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: 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: 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: 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
The Lenten practice of not eating meat has year-round benefits for the common good. That’s because the amount of water needed to feed the animals we consume far exceeds what's needed to grow veggies.
By: Larry Greenfield
The nation's largest chain of drugstores, CVS/Caremark, said it will no longer sell cigarettes and other tobacco products in its stores. Tobacco sales are inconsistent with their purpose, CVS' CEO said.
By: Larry Greenfield
Rayfield Wright, the football hall of famer for the Dallas Cowboys from 1967-79, isn't sure he'll watch the Super Bowl on Sunday. After multiple concussions, his attention span is too short.
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.
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.
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.
John the Baptizer traveled the wilderness, calling others to repent. As poor families face the threat of more food stamp cuts, Congress seems eager to avoid the wilderness and a call to repentance.
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."
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.
Public prayers in political settings are inappropriate for both religious and political reasons. Yet some religious folk tolerate and even endorse prayer before government proceedings.
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.
For those of us with an abundance, it's easy to give away clothing we don't want to those in need. Instead of such thoughtless giving, we should seek to build genuine relationships.
As the parable of the rich man and Lazarus reminds us, the rich are so presumptuous they expect the poor to serve them. You don't have to look farther than Congress to know this is still true today.
The healing of body and mind was integral to Jesus' ministry. That's why we must stand up to those politicians who try to keep people from accessing the Affordable Care Act.
Our nation is divided between haves and have-nots, rich and poor, well fed and hungry. Jesus, too, is interested in division, but it's one that will wipe out all the others.
The U.S. House of Representatives, under the guise of cost cutting and fiscal responsibility, passed a farm bill that aids the rich and attacks the poor. It reflects Jesus' parable about a foolish farmer.
In two rulings, five of the six Supreme Court justices, who are Roman Catholics, went against their church's tradition of advocating for the dignity and rights of workers.
Unless citizens express their opposition, we will soon see the toll on the poor of across-the-board spending cuts and at least 14 states opting out of Medicaid expansion.
Do you have clout? How do you use it? Some folks use it to deny sick and dying people access to affordable health care. Others use it to help people overcome poverty and illness.
Not all Protestants and evangelicals gravitate to the Religious Right. Many focus on social justice issues. Yet in the media, the Right draws far more attention than the Left. Why?
Are we willing to listen to Wisdom? In Scripture, she warns us of the danger of pride and arrogance. Perhaps we should travel with her along the way of righteousness and justice.
The Dow breaks 15,000, and everyone starts cheering. Or are they? We must not forget the homeless, poor, elderly and children who suffer because of sequestration.
The Odyssey, an ancient Greek epic poem, is the tale of one man's frustrated attempt to return home. Today in Greece, many Albanians endure their own personal odysseys.
The first-century church may have quarreled about who could be legitimate Christians, but let's be glad they didn't require all the steps proposed for undocumented immigrants.
Margaret Thatcher was described as a champion of "freedom and liberty," but what about of equality? All are essential and inseparable components in democratic life and community.
The United States is a nation of plenty, yet some of our neighbors live with so little when we have so much. Why are the poor in our own back yards so invisible to us?
A pope's name has strong symbolic significance. For Cardinal Bergoglio, choosing the name Pope Francis reflects a vow of care for human beings and the environment.
We don't know what Lazarus did with his life after being resurrected. Did he cower in obscurity to live a life with no risk or did he confront the religious and political powers?
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?
Politicians and the media in Great Britain have misused statistics that reinforce myths that blame the poor for being in poverty, a new report says. The poor deserve the truth.
How do U.S. Christians respond to the death toll of innocent civilians, whether a few dozen in Somalia or hundreds of thousands in Iraq, in our wars? For many, they don't.
The Carnival cruise debacle ended on a generally happy note for all concerned, but don't miss the irony of the wealthy living for a few days in Third World-like conditions.
As Jesus in the wilderness faced a choice between serving his own self-interest or the common good, so too must His followers decide what they will serve.
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.
Sure, it may be Groundhog Day on Feb. 2, but there's another reason to celebrate that day. Will you observe it by doing your part to ensure equality for everyone?
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.
How can pastors address the U.S. national deficit and fiscal policy without resorting to partisan labeling? Scripture reminds us that moral leaders care for the vulnerable.
Jesus repeatedly opts to overcome the deficits that people face not by austerity but by extravagance. It is also what he teaches his disciples: in the face of deficits, choose abundant generosity.
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.
