By: Molly T. Marshall
Mary Oliver's poem, "The Summer Day," poses the question: "What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" The wild and precious life of Jesus beckons us to allow transfiguration in our lives.
By: Mike Massar
We call them the wise men, but those magi who visited Jesus at his birth were viewed with scorn. While it wasn't their intelligence quotient that made them wise, it was the commitment of their hearts.
By: Barry Howard
A drum tree, composed of 34 drums from different eras, stands amid First Baptist Pensacola's Christmas décor. It's a reminder that our faith calls us to march to a countercultural cadence during this hectic season.
By: Chuck Summers
Working to preserve and protect the creation is both a religious obligation and an act of worship. People of faith must now, more than ever, be willing to take a stand for creation care.
By: Zach Dawes
A new song titled "What I'm Thankful For" - a duet performed by Garth Brooks and James Taylor - offers a needed reminder that the Christmas season is about much more than "making a list and checking it twice."
By: Rob Hewell
Waiting just seems impractical. After all, Christmas decorations and sales arrived in stores not long ago. Honestly, we're not very good at waiting yet Advent immerses us in waiting.
By: Chris Smith
Christmas lights flashing, choirs singing, shoppers shopping. They all signal "the most wonderful time of the year," even though it's not for many. But when they know you care, you can help lift a broken heart.
By: Jim Kelsey
During Advent, we reflect upon the moment when the story of God's love went from being related to us to actually being embodied among us. And we are to embody this story that has so captured us.
By: Molly T. Marshall
Like breathing itself, hope is an intrinsic practice that sustains life. Hope helps us see beyond the present limitations and craft a different narrative for the future.
By: James Gordon
The onslaught of news - human suffering, global disaster, brutal conflict, economic doom and political instability - hits us from all directions all the time. Do Christians avoid the news or learn to listen differently?
By: EthicsDaily Staff
Around 200 Baptists celebrated BCE's 25th year, honoring Baptist of the Year Molly Marshall and previewing a new documentary.
By: Molly T. Marshall
Many people of faith follow the same life script as people without faith: get into the best school, get the highest paying job and so on. Perhaps it's time for church to offer an alternate script for success.
By: James Gordon
In a society fixated on individual self-interest, national economic advantage and tectonic shifts in wealth distribution, the poor rarely have life chances. The rich seemingly bathe their feet in the poor's tears.
By: Larry Eubanks
Many folks equate righteousness with sinlessness. But righteousness is tied more closely to innocence and aligns with our treatment of the poor, the powerless, the foreigner, even the sick.
By: Rupen Das
Caring for those who are not part of the mainstreams of society because of their poverty, brokenness and rejection is a prophetic act, says the author of "Compassion and the Mission of God."
By: Colin Harris
Our society is defined by dueling narratives, with each side fighting to control their message. The volume and intensity of this struggle are greater than ever, but the struggle has been around a long time.
By: Robert Parham
A Southern Baptist by heritage and academic training and president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Molly Marshall is EthicsDaily.com's pick as Baptist of the Year for 2015.
By: Larry Eubanks
The title of "city of David" had always referred to Jerusalem until Luke's Gospel, when he bestowed that title on Bethlehem. It was Luke's way to highlight Jesus' opposition to the powers that be in Jerusalem.
By: Jim Kelsey
Every Christmas, Joseph gets short shrift. But like Mary, Joseph was an extraordinary human being used by God to usher in a new chapter in God's pursuit of us.
By: Zach Dawes
The recent tragic headlines cannot overpower the love and joy we experience as we celebrate Christmas. Both traditional and little-known holiday songs reflect God's powerful love.
By: James Gordon
The story of Jesus turning water into wine resonates with a world that needs to recover hope from hopelessness. He will give you more than you can contain and offer more blessing than you can think.
By: EthicsDaily Staff
Churches are a pipeline for gift-giving throughout the year. Here are more reports on what local churches are doing to support the common good in their communities during this Christmas season.
By: Chuck Summers
Hate is incredibly strong these days and seemingly drowns out all hope of peace. Is there any place you can go to find peace? Surrounded by God's creation, you can find tranquility.
By: Juan Aragon
Followers of Jesus need to be intentional about making real and meaningful bridges with people from different languages, beliefs, values, behaviors, customs and attitudes.
By: Jerrod Hugenot
Zephaniah, a biblical prophet, spent much of his time railing against the excesses of the day. We live in no less fractured times. Zephaniah reminds people of faith to keep our eyes on the prize.
By: Robert Parham
The Christian Christmas tradition is about proclamations and promises of good news. Newspapers and cable TV, however, offer a steady drumbeat of bad news. So, where is the good news?
By: Guy Sayles
Christmas is the season of joy, but sometimes our joy gets crowded out by skepticism and suspicion. Despite that, we can trust God to show up in places as unexpected as our weary cynicism.
By: EthicsDaily Staff
Churches are gift-giving institutions during the Christmas season. Here are how a few churches are enhancing their communities and advancing the common good this holiday season.
By: Colin Harris
Every Christmas season looks familiar: gift shopping, holiday entertaining, time off from work and school, special church services. But that's just wrapping. Let's look at the gift's contents.
By: Logan Carpenter
We're well into the Christmas season. Squished in with hope, joy and peace are parties, shopping, obligations, family gatherings and more. Know what you need? An invitation to the Slow Club.
By: Larry Eubanks
There's a tension between fear and love. A person living in constant fear and anxiety dies from the inside out. A person surrounded by unconditional love flourishes even in the harshest conditions.
By: Greg DeLoach
We're all living in-between addresses. It is not where you are from or even where you are going that matters most, but where you are right now. And Advent reminds us of that.
By: Chuck Summers
Nature has its own pace and doesn't tend to rush things. We could learn something from nature. Our rush through life keeps us from experiencing what God has in mind for us here and now.
By: Matt Sapp
What do we do following yet another mass shooting? Christian political engagement is no substitute for personal, individual action. One thing's clear: We can't match hatred for hatred.
By: Elmo Familiaran
The horrific acts of murder and terror remind us we live in a world of violence, hate and evil. Add election-year rhetoric to the mix, and fear covers us like thunderclouds. Will the voice of the church be heard?
