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The future of energy production and distribution is an issue in which all Texans have a vested interest. From our electric bill to gas prices, energy policy hits close to home. For Christians, the issue sits in the balance of two principles – care of creation and concern for the poor. Fortunately, these values are not in conflict but complimentary when it comes to investment in and development of renewable energy resources.

While politicians in Washington discuss legislation addressing climate change, a polarizing debate that generates hostility on both sides, the reality is that Texans support the expansion of renewable energy opportunities, regardless of their feelings on climate change. A poll conducted by Baselice & Associates, Inc. and released in April of 2009 shows:

  • 85% of those polled believe Texas should increase the production and use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power
  • 79% of Texans support financial incentives, such as loans, subsidies and temporary tax reductions to recruit renewable energy businesses and associated jobs to Texas
  • 61% agree that the state should require a certain percentage of the state’s electricity be generated from solar power
  • 53% of those polled said they would support solar requirements even if it costs $2 -$3 more on their monthly electric bills

When considering measures to increase development of renewable energy, Christians should consider their effect on the poorest among us. Any policy changes that increase energy costs should be offset by funds to aid those struggling to pay their bills. The education and training necessary to fill new jobs created by a clean energy economy should be made readily available through scholarships and grant programs. Energy efficiency programs that can immediately reduce energy costs should begin where folks need the most help with bills and have the least resources to offset upfront investments. It is necessary for Texas to move our energy sector into the 21st century without an undue burden falling on the poor.

In 2010, Texas finds itself at a crucial decision point and at the center of an energy crossroads.  The state has been a leader and gained great power and wealth through the old, petroleum-based energy economy. Texas has similar potential to lead the nation in renewable energy production. Our state is located in the middle of the Eastern and Western Interconnections on the US power grid, but Texas has its own grid. This unique position means that Texas is not subject to the same federal regulations as the rest of the country. This gives the state more freedom to experiment with the interconnectivity of renewable energies than any other state. In 2009 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Texas received $593 million for energy and weatherization programs and an addition $90 million for the Skills Development Fund which can be used toward green job skills training. Combine these factors with the possible passage of national climate change legislation and it is clear – now is the time to act.

Texas leads the nation in wind energy production. It does so not only because we have an ideal climate, but also because important policy decisions were made.  The state set a goal in 2005 produce 5,850 MW of renewable energy by 2015. With the support of state leadership we have already eclipsed that goal based on wind energy production alone. The state now has over 7, 116 MW of wind capacity and much more under construction.

While the success of wind energy is something all Texans can be proud of, we must not let that be our only success story. In order to further energy independence, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create sustainable energy options and drive a new clean energy economy, we must continue to diversify our energy sources.  With the right investment and state support, Texas can have just as much success with solar energy as we have with wind.

It should come as no surprise to Texans that our state has the most solar radiation of any state in the country. What you may not know is that the state is also home to companies that manufacture the components necessary for solar energy production across the entire supply chain. From Wichita Falls, to Brownwood to Pasadena, Texans are already producing the tools necessary to harness our abundant sunshine and turn it into usable energy. Should the state choose to support solar energy the way wind has been supported, Texans stand to gain thousands of jobs while improving our environment.

Texas Christians are uniquely positioned to help encourage positive policy changes while keeping in mind the least of those among us. Through education and advocacy we can help make sure Texas remains a leader in energy in the 21st century. In the coming months, the Christian Life Commission will be educating folks not only about the Biblical call to care for God’s creation, but also about how a clean energy economy can benefit all Texans.

We value your input and suggestions.
Your comments and recommended resources are welcome in the comments box below.

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resources-02March 22 – 23, 2010 “Neither Need Nor Greed: Christian Stewardship of Money and Resources,”

For Christians and everyone else, money matters. Especially now, during a time of economic stress when unemployment remains high in the aftermath of a global financial crisis, we are understandably concerned with economic survival, debt, and how to best manage our resources. Yet money and finances are not just survival issues, but ethical issues as well. What we do with our money, especially when most of the world’s inhabitants have even less money than we do, is a focal point of Scripture. The Bible makes it clear that what we do with our money matters to God.

Under the theme, “Neither Need Nor Greed: Christian Stewardship of Money and Resources,” the 2010 statewide Christian Life Conference will offer practical and spiritual help for Christians regarding our use of the monetary and material resources which God has entrusted to us. As the following program listing details, very able leadership will offer wisdom, insight, and hands-on help regarding financial stewardship in the service of God’s kingdom and our own valid needs.

