ethical living blog
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 men have 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....
Pastors see importance of discipleship in dealing with social issues
by Ferrell Foster on February 1, 2019 in ethical living blog
A new Barna report shows that pastors “place a premium on discipleship when it comes to social issues.”
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....
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
Learning from George H.W. Bush
by Ferrell Foster on December 7, 2018 in clc
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.”...
Where are the courageous prophets?
by Ferrell Foster on October 17, 2018 in clc
Pastors in my religious tradition (Anglo southern Baptist) tend to be more priest than prophet — they mostly administer religious duties instead of confronting people in their sinfulness.
I was a pastor once. We tend to preach against sins our members have tacitly agreed upon, but we often ignore the primary sins of those members — greed, pride, lust, and gluttony, as well as failure to care for the hungry, hurting, imprisoned, foreigners, and others of Jesus’ “least of these.” Not all of us, surely, but many.It is not easy to be both priest and prophet, and this is not the first time in Judeo-Christian history that the challenge has arisen.
John Calvin, in his commentary on Jeremiah, says the great Jewish prophet “was of the priestly order. Hence the prophetic office was more suitable to him than to many of the other prophets, such as Amos and Isaiah.”...
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!...
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?...
Gratefulness leads to worship, which leads to truly living
by Guest Author on June 26, 2018 in ethical living blog
(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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
Tribute to MLK: He preached, practiced nonviolence until his own violent death
by Ferrell Foster on April 5, 2018 in ethical living blog
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
Good news on school administrator pay from Houston area
by Ferrell Foster on September 13, 2017 in ethical living blog
This story in today's Houston Chronicle is encouraging in two regards. First, it shows that some high school principals are being paid well. And, second, it reveals that women principals are making as much as men, actually a little more.
Education is critical for helping children achieve their God-given potential. And educators must be paid well if we are to attract high-quality people into this profession. Education is not an easy job, so we must compensate well the people who take this responsibility. Quite frankly, I think quality teachers and school administrators require as much or more expertise as many high-paying jobs, and...
Harvey, Irma & God
by Ferrell Foster on September 6, 2017 in ethical living blog
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...
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...
White like me
by Ferrell Foster on August 14, 2017 in clc
A picture in the news this weekend showed three white men holding black shields and black flags. It occurred to me that, though younger, they looked like me. Without their foolish garb, we could be mistaken as being very much alike. If I could hear them talk, we might even speak with a similar accent.
But I have little in common with those people. We may both have light-colored skin, but below the skin there is something different. They spew hate; I do not even silently feel that for those who are different from me. They portray an attitude of bravado; I would much prefer to sit and talk. They bear all the signs of being afraid...
Freedom and equality go together -- the Bible affirms & we proclaim
by Ferrell Foster on August 2, 2017 in clc
A community in Quebec has done an interesting thing. The people of Saint-Apollinaire voted to not allow a Muslim cemetery in town.
They did so for a rather high-minded reason. As reported by Peter Stockland in The Globe & Mail, supporters of the ban are against burial on the basis of any faith tradition, period. No Catholic cemetery either.
“They want to stretch egalitarianism beyond the grave so that we are equally dead together,” Stockland writes.
Egalitarianism has a strong appeal to people in North America. It’s an important principle of Western Civilization. All people, we like to say, are created equal. Egalitarianism...
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...
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...
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...
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...
Bacote: Permission to go out in public
by Ferrell Foster on January 24, 2017 in ethical living blog
This just in: Christians have permission to go out in public.
Of course, this is not really news, but sometimes evangelical followers of Christ wonder if it is OK to get involved in their broader culture -- the world, the frightful, dangerous world where Satan can trip us up and snatch us away.
The broader culture is rife with dangerous ideas, influences, and people. We have to be careful out there, but we need to be out there.
Vincent B. Bacote, the author of The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life, is helping the church see this need to be involved in the broader culture as a commission from God revealed in...
Parenthood changes with time
by Ferrell Foster on January 18, 2017 in ethical living blog
It hardly required a thought; it was more an impulse. I grasped the upper arm of my adult daughter, stopped her, and led her backward a step.