During Christmas, much emphasis is placed on acts of kindness, including giving to the poor. But we need a system of social justice that operates all year long, not just at Christmas.
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.
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.
Some eccentric people may seem to wander aimlessly, but they are actually on a purposeful path. And that eccentricity is good if they're making the world a more human place to live.
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.
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.
The late George McGovern came at public issues with a shared understanding of the way religious faith can provide a foundation for work on behalf of justice and compassion.
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.
Debts need to be canceled when they are out of control, and measures put in place to stop future debt crises. It's biblical and has been done before. Will you join the call for justice?
In the presidential election, the determining factor for the victor was attracting the votes of a diverse electorate. It's a change that may be redemptive for all of us.
Jesus made it clear that love for God and love for others is the biblical value from which all others must follow. So how could Billy Graham have been so far off the mark?
Refugees sneak into Morocco on their way to what they hope is a better life in Europe, but they're not welcome and their lives are endangered. Is the church willing to help?
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama talk a lot about helping the middle class, but both of these men of faith are silent when it comes to plans to help the poor and disenfranchised.
In the U.S. political process, citizens vote for their own self-interest. Shouldn't Christians reject their own interests and vote to support those without the power of the majority?
We can beat the looming challenges that face us when we get the word out about what is working, Bill Clinton proclaims. It's what makes him a paradigmatic evangelist.
As Chicago's teachers went on strike, many city churches opened their doors to students. They aced Jesus' test by welcoming the vulnerable. How do you measure up?
In a moment your words will bless and heal.
True freedom is more than showing our patriotism. It involves establishing a society based on equal rights for all, economic justice, compassion and charity.
Many in the U.S. think the nation is moving in the wrong direction. Perhaps we could learn from Jesus' encounter with a foreign woman who changed his mind.
Eating less can substantially reduce global hunger, not to mention improve the health of those of us in the U.S., where obesity has become a national epidemic.
As Lebanon's poor and marginalized are endangered by a fractured social safety net, will churches step up to be true advocates for those most at risk?
Washing hands before meals may not be a priority for Jesus, but he is concerned about what's in our hearts. And each election, our nation decides what is in our hearts.
By the time they're in fourth grade, 70 percent of low-income children can't read at a basic level. Sometimes, it only takes one person to inspire a child to read.
Chicago murders were down in July, and the overall crime rate is down 10 percent. However, a new source of injury, mayhem and death hit Illinois when drastic Medicaid cuts went into effect.
A coalition of Christian groups is launching a campaign to highlight global poverty and corruption, which keeps more than 850 million of the poorest of the poor undernourished.
Although they begin their work from different ends of the physical-spiritual spectrum, politicians in election campaigns and preachers in revival services are a lot alike.
To focus on the daily existence of the marginalized – as mundane as crossing a river with a bundle of banana leaves – is to critically analyze the good and bad that shapes and forms the daily life of the poor.
In this election year, "It's Even Worse Than It Looks" is required reading for people of faith who want a balanced look at the dysfunction in our U.S. democratic system.
We often yearn for the way things used to be, but those days never existed. As one teacher reminded, the world always changes and is always the same. What matters is how we respond.
As Herod kept his oath and delivered John the Baptist's head on a platter, so too are gang members in Chicago keeping their oaths as the murder rate rises. Will Jesus' gang keep their oath?
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.
We enjoy our middle- and upper-class lifestyles because of the poor. Yet we seldom consider the connection between our privilege and their economic disenfranchisement.
The myth that the poor get what they deserve has been around since Jesus' day. While too many Christians accept the myth, one group is taking steps to help poor women.
As we near the Fourth of July, how do Christians celebrate their true independence day? It begins by working for God's will on Earth, which means a place of shared abundance.
To participate in an investment campaign in and for Palestine without standing against Israel's subjection of the Palestinians sides with the oppressors and opposes the oppressed.
As Jesus' mustard seed parable points out, it's not the time to practice austerity when the ground is bare. It's time to invest in seeds. Will economic and political leaders grasp this?
To listen to the words offered at Christian funerals, eternal life sounds like perpetual and passive retirement. But isn't it truer to say it's the start of our work for God's reign eternally?
There's a word for U.S. reps, who confess to follow Jesus Christ yet voted to restore cuts to the defense budget by slashing domestic programs that help the vulnerable. It's heretics.
How do you know a person, group or nation abides in God's love? They help those in need when they possess the resources. With the House GOP seeking deep domestic cuts, do they pass?
With the GOP presidential nominee all but confirmed, U.S. voters will need to decide if the CEO model of leadership is what the nation requires at this moment in its history.