Conference registration is $45 ($10 for students).  All sessions will be held at Calvary Baptist Church, 1600 Harvey, McAllen.  Overnight accommodations are available at the Wingate by Wyndham, 1500 Wichita Avenue, adjacent to the airport.  Make reservations by calling (956) 632-2000.  Mention Christian Life Conference for special rates ($84, single or double).  Please make reservations by February 28 to secure the conference rate.  Other housing options are available on request by contacting:

Christian Life Commission
Baptist General Convention of Texas
333 N. Washington
Dallas, TX  75246-1798
(214) 828-5190

Conference Schedule

Monday, March 22, 2010
1:00 pm Welcome, Introductions
1:15 pm Theme Interpretation I
Ellis Orozco, Pastor
First Baptist Church, Richardson
1:30 pm “Biblical Foundations–Spending, Saving, Sharing”
Miguel de la Torre
Iliff School of Theology, Denver
2:45 pm Break
3:15 pm “Money Smart–Never Too Late to Prosper”
Eloy Villafranca, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Dallas
4:30 pm Break
5:00 pm Dinner
7:00 pm Theme Interpretation II
Ellis Orozco
“Better than Luck–Why the Lottery and Gambling are for Losers”
Ed Ugel
7:15 pm “Tools for Financial Freedom–Credit Unions, Banks, and the New American Thrift”
David Blankenhorn, Institute for American Values
8:30 pm Adjourn
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
9:00 am Theme Interpretation III
Ellis Orozco
9:15 am “Two-Generation Prosperity–Providing for Parents & Kids”
Don Baylor, Frances Deviney, Center for Public Policy Priorities
10:30 am Break
10:45 am “Predatory Lending and Credit Gone Bad,”
Ann Baddeur
12:00 pm Lunch
12:30 pm “Christian Stewardship of Money and Resources:
A Retrospective”

Frank Palos, Baptist General Convention of Texas
1:30 pm Adjourn

We value your input and suggestions.

Your comments and recommended resources are welcome in the comments box below.

Christian Life Commission

Baptist General Convention of Texas

333 N. Washington

Dallas, TX 75246-1798

(214) 828-5190

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I recently had the experience of testifying in court. It’s quite an experience to stand before a judge lift your hand and promise to tell the truth in a court of law. The words are powerful and can affect the outcome of a case, a life and a family.

Truth is also an important concept in recovery. Unless a person can truly be honest about the reality of their life and choices then true recovery is not possible. Actually telling the truth can be very painful as one admits to short comings, poor choices and sinful deeds. Yet in the pain honesty, forgiveness and restoration can be found.

Step 5 in AA says, “We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” As a therapist, I’ve worked with hundreds of people on this step and have gotten to be a part of the awesome transition from guilt to grace. For as a person is able to fully see the truth about their life and choices, repent, and experience forgiveness then one is free to walk with Christ in His grace.

Part of the struggle of Step 5 is to admit that wrong is wrong. The step is a time to agree with God about the exact nature of the wrong and the fact that the sinful part of ourself is focused on covering up the problem. Part of the freedom that comes in step 5 is admitting what we know deep down inside to be the truth.

One of the most difficult parts of step 5 is overcoming denial. It’s tough because by definition a person has trouble understanding that they are in fact lying to themselves. It’s a person of courage who can honestly ask God to reveal to them the truth. Yet by God’s nature, He already knows the truth and loves us unconditionally. So a part of the step is to trust that even in the ugly, shameful and sometimes heart breaking truth God is big enough, loving enough and faithful enough to always forgive when we are truly repentant.

The Bible says in John 8:32, “For you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” In the process of the telling of the truth, there is an internal peace that was lost years ago that is now found. The truth does lead each of us one step closer to recovery and to a life of freedom in His Grace.

We value your input and suggestions.
Your comments and recommended resources are welcome in the comments box below.

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Each July we celebrate the founding of our country and our bold fight for independence. As a nation we honor those who have fought for our freedom time and time again. We also honor the triumph of the radical ideals that became not only the foundation of our country but also the challenge of each age as we struggle to live up to those principles. As Baptists, it is an appropriate time to look back on our own history and that moment in time where the deep-rooted convictions of our faith converged with the birth of a new country.

It is hard to argue that a dedication to religious liberty and freedom of conscience are not at the very heart of the Baptist expression of Christianity. These core beliefs are a consistent thread through our heritage as acknowledged by Baptist historians such as Buddy Shurden, William Estep and Leon McBeth. How that belief intersected and influenced the story of America is acknowledged by secular historians such as Edwin Gaustad and others. President Barack Obama has publicly stated his appreciation (pdf) for the role of Baptists in US history even citing John Leland by name. We should be concerned that our non-Baptist president knows our history, yet many Texas Baptists do not.

