christian life commission
CLC releases new resource on alcohol and drug use
by Ferrell Foster on July 18, 2019 in clc
To help Christians and churches better understand what the Bible says on both alcohol and illegal drug use, the Christian Life Commission has compiled a new resource. It is a six-page document titled "On Alcohol & Drug Use: A Biblical Perspective." (It does not deal with prescription drug abuse; we hope to do something soon on that subject.)
In American culture alcohol use is common. Advertising associates drinking with good times, parties, and beautiful people. It may not, however, be as widely consumed as sometimes perceived. The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health said 70.1 percent of people reported they drank alcoholic beverages in the past year; 56.0 percent reported that they drank in the past month. That's most Americans, but almost half of Americans steered clear of alcohol over the previous month.
Still, the negative consequences of alcohol abuse are staggering. According the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, here are some of the stats:
- An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and physical inactivity.
- In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths (31 percent of overall driving fatalities).
- In 2010, alcohol misuse cost the United States $249.0 billion.
- Three-quarters of the total cost of alcohol misuse is related to binge drinking.
- More than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems.
It’s important to protect children, teens
by Ferrell Foster on May 14, 2019 in clc
We protect children and teenagers because they are a gift from God and a blessing to the world. As they grow, however, they are vulnerable because of their size and stages of development. Children and teens need adults to care for and protect them as they grow.
Not all societies have placed a high value on young life and the importance of protecting them. Even in the United States, child labor laws had to be enacted to protect children and young teens from being exploited. We also make sure children and teens get a basic education, that young ones are safely secured in vehicles, that children are treated properly by parents, and that no adult is allowed to be involved sexually with someone under age 17.
While not all cultures protect children and teens in the way the current American society does, Scripture sets forth the high value God places on young people. (The Bible was written in a time and place when children were seen as "coming of age" at 13; in our society, with its growing complexity, that age is more generally seen as about 17 or 18, and various laws reflect that increase.)...
Texas schools on track to receive financial infusion
by Guest Author on May 9, 2019 in clc
By Girien Salazar
One of the top bipartisan legislative priorities, this session, has been improving the Texas public school system by increasing funding. As we approach the end of the session, Texas public schools are on track to receive a major financial investment. While both parties agree on the need to increase school funding, there are still many differences to work out between what the House and Senate want to see in the school finance bill.
Currently, HB 3 is in conference committee where select members will work together to hash out the differences between the House and Senate version of the bill. Texas voters still have the opportunity to encourage their elected officials to support an equitable school finance system.
More than 90 percent of Texas school children will attend Texas public schools. Increasing quality and funding for public schools is critical to having a highly skilled workforce and building a healthy Texas economy.
HB 3 would increase the basic per-pupil allotment for all school districts (from $5,140 to $5,880), which will inject $9 billion dollars into the school finance system. Texas needs a school finance system that propels students out of poverty and helps all students reach their full potential...
Under the Pink Dome the Days Are Few: An Update on Some CLC Legislative Priorities
by Kathryn Freeman on April 26, 2019 in clc
The end of the legislative session is in sight and while there is still time, the days are getting longer and the chances of getting bills out of committee are getting smaller. This is an update on some of the CLC priority bills, where they are in the process and how you can help get them over the finish line.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE ...
PRO-LIFE LEGISLATION ...
PAYDAY LENDING ...
You can help.
Above all else, please pray for the CLC and our lobby team that we would be wise, gentle, reasonable, and unwavering in our work to pursue the common good while representing a biblical worldview in accordance to James 3:16-17...
Ministry impacts lives of mothers, families in Slovakia
by Guest Author on April 25, 2019 in hunger offering
By Abby Hopkins
In Slovakia, the Roma are a minority known for living in poverty. Education barriers create challenges for individuals to finish school and break the cycles of poverty.
Roma Health & Hunger, a Texas Baptist Hunger Offering partner, is meeting this need by providing resources within the education system. From mothers to their children, the work of this ministry is helping Roma families succeed and thrive.
Hunger Offering funds are specifically used for higher education scholarship funds as well as for lunches and snacks for a preschool program. This ministry unites the body of Christ to meet the needs of Roma people and display the glory of God....
An announcement letter from Ali
by Ali Corona on April 5, 2019 in clc
It’s with excitement and sadness that I inform you of some news. After four years of having the true privilege of serving as the hunger and care ministries specialist at the CLC, I will be transitioning to a new position as a crisis counselor in Marble Falls.
Words do not feel adequate for how grateful I am for every person whom I’ve had the honor to know and work alongside in this ministry. Thank you doesn’t seem to suffice.
I will serve as an adult outreach counselor at Highland Lakes Family Crisis Center, close in proximity to our church, First Baptist Church of Marble Falls. I will be working with individuals dealing with trauma while pursuing my credentials as a licensed clinical social worker. I hope to gain a better understanding of trauma-informed care and learn to walk with people on their healing journeys. I covet your prayers in this new chapter of my life.
The change is very bittersweet. These past four years have changed my life. I love and believe in the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, the CLC, and the Texas Baptist family. I hold dear so many beautiful memories across Texas and around the world. I have learned a great deal from numerous churches and ministries impacting their communities with beauty, justice, and restoration.
I can’t help but think of Paul’s words to the church of Philippi: “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5, CSB).
Thank you, Dr. Reyes, Dr. Foster, and Dr. Hardage for giving this Tennessean a chance. Shout out to Marilyn, Kathryn, Rebecca, and everyone else who are more than coworkers, they are family.
Thank you, colleagues and friends, for your encouragement to me personally, and more importantly, your desire to pursue the call to justice, mercy, and equality.
Donna Burney shows that everyone can advocate
by Kathryn Freeman on March 22, 2019 in clc
Donna Burney is not your typical advocate, after serving as an English professor and then with Woman's Missionary Union, she retired. But, a few years ago, Donna became aware of the uncertainty facing women just released from prison.
The Lord gave Donna a heart for these women and a few years ago, she began “Light in the Gap” ministry. Volunteers literally meet women in the gap of time between their old lives as prisoners and their new lives in their communities.
Since its founding only a few years ago, Light in the Gap volunteers have met some 4,000 recently release women at the bus stops in their towns. They bring cookies and bags filled with toiletries and a devotional. During the winter they bring coats. But mostly, they bring Christ’s love and hope to women who feel forgotten and a deep sense of shame about their pasts.
Donna saw through her ministry an injustice, one that the hugs and prayers, while powerful, could not correct.
She reached out to the Christian Life Commission and asked for our help. The women Donna was ministering to needed an advocate to stand in the gap for them. The women needed their elected officials to step in and get the government agency responsible to change its policy. Donna met me in Austin, and we went to meet the men and women with the power to change the policy.
Before our first meeting, we prayed for God, our advocate, to stand in the gap for us, to give our words power and to give us favor with those we were to meet. And He did!...
Jesus calls us to break cycles of revenge
by Ferrell Foster on March 22, 2019 in clc
Two thousand years ago Jesus put his heal on the notion of revenge. “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:38-39, CSB).
This sounds wonderful until you are the one slapped; then it gets personal. I was taught by a Christ-following dad that if someone hit me, I was to hit him back. It was a reflection of the practical rural wisdom he grew up with, not with what Jesus taught.
Revenge gets embedded in us early. And here’s the interesting thing, revenge is related to justice. That’s the point of the eye-for-an-eye instruction in the Old Testament. It actually limited punishment to an equal response for an offense. In other words, if someone steals my cow, I’m not supposed to go and kill his son. I’m supposed to seek a just recompense -- one of his cows, or maybe more than one cow as a punishment.
Even though eye-for-an-eye justice is limiting, you can see how it metastasizes, especially when individuals or groups seek to exert what they think is a fair punishment, not what some external authority thinks is just.
This happens over and over on the global stage. An interesting article in The Washington Posttalks about how white supremacists and Muslim fundamentalists are feeding off of one another....
Texas children are dying in unsafe Texas homes
by Ferrell Foster on March 4, 2019 in christian life commission
Our Texas governor said something during his State of the State address in January that should not have been shocking, but still it is. “Last year, more than 100 children died in our Child Protective System.”
It should not have shocked us because this is not new. In fiscal year 2017, Texas had “172 confirmed child abuse and neglect-related fatalities,” according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. And that was a decrease from 2016, when 222 died.
Here are the death totals from 2010-2015: 227, 231, 212, 156, 151, and 171. That’s 1,542 deaths from 2010 until the end of the Texas fiscal year Aug. 31, 2017. We are now 18 months beyond that point.
As Gov. Abbott said, “The primary goal of government is to keep its citizens safe and secure.”
We are not doing that well enough. In 2017, 238,600 children were assigned for investigation or “alternative response” by Child Protective Services. That is a lot of children. That’s 3.18 percent of the 7.5 million Texas children....
A Time to Mourn, a Time to Repent
by Ali Corona on February 12, 2019 in clc
Abuse is evil. The Houston Chronicle’s recent series of articles about sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention sheds some light on this pervasive problem in churches.
This is a watershed moment, and it is also an opportunity for Southern Baptists to step up and walk the narrow path of repentance and change.
I am inspired by survivors like Debbie Vasquez and David Pittman, their stories were featured in the article, who courageously share with the world about their traumatic experiences. They speak truth to prevent the same thing from happening to others.
Their stories are heart-wrenching and infuriating, and unfortunately, they are nothing new to the church. I know multiple women and men who were sexually assaulted by church leaders as children. While healing is possible, the trauma of abuse ravages people physically, mentally, and emotionally for years and decades.
This is our opportunity to listen to survivors and mourn together.
Stories like Heather Schneider’s are haunting. Churches have the opportunity to listen to her mom, Gwen Casados, about her abuse and suicide and hear from survivors in our communities. Survivors are everywhere, including our churches. In the broader U.S. culture, one in three women and one in six menhave experienced sexual abuse in their lifetime.
We can step up, listen, and learn from survivors; their voices and stories matter the most....
What should a church do if someone reports sexual abuse?
by Ferrell Foster on February 12, 2019 in clc
Sometimes it is hard to acknowledge what we know to be real. Such is the case with sexual abuse that happens in churches or by a church leader or volunteer.
It is real. It is tragic. It is devastating to lives. It is damaging to the cause of Christ.
The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News have partnered in producing a three-part series on sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches. This is not the kind of news any Southern Baptist wants to read, but it is exactly the kind that we must read.
