Archive | Uncategorized RSS for this section

On the “Forced Family Separation” Issue…

There comes a time on certain issues when you should turn off Fox News and CNN. Now is one of those times.

The issue of forced family separation at the border has produced a great deal of incredible outrage on both sides of the aisle. Those on the left are comparing this to Nazi Germany and concentration camps. That’s ridiculous. That comparison belittles the great tragedy that occurred in Germany during the Holocaust.

Equally ridiculous is the response from various conservatives who are literally giddy over what’s going on. It’s one thing to agree with the policy or to have fierce debates over what should happen when someone crosses the border illegally, but it is an entirely different thing to practically rejoice over parents and children being separated when they get here if that’s what it takes to deter more immigrants from coming to this country illegally.

May I suggest to those comparing this to concentration camps that you back off the hyperbole a little? It’s not helping your case for ending this or for finding a better way forward.

And may I also suggest to those on the right who have no problem with this that you examine your heart and have some compassion? Even if these kids were separated from their families to go and stay at Disneyland, they are still enduring severe trauma that will likely last a lifetime for them.

I would also add that nearly every Christian denomination has condemned this policy and so has an exhaustive list of Christian leaders, including Franklin Graham (who is generally very supportive of Trump). If this is the case, then surely it is time for the average American to listen to our faith leaders before we listen to politicians with agendas.

There must be a better way forward, and as Americans we should be better than our hyperbolic condemnation or joyful praise of this policy.

As Christians, I wish we had an attitude of prayer and a heart of compassion that causes us to act with gospel faithfulness on topics that require a great deal of discernment. I see very little of that. I also do not understand why I see various pastors expressing their support for this policy while remaining silent on Jeff Sessions misuse of the Bible to defend this policy. Isn’t one of these things worth speaking up about more than the other?

Below are a few articles I believe are worth your time and will help you gain a well-balanced view of what is actually taking place at the border and how it might be fixed.

Was Sessions Right to Quote the Bible in Defense of Family Separation?

The Truth about Separating Kids

A Statement from Senator Ben Sasse

The above is not meant to say one view or another is the correct one. It is simply to say that I think Christians need to have more discernment and greater compassion regardless of how we feel about the policy currently being fiercely debated.

Advertisements

Reflections on the Use of Social Media

social media

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

This is what Blaise Pascal said in the mid-1600s. If it was true then, how much more true must it be now that we have social media?

Boredom is a child’s greatest fear. Boredom will drive someone crazy. As adults though, we crave time to just be bored and relax (because if you work and have kids, life is crazy). But, what do we do as soon as we have it? We whip out the phone and scroll through social media, or we play games on our phones, or turn on Netflix to binge on the next episode of another show that numbs our mind to the cares of the day. Children will literally play on screens all day if allowed and threatening to take away a screen is literally like threatening to cut off a hand (Seriously. Not joking here…many kids see a screen as another appendage of their body. Creating a unity between the body and technology is probably part of the goal for the tech giants, but that’s another discussion for another time).

At some point, we must admit that this is all insanity. I have been on social media since it started in 2004. At first, Facebook was only open to college students with a valid .edu email address. Now it’s open to the entire world. We are all connected. During the 14 years I have been on Facebook, I have liked and shared thousands of pictures, articles, quotes, and who knows what else.

Over the last few years, I have become more and more convinced that our use of social media is not a good thing. One day, I believe, we will look back and see that social media has had a negative net effect on society. Sure, technology is good for some things, and I am not opposed to the use of social media. However, I do believe there are many things for which we should be concerned.

Here are my concerns on the use of social media for the last 14 years (primarily related to people my age using Facebook):

Social media makes it nearly impossible to ever stop using it. Recently I realized that “breaking up” with Facebook feels nearly impossible. It was a serious headache creating a new account. Facebook has more photos of my family than my phone has of my family. Part of the reason I have never deleted my account is because I don’t want to lose all the pictures on Facebook. So I began saving them. Now, I am done with “Jon Hoover,” and this blog post will be my final post there.

Social media gives you a false sense of friendship. About 6 months ago I realized that I had over 600 friends on Facebook. 600 friends? Really? How is it that I have over 600 friends on Facebook, but I would likely be unable to name 50 of them? So I began “unfriending” people. I got my friends list down to around 250. Even at 250, it’s hard to believe that I want to share so many details of my life with 250 people.

Social media creates division. Facebook creates one large echo chamber. It shows you more of the stuff you like and more of the stuff you search for on the internet. The effect of this over time is that it confirms more and more of what you believe to be true about the world, politics, ideology, etc.  People become hardened in their positions on any given topic and fail to seriously interact with opposing views. I’ve seen this myself. As a pastor, sometimes I feel a sense of obligation to post something regarding the moral direction of our country. I did this when Obama was president and received almost zero pushback. But, if I dare say something about Trump now, I am suddenly a flaming leftwing liberal who knows nothing and better keep my mouth shut (I got real “hate mail” over this). The problem is that people cannot seriously interact with things that might cause them to question their own beliefs. This is not good, and social media only makes this harder.

