The border wall: Pros and cons and 3 biblical facts

By Jim Denison

President Trump spoke to the nation last night from the Oval Office, seeking support for building a wall on our border with Mexico. Democratic Party leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer then responded.

From our inception, Denison Forum has been nonpartisan. Our mission is not to endorse political leaders or positions but to apply God’s word to the questions of our day, equipping Christians to change our culture by engaging contemporary issues with biblical truth.

As a result, my purpose today is not to offer my opinion on the border wall. Rather, it is to summarize arguments that have been made for and against the project, then to consider biblical principles relevant to this issue and our larger influence in the culture.

Arguments for the border wall

The southern border shared by the United States and Mexico spans 1,969 miles. Approximately 700 miles of border fencing have been completed as part of the Secure Fence Act of 2006 signed by President George W. Bush. These barriers are mostly near urban areas and international bridges.

The US Customs and Border Patrol uses patrols to guard more remote borderlands. It spends $4 billion a year, utilizing 58,000 personnel, 16,875 vehicles, 269 aircraft, 300 watercraft, 300 camera towers, and aerial drones.

Despite these efforts, the Government Accounting Office reports that just 44 percent of the border is under “operational control.” Nearly two-thirds are “monitored” while the rest are “low-level monitored.” It also estimates that only 61 percent of those attempting to cross the border illegally are intercepted.

Building a secure fence or wall could make it more difficult to cross our border illegally. When a fence was constructed on the San Diego border and patrols were increased, the number of people attempting to cross illegally dropped from 600,000 in the early 1990s to 39,000 in 2015.

Illegal drugs flow across our southern border. Some illegal immigrants have committed terrible crimes against Americans. And there is the issue of terrorism.

A report from the House Homeland Security Committee (HHSC) released this month documents the urgent problem of terrorists crossing our southern border into the US. This has been a growing issue for years.

In 2006, the HHSC noted that an increasing number of illegal immigrants from thirty-five countries known to produce, train, and harbor Islamic terrorists are using our southern border as a gateway to the US. A number of illegal immigrants apprehended that year were found to have confirmed ties to terrorist groups.

A 2016 report from then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson called for renewed efforts to counter this threat. And smuggling weapons of mass destruction across the southern border remains a threat.

Arguments against the border wall

Building a wall across our entire southern border would be enormously expensive. Estimates range from a low of $10 billion to a high of $40 billion. Lifetime maintenance costs will likely exceed $50 billion.

Critics also note that the wall will require policing since illegal immigrants will attempt to breach, tunnel under, or climb over any fence. And they note that 40 percent of America’s eleven million illegal immigrants came here legally but overstayed their visas. Enhanced border security would not have addressed this issue.

The wall faces significant legal challenges from property owners such as Native American tribes and private individuals who control much of borderland property. Water rights are in question along much of the border. And many of the illegal drugs flowing into our country are hidden in vehicles that would not be stopped by a border wall.

In addition, border walls negatively impact wildlife, water flows, migratory patterns, and genetic diversity in natural species.

Three biblical facts

Last night’s addresses by the president and his critics highlight the divisive, partisan nature of this issue. However, there are three biblical principles all Christians should embrace, whatever our views on the border wall. (For more, see the chapter on immigration in my book, 7 Critical Issues).

One: We are to care for immigrants.

Scripture teaches: “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21; cf. Leviticus 19:33-34Deuteronomy 10:18-1924:19-22Ezekiel 47:21-23Zechariah 7:10Malachi 3:5Matthew 25:3540Hebrews 13:2).

Unless you’re a Native American, you or your family came to this country as immigrants. Scripture is blunt: “Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow” (Deuteronomy 27:19).

Two: Border security is a biblical priority.

God “fixed the borders of the peoples” (Deuteronomy 32:8) and delineated the borders of the Promised Land (Numbers 34:1-15Ezekiel 47:13-23). We are to guard ourselves against those who would harm us (Luke 11:21Proverbs 25:26Nehemiah 4:17-18).

Three: God calls us to pursue both justice and compassion.

We are to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1; cf. Titus 3:11 Peter 2:13-141 Timothy 1:8-10Matthew 22:21). At the same time, we are to “be kind to one another” (Ephesians 4:32), refusing to dehumanize or condemn any human being. We are to love everyone God loves, and God loves everyone (John 3:16).