Reporting possible crimes
Any charge of sexual misconduct should be taken seriously. If it involves possible criminal activity, law enforcement should be immediately contacted. Keeping it quiet within the church is not a option.
If we think a store has been broken into, we call the police. If we think money has been embezzled, we contact authorities. If there is any indication a sexual assault has been committed, a church needs to report it.
The wise approach to any instance of alleged sexual abuse or assault is to call the police, says Kathryn Freeman, the Christian Life Commission’s director of public policy. Reporting such crimes is also the law in Texas....
Encouraged by pro-life events in D.C. and Austin
Two events on two successive weekends have encouraged me. In mid-January, I witnessed busloads of people streaming into Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life. One week later, I listened to thousands of people cheer during Austin’s Rally for Life.
Both events attracted large numbers of students and young adults. There’s an enormous concern evidenced by the thousands of students lifting up the importance and value of life.
A message can be gleaned from this -- pro-life supporters are not going away. And more and more pro-lifers understand that it is not just about abortion; we want to promote the value of human life from conception to natural death.
Children before birth are among the most vulnerable among us, but many women who are carrying these children are in vulnerable positions, as well. We need broad cultural understanding, support systems, and legal frameworks within which we promote the health of all children and their mothers.
In speaking at the Austin event, I noted that Texas Baptists believe every person is created in the image of God and, therefore, deserves our respect and honor from conception.
After reading Psalms 139:13-16 in both English and Spanish, I called for all Texans to work together in . . ...
King had the 'audacity' to be 'other-centered'
by Ali Corona on January 17, 2019 in clc
In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. declared:
I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up.
Merriam Webster’s Thesaurus lists shameless boldness as the best synonym for the word audacity.
Dr. King embodied righteous audacity as he proclaimed that every person regardless of race, country, or creed has the right to a full and healthy life despite the realities of oppression in the world.
Is this not the very essence of faith in Christ? Despite darkness, light wins. Despite oppression, freedom prevails. Despite hunger, people eat in abundance. The first shall be last. This audacious faith seems fitting for people who believe the God of the Universe became human in order to save the entire world from sin and evil.
In Texas, one in four children struggle with hunger. Our state ranks last -- 51st (50 states plus the District of Columbia) -- in terms of health care coverage. Thirty-one percent of Texans under 65 do not have health insurance and have barriers to adequate healthcare....
God calls Christians to the divine work of pursuing justice
by Ferrell Foster on January 17, 2019 in clc
The “arc of the moral universe ... is bending toward justice.”
These are now famous words, but are they true? What do you see when you do a personal memory scan of what you know about history. Some of us may see an arc toward justice; others of us may wonder.
We surely have not arrived at complete justice in the United States.
We live in a nation of laws, which is a huge step toward greater justice, but those laws are not always justly applied across economic and racial divides.
We live in a nation of inclusiveness that promotes justice for all persons without regard to race or ethnicity, but still bigotry and racism flourish in both language and violence.
Justice and injustice -- both are real.
Scripture makes it clear that God is just and wants justice. One reason some people miss this is that in Scripture the words translated as justice or righteousness are often the same words in Hebrew or Greek...
Young people have their reasons for leaving church
by Ferrell Foster on January 15, 2019 in clc
Symptoms, we call them. When I can't stop coughing, it's an indication something is wrong in my lungs. When my truck will not start, there's something wrong under the hood. When young people drop out of church, there's something wrong. Dropping out is a symptom.
It’s not really news that many young adults stop attending church regularly after high school. New numbers show the situation is actually a little better now than 10 years ago.
But if we care about the people these numbers represent and the teenagers who are following them, then the reasons why they leave are very important.
Top five reasons for dropping out:
Moved to college
Judgmental or hypocritical church members
Disconnected from people in church
Disagreed with church’s political/social issues stance
Work responsibilities prevented attendance
Seeking asylum: The migrant caravan and the crisis along the border
by Kathryn Freeman on November 21, 2018 in clc
In the book of Exodus, a caravan of Israelites set out from Egypt to their new home in Canaan. They faced many challenges on their journey. Some groups along the way met them with kindness, while others failed to offer any grace.
In Deuteronomy 23:4, God bans Ammonites and Moabites from entering the assembly because of their failure to meet the Israelites with food and water in the desert. In Deuteronomy 10, God reminds the Israelites of His love for the foreigner and commands them to love the foreigner because they were once foreigners in Egypt.
Obviously, America is not Israel, and the same prescriptions placed on followers of Christ do not apply to a sovereign nation. Still, we presently face our own caravans. We can apply biblical principles to our personal responses as we seek to think biblically and consider just policy solutions.
Before discussing policy reforms, it is important to understand some basics about the immigration system. As followers of Christ we should not to bear false witness in our speech. Over the last several weeks we have been bombarded with news stories about a “diseased” migrants, “invading hordes,” “terrorists,” and “drug dealers.” These news reports have sensationalized this issue to stoke fear on this side of the border.
This blog post includes basic facts about the process for seeking asylum in the U.S. and how some of those in the migrant caravan might be allowed to legally stay in the U.S. In a second post, I will include some policy ideas that enhance border security and improve the process for seeking asylum...
Boys behaving badly -- turn to Proverbs for help
by Ferrell Foster on September 19, 2018 in clc
Boys behaving badly has become all too common. Sometimes it lands a boy in the news immediately, and sometimes it takes decades for the misdeeds to surface.
There is probably no common saying more ridiculous and unhelpful than “boys will be boys.” It reflects a determinism that leaves no room for the shaping of young male lives. Boys will, of course, be boys if left to their own devices, if they have no positive role models, if they are not given any instruction about how a boy ought to behave. And one result is that many men continue to behave as boys throughout their lives.
Why do we not hear the phrase “girls will be girls” to excuse their bad behavior? There are two possible reasons. Either we think boys are naturally bad and girls are naturally good, or we think girls’ bad behavior should not be defended. I think it’s more of the latter. Adults often do a nudge-nudge-wink-wink to boys’ bad behavior but shake their heads in rebuke at girls’ bad behavior.
Attitudes, fortunately, are changing. Boys and men are being held more accountable for bad behavior.
The “me too” movement has been necessitated by the reality that many boys and men have behaved as sexual animals free to pursue whatever satisfaction they like. They should never have felt such freedom, and it is good they now are being held accountable.
Instruction is a key. It does not guarantee right behavior, but it surely makes it more likely, especially if an example of good behavior lives in the same household. It surely is wise to help boys and man-boys to learn God’s truths about life and living well.
Of course, it’s also wise to help girls and girl-women to learn this.
We need help.
Proverbs! Turn to Proverbs!...
Hunger Offering ministry provides clean water, shares news of living water
by Guest Author on September 13, 2018 in hunger offering
By Abby Hopkins
Millions of people lack access to safe water in one country of sub-Saharan Africa. Within rural areas, many women and children walk more than three hours to collect water.
A married American couple recognized this need after several short-term trips to this African nation with their church and felt the Lord calling them to action.
“The need for water was the number one need constantly expressed by the people there,” said the husband, whom we need to keep anonymous.
They moved permanently to a rural part of the country to begin a ministry there. About half a million people reside in this area, with 90 percent not having access to clean water, he said.
The ministry conducts water projects in different communities, coordinating everything through local and national governments. So far, 15 water projects have been administered. The projects include water wells, WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) trainings and maintenance trainings for committee members of each community...
Red Church, Blue Church: Why Christians Need to Avoid Hyper Partisanship
by Kathryn Freeman on September 6, 2018 in clc
During the Texas Baptist Family Gathering, I led a workshop about how Christians can steward their public witness in an age of increasing tribalism. While the workshop room was packed, I think there are lessons from my workshop that deserve a broader audience because I am increasingly alarmed by the polarization in the church and what it is doing to our ability to make disciples. Many Christians are struggling within themselves to keep their partisan identities secondary to their identities as followers of Jesus Christ and it has lead to increased conflicts among believers.
According to a recent report by Lifeway, more than half of Protestant churchgoers under age 50 say they prefer to attend church with people who share their political views and few churchgoers say they attend services with people of a different political persuasion.
The increased partisan rancor in our country will have dire consequences. The church is following the culture rather than modeling how those of different political inclinations, races, genders, socioeconomic backgrounds can work together for the common good.Christians are increasingly moving to opposing corners based on politics, and our churches and our gospel witness is suffering because we have put our allegiance to our political parties before our allegiance to Christ and each other.
Unity does not mean uniformity. Democrats and Republicans -- not to mention partisans from Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America -- will be in heaven. Civic engagement and advocacy are important parts of what it means to be an American citizen, but we are first citizens of another kingdom, and must keep things in their proper order.
My pastor’s wife puts it this way, “Keep the main thing the main thing.” We are so beholden to our respective political parties we have lost sight of the main thing, namely the kingdom of God and our responsibility to make disciples.
Here are four pitfalls of the partisan trap for Christians and some suggestions for avoiding them...
Rio Grande Valley ministry bridges education gap
by Guest author on August 14, 2018 in hunger offering
Education is a valued process of growth and development in pivotal years of one’s life, yet it is not always accessible. As a new school year begins, many are unable to afford the costs of learning...
Small town life and the Great Commandment
by Guest Author on August 7, 2018 in clc
By Chris McLain
I can’t speak for those living in urban contexts, but in Crowell it matters whether you’re native-born or a transplant from elsewhere.
Let me explain. It’s not that new people who move into our community are any less welcome or loved than the locals, but their experience of small-town life is certainly different.
Many of the folks who grew up here have large, extended families of several generations nearby. That makes for a broad support system and relational community year-round (and the convenience of avoiding holiday traffic is no small benefit either).
The “new Crowell” folks are much more likely to feel isolated in our close-knit community. It can be difficult to make new friends because “old Crowell” folks already have established networks of family and friends.
That means it’s especially important for folks in Crowell to be neighborly. And, as a pastor, I’m partial to the notion that Christians are specially called and gifted to meet that need.
Scripture really goes further; it’s a command. Remember Jesus’ two-sided “great commandment” to love God and to love neighbor. Jesus was picking up on two Old Testament passages, so this goes back early in God’s dealing with mankind...
World-changing relationships are built with healthy conversations
by Elizabeth Biedrzycki on July 26, 2018 in clc
I hold to a pretty radical belief. I believe relationships can change the world and selfless, meaningful, healthy conversations can change relationships. And I believe the opposite to be true, as well. Relationships can destroy the world and selfish, empty, unhealthy conversations can damage relationships.
