ethical 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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It’s important to protect children, teens


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.)...

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Scripture does not prohibit calling police about sexual abuse


When a sexual assault is reported, church leaders may be tempted to invoke the Apostle Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 6:1. “If any of you has a dispute against another, how dare you take it to court before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?” (CSB).

That passage is dealing with what we in the U.S. call civil lawsuits, where church members were asking the Roman courts to rule on disagreements between church members. “As it is, to have legal disputes against one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Corinthians 6:7, CSB).

This passage is not dealing with sexual assault. If a Christian in Corinth had murdered someone at a church meeting, the church, I think, would have called the local authorities to have the person arrested before he could kill anyone else...

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Pastors see importance of discipleship in dealing with social issues


A new Barna report shows that pastors “place a premium on discipleship when it comes to social issues.”

At this point, I have read only a sample of their findings, not the full report, but I wanted Texas Baptists to be aware of it. “Faith Leadership in a Divided Culture” includes these details:

Nine in 10 pastors (90%) say it is a major part of their role to help Christians have biblical beliefs about specific social issues. Just under three-quarters (72%) say helping Christians think well about culture in general is a major part of their job.

Pastors believe they can make a real difference when it comes to developing this kind of cultural discernment. More than nine in 10 believe they have influence with their congregants when it comes to how they think about current issues in society (31% say “a lot” of influence, 60% “some” influence). Most leaders express optimism that their congregants are prepared for a divided culture—a majority of pastors says their congregants are somewhat (55%) or very (7%) well-equipped to have conversations on sensitive topics.

We can be thankful most pastors say it is a “major part” of their work to help believers develop a biblically informed view of social issues. Also, most see themselves having at least “some” influence on how church members think about current issues.

I’m not as confident as the pastors who say their congregants are well-equipped to have conversations on sensitive cultural topics....

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Learning from George H.W. Bush


It’s easy to say we need more presidents or more politicians like George H.W. Bush. That lets the rest of us off the hook.

Joseph de Maistre famously said, "Every country has the government it deserves" and "In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve."

We are not the same nation today as the one which nurtured Bush into maturity. This nation is always shifting and changing. It’s interesting that the U.S., in its 1992 incarnation, dumped this good and great man as president who had overseen the fall of the Soviet Union and led the nation to victory in a war to stop aggression -- The Gulf War.

But here we are at now. We need a nation that nurtures and lifts up truly great leaders as it did with George H.W. Bush.

Whenever we learn of a person’s values, we should ask ourselves how they align with Jesus and the broader scriptural wisdom. So let’s try that with a few ideas attributed to Bush. His biographer, Jon Meacham, said Bush’s life code was “Tell the truth. Don’t blame people. Be strong. Do your best. Try hard. Forgive. Stay the course.&rdquo...

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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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World-changing relationships are built with healthy conversations


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?...

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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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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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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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Sexual harassment needs to be widely addressed at the practical level


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

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Americans care less about personal immorality in politicians


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

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

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

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The Bible and family


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

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

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​Help for dealing with a changing culture


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

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

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

For many of us, this just seems...

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Grieving with the family of the cross


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

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

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

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

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Beyond Fifty Shades of Grey


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

Here is Time magazine's description of Fifty Shades:

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

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'The Blind Side' couple to end BGCT Annual Meeting


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

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

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

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