christian living


CLC releases new resource on alcohol and drug use


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.
...

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Boys behaving badly -- turn to Proverbs for help


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!...

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Small town life and the Great Commandment


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...

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Gratefulness leads to worship, which leads to truly living


(Note from Ferrell: Ethics, which is about how we ought to live, is only Christian when it is rooted in the worship of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Amy Ford Brumfield gave me permission to share the following article. Amy shows us what it's like to be truly alive and grateful in God's world and how that can lead us to worship our creator and redeemer. That worship then leads us to want to honor God with our lives.)

By Amy Ford Brumfield

A friend challenged me recently to reflect on what I am grateful for about my body. I am almost certain the following meditation is far removed from what she had in mind. She had flesh, bone, and sinew in mind, but I am always led to the abstract when I write.

I am grateful for:

Eyes that see the beauty of the created in the way the light plays on trees. I am grateful to have eyes that see not just shades of green, but the colors of the rainbow hidden within each leaf. The ability to commit it to canvas.

Ears that hear the miracle of a cellist playing “Gabriel’s Oboe.” Ears that can block out every sound but the water cascading over the fountain in my yard as it plays its own music. The way either can fill my eyes at the first note. When the two play in unison it borders on the divine.

The first hint of perfume from the privet hedge that blooms each spring. It’s not there one day, and then the next it overwhelms me with a fragrance I want to drink in and remember.

The first sip of morning coffee that provides pleasure and comfort when it touches my tongue and clears the cobwebs.

The ability to appreciate and sometimes untangle the prose of Wendell Berry as he challenges my world view and exposes my own propensity to prejudice or complacency...

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EL MINISTERIO CONTRA EL TRÁFICO HUMANO, HECHO CON HUMILDAD, FLUYE DEL MANDATO DE JESÚ


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...

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Marriage commitment leads to joy; adultery to anguish


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...

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Human trafficking ministry, done in humility, flows from Jesus’ commands


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...

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Bless This Meal: A Biblical Perspective


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...

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Tribute to MLK: He preached, practiced nonviolence until his own violent death


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 seventh article.

By Ferrell Foster

There is always the risk that a nonviolent person will be consumed by violence, especially when he or she is challenging long-held cultural injustices. Such was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, fate.

A bomb, fists, and clubs did not stop him. A bullet did.

The fourth tenant of King’s nonviolence told of a “willingness to accept suffering without retaliation, to accept blows from the opponent without striking back.” King never retaliated physically, even though the brutality and disrespect mounted. Many wanted him to, but he didn’t...

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Tribute to MLK: Where do We Go From Here? Toward King’s Dream of Justice for All


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...

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Tribute to MLK: Love for All Stands as the Foundation


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. ...

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Tribute to MLK: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’


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...

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Tribute to MLK: The Meaning of Community


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...

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Tribute to MLK: God is at Work in History


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. ...

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Tribute to MLK: The Heart of Black Preaching, a Prophetic Word


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...

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


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

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

King:

. . . 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...

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A Call to Action and Prayer this Valentine’s Day


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

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

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More than meets the eye


By Caleb Seibert

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

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

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Choosing Faithful Obedience in 2018


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

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Today, we grieve


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

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

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

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

How do I respond to something so devastating?

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

How can I help?  

A few thoughts for this...

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Harvey, Irma & God


Harvey has done his damage, and now Irma approaches. In the wake of such storms we often hear people say, “God is in control.”

Theologians may want to nuance this phrase, but for everyday folks it means, “God is in control of everything, including the weather.” In essence, since God is in control, God caused these storms, the destruction.

God created a perfect world and, in the wake of our messing it up, God has “purposed,” as Scripture says, for his creation to be redeemed. Jesus Christ has made possible that final redemption, yet we are still in the midst of this fallen, messed up world seeking to serve God in His redemptive...

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


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

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

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

On a much larger scale, the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering allows me to “make room” in my life for people across the world.

Through the Hunger Offering, ordinary believers join...

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Let the joy of Christmas shine from our lives


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

The boy was no Episcopalian. He attended the Congregational church led by the renowned preacher, Lyman Beecher, his dad. Applegate says the boy, Henry Ward Beecher, “was irresistibly drawn to the open door of the church, and as he peered in he was shocked to find candles blazing at every window; boughs of spruce, pine, and arborvitae twined around the pews; and a choir singing blissfully about the birth of Christ. He had...