We live in a time when relationships are often built upon transactional, self-serving motives. And when so many conversations take place online or via electronic devices -- giving a false impression of community and relational fortitude -- our commitment to being thoughtful about such things should be flourishing and not dwindling.
Our cultural vehicles of conversation are computers and phones powered by data plans and wifi. Using these, it is easy for conversations to be merely talking void of listening. We have the power to share our opinions without recognition of the impact (negative or positive) we have made on the person staring back at their own screen. This reality is creating a generation of advocates who care deeply about causes, yet who are not necessarily being taught to listen deeply to the hearts of others. I say this as one overcoming that generational hurdle myself.
Navigating an increasingly polarized society in our country has proven messy for the church. Overly politicized and commercialized issues are the drivers for our forums, even for Christians, heightening the danger of neglected relationships. And, therefore, perpetuating intrinsic systemic issues in our culture.
But what if our power structures and communities were renewed by the example of the Trinity, where mutuality and communion bind individuals together? What would change about our neighborhoods, boardrooms, city halls, and churches? What would change about our social, economic, political, and family systems?...
Hunger Offering cultivates crops, community, church in Democratic Republic of the Congo
by Guest Author on July 17, 2018 in hunger offering
By Jaclyn R. Bonner
In a country where severe food insecurity increased by 30 percent last year, affecting 7.7 million people, imagine reducing chronic malnutrition among the most vulnerable -- pregnant women, children under 5 years old, and the elderly -- and creating food security for rural communities in one of the world’s least developed countries.*
These solutions do not come easily. Problems are complex in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It is the second largest country in Africa and ranked seventh on the 2017 Fragile States Index.* Despite the nation’s instability and broken structures, the local church and leaders in the region have a vision for their people.
Deep in the heart of fertile Eastern DRC, 430 churches from three provinces are coming together to bolster a sustainable farming endeavor -- permaculture. Permaculture is an agricultural practice designed to break the cycle of poverty by diversifying crops, increasing control over production, and generating more income. ...
Transformation in West Dallas: Hunger Offering gifts feed the hungry, promote holistic change
by Guest Author on June 22, 2018 in hunger offering
By Jaclyn Bonner
The traditional American narrative boasts that anyone can make it if he or she works hard. But the social systems and economic stratum one is born into can often exclude a person from having an opportunity to attain the “American dream.”
West Dallas denizens face a challenging situation. Generational poverty is commonplace in the 11 square miles of Zip code 75212. “More than one of every three families lives below the federal poverty level,” reports Brother Bill’s Helping Hand, a Texas Baptist Hunger Offering ministry that has worked in the community for 75 years.
Unemployment in West Dallas is at 10.5 percent, double the Texas unemployment rate, and 45 percent of West Dallas households earn less than $25,000 annually. More than half of West Dallas adults did not complete high school. The average pre-K child has a vocabulary of 1,500 to 2,000 words, compared to the 5,000 to 7,000-word vocabulary of children living in more affluent Dallas neighborhoods.
Moreover, a health crisis, job loss, and/or family tragedy can drastically change a household’s economic status, creating food insecurity and leading directly to poverty.
In 2015, Elaine Rodriguez* took a medical leave of absence from her work. Dealing with health complications and less income, Elaine and her husband, Jacob*, members of Bill Harrod Memorial Baptist Church, had difficulty putting food on the table....
A good 'neighbor' shows mercy -- to anyone
by Ferrell Foster on June 20, 2018 in clc
Every adult knows the value of neighbors. Good ones make life better; bad ones create constant stress...
Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission Explained
by Kathryn Freeman on June 5, 2018 in clc
Monday, the Supreme Court decided Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission in a 7-2 decision in favor of Masterpiece and its owner, Jack Phillips. While Phillips asked the Supreme Court to consider his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion, the Court actually only addressed his free exercise claim. ...
EL MINISTERIO CONTRA EL TRÁFICO HUMANO, HECHO CON HUMILDAD, FLUYE DEL MANDATO DE JESÚ
by Guest Author on May 24, 2018 in clc
Siempre he querido ser una persona que tenga un impacto en el mundo. Aun hoy tengo esto en la cabeza constantemente, pues el lema de mi universidad es: “Lo que empieza aquí, cambia al mundo&rdquo...
MURPHY VS NCAA: ¿SE LEGALIZARÁN LAS APUESTAS DEPORTIVAS EN TEXAS?
by Guest Author on May 23, 2018 in clc
En una resolución histórica el lunes bajo el rubro Murphy vs NCAA, la Corte Suprema de los EE.UU. abolió la ley de Apuestas en Deportes Profesionales y Amateur (PASPA, por sus siglas en inglés), una ley que de manera efectiva prohibía las apuestas deportivas en la mayoría de los estados alrededor del país desde hace 25 años....
Murphy v. NCAA: Is Sports Gambling Coming to Texas?
by Guest Author on May 18, 2018 in clc
By Caleb Seibert
In a landmark decision Monday entitled Murphy v. NCAA, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Betting Act (PASPA), a law that effectively eliminated legal sports betting in most states around the country for 25 years.
The case pitted the State of New Jersey (Gov. Philip Murphy) against the National Collegiate Athletic Association and three professional sports leagues.
The court found that the law violated the “anti-commandeering” principle drawn from the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. This principle holds that Congress may pass laws that must be upheld by states, but it may not issue direct orders to state governments requiring them to take certain state legislative action.
This decision does not immediately legalize sports betting across the country, but it does allow states to legalize such activity in their state if they wish to do so.
As for the effect in Texas, Rob Kohler, a Christian Life Commission consultant, says, "The recent decision by the Supreme Court regarding gambling on sporting events really has no effect on the current gambling regulations in the State of Texas.” The current leadership of Texas has repeatedly rejected efforts to expand gambling in our state. Kohler concludes: “it will however, energize proponents of this, and other forms of gambling expansion in Texas in the upcoming legislative session in January 2019...
“Greeted with hope”: North Texas ministry empowers, serves mothers
by Guest Author on April 30, 2018 in hunger offering
By Abby Hopkins
In 2017, 123 young women considering abortion came to a ministry in Decatur. After receiving loving assistance from Wise Choices Pregnancy Care Center, 103 of these “abortion-minded” women chose life, and the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering is playing a role in serving these new families.
“These girls are absolutely heroes. Choosing to love the child, even when it’s hard – it’s what motherhood is all about,” said Connie Wyatt, CEO of Wise Choices.
Wise Choices is a Texas Baptist Hunger Offering ministry that seeks to empower families throughout a woman’s pregnancy and for the first year of the baby’s life by giving hope.
“We meet them where they are. When they make the choice for life, they’re not in it alone,” Wyatt said...
Marriage commitment leads to joy; adultery to anguish
by Ferrell Foster on April 26, 2018 in clc
I recently spoke to a college class and early on said something I had not planned to say. It went something like this:
“I’ve been married 38 years, and I wish more people could know how wonderful it is to have shared so much of life with the same person. My wife and I know each other in ways that only time makes possible.”
It wasn’t much, but it was a celebration of years of love and commitment. And I went on to other things. At the end of class I asked what had stuck in their minds. One woman said, “What you said about your marriage.”
Since then, Trese and I have celebrated our 39th anniversary. We did so at The Oasis restaurant overlooking Lake Travis -- a beautiful place on a beautiful night with my beautiful lady. I call her Lady Trese and my daughters princesses. Forgive me if I’m hokey. (My sons don’t get called princes; that just seems odd.)
I hope something of the beauty of marriage comes through.
Marriage in general, however, is struggling today. Many people are living together sexually without marriage, and many others have broken their marriage vows of sexual faithfulness.
I focus here on the adultery -- married people having extramarital affairs. It seems to be growing, as countless public figures are being outed for screwing around, and some of them are supposed to be Christian leaders. It may be growing, but it is not new...
From Revolving Door to Highway of Redemption: The Church’s Response to 'Second Chance Month'
by Guest Author on April 23, 2018 in clc
By Caleb Seibert
This month, the Christian Life Commission joined Gov. Greg Abbott and several groups to declare April “Second Chance Month” for formerly incarcerated individuals. Second Chance Month is an opportunity to highlight the challenges of formerly incarcerated individuals and their families and to share stories of redemption for those who have successfully overcome their criminal pasts.
Nearly 70,000 people are released from Texas state prisons every year, but most churches have little to no interaction with them. These people and their families often face a mountain of obstacles to re-entry ranging from work barriers and criminal debt to the deep stigmatization that comes with their past experiences.
Research by Lifeway Publishing in Nashville seems to echo this sentiment. After polling 1,000 Protestant churches, Lifeway found that 31 percent said no former inmates attended their church, 36 percent said one or two former inmates attended, and only 33 percent indicated three or more former inmates attending their church.
Hebrews 13:3 says to “remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them.” How can Christians remember those who are in prison and those who have been released?
Here are four practical suggestions for ministry . . ...
Human trafficking ministry, done in humility, flows from Jesus’ commands
by Guest Author on April 16, 2018 in clc
By Abby Hopkins
I have always wanted to be a world changer. Even now I am constantly reminded of this goal at my university, where our motto is, “What starts here changes the world.”
I believe God has given me this desire for change and justice in the world for a reason, and I am so thankful for the passions He has placed in my heart. Lately, God has caused me to desire a platform of change that centers on Him, rather than on myself.
Over Spring Break, I traveled to New York City with other college students from my church. It was a large group, but we were split into breakout teams with specific focuses for the week. My group’s focus was anti-human trafficking, so we met with three different non-profit organizations that work to end trafficking.
One of the primary lessons God taught me throughout the trip was the need for Christians to love people in a way that prevents them from being exploited. Traffickers target the vulnerable. People who are often overlooked, unloved, and underserved are often the most vulnerable. So, one of the best things we can do for people is love and serve them.
Jesus spoke to this point in Mark 9:35 when He said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.&rdquo...
Bless This Meal: A Biblical Perspective
by Ali Corona on April 16, 2018 in clc
By Ali Corona
He may have felt insignificant -- a young boy walking home with a basket of lunch for his family -- five small loaves and two fish.
With a glance toward heaven and a heartfelt prayer, Jesus multiplied a few parcels into a lavish feast for a crowd that was hungry for spiritual and physical nourishment.
All four gospels recount this important moment in history. The sight of the unseen Kingdom colliding with the world must have made a deep impression on each of their hearts and minds.