By: EthicsDaily Staff
Tired of dealing with the craziness of the Christmas season? See how one church confronts it to encourage a more meaningful observance in the latest video interview from EthicsDaily.com.
By: Christopher B. Harbin
Jesus called us to righteousness, but we've since changed the definition. We've adapted it to following of a specific code that has more to do with cultural norms than what is truly right. Jesus calls for justice.
By: Molly T. Marshall
It's always easier to blame the poor for their circumstances rather than appraising the systemic realities making upward mobility nearly impossible. We prefer the poor to be invisible, even in our churches.
By: Molly T. Marshall
We cannot claim to be persons of faith if we are not concerned about the impact of our patterns of living upon future generations and the kind of ecology they will inherit.
By: Vickey Casey
Knowledge is power in countries such as Mozambique and Uganda, but telling people they have rights is only half the battle. Making affordable legal services available is another challenge altogether.
By: Vickey Casey
Countless poor people all over the world need legal advice, advocacy and support but can't afford lawyers. Lawyers partnering with BMS World Mission are restoring balance to a system weighted against the poor.
By: Barry Howard
Our ancestors envisioned a nation in which liberty and justice would be for all people. Some folks, however, have reduced 'liberty' to a license for self-centeredness and 'justice' to mere retaliatory action.
By: James Gordon
The Bible has a lot to say about food, especially when the powerful, who are well fed, control food distribution and increase the number of poor who go hungry. We have a responsibility to each other.
By: Molly T. Marshall
We cannot claim to be persons of faith if there is not concern about the impact of our patterns of living upon future generations and the kind of ecological home they will inherit. The pope helps us see that.
By: Stephen Holmes
The ideas of justice differ enormously across the whole spread of human culture and history. The Bible doesn't offer a clear definition, but we know God expects justice to reach all people without fear or favor.
By: Molly T. Marshall
To reach the fullness of the unique human identity purposed for us, we must focus attention on God's self-revealing in Christ and the ways he continues to shine through faithful sisters and brothers.
By: Simon Jones
The Apostle Paul lived in a world where an elite few owned almost everything and called the shots. But Paul believed the principles of mutuality and equality were God's blueprint for human society everywhere.
By: Elmo Familiaran
Fear, hatred and violence grip our world. Fear is the mother of hate, and hate has many offspring - slavery, avarice, genocide, bigotry, violence. But fear cannot drown out the words of the Prince of Peace.
By: Larry Eubanks
When you live in relative comfort, believing that God is with you is easy. Those who are vulnerable or impoverished find it hard to believe that God is with them – unless we serve as God's hands.
By: Bill Wilson
Healthy churches start with a powerful, shared vision that captures God's dream for them and then work tirelessly to embrace it across every aspect of congregational life.
By: Matt Sapp
When people are afraid, they quickly fall into an "us" versus "them" mentality. This Christmas, let's no longer remain silent and have the courage to speak out against prejudice.
By: Joe LaGuardia
Advent encourages anticipation and hope, reminding us that God expects to find us meeting the needs of victims of violence with a resolve that rests on the fact that God's future will call all creation to account.
By: Colin Harris
No matter how authentic and spectacular our Advent celebrations are, if we fail to embrace the life to which incarnation invites us, we have participated in only half of the celebration.
By: Molly T. Marshall
God's love is broad and inclusive, yet human readiness to receive it matters. Although some live life without a sense of limits, serious disciples live out the gospel for the long haul.
By: Molly Marshall
Molly T. Marshall, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas, provides columns for EthicsDaily.com. Find out why her favorite Scripture verses are from 2 Corinthians.
By: Molly Marshall
What does it take to model humility? Described as the master virtue, it requires a generous hospitality and the willingness to find those tasks that no one else is eager to do.
By: Drew Smith
Jesus was a political figure, but not in the sense that he was involved in any political power system of his day. His message and his mission confronted the social structures of his day with the politics of God.
By: Brian Kaylor
Baptists from nearly 60 nations gathered in Turkey for the annual gathering of the Baptist World Alliance, electing new leaders for the global group and passing six resolutions.
By: Joe LaGuardia
The fair trade movement, focused on obtaining needed food while sufficiently and fairly supporting the farmers and manufacturers who make it, is breaking through in the Christian world.
By: Molly Marshall
We think of heaven as a far-off place somewhere up above us. But maybe God is not so far away, and there's an interlocking relationship between heaven and earth.
[O]n that first Easter morning, Mary was awaken to a faith in the resurrected Christ when Jesus called out her name, “Mary!” The Eternal Word spoke a personal word that finally aroused Mary from the darkness of her night and brought her into the light of a new morning. It was a new world in which sin, pain, suffering and death could no longer contain the Son of God in a tomb of their making. Yes, on Friday afternoon, those powers of darkness seemingly gained an upper hand, but on that third day, when a new morning was dawning, God opened up the tomb and called out, “Good Morning, Jesus!”
By: Molly Marshall
People were gunned down and killed at two Jewish centers on Sunday. This tragedy requires better thinking about guns, religious liberty and humanity's propensity to scapegoat "others."
By: Larry Coleman
Baptists have their own informal liturgical calendar. The more you embed your life in the Christian calendar, the more meaningful the gospel will become. It's an invitation to experience all of Christ repeatedly.
By: Larry Greenfield
Before Jesus' baptism, John the Baptist spoke about bearing fruit. And what fruit should our baptism produce? The start of our pursuit for righteousness and justice.
By: Drew Smith
The Magi's visit reminds us that the rulers of this world are not the true authorities over God's cosmos, particularly if they seek to rule with illegitimate, unjust and oppressive power.
Coming roughly 12 days after Christmas, Epiphany Sunday reminds us that the darkness will not yield easily to the manifestation of a new order. Each of us must seek the light of God's justice.
What do we do with that close-up vision of the face of Jesus causing us to come to a mute stillness to take it in? The face is meant for us to remember that God came in the form of a child born in the night among beasts. “And nothing is ever the same again.”