We didn’t spring up out of a vacuum and we can’t disregard the experience of past generations. Dr. Bill Pinson, former Executive Director of the BGCT, has recently written a wonderful, accessible book published by BaptistWay Press called Baptists and Religious Liberty: The Freedom Road, that compiles much of the history we should all know.

John Smyth and Thomas Helwys who in the early 1600’s were the first to speak out against the established church in England at great personal cost including imprisonment.  In our churches we should tell the story of Roger Williams who was exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635, founded Rhode Island after purchasing the land from an Indian tribe, where he established the first Baptist church in America in 1638. It is Williams who first advocated for a “hedge or wall of separation between the Garden of the Church and the Wilderness of the world.” The names of John Clarke, Obadiah Holmes and John Crandall should be known to all Texas Baptist as men who in 1651 were jailed in Massachusetts for the crime of conducting an unlawful worship service – Holmes was then brutally whipped on the street in Boston.

When we celebrate our independence and the founding of our nation think back to Isaac Backus who in 1774 took his plea for religious liberty to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia and then to the delegates from Massachusetts arguing that tax dollars should not go to support the established Congregationalist church. Virginia Baptist Pastor John Leland was a vocal supporter of Thomas Jefferson and his effort to disestablish the Episcopal Church by passage of the “Virginia Statute Establishing Religious Freedom” in 1886. It was Leland who later met with James Madison and urged him to support an amendment to the newly ratified constitution that would guarantee religious liberty.

As Texans recall with pride that in 1920, George W. Truett pastor of First Baptist Dallas, stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, proclaimed religious liberty for all and recited this history praising our forbearers.

They dared to be odd, to stand alone, to refuse to conform, though it cost them suffering and even life itself. They dared to defy traditions and customs, and deliberately chose the day of non conformity, even though in many a case it meant a cross. They pleaded and suffered, they offered their protests and remonstrances and memorials, and, thank God, mighty statesmen were won to their contention. Washington and Jefferson and Madison and Patrick Henry, and many others, until at last it was written into our country’s Constitution that church and state must in this land be forever separate and free, that neither must ever trespass upon the distinctive functions of the other. It was pre-eminently a Baptist achievement.

We would also be wise to head the word of our fellow Baptist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who warned that “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.”

Finally, we must give thanks and our support to modern day Baptists like J.M. Dawson, James Wood, James Dunn, Brent Walker, Melissa Rogers, and Holly Hollman who, through the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, have resolutely and vigilantly upheld the Baptist ideal of religious liberty and church state separation for over 70 years.

Our commitment to the separation of church and state is not only based on theology, but also on our experience as a persecuted religious minority. Such conviction should not be compromised now that we are part of the majority religious culture. Indeed to allow our government to favor any faith sets a potentially disastrous precedent should the day come when we are no longer in the majority.

While Baptists may disagree on individual cases or controversies we should agree that stepping back into the role of a religious minority would give us better insight to the type of protections we should seek for all faiths. The ability to walk a mile in another’s shoes is critical to upholding the basic rights granted under the Bill of Rights and the first amendment. As former justice Sandra Day O’Connor said so eloquently in McCreary County v. ACLU “we do not count heads before enforcing the First Amendment.”

We must be careful not to be tempted by the “Christian Nation” rhetoric that is now so often espoused. Our history tells us better, we helped make sure that this nation was for all people, not founded for and operated only by Christians. We must be ready to strongly push back against those, armed with only a speck of truth, promote a distorted view of history.

Above all, remember that our commitment to religious liberty is grounded in the core of our faith. Our faith, in response to our interpretation of scripture, proclaims that God made us all free, responsible and competent to respond to the gospel as we feel led, voluntarily and individually any action by another that attempts to compel belief is worthless. As George Truett said in 1920 “God wants free worshipers and no other kind.”

We value your input and suggestions.
Your comments and recommended resources are welcome in the comments box below.

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Human trafficking actually exists?  That’s a question that comes up from time to time.  Sadly, the answer is yes.  The U.S. Congress requires the State Department to submit an annual report each year on “foreign governments’ efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons.”  The Report, now the 8th annual one, states:

The International Labor Organization (ILO)—the United Nations agency charged with addressing labor standards, employment, and social protection issues—estimates that there are 12.3 million people in forced labor, bonded labor, forced child labor, and sexual servitude at any given time; other estimates range from 4 million to 27 million.

Additionally, the Report states that Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s offices “initiated 182 investigations, charged 89 individuals, and obtained 103 convictions in cases involving human trafficking” in the United States during fiscal year 2007. Read the entire report…

Because of the nature of human trafficking, its victims generally do not have authorization to remain in the United States and are subject deportation.  This creates two problems:  1) the deportation of the victim deprives the prosecution of a crucial witness in its case against the traffickers; and 2) the victim could be victimized again in their home country by the same trafficking organization.

