This week, I want to call your attention to a baptism ceremony involving Iranians and Afghans, as we rejoice about what God is doing in the Muslim world. Also, voters went to the polls this past Tuesday, and not only were candidates for President and Congress and other offices on the ballot, but there were referendum votes on a number of issues; I'll relate information about some of those. And, the election of Donald Trump as President is challenging Christians to consider the way forward.
3 - God is working in Muslim world; Iranian and Afghan believers baptized
I really do believe, based on information I've received, that one of the remarkable areas in which God is working is in the midst of the so-called "Muslim world," as reports are common of people who are followers of Islam coming to Christ, including some who receive Jesus as the result of dreams and visions.
ChristianToday.com has the story of how God is working among people in the vicinity of a nation that not only has a significant Muslim population, but has a government that is steeped in Muslim law - that is, the nation of Iran. The report is that recently, over 200 Iranians and Afghans were baptized in a location just outside Iran, according to the Elam Ministries. People from eight different Persian-speaking churches attended the service, in which the newly-baptized Christians shared about how Jesus changed their lives. One man said that he had been suicidal, but Jesus intervened and brought him new hope. Another shared: "I never thought I would find freedom from my past, but Jesus has set me free."
The article makes mention that the growth of Christianity in Iran has been described as "spectacular." Website God Reports says that several statisticians noted that the Iranian church may be the fastest growing church in the world.
Mark Howard of Elam Ministries is quoted as saying, "Twenty years ago, everyone thought there were 2,000-5,000 believers in Iran," but now, he says "the conservative estimate" is that there are 300,000 to 400,000 Muslim-background believers in Iran. Others say the number could be as high as one million.
2 - Ballot measures include assisted suicide in CO; marijuana in several states; a number of gambling measures fail
On the 2016 election ballot coast-to-coast, there were not only contests for President, one-third of the U.S. Senate, and all of the U.S. House, but there were gubernatorial races in some states, and some ballot measures.
Marijuana was a popular topic across several states. WORLD Magazine reports that:
On ballot measures, seven states expanded the legality of marijuana. California, Nevada, and Massachusetts legalized marijuana for recreational use, while Florida, Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota legalized it for medicinal use.The story also stated, "And in one of the most significant voter decisions, Colorado legalized assisted suicide."
John Stonestreet, President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, said in a Breakpoint commentary:
...A close read of Tuesday’s results, beyond the presidential race, shows that the cultural trends we’ve been talking about on BreakPoint for years continue unimpeded.
The saddest example is Colorado voters’ approval of doctor-assisted suicide by a two-to-one margin. I warned on this broadcast that so-called “right to die” invariably becomes a duty to die. I reminded my fellow Coloradans that in a state currently in the midst of an epidemic of teen suicide, approving doctor-assisted suicide sends the wrong message.
But it didn’t matter. The siren song of unlimited personal autonomy and self-definition proved irresistible to a large majority of Coloradans.Stonestreet added, "And a similar dynamic was at work in the various ballot initiatives concerning marijuana."
The news was better on the gambling front. The organization, Stop Predatory Gambling reported that New Jersey voters overwhelmingly defeated a ballot question to expand casinos in the northern part of the state, and an effort to bring a slot machine parlor into greater Boston was also turned back by voters. Also, Arkansas residents rejected a measure to allow casinos into the state.
1 - Evangelicals play key role in election; Christians ponder way forward
With the election of Donald Trump as President being powered, in part, by evangelical voters, there has been much discussion about the role of the Church not only in the election but in the way forward. On a Front Room commentary this week, I quoted from a Christianity Today analysis of the results:
Despite reservations expressed by many evangelical and Republican leaders, white born-again/evangelical Christians cast their ballots for the controversial real estate mogul-turned-politician at an 81 percent to 16 percent margin over Hillary Clinton.
Evangelicals of color—who represent 2 in 5 evangelicals, but aren’t segmented out in most national political polls—largely preferred Clinton leading up to the election. But she ultimately underperformed among Hispanics and African Americans compared to President Barack Obama before her.I also quoted from the article, which pointed out that, "White evangelicals made up 1 in 4 of all voters in the 2016 election," and it said:
Americans who attend religious services weekly also favored Trump, but by a narrower 56 percent to 40 percent margin over Clinton. Monthly worshipers also broke for Trump more narrowly, 49 percent to 46 percent.I pointed out that Trump won with Catholic voters, 52-45% and that Obama had won the Catholic vote the previous two elections. I also included a quote from the First Things website by Biola University professor Daniel Patrick Guerra who wrote, "...70 percent of the electorate said that the composition of the Supreme Court was the most important or an important factor in their vote for president. Trump won these voters, 50 percent to 46 percent. Among those to whom the Court mattered little, Trump lost by ten percentage points. The composition of the Court thus was a major factor in the election’s outcome, and religious voters seemed to emphasize it in debates over whether or not to support Trump."
While a number of Christians were put off by some of the statements by Trump during the campaign (and before), some Christian leaders see the billionaire's victory as an opportunity to address some of the actions over that last eight years which have represented an affront to religious freedom. Writing for The Stream website, Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council and FRC Action, said:
...After the spectacular failures of Obamacare, the demoralization of our military, the explosion of lawlessness, tolerance of corruption and obsession with social engineering, Americans finally have the opportunity to rebuild the country they once knew. But the election is just the starting gun. Donald Trump may open the door to America’s solutions, but he was never meant to be the solution. The true transformation of a society starts in the hearts and minds of men. And under an administration with no interest in continuing the eight-year war on the First Amendment, we may finally see what the Church is capable of. In the meantime, one thing about this historic uprising is clear: Americans are looking for leaders of conviction. And as the results of the race for president show, they will accept no substitutes.Todd Starnes of Fox News reported that, "Nearly 6 in 10 Trump voters were impacted by the pro-life, pro-religious liberty planks of the Republican Party, according to a post-election poll commissioned by Family Research Council."
I would say that the Church should be careful to never gloat about this electoral outcome. I agree with Tony that this is only a beginning; there is potential to change culture for the better, and the political system does play a part, but it is only one component. The outcome of the election should be accepted as a sovereign act of God, in accordance with Daniel 2, and we continue to have a sovereign opportunity to allow the Lord to use the body of Christ, as the Church is willing to pray and be a voice before our political leaders.