonzalez, and I'm pursuing my master's degree in social work at the University of Texas in Austin. I graduated from Howard Payne University with a degree in social work. My family is originally from El Paso, and I grew up in San Antonio. I'll be writing this blog discussing various issues surrounding payday and auto title lending. Payday lending is a complex issue that's targeting the financial welfare of Texas families. I'll be updating this regularly leading up to and throughout Texas' legislative session. Thank you for your interest, and I hope you join me in exploring how payday and auto title lending... [continue]