Being a person of faith will take you down roads you never thought you would travel. Don’t wait to begin that journey until all your questions have been answered, or you know where the road will end. Take the first step and rely upon God to go with you and guide you. This was what Joseph did. He responded to God’s call upon his life with more questions in his heart than answers, but he discovered that God took every step with him and provided what he needed all along the way.
. The only way we can connect with others is by making ourselves vulnerable. And as I heard her talk about this I thought about God Almighty—the only one who is actually perfect and in complete control—coming to us in the form of a tiny baby, making himself vulnerable, saying “I love you” first, being willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. That’s putting some skin in the game.
Among all the world religions, only the Christian God is a God who loved humanity enough to be one of us, to suffer alongside us, to weep with us, to hurt and hunger with us, and finally, to die for us. Now that is a scandal, for no self-respecting deity would ever dare or dream such a thing. But there you have it in our Gospel Lesson, a God who does all these things coming to us as a child called “Emmanuel,” “God with us” so that He might be “Yeshuah” or “salvation” to us all.
Mary was a lowly peasant girl. Most of us wouldn't have trusted her to babysit our kids. Yet her song, the Magnificat, reads, not like a normal Christmas carol, but like a song of social subversion and reversal.
As you look for his coming in this Advent season, look straight at where your doubts are. You will find [Jesus] there, holding his hands out to you, and offering you his hope, his love, his joy, his peace. And that is what you will hear and see.
But please don’t think badly of John. Near the end of today’s Gospel reading Jesus says that “among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist. He is not only a prophet, he is “the Messenger” sent to prepare the way (Mal. 3:1). And yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.” Jesus says it as he’s looking around at those people he has come to help and heal—the blind, the deaf, the lepers, the lame, and the poor. His dream is not national; it’s global. And it’s not political; it’s personal. Because while he has come for everyone in the world he also makes it clear that he has come for every one
Waiting is an inevitable part of life. No one really enjoys it, and it doesn't often elicit our best qualities. Still, the Bible presents waiting as something God enjoys.
As we move through Advent's preparation for the church's celebration of that first birthday we call Christmas, we look forward to reliving the joy of the new life that has changed the world in so many ways.
Fasting from something you usually do can provide a positive opportunity to deepen and re-order your life in a healthier way. Why not plan a fast from using social media?
In our world torn by war and dysfunction and stress, peace seems to be an elusive prize. Jesus offers a peace to us that can't be shaken by storms or enemies or crisis or even death.
Many Christians are thankful at Christmas that their personal sins have been taken care, but that's only part of the story. Many don't concern themselves with the societal sins that burden the "least of these."
Mary was given an incredible message that as a Hebrew woman certainly meant shame and ridicule, yet she had two incredible reactions. May each of us follow her example.
The Old Testament longs for the day of peace, the day of the Messiah. And Zacharias and the angels declare with the coming of the Christ child, “peace has arrived.” What do we know about peace?
Each year, thousands of people pitch tents outside stores awaiting the promise of joy through low prices. Yet if a homeless person tried to sleep outside the store any other night, they'd be run off.
Baptist churches across the United States are, once again, providing significant social capital during the Advent and Christmas holidays. Here are a few ways they're making a difference.
Many of us feel forced to travel toward Christmas in the fast lane in a culture focused on shopping and accumulating. Advent encourages us to go slow and breathe in the scenery.
Jesus may not yet be interested in a birthday party, but I do think he is definitely interested in coming to meet you... that what he wants to do is come to you in ways he has never done so before. Whether Jesus has come to you once or twice, or many times over, he’s waiting yet again for an invitation from you to accept him into your heart. I do believe he is interested in that[...]
In our world, as good as it is to have “a place of peace” in a comfy chair or in a bubble bath, it is just not enough. For what we truly long for is not just a “private peace” for ourselves while the rest of the world wages war. What we desire is not an “escapist peace” for ourselves while millions of others are left behind to suffer.[...]What we truly need is “Emmanuel,” the dwelling of God being with us. That is the place of peace, of shalom, of wholeness and completeness that we humans and the whole cosmos long for.
There are remarkable moments in history where, for however brief a time, humanity chooses to see the best in each other instead of the worst. One of the moments occurred on Christmas Eve in 1914.
Many Christians will embrace a new way to celebrate the season of Christ's birth in their homes with a Chrismon tree, offering an alternative to our culture's secular view of the holiday.
Retailers push Christmas earlier and earlier. The rush can leave us totally depleted by the time Christmas actually arrives. By slowing the mad dash, we can make the holiday more meaningful.
With angels, shepherds and barnyard animals present, Mary and Joseph weren't likely to have a silent night. Amid the season's clutter, it's hard to focus on the true meaning of Christmas.
Advent is about anticipation, waiting for the arrival of Emmanuel. However, teaching fidgety youngsters about expectantly waiting can prove to be a challenge. Here are some ways to do it.
Introducing Advent to congregations who haven't observed the season can be challenging. Few churches respond quickly to change. Here are seven ways to help.
Advent, which is Latin for "coming" or "arrival," is the four-week period leading up to Christmas, offering worshippers a time to prepare for the celebration of Jesus' birth.
As the destruction of the Philippines unfolds, we must remember that God never wills grievous harm to beloved creatures even if the dynamics of an unfinished creation mean that things can go horribly wrong.
We are told that David was a man after God’s own heart, but what exactly does that mean? It is when Samuel anoints David that the spirit of the Lord, as the Bible says, “came mightily upon David from that day forward.” Could it be that God made certain, on that momentous day, that his heart was entwined with the heart of this young shepherd boy? We can’t really say for sure. The only thing that is of certainty here is that David is God’s chosen... for whatever reason.
The Advent season will soon be upon us. If you're looking for Advent materials, EthicsDaily.com has compiled numerous resources for Advent planning and reflection.
When a nation allows a few to have way too much while many have insufficient resources or barely enough, God's blessing and protection goes away and judgment follows. It's the biblical pattern.
Congress members don't live at the margin with little influence to shape policy. As the government shutdown begins, unemployment and poverty too often remains an abstraction for them.