Whether it's Protestant Reformer John Calvin or Catholic social teaching, we are reminded that Christianity teaches us to care for the poor. Will we listen?
Christians who want to revoke the Affordable Care Act and offer no alternative will allow millions to suffer and die. And, as Jesus said, when you do it to the least of these, you're doing it to Him.
Disappointed you didn't win a Mega Millions windfall? Join the club. State lotteries have failed to deliver on repeated assurances that they would be a windfall for public schools.
Two strikingly similar feasts – one where the guest of honor is taking the mantle of Messiah, the other seeks the title of president – have one major difference.
In a dirt-floor hut in a Mexican village, a poor woman's simple action taught students and their professor more about divinity than all of their textbooks could.
Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, but will any Christians today challenge the wealthy and powerful who are corrupting the temple of democracy?
Something innate in the human spirit drives us to reach beyond our boundaries. John Glenn broke one of those boundaries 50 years ago when he orbited the Earth.
We commonly think of Lent as a time of denial and discipline. While they are part of the Christian faith, Lent is also a call to leave the wilderness and enter God's new realm.
What's the definition of an authentic follower of Jesus? A conservative or a liberal? A revolutionary for change or a reactionary against it? Mark's Gospel suggests an intriguing answer.
Political conservatives and Catholic leaders criticized Mitt Romney's statement of disinterest in the well-being of America's poor, but few Christian conservatives voiced concern.
WASHINGTON (RNS) President Obama connected his faith with his policies toward the poor at the National Prayer Breakfast.
A coalition of community and faith groups is supporting an initiative petition to be placed on Missouri's November ballot to cap the rate of predatory lending at 36 percent.
When Jesus healed a possessed man, the crowd seemed to miss that unclean spirits were all around them. Today, do we miss the unclean forces that attack the vulnerable?
Odds are Paola, an immigrant first-grade student, will suffer from poor nutrition, inadequate health care, an inferior education. But she teaches all of us to love our neighbors.
GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney seems to routinely bear false witness, yet he could certainly make a strong case for his candidacy without the lies. So why does he do it?
The micro-credit industry was once seen as the magic formula to end poverty. However, we now see that microfinancing isn't helping the poor out of poverty.
John the Baptist reminds us there is no better time to repent, to turn around and start the road back home than Advent.
GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich called Palestinians an invented people, but is that so bad? In some respects, Christmas, the United States and even Christianity are inventions.
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.
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.
We only have one life to make the best use of the time and gifts extended to us. But during that life, we have many chances to make decisions that inch us toward a more fulfilling life – or less so.
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.
Even though past generations of Hispanics bought into the American Dream, the economic structures have been – and continue to be – constructed to maintain their disenfranchisement.
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.
If we believe God is generous, our actions toward those in need will reflect that generosity. But in a nation where the gap grows between the rich and the poor, have we missed that point?
BALTIMORE (RNS) Twenty-five years ago, Catholic bishops issued a statement that became the touchstone for religious opposition to “trickle down” economics.
God's gift of faith must always be invested. Although it may seem safer to keep it to ourselves, we must share it with others even if we must stand up to those who are intent on gaining the whole world.
The Poor People's Campaign of 1968 has largely been forgotten. Yet as the gap between the wealthy and the poor continues to widen, the need for a push for economic justice is greater than ever.
We now have 7 billion people on our planet. And as that number grows, we'll see increased struggles for dwindling resources, such as food, water and oil. How will we respond?
Religious leaders may have earned certain titles, but Jesus had a strong warning for those who use titles for the purpose of lifting themselves above others.
WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious communities are holding prayer vigils, phoning politicians and organizing letter campaigns in a bid to protect safety net programs.
Those who occupy Wall Street don't have the wealth of the 1 percent. However, as they demand their slice of the economic pie, they're also not in the same league as the truly impoverished.
What we increasingly hold as civically sacred is not just liberty at the expense of justice and equality, but also a particular kind of liberty – economic liberty – at the expense of everything else.
Our current economic system transfers wealth from the bottom of society to the top, creating a growing income disparity between the rich and poor, many of whom are disproportionately people of color.
The heavenly host and the son of the heavenly host are moving the banquet table out of where these wedding celebrations normally take place and are setting up tables out there where the new invitees are.
WASHINGTON (RNS) A city court dropped charges against a group of religious and civic leaders who were arrested during a prayer vigil for the poor.
Like Jesus' parable of the tenants who refused to pay a landlord the profits from his vineyard, do we have more in common with the current tenants or the new ones?
