A Prayer for Friday (2/8/19)

My Father,
Through Your Holy Spirit, in Your Son’s name, I ask…

…help me choose love rather than resentment
…help me choose joy over bitterness
…help me live peace in a world of turmoil
…help me to be patient with others as You are patient with me
…help me to be known for kindness not harshness
…help me to seek goodness not success
…help me be faithful to You above all
…help me to be gentle, especially with those who disagree with me
…help me practice self-control, letting You control me

May Your Spirit produce His fruit in me.


Immigration: Neither the Left nor the Right

I mentioned the other day feeling unable to support either of the two major political parties here in the United States. To me, they each promote some good things and each promote some ungodly values. Because I choose not to follow a platform that’s handed to me, I find myself with views that conflict with each party. Especially on a topic like immigration.

  • I favor a secure border. We should do what we can to eliminate unauthorized border crossings.
  • A secure border can only be created when there is a practical process that opens the door to unskilled workers. There needs to be a worker visa. I wouldn’t insist on a path to citizenship; the goal is to allow people to come and work when needed.
  • The two above items need to happen simultaneously.
  • I think all language deeming the secure border a “wall” is misguided. As I’ve written before, it smacks of very ugly attitudes. It is used to rouse the xenophobes among us. Little progress on real immigration will occur as long as the term continues to be bandied about.
  • I think the immigrant caravans are a bad thing. I think most of those in the caravans are not bad people. They are pawns in a political process, used by activists to provoke a situation. (Could be pro-immigration activists; could be anti-immigration activists. My hunch is it’s both)
  • The president should retract statements about immigrants being murders, rapists, drug dealers “and some good people.” He should at least admit that the inverse reflects reality. He knew it was a misrepresentation when he said it. Admittedly, President Trump speaks in hyperbole and expects everyone to recognize it was such. Still, slandering entire groups of people merely hinders open discussion on important topics.
  • Christians should stop encouraging people to come here illegally. I think we minister without judgment to those who have already come. But we do nothing to promote illegal immigration. (And yes, I know that some of you think that you can’t minister to those who came illegally without promoting future illegality. I disagree.)
  • Politicians (and Christians) need to stop the fear mongering.
    • The situation on our southern border does not constitute an emergency. Viewing how people use 911, I recognize that many people have trouble recognizing what truly is an emergency situation. This isn’t one.
    • Terrorists aren’t streaming across our southern border. There are much easier ways for them to enter the U.S. Few have entered from the south in the past; there is nothing to indicate that has changed.
    • The caravans appeared after the discussions about “the wall” began, not before. This situation was provoked by activists. It did not occur spontaneously.

There. Is that enough to make people on both sides mad? If not, I’ll share some more. I don’t attempt to make my position align with either major political party. And don’t ever plan to.

photo courtesy Conor Luddy on Unsplash

Links To Go (February 7, 2019)

Seven Warning Signs of Inward Focus in a Church

  1. There are very few attempts to minister to those in the community.
  2. Church business meetings become arguments over preferences and desires.
  3. Members in the congregation are openly critical of the pastor, other church leaders in the church.
  4. Any change necessary to become a Great Commission church is met with anger and resistance.
  5. The past becomes the hero.
  6. Culture is seen as the enemy instead of an opportunity for believers to become salt and light.
  7. Pastors and other leaders in the church become discouraged and withdraw from effective leadership.

Who Worries About Hell the Most

The results are consistent with a much larger body of research showing much more positive health outcomes for those who believe in a loving God who personally cares for them than those who believe in a distant, judgmental deity.

How highly religious Americans view evolution depends on how they’re asked about it

Indeed, groups who respond differently to the two approaches are those who primarily believe that God or a higher power had a role in human evolution. For example, nearly all white evangelical Protestants who say humans have evolved – whether in a branched-choice or single-question format – believe God had a role in human evolution.
Differences in response to these two approaches occur among highly religious groups, but not among religiously unaffiliated Americans (those who describe their religion as nothing in particular, agnostic or atheist).

Cliff Sims, the ‘Team of Vipers,’ and His Views of the President’s Faith Advisors (Part 2)

Unfortunately, I think these dynamics were a kind of social rule among the group. I don’t want to paint them all with a broad brush—I think there are people with good hearts and with good intentions who are trying to be a picture of the gospel in a place that can be totally devoid of it. They deserve credit and don’t deserve to be smeared. But, I did see a lot of things that made me very uncomfortable.
It’s sad to me that faith leaders were not immune to the side effects that proximity to power had on me and other people in the White House.

How to pray for lost people

Some worry that it seems as if all I do is look for openings and opportunities to speak about Jesus. Correct. After all, if I make a friend and never talk about Jesus — then either I am not really their friend. Or I am not really a friend of Jesus.

Are you being manipulated?

Some simple questions worth asking:

  1. How does this announcement/offer/news/pressure make you feel?
  2. Is there something about this news that touches a hot button issue or fear? Is the story being told designed to trigger you?
  3. Are you surrounded by people who are also engaged with this news? Is it becoming a mob?
  4. Is the presenter of the news using external pressure to push you into acting in ways that contradict your self-interest or self-esteem?
  5. How would you feel if you discovered that the story you just heard wasn’t actually true?

It’s not just Google or Facebook: The freezer aisle is ad targeting you now

That’s a problematic lack of transparency. There’s no disclosure that users are being watched and their behavior analyzed. When I was looking at the doors, I couldn’t find any sign of the cameras at all, although I knew they were watching me. When I asked Koval about how he designed the doors so that people wouldn’t find it creepy, he pointed again to the fact that the data is anonymized as enough reason for consumers to accept the technology. But these are serious privacy considerations as retail stores bring some of the tracking that already occurs online into the real world. Most of us are aware that Facebook is tracking what we “like” on its website, but few would expect to have their emotions monitored at the local pharmacy.

El Paso Zoo will name a cockroach after your ex and feed it to their meerkats

Not only can you name a cockroach after your ex at the El Paso Zoo, but on Valentine’s Day the zoo will be feeding those cockroaches to the meerkats for their “Quit Bugging Me” event at 2:15 p.m. Feb. 14.

Let’s create a culture of life

All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God.” I loved that line from last night’s State of the Union speech. The context was appropriate: what is being promoted regarding abortion in the United States is reprehensible. I am opposed to abortion, especially late term abortion.

I hope that the last part, the biblical reference, can really take hold in this country. Imagine if we could create a culture of respect for others that recognizes the divine spark within each one.

What if every time a politician spoke to another, you could tell they believe the other is God’s creation? What if every time we spoke of a foreign nation or the leader of one of those countries, we did so in a way that recognizes they are made in God’s image? What if when we spoke of the immigrant, we did so in a way that honored them rather than belittling them?

For all people are made in the holy image of God. Even if those children aren’t American citizens. Even if those children have darker skin. Even if those children aren’t Christian. Even when those children grow up.

We can’t be taken seriously when discussing abortion if we are insensitive to the needs of those that have already been born! If our speech towards others is marked by anger and insult, no one will listen when we claim to believe others are made in the image of God. If we treat the rich and educated better than the poor and needy, we dishonor the One who created them both.

We can’t claim to speak up for children, yet say that it’s inconvenient to return immigrant children who were separated from their parents! The sheer hypocrisy of such should be evident to all. Until we create a culture of life and respect for all, outcry against abortion will fall on deaf ears.

Speak out against abortion! Speak up for the dignity of humans created in the image of God. Call for the equal treatment of all of God’s image-bearers.

image courtesy Phillip Martin

That’s not Trump’s wall you see in the Bible

As I’ve mentioned, I watch for illogical arguments. And I watch for misuse of the Bible. Discussions of the border wall tend to feature both.

When Trump announced his desire to build a wall, people begin quoting Ephesians 2, talking about how Jesus came to break down walls, not build them. While I definitely agree that Jesus is about bringing people together, I disagree that he is against all physical walls. If I come over to your house and start banging on your walls with a sledgehammer, are you going to say, “What a Christlike attitude!”?

Then wall enthusiasts started quoting Revelation 21, pointing out that the New Jerusalem has walls! Again, that’s not a very good use of the Bible, especially since the walls in Revelation have gates that never close.

Now I’m seeing people quote Nehemiah, observing how he was blessed for building a wall. To be honest, this one comes the closest to having some relevance. Here’s an example of a wall being built for the protection of those living inside. Still, if we begin conflating the nation of Israel with the modern-day U.S., we quickly get ourselves into trouble. And again, Jerusalem’s wall had gates that were open to all… except invading armies. Any and all peaceful visitors were welcome.

I’m okay if you want to argue the merits of the wall in the comments, but that’s not really my point. What I’m saying is that we need to stop using the Bible as a political tool, to quit picking out the parts we like and quoting verses out of context. Read the Bible to find God, to understand Him more, and learn how to draw nearer to Him. Don’t search through it to find arguments to support your partisan positions.