We had been in the midst of fevered conversation as only a parent and usually-away-at-college child can be. We walked through an H-E-B parking lot where even at night people zip and zag. The bright white backup lights of a large SUV came on as we approached its rear bumper.
Earlier in the day, a friend had asked prayer for a young woman run over by a SUV backing up in a parking lot.
A parent takes a lifetime of learning and continued learning and turns it into care for a child. In this...
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...
Fentanyl has a very dark side -- Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella...
by Ferrell Foster on December 1, 2016 in ethical living blog
Anyone who has ever had serious pain -- the kind that disables you, causes you to curl knees to chest -- knows how the body and mind can crave pain relief.
For me, it came with kidney stones some years back. After three hours untreated in an emergency room, I finally received a doctor-approved shot of morphine, then a second, then relief. Deliverance. I was willing again to go on living -- having not been so sure a few minutes before.
Morphine, it turns out, is child’s play when it comes to pain relief. Fentanyl is serious stuff -- 50-100 times more powerful than morphine. Fentanyl is prescribed to only the most serious...
Here's a tip of the hat to 'Texas Strong'
by Ferrell Foster on November 29, 2016 in ethical living blog
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...
How to shop like a Christian
by Ferrell Foster on November 21, 2016 in ethical living blog
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...
We are a messed up people, by God's standard -- be thankful for salvation
by Ferrell Foster on November 18, 2016 in ethical living blog
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...
We are in need of a God-produced craving for righteousness
by Ferrell Foster on November 11, 2016 in ethical living blog
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...
Pray today for frightened children
by Ferrell Foster on November 9, 2016 in ethical living blog
Elections are more than political exercises; they affect lives. Fear and confusion is gripping some children today, so they need our prayers. Two friends shared the following prayer requests and gave me permission to share them more broadly.
“My wife is a high school librarian. She called to let me know many Latino students are distraught. Their parents are not in the US legally and the students are afraid their parents will be deported.
“Please pray for these students. Today this is probably happening at schools throughout Texas.”
And another friend responded:
“My wife is a pre-k teacher . . . and she has
We are in need of God-blinded faith -- true humility
by Ferrell Foster on November 8, 2016 in ethical living blog
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...
Jesus confronts us in our religion -- pursue righteousness and humility
by Ferrell Foster on November 7, 2016 in ethical living blog
“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...
San Diego statue reminds of Christ's work
by Ferrell Foster on November 4, 2016 in ethical living blog
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
Zacchaeus story teaches much about "sinners" coming to Christ
by Ferrell Foster on November 1, 2016 in ethical living blog
“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...
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...
Changing drug laws change the road
by Ferrell Foster on October 27, 2016 in ethical living blog
David Aggio drove into a California intersection in the middle of the day in March 2014. Another driver, Rodolfo Alberto Contreras, ran the red light traveling at close to 80 mph, lost control, crossed the center divider, and struck Aggio's oncoming Ford Explorer. Aggio died instantly, according to channel 23 in Bakersfield.
This year, a jury convicted Contreras of "second degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while impaired by marijuana, and DUI by marijuana causing injury. In the almost six years that the District Attorney has had a DUI-focused specialized unit, this is the first conviction for murder by someone impaired...
Ninety years to make a life
by Ferrell Foster on October 26, 2016 in ethical living blog
Ninety years ago today a young sharecropping couple celebrated a birth and named the baby Ferrell but would call him Gene. He grew up with Texas dirt literally between his barefoot toes in the sandhills of East Texas near Athens. A dream grew up with him -- to be a wealthy cattleman like his maternal grandfather.
But life takes an interesting course. Gene dropped out of high school to take a job in Dallas, finished school at night, served in the Army in the Pacific as World War II wound down, returned to Dallas to work and take a bride, fathered a daughter and son, bought a small place near his hometown, took a promotion to a...
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...
Back to school nerves
by Ali Hearon on August 18, 2016 in hunger offering
My niece, Caroline, is two years old. She is precious and recently returned from her first day at preschool with a confession to make.
“I feel nerbus (nervous),” she told my sister on the car ride home. Caroline is a bright kid. My sister is, too.
Many unknowns await children as they walk through the threshold of a new classroom. New teacher, new classmates, new rules -- it is a daunting experience to say the least.
