Month: November, 2016

When God Wins You Over

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When God Breaks Down Your Walls

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When God Rebuilds Your House

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Christian Political Engagement

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To the delight of some and the dismay of many, Donald Trump has been elected POTUS 45. I am among those who dread Trump as president. There is a general agreement both Hilary and Trump are terrible choices, but in the case of Trump I have publicly rejected him as unfit for the office. He is the only candidate on whom I have spoken so outwardly against. And it is fair if some wonder why I am so opposed to him, or even if I should talk about him. Let’s discuss.

Minister of the Good News of the Kingdom

I may have my views on Trump’s wall, his take on the TPP, on his view of Russia, taxation, etc. But I do not speak of them as a minister of the Good News because that is not my calling. I am, however, called to uphold biblical truth and Christian character, and to that, I have both right and duty to speak to you as a minister from the truth of God’s Word.

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Some of you have been with me for a time, and you may have noticed a pattern on my political engagement. I wrote about whether Ben Carson is electable on account of his being a Seventh Day Adventist, and concluded that he is electable as an Adventist. That is a faith matter. Before that, I wrote about whether Mitt Romney is electable as a Mormon, and concluded he is not electable because Mormonism is a cult and his presidency would give Mormonism permanent legitimacy. That is a faith matter. Both of these are Republicans. But it does not mean I support Democrats!

When Obama was candidating and gaining the support of many Christians, I evaluated Obama’s candidacy on three things. (1) Obama is not just a supporter of abortion, but a promoter of it. He has blatant disregard for the life of the unborn and was only one of two senators who chose not to support the ban on partial birth abortion. This is a procedure when a child is partially delivered and the abortionist inserts a tube to puncture and suck out the child’s brain. (2) Obama has been a lifelong liberal on the far left spectrum, farther left than Hilary Clinton. I was incredulous when he declared that marriage is between a man and a woman when the left position had always supported gay marriage. I did not believe him, and asked Christians to question his sincerity. (3) Obama belonged to a church that taught black liberation theology. This is a black-people first ideology and it is corrosive and socially divisive. I believed that would not be helpful to the nation. (No, he is not a Muslim.). All these are matters of faith.

I did not believe Obamacare could work, but I did not talk about it because it was not a faith issue. I think his economic plan will produce an anemic recovery and it turns out I am right, but I did not talk about that either. I believe he will engage in cronyism and he did, wasting national resources. That is a moral-ethical thing, but I was not as certain about it and did not talk about it. If I have considerable doubt about where he stood, or if the subject matter does not concern biblical values, I abstain from public comment.

I openly reject Trump as unsuitable to become POTUS on biblical values. I agree with many of the non-religious issues he raised, and disagree with many. But I do not comment on them. I am a minister and I come to you as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I do not speak my views on non-biblical matters; only on biblical ones.

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Trump is the worst possible candidate because he is a moral and ethical wreck. Let me just give you a short list. (1) He owns casinos and makes dirty money. (2) He owns strip clubs that abuse women for his personal gain. (3) He uses bankruptcy laws to protect himself and defraud creditors. (4) His rhetoric promotes hatred and racial divisiveness. This is an ethical issue, and we who live in Singapore are aware that racial harmony is a function of an upright government. He actively promotes racial division. (5) He abuses women through his power and teaches other men to do the same. (6) His pride is legendary, and God hates pride, perhaps above all the sins of man. (The list goes on.)trump-casino

But, Christians don’t care. And I wonder why. People tell me, “It’s the economy, stupid.” OK, so I am stupid and I am not talking about the economy. But the economy, or security, or defense, are not my right to comment. My only right to comment is on matters related to faith. But Christians don’t care. I get that. Christians don’t care about how flawed Trump is as a person. I maintain that character matters first (apparently most Christians don’t think that character matters.)

So I lay out for you the nature of my political engagement, and I believe that is also the right Christian political engagement in terms of political leaders. Yet, I do not believe we have come to the core of Christian political engagement because these are only peripheral to the main point of our engagement in politics.

