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In my opinion, it has been a long time coming for Baptists, a predominant denomination in America, to stand up for some social issued and begin to bring about change. Many of the issues discussed at the New Baptist Covenant Celebration are aspects of life that many churches apparently view as “too impolite” to discuss amongst themselves.
Whatever your opinion of former President Jimmy Carter and former President Bill Clinton, points they made in their addresses to the NBC attendees need to be echoed in churches across the nation and around the world. As yet another democrat (Barack Obama) said, “We don’t have to agree on everything to come together to bring about change.”
No matter what our differences, Christians can respond to criticism and need with love. 
No matter what our differences, Christians can be unified to end social injustices.
The person caught in sex trade, extreme poverty, repeat incarceration and in need of help do not care if you are a Conservative Baptist, Moderate Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Catholic or Church of Christ – they just need help. What we should care about is when we help; they see Christ’s love for them.

Gambling. I’ve been known to play the ponies, roll the bones and I know how to bet the flop, turn and river. I don’t go out of my way to gamble but if it is there, I’ll enjoy it. I am up quite a bit on the craps table and my wife just above even on roulette. Our last trip to Las Vegas (we went for a horse show – didn’t go there with gambling as the ultimate goal) we came home with $4 less cash than we took. Not gambling cash, all cash.

To me, those expenditures or winnings are entertainment and spent/won on entertainment dollars, not food, shelter, clothing, retirement or offering to church. I’m fortunate enough to have disposable entertainment income.

Lottery, a tax on people who are bad at math, is apparently a little different. I’ve purchased probably less than $20 on scratch-off or lottery in the past 20 years. A recent news release from the Texas Lottery shows the biggest downside – people who can’t afford it spend it. Could I use the money elsewhere? Sure. My entertainment budget is small. I have too many hobbies that take up my time and money to have a large entertainment fund.

The news release shows that the $50 scratch off ticket sells most in the state’s poorest neighborhoods. I’ve also been to casinos where it’s evident people just cashed their paychecks and went to the casino to strike it rich this time. The casinos in Vegas are huge, extravagant and get rebuilt every few years. How do you think they pay for those? They call it gambling but all odds are for the house. They exist to make money.

The article highlights the fact that the 10 poorest neighborhoods spent $2.4 million on the high-dollar scratch off as compared to only half that of the 10 riches neighborhoods in Texas. Per capita spending on the high-dollar tickets was $25 in the 10 poorest ZIP codes versus $18 in the 10 wealthiest.

Every time brining gaming to Texas comes to the state legislature, I fight against it. Yeah, it’s kinda hypocritical because I’d probably go to a casino if it were here but I do think it is bad for society and hurts those that cannot afford it.

Gambling on Gaming

Christian Life Commission on Gaming

Who Profits from Gambling?

Saturday I went on a local mission emphasis, Hands of Christ, with my church and had a great time. It was the first time I went with this group, but it won’t be the last. (By local I mean, it’s actually in the city in which I live, but a part of the city I never knew existed.) This group goes to people’s houses and does construction for those who are unable to do the work or pay for the work to be done. Hands of Christ secured the building permit and arranged for trash pick up with the city.

Hands of Christ doesn’t just go clean up and paint. This weekend we started reconstructing the house’s foundation and building a wheelchair ramp for one of the residents to be able to come and go.

While talking with the family, their appreciation was beyond words. During this time, the power of the name, Hands of Christ, actually hit me.

Below are a few pictures from our efforts.

 

under_foundation1.JPGbuilding_ramp2.JPGfoundation1.JPGfilling_bobcat1.JPG

There are so many areas of earth we have not explored. In fact, in the ocean depths there are things we don’t know that exist yet. If pollution and human’s impact on God’s earth continue the way it has been, we may well destroy the cure for cancer before we find it. I have watched National Geographic Channel’s Borneo show and it is amazing. The filming of this show produced the finding of this new clouded leopard. Read the story at yahoo or find more information on national geographic channel.

We need to be steward’s of the earth God gave us. Check out ways at the Christian Life Commission. One of my favorite movie quotes takes place in the movie, The Matrix.
When agent Smith says, “I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.”

