Thoughts Before the 2017 Presidential Inauguration

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America.  Without a doubt, he is unlike any President I have encountered in my lifetime.  In times like these, it is natural to look backwards into our history to see how Presidents from the past have handled times of great transition and division.  At the onset of Abraham Lincoln’s second term as President of the United States in the midst of a Civil War that had not yet come to an end, Lincoln is quoted as ending his inaugural address with these words: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

The election cycle of 2016 was in and of itself a time of division and contention.  While we have certainly not been in a season of conflict like Abraham Lincoln was in when he uttered those words, we must without a doubt acknowledge the division that has bubbled to the surface of our society as a result of this election cycle.  It has been reported that upwards of 80% of people who identify as Evangelical Christians voted for Trump.  We also know that very few Minority Christians voted for Trump, thus exposing that Christians themselves were divided in this election not unlike our nation as a whole.  Based on what I’ve seen and heard, I think many Evangelical voters were hoping to restore some sense of Christian values back into our society inasmuch as President-Elect Trump promised to make America great again.  

I’m incredibly grateful to have been born in the United States of America.  I have been afforded a lifestyle and myriad opportunities that many people in our world will never experience.  We live in a nation that is undoubtedly prosperous, and the freedoms we enjoy are unbelievable when compared to much of the world. In Revelation 7:9-10 (ESV), we find these words:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

With all of that said, we as American Christians sometimes miss this truth: God doesn’t love political nations – He loves people.  When the word “Nation” is used here in Revelation and throughout the New Testament, it’s not referring to a specific political entity.  It is referring to people where they gather with specific cultural and linguistic identities.  

Jesus didn’t die on the cross to save the nation of America: He died on the cross to save the people who live in America.  God doesn’t make covenants with nations any longer.  With the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, God established a new covenant and created a new entity.  The new covenant is made with the people He saves, and the new entity He created was not a nation – it was the Church.  It is time for the Church to embrace the fact that our standing in the world is not based on any power, prestige, or influence we wield in our societies and cultures and states and nations.  Our standing in the world is based on the fact that Jesus died to set apart His people as a called-out group empowered, not to create Christian nations, but to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

In this linked article from Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer states the following:

“It is time for us to stop asking how we get our collective foot into our culture, and instead begin to ask God how we can be faithful to Him and our call to show and share the love of Jesus in a broken and hurting world. We need to remember, quoting an old preacher phrase, that “what happens in the church house is far more important than what happens in the White House.”

Jesus is not coming back on a donkey or an elephant. He is coming back on a white horse to bring victory. I, for one, just want to keep showing and sharing the love of Jesus in the midst of a changing culture until that moment comes. Do you?”

While we should be grateful for the freedoms we enjoy and while we should endeavor to be model citizens inasmuch as we do so to glorify our Father in Heaven (1 Cor. 10:31), let us not forget that we live in a deeply divided, deeply fallen, and deeply hurting nation.  As Christians, we hold the answer to division, sin, and pain.  The work ahead of us is incredibly difficult.  Only Jesus can bring the peace and unity that Abraham Lincoln spoke about at his second inauguration.  

Here’s the kicker for me though: it’s the church that has the obligation to steward the Gospel for the well-being of our city and state and nation.  As God’s people were sent into exile in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah uttered these words to the exiles from Israel in 29:7, “But 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 find your welfare.”  The welfare of our city and state and nation will only be found as the Gospel advances and people become part of God’s kingdom.

Church, our nation needs the Gospel.  Church, our nation needs us to proclaim the truth of reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing.  Church, our nation needs Jesus.  Church, let’s get busy with things that will matter for eternity.  America will one day cease to exist, but Jesus and His bride will not.  Let me leave you with this reminder from Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

Check out this related 3 part series of blog posts: After the 2016 Presidential Election

After the 2016 Presidential Election (Part 3): Two Kingdoms

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Members of the Electoral College have cast their ballots, and it is official, Donald Trump will be President of the United States for the next four years. Some are pleased with the outcome, some are indifferent, and others are devastated.

If you paid attention at all to this election cycle, you know that what Ben wrote in part 2 of this series is so true, “No matter the candidate or year, election season is often a cause for anxiety.” As a former U.S. History teacher, I spent time studying elections and campaigns, and found that in each political season powerful and effective rhetoric is employed to convince the public of one position or another. The goal of political rhetoric is simple, vote “X”.  This is how politics work. The process is much more sophisticated but often looks something like this:


Person or party “X” is wrong- either dangerously or ignorantly so


There is one hope to maintain stability, security or integrity- person or party “Y”


You must save _______ by voting for person or party “Y”


Get others on board to save the world- encourage social pressure and shaming


Because, fear, hope, and social pressure are dynamically powerful motivators, I want to begin by inviting you to consider the following questions:

  • Who or what do you fear?
  • Where do you place your hope?
  • How does this affect the condition your heart?
  • How does this shape the way you interact with others?