Social media has documented our kids lives. This is a big one for me. My kids entire lives have been documented on Facebook. As proud new parents, we happily posted their baby pictures. Then we posted them smashing their first birthday cake, their first word, their first steps, their first this, their first that, and on and on their story goes on Facebook. Soon my kids will be old enough to realize that hundreds and hundreds of people know who they are but they don’t have a clue about my 600 social media “friends.” They will meet people that know all about their birth, their first word, their first steps, and every good thing they have ever done (because, you know, we don’t post anything bad about our kids, only their shining moments of glory). Is this what we want for our kids? Do we really want the world to know them before they know the world and are old enough and mature enough to interpret the world around them? I’m just not convinced this is a good thing.

Social media is primarily documenting insignificance. Seriously. Scroll through your news feed on Facebook and see how much of it really matters. It’s an endless list of random pictures, recipes, Plexus posts, articles, and who knows what else. Most of it is highly insignificant. Why spend so much of your life scrolling through insignificance?

OK, so now that I have beat up on social media, let me say that I do think there are many good things about it (being able to connect with long lost friends, promoting a business, networking, etc.). I am not against using social media for good reasons. I am simply questioning its long-term value in our lives.

All that to say: I have started over, and I am so glad I did. Facebook makes it nearly impossible to go into your account and clean it all up, which is why I just had to start all over. Several of you have told me that you want to start over too. I created a list of “social media rules” that I plan to stick with, and I will share those below. Maybe they will be helpful for you too.

Here are my rules about social media use:

  • I will only “friend” the following people: actual friends, family, church members, and ministry colleagues.
  • I will no longer share pictures of my kids. I realize that won’t keep them off social media completely, but I want their story to be theirs to tell, not mine. I did create a private shared folder on my phone using the Photos App so my closest friends and family can view family pictures.
  • I do not “like” any pages except pages I help manage (like my church, Trail Life, etc.). I do this because I don’t want Facebook showing me more than I care to see, and I also don’t want them deciding for me what kind of person I am (seriously, they do that too so they can advertise more effectively to you).
  • I will only share articles or comment on things that may be controversial after waiting 24 hours to see if it is worth the pushback I might receive from it. As a pastor, I still feel a sense of obligation to be a moral voice in the public square. I’m just not convinced Facebook is the best public square for that to take place in.
  • I have literally “unfollowed” every new friend request I have accepted on my new account. Sorry, I just refuse to get stuck again in the trap of scrolling through social media when I have nothing else to do. It’s not worth the distraction. If someone has something really important to share with me, I am sure they will contact me personally. Plus now I can go 2 days without charging my phone. I notice beauty around me more often too (like the sunset, and birds flying through the air, and more). How many times have you gone to a park or to a restaurant and noticed everyone around you staring at a screen? It happens all the time. Look up from the phone. There are amazing things all around you.

That’s about it. Social media and smartphones in general are not a bad thing, but I think it’s time people evaluate how they are used and how much time is wasted on them. Many people live in fear of missing out on something on their phones, and the great irony is they are likely missing out on what’s right in front of them.

If nothing else, hopefully this post causes you to stop and think about how much control your phone and social media has over your life. Maybe you too should adopt some sort of “rules” you will live by when it comes to how you use your phone and social media.

 

 

Morning Roundup – Monday 11/5

Godspeed by Britt Merrick on Kindle today for FREE. I can’t vouch for this book because I haven’t read it, but it certainly captures my attention. Merrick declares, “You were made for this.” In Godspeed, Britt Merrick challenges us to step out of our little, self-centered lives and step into God’s grand mission—His plan to restore, redeem, and renew the world.

A Prayer for America on Election Day – Al Mohler states, “May God grant us mercy and grace as we seek to fulfill our responsibilities as citizens — and our responsibilities as Christians.  This world is not our home, but we do bear responsibilities as followers of Christ as we are living here.” This is a great article that will help you think about how to pray for our nation.

Four Ways a Woman’s Words Can Give Life – Amanda Edmondson, writing for The Resurgence, “As women, we can live out the call to be life givers at any point in our life regardless of our marital status, number of children, or grandchildren. Be a woman who gives life to those around you in your homes, work places, and churches.”

The Polls Tell us Less Than We Think – Kevin DeYoung writes a helpful article about what the polls tell us. If you haven’t figured it out already, the polls are just too close to call.

Missing the Facts on Obama and Faith – Interesting article here on Obama, faith, and liberal Protestantism.

The Gospel Project – The Stolen Blessing

The Stolen Blessing

Dear Parents and Guardians,

The Gospel Project for Kids continued its journey through God’s story by learning about a little sibling rivalry. Any child with a sibling can attest to the struggles that sometimes plague this special relationship. Jacob and Esau were no different. Jacob’s name means “heel grabber,” an apt description of who and what he was.

Esau despised his birthright in favor of some tasty stew that Jacob was making. The birthright was an important right in Hebrew culture, and for Esau to look on it with disdain was contrary to all that it was designed to do. Jacob took advantage of his brother and secured for himself a better familial position.

