President Obama

An Inauguration Day Prayer

361px-donald_trump_president-elect_portraitToday is Inauguration Day. It is the day that the most powerful country in the world transfers power from one leader to the next. In many respects, this is unique to the American experiment. The outgoing President and the incoming President, who hold starkly different views on policy and governance, stood side-by-side at the front door of the White House this morning in a symbolic gesture of the transfer of power.

While Donald Trump is just the sixth President in my lifetime, he is already the most controversial of them all, and he hasn’t even taken office yet. That being said, we still have a biblical obligation to pray for President Trump. It does not matter if you think he is Solomon or Nebuchadnezzar, Lincoln or Nero. Scripture gives us a mandate to pray for our leaders. Here are a few points to consider:

  1. Submit ourselves to the governing authorities. By most historical accounts, Paul penned his epistle to the church in Rome during the reign of Nero. Nero was no friend of Christians. In fact, he persecuted Christians after falsely accusing them of setting fire to Rome. Yet, Paul still told the believers in Rome “to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1). In light of these instruction, we should start our prayers for the President with an acknowledgement of our own submission to those whom God has placed in authority over us.
  2. Pray for his heart. There have been many conflicting reports regarding Mr. Trump’s spiritual status. At the end of the day, only God knows his heart; therefore, we should pray for his heart that he would be saved (if he is not) and worship God. In Psalm 2:10-11 we read, “Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling.” We see this warning from the psalmist that kings and judges should worship the Lord. We need to pray that God would have the President’s heart, and that his life would be an expression of worship.
  3. Give thanks to God for our President. It is often hard to give thanks for people with whom we disagree. Considering the drastic contrast between Presidents Obama and Trump, it is likely that you either disagree strongly with the outgoing President or the incoming President, or perhaps both. No matter the case, we are instructed to give thanks to God for our leaders. Paul admonished Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We should give thanks to God for Mr. Trump because he is our duly-elected President. He is the leader of our nation, just as the king was in Paul’s day. As we give thanks to God for our leaders, we should also live as good citizens. The result of this combination is that we would be able to lead peaceful lives.
  4. Pray for peace and welfare. There is no doubt that their days in exile were the lowest point for the people of Judah. In the midst of that exile, Jeremiah sent the exiles a letter with an interesting statement from the Lord. He wrote, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7). For both President Obama and now President Trump, there have been some who have called for us to pray for their failure. On one hand, there are certainly policies that we hope do not succeed, but overall, we should pray for peace and welfare under their leadership. By most accounts, peace and welfare would be a success. The Lord instructed the exiles to seek the welfare of the land of their exile because it would result in their own welfare. We should also pray for the welfare of our nation under the leadership of our next President.

These points of prayer for our new President can also be applied to any leader. We should also pray for our Congressional representatives, governors, statehouse officials, mayors, city council members, and others. Inauguration Day reminds us of the presidency, but all leaders deserve our prayers. Would you join me in lifting up our President in prayer similar to what is below?

Dear Father, I come to you today, on Inauguration Day in my country, to pray for our leaders as you have instructed us. First, I pray for a submissive spirit on my own part to those you have placed in authority, specifically President Trump. May I be a good citizen of my country who submits to the ordinances of government in keeping with the ordinances of God. May I honor those to whom honor is due. Second, I pray for the heart of Donald Trump. I do not know his spiritual condition, but I ask you to draw him to yourself. If he does not know you personally, then I pray for his salvation and that he would worship you in spirit and in truth. Third, I give you thanks for President Trump and the other leaders of our country, states, and cities. You have granted authority to our government, and these are the leaders you have ordained for this time. Finally, may their leadership result in the peace and welfare of our nation so that we may also find welfare and live tranquilly in godliness and dignity. Lord, thank you for hearing my prayer, and help me to bring these leaders before you in prayer regularly. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Guest Post: An Open Letter to the President Regarding My Choice to Stay at Home

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This is a guest post from my wife, Melanie, written in response to President Obama’s speech on October 31, 2014, at Rhode Island College in Providence, RI.

Dear Mr. President:

In your recent speech to a gathering in Rhode Island, you discussed the benefits of more funding for public pre-schools. You said, “Sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.” I have been a mom for almost 10 years, but before that I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology and my master’s degree in Biblical counseling. As a professional, I could do many jobs with those degrees including, but not limited to, counseling in a faith-based setting or teaching counseling through a university. According to various sources, my income would range from $40,000-$50,000 per year. Therefore, over my 10 years of parenting I potentially could have made approximately $500,000. Now, we both know that a good portion of that salary would have gone to taxes and the extra expenses of working, but I do not deny that I would probably have more money in the bank had I chosen that route.

However, I have had the privilege and honor of being a full time mom for almost a decade. I have 4 children that I know in-depth. I am an expert on what makes them laugh, cry, what fears they have, and what dreams they dream. Just since my youngest was born, I have fed them roughly 3000 meals and taught them diligently to be polite during those meals. During the pre-school years, I have taught them to use the restroom and how to read. They have inspired me to slow down and be silly and read just one more chapter to that story. You might think that any pre-school teacher could do this, but I beg to differ, for there is something that happens between the four walls of a home that cannot happen in a group classroom. I look them in the eyes and show them unconditional love and offer them passionate training for life. I do not change. I do not leave at night. I do not go somewhere on the weekends. They are with me during holidays and the summertime. What they get is a life laid down for THEM, and what I pray they see is that they are worth the sacrifice. Yes, I have sacrificed a lot of money by not working in a job for many years, but what I hope to convey is that a life of sacrifice for my children pays off dividends for the future. A life is not made by the money you make, but by the legacy you leave. My legacy will be how my children love and fight for what is right and how they serve others for generations upon generations.

Do not misunderstand me, Mr. President. I am not taking the bait to enter into another fight between stay-at-home moms and moms who work outside the home. My own mother worked for the entirety of my growing-up years, many of those years as a single parent. I admire any mom who lovingly provides for her children and desires to raise them as mature, loving, and selfless adults. Much of popular culture and politics wants moms to be at war with each other so that we miss the one thing we should be fighting to protect—our children. Therefore, no, I am not writing this letter to show my superiority over other moms who have made different choices. I am writing to explain to you that moms who leave the workplace to raise their children are not women to be pitied. We are not women who need a government solution so that we can be freed from our bondage to our home. On the contrary, we are women who made a choice to lay down our plans and our pocketbooks and take up the monumental task of nurturing and growing the next generation.

For God’s glory,

Melanie Lenow

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Remarks by the President on Women and the Economy–Providence, RI,” Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, October 31, 2014.

The Supreme Court and the Future of Marriage

June 26, 2013. Mark this day down in history.

I haven’t lived long enough to remember too many historic moments. I remember where I was when the Challenger space shuttle exploded. I have an image burned in my mind of watching the Berlin Wall collapse. I can even recall the visceral pain of watching the World Trade Center crumble in ruins.

I will also remember June 26, 2013, as the day that marriage changed forever in American society.

What exactly happened today? Let me offer a quick summary.

Hollingsworth v. Perry (California’s Proposition 8)

The Supreme Court essentially held that those defending California’s Proposition 8 do not have standing to file their appeal. The State of California has refused to defend Prop 8 in court; therefore, other citizens of the state took it up. As part of the ruling, the majority opinion reads, “Neither the California Supreme Court nor the Ninth Circuit ever described the proponents as agents of the State, and they plainly do not qualify as such.” In conclusion, the majority declared:

We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here.

Because petitioners have not satisfied their burden to demonstrate standing to appeal the judgment of the District Court, the Ninth Circuit was without jurisdiction to consider the appeal. The judgment of the Ninth Circuit is vacated, and the case is remanded with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Since the State of California refuses to defend Prop 8 in court, the law will be held as unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court. Therefore, same-sex “marriage” will become legal in California once again.

