Presidential Inaugurations & Use of the Bible

When U.S. Presidents take the oath of office, most* have placed their left hand upon a Bible during that solemn moment, raised their right hand, and repeated the oath of office — adding the unofficial words “so help me God” at the end, as was first done by George Washington. On most occasions the Bible has been open to a specific verse.

For his second inauguration [in January 2013], reports a UPI website, President Obama selected three Bibles to use for his oath of office: the Robinson family Bible, the Lincoln Bible and Martin Luther King’s traveling Bible. The family Bible was used at the private swearing-in ceremony on Sunday, January 20, 2013, and the other two were used in the public ceremony on the following Monday. UPI reported that “both bibles were be closed, rather than open to a specific verse, when Obama took the oath of office Monday, as was the Robinson Bible on Sunday.”

William Bennett in his book The American Patriot’s Almanac: Daily Readings on America provides some examples of Scripture passages used by various presidents at their inauguration; others can easily be found by searching online.

Abraham Lincoln, 1861 – opened his Bible at random. In 1865 he used an open Bible, since lost, and noted 3 verses: “Judge not, that ye be not judged”, Matthew 7:1; “Woe to the man by whom the offence cometh!” Matthew 18:7; and, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments” Revelation 16:7.

Rutherford Hayes, 1877 – “They compassed me about like bees; they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.” Psalm 118:11-13

Theodore Roosevelt, 1905 –
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.” James 1:22–23

Woodrow Wilson, 1917 –
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. . .” Psalm 46

Franklin Roosevelt, 1933,`37,`41,`45 –
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal . . .” 1 Corinthians 13

Gerald Ford, 1974 –
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5–6

Jimmy Carter, 1977 –
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Ronald Reagan, 1981,`85 –
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

George H.W. Bush, used his Family Bible open to Matthew 5.

Bill Clinton, 1993,`97
“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:8 (1993). “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.” Isaiah 58:12 (1997)

George W. Bush,
“Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” Isaiah 40:31

*According to that UPI website, “Just two presidents (that we know) have chosen to use books other than a bible for their oaths: John Quincy Adams, who used a book of U.S. law, and Lyndon Johnson, who was sworn in aboard Air Force One following the assassination of Kennedy. Johnson used a missal–a book used for Catholic Mass–found on a side table in Kennedy’s Air Force One bedroom.”

Spiritual basis of liberty

Our founding fathers “were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power said President 1420900_87673103Calvin Coolidge on this date (July 5th) in 1926. He was in Philadelphia to a speech commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The whole text is available here. Coolidge emphasized that “in its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document.”

Such clarity of thought and understanding is near extinct in our land, so I urge you to read the speech, and breath its fresh and vital air. Here is an excerpt —

No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed.
(emphasis added)

Yes, the things of the spirit come first! May liberty yet be revived in our land.

Thoughts on the Presidential Election

Like so many I was stunned and saddened by the election results on Tuesday night. And I am terribly sad not because my choice for office lost but because of the awful repercussion the re-election of such a liberal administration will bring to our land. Actions have consequences; elections have consequences.

Insightful analysis is made by Dr Al Mohler here; let me share a few excerpts with you (emphasis added).

Evangelical Christians must see the 2012 election as a catastrophe for crucial moral concerns. The election of President Obama returns a radically pro-abortion President to the White House, soon after he had endorsed same-sex marriage. President Obama is likely to have the opportunity to appoint one or more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, and they are almost sure to agree with his constitutional philosophy. …
Clearly, we face a new moral landscape in America, and huge challenge to those of us who care passionately about these issues. We face a worldview challenge that is far greater than any political challenge, as we must learn how to winsomely convince Americans to share our moral convictions about marriage, sex, the sanctity of life, and a range of moral issues. This will not be easy. It is, however, an urgent call to action.

Christians must now pray for our President, he also reminds us, citing 1 Timothy 2:1-2. You can read all of Dr Mohler’s thoughts here. (Some have labeled the election in even stronger spiritual terms, such as Tom Chantry at his blog).

Wednesday night at our church prayer meeting, I wanted to address these concerns, and move beyond political language and context. So I shared two verses from the Bible, from Isaiah 3:10-11. This was the text chosen by the puritan Thomas Watson for his farewell sermon, when hundreds of “non-conformist” pastors were ejected from their churches in 1662. This passage of Scripture gives clear words of encouragement for the righteous, and, words of woe for the wicked.

“10 Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them,
for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.
11 Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him,
for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him.”

Those who are walking uprightly, by the mercy and grace of the Lord, have much for which to be thankful! And horrible circumstances around us cannot change that. Our God also gave us Romans 8:28 in the New Testament, to emphasize His sovereignty and His good designs for His people in all circumstances. Yet, evidently, believers must be told these things. Repeatedly.