Today, an estimated 795 million people around the world are undernourished. In Texas, 1 in 6 families are unable to put meals on their tables everyday. Hunger, both physical and spiritual, is devastating...
Tribute to MLK: Where do We Go From Here? Toward King’s Dream of Justice for All
by Kathryn Freeman on April 5, 2018 in clc
April 4 marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The CLC asked several Texas Baptists to write on aspects of Dr. King’s ministry and influence. This is the sixth article.
By Kathryn Freeman
On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Dr. King had come to Memphis to join the city’s black sanitation workers in their fight for better working conditions and better pay after two of their co-workers were crushed to death by a malfunctioning truck.
Sanitation workers were working full-time and still forced to rely on government programs to feed their families. Dr. King joined these workers in their fight for economic justice and dignity, because “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Dr. King gave his life to the fight against inequality out a deep reverence for the command found in Micah 6:8, “to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.” He was a drum major for justice, galvanizing people of all ages and races to walk with him toward fulfilling the American promise of freedom and justice for all.
Dr. King’s dream was born out of his study of Scripture and his work as a pastor at Dexter Avenue and Ebenezer Baptist churches. He frequently echoed the call of Amos to “let justice roll down like a river;” the words of Jesus, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees. . . who have neglected the more important matters of the law -- justice, mercy and faithfulness;” and of the Apostle Paul’s “Macedonian call.” Dr. King’s notion of justice and equality and the Christian response to it is profoundly biblical...
Tribute to MLK: Love for All Stands as the Foundation
by Guest Author on April 5, 2018 in clc
April 4 marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The CLC asked several Texas Baptists to write on aspects of Dr. King’s ministry and influence. This is the fifth article.
By John D. Ogletree, Jr.
One of the greatest demonstrations of love in American history came through the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. The irony of this statement is that during the Civil Rights Movement he was no doubt the most hated man in America. Love, however, was his antidote for hate.
Dr. King was a fighter for equality yet a proponent of nonviolence. In 1960, in a speech to college students, he gave five tenets on the philosophy of nonviolence. The second one speaks on the ethic of love. It states:
“A second basic fact in this philosophy is the consistent refusal to inflict injury upon another. The highest expression of non-injury is love. This love means that you center your attention on the evil system and not the evil doer.”
Twentieth century philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation, of which King was a member. Royce coined the term, “The Beloved Community.” King popularized the term and gave it deeper meaning that was embraced by a broad group of people in the Civil Rights Movement. To King, the goal of the Beloved Community was to have a critical mass of people who would be committed to and trained in the philosophy of nonviolence.
The core value of the Beloved Community to Dr. King was agape love. ...
Tribute to MLK: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’
by Guest Author on April 4, 2018 in clc
Today, April 4, marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The CLC has asked several Texas Baptists to write on aspects of Dr. King’s ministry and influence. This is the fourth article.
By Kyle Childress
“I am a man,” said the signs carried by sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, 50 years ago. Sanitation workers were on strike from the Memphis’ public works department demanding that the city treat them like human beings. All of them were black and most of them made 65 cents a day loading and driving the garbage trucks for the people of Memphis.
A couple of months before, during a major downpour, two workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, took shelter in the back of a sanitation truck to eat their lunch. An electrical malfunction caused the compactor to operate, compacting the men along with all of the garbage and killing them.
The injustice of such a system further underscored the grief and tragedy when the city refused to compensate their families. Eleven days later 1,300 black sanitation workers walked off the job. At the heart of the protest was the simple assertion that the workers were human beings and should be treated with the dignity of being human. They were not garbage. Hence, the signs, “I am a man.” . . .
That last night in Memphis, King preached, “And so the first question that the priest asked -- the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’” King continued, “That’s the question before you tonight… Not, ‘If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?’ The question is, ‘If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?’ That’s the question.”
That’s still the question...
Tribute to MLK: The Meaning of Community
by Guest Author on April 4, 2018 in clc
As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the brutal assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., we must acknowledge that his hopes for a unified nation continue to be a dream that the people of the 21st century must strive to attain...
Tribute to MLK: God is at Work in History
by Guest Author on April 3, 2018 in clc
April 4 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The CLC has asked several Texas Baptists to write on aspects of Dr. King’s ministry and influence.
By Tamiko Jones
Baptist minister. Civil rights activist. Drum major for justice. Martyr. Christian.
Of all the titles used to describe Martin Luther King, Jr., one should consider the preeminent title to be that of Christian. Dr. King once stated:
“Christianity affirms that at the heart of reality is a Heart, a loving Father who works through history for the salvation of His children. Man cannot save himself, for man is not the measure of all things and humanity is not God. Bound by the chains of his own sin and finiteness, man needs a Savior.”
King recognized the hand of God throughout history and that everything in history led up to the time in which Dr. King lived. ...
Tribute to MLK: The Heart of Black Preaching, a Prophetic Word
by Guest Author on April 2, 2018 in clc
April 4 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The CLC has asked several Texas Baptists to write on aspects of Dr. King's ministry and influence.
By Joseph R. Fields
Martin Luther King, Jr., demonstrated to the world that you find the soul of a prophet at the heart of black preaching.
Dr. King served churches in Montgomery, Alabama, and Atlanta only a short time (1954-1968), but the impact of his preaching stretched around the world and continues in time.
In 1979, Henry H. Mitchell wrote, “Fifty years ago, the African American (or Black) preaching tradition was looked down upon, even scorned by Western (or White) culture and indeed by many black intellectuals and some self-styled radicals young and old.”
Black preaching was viewed as an unstructured, emotional outburst of uninformed rhetoric, devoid of value to the masses and relegated to the culture into which it was born.
The world is richer because, by the will of God, the sentiments of yesteryear regarding black preaching have taken a turn for the better. As humanity takes time to pause and to reflect upon Dr. King’s life, it should not escape our attention that he helped to turn the tide for black preaching to be accepted and to be seen as a prophetic voice to which God has given breath...
The Gospel, Gentrification, and Shalom
by Guest Author on March 6, 2018 in clc espanol
By Bryant Lee
The word “gentrification” is akin to “cancer” in many communities for those who have given their lives to challenges and concerns of these neighborhoods. The reality is that communities are always evolving into new shapes and forms as new people, businesses, ministries, and development change the cultural landscape.
I hear the words of Jeremiah ringing in my ears from church planters to well-established pastors. However, I often sit with multiple community investors who harbor a sense of discomfort and disappointment with the changing context. When offering counsel, the question that must be answered, is what does God want? Does God care for those new residents as much as the existing residents and how do we live together to the glory of God?...
Our First Freedom: What You Need To Know About Religious Liberty
by Guest Author on March 5, 2018 in clc
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...
MLK: Ultimately, Good Friday gives way to the triumph of Easter
by Ferrell Foster on February 28, 2018 in clc
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...
Book Excerpt: Leadership in the Black Church
by Guest Author on February 23, 2018 in clc
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...
A Call to Action and Prayer this Valentine’s Day
by Ali Hearon Corona on February 7, 2018 in clc
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...
More than meets the eye
by Guest Author on January 22, 2018 in clc
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....
Choosing Faithful Obedience in 2018
by Kathryn Freeman on January 10, 2018 in christian life commission
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...
Four Simple Ways to Celebrate Advent in a Meaningful Way
by Ali Hearon Corona on December 7, 2017 in clc
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...
Sexual harassment needs to be widely addressed at the practical level
by Ferrell Foster on December 7, 2017 in clc
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...
Johnson Amendment protects churches from political manipulation
by Ferrell Foster on November 30, 2017 in clc
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...
by Kathryn Freeman on November 21, 2017 in clc
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...
Hunger Offering partnering with Refuge and Hope for #GivingTuesday
by Guest Author on November 15, 2017 in hunger offering
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.
What do we do in the aftermath of another mass shooting?
by Ferrell Foster on November 6, 2017 in clc
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...
Thank you for dinner, Texas Baptists -- from Uganda
by Guest Author on October 31, 2017 in hunger offering
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...
Reformation is always needed because sin persists in the church
by Ferrell Foster on October 30, 2017 in clc
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...
By This Everyone Will Know
by Ali Hearon Corona on October 26, 2017 in clc
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...
We voyeurs of violence continue to beget real violence
by Ferrell Foster on October 5, 2017 in clc
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...
Any of us could be the next opioid victim
by Ferrell Foster on September 28, 2017 in ethical living blog
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...
CLC’s One conference encourages unity and racial reconciliation among Christians
by Kalie Lowrie on September 8, 2017 in news
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...
Opioid epidemic leaves trail of pain
by Ferrell Foster on August 29, 2017 in clc
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...
White supremacy at odds with Scripture; time to actively reach across racial divides
by Ferrell Foster on August 16, 2017 in clc
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...
Texas Baptist church lives out Isaiah 58
by Guest Author on July 12, 2017 in hunger offering
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.
When church members learned many families in the community face food insecurity and children in local schools are often hungry over the weekends,...
Welcome Neighbor: Hunger Offering Meets Needs, Fosters Community Among Refugees
by Guest Author on July 6, 2017 in hunger offering
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...
Old wolf of racism appears in alt-right sheep's clothing
by Ferrell Foster on June 21, 2017 in clc
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...
Living water brings hope in Southeast Asia
by Guest Author on June 6, 2017 in hunger offering
(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...
Teachers, we thank you for helping us become all that God intended
by Ferrell Foster on May 24, 2017 in clc
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...
Strength and Dignity -- A Mother’s Day Prayer
by Ali Hearon Corona on May 11, 2017 in clc
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.
Satisfying hunger: A Texas Baptist Hunger Offering story
by Analiz Schremmer on May 2, 2017 in great commandment
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...
Hospitality leads us to "make room" -- for God and others
by Ali Hearon Corona on April 25, 2017 in clc
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...
Meeting needs on the border: A Texas Baptist Hunger Offering story
by Kalie Lowrie on April 25, 2017 in great commandment
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...
Finding freedom in prison
by Analiz Schremmer on April 20, 2017 in faith
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...
Pro-life legislation supported by leading pro-life coalition
by Kathryn Freeman on April 17, 2017 in clc press releases
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...
Good Friday takes off the mask of sin
by Ferrell Foster on April 12, 2017 in clc
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...
Texas Baptists churches partner to provide water for struggling Liberian community
by Analiz Schremmer on April 10, 2017 in news
Not everyone has easy access to one of the most basic resources – water.