I understand. Standing against the strong winds of injustice is hard, but there is nothing on this table today which calls us to play it safe when it comes to living out our faith. Everything here encourages us to be as bold as Jesus was in the pursuit of justice.
Many folks consider themselves righteous if they're upright, pure and above approach, but there's another meaning to the word that they miss. It involves a desire for justice.
No matter the double bind of what your role in the war between the siblings has been, whether you’re the one rattling all the pots and pans in the kitchen or whether you’re sitting in the circle of those who are talking about all the world’s big ideas, in truth we’re all guests at God’s table where there’s always enough and where God feeds us all.
There is something going on here that is both urgent and important, and to take time for it, to make time for it, matters. “Mary has chosen the best part,” Jesus said to Martha. It’s not that all those other things aren’t important. It’s not that they are not urgent. But among the many choices you might make this one—to take some time out of your week to sit at the feet of Jesus, to listen to every word he says, to do your very best to live by his teaching—that’s the best choice of all.
Without question, the future of the American Baptist family depends upon listening to new voices. If we really desire to be transformed by the Spirit, we are in for some surprises.
Each of us must discern the nature of idolatry and true worship. We may not worship "graven images," but the simple truth is that anything we give ultimate concern to becomes our deity.
By: Molly Marshall
A growing suspicion of Muslims has become part of our national discourse,
but a gathering of Muslim and Baptist leaders met to seek common
ground and mutual peace.
Throughout Scripture, God pronounces judgment on Israel and her neighbor nations for oppressing the poor. Our government is just as accountable to God for our care of the poor.
Adoniram Judson arrived in Myanmar 200 years ago to serve as a Baptist missionary. Today, Myanmar Baptists are in high gear to celebrate the bicentennial of his arrival.
A disproportionate number of people of color face both prison time and capital punishment, leading groups like Amnesty International to conclude that our judicial system is discriminatory.
When Mary washed Jesus' feet with an expensive perfume, did she know something tragic was coming? And was Judas right to ask why her gift was not used for the poor?
Pope Benedict XVI has decried the abuse of animals in our food production. Consider these five moral challenges about how the food on our table gets there.
Many U.S. Christians live with oblivion about their Jewish roots. This Lenten season is a good time to examine our convictions and feelings about the historic people of God.
In the midst of the darkness, Advent declares that God has come. Christ is born. The Holy Spirit is moving. So never, never give in.
The message of God’s word long before we get to Jesus’ death is that our lives really are all about grace, all about mercy. That we exist at all is a gift of grace. That we have air to breathe, and lungs to breathe with is a work of God’s mercy. Every moment of every day is grounded God’s love and grace.
We don’t conjure up our own peace. It is a by-product of a vital relationship with this babe from Bethlehem who is uniquely qualified to give us security when life is falling apart at the seams.
Nothing is wrong in celebrating only Christmas, Palm Sunday and Easter, but we still miss a rich and rewarding worship journey when we don't observe Lent.
The good things of God are happening if we would but open our eyes and walk the path with Jesus.
Mary had a tremendous influence on her eldest son by embodying and professing this subversive, if not absurd, way of life and faith.
Leave your old life behind on the riverbank of 2012, and when you come up on the other side put on the new life in Christ. Live it throughout this next year.
Jesus calls us to a radical belief, a faith through which we are no longer being conformed to a self-centered way of living but are being transformed by the gospel of God.
What if we committed ourselves to the work of the Kingdom, to doing the things Jesus would do until he comes to finish the job?
It happens every year about this time—the desire for a better world or a better life, a world where things that take place are not as dark, not as foreboding or not as sinful.
Repentance is more than a magical formula we use to get in right relationship with God. It's yielding our lives to the will and purposes of God and God's just rule on earth.
Luke's Christmas Story was revolutionary when it was written and still is today. We need to see past all the sentimentality and shallow theology that has come to surround it.
Are the rules we observe during Advent just for the four Sundays before Christmas? Or do these principles apply to the Christian life throughout the year?
Scripture's many references to the act of hearing imply that God has something to say to us. Despite these clear commands, obstacles deafen our ears to God's voice.
The coming Peace Child wants to make fractured people whole. The coming Peace Child wants to save us from our enemies, even when the enemy is ourselves.
There’s a huge difference between thinking that the world is going to end and thinking that the Lord is going to come.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a model disciple who has a great deal to teach us about loving Jesus and following him. So why do so many Baptists see her as expendable?
Even when you discern the difference between the biblical story and the natural lore that appeared later, the question still remains: Who is the "real" Jesus?
Mark's Gospel, unlike Matthew and Luke, doesn't say anything about Jesus' birth, but this doesn't mean Mark lacks an Advent theme. One of those themes is waiting.
The old man's words brought blessing for Mary's family but reminder that the blessings of the Lord are not free. They are not like some cheap trinket or hand-me-down.
As much as it might mess with our traditional understanding of the widow’s mite and her sacrificial giving, we must not leave her on the pedestal of a stewardship lesson. When doing so, we miss the life application lesson of Jesus’ radical teaching moment.
Advent season is about hoping and waiting for someone who will end the age of injustice and make things right in our lives. So despite the fact that Advent season contains none of the festive atmosphere of Christmastime, there is good news in it.
How would you live your life if you knew that you had less than three weeks to live? What would you do differently? That’s a question worth considering whether or not the rumor is true.
Giving hope was certainly high on Jeremiah’s gift list.
Advent is all about watching and waiting, something our society doesn't do too well. During these next four weeks, here are two reasons you should observe Advent.
Justice is the standard by which we are to measure every political and social system. Justice is the standard that defines whether a ruler is a success or failure.
People must go beyond charity and work to establish justice for the hard problems facing our society, Sister Simone Campbell tells EthicsDaily.com in the latest Skype interview.
What do we do about the injustice we see in our society, culture and churches? If we don't do anything about eliminating oppression and achieving justice, we are the problem.
We must decide whether to live for God as prophets or for the Enterprise Empire as pawns.
A connection between the vast mystery of the universe and the dimension of morality that makes human community possible seems woven into the biblical concept of creation and the prophetic call for justice.