This text from Isaiah 3 also puts forward a warning to the wicked, to those who do not walk rightly with their God – such as those who destroy life in the womb, and who boldly promote immorality as marriage, etc. Things will not go well for you, says the Lord. There will be an accounting.

The New Testament text to keep in mind here, for Americans and people everywhere, is from Galatians 6:7-10

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”


UPDATE: Further post-election help for Christians (“Dear Post-Election Self, Reading this letter, you know which man will reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the next four years….”) can be found from Colin Hanson here.

What’s a Christian Business Owner Supposed to Do?

Mark Taylor, President of Tyndale House publishers (and son of its founders) recently wrote about the penalties the federal government is seeking to impose on Tyndale in violation of their freedom of religion and right to act in accord with their biblically informed conscience.

What’s a Christian Business Owner Supposed to Do?.

(From Justin Taylor’s Gospel Coalition blog).

Honorable Leadership Needed: Joel Beeke on the VP Debate

What has happened to honor — and honorable behavior — in our culture? Concerned from watching VP Joe Biden in the recent debate, Dr Joel Beeke discusses the topic of honor here.

Here are his first 3 paragraphs….

I stared in disbelief at my laptop last night as our Vice President interrupted Congressman Paul Ryan 96 times in about as many minutes of debate. When I observed his arrogance, his degrading laughter, his angry responses, and his dismissive attitude, I was deeply troubled.

These debates are first and foremost about policy. But when one’s attitude is so belligerent an honest dialogue of substantial issues can scarcely take place. It is not enough to excuse our Vice President by simply saying that he was trying to overwhelm the congressman like a tsunami, or to say, “That’s just the way Joe Biden is.” No one should act that way.

A burning issue was raised last night that is not on a party’s political platform, nor on a moderator’s list of questions, but is crucial for our nation. That’s the issue of relating to each other with dignity. Titus 3:2 reminds us “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.” Even if we believe that another person is wrong and must be publicly corrected (as in a debate), we should do it in a way that shows courtesy and respect (2 Tim. 2:24; 1 Pet. 3:15–16).

Read the whole (brief) article here.

Prayer at the Michigan State house today

My old friend from Bethlehem Baptist church days, Brent Nelson, Pastor of Five Points Community Church has been asked to deliver an invocation today at the Michigan State House of Representative at 10 AM. Below is the planned text of his prayer [boldface added by me] — an outstanding bit of praise to God and petition.

Almighty God and heavenly Father, eternal Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, near and sovereign Holy Spirit of God I stand before your triune glory among those gathered in this honorable assembly to cherish your worth and grace over all that exists.

When we cherish you as you deserve, your glory is maximized and our good is optimized for this life and the life to come.

To that end I would ask of you these things, O Lord:

That you would strengthen and establish Christ-exalting churches in this state, in that your presence resides with us by their presence, and because the church will outlast every other institution.

I ask that you would strengthen the communities of this great State by sustaining the schools, businesses, health providers and governments, and thus preserve honor and order in our society.

I ask that you would protect healthy families and marriages from all that threatens them and make every home an emotionally, physically and spiritually safe place in which to grow.

I pray that you grant an atmosphere of respect, kindness, and dignity for all persons in this state. As bearers of your image, each person would be afforded the value that is theirs intrinsically.

To that end, I pray that you would make abortion as unthinkable as slavery.

I pray that you would bless the economic climate of this state. Grant us to be wise stewards of the wealth you have entrusted to us, knowing that to the one who is faithful with little, more will be given and that to whom much is given, much is required.

I would ask for all those in state public service, these Representatives, Governor Snyder, Lt. Governor Calley, State Supreme Court Justices and all others, that you would bless them with your wisdom, grace and insight. Continue to guard them from the moral pitfalls that can endanger their office of public service. Grant them foresight to craft laws and enact policies that best serve the State of Michigan. Bless them as they serve with the knowledge that they have been instituted by God in their role and for this time.

Because of their leadership, cause the citizens of this ‘pleasant peninsula’ to be both thankful to you O God, and well-prepared to hear the gospel of your Son. The news that it is by your grace alone, O God, than any can respond by faith alone – trusting wholly in Christ’s payment for sin and in His righteousness unto salvation — for the glory of God alone.”

In all these things, dear Lord, the priceless worth of your glory will be seen yet not only seen, but cherished, and this most plainly in the face of your Son. In whose name, I pray all these things. Amen.

Invocation – Michigan State House of Representatives
Pastor Brent Nelson
June 29th, 2011

May the Lord greatly bless this prayer!