Balancing these biblical priorities is the challenge, of course. The sojourners of Scripture were not illegal immigrants. The one million children who are illegal immigrants in the US did not choose to be so. And many who come to our country illegally are fleeing horrific violence, drug cartels, gangs, and crushing poverty.

Conclusion

As I stated at the beginning of this Daily Article, my purpose is not to take a personal position on the border wall but to help us think biblically about God’s priorities. If we seek to obey our Father’s call to harmonize justice with compassion, we can claim his promise: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

This is the transforming promise and urgent invitation of God.

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GOOD HABITS ARE GODLY HABITS…

While attending seminary many years ago (none of your business) I formed several good and Godly habits.  I wish I could say it was because I had the where-with-all to do so.  That is not the case.  I learned through preparing to teach a group of teenagers and through one particular seminary course.

  • I had been asked to teach a group of 8th-grade guys how to have a devotional life. (A quiet time, alone with the lord, in the morning.)  I had practiced a devotional time years prior but had never really had someone teach me.  As I prepared to teach them how I learned specifics about why it was so vital and made it a daily priority.  God has honored this spiritual discipline through the years.  It is THE KEY to growing and maturing in my personal relationships with Jesus Christ.  I do not do it because I am a Pastor.  I do it because I am a Christian.  I’m telling you, if you want to know a habit that is lifechanging, this is it!  Get a bible, a devotional book, and a journal and start yesterday.  It’ll change your life!
  • The best class I had while in seminary was The Aerobics Program for a Total Well-Being.  I learned the value of exercise and diet.  I must say, I’ve excelled in exercising and struggled in my overall eating plan.  The key to exercising is realistic goals and consistency.  The key to eating right is balance.  Both can be done and help provide more energy to accomplish daily tasks.  If you sense you are WAY behind on these, I suggest joining the YMCA and get help.

PLEASE ASK ME PERSONALLY IF YOU NEED MORE INFO ON EITHER ONE OF THE ABOVE TOPICS… There are things I can’t help you with. (I.e. Car repairs, technology, carpentry, and other things)  But I can actually assist you with your devotional life and your physical well-being.  Here’s at least one verse that supports the topics…

Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.  ~1 Timothy 4:8

JOSEPH CHANGED HIS MIND, SHOULD YOU?

We will likely hear the story of Mary and Joseph many times during this season of the year.  But have you ever paused to consider how Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, changed his mind?  Here’s the scripture…

 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows:  After His mother, Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.  But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying ’Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she will bring forth a so Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins… Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took him his wife…  -Matthew 1:18-24

Joseph was a Godly man and was headed in a direction that he sensed was God’s will for his life.  BUT he heard from God!  God often spoke through dreams during those days. (He certainly can do so today, but I believe his primary way is through scripture.)  It’s vital that we acknowledge that God has the authority to change our direction.  But we must be willing to listen like Joseph did.  What if he hadn’t?  What if we don’t?  Put yourself in a position to always hear from God and allow him to “interrupt” your life at any point to align with His will.

IS GOD CHANGING YOUR MIND?  Maybe God is changing your mind during this holiday season?  It could be…

About a family issue?

About a job change that would require you to move your family?

About a new ministry in the church or community?

About forgiving a family member?

About finances—perhaps even the tithe?

I have never regretted obeying God’s will for my life.  I have regretted delaying God’s will or disobeying.  The greatest gift we can give Jesus is to trust and obey.  As the song goes, for there’s no other way to be happy, but to trust and obey.

HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF THANKSMAS? 

christmas_merry_christmas-Wide 16x9I hadn’t until recently.  Joe Maddon, manager of the Chicago Cubs and former Tampa Bay Rays manager, along with his wife, Jaye, help serve and greet many homeless in St. Pete every year.  The event occurs sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  This year was the tenth anniversary of this meaningful meal started by Maddon due to a desire to help those less fortunate.  Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor!  The Lord rescues them when they are in trouble. Psalm 41:1 

I LOVE WHAT THE OLD COACH IS DOING AND I LOVE THE WORD—THANKSMAS.  The bible clearly speaks about having a thankful heart no matter what time of the year it is.  For example, And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.  For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.  And always be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)  So, combining that word with Christmas is absolutely incredible to me!  We all know the true meaning of Christmas.  But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.  Galatians 4:4  This, my friend, is what December is all about.  Actually, it works all year long…

SO, WHAT MIGHT THIS LOOK LIKE FOR US DURING THIS HOLIDAY SEASON?  Here are some suggestions:

~Spend time alone with Jesus every day reading His Word and talking with Him

~Be intentional about caring for others

~Tell someone the Good News that Christ was born so He could die for our sins

~Be kind to your neighbor

~Sing, sing, sing, even if you can’t sing

~Date your mate

~Create a new holiday tradition

~Attend a Christmas Eve service and consider inviting someone to go with you

~Wear an ugly Christmas type sweater or even a Christmas suit 🙂

Hey, I love you, Merry Thanksmas!