When churches provide aid to the needy, are they unwittingly helping governments abdicate their duty to poor citizens? Perhaps more churches ought to be crying out for justice for the poor.
Long kept in the shadows by Baptist churches, women in ministry are moving into the spotlight. Participation in a program that highlights women in the pulpit has quadrupled in two years.
The frenzied celebration and great hope surrounding Myanmar's democratic elections resemble Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem just prior to Passover. Here's how.
John the Baptist reminds us there is no better time to repent, to turn around and start the road back home than Advent.
The Annunciation refers to the announcement the angel Gabriel made to Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God.
Since 1968, the Catholic Church has designated the first day of every year as "World Day of Peace," but not everyone likes the Church's message of seeking peace through justice.
A person of fierce faith, Mary believed the promises of God to her downtrodden people. Do you have the same profound expectation that God's strong arm will put to rights the world's injustice?
The dreary days of winter remind us how much we crave sunlight, which liberates us from the darkness. Advent reminds us that the darkness in our lives will end when we follow the Light.
God uses ordinary people along their journeys to help those who are struggling, and God doesn’t wait until everything has been marked off our list. So get ready.
But any time you feel that holy twinge, when you perceive in your heart that perhaps God is trying to tell you something that will, in all likelihood, change your life, there just may be an angel involved. If that happens to you, you might also discover that God’s message is found, not just in what the angel has to say, but in what is not said after the angel has departed.
ne of the surprises we discover in immersing ourselves in the stories of the Bible is that those stories are often renderings of our own stories. They resonate because they shimmer with our own experiences in life.
Your will be done on earth as in heaven. We can trust God's grace and power to make us agents of the kingdom of heaven in this life.
While many of us don't have the ability to influence peace on a global scale, we can still do our part to seek peacemaking opportunities that are closer to home.
Advent reminds us gently of the interplay between darkness and light. We live in both because life is made up of such realities.
Today, we begin our journey through Advent, a season of anticipation and preparation for Christmas. I like Dr. Bill Self’s description of Advent. He says it is like the hush in the theater just before the curtain rises.
Christmas will mean so much more to us if we pull aside everyday to feed our spirits through study, prayer, reflection and meditation.
Maybe John Lennon and Picasso had the right idea. During Advent, we are called to imagine the world not as we see and know it to be, but as we think and hope it could be.
We all want God to perform mighty acts as in the past. Yet waiting in hope requires a fundamental trust in God's faithfulness and the humility to allow the mystery of God's work to unfold over time.
God can still make something useful from us. The issue is whether we will prayerfully surrender ourselves to be re-made, redeemed, renewed, and reconciled for God's holy purposes.
We all carry our own issues into worship today, don’t we, our distractions and sometimes our depression? This is how we begin this Christmas season. When you stop and think about it, it’s pretty much how we start every Christmas season. We’re exhausted and we still have a month to go.
Like the first encounter in the fantastic land of C.S. Lewis' Narnia, our own lives can be captive to a life that's "always winter and never Christmas." But it doesn't have to stay that way.
Featuring numerous church programs and parties, Advent is a busy time of year for a minister. Here are five precautions to ensure your minister doesn't run out of gas before Christmas Eve.
Ten years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden is dead. The Taliban regime that hosted him in Afghanistan has been overthrown by a military coalition led by the United States. But justice still seems far from us. Ten years later, are we not walking in gloom?
God is sending prophetic people to challenge the empires of wealth and power that oppress workers, immigrants, those who are poor, elderly, weak, and otherwise oppressed. God's gospel is always working on people, working in people, and working toward justice.
After the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial, people across the nation felt robbed of justice. Funny thing about justice. We want it for others, but prefer mercy for ourselves.
Many seafaring laborers choose the job to escape poverty in their home countries. They face incredible isolation and even danger. One mission group says churches can help them.
As the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship celebrates 20 years, the president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary shares her vision for moving forward by trusting God's Spirit.
When Christian leaders in powerful nations discuss truth only in matters of religious apologetics but not in issues of justice and accountability, is it any wonder that evangelical Christianity faces a crisis of credibility?
Catholic bishops recently took Speaker of the House John Boehner to task, claiming his congressional actions didn't uphold Catholic teachings. At what point do religious concerns become issues of the common good for society?
If we're true to our faith, we must value human life without a "but" or an "if." Once we think people are too far from saving or restoration, this is when we renounce our faith.
When an enemy's defeated, the glee born of sweet revenge often gives way to deeper wisdom. It's a reminder to build our ethics on the rock of careful theological reflection and not the sand of impulse.
Reflecting on Osama bin Laden's death, Islamic, Christian and Jewish faith leaders reflected on the need for justice, cautioned against celebrating his death and discussed how to move forward toward peace.
Osama bin Laden killed thousands of Americans. American forces have killed him. Justice has been done. The formula seems so simple. So why is it difficult to feel good about it?
The United States celebrated the death of Osama bin Laden as a triumph of justice. Revelers waved flags and shouted chants of victory. What is the appropriate response to the death of an enemy?
We need more than charity if we want to make a meaningful difference to address poverty. When we work for justice, we can address the larger issues of taxation and education that keep poverty alive.
With the presence of almighty God in the tent of our soul, I am persuaded, with the Apostle Paul, that neither death, nor life, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall separate (or shake) us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
Religion does not exist to make people more religious. God's light calls us to focus on living with justice, compassion, and humility.
At its core, racism and segregation were theological problems then and now in that we don’t recognize the sacredness of all humans but treat others as “less than.” The social system that affirmed the separation between the “haves and the have-nots” meant that those in the latter category were given very few opportunities to grow, to learn, to earn, and ultimately to have dignity. The system rewarded one class while suppressing another and Dr. King was moved to change the way things were.
Is the gospel purely personal, having only to do with individual salvation and life after death? Or is there a social component to the gospel? Does Jesus' message say anything about economics and politics?
When the Constitution is read at the beginning of the new session of the House of Representatives, may it be more than a ritualistic gesture and serve as a reminder of the responsibilities of our public officials.
Do we know from our personal experience that Emmanuel is more than just a nice name for Jesus?