Pray as America goes to the polls

Here is a “Prayer for Godly Leaders” by David Campell, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Carlisle, PA. It comes from a new book from DayOne, In a Heart Cries to Heaven, a compilation of his prayers. [thanks to Tim Challies for mentioning this]

Our great and gracious God,

We pray that you will give us leaders who fear your name. We ask for those who are in authority over us that they may be men and women of Christian integrity, men and women imbued with the principles of the Word of God, who will themselves walk in your ways and set an example in public office.

We ask, Lord, that you will not give us up to the sway of those who care nothing for you and for your laws. Give us godly leaders, we pray.

We pray, too, for godly leaders within the church.

We pray for the reformation of the visible church and for great revival within its midst. May those who are in the positions of leadership manifest the same qualities that we see manifest supremely in our Lord Jesus Christ, and that, under the leadership of such men, your church would flourish.

Give us all grace, we pray.

Everyone who is a member of this congregation or of another congregation, to be a good and faithful servant of Jesus Christ, each one of us. We pray that you will bless our time together to that end.

We pray that you will stand with your servant as he opens up the Word, that you will put words in his mouth, that you will give to us illumined minds and hearts, and we pray that you will make that Word written upon our hearts and make our time together to be truly a means of grace, that we, in this week that is before us, may walk in your ways.

Hear us, O God, we pray, and these prayers and the many others that in the silence of our hearts we would lift to you, the omniscient God.

Hear us, for Jesus’ sake.

Is it fair to discuss a President’s faith?

Yes. And such an open discussion is part of America’s strength. President Obama’s religious belief’s and behaviors are open to discussion by the public.

Paul Kengor (author and scholar) adds some historical perspective, while alerting us to dangers of denying such a discussion. A one page article worth reading. Excerpts below…

And how about claims against other presidents?

Liberals constantly questioned Ronald Reagan’s faith, because of his infrequent church attendance, his wife consulting stargazers, his Central America policy, his welfare policy, his environmental policy. Reagan suffered these suspicions even as he repeatedly stated he was a Christian. He endured a question during a nationally televised presidential debate with Walter Mondale. Two weeks later, in another televised debate, Reagan was asked if his beliefs about Armageddon fueled his nuclear policy.

Still today, liberals ask me about Reagan’s faith, including if he was really a Christian.

Reagan is far from alone. Some 200 years after his presidency, Thomas Jefferson’s faith is ever-maligned. He’s accused of all sorts of things. Even the beliefs of Lincoln and Washington are debated.

What about our most recent president? I can’t tell you how many times I addressed serious inquiries about whether George W. Bush was seeking to impose a theocracy, or why Bush supposedly believed Christ had ordered him to defang Saddam. It took every bit of charity to suck it up and respond with patience. I never thought to stomp and sniff: That question should not be permitted airtime!

Most disturbing, but, frankly, not surprising, is that this push [some are saying “no media airtime” for any who question Obama’s Christianity] comes from self-anointed apostles of diversity and tolerance, who tell us the Religious Right is intolerant

George Washington’s “Sacred Fire”

Guess what the #1 book is at (at time of writing)? It’s George Washington’s Sacred Fire by Peter Lillback, president of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. (click through links are to the fine, and affordable WTS Bookstore).

This book is already on my shelf and on my to-read list for this summer. Justin Taylor says, “The exhaustively researched book is the culmination of 15 years of research from George Washington’s writings, journals, manuscripts, letters, and testimony from others—showing that Washington was not an unbeliever or a deist but rather a low-church Anglican with genuine faith.” He also reports that Glenn Beck recently had Dr. Lillback on his program, and apparently that boosted the sales. Yup.

I am so thankful that lots of my fellow citizens are reading good stuff. Are you?


Social justice?

“Jesus himself didn’t condemn economic inequality. Yes, he repeatedly warned about the snares of material wealth; he exploded the comfortable conventionality of the Pharisaical tendency to regard prosperity as a badge of honor and superiority; he commanded compassion toward the poor and suffering. But … in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:24-30) he condemned the failure to productively use one’s God-given talents—whether many or few, exceptional or ordinary—by having a lord take money from the one who had the least and give it to him who had the most, thereby increasing economic inequality.”

In a brief article “The ‘Social Justice’ Fallacy? Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing”, adjunct faculty member, economist, and contributing scholar with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College — Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson — explains, “The modern left’s ‘social justice’ strives for economic equality. It endeavors to reduce, if not erase, the gap between rich and poor by redistributing wealth. This is ‘justice’ more akin to Marx and Lenin, not according to Moses and Jesus. It is a counterfeit of real justice, biblical justice. Modern notions of ‘social justice’ are often wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

READ IT ALL HERE: The “Social Justice” Fallacy? Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing by Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson, Grove City College, PA