Everybody knows what it is like to be afraid of the unknown. Few things are as universally unnerving as the prospect of doing something new among people we’ve never met. Times like these remind us how earnestly we...
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...
Chaos should not surprise us
by Ferrell Foster on July 20, 2016 in war and peace
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...
7 tips for seeking peace with African Americans
by Kathryn Freeman on July 14, 2016 in race relations
As we think about our role as peacemakers in racial reconciliation, Ephesians 2:11-16 details God’s heart for unity within the body of Christ.
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands) — remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our
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....
The importance of "Black Lives Matter"
by Ferrell Foster on July 12, 2016 in race relations
It is hard for some people to understand the importance of "Black Lives Matter." They want to say, "All Lives Matter." A post by GeekAesthete on reddit.com helps explain it.
Imagine that you're sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don't get any. So you say "I should get my fair share." And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, "everyone should get their fair share." Now, that's a wonderful sentiment -- indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair
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...
#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.
Babs Baugh honored by Global Women
by Ali Hearon on May 11, 2016 in hunger offering
“Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” 1 Peter 4:10, NRSV
We are excited to announce that Babs Baugh will receive the Global Heart Award at the upcoming Global Women’s 15th Birthday Gala during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Greensboro, N.C..
Global Women is a Hunger Offering recipient that seeks to love and serve vulnerable women across the globe. The award highlights Babs’ commitment to stewarding the “manifold grace of God” and caring for people who live on the margins.
Congratulations, Babs Baugh!
Babs Baugh is president...
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...
CLC offers National Day of Prayer Guide
by Kathryn Freeman on May 4, 2016 in ethical living blog
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...
Plan ahead for important healthcare decisions
by Ferrell Foster on April 25, 2016 in life health dying
There are too many “special” days with which to keep up, so I missed one this month that I wish I hadn’t -- National Healthcare Decisions Day, April 16. Missing the day, however, does not mean we have to miss the point.
The day “exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning. NHDD is an initiative to encourage patients to express their wishes regarding healthcare and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever they may be.”
The 50-state annual initiative promotes providing “clear, concise, and consistent information on healthcare...
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...
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...
Texans spending billions for booze
by Ferrell Foster on February 25, 2016 in money and work
Texans are going to bars and drinking deep of alcoholic beverages, according to a story in the Austin American-Statesman.
Beer, wine, and mixed drink sales reached almost $6 billion in Texas last year, an increase of 6 percent over 2014.
This figure saddens me. Some of it accounts for just basic refreshment. Some people drink a beer in the same way I drink a Dr. Pepper. Some people drink a glass of wine for health benefits. Some people just like the taste. But, I suspect, most of the alcohol is consumed to alter one's mood -- to help unwind at the end of a day, to become more loose at a party, or to hide from life's pains.
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...
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...
Bono rocked the world 10 years ago with words about poverty, justice
by Ferrell Foster on February 2, 2016 in ethical living blog
Ten years ago today, rock star Bono delivered an amazing address at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, with President George W. Bush sitting nearby.
Bono, lead singer of the Irish rock band U2, said an encounter with a wise man had changed his life "in countless way, big and small." The singer said he was "always" asking God to bless his family, a tour, a song. "Could I have a blessing on it."
And this wise man asked me to stop. He said, Stop asking God to bless what you're doing. Get involved in what God is doing -- because it's already blessed. Well, let's get involved in what God is doing. God, as I say, is...
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...
MLK: God and God's people confront evil together
by Ferrell Foster on January 18, 2016 in ethical living blog
We Christians still have a problem faced by the first disciples of Christ. We have a hard time, a very hard time, casting out evil.
In the New Testament, this is recorded in Matthew 17:19-20. The disciples could not heal a boy, and they did not understand why.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it [an evil spirit] out?"He said to them, "Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of amustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you" (NRSV).
Martin Luther King, Jr., preached a...
Nonviolence became MLK's defining method of seeking justice
by Ferrell Foster on January 14, 2016 in ethical living blog
Many people know of Martin Luther King, Jr., as a champion of nonviolence. This was not new to African American churches.
William D. Watley said King's theological and ethical perspective, including the belief in nonviolence, "was founded on the bedrock of black religion and then shaped by his formal theological education."