Reduce waste. Reuse items. Recycle. Decrease your carbon footprint.

In a Feb 12 Newsweek article, “Girls Gone Wild: What are Celebs Teaching Kids,” the authors, Kathleen Deveny and Raina Kelley, address the question, “Who’s teaching our kids morals?” The authors cite the numerous examples we see in the media (outside movies and TV shows) of pop-stars acting inappropriately. “Like never before, our kids are being bombarded by images of oversexed, underdressed celebrities who can’t seem to step our of a car without displaying their well-waxed private parts to photographers.”

They also talked with teachers and parents from around the country about this. One from
San Diego gives examples of how 7-year-olds’ vocabulary has changed. A mother from LA uses a new term to me, “prosti-tot” to describe young girls who dress and mimic the actions of the “Brit-pack” (Britney Spears, Nicole Richie and Lindsay Lohan from this article). The profound affect of all the sex scandals is a coarsening of the culture and a devaluation of sex, love and lasting commitment.

The authors cite experts who say that attentive parenting, strong teachers and nice friends are an excellent counterbalance to increasingly sleazy culture.

As Christians, this shouldn’t surprise us. However, it should underscore the fact that “parent” is a verb. I have a 7-month-old son and amidst my drug post yesterday and this posting today, I’m already trying to balance age-appropriate freedom and parental control in my mind.  Parents are to guide their children. In order to guide, we need to live accordingly. This also means talking with our kids when “questionable” actions or even words are done/said on TV in their presence.

The authors discuss that being a parent is the key. “Kids learn good morals and values by copying role models who are close to them,” Michele Borba author of Building Moral Intelligence.  Parents need to understand and talk about the things that interest their kids – even if it is what
Paris is wearing – without being judgmental.

As parents, we control the purse strings. Few middle-schoolers have the disposable income to buy their own clothes, get breast implants, etc. It is ok for parents to say, “No.” Be a parent and then a friend.

Info from the article:
“For teens who aren’t getting strong messages about abstinence from their parents, the media can become a sort of ‘sexual superpeer.’”
A study from the Journal of Pediatrics concluded that 55% of teens exposed to a lot of sexual material had intercourse by age 16, compared with only 6% of teens who rarely saw sexual imagery in the media.

I’ve received questions asking, “What is a ‘moderate Christian?’” First, let me separate the two words because it is not moderately being a Christian, but being a Christian who has a moderate or middle of the road or sitting on fences world view.

We hear so much from the “Christian Right” (which by the way is neither in my opinion) and how they are judging, excluding and overlooking the very people Christians are to serve as evidenced in Jesus’ life on earth. We hear so much from them because they are trying to take over the political system to further their power and beliefs. I’m all for sharing my beliefs, but not forcing them. “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words,” St Francis of Assisi.

Now, what it means – according to me. I grew up Baptist and still hold Baptist beliefs (while attending a Methodist church because that is where my wife and I feel God wants us to be). Many of the following thoughts are traditional, unchanged Baptist doctrine – not the creeds some want to sign and enforce.

Jesus Christ – born of a virgin, died, rose and lives.

Priesthood of the Believer – I believe that every person has a connection with God through prayer. Jesus and the Holy Spirit enable this link.

The Bible – God’s revelation of Himself to us. God used divinely inspired men to write it.

Meeting human needs – we are called to minister to those who need help.

Sanctity of human life – I am for life. I also think the government shouldn’t tell people what to do on a personal level.

Creationism – How God did it be it through big bang, evolution, whatever doesn’t matter. Interesting discussion and learning about science but that initial spark, the action that set it all in motion came from God.

Environmentalism – God created the world. We are earth’s stewards and must take care of what God has given us responsibly.

Life – there are so many applications here that it could fill pages. Wine and alcoholic beverages – drink them if you want to, just don’t get drunk or lose control of yourself.

Freedom of religion – the government shall make no law prohibiting or enforcing a religion.

Worship – worshipping God can happen anywhere at anytime. You don’t have to be in a specific location, just a specific state of mind.

Love – God loves all his creations more than we can imagine.

Grace – God’s grace is freely available to all who ask through Jesus.

The above post also now appears under the “defined” link above.