Why doesn’t Disney World celebrate Thanksgiving?

by Jim Denison, Ph.D

NOTE: I would like to begin this morning by expressing my gratitude to my son, Ryan, for writing last week’s Daily Articles. I am truly thankful for his thoughtful and inspiring columns while Janet and I were on vacation. Ryan is completing his PhD in church history and is a gifted thinker and writer. I am very proud of him and honored to share this ministry with him.

My wife marked a significant birthday last week. I offered to take her anywhere to celebrate and she chose Disney World. Since she grew up just a few blocks from Disneyland in California and we visited Disney World often while living in Atlanta, the trip was a nostalgic and fun week for us both.

However, one part of our vacation was a new experience: we had never visited Disney World in mid-November. We saw Christmas decorations everywhere we looked. Wreaths on the doors, garlands on the light poles and attractions, Christmas parades in the streets. We were told that more than 1,500 Christmas trees were placed on the various Disney World properties.

The decorations were beautiful. The parades, light shows, and fireworks were stunning. Disney World celebrates Christmas in grand style.

But another holiday was noteworthy for its absence.

A holiday or a holy day?

I don’t remember a single reference to Thanksgiving. Not one pilgrim or turkey on the grounds. It was as though this Thursday’s celebration of gratitude does not exist.

My purpose is not to criticize Disney World–it is to note that for most Americans, they’re right. Thanksgiving is a day for food and football followed by Black Friday sales on Thursday.

By contrast, when Governor Bradford issued his first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1623, he called “all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones” to assemble from nine to noon “to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

When Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national observance in 1863, he asked his “fellow citizens in every part of the United States” to set aside “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

How can this week’s holiday become the holy day it was intended to be?

“Be busy, and know that you are God”

I mentioned last Monday that Janet and I spent the previous weekend at the Billy Graham Training Center, where Dallas Baptist University sponsored a spiritual renewal retreat. Dr. Adam Wright, the university’s president, asked me to speak on Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

I have thought much about these words in the last week.

No more countercultural text could be selected. We hear every day the siren call, “Be busy, and know that you are God.” And we’re answering the call: Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.

We are especially busy at Christmas. Retail sales during November and December will total $720 billion. Retailers will hire as many as 650,000 temporary workers to compensate for the holiday rush.

We’re so tired when Christmas finally arrives that many of us order takeout for our holiday meal: Chinese food orders on Christmas Day are 153 percent higher than other days of the year.

We are busy because we think that being busy will make us better, more productive, more fulfilled. In short, we are answering Satan’s invitation to “be like God” (Genesis 3:5). But there’s a better way.

“Be still, and know that I am God”

Why should we “be still,” retreating from the stress and strain of our culture into solitude and intimacy with God? Because this is the way to “know that I am God.” But why do we need to know that he is God?

Consider two facts from Psalm 46.

One: God is a “very present help in trouble” when we make him “our refuge and strength” (v. 1). However, we can be thankful for such help only to the degree that we experience it personally.

The fact that most Americans will miss Thanksgiving tells us that most Americans are missing the refuge and strength our Father offers us. Let’s not make this mistake.

What “trouble” are you facing today?

Two: Our Lord proclaims, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (v. 10). However, we can be thankful for this glorious future only to the degree that we exalt Jesus as Lord in the present.

The fact that most Americans will miss Thanksgiving tells us that most Americans are exalting someone or something more than God. Let’s not make this mistake.

What will you do to glorify Jesus today?

“The God of Jacob is our fortress”

Psalm 46 ends with this declaration: “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (v. 11). If we trust God with our trouble and exalt him with our service, we will end our days and our lives with the same declaration.

And every day will be Thanksgiving.

Don’t you love Thanksgiving?

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I do.  It’s my favorite time of the year.  Here’s why:

>I like to eat—and eat a lot!