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Share a Message of Hope This Christmas


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Strong had five core values -- honesty, treat women with respect, no guns, no drugs, and no stealing. It turned out a number of players didn’t hold those same values and didn’t want to adopt them. They chose their path and had no place at UT no matter how great their...

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How to shop like a Christian


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

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

If you are intent on going into the melee, remember to love your neighbor as much as yourself, even if it comes down to only one...

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


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

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

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

Wealth -- “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (v. 21).

Controlling leadership -- “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord...

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


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

A Testament of Devotion

.

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

The key word is “craving.” All of us know we are not absolutely pure. We are sinners, and to our utter disgust we continue to fall short even after deciding to follow Jesus. Sin is not the marker that separates the saved from the unsaved; the craving for purity is what separates. Followers...

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


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

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

Kelly spoke of humility as resting “upon a holy blindness, like the blindedness of him who looks steadily into the sun.” All of us have probably experienced the visual memory that occurs immediately after looking at a bright light, especially the sun. It is as if the light still shines in our vision even when we have looked away, and it can even make...

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


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

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

Jesus confronted this internal battle that expresses itself outwardly. In Matthew 23, the Messiah told a crowd that the...

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San Diego statue reminds of Christ's work


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

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

Rather than repair the statue, Jesuit Fr. Robert Fambrini, pastor at the time, placed a sign at the base to reflect the mission of the people of God. “I have no hands but yours.” The sign was later replaced by a

...

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Zacchaeus story teaches much about "sinners" coming to Christ


“Zacchaeus was a wee little man,

and a wee little man was he.

He climbed up in a sycamore tree.

for the Lord he wanted to see.”

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

Two things Dr. Christian said stood out:

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

He (Zacchaeus) was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in...

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


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

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

Now we near the end, and I wonder how the vitriolic language of this campaign will affect us as a people going forward. (I'm not speaking of policy disagreements and discussion of facts; I'm speaking of the name-calling, fear-mongering, and...

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Driving says something about character


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

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

You will not be surprised by what I experienced by driving the fastest speed allowed by law. The vast majority of cars zoomed by on my left. Some crowded right up behind as if they wanted to...

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George C. Marshall & the importance of self-mastery


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

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

The New York Times columnist David Brooks highlights Marshall in one chapter of his book, The Road to Character. The chapter on Marshall is titled...

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


By Bill Tillman

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

A paradox is that no labor is expected on Labor Day! It’s a holiday for many American workers. Christians could offer some perspective on the day off from work. Christians should project the idea that all of us need a day of rest. This Sabbath principle, a time of pausing...

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Like Olympians, Christians are in Training, Too


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

We know some of their names going in -- Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas, Serena Williams, Kerri Walsh Jennings -- but most Olympians spend four years in obscurity toiling away...

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Fearless in the Fight


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

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

Just as Paul reminded Timothy, she reminded us to fan the flames of our gifts unafraid of obstacles, or the local news, or...

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Chaos should not surprise us


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

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

His name: Reinhold Niebuhr.

In Detroit, Niebuhr began to recognise problems in the liberal theology he had imbibed at Yale. Niebuhr, however, could not be fit...

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Beware of payday loan wolves


By Anyra Cano-Valencia

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

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

In tears, she said was responsible for her family losing their home, and she was about to lose her car: She was too frightened to tell her husband. We were shocked, confused, and angry....

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Use missional responses on social media during political season


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

Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites become verbal battlegrounds in the fight to get our point across. The Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission Public Policy Office can help you, as a believer, navigate...

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It's not always easy to know right and wrong


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

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

Meals, church, and football games were the three things we did as a family, but only at the football games did we really talk, celebrate, and suffer with each other. At church, we didn’t talk to each other. At the dinner table, Dad and my sister argued...

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Dealing with complexity in the aftermath of tragedy


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

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

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

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


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

We have gotten so out of hand with football that we are putting the safety and wellbeing of women at risk. We do this when we do not hold football players to the same ethical and criminal standards as others.

We...

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CLC offers National Day of Prayer Guide


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

The National Day of Prayer is a way for Christians across denominations, churches, cities, and states to join hands and pray for our people...

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New Hunger Offering video released


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

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

I recently ate at Whataburger for the first time.

I know. The Texans are shocked.

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

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

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Between a rock and a hard place


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

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

Take politics for instance. If you want government to be like Jesus and help the poor then people on the right think...

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Spiritual living connects to ethical living


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

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

When a person "practices the presence of God," to quote Brother Lawrence, it is as if God becomes a friend, a companion who goes with you to all places and through all moments. A cynic could say that we are only silently...

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