Pentecostal PM

It’s been an eventful week in Australian politics, with the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull being overthrown by a fringe, extreme element of his own party.

It wasn’t surprising. He has been a target of that group since he took the leadership from his predecessor, Tony Abbott, in a similar coup.

The main difference between the two leadership changes was that the first time the nation seemed to issue a huge sigh of relief, and Turnbull started his tenure as PM with very high approval ratings – a complete turnaround from Abbott’s then rapidly reducing approval among the electorate.

This time the electorate aren’t so happy about the change, and things didn’t go the way expected by the plotters against Turnbull. Their favoured candidate (the very unpopular Peter Dutton) failed in his bid to take over the leadership, and instead Scott Morrison won through as the “accidental Prime Minister”.

The result is perhaps one that many Australian evangelicals are seeing as a miracle. Morrison is a member of a Pentecostal,  evangelical church – the first Pentecostal Prime Minster in Australian history.

Watching him on TV, being sworn in last Friday night, it was easy to feel slightly optimistic…
…until, the political interviews began and his fellow Government members cut through that optimism with a slew of political obfuscation; basically regurgitating the same old rhetorical nonsense they’d been spouting for years.

Despite the alleged Pentecostal/ evangelical connections of the new Prime Minister, the message and the program of his party remains the same.

A telling part of the TV coverage on Friday night came when the studio reporters introduced a guest who had written a book about the religious beliefs of Australian Prime Minsters. Presumably they’d invited him to comment on the new PM’s religious faith, however, when the author started to address that very topic, pointing out that Morrison didn’t take a biblical direction with his social policy, he was cut off mid-sentence so they could take the audience to a reporter on location.
It seemed that something urgent needed to be reported, but that wasn’t the case. I suspect the mid-sentence switch was just an excuse to dismiss their guest when his commentary didn’t fit the kind of message they were wanting to  broadcast.

There seems to be a clear reluctance to broadcast anything purporting to be a biblical point of view, even by a guest invited to present a ‘religious’ viewpoint. And to be acceptable, any expressed religious view is expected to fit the pre-determined stereotypical expectations of the barely tolerant unbeliever.

 

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Some interesting reading related to Australia’s new “Christian” Prime Minister.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/31/australia-needs-a-moral-revolution

 

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Let no one deceive you by any means

“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first…”

In age of Trump, evangelicals back self-styled top U.S. pimp

PAHRUMP, Nev. (Reuters) – He styles himself as America’s best-known pimp, a strip-club owner who runs multiple brothels and looks set to win a seat as a Republican in the Nevada legislature with the blessing of many conservative Christian voters.

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When news broke that Hof had won the nominating contest for a state Assembly seat on June 12, evangelical pastor Victor Fuentes said he closed his eyes and prayed.

He did not ask God to deliver Nevada and the Republican Party from Hof, the thrice-divorced author of “The Art of the Pimp” who campaigned as the “Trump of Pahrump.” Although Christian groups have long rallied against the state’s legal brothel industry, Fuentes was willing to overlook Hof’s history as a champion of the flesh trade and gave thanks for his victory

 

full article here: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-religion-brothels/in-age-of-trump-evangelicals-back-self-styled-top-u-s-pimp-idUSKBN1JI1A9?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=twitter

(Thanks to Chris for finding the article above)

 

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1: 28-32)

Discipleship, works of the flesh and confusion about kingdoms

My friend Steve visits this blog and occasionally shares a comment or two regarding topics being addressed.
We share a concern about the increasing politicisation of “evangelicals” and how it compromises Christian witness.

Recently he has written about his experience of seeing someone, whose views he had respected, take  a detour down an increasingly extreme political path.

See Steve’s blog post here:

https://cross-purposes.blogspot.com/2018/06/why-delete-link.html

What Steve describes matches my own experience of seeing professing believers stray into partisan-political territory and before long into beliefs that have little relationship to reality and NOTHING in common with the truth of Jesus Christ.

 

Steve writes:

It’s a breaking-point, for me, when people choose to assert a “reality” contrary to the one God created and sustains, in which rational people believe and live.

I’ve lost count of how many friendships I’ve lost through those friends becoming increasingly politicised, and justifying that increasingly political partisanship with questionable use of biblical references. While they may have thought their interpretation of scripture supported the direction political ideology was taking them, they paid no attention to the very ungodly attitudes and behaviour they adopted as a result.

It became increasingly noticeable to me around the time of the election of Obama as president, and the blatant Obama-hatred that dates back to that time continues today. (Steve’s blog post gives an example that he has seen from one “evangelical”).