Some Relevant History

The 1970s facilitated a surge in evangelical involvement in American politics. This particular surge was primarily a response to a transitioning national and cultural identity- away from what some believed to be “Christian” to one marked by secular humanism. Throughout this transition, many prominent evangelicals shared a deep conviction that the United States was falling further and further from its “Christian” identity and the proper response was to mount a counterattack to “take America back for God.” This resulted in an array of party alignments, agendas, and affiliations for many evangelicals.

In the early 1980’s, three well respected professors of U.S. history, Mark Noll, George Marsden, and Nathaniel Hatch, sought to help evangelicals sift through some of the political rhetoric and arrive at a more accurate view of the past. They explore the following questions:

  • How Christian is America’s past?
  • Was early Christian America a distinct source of Christian values?
  • What was the mix of Christian principles and baptized ideology in Puritan New England, the legacy of the Great Awakening, and the American Revolution?
  • How much Christian action is required to make a whole society Christian?
  • Is the “Christian nation” concept harmful or helpful to effective Christian action in society?

Convinced that a proper view of the past, a) helps us rightly view the present, and b) leads us to effective Christian action in society, Noll and his colleagues published their their research and conclusions in, The Search for Christian America.

In short (sorry for the spoiler, but well worth the read), Noll, Hatch, and Marsden explain that although America has had a generally religious past and it’s history has been liberally sprinkled with genuine Christian influence, the facts of history show that early America does not deserve to be considered uniquely, distinctly, or even predominantly Christian. Furthermore, careful examination of Christian teaching on government, the state, and the nature of culture actually reveals that the idea of a ‘Christian nation’ is very ambiguous concept which is usually harmful to effective Christian action in society.”

If you are interested exploring this topic more, but don’t want to read an entire book, check out this interview with Mark Noll (my apologies ahead of time for the cheesy intro music).

Why does this matter?

First, the aforementioned mentality or sentiment has carried over and shaped the landscape of American evangelical involvement in politics in the 21st century.  Noll explains that, “proper perspective profoundly affects the way we approach the public arena,” and “allows Christians to more clearly speak the gospel in evangelism and to put it to work in social concern.”

Second, for many evangelicals it is difficult to differentiate between the Kingdom of God and the American kingdom. And even when find ourselves able to differentiate, it is even more difficult to know how to operate first as citizens of the Kingdom of God and second as citizens of our country.

Two Kingdoms

As followers of Jesus it must be clear to us that, “the kingdom Jesus came to establish is ‘not from this world’ (John  18:36).” It is fundamentally distinct from any kingdom of the world.

Our understanding of the proper relationship of the church to society can be clarified by one of the greatest of the church fathers, Saint Augustine. Augustine lived in the fourth and fifth centuries after Christ in the era just after Christians had just gained access to political power in the Roman empire. Augustine thought that Christians should loyally perform their duties to the powers that be and thank God for any blessings that came from their country, but they should not have illusions about the nature of human governments. Ultimately every human government belongs to what Augustine called the “city of the world,” in which self-interest rules.

Augustine explained  that all human governments are resolved to defend things of material and worldly value, and they will unhesitatingly destroy (in some form or fashion) anyone or anything that challenges their authority. Only in the City of God, says Augustine, or in the church, can we find a community that is dedicated not to defending self-interest, but rather to the love of God.


When we die with Christ and are raised again with him, we give up our ultimately allegiances to the principalities and powers of this world-even to the relatively good powers that benefit us. Although we are to be good citizens who value the civil order God has provided, our ultimate allegiance is to a higher power.

In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote, “I am afraid that… your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11:3). Many of us, myself included, have wrestled this political season with having our eyes, hearts, and minds led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. Political participation is a privilege, but with it comes a tremendous temptation to be drawn into and consumed by powerful rhetoric and propaganda. Our political ideologies can become to us our hope – that which saves and delivers us from our fear- taking the place of God.

We must realize that a gulf lies between the church and any human government no matter how admirable or how relatively good it may be. “Despite some overlaps, the church’s goals are never going to be nearly coextensive with the goals of the civilizations of the world. We should work for the relatively better.” We have important obligations to do whatever we can to help our neighbors-promoting just laws, good order, peace, education and opportunity. Nonetheless we should recognize that as we work for the relatively better in the “city of the world”, our successes will be relative.

“The church declares that the solutions offered by the nations of the world are always transitory solutions, themselves in need of reform. Such sobriety about the world should not lead to political cynicism or dissolution. It should however, reinforce the ultimate Christian truth that our final hope rest only on the grace of Christ” (Noll).

The failure of many Christians in the political realm has not been political engagement, rather, a failure to recognize and pronounce Christ and His Kingdom as supreme and independent.