About 25,000 people in Brewerville, Liberia have to walk five to 10 miles a day to get drinking water. Sometimes, the water isn’t even clean.
Tom Howe, pastor of Birdville Baptist Church, in Fort Worth, learned of the need in Lott Carey Mission (LCM) through the donations his church made to the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering because LCM is one of the recipients.
The church was moved by the need in Liberia and decided to give to the LCM water tower on top of their Texas Baptist Hunger Offering donation.
On March 26, Birdville Baptist partnered with...
Sustainability projects lift Indigenous people out of poverty
by Guest Author on March 16, 2017 in hunger offering
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...
Texas Baptists mobilized to influence lawmakers at 2017 Advocacy Day
by Kalie Lowrie on March 9, 2017 in news
AUSTIN - Christian engagement in politics and culture should be directed by a love of God and practice of discipleship, attendees learned at the recent Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission Advocacy Day.
The event, held at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin on Feb. 28, featured keynote speakers Gabe Lyons, founder of Q and co-author of Good Faith, and Vincent Bacote, associate professor of theology and director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College.
“The purpose of Advocacy Day is to help Christians and particularly Texas Baptists engage in public policy and politics from a biblical worldview,” said...
Texas Baptists joins with FBC Waxahachie to send $10,000 in relief to drought-stricken Kenya
by Kalie Lowrie on February 22, 2017 in news
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...
Becoming Family: Professional development for women transforms lives, fosters relationships
by Guest Author on February 16, 2017 in christian life commission
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.
6 ways to serve refugees
by Guest Author on February 7, 2017 in christian life commission
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...
Bacote: Some practical help to sustain your public witness
by Ferrell Foster on February 3, 2017 in christian life commission
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...
Johnson Amendment protects interests of both church and government
by Kathryn Freeman on February 2, 2017 in christian life commission
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
CLC staff: Perspective on refugee resettlement program changes
by Kathryn Freeman on January 30, 2017 in clc
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...
Dallas teen works to make a difference in community: A Texas Baptist Hunger Offering Story
by Kalie Lowrie on January 12, 2017 in news
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...
Let the joy of Christmas shine from our lives
by Ferrell Foster on December 19, 2016 in clc
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...
CLC director Reyes joins Smart-on-Crime Coalition in encouraging criminal justice reform
by Kalie Lowrie on December 14, 2016 in clc
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...
Share a Message of Hope This Christmas
by Kathryn Freeman on December 8, 2016 in clc
“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,...
How does religious freedom affect starving children in Nigeria?
by Guest Author on November 22, 2016 in clc
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...
After a season of harsh words, may we find new ones to heal
by Ferrell Foster on October 31, 2016 in ethical living blog
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...
Americans care less about personal immorality in politicians
by Ferrell Foster on October 27, 2016 in clc
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...
Last 5th Sunday Hunger Offering of Year and New Video Released
by Ali Hearon on October 18, 2016 in clc
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.
Driving says something about character
by Ferrell Foster on October 12, 2016 in clc
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...
George C. Marshall & the importance of self-mastery
by Ferrell Foster on September 28, 2016 in clc
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...
Hunger Offering turns 20!
by Ali Hearon on September 20, 2016 in clc
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
'Baptists Oppose Constitution' -- what might have been
by Guest Author on September 14, 2016 in clc
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...
Afterschool meals important for students, and churches can help
by Guest Author on September 8, 2016 in clc
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...
Labor Day can help us think about work from a Christian perspective
by Guest Author on August 29, 2016 in clc
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...
Texas’ Child Protection System is Failing our Children
by Guest Author on August 24, 2016 in clc
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...
Five Ways to Bless Your Child’s Teacher
by Guest Author on August 18, 2016 in culture
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...
Like Olympians, Christians are in Training, Too
by Kathryn Freeman on August 10, 2016 in clc
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...
Praying for political leaders makes a difference
by Ferrell Foster on August 3, 2016 in clc
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...
Fearless in the Fight
by Kathryn Freeman on July 28, 2016 in clc
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...
Let Love Be Genuine: A Texas Baptist Hunger Offering Story
by Ali Hearon on July 20, 2016 in clc
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...
Words of peace for our killing days
by Ferrell Foster on July 13, 2016 in war and peace
“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....
Beware of payday loan wolves
by Guest Author on July 7, 2016 in clc
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....
Use missional responses on social media during political season
by Ryan Jespersen on June 30, 2016 in clc
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...
It's not always easy to know right and wrong
by Ferrell Foster on June 23, 2016 in christian living
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...
Dealing with complexity in the aftermath of tragedy
by Ferrell Foster on June 13, 2016 in culture
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...
#YesAllWomen: How the Church Should Reflect Jesus’ Radical Ministry to Women
by Kathryn Freeman on June 9, 2016 in clc
Over the last several days, I have read stories about violence against girls and women with increasing alarm.
Just a snapshot of the headlines:
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...
Many of us share guilt in exalting the false god of football
by Ferrell Foster on June 1, 2016 in christian living
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.
New Life In Christian Community - A Texas Baptist Hunger Offering Story
by Ali Hearon on May 18, 2016 in hunger and poverty
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...
Education inequity should concern Christians
by Ferrell Foster on May 10, 2016 in education
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...
New Hunger Offering video released
by Ali Hearon on May 4, 2016 in clc
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...
Nourishing bodies and minds in Sri Lanka: Texas Baptist Hunger Offering
by Guest Author on May 2, 2016 in great commandment
In villages across Sri Lanka, many mothers struggle with the harsh reality that they are unable to provide healthy food for their children to eat. Many are either too poor to put food on the table consistently, or they don’t know what healthy food is and how nutrition impacts the bodies and minds of their growing children. Children who grow up malnourished are more likely to struggle with illnesses and developmental delays, leading to more medical issues as they get older.
According to UNICEF, nearly one of every five children in Sri Lanka is born with low birth weight and approximately 29 percent of children under five years...
A Christian Response to Reentry
by Douglas Smith on April 27, 2016 in clc
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...
Providing hope and a new start for mothers reentering society
by Kalie Lowrie on April 26, 2016 in great commandment
The first day a mom and her children set foot at Exodus Ministries, they are welcomed into a beautiful, fully-furnished apartment. Each apartment is uniquely decorated by thoughtful volunteers. Each kitchen comes completely stocked with groceries, through support of the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering. Each detail is covered in prayer and the family has everything they need to begin a new life.
Having just been released from incarceration or a residential rehabilitation facility, these mothers often come to the complex with only the clothes on their back. The look of wonder and awe as they take in their new surrounding is Case...
May is a time for celebrating and giving
by Ali Hearon on April 20, 2016 in clc
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...
Good things happening in Marshall and at ETBU
by Ferrell Foster on April 14, 2016 in clc
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...
Now What? What to do the Day After A Life-Changing Experience
by Kathryn Freeman on April 7, 2016 in clc
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...
A journey for justice detailed during Micah 6:8 Conference
by Kalie Lowrie on April 7, 2016 in news
SAN ANTONIO - As Jen Hatmaker described her own journey into becoming passionate about justice issues to attendees at the Micah 6:8 Conference, she detailed an experience of brokenness where she and her husband left their boots at the altar of a church, to be given to homeless people, and walked with barefeet to their car on a cold Easter night. It was a transformational moment which shaped their walk with God and people from that point forward.
The keynote speaker for the inaugural conference, hosted by the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, Hatmaker shared over two days about her experiences advocating for the needs of...
Help That Makes A Difference
by Ali Hearon on March 23, 2016 in clc
(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...
Responding to Same-Sex Issues with Grace and Truth
by Steve Wells on March 15, 2016 in ethical living blog
(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...
Promise & Peril: Preaching Micah 6:8 In 2016 America
by Les Hollon on March 10, 2016 in christian life commission
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...
Christian community development brings Good News to the poor
by Jimmy M. Dorrell on March 1, 2016 in clc
(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
Brokenness is close at hand, but we are together
by Katie Swafford on February 24, 2016 in clc
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...
Predatory lending is unjust because it traps borrowers
by Stephen Reeves on February 17, 2016 in money and work
(Stephen Reeves will lead a workshop titled "Predatory Lending and the Church: Morality, Missions and Advocacy" during the CLC's Micah 6:8 Conference March 31-April 1 at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio.)
Through the prophet Micah, God commands us to do justice. Doing justice is not extra credit; it is not bonus activity or tangential to the Gospel. The work of justice is at the very heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came proclaiming release to those held captive.
Millions of our neighbors are held captive by modern debt-slavery. Predatory lending, in the form of payday and auto title loans, ensnares many...
Let Justice Roll Down
by Michael A. Evans, Sr. on February 10, 2016 in race relations
(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...
The lives of immigrants can be seen in the migrants of Scripture
by Jesús Romero on February 3, 2016 in immigration
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...
In Search of Common Ground: Grand Jury Reform, Black Lives Matter and Pro-Life Advocacy
by Kathryn Freeman on January 28, 2016 in christian life commission
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...
It is good to stand with God in valuing life
by Ferrell Foster on January 20, 2016 in life health dying
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...
Waco ministry digging in the dirt with students
by Ali Hearon on January 12, 2016 in christian life commission
"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...
It's January, but March 1 is coming
by Ferrell Foster on January 5, 2016 in church state
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...
Spoiler Alert: Christ is Returning
by Kathryn Freeman on December 16, 2015 in christian life commission
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 moviespoiler.com 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...
Literacy ministry helps church outreach in communities
by Lester Meriwether on December 9, 2015 in christian life commission
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...
New CLC resources posted online -- biblical perspectives
by Ferrell Foster on December 9, 2015 in human trafficking
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...
Religious liberty and openness at the core of U.S.
by Ferrell Foster on December 8, 2015 in church state
Presidential candidate Donald Trump said Monday we need a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."
It is sad that a candidate for president would say something so contrary to the founding and sustaining principles of this great nation. Religious liberty stands at our nation's core, and openness to immigrants has filled our population with a diverse people unparalleled anywhere on earth. America is at its best when it allows people to pursue their religious beliefs and when it treats all people with respect and dignity.
These principles of...
Merry Christmas from Texas to Europe
by Ferrell Foster on December 2, 2015 in christian life commission
Serbian Baptists have risen up to meet the vast needs of Middle East refugees arriving in their country. Now, a Texas Baptist family is sending $15,000 to help meet the need.