[His]claim that violent pro-Obama riots are rampant, and created to bring about a “leftist” dictatorship, doesn’t seem to match up with any reality this side of Breitbart or World Net Daily’s headlines.

I think there’s no coincidence in the fact that Obama was the first non-white president; that his name was unusual, even to the extent of having the middle name Hussein (Saddam references anyone?). I recall one of those lost friends insisted on highlighting the HUSSEIN every time he referred to Obama. And of course Obama’s dad was a foreigner, a black man, a one time Muslim. All guaranteed to add fuel to the fire.

I don’t recall any other president being subjected to so much abuse and hatred, especially from those claiming to be followers of Christ. All along I’ve suggested that with Donald Trump, God gave the American evangelical community the president who most closely reflects the attitudes* they’ve displayed in their antagonism to Obama. Effectively the Trump adoration prominent among “evangelicals” is just a natural progression of the problem that began with the hostility towards the previous president, a hostility some still retain (confirmed by the example given in Steve’s article). It’s a problem originating from confusion and ignorance leading to misguided priorities and allegiances; creating a hybrid of patriotism and religion that is mistaken for Christian commitment and a distorted understanding of the Kingdom of God.

 

* Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

Most Dangerous Place to Follow Jesus

North Korea: The Hardest Place To Follow Jesus.
This has been the most dangerous country to be a Christian for 17 years. North Koreans are forced to worship the Kim dynasty, and nothing else. Anyone with links to Christianity is arrested, tortured and even killed. Despite this, the underground church is growing, with an estimated 300,000 Christians in North Korea.

 

https://www.opendoors.org.au/persecuted-christians/world-watch-list/north-korea

Carte Blanche or Held to Account? (What should a friend think?)

This isn’t an easy post to write. I know some will find it offensive because it will be critical of Israel, and as anyone who has seen the inside of US style Christian evangelicalism will know, Israel is beyond criticism. Anything critical said or written against Israel, or what Israel does, is seen as an attack against the apple of God’s eye.
The unfortunate thing about that view of Israel is its unconditional nature – that Israel must be supported no matter what, as if Israel can do no wrong.

In recent days, Israeli troops have been responsible for the deaths of dozens of barely armed Palestinian protesters at the Gaza border.
There was a lot of rock throwing, and while that can sound relatively benign, (what boy hasn’t thrown a few rocks at some time in their lives, particularly in childhood or adolescence) but TV footage clearly shows something a lot more potentially lethal, with the rocks being thrown from slings as per David when he killed Goliath.

I have been to Australia’s War memorial in Canberra many times over the past few years. One of the displays is a series of marble sculptures, carved into the shape of folded flags. Depicting the national emblems presented to the families of soldiers killed in action. There are 41 of them, representing the 41 Australia servicemen who were killed during the war in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014.

Note the number: 41 and the period, around 13 years; and note these were servicemen, who signed up in the armed forces and they were combatants in a war zone.

Compare that number to the at least 58 dead (at time of writing) and thousands wounded (including 116 in serious or critical condition) IN A SINGLE DAY on the Israel Gaza border, where the dead were not trained military personnel and were not armed with sophisticated weaponry. And note that some were killed from a distance by IDF snipers and not in open, close conflict.
https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Unprecedented-violence-in-Gaza-leaves-55-Palestinians-dead-thousands-wounded-556424

I fully recognise that God chose the people of Israel as a special people of His own. I fully recognise that Israel has an ongoing place in God’s purposes, culminating in a permanent return to the land He promised to their ancestor Abraham.

But that does not mean that Israel, as God’s chosen nation has been given carte blanche, free from all consequences of their actions.
Scripture shows that Israel has always paid a price for any transgression of God’s standards. Their relationship to Him comes with conditions, with consequences: blessing or cursing dependant on their keeping of those conditions or not.
There is a standard of behaviour required of them.

Since 1948 when the nation of Israel was restored to the world’s maps, it has been interpreted by evangelicals as a fulfilment of biblical prophecy, the realisation of ancient promises made by God. But one significant part of prophecy about Israel’s return to the Promised Land is missing: the restoration of their relationship to God through recognition of their Messiah Jesus.

So Israel is not yet the nation that God intends them to be.
That doesn’t happen until after events that Jesus described as a time of:

“great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be”.

In other words after the most terrible period of human history that will exceed every other atrocity including the Holocaust.