At first glance, Jesus' parable about laborers' wages seems harsh, but each worker was paid what he needed. If only today's laborers, beset by a bleak economy, received such equal treatment.
The Circle of Protection says budget cuts shouldn't be made on the poor's backs. Christians for a Sustainable Economy says our focus should be on the economy. Which one reflects the authentic Christian message?
While attitudes change toward corporal punishment in the U.S., politicians who push for cuts in programs that benefit poor children practice another form of corporal punishment.
While budget-panicked governments in the U.S. and Europe take out their fears on the urban poor and lower-middle class with cutbacks to services, the super rich get away with tax evasion on a huge scale.
For nearly 40 years, Wayne Flynt has confronted the racism and accompanying poverty in Alabama with a courageous and informed passion. Yet he remains an unassuming and soulful individual.
Countering the voice of the anti-tax, anti-government crowd, those who believe government has a role in providing society's safety net think it is essential to give a hand to those whom society counts least.
Scripture is clear that greed is not only sin because we put wealth and possessions in place of God, but also – and perhaps an even greater sin – because it prevents us from sharing with others in need.
The economy continues to decline. Financial benefits shift to the wealthy. Charitable dollars continue to plummet. And those suffering the most will be the ones about whom Jesus was most concerned.
Jesus was clear that humans were defiled by the evil thoughts and deeds that spring from their hearts. Should individual corporate bodies, such as Standard & Poor's, be held to the same standard?
When Jesus invited thousands to a banquet, the disciples were peeved that they didn't have an intimate bread-and-fish dinner. Much like today, many are peeved that our democracy is for everyone rather than a few.
In the debt-ceiling debate, President Obama caved in to those who demanded drastic cuts to programs to help the needy, children and elderly. He needs to believe in social justice enough to fight for it.
Activists for smaller government must be delighted to know we soon will have fewer teachers, caseworkers and drug counselors. Instead of asking if government's too big, we should ask if it's providing essential services.
WASHINGTON (RNS) President Obama agrees with religious officials’ concerns about protecting the poor, according to leaders who met with him this week.
What's the Christian response to the national debt? How do the debt and our weak economy affect the poor? Participants viewing the EthicsDaily.com documentary on faith and taxes wrestled with these questions.
The original meaning of Jesus' parable of the sower is an enigma. We may never know the central point, but it may cause us to reflect on how useful or useless we are for the kingdom.
Whether it's sin or righteousness, we're all enslaved to something, the Apostle Paul wrote. As a nation, many of us are enslaved to pride, wrath, greed and envy. When will we become slaves to a nobler cause?
After giving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 24 standing ovations during his 50-minute speech before Congress, maybe it's time for our national politicians to revise their pledge of allegiance.
When fully implemented, health care reform will expand insurance to better than 30 million Americans. Without it, an estimated 28,000 Americans will die needlessly each year. It's a life-or-death choice.
Speaker of the House John Boehner's political actions are at odds with the Catholic Church's moral teaching, says an open letter to Boehner, a Catholic, and penned by a prominent group of Catholic academics.
Jesus made it clear that he's the gate that protects the sheep. Those who lead his sheep fall in one of two categories – shepherds or thieves. Which leaders are today's sheep following?
A panel appointed by Congress to investigate the financial crisis only sent a handful of cases to the Justice Department. In another case of selective forgiveness, the powerful and wealthy benefit.
(RNS) Christian leaders have formed a “Circle of Protection” against U.S. cuts to poverty-fighting programs.
The crowds following Jesus saw him as more than doing God's saving work only through individuals. They believed salvation and redemption worked in religious communities, economic orders and political systems.
Jesus' healing of a blind man, which frustrated others in society, reminds us healing is still needed today. Many need health care; our earth and our economy are sick. Yet some are blind to these needs.
The stop-gap spending bills to keep the government running have caused chaos with federal agencies. The poor, vulnerable and young are hit the hardest by these frequent trips to the well.
About 16 million children in the United States live in poverty – an increase of 2 million in the last two years and "the fastest fall for the middle class since the government started counting 51 years ago," a news report said.
God has a bias toward the poor. With the cards of social resources stacked against the weak and the vulnerable, God tries to balance the scales by being on the side of the most vulnerable – the biblical widow and orphan.
Is it appropriate for people of faith to enter the political process and advocate for the poor? Jesus' entire ministry challenged the empire represented by the religious-political powers.
How do politicians, especially those who claim to be Christians, religiously justify cutting programs that help the poor, the weak, the vulnerable and the young? Maybe they think they're God's "Lenten Helpers."