Jacob is a perfect example of why people need a Savior. He tricked his father into blessing him instead of his brother. Jacob lied and was a devious manipulator to gain something that wasn’t rightfully his. Like Jacob, we seek a birthright and a blessing that don’t belong to us, but we can’t lie, cheat, or deceive in order to gain it. Instead, Jesus shared His birthright and blessing with us when He paid for our sins on the cross and gave us His righteousness.

_________________

I’d like to take a moment to encourage everyone to be intentional about the Gospel Project and discipleship. I have come to the realization that discipleship has to be intentional. If it’s just something you try to do every now and then, it won’t work. Discipleship takes time and commitment. One of the reasons I love the Gospel Project is because it makes that process easy to do. If take the time to do the family journal exercise each week, review the cards, and work on the scripture memory with your kids then you are doing a FANTASTIC job. If you want to take it a step further, and you have an iPad, I would highly encourage you to get the Gospel Project Family App. It is a tremendous blessing, full of activities, videos, and games to help your kids solidify what they are learning.

Keep pressing on, parents and grandparents! The kids NEED you to teach them the Bible!

Blessings,

Jon

The Gospel Project – Week 4 – The Tower of Babel

Dear Parents,

The story of the Tower of Babel helps us understand the devastating effects of sin. Even after God had destroyed all life on earth through the flood and graciously saved Noah’s family and the animals, it wasn’t long before people disobeyed God again.

God instructed Noah to spread out and fill the earth. Instead, people decided it best to settle. Rather than bringing glory to God by following God’s plan, people decided to glorify themselves. They built a tower to make a name for themselves.

God’s plan to populate the earth following the flood could not be sidetracked. When God confused the languages of the people, they were forced to move away from one another and into people groups and nations bound by single languages. Eventually one of these nations would become God’s chosen people. Through the nation of Israel, Christ would come to save the world.

Remember to review those Gospel Project cards, and don’t feel the need to make it something “stiff.” Have fun with the cards. Ask your children questions about them. They soak in a lot more than you might think. I am always amazed at how much my kids are learning and how much they remember.

Also don’t forget that the kids will be singing their songs in the morning church service on Sunday, October 7th. They will review the songs on Wednesday nights at 6:30 at the beginning of RAs and GAs. I hope you all have a great week. I’m praying for you!

Blessings,

Jon

 

The Gospel Project – Week 3 – Noah’s Ark

Dear Parents,

It was another exciting week of The Gospel Project for Kids! God’s gospel story continued this week as boys and girls learned that God is serious about sin. People were sinning so much that God sent a flood to completely destroy all life on earth … all life, that is, except for one man, his family, and a complement of animals.

Noah was a righteous man and God was gracious to him. God gave specific instructions on how Noah was to build an ark that would be used to rescue Noah, his family, and the animals. Noah was obedient to all God commanded.

As the story of Noah unfolds, we see shadows of Jesus. Sin caused separation between God and man, but God had graciously provided a way of salvation for Noah and his family through the ark. Our sin separates us from a holy God, but God provides a way of salvation in the person of Jesus. Also, as Noah’s obedience and God’s grace saved his family and the animals, Jesus’ perfect obedience to God’s plan provides the way of salvation for people. When we trust His act of obedience, we are saved from the punishment our sin deserves.

Remember to review those cards and go over your family journals! In the meantime check out this video released just today on The Gospel Project. You may have seen the first 3 minutes already. If you have, just move forward to the 3 minute mark.

 

Blessings,

Jon

An announcement about The Gospel Project

Dear Parents,
On September 2nd we started a new project for Sunday school called The Gospel Project for Kids. The Gospel Project for Kids is a Christ-centered Bible study resource that follows a chronological timeline of Bible events that presents the story of redemption through Jesus like kids have never seen it before! Each week, these stories are coming to life through video, music, activities, and more.

So far, the kids are loving it, and I hope they are coming home each week talking about The Gospel Project. We have had higher attendance in Sunday school these last two weeks for the children than we have had in two years – exciting days are definitely ahead! Remember to review the Big Picture Question and Answer cards with your kids to help reinforce the lesson at home.

I want to make you aware of one addition to The Gospel Project for Kids and ask for your help as well. On Wednesday nights the kids have always gathered together at 6:30pm for RA’s and GA’s. Each week, beginning September 12th, we will take the first 10 minutes of RA’s and GA’s to help teach the kids the songs they are learning in The Gospel Project. On Sunday morning October 7th, they will present those songs in the morning worship service. Make sure you bring your camera or camcorder to capture that moment!

Now for why I need your help. On October 14th, we are going to have “Bring a Family Sunday” to The Gospel Project. We want as many kids as we can to go through The Gospel Project with us. This requires lots of help and lots of inviting. I would encourage you to ask your children who they might like to invite. Then, invite them AND their family to church on Sunday, October 14th. Following that morning service, we will be taking the kids to a corn maze and pumpkin patch (details TBA). Start thinking now of you would like to invite!

Blessings,

Jon

%d bloggers like this: