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John Piper warns Christians against patriotism over Christ

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Popular Reformed theologian John Piper warned Christians about being too patriotic and placing their loyalty to the “fatherland” over their loyalty to Jesus Christ.

In an episode of the podcast “Ask Pastor John” posted before Independence Day, a listener named Matt asked Piper about how patriotism fit in the Christian life.

“Obviously, as Christians we are to live as strangers, exiles, aliens, and pilgrims on this earth. Is there an appropriate place in the Christian life to be patriotic? If so, what is it? And at what point does our patriotism go too far?” inquired Matt.

Piper responded that patriotism, a love for one’s country, “can be right and good” even as Christians should identify as “exiles, refugees, sojourners.”

He believes that the Bible condones “special affections” in the life of a Christian, such as for a particular city or tribe or nation, in addition to the general love for humanity.

“For example, Paul says in Galatians 6:10, ‘As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith,’” explained Piper.

“So it’s as though there is this specialness about those who are close to you and like you. There is a kind of affection for them that’s different.”

However, Piper also said that such affections should only exist “up to a point” and that Christians should “never give them absolute allegiance.”

“Never feel more attached to your fatherland or your tribe or your family or your ethnicity than you do to the people of Christ,” he continued.

“Everyone who is in Christ is more closely and permanently united to others in Christ, no matter the other associations, than we are to our nearest fellow citizen or party member or brother or sister or spouse.”

Piper bemoaned the “many horrible indignities” that have occurred because Christians failed to realize that “we are more bound together with other believers — no matter their ethnicity or their political alignments or their nationality — than we are to anybody in our own fatherland.”

“In the end, Christ has relativized all human allegiances, all human loves. Keeping Christ supreme in our affections makes all our lesser loves better, not worse.”

The extent to which churches, especially those in the United States, should observe patriotic sentiments has been a source of much debate among clergy and laity alike.

Some, including First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, annually hold a patriotic-themed worship service every Fourth of July weekend.

FBC Dallas Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress has defended the practice, explaining in a 2018 interview with conservative columnist Todd Starnes that it is about worshiping the “God Who has blessed America” and not America itself.

“I believe there’s nothing wrong and everything right, according to the Bible, for expressing gratitude to God for His blessings upon our country,” he said at the time.

Also in 2018, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners released a Reclaiming Jesus statement, which denounces concepts like “America first” as a “theological heresy for followers of Christ.”

“While we share a patriotic love for our country, we reject xenophobic or ethnic nationalism that places one nation over others as a political goal,” reads the statement in part.

“We reject domination rather than stewardship of the earth’s resources, toward genuine global development that brings human flourishing for all of God’s children. Serving our own communities is essential, but the global connections between us are undeniable.”
Sources:Christian Post

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North Korea is facing a severe food shortage

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Addressing a meeting of senior leaders, Mr Kim said: “The people’s food situation is now getting tense”.

He said the agricultural sector had failed to meet its grain targets due to typhoons last year, which caused flooding.

There are reports that food prices have spiked, with NK News reporting that a kilogram of bananas costs $45 (£32).

North Korea has closed its borders to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Trade with China has plummeted as a result. North Korea relies on China for food, fertiliser and fuel.

North Korea is also struggling under international sanctions, imposed because of its nuclear programmes.

The authoritarian leader of the single-party state talked about the food situation at the ruling Workers’ Party central committee which started this week in the capital Pyongyang.

During the meeting, Mr Kim said that national industrial output had grown by a quarter compared to the same period last year.

Officials were expected to discuss relations with the US and South Korea during the event but no details have been released yet.

In April, Mr Kim made a a rare admission of looming hardship, calling on officials to “wage another, more difficult ‘Arduous March’ in order to relieve our people of the difficulty, even a little”.

The Arduous March is a term used by North Korea officials to refer to the country’s struggle during the 1990s famine, when the fall of the Soviet Union left North Korea without crucial aid.

The total number of North Koreans who starved to death at the time is not known, but estimates range up to three million.

It is highly unusual for Kim Jong-un to publicly acknowledge a food shortage. But this is a North Korean leader who has already admitted that his economic plan has failed.

The problem for Mr Kim is that when he took over from his father, he promised his people a more prosperous future. He said they would have meat on their tables and access to electricity. This has not happened. Now he’s having to prime the population for more hard work.

He is trying to tie this into the global pandemic, and state media reported that he pointed out to party officials that the situation across the world is getting “worse and worse”. With so little access to outside information, he can paint a picture of things being bad everywhere – not just in sealed off North Korea. He also described efforts to beat Covid-19 as a “protracted war”. That signals that border closures are not easing any time soon.

That is the concern of many aid organisations. The sealed border has prevented some food and medicine getting through. Most NGOs have had to leave the country, unable to get staff and supplies in or out.

Pyongyang has always called for “self-reliance”. It has closed itself off, just as it may need assistance and it is unlikely to ask for help. If it continues to push away all offers of international assistance, as ever, it may be the people who pay the price.

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Christian pastor killed over outreach to Muslims: ‘Today Allah has judged you’

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A radical Muslim has confessed to police in Uganda that he killed a 70-year-old pastor earlier this month because of Allah’s word to kill all infidels who mislead Muslims by sharing the Gospel.

The accused, identified as Imam Uthman Olingha, told police he killed Bishop Francis Obo, senior pastor of Mpingire Pentecostal Revival Church Ministries International in Odapako village Mpingire Sub-County, on June 11, Morning Star News reported.

Olingha was one of the Muslim extremists dressed in Islamic attire who stopped Pastor Obo and his wife on their way home from a market at about 8:30 p.m., his wife, Christine Obo, said.

“Olingha openly confessed to police that he can’t regret that he killed the bishop because he did it in the cause of Allah’s word to kill all infidels who mislead Muslims. He added that Allah will be with him in jail, but the kafiri (infidel) deserved the killing.”

One of the attackers told the pastor, who oversaw 17 churches across the region and had been sharing Christ with Muslims, that he was an “infidel” who caused Muslims to leave Islam and “blasphemes the words of Allah,” and that, “Today Allah has judged you.”

A week before the murder, the couple had invited a former Islamic teacher to testify on how he became a Christian at their church, Christine Obo recalled. Area Muslims were also upset with the church because it offered the former Islamic teacher a pig as part of a micro-enterprise livestock project that helped raise funds for the church, she added.

Describing the incident, she said, “As I moved a few meters in a hurry trying to save my life, I heard a little noise and wailing from my husband and realized that his life was in danger.”

When she reached home, she was trembling and unable to speak, she said, and her children took her to a hospital. When she regained consciousness the following morning, she told her oldest son and his siblings to go to the site.

“Reaching there, they were shocked and fearful as they found a big number of Christians and relatives gathered around the dead body mourning their bishop after being murdered by Muslims,” Obo was quoted as saying.

According to World Watch Monitor, a homegrown Islamist rebel movement organizing in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo has emboldened Ugandan radicals to persecute Christians.

Voice of the Martyrs earlier noted that Uganda’s history has made it vulnerable to the influence of Islam as “Arab countries also continue to invest significant resources into furthering Muslim interests in the country.”

In Uganda, persecution is mainly seen in the form of local Islamists persecuting Christians, mostly in areas where “radicals have been steadily encroaching.”

“Radical Islam’s influence has grown steadily, and many Christians within the majority-Muslim border regions are facing severe persecution, especially those who convert from Islam,” a Voice of the Martyrs factsheet explains. “Despite the risks, evangelical churches in Uganda have responded by reaching out to their neighbors; many churches are training leaders how to share the Gospel with Muslims and care for those who are persecuted after they become Christians.”

Last December, a mob of Muslim extremists in Uganda reportedly killed 41-year-old former imam Yusuf Kintu a week after he converted to Christianity.
Sources:Christian Post

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