King's first speech of the Montgomery bus boycott illustrates that the principle he espoused was not rooted in a secular or non-Christian philosophy. He did not use the word "nonviolence" in the speech, but he eschewed violence from of distinctly Christian perspective. King said:
And I want to say that we are not...
MLK saw community as essential
by Ferrell Foster on January 14, 2016 in ethical living blog
Love was critical in the thinking of Martin Luther King, Jr., and it relates directly to the importance of community.
In King's treatment of love in Stride Toward Freedom, he connects love to community. He repeats "community" 13 times in one paragraph, thus pointing to the importance of community in his thinking. To cite most of the uses of the word and reveal how King viewed community, here is a portion of the paragraph:
Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community. It is insistence on community even when one seeks to break it. . . . Agape is a willingness to go to any length to restore community. It doesn't stop at the...
MLK offers insights that can still help Christians confront injustice
by Ferrell Foster on January 14, 2016 in ethical living blog
Every adult American can hear in their minds the voice, rhetorical skills, and moving words of the late Martin Luther King, Jr. He had the ability to move people with his spoken words in a manner possible of few people in history. He made the phrase, "I have a dream," forever a part of the American experience.
Behind King's powerful spoken words lay a theological and philosophical grounding that shaped him while growing up in the segregated South. The 1955-1956 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, pushed King into the limelight at age 26. The particular talents and skills of King died with him in 1968, but today we can build on the...
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...
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...
Christ’s light shines among refugees
by Ferrell Foster on November 4, 2015 in immigration
An American Christian asked the gathered children if any had experienced difficulty in forgiving someone. One small boy raised his hand and said it was difficult forgiving the armed men who blew up a car, killing his uncle.
This very public and understandable confession occurred at a Baptist camp in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. Texas Baptists are supporting ministries to Syrian refugees there through the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering and through the refugee efforts in Lebanon.
Despite the boy's struggle with forgiveness, he also spoke of "his trust in Jesus and how much joy he has in his life," according to a California Christian who...
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...
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...
Lessons from a life lived well
by Ferrell Foster on August 25, 2015 in faith
A beautiful blonde woman is pictured looking upward beyond the eye of the camera that is photographing her. Her mouth forms a slight, very sweet smile.
It is a picture that should not be in a newspaper, at least not on the page where it is printed. It's on the page titled "Funerals and Memorials."
Twenty-six-year-old Natalie Dailey died Aug. 16 in downtown Austin when an SUV struck the motorcycle on which she rode. "Police said the car failed to yield," the Austin American-Statesman reported.
I did not know Natalie, but she attended one of our Texas Baptist churches -- First Baptist in Austin. Her passing has hurt many people, as...
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 service, he...
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...
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...
Truth – Take Two, No Three
by Ferrell Foster on June 18, 2015 in culture
Last week, I wrote about plagiarism. Now, another truth story is big news – Rachel Dolezal portrays herself as a black woman although she is actually white.
Dolezal says she "identifies as black," borrowing the language of the sexual identity movement. Identifying as African American was not her problem; she went afoul of good judgment by lying and misrepresenting herself.
In other words, it would have been fine for her to say something like, "I'm a white woman, but I identify deeply with the experience of African Americans." But that's not what she did. The Washington Post summed it up this way: Dolezal "had dyed her hair, darkened...
The world according to Benny
by Ferrell Foster on June 11, 2015 in culture
Plagiarize. Multiple times. Get fired. Get a better job. In what world does that progression of events make sense? Ours.
The story of Internet phenom Benny Johnson exemplifies today's web-based culture. Ben Terris captures the essence of Buzzfeed Benny well in a Washington Post article.
Benny climbed atop the "listicle" web world with some 500 posts in about a year and a half. Listicles are enticing. They offer the possibility of quick and quirky info that might make interesting conversation fodder at a party or online. Terris cites several of Benny's listicles – "19 Times American Politicians Tried to Look Normal and Failed;" "The...
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...
Cultural implications of Bruce becoming Caitlyn
by Ferrell Foster on June 4, 2015 in culture
The picture of a new person, Caitlyn Jenner, has intruded itself into our world. Bruce Jenner, the amazing male athlete of a few decades ago, has changed his gender, and the results are supposedly revealed in a Vanity Fair cover story.