The current conservative resurgence of anti-government spending is focused on monies that are intended for the poorest and most vulnerable of our society. Is this what Jesus would cut?
(RNS) Balancing the federal budget at the expense of the poor would be un-Christian, evangelical leaders warned Congress.
The story of the widow's mite is generally idealized as an example of Christian behavior for the poor. Instead, Jesus is denouncing a religious social structure that cons the widow out of what little she has.
Jesus probably would have tolerated Valentine's Day, that day we focus on the special someone's in our lives. But he may have reminded us of God's higher ideal – that we are to love everyone. No exceptions.
Sargent Shriver, perhaps best known as the founder of the Peace Corps, died last month at the age of 95. He attended to the social teachings of the Catholic Church and dedicated his life to the service of others.
Our divided nation will not come together anytime soon, but we can agree to certain ground rules to avoid violence and resolve conflicts, a columnist observes. Paul faced a similar division with the Corinthian church.
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.
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.
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?
As long as their own dividends kept flowing in regularly, thousands of stockholders couldn't care less what the banks had been doing with their money. It's further proof that the rich live on the backs of the poor.
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.
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.
President Obama and Republicans in Congress appear willing to continue the national pastime of pandering to the wealthy at the expense of the needy. Their deal should offend anyone who cares about justice.
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.
The biblical testimony has a clear word in favor of the poor. But too many people of faith negotiate away the biblical imperative to protect the poor in favor of the materialistic imperative to protect the rich.
Many GOP politicians repudiate health care as a universal right and are determined to dismantle or defund health-care reform. If they do, millions will have no hope for coverage and many will die.
Some believe the needs of the poor are draining away our meager resources and that people are poor because of bad choices or sinful lives. So why does Jesus tell us that the poor are blessed?
There seems to be a roar of approval for reducing taxes with little concern for those who would be hurt by the curtailing of government services. When will Christians rise up for a just tax policy in our nation?
Highly paid financial employees complain new reforms will limit their bonuses. Wealthy folks are incensed their tax cuts will expire. It seems the wrong people are crying out for justice.
Jesus had harsh words for his followers who led newcomers in the faith to sin. His warning should be heeded by those who urge others who are new in the faith to take political positions opposed to Jesus' teachings.
Why didn’t the rich man stop and help Lazarus? It’s not like he didn’t see him. Everyday, he sat at the rich man’s gate hoping he would receive just the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Why didn’t he at least give him something to eat and drink?
While many well-meaning influential people are spending time and resources to determine the best ways to help the world's poorest people, they're leaving someone out of the dialogue. The poor.
If we take Jesus' words and actions seriously, it's clear he championed the cause of the poor. While most of us aren't wealthy by U.S. standards, we are rich by global standards. That makes us complicit to the inequity.
Glenn Beck declared that President Obama practiced a religion that was "a perversion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ" by focusing on victims and the oppressed. Yet these are the very people that Jesus invited.
The civic and religious leaders opposed to an Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero are not interested in restoring relationships. Isn't it time for people of all faiths and no faith to work and play together?
As Christians look to Scripture to determine a biblical response to the current immigration debate, a passage in Hebrews delivers a stark reminder. The parent of our faith family was an undocumented immigrant.
Some 4,000 Baptists studied two verses in Luke 4 during the Baptist World Congress in Honolulu. Will the seeming insignificance of a few leaders in Bible study bring significant change for millions of others?
We cannot begin to comprehend God's awesome capacity to forgive our deep and profound sins if we do not also have some sense of our sinfulness as well as our human capacity to do good as a minimal level.
Jesus may not have talked about the unemployed, but he could have. What would he have said about more than 14.6 million out of work today and about the politicians who don't care to extend unemployment benefits?
Christians, in their freedom from self-preoccupation and from the law, are to work for the common good of the whole human family. Now that our nation is no longer flush with cash, will we choose to sacrifice those most in need?
To recognize the full extent of one's sins allows for those sins to be forgiven. To recognize only partially the extent of one's sins allows for only partial forgiveness and, in turn, the capacity to love little.
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.
The Rev. Janine Denomme, who devoted her life to the Catholic Church and had been ordained as a priest, died on May 17. That ordination was grounds to deny her a Roman Catholic burial at her local parish.
Is it time to vote some politicians out? Maybe the Tea Party crowd is right – just for the wrong reason. Too many politicians don't have the courage to raise taxes to allow government to function as it should.