On the positive side, SCOTUS did not rule broadly and make applications to other states. However, there will likely be further legal challenges in California and other states in the near future.

United States v. Windsor (Defense of Marriage Act)

In the decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Supreme Court struck down section 3 of the law. This means that same-sex couples who are legally married in their respective states qualify for federal marriage benefits. These benefits include filing federal tax returns jointly, transferring property at death as a spouse to avoid inheritance taxes, etc. This would also seem to imply that federal employees with same-sex spouses would be eligible for various employment benefits (e.g., insurance) made available to spouses in heterosexual marriages.

As part of the majority opinion, the justices determined that DOMA treated same-sex couples with marriage licenses from states that approved same-sex marriages as a separate, unequal class. They wrote, “The avowed purpose and practical effect of the law [DOMA] here in question are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States.”

The decision essentially allows for states to define marriage on their own for the purpose of administering marriage licenses, but it does not allow the federal government to recognize the marriage licenses of some states while not recognizing those of other states (or a particular subset from those states). In their concluding remarks, the majority of justices stated:

The class to which DOMA directs its restrictions and restraints are those persons who are joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by the State. DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment. This opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages.

What Next?

What is next for our society? We can be thankful that the Supreme Court did not offer a new definition of marriage today. However, I still believe it is safe to say that we are heading toward the demise of marriage as the foundational institution of society. The term “marriage” is quickly losing its meaning. President Obama used his Twitter account to claim all love is equal when it comes to marriage. The logical conclusion of such a claim is societal acceptance of not only same-sex “marriage” but also acceptance of polygamy, polyamory, incest, and ultimately pedophilia. We may even live to see the day when the term “marriage” has no significance whatsoever. If marriage collapses as a social institution, we will see more crime and poverty, and we will see less education and children.

Where do we go from here as Christians? The truth of the matter is that God’s design for marriage in Genesis 2 has not changed—one man and one woman for a lifetime. However, we have a long and difficult road ahead of us. We will likely be marginalized in the cultural discussion of marriage. We will be called bigots and homophobes. We may even experience discrimination for our views. In the face of all that, we can find solace in Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 15:18–19 where he says, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.”

And one last reminder to those who call upon the Lord as Savior—it is not our ultimate responsibility to change the hearts of men and women. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. Our task is to proclaim the gospel faithfully knowing that true change in society only comes when hearts are changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the motto of my seminary proclaims: Preach the Word. Reach the world!

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Hollingsworth v. Perry, Supreme Court of the United States, June 26, 2013.

United States v. Windsor, Supreme Court of the United States, June 26, 2013.

President Obama: “Love Is Love” Really?

Via his Twitter account, President Obama declared the DOMA ruling from the Supreme Court to be a historic step forward for marriage equality. Then he closed his tweet with the hashtag #LoveIsLove.

Really? Is all love equal? Is love for a pet the same as love for a husband? Is love for pizza the same as love for a wife?

In this tweet, President Obama has subtly declared that marriage is nothing more than love. By his logic, not only should same-sex couples be allowed to get married, but other groups as well. As long as they love each other, this logic would allow for polygamous, polyamorous, and incestuous marriage.

Is all love really love, Mr. President?

That We May Lead a Tranquil and Quiet Life

It often seems easy in this political season to get frustrated with our elected leaders. We critique everything they say. We consider the “what-if’s” of change. We get angry at political ads. We may even express frustration to someone during a telephone survey. However, I was reminded this morning of something we need to do regularly for our government leaders–pray.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul writes,

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

This was a reminder to me that I can do more than talk about our elected officials–I can pray for them. Here are some ideas for praying for our leaders.

1. Pray for their salvation.
2. Pray for wisdom.
3. Pray that they would seek God’s will.
4. Pray that they would honor God in their decisions.
5. Pray that their decisions would lead to peace and tranquility for those under their authority.

I hope this passage stirs you to prayer as it did me this morning.