Some people are talking about the courage it took for Bruce to become Caitlyn. Courage did not come to my mind when I saw the picture and story. Sadness came. I hurt for this person.
Bruce/Caitlyn has become the great exemplar of a movement to push transgender into the mainstream of society. Transgender is, of course, the "T" in LGBT and LGBTQ and LGBTQIA and a growing string of letters.
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...
Stephen Curry lights up basketball world
by Ferrell Foster on May 28, 2015 in culture
Curry Fever overtook me quietly as I sat watching my first game of Golden State Warriors playoff basketball. Before the game ended I had experienced a flashback to my days in Illinois and the Michael Jordan hysteria that gripped so many of us in the 1990s. Stephen Curry is an amazing basketball player.
I'm not a big NBA fan; it's casual fandom for me. After Jordan, the game bored me. Then the Dallas Mavericks captured some magic, if less beautiful and exciting, but then their franchise let the guys who won them a championship go. My interest waned. I pulled for the Spurs to beat the Heat last year, but that meant watching one series...
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...
by Ferrell Foster on May 21, 2015 in culture
Pop singer Taylor Swift is famous for putting her hurts and pain into song. She's done it again. The word on the street (the web) is that another pop icon, Katy Perry, is the newest object of her ire. That really doesn't matter; the words matter.
Now we've got problemsAnd I don't think we can solve 'emYou made a really deep cutAnd baby, now we've got bad blood, hey!
Many of us can identify with those words. People hurt us; they figuratively cut us. Our hurt and pain causes our blood to rise, as the saying goes. We get angry.
Did you have to do this?I was thinking that you could be trustedDid you have to ruin what was shiny?Now it's...
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...
Daniel had a better way
by Ferrell Foster on May 7, 2015 in culture
Three members of my family just completed an altered version of the Daniel Fast. It's a 21-day "partial fast" based on the experience of the prophet Daniel. I learned some things.
First, I'm no Daniel. My version was substantially less strenuous than recommended.
Second, my version was a challenge. I consumed no fried food, soft drinks, beef, pork, eggs, snack food, leavened bread or regular milk. I tried to avoid cheese, but that stuff is on virtually everything. I had only two cups of coffee.
Third, I realized I was addicted to caffeine and sugar. I didn't think I was a big drinker of soda and coffee, but headaches and...
Time to fall out of love
by Ferrell Foster on April 30, 2015 in culture
"Love" is an extremely important word because it speaks of a very powerful reality. Our culture today, however, generally speaks of love in a manner very different from the biblical agape love.
Take Nate Ruess for example. He's the lead singer for the band, Fun, and now has a solo single, "Nothing Without Love." This is a great song about the power of romance.
Three years at sea after the storm And this sinking ship of love you put me on God, I wish a gust of wind would come And carry me home ... She made me feel hope, you know I am, I'm nothing without love
Those lyrics convey a deep sense of lost love. The words...
'A.D.' shows resurrection was not the end of the story
by Ferrell Foster on April 9, 2015 in culture
Easter ended this year with a very human tale on television. NBC aired the first episode of "A.D.: The Bible Continues," which started with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and will, in coming episodes, tell what happened afterward.
Unlike the recent movie, "Noah," that had little resemblance to the biblical story, "A.D." remained true to the Bible. As a result, it felt more real.
"For us (the producers), it's just about telling these stories in a very human way," said co-producer Roma Downey in The Hollywood Reporter. "These characters didn't know they were in the Bible. They didn't know the outcome from the Bible. They're...
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...
'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...
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...
Spring break with the geese
by Ferrell Foster on March 19, 2015 in faith
My daughter, Tabitha, and I sat on the bank of the San Gabriel River the other day to watch the geese. From the start, it was an odd day. Normally, the geese rush visitors in hopes of bread crumbs or other food. No rush on this day.
There actually were pieces of bread scattered on the ground near us that the water fowl were ignoring. They ignored us, as well. They were, rather, enamored with each other.
We gradually realized that "enamored" was indeed the correct word. Spring had come to the river, and the geese couldn't care less about food. They had their minds on mating.
Some of the animals already had paired up and were content to...
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...
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...