Lepers. Orphans. HIV patients. Prisoners. The elderly. Marginalized youth. They are among the poorest of the poor in India. And Leena Lavanya forges her own path to minister to all of them.
Paying taxes is a sign of membership in our democracy, which the anti-tax crowd fails to grasp. Even Boston Tea Party folks didn't oppose paying taxes; they opposed paying them to a government that wasn't their own.
Unable or unwilling to create a fair and just tax system to provide for public services like education and health care, states have embraced the lottery as an alternative source of revenue. But it's a form of public tax evasion.
How is the nation redeeming itself after years of reckless economic growth? Rather than drawing on the abundance among us, we're forcing the poorest among us to endure the suffering for the rest of us.
Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man.
Why should Christians be involved in the health-care debate and budget reconciliation? After all, Paul said we no longer consider things from a human point of view, right? You better take a closer look.
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 world measures individual worth in dollars, and many of us buy into that lie. As a result, many of the poor lack self-confidence, self-esteem and initiative. And many who help them may be condescending or patronizing.
Jesus gave authority to his disciples to cast out demons and cure diseases, according to Luke's Gospel, but they couldn't help a demon-possessed child. If God gives us authority, why do we not use it to help?
I’ve been introduced to you this morning as Larry Greenfield, the Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago, but that was just a cover so I didn’t draw too much attention to myself. Actually I’m your old – maybe “ancient” would be a better word – your ancient brother in Christ, Paul…Paul from Tarsus
Jesus' custom was to attend church but he broke the customary way to worship. Are we comfortable with worship that has become part of our routine or that compels us to change our communities?
Jesus' first recorded miracle is more than turning water into wine. It's a reminder that we often distort what it means to be righteous, keeping something set apart when it's meant to be shared and celebrated with all.
Nearly 20 percent of the U.S.'s largest churches preach some form of the prosperity gospel. Its enticing message thrives among those with lower incomes. But what is the purest form of prosperity?
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.
Back in 2007, Barack Obama proclaimed Reinhold Niebuhr as one of his "favorite philosophers." But what the president took away from Niebuhr puts him at odds with the world's poor and oppressed.
Taxes often hit working families with low and middle incomes the hardest. And with Arkansas' unbalanced tax system, it's time for that state's citizens to fight for a fair and responsible tax system.
When Jesus looks at the earth at the time of year when many of us celebrate his birth, is he dismayed by the materialism and self-righteousness he sees? Maybe his thoughts would be something like this.
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.
Amid all the cries of joy and jubilation at the Christmas season, will we finally hear the cries of those in the Middle East who await the coming of the God of justice and peace?
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.
Months after the joyous cries of Elizabeth and Mary for the births of their sons, another cry was heard from mothers in and around Bethlehem. But these were not cries of joy.
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.”
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.
At first glance, Eli was quick to dismiss Hannah as a drunken woman but soon learned she had real needs. Will our senators be an Eli to the millions of Hannahs without health care? Or will they walk away?
Many people of faith are acutely aware of God's stance toward the poor. However, our expressions of charity alone will not suffice. We must change the very structures that overtax the poor.
Pay-to-play politics has brought about the death of democracy in Illinois. A group of citizens tried to resurrect it, like Lazarus, but their efforts were thwarted. Will someone have the courage to raise a stink?
A different kind of health-care legislation is facing Congress. Climate-change legislation will ensure our planet's health, but will Christians step up to make sure the poor aren't burdened?
When asked about how to achieve eternal life, Jesus said, among other things, to not defraud, which is taking that which someone else deserves. What are the implications for us today?
We don't often see them, but many of us wear racial lenses that distort our reality. Somehow we must find corrective lenses to help us conquer our racist distortion of reality.
When politicians favor the wealthy – those who make large campaign contributions, for example – over those who can't even afford health care, they violate the fundamental principle of equality for all.
The health care debate seems to be largely taking place among those who have chosen to treat health as a commodity, rather than an essential right. Do Christians need to go on the offensive?
While Baptists don't hold to the idea that the bread in the Eucharist transforms into Christ, we might be a little envious of the revival of the practice of perpetual adoration.
Picking up after the neighborhood's litterbugs is an irritating and often thankless chore. When someone overturns the trash cans, anger can be justified. Or can it?
There’s nothing, absolutely nothing, coercive about what I’m going to invite you to do now. It’s just this: in silence to recognize and to focus on your Ultimate Parent who makes you a part of an all-inclusive family, whose DNA is love, to recognize that God is strengthening you through the power of God’s Spirit to be a lover and someone who has the capacity to care not just for yourself but for others, to receive Christ into your heart again today, to let his DNA work within you so that you can recover and reclaim your own essential DNA, and to recognize, through the eyes of faith, that you are being rooted and grounded in love.