The Truth We All Need

A political party, candidate, or ideology cannot satisfy the longings of our hearts or fully resolve the brokenness that surrounds us. It would serve us well  to evaluate the position of our hearts towards the kingdoms of this world, the little kingdoms we make in our individual lives, and the better, true Kingdom that is ultimately demanding of our affections and the only way to true flourishing.

Let me encourage you to spend some time with the following questions. If the Spirit leads, repent (turn from your idolatry, and turn to Jesus) and rejoice in the good news of the Gospel!

  • Who or what do you fear?
  • Where do you place your hope?
  • How is Jesus and His Kingdom better?
  • If you believed this, how would this it affect the condition your heart and reshape the way you interact with others?

Don’t forget what Reggie wrote in the first post;

“One day, America and all her Presidents will just be a footnote in History – a kingdom that lasted for just a moment in time.  When that day comes, Jesus will still be reigning supreme.  One day, King Jesus will return, and the only Great King that has ever existed will rule this earth with the kind of glory that earthly kings can only dream of possessing.  Church, let me remind you of what King David said in Psalm 20:7 (ESV): ‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.’  Church – don’t put your hope in earthly kings. Likewise, don’t despair over earthly kings. Instead – remember your true king!”


After the 2016 Presidential Election (Part 2): Prayer

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In less than six weeks President-elect Donald Trump will be inaugurated into office. As the date approaches the media is abuzz with forecasts of what will happen next. No matter the candidate or year, election season is often a cause for anxiety for many in our nation. To be sure, this particular election cycle has heightened the anxieties of many and revealed just how divided these United States have become.

In his previous post, Reggie Horne posed the question, “How is it that I should respond to the state of our society and culture now that this election is complete?” His answer was threefold; we must pray, we must remember the ministry of reconciliation to which we have been called, and we must remember that God is sovereign.

I’d like to take a moment to expound on the first of these three calls to action: prayer.

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” 

While Paul instructs Timothy to pray for all people, he makes special emphasis on “kings and all who are in high positions.”  Notice, Paul not only tells Timothy to pray for kings and leaders, but to give thanks for them. Some of us may need to let that sink in for a minute.

Paul is not alone here, his sentiment echoes that of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount; “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Here’s the thing, prayer is more than asking for “stuff” and seeing how God answers. Prayer is a discipline and a grace through which God shapes and sanctifies us as we commune with Him. Paul doesn’t tell Timothy to offer thanksgiving for kings and leaders because they are so great. Rather, Paul reveals how the posture of our hearts toward others either enables us or disables us toward peacemaking.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer that, “Discussions usually separate us; actions sometimes unite us.” Christians living in the United States today must make prayer our first action towards unity. Any other action won’t be a product of our wholly leaning into the Holy Spirit, who alone is able to change hearts and minds. However, through prayer God will prepare our hearts to take the healing work of the gospel into our divided culture. Furthermore, our sovereign Father will hear our prayers made on behalf of our leaders and all people, and He can be trusted to answer with all wisdom, compassion, and justice.

Four Suggested Prayers:

  1. Pray for the President and others in high positions.

    It’s important for us to remember that people are not equal to their position or role. We were all created to be image-bearers of the Creator and are valued by God.

    This article by Kevin DeYoung  has been a helpful template for my personal prayers for our current administration. I would recommend adding a portion for giving thanks for these leaders as well.

  2. Pray for your enemies.

    First, let’s define enemy. Is it a person on the other side of an issue than you, a Republican, or a Democrat? A genuine enemy is a person who is actively opposed to or hostile toward you.

    Honestly, when I spend time in prayer for my “enemies” I often find that I’ve been more of an enemy toward them then they to me. If that is the case, let God deal with you and your heart, and go be reconciled with them.

    If there is somebody who is actively opposed and hostile toward you, pray diligently for them. Ask God to have mercy on them, change them, and bless them. Pray for justice, peace, and future unity. Remember, we have been called  ministers of reconciliation through the power of the gospel.

  3. Pray for the centrality of the kingdom of God.

    In addressing the issue of anxiety, Jesus charges His followers to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). As our culture wrestles through division and tensions run high, we Christians need to hear and respond to our King.

    Rather than putting trust in our own reasoning or ability to lead, we need to pray. The simple act of praying is a response to Jesus’ charge as we intentionally look to Him first. So, pray that your attention be increasingly drawn to Jesus and His ability to rule with all power and wisdom.

  4. Pray for your heart.

    I love that that the Lord’s Prayer, also in chapter 6 of Matthew, begins with “Our Father” because it reminds me of His sincere desire for involvement and His deep love for me as His child. We can be honest with Him without fear.

    With that truth in mind, take some time to be honest with your heavenly Father, and yourself, about any cynicism, anxiety, or hate that may be lurking in the shadows of your heart. Ask Him to help you give thanks genuinely for those whom you are not thankful. Ask God to help you see your enemies the way He sees them so that you can love them the way He does; the way He loves you.