Of skinny jeans and cool socks
by Ferrell Foster on February 26, 2015 in culture
A few years ago, a TV beer commercial introduced me to skinny jeans. I thought skinny jeans had to be the most stupid jeans idea yet, at least for guys. But, no, they are proliferating.
And just the other day, a skinny-jean-wearing friend told me about the newest trend: the slim, shortened legging, which enabled people to see his socks. Why on earth would anyone want to see my socks? He showed me his socks, and they were kind of cool and colorful. I realized then that no one would want to see my socks because they are not interesting; they are always one basic dark color.
If I had my druthers, I would wear jeans every day of the...
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...
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"
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...
'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...
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...
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 in...
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.
Union Association fighting human trafficking
by Ferrell Foster on June 10, 2014 in human trafficking
Union Baptist Association, our state's largest regional body, is taking a leadership role in the fight against human trafficking in Texas. The association's UBA E-Notes this week highlights two human trafficking items.
The second item gives information on a Sept. 20 event at South Main Baptist Church in Houston. It will feature presentations by experts, a tour of high-risk local areas, and times of worship.
Thank you, Tom Billings, for your leadership of the UBA in regard to this...
Spiritual living connects to ethical living
by Ferrell Foster on June 9, 2014 in christian 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...
'Kumbaya' should be no joke
by Ferrell Foster on April 9, 2014 in ethical living blog
In 2010, a story in The New York Times noted that the song, "Kumbaya," had lately been "transformed into snarky shorthand for ridiculing a certain kind of idealism, a quest for common ground."
I remember singing the song in the 1960s, and we loved it. It was no joke; it called us toward something better than what we knew. I did not initially know that "kumbaya" meant "come by here" and was meant as a prayer to God.
"Come By Here" is a song "deeply rooted in black Christianity's vision of a God who intercedes to deliver both solace and justice," The NY Times piece said.
The oldest known recording of the spiritual occurred in the spring...
Muehlhoff speaks on civil communication in CT
by Ferrell Foster on April 7, 2014 in ethical living blog
Christian author Tim Muehlhoff says believers need to "yield to God's power from outside" themselves in order to communicate in a civil, Christlike manner.
Christianity Today has published a Q&A with Muehlhoff regarding his book, I Beg to Differ: Navigating Difficult Conversations with Truth and Love (InterVarsity Press, 2014).
Muehlhoff says that "in the heat of the moment" of a conversation a Christian should remember the advice of A.W. Tozer. "You shall receive power, a potent force from another world invading your life by your consent, getting to the roots of your life and transforming you into someone like Christ." Muehlhoff...
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...
Connecting religious liberty and evangelism
by Ferrell Foster on March 12, 2014 in church state
Evangelism and missions can be conducted openly and forthrightly only in an environment that fosters and protects religious liberty. The United States, with its constitutional protections, is a shining example of this reality, while nations with limits on religious expression are examples of the opposite.
Brent Walker, in the January Report from the Capital, develops the link between religious liberty and evangelism. Americans are "able to practice our religion as we see fit and free to go tell others about it," said Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty.
One person's freedom, however, can...
Write your senator and representative
by Ferrell Foster on February 25, 2014 in ethical living blog
Bread for the World has announced its 2014 Offering of Letters to United States senators and representatives. Bread does not send these letters; Bread encourages and empowers individual Christians to conduct this annual letter-writing campaign, and this often occurs through churches.
This year's effort asks lawmakers to reform United States food aid in times of crisis and to foster long-term solutions to hunger. Specifically, it asks for legislation to pursue three goals:
1) Improve efficiency in international crisis aid by allowing more food to be bought in or near the country where it is needed and by reducing sales of...
War through the eyes of faith
by Ferrell Foster on November 14, 2013 in war and peace
War powerfully shapes a person's understanding of the world, including one's faith. World War II created in many people a veneration of the United States that caused love of country to sometimes override love of God or to conflate the two into one love. The Vietnam War then brought about a mindset of distrust, and since love of God and country had often been melded the two could be dismissed together by some.
It is not surprising that war shapes understandings of faith, but it is surprising that faith does not more often shape understandings of war.
The other day I ran across an article written by Charles Colson in July 2001 shortly...
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...