Thursday, December 19, 2013

Should Thai Christians support the "Yellow-shirts" or the "Red-shirts"?

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Because of the current political situation in Thailand, I want to re-post an article that I first published in 2010 under a slightly different title (see here). So far, the recent protests have remained mainly peaceful, but the country remains deeply split into two camps and the situation continues to be very tense. As Christians, we are supposed to be "salt and light" and I therefore think it is crucial that we have the mind of Christ (or call it a "Biblical World View") on the matter. May Thai people see the peace, joy, love and unity among us Christians that only the Lord can give, and may one day the world see Thailand as a country marked by these attributes!

Here are the main parts of the original article:

A few days ago my attention was turned to Joshua 5:13-14, when Joshua encountered a man with a drawn sword just before the Israelites were to attack Jericho:

"Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?" "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell face-down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?" Joshua 5:13-14

As we have followed the ups and downs of politics and the changing of governments and constitutions in Thailand (which seem to change more frequently than the weather in Southern California) we might be tempted to take sides and support the Red Shirts, the Yellow Shirts, or another group/color. But I am convinced that we, as the body of Christ, are not to take sides, similar to the commander of the Lord's army in the passage from Joshua quoted above. According to Romans 13, we are to obey, support, and pray for the people in authority, no matter what color they represent or how they got into the position of authority. Whether through elections, coups or by other means. We should always remember that the governments of this world are just that: they are of this world. But the Kingdom that we seek is NOT of this world! The advancing of this Kingdom of God does not depend on political systems or political parties. The Bible was written not as a manual to build kingdoms of this world (i.e. political and geographical entities known as "nations"), but as a manual for believers anywhere, anytime, no matter whether they happen to live in a monarchy, a democracy or in a communist nation like Laos. I think that the best testimony we can give to society in Thailand and to the rest of the world that's watching, is that we are content, loyal and supportive to the government at all times, even though we might not like some of the values and/or policies that each particular government stands for.
Unfortunately, there are not many good examples for us to look at, because in most nations the church is acting as if the body of Christ was nothing more than just another political lobbying group, trying to push their agenda and their values on the rest of the society. Unfortunately, this is especially true for the American church. However, when non-believers look at the church, they should not see just another political party (or color...), but something that is radically different, something that no political, religious, cultural or humanistic movement can produce. People should see us as people who genuinely long to lead a holy life, people who know their sins are forgiven, people who find their joy, confidence purpose, value and meaning in God and who try to love even those who hurt them... Another benchmark for Christians is that we are to give honor to whom honor is due, and whether the Prime Minister's name is Sonthi, Surayut, Somchai, Samak, Thaksin, Aphisit or Yingluck, we can certainly trust the Lord to work out everything for His purposes. That does not mean that we should not vote or participate in other ways in the political life of the country. It does mean, however, that we should never try to use force in any way. The only reason we have to not obey the government is when the government either tries to force us to do things that are against scripture (like bowing down to an idol) or tries to keep us from doing things that are commanded by scripture (like praying, witnessing, and raising our children according to Biblical standards). But because we know that our freedom does not depend on the rules and laws of the nations, and because we know that God is able to do everything according to his purpose we should never put our hope in any man, party,"system" or color. The Kingdom of God is not of this world, and it is not in question who is in charge of it. Let us live our lives for him who sits on the throne and reigns!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Charismatic vs. Evangelical: Pleading for the middle ground

As expected, John MacArthur's "Strange Fire" Conference (October 16-18, 2013) has sparked a tsunami on the web in form of blog-posts, articles, radio shows, web-site statements and YouTube videos. I love and very, very highly respect John MacArthur and other speakers at the conference. However, some of the things that were said at the conference (which you can watch in its entirety at FloydFamilyValues and, partially, on John MacArthur's "Grace to you" YouTube channel) are disturbing, as they are very divisive and don't do justice to the vast variety within the charismatic movement. It looks as if a few black sheep are used to discredit the entire movement. Granted, these "black sheep" have a very high profile and might indeed easily be seen as the official "face" of the movement that, according to MacArthur's on words, includes about 500 million (!) people. But I think that pastor Shane Idleman speaks for many people who consider themselves charismatic, when he says that "I read the John MacArthur Study Bible, not the Benny Hinn Study Bible" and "I love John Piper, not Creflo Dollar". I am also with Michael Brown when he says that John MacArthur owes an apology for saying that there was "essentially zero social benefit to the world from the charismatic movement". I post pastor Shane's message here, as it reflects my own views on this matter quite well. Living on the mission field (in Thailand), working with an overwhelmingly "charismatic" organization (YWAM), attending a Baptist church and having connections to many missionaries, pastors and normal believers from super-charismatic all the way to super-reformed backgrounds, I am very much aware of the need for balance and wisdom in all things. I consider myself blessed to have good friends among people from the entire spectrum of Christianity and I am hopeful that the "Strange Fire" Conference and its aftermath will eventually have a very positive impact on the unity of believers worldwide - because God is still able to bring about good even when man's intention should be evil. I am not saying that John MacArthur had bad intentions by hosting this Conference, I am only focusing on God's ability to bring about good... It is my prayer that an honest, humble dialogue about the raised issues would result in a deeper love and a greater appreciation for one another. Impossible, you think? Ha, you ain't seen nothing yet... :)    



"We trust the time will come when Dr. John MacArthur and those who share his perspective will acknowledge the great contribution that Pentecostals and Charismatics are making in the evangelization of individuals without Christ. We pray God's blessings on their efforts to share His gospel with a lost and dying world. Pentecostals and charismatics are their co-laborers in this effort so we ask that they would similarly pray for God's blessing on us as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission that God has given us all."
From a statement by George Wood's, General Superintendent Assemblies of God posted online
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Obedience and Revival

I am convinced that the believer's obedience in small things (e.g. in Thailand: the wearing of helmets when driving motorcycle) would do more to bring about true revival than all "Revival Meetings" and "Prayer Movements" combined (see 1. Samuel 15:22-23, Romans 13:1-2)
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Reasons why Christians should stay out of politics

Introduction
"We need Christians in politics!" Everywhere I go I hear Christians say this. But is that true? It is obvious that the church is wasting a lot of resources by attempting to influence the political realm, if that is something that God did not intend for us to do. However, I am convinced that any thorough, logical, unbiased analysis of scripture as well as history and present day realities will lead to exactly that conclusion! Not only does the church waste time, money and some of her finest people, but the church's involvement in politics (as far as Christians running for office and/or trying to get the "right" candidate/party elected are concerned) is counterproductive to her original mission!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Better than New Year's Resolutions...

Rather than focusing on what I should do in the new year, I found it to be much more helpful to focus on what God did in the outgoing year!
Every year I am surprised by how long this list ends up to be, and every year again I find that He has proofed himself faithful, merciful, forgiving, loving and good beyond comprehension in my life. I fall short of the glory of God, He never does. I would again break all the well-intended New Year's Resolutions within a few days (or weeks at best). He will again show himself faithful to His word and He will again keep all his promises :)
As C.H. Spurgeon used to love to say: "Look to him, dear sinner!"