Ethical Living Blog

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Learning from George H.W. Bush

by Ferrell Foster on December 7, 2018 in CLC

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

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

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

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

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

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Where are the courageous prophets?

by Ferrell Foster on October 17, 2018 in CLC

Pastors in my religious tradition (Anglo southern Baptist) tend to be more priest than prophet — they mostly administer religious duties instead of confronting people in their sinfulness.

I was a pastor once. We tend to preach against sins our members have tacitly agreed upon, but we often ignore the primary sins of those members — greed, pride, lust, and gluttony, as well as failure to care for the hungry, hurting, imprisoned, foreigners, and others of Jesus’ “least of these.” Not all of us, surely, but many.It is not easy to be both priest and prophet, and this is not the first time in Judeo-Christian history that the challenge has arisen.

John Calvin, in his commentary on Jeremiah, says the great Jewish prophet “was of the priestly order. Hence the prophetic office was more suitable to him than to many of the other prophets, such as Amos and Isaiah.”

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Boys behaving badly -- turn to Proverbs for help

by Ferrell Foster on September 19, 2018 in CLC

Boys behaving badly has become all too common. Sometimes it lands a boy in the news immediately, and sometimes it takes decades for the misdeeds to surface.

There is probably no common saying more ridiculous and unhelpful than “boys will be boys.” It reflects a determinism that leaves no room for the shaping of young male lives. Boys will, of course, be boys if left to their own devices, if they have no positive role models, if they are not given any instruction about how a boy ought to behave. And one result is that many men continue to behave as boys throughout their lives.

Why do we not hear the phrase “girls will be girls” to excuse their bad behavior? There are two possible reasons. Either we think boys are naturally bad and girls are naturally good, or we think girls’ bad behavior should not be defended. I think it’s more of the latter. Adults often do a nudge-nudge-wink-wink to boys’ bad behavior but shake their heads in rebuke at girls’ bad behavior.

Attitudes, fortunately, are changing. Boys and men are being held more accountable for bad behavior.

The “me too” movement has been necessitated by the reality that many boys and men have behaved as sexual animals free to pursue whatever satisfaction they like. They should never have felt such freedom, and it is good they now are being held accountable.

Instruction is a key. It does not guarantee right behavior, but it surely makes it more likely, especially if an example of good behavior lives in the same household. It surely is wise to help boys and man-boys to learn God’s truths about life and living well.

Of course, it’s also wise to help girls and girl-women to learn this.

We need help.

Proverbs! Turn to Proverbs!

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Small town life and the Great Commandment

by Guest Author on August 7, 2018 in CLC

By Chris McLain

I can’t speak for those living in urban contexts, but in Crowell it matters whether you’re native-born or a transplant from elsewhere.

Let me explain. It’s not that new people who move into our community are any less welcome or loved than the locals, but their experience of small-town life is certainly different.

Many of the folks who grew up here have large, extended families of several generations nearby. That makes for a broad support system and relational community year-round (and the convenience of avoiding holiday traffic is no small benefit either).

The “new Crowell” folks are much more likely to feel isolated in our close-knit community. It can be difficult to make new friends because “old Crowell” folks already have established networks of family and friends.

That means it’s especially important for folks in Crowell to be neighborly. And, as a pastor, I’m partial to the notion that Christians are specially called and gifted to meet that need.

Scripture really goes further; it’s a command. Remember Jesus’ two-sided “great commandment” to love God and to love neighbor. Jesus was picking up on two Old Testament passages, so this goes back early in God’s dealing with mankind.

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World-changing relationships are built with healthy conversations

by Elizabeth Biedrzycki on July 26, 2018 in CLC

I hold to a pretty radical belief. I believe relationships can change the world and selfless, meaningful, healthy conversations can change relationships. And I believe the opposite to be true, as well. Relationships can destroy the world and selfish, empty, unhealthy conversations can damage relationships.

We live in a time when relationships are often built upon transactional, self-serving motives. And when so many conversations take place online or via electronic devices -- giving a false impression of community and relational fortitude -- our commitment to being thoughtful about such things should be flourishing and not dwindling.

Our cultural vehicles of conversation are computers and phones powered by data plans and wifi. Using these, it is easy for conversations to be merely talking void of listening. We have the power to share our opinions without recognition of the impact (negative or positive) we have made on the person staring back at their own screen. This reality is creating a generation of advocates who care deeply about causes, yet who are not necessarily being taught to listen deeply to the hearts of others. I say this as one overcoming that generational hurdle myself.

Navigating an increasingly polarized society in our country has proven messy for the church. Overly politicized and commercialized issues are the drivers for our forums, even for Christians, heightening the danger of neglected relationships. And, therefore, perpetuating intrinsic systemic issues in our culture.

