WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY - December 4, 2019
In this week's Intersect, read about:
Trump Seeks to Designate Mexican Drug Cartels as Terror Organizations
President Trump said in a newly released interview that he is moving to designate Mexican drug cartels as terror organizations. The decision reportedly has prompted the Mexican government to ask the administration for clarification, but Trump told Bill O'Reilly, in an interview posted to his website, that the process is well underway. The news comes weeks after the brutal killings of dual Mexican and American citizens in the northern part of Mexico. Though drug cartels have a reputation for cold-blooded murders, the ambush on November 4 in the Mormon community in La Mora—which included the deaths of six children and three women—sent shockwaves in the U.S. and drew the president's attention. At the time, Trump called on Mexico to "wage war" on the cartels. read more
Just days after President Trump’s announcement, at least 21 people died in a shoot out between cartel shooters and Mexican police officers. Cartel members attacked local government offices in Villa Union, a town near the Texas border. Four police officers, ten gunmen, and seven additional cartel members were killed. According to Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown University, terrorism is “violence—or equally important, the threat of violence—used and directed in pursuit of, or in service of, a political aim.” Louise Richardson of Oxford believes terrorism is “deliberately and violently targeting civilians for political purposes.” Under these definitions, terrorism entails violent actions for political purposes. In 2016, Mexico was the second deadliest country in the world, only topped by Syria. Mexican authorities opened 33,341 murder investigations in 2018, the highest number ever. The country has seen over 300,000 homicides since anti-drug campaigns began in 2006. According to a Council on Foreign Relations Report, these cartels have created a “network of corruption that ensured distribution rights, market access, and even official government protection for drug traffickers in exchange for lucrative bribes.” People may disagree about what constitutes terrorism, but there is no disagreement that these cartels are evil. Their actions are reprehensible, but God’s love is incomprehensible. They cause terror, but God can redeem evil (Ephesians 3:19, Genesis 5:20, 1 Peter 3:9, Acts 9).
Pray today for the pastors and Christians in Mexico, particularly on the Mexican border, who are working to spread the Gospel and bring peace to their communities. Pray for their protection and for God to use them to transform cities and communities for Him.
Take a few minutes to read Pastor “Chito” Aguilar’s incredible testimony- once a Mexican drug trafficker now a courageous pastor. This story reminds us that God is at work in people's lives in every city and every nation across the globe!
Jesus Came to Proclaim Good News to the Poor - But Now They’re Leaving Church
It’s well-established that the gap between the middle class and those who earn the highest incomes in the United States has grown wider over time, spurring partisan responses over how or whether to address income inequality. But there’s a facet of this issue that should be particularly worrisome to Christians: Many of the poorest Americans are abandoning church en masse. By stepping away from church communities, the people who are most financially strapped also end up losing out on social networks and social capital—which can make their economic situation and outlook even worse. In the 1970s, the difference in church attendance among the four income groups was relatively small (about 5%). That gap has widened significantly over the last four decades, with a noticeable spike in recent years. In 2018, a quarter of the wealthiest Americans reported never attending services, while the share of those in the bottom bracket who never darkened a church door was over 35 percent. In essence, the inequality gap in attendance has now doubled. read more
Forty percent of individuals who are in the bottom quarter of the income spectrum engage in few social activities and never attend church. This group of people are twice as likely never to attend church as those in a top income bracket who have an active social life. While it’s impossible to know if poor Americans left the church because they didn’t feel welcome or because they lack the time or energy to attend, it should grieve our hearts. It's a call to us as Christians to bridge the divide and share our hope. Scripture commands us to care for the poor. 1 John 3:17-18 says, “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” And Proverbs 19:17, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” During the holiday season, we have increased opportunities to care for and love others. It may be the opportunity you have to fill a shoebox with gifts for a child in need or something as simple as bringing a meal to a single mom in your community. My prayer is that as Christians - and the body of Christ - we will look for ways to meet the needs of others and bring the hope of the Gospel. Many people will never step inside a church, but we can bring the Gospel to them through simple acts of service.
Pray and ask the Lord to show you ways this season that you can bless others and care for those less fortunate by being the hands and feet of Jesus.
This week we encourage you to gather your family together to do a simple act of kindness for someone who could use a blessing, either by volunteering your time and resources or by giving to an organization that is working to meet other people’s needs in your area.