Did you know there are two versions of the Christmas story in the New Testament? Often we feel compelled to fuse them together, or we try to, in order to harmonize the two divergent stories into one story. But try as we might, they really are two different stories about the same event and they resist our efforts to meld them together.
We're familiar with the expression "can't see the forest for the trees." The lessons for the Fourth Sunday of Advent from the Hebrew Testament and Gospel of Matthew provide a working example of that expression.
Our reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah is set about seven hundred years before Jesus was born. The prophet finds himself right smack dab in the midst of some real international intrigue.
Nothing's wrong with a festive attitude toward Christmas, but our festive Christmas observances seem disconnected from God's prophetic work in Christ. We need to celebrate being prophetic followers of Jesus.
The child is a sign of what matters most to humanity. And the unlikely source of God's redemption is a child who will know "how to refuse the evil and choose the good."
OMG, shorthand for "Oh My God," is used every day in the most inane ways. While "God" seems to be added only out of habit, could there be a spiritual dimension to this exclamation?
With its message about the wealth disparity in the early church, James is just as relevant today, with politicians ready to extend income tax reductions for the rich.
Have you ever heard anyone say, “I deserve joy.” No. have you ever heard someone say, “I am going out and I am going to get some joy today. I am going to do the things that make me joyous.” No. Joy is usually a by-product of something worthy.
We often reflect on the birth and death of Jesus during Advent but neglect all the events that happened in between. Jesus came not just to die but to show us how to live.
A small stand of solidarity may seem like a routine action but can be a source of God's healing love for those in need. For 14 Advents, Highland Baptist Church has placed crosses on their lawn in memory of victims of violence.
While Christians typically focus on the themes of hope, peace, joy and love during Advent, Mark's Gospel reveals other themes. One of them, waiting, is a challenge for a society that lives for quick gratification.
Sacred texts and prophetic voices from myriad faith traditions across the world all contain a call to love one another in the form of exhortations to treat others as we would have them treat us. So what stops us?
What are you hoping for this season? Perhaps responding to an invitation will help. No, not an invitation to yet another party. An invitation offered you by the prophet Isaiah. He says to you and me, “Come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.”
Advent is a way of preparing spiritually for the Christmas holiday. It is a way of preparing for the birth of Christ, to once again try to experience that birth in its newness and freshness in our own hearts.
Faith determines how we live. Many people have a rear-view mirror approach to life. Their lives are spent replaying old dramas, remembering past glories, and even trying to re-capture bygone energies because they have more faith in the past than in new possibilities for the future. But Jesus did not call us to such a faith. We are called to live looking ahead.
Some folks want a Jesus who can solve all their problems, answer all their questions and be an endless source of comfort and happiness. But Jesus calls us to a path of surrender, service and sacrifice.
When we reach the season of Advent, we know it’s time to start over. Isn’t starting over what we need? So many times in life, we wish to wipe it all away and take a fresh look, make a fresh start, or take a first step all over again. Advent is a new beginning and a fresh start for those who are willing to prepare themselves.
Those seeking repeal of the first steps toward health care reform seem to value the benefits of an unreformed system more than the opportunity for greater justice in medical coverage.
Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, spoke out against economic injustice and religious idolatry that favored the few at the expense of the many. Should he be the patron prophet for our times?
Fight the good fight with courage trusting God's justice and mercy for strength. Finish the long race trusting God's justice and mercy as you run.
Questions of taxation would seem to be political issues upon which the faith community has little to say. However, the three Abrahamic traditions speak of the need for funds to be gathered for the common good.
To "seek the welfare of the city" in our day takes the form of generosity of heart when paying taxes. We all benefit by a tax system that protects the most vulnerable and requires those with greater resources to live justly.
A British watchdog group issued a report examining how fair Great Britain is. While equality is impossible in many areas, Christians are called to work for a fairer society.
My friend George Mason says the real issue is “that Martha is cookin’ it up for Jesus and Mary is cookin’ it up with Jesus... Mary teaches us,” he says, “that we do not host Jesus; we guest him as he hosts us.”
But Christians in America are called to reserve their first loyalty not to the government in Washington but to the Kingdom of God. Our Commander in Chief is ultimately Jesus, not the President.
People who love God know that evil is real and that people can choose to behave in wicked ways. People who know God know the difference between misfortune and wickedness, both personal and social.
Today's politicians have much to learn from the centurion who knew the limits of his authority before Jesus. They are more concerned with their own survival and refuse to submit to the authority of serving the common good.
After leaving the White House, President Jimmy Carter decided to put his faith and his political visibility to work in the cause of justice, promoting democracy in places no one dreamed democracy was even possible.
Two great systems of thought are colliding. There are those who complain they are taxed to death, and others who proclaim the moral imperative of charity and justice growing out of the Abrahamic religions.
Separating church from state does not mean our public life should be void of faith. Since the days of the biblical prophets, the voice of faith has called for justice and peace in our common existence.
Christians can learn something from the tea partiers. We ought to be in serious discussions about a whole range of issues that must include the roles of government.
The death penalty should be abolished because it is unjust and a waste of taxpayer of money. But there's an even greater reason to oppose it. Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful."
The God-called prophets always see things the rest of us don’t see.
Faithful Oregonians ran with perseverance the race for justice, passing ballot measures that will avert a shortfall in the state's two-year budget that would have resulted in cuts to services affecting the poor and middle class.
Whistle-blowers take great personal risks to bring to light wrongdoing. They often face reprisal from the very organizations they've exposed. In Bradley Birkenfeld's case, it meant going to prison.
What does it mean to do justice? Ask a nonprofit group like Alabama Arise. Its annual list of issues affecting the state's poor, coupled with strategies to address them, is a reflection on how to do justice.
Poverty won't yield to charity alone. There aren't enough soup kitchens and shelters in the whole country to begin to make a dent in America's poverty. To make a difference, we need a commitment to justice.
When it comes, not only to Christmas, but to the world in which you live, where do you get your ideas? If you are willing to risk it, look with fresh, new eyes at that book you have in your lap. It might just change your perspective. Better yet, it might just change your world and make everything – everything – topsy-turvy.