Jeremiah calls this time “Jacob’s trouble” after which God promises the people of Israel:

I will save you from afar,
And your seed from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet,
And no one shall make him afraid.

Amos describes that time in this way:

For surely I will command,
And will sift the house of Israel among all nations,
As grain is sifted in a sieve;
Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground.
All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword,

It is worth reading the rest of Amos 9 to see what happens AFTER the sinners of God’s people have been killed.
It is after that deadly sifting that restoration to the land comes, culminating in the promise that:

I will plant them in their land,
And no longer shall they be pulled up
From the land I have given them,”
Says the Lord your God.

From this I find it clear that the current political state is not the culmination of God’s plan for His people Israel. While the political establishment of that nation has taken us a step towards that culmination, it is still NOT the Godly, Messiah serving people revealed in various Bible prophecies, so should we consider them and treat them as if they are?

The nation of Israel today is a secular and significantly Godless nation, just like the other nations of the earth; and as such they should not be excused for their unrighteousness any more than any other nation should be excused.

Godlessness is Godlessness whether it’s done in the name of Israel or any other national group. If we are representatives of God’s Kingdom we cannot legitimize injustice even if it’s Israel’s injustice. If anything we should expect of them a higher standard because of their historical (and future) relationship with God.

As a people they know better, and as followers of Jesus Christians should know better than to excuse un-Godly behaviour no matter whose behaviour it may be.
By excusing a person’s or a nation’s sin, we are not being a friend to that person or that nation.

Who Steers Prophetic “History”?

It seems that US evangelicals in high places think they can bring about fulfilment of God’s prophetic word through their own manipulations.

Middle Eastern prophecy: Is Trump a reincarnated King Cyrus, destined to herald the end of days?

RIOTS. Killings. War. At the centre of this chaotic scene is Donald Trump. And his evangelical supporters are hoping he will bring on Armageddon.

(see full article at link below)

Maybe the irony will be that their manipulative acts might bring on that fulfilment, but I think they would be deluded to believe they will be on the right side of prophetic “history”.

God can (and does) use the evils of man to bring about good, but that doesn’t mean that He caused, ordained, or even wanted those evils to be done. He doesn’t allow the evils of man to prevail but He will steer the outcomes to serve His purposes.

I think about the understanding I gained from my reading about WWI.
The war and the way it was fought was evil through and through, and yet God used what man did, and He reshaped the religious and political landscape to strengthen the foundations of a future nation to be named “Israel”.

Likewise, man’s evils in WW2 helped to change the world’s “emotional” landscape, creating enough empathy (and maybe more than a little guilt) to lead the UN to agree to the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people within the land promised by God.

Move on to the present day, the same thing could happen. Man’s misguided (and sometimes evil) political ambitions, even the ambition to bring about fulfilment of biblical prophecy, can be redirected by God to further HIS agenda in HIS timing.

According to the article to those “evangelicals” in high places see:

…chaos in the Middle East is interpreted as a good thing. To them, it’s a sign that the Second Coming is at hand. Peace efforts are simply postponing God’s will.

http://www.news.com.au/world/middle-eastern-prophecy-is-trump-a-reincarnated-king-cyrus-destined-to-herald-the-end-of-days/news-story/8fce69eacebd929b482ee00c895f37dc

While the article is at times confused and ill-informed, my own observations lead me to think it makes an important and legitimate basic claim about “evangelical” desire to hurry the world to Armageddon.

I intend to look at related issues in my next posts (with a particular focus on Israel), and I know some of it won’t be easy to write as it will address some difficult things.

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Addendum (another excerpt from the article:

The Trump presidency makes a big thing of its weekly bible study group.

It’s run by Capitol Ministries.

Its focus is openly apocalyptic…

…Earlier this month, Capitol Ministries issued a sermon directly relevant to current administration issues, including Iran, Syria and Israel.

Titled The Bible on When War Is Justifiable, it argues violence is justifiable because the Apostle Peter ordered all men to submit “to every human institution”. It also emphasises that God himself “judges and wages war”.

In their perspective, every human institution is the US administration. And God’s agent is President Trump.

Therefore Trump has God’s authority to do whatever he wants.

Take the evolving climate change crisis.

One argument goes something like this: The Bible says Earth was created for man. Man should not be ashamed to exploit it. Therefore, Capitol Ministries insists in its Trump administration bible studies group, environmentalism must therefore be a heretical religion. There’s nothing to worry about, it argues: God will “continually renew the face of the earth until He forms a new heaven and a new earth in the end times.”