American Pastors Tear-Gassed in Hong Kong as they Supported Pro-Democracy Protesters
American pastors who traveled to Hong Kong to support the months-long pro-democracy demonstrations say they faced tear gas and water cannons as they stood in solidarity with student demonstrators during one of the most dynamic five-day stretches of the protests. Rev. Bill Devlin of the Infinity Bible Church in New York City and Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition were in Hong Kong from Nov. 13 until Nov. 18. They were present as police besieged Hong Kong Polytechnic University where students barricaded themselves in and clashed with riot police. Devlin and Mahoney say they spent time between PolyU on the Kowloon peninsula and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Their objective was the share the love of Jesus Christ, pray with demonstrators and encourage them in their call for democracy, liberty and human rights. “We spent five days there. We met hundreds of students and young people. And we were right in the middle of everything: rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons,” Devlin told The Christian Post. “And I forget how many times I personally got tear-gassed. But we were there to basically encourage the people fighting for democracy and human rights to say: ‘You're not alone.” read more
In 1997, Hong Kong came under Chinese rule and was promised semi-autonomy by China until 2047. Hong Kong was to be a special administrative region that maintains government and economic systems separate from China. However, new legislation would permit Hong Kong to extradite fugitives wanted in mainland China and many fear this could be the beginning of Hong Kong’s loss of freedom and autonomy. Religious persecution is increasing rapidly in China. On November 29, Pastor Qin Defu, an elder of Early Rain Covenant Church in China, was charged with “illegal business operations” for having 20,000 Christian books - most were Gospel tracts titled, “The Good News You Don’t Want to Hear.” Pastor Defu was sentenced to four years in a Chinese prison for his “crime.” Chinese officials are closing churches, burning Christian buildings, and even rewriting Scripture. But despite their efforts, God’s church cannot be thwarted. According to the research of Fenggang Yang, author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival Under Communist Rule, the number of believers in the People’s Republic of China will rise to 160 million by 2025 and 247 million by 2030. President Trump signed into law S. 1838 the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019” in support of Hong Kong to reaffirm the United States policy established in 1992 with Hong-Kong. This act was a clear political message from the United States to Hong Kong, China, and the world that we stand with the protesters fighting for their freedom. This remarkable video shows those in the streets of Hong Kong thanking the US by singing our national anthem.
Pray for the protesters in Hong Kong who are risking their safety to stand up for their freedoms. Pray for them to have wisdom and increased courage.
Take some time today to read about the history of the protests, China’s clear disregard for the Hong Kong Basic Law agreement, and the brave Christians in Hong Kong who are, in many respects, leading the movement for freedom today.
Fewer Americans are Donating to Charity, and their Relationship with God May have Something to do with It
The share of U.S. adults who donated to charity dropped significantly between 2000 and 2016, according to an analysis released this month from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Vanguard Charitable. By 2016, just over half — 53% — of Americans gave money to charity, down from 66% in 2000. That figure held mostly steady until the Great Recession. Then it started to drop off and took a dive after 2010, said report co-author Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly School. The decline amounts to 20 million fewer households donating to charity in 2016 (the most recent year for which data was available) versus 2000, researchers said. One factor driving the decline: Americans are becoming less likely to attend religious services or identify with a specific religion. “Attending services is correlated with giving to religious organizations, but it’s also correlated with giving to secular groups,” Osili said. Giving to charity is, of course, a core belief for many of the world’s major religions. And very religious people of any faith are more likely to give to charity, one study by Baylor University researchers found. But there are fewer very religious people than ever in the U.S. The share of the population who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular” is now at 26%, up from 17% in 2009, according to 2018 and 2019 surveys by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan “fact tank” in Washington, D.C. Some 65% of Americans describe themselves as Christians, down 12 percentage points since 2009, Pew found. read more
Yesterday Americans celebrated #GivingTuesday. It started in 2012 as a simple idea in America: a day that encourages people to do good by participating in charitable giving. Last year, nearly 400 million dollars were raised for non-profit organizations across the country on Giving Tuesday alone. And while these numbers on Giving Tuesday seem significant, it’s very interesting to note the overall trend in America reveals giving as a whole is on a decline. The connection this study draws between people of faith and people’s giving habits is even more significant. Scripture is clear in James 2:20-22 that faith without works is dead, and in John 13:35 Jesus says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." People of faith give in higher numbers because our faith compels us to care for those around us. Our Founding Fathers also understood the vital role that faith and religion played in preserving our nation. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” If Americans abandon faith in America, we will not only see giving numbers to non-profits decrease, but we will fail to preserve the foundational principles that have brought peace and freedom to our nation. This study should encourage all of us to press forward with the work we are doing to share our faith with others and motivate Christians to boldly bring faith into the public square and bring hope to the communities we live in.
Pray for God to show you ways this Christmas season that you can share the Gospel with others. Pray for Him to put people in your path or show you people already in your life who need to hear the hope of Jesus’s birth, life, death, and resurrection.
Set aside time this month to go through the Christmas advent calendar with your family to be reminded of the real reason for the season and the hope we have in Christ that we can share with others. At My Faith Votes we are reading through the Gospel book of Luke every day between now and Christmas. Check out this video of our CEO, Jason Yates reading Luke chapter one. We hope you will join us every evening this month on Facebook as we read through the book of Luke together.
My Faith Votes—is a nonpartisan movement that motivates, equips and activates Christians in America to vote in every election, transforming our communities and influencing our nation with biblical truth. By partnering with national faith leaders, My Faith Votes provides resources to help Christians Pray, Think, and Act to create an America where God is honored in the public square.