The title of the sermon today is Sometimes Call for . . . Joy. The truth is that every time calls for joy. Doesn’t this time in our lives, in the lives of our nation and community, call for joy? If we think that joy is only going to come if the economy rebounds, and if we think joy is only going to come if we engage in repetitive acts that give us pleasure for a moment, we are just kidding ourselves.
All times call for love. This year calls for love, and whatever happens in the next year will call for love. Whatever these children who will grow up to take our places face, those times will call for love, too. May we always, always, be faithful to the God who loved us enough to send his son in the form of that Babe of Bethlehem, not to love as long as it feels good, but to love until Christ comes again because that’s what God’s people do.
The words of John the Baptist may not be Christmas-card sweet but they call us to look at our own lives, our relationships with God and the ways those relationships impact how we live our lives.
When I got up this morning, I had this sensation that I was being watched. No matter what I did – brewing coffee, checking headlines on the computer – I sensed other eyes watching me. Who was it?
As followers of Jesus, our hope for Advent peace requires that we live in the paradox and all the tension it involves as prophetic agents for love, justice, righteousness, and truth. We do not proclaim a gospel that would have people wait for pie in the sky. We are followers of Jesus, the promised Righteous Ruler of God. As followers of Jesus, we pray and live to prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight. We pray and live to fill every valley of despair and push down every arrogant system of pride and prejudice. We pray and live to confront crooked government, crooked rulers, crooked systems, and crooks with a call to straighten up and fly right. We pray and live to make the rough places of life smooth for the weak, vulnerable, oppressed, and poor. We do this because we live in the paradox of Advent peace as followers of Jesus Christ, the coming Prince of Peace.
It is the season of preparation, and it begins not in the usual places but in the heart. Did you hear this morning’s gospel reading from The Message? The Baptist is speaking of Jesus when he says, “He’s going to clean house – make a clean sweep of your lives.” So the next time you take up a broom to clean your home in preparation for Christmas, remember John, will you? “Come clean and come empty”2 when it is time to meet your King, and recognize there may just be a few cobwebs in your soul. It’s cleaning time, time to get ready for the coming of the King, and the best preparation begins inside, right here (the heart). How will you respond?
We can’t do much about alliances and peace treaties. But all of us face sisters who fight over mama’s money, brothers who haven’t spoken for so many years that they can’t even remember why, children who won’t come home and parents who don’t want them at home. In each of these situations there is something we can do. The peace of Christmas can break out in my relationships if I would but learn these things.
What about us? What about our congregation, community, state, nation, and world? What must change for us to be a presentable people? What must become different, be moved, refined, and purified? Are we content doing life, politics, business, government, family the way that is comfortable? Are we willing to change, seeking to change, praying to change, living to change from earth to ore, ore to molten metal, and metal to precious jewelry for God? I think of this as I ponder the refusal of our Governor to appoint people of color to the all-white Arkansas Supreme Court, and when I ponder so many other things about the way we rationalize in life. What must God's Christ do in us to make us—the people of God—"offerings to the Lord in righteousness … pleasing to the Lord? What does how we live say about what we are offering God?
So the schoolteacher says to her class, “Now class, I am going down the hall to the principle’s office for a few minutes. I certainly hope I can trust you to act like responsible fifth graders. But just in case, I’m leaving the door open. I’ve asked the teacher across the hall to listen for trouble. I hope you will show me how responsible you are. I’m leaving now. I had better not hear a word out of you. You have work to do while I’m gone …” And with that she softly leaves the room. The anticipation of her return lingers in the quiet classroom. In our hearts, we long for Jesus’ presence, for we are at our best when the Master is with us. Build within our hearts, O God, a sense of holy expectation for Christ’s return while we stay busy quietly doing the work of God in our time.
Our work today, is to sing another verse of that ancient promise clinging to the possibility that God is still at work laboring to make the promise come true. Jesus came to us with a purpose and during Christmas, our temptation overcomes us every time we live as though there’s another purpose.
Does 90 percent of America have hearing loss? They do if you count people who willfully ignore what is happening in the world. Many tune out the lack of health care, rampant Wall Street greed and other injustices.
As mission-driven Christians who live in a market-driven culture, the reflective disciplines of Advent keep us alert to stealth forces like materialism, busyness, greed and indifference.
This Advent season needs to find us doing our duty. And what is that? I’ll put it this way... If we do not use this season as an opportunity to be people of light who share the good news that God has come to our darkened world, then there is reason for us to question whether we are truly Christ followers.
Just as Advent invites us to think about a God who comes to us, as distinct from a God who is unapproachable, so it encourages us to be accessible, or better yet, go to those who need our help. Who would that be? With God’s guidance and help, reach out to them this week. Go sit with them in “The Waiting Place.”
As the 9/11 trials approach, it is an appropriate time to examine the Christian perspective of justice. In biblical terms, justice is closely related to forgiveness, not to revenge.
Many churches will mark the beginning of Advent on Sunday, a month-long reflection on the meaning of Jesus' birth. It's far more significant than simply encouraging retail outlets to say "Merry Christmas."
Advent season draws nigh, so we are Singing, Seeing, Shining, and Sharing. Advent season draws nigh, because God's Love deserves our Song, God's Life is too real to not see, God's Truth is too brilliant to be hidden by the darkness of our situations and the reality of evil, and God's Christ deserves our reverent acts of sharing. We sing of God's Love. We see God's Life. We are inspired by God's Shining Truth. And we share in reverence for the Christ who is the Way, Truth, and the Life to God.
During the Sundays of Advent, we will learn how to worship more fully our true God and not the god of consumerism, because Christmas begins and ends with Jesus. We will also learn how to reorder our desires so that we’ll spend less on ourselves this Christmas in order to free our resources for things that truly matter.
An estimated 100 prisoners are serving life sentences for crimes they committed as minors. Are teenagers mentally capable of making decisions with adult-size consequences?
Politicians tell us torture has provided crucial security information, but one study says that doesn't hold water. Why have so many of us been willing to accept this rationale? One word says it all.
Some ministers are quick to see God's judgment in calamity, but they work from an incomplete picture of God. As a result, they teach too many people to live under God's scorn rather than his grace.