But what if our power structures and communities were renewed by the example of the Trinity, where mutuality and communion bind individuals together? What would change about our neighborhoods, boardrooms, city halls, and churches? What would change about our social, economic, political, and family systems?

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Gratefulness leads to worship, which leads to truly living

by Guest Author on June 26, 2018 in Ethical Living Blog

(Note from Ferrell: Ethics, which is about how we ought to live, is only Christian when it is rooted in the worship of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Amy Ford Brumfield gave me permission to share the following article. Amy shows us what it's like to be truly alive and grateful in God's world and how that can lead us to worship our creator and redeemer. That worship then leads us to want to honor God with our lives.)

By Amy Ford Brumfield

A friend challenged me recently to reflect on what I am grateful for about my body. I am almost certain the following meditation is far removed from what she had in mind. She had flesh, bone, and sinew in mind, but I am always led to the abstract when I write.

I am grateful for:

Eyes that see the beauty of the created in the way the light plays on trees. I am grateful to have eyes that see not just shades of green, but the colors of the rainbow hidden within each leaf. The ability to commit it to canvas.

Ears that hear the miracle of a cellist playing “Gabriel’s Oboe.” Ears that can block out every sound but the water cascading over the fountain in my yard as it plays its own music. The way either can fill my eyes at the first note. When the two play in unison it borders on the divine.

The first hint of perfume from the privet hedge that blooms each spring. It’s not there one day, and then the next it overwhelms me with a fragrance I want to drink in and remember.

The first sip of morning coffee that provides pleasure and comfort when it touches my tongue and clears the cobwebs.

The ability to appreciate and sometimes untangle the prose of Wendell Berry as he challenges my world view and exposes my own propensity to prejudice or complacency.

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A good 'neighbor' shows mercy -- to anyone

by Ferrell Foster on June 20, 2018 in CLC

Every adult knows the value of neighbors. Good ones make life better; bad ones create constant stress.

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EL MINISTERIO CONTRA EL TRÁFICO HUMANO, HECHO CON HUMILDAD, FLUYE DEL MANDATO DE JESÚ

by Guest Author on May 24, 2018 in CLC

Siempre he querido ser una persona que tenga un impacto en el mundo. Aun hoy tengo esto en la cabeza constantemente, pues el lema de mi universidad es: “Lo que empieza aquí, cambia al mundo”.

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Marriage commitment leads to joy; adultery to anguish

by Ferrell Foster on April 26, 2018 in CLC

I recently spoke to a college class and early on said something I had not planned to say. It went something like this:

“I’ve been married 38 years, and I wish more people could know how wonderful it is to have shared so much of life with the same person. My wife and I know each other in ways that only time makes possible.”

It wasn’t much, but it was a celebration of years of love and commitment. And I went on to other things. At the end of class I asked what had stuck in their minds. One woman said, “What you said about your marriage.”

Since then, Trese and I have celebrated our 39th anniversary. We did so at The Oasis restaurant overlooking Lake Travis -- a beautiful place on a beautiful night with my beautiful lady. I call her Lady Trese and my daughters princesses. Forgive me if I’m hokey. (My sons don’t get called princes; that just seems odd.)

I hope something of the beauty of marriage comes through.

Marriage in general, however, is struggling today. Many people are living together sexually without marriage, and many others have broken their marriage vows of sexual faithfulness.

I focus here on the adultery -- married people having extramarital affairs. It seems to be growing, as countless public figures are being outed for screwing around, and some of them are supposed to be Christian leaders. It may be growing, but it is not new.

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Human trafficking ministry, done in humility, flows from Jesus’ commands

by Guest Author on April 16, 2018 in CLC

By Abby Hopkins

I have always wanted to be a world changer. Even now I am constantly reminded of this goal at my university, where our motto is, “What starts here changes the world.”

I believe God has given me this desire for change and justice in the world for a reason, and I am so thankful for the passions He has placed in my heart. Lately, God has caused me to desire a platform of change that centers on Him, rather than on myself.

Over Spring Break, I traveled to New York City with other college students from my church. It was a large group, but we were split into breakout teams with specific focuses for the week. My group’s focus was anti-human trafficking, so we met with three different non-profit organizations that work to end trafficking.

One of the primary lessons God taught me throughout the trip was the need for Christians to love people in a way that prevents them from being exploited. Traffickers target the vulnerable. People who are often overlooked, unloved, and underserved are often the most vulnerable. So, one of the best things we can do for people is love and serve them.

Jesus spoke to this point in Mark 9:35 when He said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

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