The ongoing work and the new gift are, in a way, a Christmas gift of love to a mostly Muslim people in need. The Texas Baptist Hunger Offering has facilitated the connection between Texas and Europe.
I contacted the European Baptist Federation a few months ago as the migration became prominent news around the world. EBF personnel worked to clearly identify specific ways funds could be used well in addressing the crisis, because we wanted the money to...
Hunger Offering needs are still great
by Ferrell Foster on November 17, 2015 in christian life commission
Hungry people in Texas and around the world need your help. Giving through the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering has dropped greatly this year, but the need has not.
People in poverty need your support now. November has a fifth Sunday, which many churches use to collect Hunger Offering funds. Also direct individual gifts to the offering are being promoted through a Thanksgiving Share-a-Thon. Give by calling toll-free (800) 791-1544 (English or Spanish) or give online at either hungeroffering.org or the Spanish-language site, ofrendacontraelhambre.org.
Through October, Texas Baptists have given $543,518 through the offering. That's a lot...
First Things First
by Kathryn Freeman on November 12, 2015 in clc
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...
My First 90 Days
by Ali Hearon on September 17, 2015 in faith
It is hard to believe today marks exactly three months since I started working for Texas Baptists.
As I reflect on this first quarter at the Christian Life Commission, I cannot help but be grateful for this season of learning and connecting.
This summer has been a whirlwind of conferences across the state, meetings with ministries and associations, and planning for upcoming events and materials. My new role proves itself to be dynamic, exhilarating, and forever stretching -- for which I am exceedingly grateful!
Stepping back from the many moving parts, I am keenly aware of God at work in Texas. With each visit, meeting, or even...
We have a problem with authority
by Ferrell Foster on September 17, 2015 in culture
Two Texas high school football players gained infamy recently when they intentionally and brutally hit an official who had ejected two of their teammates. A week later, another Texas player shoved an official.
Let's simplify this. Everyone comes to a football game to see two teams play; those teams have all of the attention. But the truth is that the officials are in charge. Officials represent the University Interscholastic League, which seeks to promote fair contests of skill and will.
These contests generate a volatile brew of passion, and that passion can lead to anger. Usually it comes out in verbal attacks by fans, parents and...
Two words can say much
by Ferrell Foster on September 10, 2015 in culture
Driving to work in the darkness of the early morning hours, two words captured my attention – "You OK?"
A business owner spoke to National Public Radio about his family-owned business declaring bankruptcy in 2012. The Charlotte Observer published a short story online, and Rodney Player's phone started ringing.
Player's son, who was away at college, saw the news. "He knew things were difficult for us," Player said, and then his sentence kind of fell apart. He seemed to be saying the news surprised his son. Then, "I think the actual filing hit the public airwaves and, you know, he sent me a text, a simple note – you OK?"
Hurting for Law Enforcement
by Ferrell Foster on September 3, 2015 in culture
The lead headline in Wednesday's USA Today may elicit sadness, anger, concern, or any number of reactions -- "Chilling: 4th Cop Slain in 9 Days."
Gliniewicz, Goforth, Nelson, and Vincent are the names of the four slain officers. We grieve with their families.
The cop world is dangerous. Cops have guns, and it seems everyone else has guns. And guns are good at killing people when in the wrong hands.
I hope we find this situation unacceptable -- that we not just shrug and say that's the way it is, that's the way it has always been, and that's the way it always will be. Jesus is about redemption, both eternally and temporally, brought...
Football season is here
by Ferrell Foster on September 3, 2015 in culture
It must be football season because I dreamed about Bob Stoops last night. For those who don't know, Stoops is coach of the Oklahoma Sooners.
I hate the Oklahoma Sooners. They're like the evil Pied Pipers of Texas, luring our high school football players across the Red River, and who knows what happens north of the border.
The bad thing about my dream was that Stoops was a nice guy. He, one of my sons, and I were actually planning an IT startup together. It was all cutting edge; we were building a new thing called a personal television that was big and boxy. OK, dreams can be really strange. The main thing was this: What was Bob...
End of Session Wrap-Up
by Kathryn Freeman on August 27, 2015 in christian life commission
New laws highlight the CLC's advocacy work.
While the 84th Legislative Session ended June 1, we are just beginning to feel the effects of our legislative efforts. This session, the CLC followed 65 bills and helped pass several important pieces of legislation. The CLC's legislative priorities are set by our 18 commissioners who reflect the diverse membership of Texas Baptists. Here are just a few of the highlights.
Grant Funding for Pre-kindergarten
One of Governor Abbott's top priorities was to improve the quality of early education in Texas.
H.B. 4 sets aside $130 million over two years for school districts whose pre-kindergarten...
Putting the wiggle back in life
by Ferrell Foster on August 27, 2015 in culture
Chubby Checker came to mind as I sat at my home office desk the other day. Checker made "The Twist" a dancing sensation in the 1960s. He came to mind because a pre-teen girl rode by our house wiggling back and forth on what is basically a two-piece skateboard.
I did a Google search for "wiggling skateboard" and learned about the Ripstik. YouTube has various videos on how to ride a Ripstik, and virtually all of them are produced by and starred in by pre-teen kids.
When I first saw the girl ride by my window I thought, That looks like a lot of work for a little fun. It's obvious I see everything through old eyes. That would be great...
Video helps us hear a heart
by Ferrell Foster on August 20, 2015 in culture
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...
Religious Liberty in Nepal
by Ferrell Foster on August 14, 2015 in church state
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...
Back to School
by Kathryn Freeman on August 6, 2015 in christian life commission
This month, many parents will find themselves frantically roaming the aisles at Target for school supplies, children will select their first day of school outfits, and with far less fanfare, teachers have begun setting up their classrooms.
Recently, there has been a lot of handwringing about the state of public schools related to broader cultural changes in society. We must be careful not to vilify people created in the image of Christ, based on isolated incidents or cultural changes beyond their control. The Bible commands us to give honor to those whom honor is due and there is something honorable about the work of men and women...
Texas Supreme Court tells Houston that citizens have the right to vote
by John Litzler on July 30, 2015 in church law
The Texas Supreme Court has ordered the Houston City Council to either repeal its Houston Equal Rights Ordinance by Aug. 24 or put the ordinance to a vote during the city's November election. HERO amended Houston's Code of Ordinances to prevent all residents of Houston from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Court stated that, "though the ordinance is steeped in controversy, the legal principles at play are relatively simple."
The Houston City Council passed HERO on May 28, 2014. Houstonians have the right to dispute any ordinance filed by the Houston City Council by submitting a referendum...
It's Time to Learn About West Papua
by Ferrell Foster on July 30, 2015 in christian life commission
I hugged three men today. Each was physically smaller than me, but they seemed larger than life. None looked me in the eye before we hugged, but each returned the embrace.
The men did not say anything. All I could say was something like, "God bless you. We will not forget you." It seemed so weak and inadequate, but I didn't know what else to say.
These men live in West Papua, a part of Indonesia. Life is not good in West Papua.
At the Baptist World Alliance Congress in Durban, South Africa, Socratez Yoman presented videos, photos, and information regarding human rights abuses in West Papua. At the end, the moderator described the...
Building the Kingdom
by Jordan Corona on July 23, 2015 in christian life commission
This week I spent in my favorite sitting chair, with a fractured leg elevated just so. That's a fun story involving a sense of adventure, no sense of balance and a pushy youth group. In between calcium-rich snacking and glimpsing through that stack of books I spent the last nine months swearing I'd read eventually, I find myself missing one thing--my birch workbench.
In the rack I built onto the back end of my bench, just to the right of my chisels, there are a series of measuring devices- a sliding bevel, a small set of dividers, a marking knife and a marking gauge.
In the old days a craftsmen could use the width of his fingers or...
by Anna Rader on July 2, 2015 in christian life commission
My desire to advocate has led me to intern with the Christian Life Commission this summer, broadening my compassion in areas such as payday lending, gambling, and human trafficking.
Throughout the Bible, God prescribes advocacy for social injustice, instructing His followers to defend the needy and oppressed. Growing up in a loving and supportive church, I have become well versed in the importance of advocating on behalf of those in need of God's love. As I have grown into my own thoughts, however, I have learned advocacy extends far beyond decorating cards for kids in Peru and packing shoes for orphans, for, while these...
What the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling means for Texas churches
by John Litzler on June 26, 2015 in culture
On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that state bans on same-sex marriage violate the 14th amendment. The decision, written by Justice Kennedy, reflects a remarkable reversal in public acceptance of same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is now legal in Texas. Texas must also recognize the validity of marriages performed in other states. The decision has had an immediate effect as some county clerk's offices are already reporting they are open and ready to provide same-sex marriage licenses.
While some celebrate the decision as a victory for equality, many churches have expressed concern about how the legalization of same-sex...
Texas Baptists respond to Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage
by Leah Reynolds on June 26, 2015 in news
For the first time in history the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage throughout the nation on Friday, June 26, creating a challenge for churches and Christian organizations that believe marriage should only be between one man and one woman.
David Hardage, executive director for Texas Baptists, which has around 5,400 affiliated Baptist churches, said: "The Baptist General Convention of Texas is committed to loving, caring and treating all people with grace and respect. Also, we continue to affirm our long held understanding of the biblical view of marriage as that between one man and one woman."
In the ruling, the Supreme Court...
Moving Past #PrayforCharleston
by Kathryn Freeman on June 25, 2015 in christian life commission
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...
The Bible and family
by Ferrell Foster on June 4, 2015 in culture
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...
A primer on biblical marriage
by Ferrell Foster on May 28, 2015 in family
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...
Between a rock and a hard place
by Ferrell Foster on May 21, 2015 in christian living
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...
Help for dealing with a changing culture
by Ferrell Foster on May 13, 2015 in 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...
Advocacy Alert: Stop Telemarketing by Payday Lenders
by Kathryn Freeman on May 4, 2015 in clc
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.
Taking in the Stranger
by Jordan Corona on April 30, 2015 in clc
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...
Advocacy Alert: Payday Reform Legislation in Committee This Week
by Kathryn Freeman on April 27, 2015 in christian life commission
Several good payday lending reform bills have been set for a hearing this week. We are requesting Texas Baptists make plans to testify at the hearings or call committee members voicing their support for these bills.
When calling the Committee members here's a sample script of what you can say when you call.