>I enjoy family and it’s all about family

>I have a favorite memory from when we had kids at home… we were in Las Vegas visiting one Thanksgiving and my son jumped up and down on an elevator, causing us to get stuck.  The firemen had to come and, yea, all that happened. 🙂

>I enjoy thinking of all the things I have to be thankful for

>I just think that overall people are more gracious during this time of the year

>I enjoy the Thanksgiving blend coffee at Starbucks

>I start listening to Christmas music the day after

>I love turkey and dressing—did I already mention food? 🙂

>I believe in the bible and the bible says… Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
~1 Thessalonians 5:18

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Crafting with Clay…

Unshaped Clay in Potter's Hands

By Denise Meyer
Last week my friend Margie took me to her clay studio to make some pottery. This is a new adventure for me and I was excited to be invited to play in the clay. Before you get too impressed, she is a professional potter and has created molds for bowls and plates to help make the process easier. I have only once experienced trying to create something from a glob of “mud” stuck on a spinning wheel and discovered it is a VERY difficult thing to do. It is certainly not as easy as it looks in the movie “Ghost” with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. NOT in the least! In this case because of her molds Margie convinced me that this would be “easy peezy”. It was nice of her to have such confidence in my skills but seriously I had my doubts.

There was much to do to prepare the clay for this project. One thing I did not know about clay was that it has a memory. Who knew? So the first thing we had to do was stretch the clay to a workable thickness by guiding it through a series of rollers to flatten it to about a quarter-inch-thickness. Following that we lightly scraped it to smooth it and remove any air pockets but mostly to stop the stretching memory. Then she showed me how to attach the plate mold to the wheel, and center the clay onto the mold.  “Easy peezy”? Not so much! One thing Margie kept telling me was to spin the wheel slowly and steadily, which is rather difficult if, like me, you have a heavy foot and like speed.   She also looked me straight in the eye and reminded me that mistakes are going to happen and that items made by hand were not meant to be perfect. What? Yes, she knows about my desire for perfection!  I guess it takes years of practice to become totally proficient with clay. Sorry to say but it makes me feel better that she still makes mistakes after years and years of working with clay.

We worked together as a teacher and student to create what would become two plates and a bowl. My excitement was palpable but Margie cautioned me not to get attached to the pieces until they were totally completed.  She explained that many things could happen before I would actually hold the finished product in my hands. The “things” might include the clay cracking when it was fired in the kiln or some other random thing could happen in the process. How could I not get attached? Well I walked away and left them in her capable hands; just trusting they will look beautiful when they are completed.

This experienced brought to mind a biblical text about another potter named God. In the text Isaiah spoke to the God of Israel in this way:  “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand,” Isa. 64:6.  The prophet Isaiah was crying out to God on behalf of Israel who had not been faithful. Recognizing the people’s need for another chance, he pleaded with the God of mercy not to abandon them in their sin but to continue to shape and mold this willful people.  That is what a potter does right? They work the clay to make it more malleable in order to create a product. The prophet understood that the future of God’s chosen people was in the Holy hands and he was asking God to continue to mold and shape them as a people into God’s Image.  When I worked on creating my bowl, it took many pieces of clay that were pushed, maneuvered and shaped into a circular form to accomplish my goal. At first it was just a blob of clay but the more I worked it the more it resembled the inside of a bowl. For the finishing touches, I used a scraper to remove excess clay and smooth out the bumps. This entire process required my imagination, strength and confidence that eventually it would be a usable bowl. By the way when the bowl was removed from the mold, it really did look like a bowl however I am not attached to it just yet.

After spending much time working with the clay has given me a deeper insight of God the potter. From the beginning, the Holy Creator has held us in His hands, molding and shaping us with tenderness and love. Just like my creations not being perfect, God does not expect us to be perfect either. God continues to shape us to be the best us that we can be. God is molding us in His image so that our lives can reflect God’s Divine work. There are no restrictions or worries that God might get too attached to us before we are finished because His promise never to leave us or forsake us, (Heb. 13:5b). We are not perfect and God loves us in spite of our flaws. Like the clay, sometimes we crack under pressure and unlike a potter who destroys the broken pottery in order to start over, God puts us back together piece by piece. The cracks within us are mended by His grace, forgiveness and above all His overwhelming love. Because of that promise, I am very attached to the work of God’s hands.