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Our Main Political Engagement

Let us remember that Jesus died on a political charge: “Jesus King of the Jews,” still seen today on crosses and crucifixes as “INRI” (Latin). When Jesus rose from death, he made it clear that things are not to continue as before. In relation to the powers of this world, he said, “All authority has been given to me, in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus did no less than to declare that with his resurrection, he is now the true king over all the earth. Anyone who does not receive him as king is in effect living in rebellion.

Christians need to remove our spiritualizing of the rule of Jesus Christ. He is the Lord of heaven and earth. He has come to redeem humankind and to redeem the earth itself. The Word of God declares, “…creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:21). Jesus has come to redeem us, and through us, to redeem the world, before he comes and brings that work to completion.

Jesus also gives clear instruction on how we are to bring about his kingdom. First he makes it clear he has authority over heaven and earth. Next he tells us how he will exercise his authority through his disciples, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLT).

The main course of Christian political engagement is not in politics itself, but in building God’s kingdom by making disciples.

Look at the example of the early church. They did not engage in the politics of Rome by trying to overthrow Rome. They were not even fighting over the issues of public morals or ethics in the Roman Empire. For instance, many children were exposed and left to die. Christians did not petition Rome to outlaw this practice. Instead, they adopted these children and raised them as their own, and founded orphanages. They saw the poor impoverished care given to the sick, especially those who were poor, and they started hospitals to look after the sick.

The early Christians eventually won over those who persecuted them because they obeyed Jesus in their political engagement: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And when the situation arises, “Love your enemy;” “Bless those who persecute you.”

Christians engage in politics by making disciples. The Bible cannot be more clear how Jesus wants to assert his lordship. And for the longest time I too was caught up with the easy road of hatred. It is easier to hate Muslims or atheists than to love them. It is easier to hate communists than to love them. It is easier to engage in the politics of this world and roll in the mud with all the commotion than to stand aside and win them. It is easier to swing a violent fist than to offer an open hand.

One reason why Christians forget to love is our pessimism. Many Christians today will tell without hesitation this world is getting worse, not better. And that the world must get worse until Jesus comes to make it better. That is one view of the end times, and by no means the only view. The historic Christians were more positive about the world. They believe that by making disciples for Jesus, they can change the world for the better.

The result of a pessimistic view of history is that Christians have joined the ranks of those who grab what they can. After all, if the world will be destroyed and all will be gone, and everything is getting worse, it makes sense for me to grab a piece of the pie for myself before it’s all gone! Brethren, our core beliefs control our view of the world around us. And that is a very wrong view. (It is possible to have a pessimistic view of the world and still do good, but that is not my narrative, and someone who advocates it must create that narrative.)

Christians today are many times more passionate about engaging politics like the world does, and lack the passion to make disciples – even though Jesus is as clear as he could be that disciple making is to be our main political engagement.

It is fair to ask how making disciples translate into political engagement. The answer is both simple and sublime. Genuine Christians in power living out what is true in their walk with God at all levels of government regardless of political party is powerful. It is more powerful than for American Christians to rush behind Trump or before that, to rush behind Obama.

Look at Obama as the case in point. How has Obama’s administration in 8 years advanced the cause of Jesus Christ our Lord? Was the Christian view of marriage protected? Did those suffering injustice get justice? Did the gap between the rich and poor not widen (assuming that is one measure of social justice)? Is the church blessed in any way? Christians who supported Obama have to admit that his administration failed to produce anything that is worthwhile to Jesus Christ. Why? Because Obama was a social activist, who subsumed his faith to the interest of the blacks in America, as seen in his long standing attachment to the black liberation theology church.

In contrast, look at George Bush who is a true believer in Christ. The media vilify him because of their liberal bias. But look at what he did or tried to do. He outlawed federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research and was pilloried for this. The result is that scientists discovered how to get stem-cells from skin, and the sanctity of life is preserved. He tried to amend the constitution to assert that marriage is between a man and a woman, but there was inadequate support. At least he tried to do things in the right direction. He promoted family life among the blacks as there is clear evidence that children from homes with a father and a mother grow up much better. He was gaining success when the liberals took power under Obama and reverted to single moms looking after children.

Bear in mind I have excluded non-faith related aspects from the discussion.

What I want to point out is that when we place good Christians in position of power, they may or may not do things we agree with in some areas, but they do advance the kingdom of God among humankind.