Hello my name is __________. I would like to register my support of bill numbers ________. I support reforming the payday/auto title industry to ensure fair loan products that allow for borrower and lender success.
- Call or Testify to members of the Senate Business and Commerce CommitteeTuesday, April 288:00am
SB 92 by...
Reyes to testify in support of House Bill 3567
by Kathryn Freeman on April 22, 2015 in clc
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 for...
CLC opens doors for advocates to interact at the Capitol
by Kalie Lowrie on April 21, 2015 in news
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...
Prepare your church for same-sex marriage ruling
by John Litzler on April 16, 2015 in culture
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...
Texas RFRA Is Both Necessary and Working
by Kathryn Freeman on April 8, 2015 in faith
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...
States need RFRA matching federal model, like Texas
by Gus Reyes, Kathryn Freeman and Ferrell Foster on April 2, 2015 in clc
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...
The Cavalry Has Arrived: How the Federal Government Plays an Important Role in Protecting the Poor
by Kathryn Freeman on April 2, 2015 in culture
Have you ever heard the phrase "send in the cavalry?" It's a colloquialism, but historically its a military term for the regiment of an army that fights on horseback. The cavalry historically was the most easily mobilized unit of an army and men fighting on horseback were at a greater advantage than those fighting on foot. For one they had greater height and speed than their opponents on the ground and the improved mobility helped them outflank and overpower their opponents more easily. In the movies, the moment the cavalry arrives is usually the moment the enemy is overpowered and the battle ends for the good guys.
Well, this week...
'Uptown Funk' has taken us by storm
by Ferrell Foster on April 2, 2015 in culture
Millions upon millions of Americans know the music and lyrics of the mega hit, "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson (featuring Bruno Mars). Billboard says "Uptown Funk" is still the No. 1 song. It is the quintessential pop song – a beat you can dance to, repetitive lyrics that get stuck in your head, and themes that connect with the young and young-at-heart. Listen to "Uptown Funk" here...
"Uptown Funk," however, is not just your ordinary pop song; it has expanded its reach. It is becoming iconic. Two Texas schoolteachers are part of the craze.
In January, Dallas high school drama teacher Scot Pankey organized students into a...
To a new harvest
by Jordan Corona on March 26, 2015 in christian life commission
Sometimes I get frustrated reading hunger statistics. So much of the information comes in particular metrics which seem restrictive to the big picture.
It's not a bad thing. And the sorts of policy solutions and development strategy yielded by looking at hunger in terms of demographics and economic resources certainly have a necessary function.
Hunger across the state, rooted to the nation, and spanning the globe will never be as small a problem as access. I don't think anyone believes that it is.
Hunger is a result of the Fall.
There has to be a bigger problem than an economic disconnect. The problem is a society where...
by Ferrell Foster on March 26, 2015 in culture
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...
Living as a black man in Ferguson
by Ferrell Foster on March 18, 2015 in race relations
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...
Giving to Fight Hunger in the Midst of Lent
by Jordan Corona on March 5, 2015 in hunger offering
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...
Trying to get this church-state thing right
by Ferrell Foster on March 5, 2015 in culture
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...
Did You Know It Pays to Prey on the Poor In Texas?
by Kathryn Freeman on February 26, 2015 in public policy
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...
Anti Human Trafficking Rally
by Jordan Corona on February 19, 2015 in christian life commission
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...
Grieving with the family of the cross
by Ferrell Foster on February 18, 2015 in culture
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...
Beyond Fifty Shades of Grey
by Ferrell Foster on February 12, 2015 in culture
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...
Freedom for captives: The CLC is working to end trafficking
by Kathryn Freeman on February 5, 2015 in human 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...
Advocacy: Why Should Texas Baptists Care?
by Kathryn Freeman on January 29, 2015 in christian life commission
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...
CLC Advocacy Day
by Kathryn Freeman on January 23, 2015 in news
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
Texas Baptists loving neighbors through Hunger Offering
by Jordan Corona on January 15, 2015 in christian life commission
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...
New opportunities in a new year
by Kathryn Freeman on January 8, 2015 in christian life commission
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"
CLC shines the light of Christ
by Kathryn Freeman on December 18, 2014 in
"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...
$6,000 of Hunger funds reallocated to help bring jobs during Ebola epidemic
by Leah Reynolds on December 16, 2014 in
Commissioners of the Christian Life Commission (CLC) unanimously approved a reallocation of $6,000 of Texas Baptist Hunger Offering funds in Sierra Leone because of the Ebola crisis.
The funds, originally intended to aid school fees and meals for students will instead help rehabilitate the school, which has been closed for nearly half a year due to the Ebola epidemic that has taken and is taking away many lives and jobs in West African countries.
The request to reallocate the funds came from the Baptist Convention of Sierra Leone as they foresee a better use of the money is to open up job opportunities for residents.
Political leaders still need to address immigration issues
by Gus Reyes on December 11, 2014 in christian life commission
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...
Thanks for letting the CLC share about its work
by Gus Reyes on November 20, 2014 in
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...
Only you can stop human trafficking
by Rachel Hendricks on November 17, 2014 in
WACO–In a dimly lit room in the corner of the Waco Convention Center, a group of individuals left no seat empty to gather in hopes of learning more about a commonly misunderstood topic: human trafficking. Dr. Tomi Grover, author of Compelled, and Jay Abernathy, pastor of First Baptist Church, Palestine, defined human trafficking, gave ways to effect change, told of a new East Texas non-profit helping young girls and provided resources available to help educate Texas Baptists.
DEFINING HUMAN TRAFFICKING
"This is the very heart of God. Want to know where God is? Look in the darkness. [Human trafficking] is the darkest thing...
Christian Life Commission teaches Texas Baptists to model Christ through advocacy
by Lauren Sturdy on November 17, 2014 in
Kathryn Freeman taught a packed room about the steps to becoming an advocate this afternoon at her workshop, "It's Our Government: We Can Make a Difference."
Freeman, the director of public policy at the Christian Life Commission (CLC), emphasized advocacy takes many forms and isn't always tied to the government. Advocacy can look like membership in the local PTA or mission work.
She said the Christian Life Commission recommends "starting with missions," when individuals are trying to decide, which issues they want to get involved in.
"Most churches have a missions or outreach or service pastor who's engaged in your...
Texas Baptists gather in Waco for Annual Meeting
by Kalie Lowrie on November 16, 2014 in
WACO – Texas Baptists' will welcome messengers to the annual meeting November 16-18 in Waco. The meeting, held at the Waco Convention Center, is centered on the theme "Live the Difference" with a special emphasis on ministry opportunities through Advocacy/Care and Chaplaincy, including the Christian Life Commission.
Registration begins at 4 p.m. on Sunday, November 16, and rallies for Hispanic and African American Ministries, as well as Texas Baptist Men, will begin at 6 p.m.
Monday morning registration will open at 8 a.m. and workshops beginning at 8:30. Workshops this year will intentionally address the intersection of Christian...
Dramatic presentations part of this year's annual meeting
by Ferrell Foster on November 13, 2014 in christian life commission
"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.
A number of Texas Baptists saw Kuhn's presentations at...
'The Blind Side' couple to end BGCT Annual Meeting
by Ferrell Foster on November 5, 2014 in christian life commission
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...
Election Day provides opportunity to express citizenship
by Kathryn Freeman on October 30, 2014 in
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...
Houston subpoenas raise religious liberty concerns
by Kathryn Freeman on October 23, 2014 in christian life commission
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...
CLC director expresses concern regarding Houston subpoenas
by Ferrell Foster on October 15, 2014 in church state
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...
Texas Baptist Hunger Offering needs end-of-year boost
by Ferrell Foster on October 9, 2014 in christian life commission
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...
Christian Life Commission adopts statement on Islamic state and religious persecution
by Leah Reynolds on October 7, 2014 in christian life commission
The Christian Life Commission (CLC) has adopted a statement on the Islamic state and religious persecution, inviting leaders to continue protective efforts and encouraging churches to pray.
The terror group ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has been coercing people to choose between fleeing their homes and living in fear of oppression that can ultimately lead to death. Media reports have recorded brutal persecution of many individuals living in Syria and Iraq, including Christians, since early June 2014.
CLC Commissioners are monitoring situations of religious persecution around the world. The CLC deals with ethical and...
Racism undermines justice and unity
by Ferrell Foster & Kathryn Freeman on September 9, 2014 in culture
"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...
Attorney named CLC’s director of public policy
by Leah Reynolds on August 25, 2014 in news
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...
Following Christ involves welcoming children
by Ferrell Foster on July 30, 2014 in immigration
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.
CLC approves Resolution on Immigrant Children Crisis
by Kalie Lowrie on June 27, 2014 in christian life commission
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...
Backpacks of food and hope provided through Hunger Offering
by Kalie Lowrie on May 5, 2014 in great commandment
FREEPORT - Most children look forward to 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon, signaling the end of school and beginning of the weekend. There are roughly 65 hours between Friday afternoon and Monday morning when school starts again. Many kids delight in these hours, but for children who do not have food at home, the hours can be long and hard. While many schools have feeding programs for breakfast and lunch for students in need, the weekends can be a time when food is scarce.
Operation Backpack, supported through the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, seeks to step in and provide homeless and chronically hungry students in the Freeport and Jones...
Growing to live through hunger offering
by Kara Kistner on April 21, 2014 in great commandment
GUADALAJARA, Mexico - Hands in Service, an organization that receives funding from Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, provides family garden workshops through missions and churches in the poverty belt around the city of Guadalajara and other communities, as well as in rural areas. These workshops help train and educate people to grow their own food to provide better nutrition at a lower cost.
Family Gardens is a project designed and carried out in cooperation with Manos Hermanas, in Guadalajara and numerous other areas where space is available to train and optimize intensive gardens to benefit those in poverty to help them feed their...
Honduras: A display of His splendor
by Kalie Lowrie on April 11, 2014 in great commandment
CENICERA, Honduras - The kids here in Honduras have stolen my heart! Last night we attended a worship service at a house church in Cenicera, just a few miles from Gracias. When we arrived, I recognized several of the kids from the day before when we were at their house interviewing their parents. One precious girl named Ruby came up and hugged me, followed by another six I had never met before. They looked up at me with these beautiful eyes and told me their names. I hugged them each back and repeatedly asked, "Como estas?" (the only Spanish I really know).
Ruby is nine and currently suffering from leukemia. Her family receives food...
Hunger in Honduras: The face of a thankful heart
by Kalie Lowrie on April 10, 2014 in great commandment
CATULACA, Honduras - Felipe is paralyzed from the waist down after a tragic accident about five years ago. He has undergone eight surgeries and was forced to sell most of his land to pay for the medical procedures. He was the primary breadwinner for his family of six and now many times they wonder how they will eat. The family raises pigs for income and has many chickens roaming around the yard to provide sustenance.
When we arrived at his house today, Felipe, his wife, daughter and brother were overjoyed to see Shannon Hopkins, a missionary with 61 Isaiah Ministries, and his friends. They were also beyond thankful for the food that...
Hunger in Honduras: Bringing hope across a footbridge
by Kalie Lowrie on April 9, 2014 in great commandment
GRACIAS, Honduras - Today, we saw the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering in action, with three men carrying nearly 60 pounds of food on their backs, across a shaky wooden footbridge to a family in need. Shannon Hopkins and his friends, Kevin and Hugo, carried the load of food to a family of 15, living in extreme poverty.
Shannon serves as a missionary with 61 Isaiah Ministries, a ministry that receives funding from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, and seeks to provide food to those in crisis situations in and around Gracias, Honduras. 61 Isaiah Ministries also partners with Ellis Baptist Association to receive support for the work they...
Hunger offering inspires others to give back
by Kara Kistner on April 7, 2014 in great commandment
FORT WORTH - This year churches are holding a special offering on Mother's Day to support the Mother's Day Hunger Offering. By uniting the efforts of Texas Baptists, we can raise $1 million this Mother's Day to end hunger one mom at a time. One mom that has received help from this offering is a woman named Kay Schmenk.
Kay Schmenk is a 73-year-old who has been participating in the Senior Supplement Program, a monthly feeding program at Northside Inter-Community Agency (NICA), since 2006. She lives off of her Social Security check each month of less than $700.
NICA, one of several ministries in Fort Worth that receives support through...
Hunger Offering helps family overcome poverty in Bangladesh
by Kalie Lowrie on March 24, 2014 in great commandment
BHALUKA UPAZILA, Bangladesh - Conditions were hard for Asma Khatun and her family of five, living in extreme poverty in a small village in Bangladesh. While her husband, Babul Dhaly, worked hard to provide, they did not own any land to plant crops and they were not able to earn enough income to provide three meals a day for their family.
Not only did she learn about business and agriculture, but Asma was also provided with a...
Trafficking -- the difference between victims and criminals
by Ferrell Foster on March 13, 2014 in human trafficking
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...
Hunger funds help mom find a shoulder to lean on
by Kalie Lowrie on March 11, 2014 in great commandment
NEW BRAUNFELS - Gloria Mata needed help. Medical bills from her daughter's illness stacked up, and the single mother realized she no longer had enough money to put food on the table for her family of six.
Deliverance came in the form of a voucher from her daughter's school that referred Mata to the Harvest Food Pantry, a ministry of New Braunfels Christian Ministries, which is funded in part through Texas Baptists' special Mother's Day Hunger Offering.
ISAAC is there to help
by Kara Kistner on March 5, 2014 in christian life commission
SAN ANTONIO - Arina Popovici is the first immigrant to be assisted by the Immigration Service and Aid Center (ISAAC) to obtain legal permanent residency within the United States. She never dreamed that she would have this opportunity in her lifetime, but with the help of the ISAAC Project, her dreams are finally coming true.
Seven years ago, Arina Popovici came to the United States from Italy as an international student. While her student visa expired, she did not want to go back to Italy because her family was already here. After residing in the US. for a couple of years, Arina married and was soon pregnant with her first...
Texas Baptists give record $953,000 toward Hunger Offering
by Kalie Lowrie on February 13, 2014 in news
DALLAS - Texas Baptists gave more than $953,000 to the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering in 2013 to help address hunger and poverty issues around the world. This is the largest amount raised through the offering since its creation in 1995, and an increase of $200,000 from 2012.
"I am humbled by the generosity of churches and individuals around the state who chose to give to the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering," said Dr. David Hardage, executive director. "Without them, we, as an organization could not do what we do. Thank you to all of you who gave of your resources. We are extremely grateful. Your gifts are changing lives across our...
'Simple touches' in Huntsville
by Ferrell Foster on January 15, 2014 in christian life commission
The Hospitality House in Huntsville ministers to the families of those who are incarcerated, and Texas Baptists help support this effort.
Executive Director Debra McCammon said, "The simple touches, conversations, hugs and smiles help us to share the love of Christ with them."
She also wrote:
"Loving those who are hurting is always about the little things we do: small craft gift on their pillow, a 'Welcome' picture postcard sitting on top of their linens, providing a sewing kit when their dress has torn, putting a candle in the brownies, cakes or pies on their birthdays and presenting them with a small gift, or especially a Bible of...
Reyes Named Director of Christian Life Commission
by Rand Jenkins on January 13, 2014 in christian life commission
DALLAS - Agustin "Gus" Lucas Reyes, PhD., was named the new director of BGCT's Christian Life Commission (CLC).
The CLC's role within Texas Baptist life is to speak to ethical issues and how they impact our lives and legislation.
"Dr. Reyes' work with education and immigration reform on a state and federal government level has proven his passion and ability to give a voice to those who have no voice," Dr. David Hardage, Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas said. "After receiving applications and conducting interviews from a national search, we discovered the person God has placed before us for this position...
Texas Baptists provide testimony at federal hearing on arbitration
by Kalie Lowrie on December 19, 2013 in christian life commission
DALLAS - Two Texas Baptist pastors raised concerns about payday and car title lending practices during meetings with the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau leadership in Dallas on Dec. 12.
Jeff Johnson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Commerce and president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and Steve Wells, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, addressed CFPB Director Richard Cordray and other staff members of the federal body which oversees consumer financial products and services.
"Wise federal oversight and regulation are sorely needed." Johnson said during a public hearing. "I encourage you to...
Providing spiritual nourishment for those in need
by Kalie Lowrie on November 25, 2013 in great commandment
CORPUS CHRISTI - Juan Rena was hungry and hurting when he came to the Crossbridge Fellowship Church food pantry. He had no idea how the Lord would change his life in the following year and lead him to become the director of the ministry that impacted him in so many ways.
Addicted to cocaine and meth for more than 25 years, Juan wanted to find a way to turn his life around and find meaning again. He was also in need of food, which led him to Crossbridge's food pantry just a few streets away from his home where he could come twice a month for essential needs.
As Juan and his girlfriend, Tina, received food each month, they noticed...
ISAAC Projects opens center to directly minister to immigrants
by John Hall on September 5, 2013 in great commandment
SAN ANTONIO - The Immigration Service and Aid Center opened its doors on the Baptist University of the Américas campus Aug. 30 to directly help people with their citizenship issues.
The ISAAC center is Texas Baptists' first effort to directly help immigrants work within the law and navigate the complicated path toward citizenship. In addition to helping people resolve their citizenship status, the center will serve as a training institute for people who desire accreditation to help immigrants.
In recent years, the ISAAC Project, a collaborative ministry of BUA and the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, has focused on training...
Texas Baptists give more than $230,000 for hungry through Mother's Day offering
by John Hall on July 31, 2013 in great commandment
Texas Baptists gave more than $230,000 to help the hungry through last Spring's Mother's Day offering.
Congregations donated $234,164 through the Mother's Day emphasis for the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, which feeds and assists hungry people through 210 projects including 115 in Texas.
Texas Baptists' Executive Director David Hardage thanked Texas Baptists for their generosity, believing this was a great first step toward the convention's goal of eventually raising $1 million for the hungry on Mother's Day.
Texas Baptists willingness to give throughout the Spring shone brightly as churches not only gave to the Mother's Day...
CLC 83rd Session Report
by Ferrell Foster on July 26, 2013 in news
Christian Life Commission Final Report: 83rd Regular Legislative Session
During each legislative session, the Christian Life Commission (CLC) works to promote sound public policy on a variety of fronts important to Texas residents. The following is a list of bills the CLC actively followed, supported and, in some cases, opposed during the 83rd Session of the Texas Legislature.
In the 83rd Legislative Session, the CLC...
God's power shown through His church, people
SAN ANTONIO - God's plan for expanding His kingdom entails working through the lives of people in His church in such a way that they testify about Him, according to Victor Rodriguez, pastor of Life Church of San Antonio.
The former Baptist General Convention of Texas president was the featured preacher during the Hispanic rally that kicked off the Family Gathering, a bringing together of the diverse body of Texas Baptists.
The rally was filled with energetic worship and Rodriguez's poignant preaching, which encouraged Texas Baptists to share the gospel in their communities. God desires a relationship with every person. To do that, He...
Senator cites BGCT letter in arguing for stronger abortion restrictions
AUSTIN - A senator cited a letter from Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Director David Hardage as lawmakers passed stronger restrictions on abortions across the state.
Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, shared three paragraphs of a letter that Hardage wrote to every Texas legislator that presented Texas Baptists' affirmation of life. The Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission staff delivered the letter early in the Texas legislature's discussion of bills that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The Senate passed the provision July 12 by a vote of 19-11, with Lucio as the sole Democrat to vote for the bill...
Opposing abortion in a world of vulnerable people
by Ferrell Foster on July 9, 2013 in faith
The Christian Life Commission has received a couple of questions about why it honored Texas Sen. Wendy Davis with its Horizon Award in 2012. As virtually everyone knows, Davis was thrust into the national political spotlight in June with her filibuster in opposition to a bill supported by many Texas Baptists, including me.
The CLC honored Sen. Davis last year for her support of various issues that are important to Texas Baptists, including opposition to predatory lending practices. The senator from Fort Worth has been vital to the legislative effort to limit immoral payday and auto title lending practices, which are devastating...
Love for neighbor should compel us toward immigration reform
by Ferrell Foster on June 28, 2013 in great commandment
The U.S. Senate has shown both courage and wisdom in passing the sweeping immigration bill. In order to get bipartisan support, the bill had to reflect the concerns of people across the political spectrum, and this has resulted in a bill that addresses the needs of security, business and immigrants.
Scripture teaches us to care about the "stranger" in our midst, and it also teaches us the importance of honoring laws. As a result, those of us who are Christians can rejoice in the fact that these two principles are being honored.
We know, of course, that there are many good people, including Christians, who are concerned about...
Internet lawsuits remind us of the importance of truth
by Ferrell Foster on December 7, 2012 in
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...