All four Gospels, especially John, contain lots of theology about Jesus' feeding of the multitudes, but let's make sure we don't miss the point. Everyone is fed.
Politicians often take a simple answer and make it complex. Look at Illinois, where lawmakers axed a panel's simple reforms for a complex system favoring incumbents and party leaders.
Jesus’ encounter with a hemorrhaging woman is a lesson for the church. If we haven’t felt a power loss, do we deserve to be called the Body of Christ?
Grills will smoke and fireworks will pop as Americans celebrate Independence Day this weekend. Ten years ago, a poor family from Mexico celebrated a different kind of independence day.
In some Christian circles, there's a lot of talk about the "others" – a seemingly nice term for anyone different, from another country or a low socio-economic level or not from a middle- to upper-class Anglo background.
Elected officials have an obligation of aiming to please those they represent through the adoption and implementation of policies that justly serve the needs of all, rather than serving themselves or their political benefactors.
The psalmist extols God's role as giver and taker of life, but some have taken God's place, satisfying their individual needs at the expense of other creatures, their own species and even the planet.
Our nation's divorce rate shows it's not easy for married people to stay in love. But what about those outside our immediate circle of love and care? It's easy to divorce ourselves from society's less fortunate when times were good.
The message from the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was clear: The poorest everywhere are the ones most at risk to the impacts of climate change. Will Christians be part of the solution?
Like the hired hands of Jesus' day who ran for safety instead of protecting the sheep from wolves, many politicians lack the courage to protect the growing number of people who are suffering.
Macarena and Eddie Aldape hold medical camps twice a month across northern India, helping people whose socio-economic status limits their access to healthcare, education and jobs with decent wages.
Environmental organizations, such as the National Wildlife Federation, the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, are reaching out to churches and faith-based organizations for partnerships on issues of environmental stewardship.
For society's extraordinary individuals who ruined our global economy, violated human rights with torture and used politics for personal gain, it seemed that Lent failed. It's up to the ordinary among us to manifest God's love.
The Missouri House has cut funding for social and mental health services. While all major faith traditions have a concern for the poor and vulnerable, we can't do it alone. We need the government to provide essential services.
When Paul says every knee ought to bow, it's not as a ritual of religious homage. It's a physical act that serves as an ethical symbol of the way one is choosing to live one's own life as we serve others before ourselves.
The 2009 BMW 535i xDrive Sport Wagon costs $72,000-plus. It makes sense that something created for good works will come with high costs. The writer of Ephesians appreciated that truth.
While prayer and financial support are important keys to resolving the conflict in the Middle East, they are not the only keys. Our own silence and complacency must end if justice and peace are to prevail.
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.
Americans have been led to think that all they have to care for is their own selves. And that turns out to be a lot of people in this country—people who have bought into, whether upon deep examination or casual and almost unconscious commitment, a comprehensive philosophy of self-interest.
We ought to give contemporary environmentalists a little slack for misreading Psalm 50.
Jan Chapman asks, "I'm wondering today if it's possible to develop a muscle memory for our compassion response."
If it is the case that the true follower of Jesus continues to be commissioned to engage in the ministry of exorcism -- of exposing and casting out demons in people, in communities and in the structures of societies -- then Patrick Fitzgerald and his staff ought not to be the only ones exposing and casting out demons in the city, state and nation.
Maybe more than doing an updated, imaginative and expanded version of Jesus’ call to his disciples, we need to listen again to what, cryptically stated, he said was at stake.
More than anything else, it appears the American populace may simply be too disinterested or too distracted to engage in believable change on this issue, despite its obvious far-reaching importance not just in the region but across the globe.
Could it be that Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Dick Durbin didn’t get immunized to the abuse of power?
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.
The Mohawk haircut on the shepherd gave it away. This wasn�t going to be a typical Christmas nativity depiction.
Shallow roots will not yield authentic community with poor and suffering people. I can only offer what I have first received. The watching world needs to see deeply rooted faith.
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.
I recently wrote a column suggesting that as Christians we could do a better job finding ways to collectively provide assistance to the least of these among us. The responses were swift and angry. I was accused of distorting the Bible in order to advance a liberal socialist agenda. I thought I was just quoting Jesus.