Making disciples who gain political power, or the conversion of those in power to become true disciples of Jesus, is the best way to realize the authority of Jesus. This is so simple and so powerful. It can be used anywhere in the world.

We see this direct teaching of Jesus and in the actions of the disciples. Jesus taught his disciples, “You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me.” (Matthew 10:18, NLT). “You will be handed over to the local councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.” (Mark 13:9, NLT)

Jesus tells his disciples they will be tried and that is the price they must pay to get an audience with those in authority. When the disciples appear before these people, they are to testify of Jesus and not present their own defense. What a price to win over those in power! At the same time, Christians will be tried without choosing to be arrested. And in that situation, they are to testify for Jesus.

We see this played out in Acts. When Peter and John stood before the Sanhedrin they did not talk about the charges for which they were arrested. The talked about the resurrection of Jesus whom the Sanhedrin killed (Acts 4:8-12). When Stephen was put on trial he explained why God is more than the God of the Jews (Acts 7:2ff). God interrupted Philip’s work among the Samaritans to speak to one strategic man, the Ethiopian who eventually turned Ethiopia to Christ (Acts 8:26ff). When Paul and Barnabas arrived at Paphos in Cyprus, they reached out to the proconsul there named Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:6-12). When Paul was tried by the crowd he presented Jesus (Acts 22:3ff). Paul before Felix the Roman governor in Caesarea focused on the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 24:-21); and when Paul explained to him the judgment of God, he became afraid (Acts 24:24-26). Paul stood before King Agrippa II and it became clear to Agrippa that Paul was trying to convert him (Acts 26:28). When Paul was shipwrecked on Malta, he ministered directly to Publius the chief official of the island (Acts 28:7-10).

The early Christians were politically engaged by reaching out to political leaders so they become disciples of Jesus. Christians have lost sight of this truth. Let us return to the political engagement Jesus calls us to build the kingdom of God. It is to make disciples.

Why do we get worked up over politics?

We get worked up over politics because who gains power and how they govern affects us. In the recent election, it is clear to all that if Trump were to carry out policies on which he built his platform, it would adversely affect Singapore. This is not my expertise, but I am referring to what is commonly reported and so widely accepted as true (and reasonably so). If Trump were to throw out TPP, trade will slow and Singapore would be affected. Trump had singled out Singapore as one of the places stealing American jobs. Motely Fool, a popular commentator on Singapore markets comes to the same conclusion as the more established media that Trump is bad for Singapore. Our economy is barely in the positive and with the inward looking Trump we may slide into recession. So we have very strong anti-Trump sentiment – I think.

Or perhaps we just get caught up with the social mood even when there is little or no stake on our part.

It was not too long ago that Singapore had our elections, and I know I had to forcibly refuse to allow anyone to use our church as a platform to advocate party politics. You can belong to, or support a party. I will be happy to hear you out whatever your position. But the church of Jesus Christ is not about party politics. We can and should talk about Christian values. In the case of Singapore politics, there is little by way of reprehensible character like Trump that I had to talk about. But I publicly addressed the legal challenge to Section 377A of the penal code against male homosexual practices. In this case, I supported the status quo which outlaws such activity and gave my reasons for it.

I make a deliberate effort to emotionally distance myself from political parties or people. In Singapore politics, I will support whichever party best expresses the values of biblical faith. I will not accept or support a party platform uncritically. For instance, all parties in Singapore fail in that no one is interested to protect the interest of the unborn child. If one party supports the unborn child, I will lean towards that party. At the moment Singapore’s governance does not favor churches and causes Christians to compete for land in an unseemly manner and pay exorbitant prices for land leases which only enrich the state. I do not find this arrangement acceptable, and I would support the politicians who provide a more equitable way for churches to meet.

It takes special effort to disengage emotionally. But I can say that it has been a great blessing for me to do so. I recommend it.

Conclusion

I think Christians need to return to God’s agenda on politics. God is not PAP or opposition. God is not Republican or Democrat. Jesus is Lord over all.

Would you consider with me to rethink your political stance? Will you seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness? Will you direct your political energies to Jesus’ politics of making disciples?

Pastor Peter Eng

 

When God is Your God

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