In an effort to provide relief to the victims and aid in the prosecution of these modern day slave traders, Congress authorized the “T-Visa”.  To qualify for the T-Visa, a victim:

  1. must have been subjected to “severe trafficking”;
  2. be physically present in the United States;
  3. the Attorney General or Secretary of DHS must agree that the victim has complied with a reasonable request by a Federal, State, or Local law enforcement agency to assist in the investigation or prosecution of such trafficking
  4. the victim would suffer “extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal” from the United States.

The Code of Federal Regulations defines “severe trafficking” as either a commercial sex act that is induced by force, fraud, or coercion (“sex trafficking) or the recruitment, harboring, or other acts of obtaining persons or labor by force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose subjection to slavery, debt bondage, or involuntary servitude (“labor trafficking”).  See generally 8 C.F.R. §214.11(a).   The T-visa also requires the victim to cooperate with law enforcement’s “reasonable request” to assist in the investigation or prosecution of the trafficking.

Here is a good discussion about the T-Visa…

An excellent “rockumentary”on the subject is Justin Dillon’s Call and Response… 

Please do not forget to pray for the victims of human trafficking and pray for the end of this horrible practice.

We value your input and suggestions.
Your comments and recommended resources are welcome in the comments box below.

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Helping World HungerThe fallout from a struggling economy is always manifold.  One the one hand, the demand for hunger and related ministries increases exponentially as people lose jobs and seek help.  One the other hand, those who are fortunate enough to keep their jobs tend to be a little more conservative with their resources because they are anxious about the future.  Both of these effects present challenges to the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger as the demand for funding escalates and the prospect of income weakens.

While we will surely have more needs to address in the days to come, the prospects for funds for ministry support need not be bleak or weak.  The Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger is a grass roots movement built on small gifts.  Because there are over 2,000,000 Texas Baptists and over 5,000 congregations, small gifts make a big difference.

Our suggested individual goal for 2009 is to give the cost of one meal once a month to the Offering.  If the cost of that meal is $10, for example, we as a denominational family would give a quarter of a billion dollars to help people in need.  That’s billion with a ”B”!  Just imagine doing that.  Imagine the lives that would be impacted, both by the ministries themselves and by the resounding stories of those ministries.  Imagine the gift of hope to people bereft of hope.  Imagine the witness to God’s amazing and loving intervention to those who thought God – along with everyone else – had forgotten them.

We can do all that with the cost of one meal, once a month.  Money we would hardly miss.  Just imagine.

Donate now! 

We value your input and suggestions.
Your comments and recommended resources are welcome in the comments box below.

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Texas Hope 2010

Through the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger (TBOWH), Texas Baptists have supported specific ministries to help hungry peopleSince 1996, in fact, we have contributed over $10,000,000 to buy and distribute food, to help people grow their own food, to drill water wells, to provide job training, to start microenterprises, and to sustain a host of other Baptist ministries in dozens of countries on every continent. Through the Offering, the hungry have been fed, the poor have escaped poverty, and the good news of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed across the globe.

Beginning right now, Texas Baptists have the opportunity to enlarge our ministries in behalf of people who struggle with hunger and poverty. Inspired by the goal of Texas HOPE 2010 to “bring hope to every heart,” we can continue our support for the ongoing work of the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger while adding support for several Texas-focused initiatives: (1) Urban and Rural Poverty Initiative; (2) Border Ministries; (3) Disaster Relief; (4) Christian Women’s and Christian Men’s Jobs Corps.

Our specific goal is to raise and dedicate $2,000,000 to reach out to people in need with tangible help and Christ’s love beginning in the fall of 2009 and culminating at year’s end in 2010. These funds will be distributed as follows:
2009 TBOWH worldwide ministries- $700,000
2010 TBOWH worldwide ministries- $700,000
Texas Urban and Rural Poverty Initiative- $250,000              
Border Ministries- $150,000
Disaster Relief- $100,000
Christian Women’s and Christian Men’s Jobs Corps- $100,000

Meeting these goals will require that we raise approximately $600,000 more by the end of 2010 than the Offering has traditionally generated. This goal sounds daunting until we put it in perspective. If only one out of twenty Texas Baptists gave $10 per month to the Offering, together we would give over $12,000,000 each year.

The individual goal we are suggesting for church members this year is to give the cost of one meal each month to the Offering. For many people that works out to about $10 a month. Looking at it that way, the thought of raising $1,000,000 each year doesn’t seem quite so lofty.

We have the knowledge, the opportunity, and resources to make critical, life-saving and life-affirming differences in a world of hunger and poverty. God insists that we be faithful followers of Jesus and good stewards of our opportunities.

Donate now!