Among the 125 notable vehicles of the 20th century in the Henry Ford Museum, including a string of presidential limos, you can actually board only one and sit where its most famous passenger sat.
Looking beyond Baptists' 400th anniversary, several Baptist leaders from around the world discuss what they hope will become Baptist hallmarks in the future.
Let us today, as children of God, have an understanding of justice. There are two different means, the justice in the world and the criminal justice system, that is one. But let us also understand what God wants for justice. As much as we would ever commit ourselves to personal morality and trying to live the right way, let us commit ourselves to justice for all people, that the people of God in this world would be known for treating all people, through all systems, the way the children of God are supposed to treat people. “Let justice roll down like the river and righteousness like a never-failing stream.”
We, too, are living in the power of that resurrection, but we are often less than cooperative and generous. With cheap energy we have chosen endless sprawl. We rattle around in enormous houses and enormous suburbs, distant from one another in every way. I put signs in our yard supporting a school board candidate in the recent election and then I went up the street and got permission to plant signs in yards of the neighbors I know – a grand total of four across the street and two on our side. The signs were signs of the limits of our neighborliness.
States with tax policies that oppress the poorest and most vulnerable citizens were also likely to have large Baptist populations, new research says.
You don't have to look hard to find examples of social injustice in the world. Too often, however, many of us choose to overlook injustice because it's not convenient to act. Next time, let's each do our part to do the right thing.
Troy Davis was sentenced to death in 1991 for the murder of an off-duty police officer. No weapon was found, and no evidence linked him to the crime. As a matter of justice, will Christians call for the reopening of the case?
Who needs your help right now? Who needs you to be courageous and compassionate? Whose heart is as troubled as Jesus’ was in this text and needs you to walk with them along their journey? What could you do that might change the way they live the rest of their life?
The Gospel of Mark narrates John’s arrest and death in a way that implies something deeply theological about the vulnerability of those who would dare to be prophets of God.
So long as we persist in holding on to the idea that government is some sort of alien power, is in fact our adversary, we will live as a nation divided against itself.
My intelligence is challenged by students (as well as by some faculty and administrators) when I allow the spirituality of marginalized communities to inform and impact my scholarship.
Religious groups are more than eager to love their neighbors when it comes to regulating personal behavior. But when it comes time to take on the big issues of social and economic injustice, conservative Christians begin to sound more like a certain character in one of Jesus' parables.
Raimundo César Barreto Jr. of Brazil is being recommended as the BWA’s first director of its Division of Freedom and Justice.
But if we’re to be the compassionate community molded by the way of our Leader, we must look over the wall of the community to see who’s outside the gates, banished there by the people of God, unable to get in other than to get on their knees to beg. There’s a risk in loving the outsiders to be sure. But if we’re the people of faith we claim to be, that’s the kind of love we must share.
If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, what would he say to the growing missional church movement?
Too many American Christians have myopia about the malnourished and their moral obligations.
President Barack Obama has reset the nation’s moral compass. Granted much of what he did was rhetorical. Nonetheless, he struck a new moral direction away from the nation’s failures, save one exception.
At an academic conference I was challenged publicly for "airing dirty laundry" about "our" people when I critiqued intra-Hispanic oppressive structures. In other words, it was OK for me to criticize the dominant culture, but I must never turn that critical gaze inward, lest I betray my own people and expose our shortcomings.
Maybe it was the timing of New Year’s with all the resolutions and stuff, but I too am intrigued by Chopra’s simple yet bold request to our President-elect to reframe our national direction from warring to peace with nine basic steps.
The season of Advent prepares us for Christmas Day, the day that Joy came down from heaven and entered into the hardships of humanity as a vulnerable child.
If we are not loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our strength and with all our minds and loving neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27), then it's very likely that we too are a part of a crowd that has our priorities all out of line during this Advent season.
I want us this season to give thought to what it would mean to be centered in faith, rather than refugees of a faith that's overwhelmed by the marketplace.
More than prophetic critique and hollow promises of political change, perhaps what our culture really needs from church leaders is a word of hope—hope understood as the courage to wait.
The Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Sen. Barack Obama's former minister, continues to be a factor in the ongoing presidential campaign. His recent media blitz has put his theology and social views on the front burner. I find it interesting to hear his views characterized as representative of Black Liberation Theology.
Baptists should condemn the idea that incarceration cures crime, advocate just alternatives to prison and work to reclaim and restore persons leaving the penal system, says an appellate judge and ordained Baptist minister.
A British Bible society is launching the first-ever study Bible highlighting more than 2,000 verses that emphasize God's concern about injustice and the poor.
The past seven years in Washington have seen an "epidemic of indifference" and a "collective turning of the government's back" on people in need, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told a joint meeting of four major African-American Baptist groups Wednesday in Atlanta.
The holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas is the most intensely charitable time of the whole year. Church and civic groups gather clothes, food, and toys for needy families. Volunteers make their way to homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Busy shoppers dutifully drop their change into Salvation Army buckets.
The good news is, if you're awake, you're alive. The bad news is, you have to get out of that comfy bed, find something to wear, and at least try to be someone who is pleasant to be around.
John Mayer's song called "Waiting for the World to Change" has been my head as I think about Christmas. Mayer writes compelling lyrics about how we often feel like we don't have the power to change our world. "Now we see everything that's going wrong/with the world and those who lead it/we just feel like we don't have the means/to rise above and beat it." So we keep waiting, Mayer says, waiting for the world to change.
Immigration continues to dominate much of the discussion among Republican presidential candidates. The issue sparked a fierce back-and-forth exchange between candidates Rudy Guiliani and Mitt Romney during the recent CNN/YouTube debate.
Every year when December hits, we hear a lot about John. That's John, as in the strange and hairy man screaming as loud as he can that we've really messed up the world, and we all better get our act straight before it's too late.
EthicsDaily.com recently carried a Religion News Service story about a new church movement called the "Advent Conspiracy."
April 16, 1963 My Dear Fellow Clergymen: While confined here in the Birmingham City Jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities "unwise and untimely."