The alternatives here are not between leaving Jesus in or out of the gospel picture. Jesus figures centrally in both options, but in much different roles. In one he is the decisive object of faith. In the other he is the decisive figure who points to the object of faith by his words and deeds and who invites others to be a part of the new thing that God is doing.
What about putting at least a minimum number of acts of charity on one's daily "to-do" list and committing oneself to checking them off when they are completed?
We recant our faith in practice when we fail to love our neighbors and our enemies, when we neglect the poor and oppressed, and when we use abusive power against others.
How can it be possible that so many people who claim allegiance to Jesus can be so complacent about the plight of the poor? How can they ignore what Jesus said about loving our neighbor?
Many of us who seek to minister to "the least of these" do so by giving our time, talents and funds. Sometimes we work in or donate to soup kitchens, clothes closets or other charitable ministries. Seldom do we realize that our compassionate response may be undermining the road to recovery for an individual or a community in need of redevelopment.
Our county has such immense power, influence, and control over the lives of other nations and peoples that it would be unjust and irresponsible for individual Americans to vote only on their own self-identity and self interest within a national context.
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.
While Baptist World Aid observes World Hunger Month during October, the world's hunger crisis is a daily disaster. This year's awareness campaign seeks to drive home that point with the worldwide Baptist community under the theme, "Hunger Crisis: A Daily Disaster."
It's pretty tempting, after the commemoration of the 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2001, to make the case--based on Jesus' teaching about forgiving an offender 70-multiplied-by-seven times--that serious Christians ought to figure out how to extend that forgiveness to brother bin Laden and his Al Qaeda accomplices.
Payday lenders are like McDonald's and dry cleaners--good businesses that want good locations to provide ready accessibility to customers who need good financial services. Payday lenders offer a popular product in economically tough times for which customers express overwhelming satisfaction. Only a few complain, according to a payday lending spokesperson.
Analyzing election results is a tricky business, even for the experts, and I'm no expert. But it's hard, at least for me, not to try to get a feeling for what is happening and finding patterns that reveal where the electorate is heading, even if the sampling is a single state like Pennsylvania.
Surging food prices could push 100 million deeper into poverty, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said Sunday at the close of the International Money Fund-World Bank spring meetings in Washington.
The writer of the Gospel of John has John the Witness (a.k.a. John the Baptist in the other Gospels) saying, upon seeing Jesus approaching him:
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 expression, "there at the beginning," took on special meaning for me this past week. I was witness to the birth of a new movement in Alabama, a movement which has the potential to redefine the way faith communities confront social concerns in our state. The movement has a name: the Alabama Faith Council.
Do a Google search for the words "Baptists" and "payday." You will be surprised by what you find and disappointed by what is missing. You will find abundant references to the Baptist preacher R. G. Lee, who preached over 1,200 times the same sermon--"Payday Someday." You will find little evidence that Baptists care enough about predatory lenders to take reformatory initiatives.
The predatory practice of payday lenders flourishes in the Bible Belt, the very place where one would think that the piety and morality of church goers would oppose such ventures that charge the poor exorbitant interest rates exceeding those of "the old mafia loan sharking syndicates." That is not the case, according to a new study that maps the correlation of payday lenders and conservative Christians.
Last week the International Rescue Committee released its latest mortality survey for the Democratic Republic of Congo. They do a survey every 2-3 years; the methodology is as sound as it can be given the circumstances, and these surveys are widely acknowledged as the best estimate of how many people have died as a result of Congo's wars.
The great modern-day theologian--Steven Colbert of the popular Comedy Central show "The Colbert Report"--recently began accepting applications for the position of his very own "black friend."
The power of our communities lies in the ideals of our common humanity. To continue to live in separate villages whose cohesiveness is ephemeral at best, or in gated communities of homogeneity, will only enhance everyone's poverty.
A faculty member at Baptist-related McAfee School of Theology appears in a new television ad critical of Wal-Mart.
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.
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."
The Old Testament story of Jonah is more than a fairy tale about a man being swallowed by a whale, and even more than an evangelical call to preach the gospel to those in foreign lands, but instead a model for reconciliation between the haves and the have-nots, says a new book.
Two weeks after President Bush vetoed a children's health insurance bill claiming he wants to put poor children first, the White House is threatening to veto legislation to boost funding for a program that helps low-income families pay their heating bills.
In September 2006, I was asked to lead a Bible study on children and poverty for the all-staff gathering of National Ministries (American Baptist Churches, U.S.A.) The purpose of the study was to help staff explore the biblical mandates related to the Children in Poverty Initiative, which was adopted in 2005 as denomination-wide issue of concern.