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.
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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.”

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.”

Amen.
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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.

Living like Jesus is the only way

If Jesus is the ONLY way to be right with God, and have any hope of eternal life with Him, then ought we not live in ways consistent with that simple, glorious truth?

Recently my former seminary professor and friend, Dr Tom Schreiner, addressed this in a simple devotional message delivered during the last annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. You can read a version of it here, or listen to the audio here.

Briefly, his main points are these:

First, if Jesus is the only way, we must be courageous. We must not flinch from telling others that Jesus is the only way, even if it means we are rejected by others. … If we live like Jesus is the only way, we will be courageous. We will testify to the truth in Christ. We will not trim our convictions to please others, but in our teaching, preaching, and writing we will be faithful to our Lord.

That leads me to the next point, which is related to the first one. Living like Jesus is the only way also means that we will be humble. Our Lord calls on us to courageously and boldly testify to the truth, but sometimes the way we testify to the truth detracts from the truth. … It is hard for people to hear the truth that Jesus is the only way if we speak with an arrogance that suggests that we are the only way. We must be firm in contending for the truth, but Paul also commands us to be gentle and patient and to proclaim the truth with gentleness to those who disbelieve.

. . .

My third point reveals itself when we draw attention to ourselves rather than the way, Jesus. We aren’t living as if Jesus is the only way if we focus on ourselves in conversations. Like everything else in life this is a matter of spiritual wisdom. There are no formulas here. If you have opportunity, it isn’t wrong to talk about your writing projects and speaking opportunities. In fact, not sharing what we are working on may be a form of false humility. But we aren’t living as if Jesus is the only way unless we obey Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

. . .

Finally, we live as if Jesus is the only way if we are thankful people. As Psalm 36 says, those who know God “feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.” Believers drink from the living water that Jesus gives us; we feast on the beauty of God; we find him to be our joy, our meat and drink; we are happy and thankful because of his love. We know that there is nothing greater than knowing Christ. Everything else is dung in comparison.

And you know what? People will know, no matter your personality, if God is your portion. That can’t be hidden. It will be evident. And they will be reminded by your joy and contentment that Jesus is the only way.

Amen!

Moby Dick’s Melville: “The pulpit is the prow”

The Pulpit is the Prow?

I spotted this wonderful image-packed
citation at Jared Wilson’s blog today…
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“…for the pulpit is ever this earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.”

— Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Beat people with your Bible?

“You shouldn’t beat people over the head with the Bible.”

Often heard phrase, but is it useful to say (or affirm)? Last week, in a Prayer Partner Letter from Bethlehem College & Seminary, President Tim Tomlinson wrote the following helpful reflections. Let me know what you think.
~ pdb

I don’t know if you have ever heard the following phrase, but I have on a number of occasions: “You shouldn’t beat people over the head with the Bible.” Whenever I’ve heard that said, it has always troubled me. I understand, I think, what those who say it are trying to accomplish. They don’t want to alienate people who might be alienated by some parts of the Bible. But therein lies what troubles me. There is implied in this statement the notion that the Bible, by itself, is not adequate for helping people overcome whatever it is they are struggling with (sin, depression, denial of God, etc.). It requires some sort of qualification or special relationship standing before it can be used to help inform, correct, exhort, or inspire people.

When I look at the Bible itself, however, I don’t see that attitude portrayed at all by those who speak of its value to all of life. The Psalmist who wrote Psalm 119 makes over 170 references to the worth and value of the Word of God. The entire theme of this psalm is to extoll the surpassing worth of the Word to all of life.

“Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me
wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
(Psalm 119:97-103).

For the psalmist, the Word of God is his sustenance, his joy, his guide, his way of understanding, and his love. Such a view of the Bible is an example to all of us that the Word of God is sufficient for all situations and all people–even if it makes us uncomfortable sometimes with its clear and life-giving truth.

Yes, we should use the Bible with care, and with an appropriate, loving, and sensitive attitude in sharing it with others, but we should never shrink back from bringing the life-giving Word of God to bear on any life situation we may encounter.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Tim Tomlinson,
June 22, 2011

Don’t Be Selfish… Share Christ

Jesus said… (in Luke 8:16-21)
16 “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. 18 Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20 And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” 21 But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

“Let us not only think of ourselves. Let us also think of others. There are millions in the world who have no spiritual light at all. They are without God, without Christ, and without hope. (Eph. 2:12) Can we do nothing for them? There are thousands around us who are unconverted and dead in sins, seeing nothing and knowing nothing right. Can we do nothing for them? These are questions to which every true Christian ought to find an answer. We should strive, in every way, to spread our religion. The highest form of selfishness is that of the person who is content to go to heaven alone. The truest charity is to endeavor to share with others every spark of religious light we possess ourselves, and so to hold up our own candle that it may give light to every one around us. Happy is that soul, which, as soon as it receives light from heaven, begins to think of others as well as itself! No candle which God lights was ever meant to burn alone.”
J. C. Ryle,
from his Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke, Banner of Truth, 1986

The Return of Jesus Christ!

God’s Word, the Bible, clearly says that no man knows the time of the return of Jesus (verses below, linked to their ESV context). Thus it is folly, rebellion and sin to declare a date for the Second Coming of Jesus. I fear the shameful pronouncements of men who set dates will only serve to increase the skepticism of unbelievers, seduce (and later shame) those who are duped, and, discourage many Christians striving to spread the gospel of the Lord Jesus.

But TRUTH will prevail. It is not derailed by mischievous men. THE TRUTH: Jesus will return. The Bible clearly says (for all to read, without secret formulas), that the same Jesus who once walked this earth will return here, as King and Lord of all. And every knee will bow to Him.

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only…. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. — Jesus, in Matthew 24:36, 44

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.Acts 1:7

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.1 Thess. 4:16

…so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:28

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14

While on this day, May 21st, I shake my head in sadness, my heart is steadfast in the truth. And I long for Jesus to return, end the folly and sin — and then make all things new! If you are a true Christian, one who loves Jesus and His Word, then you too must long for that day, though we know not its date.

~ pdb

How Shall We Pray About the Upheavals in the Middle East?

Recently John Piper wrote at the Desiring God blog an answer to the question, How Shall We Pray About the Upheavals in the Middle East?

In 1 Timothy 2:1–4, Paul connects prayer for “all who are in high positions” with a peaceful life for the followers of Jesus, and with his desire for all people to be saved.

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. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

There are two goals in praying for kings and leaders—that is, for political structures that exist, or might exist, in the Middle East.

1. We pray for political leaders and structures . . . “that we [the followers of Jesus] may lead a peaceful and quiet life godly and dignified in every way.”

J. N. D. Kelly comments, “In other words, not being exposed to the suspicion of disloyalty, they will be allowed to practice their religion without fear of disturbance and to lead the morally serious lives appropriate to it.” (The Pastoral Epistles, p. 61). That is one important thing we should pray for.

2. We pray for this politically sustained freedom and peace so that more and more people would be saved.

This is found in verse 3: “This [politically protected peaceable life] is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved.” In other words, God approves of this kind of peaceable situation for believers (and the prayers that pursue it) because he wants more people to be saved.

The assumption is that a stable, peaceable situation in general makes for better long-term effective evangelism and missions. Very few persecuted churches that fear for their lives are mounting great global mission efforts to complete the Great Commission. As Philip Ryken writes in his commentary on 1 Timothy, “Peacetime mission is part of God’s plan for the salvation of the world, so pray for peace” (p. 63).

When we pray for the Middle East, we should be praying mainly for conditions to prevail that sustain freedom and peace for the followers of Jesus, so that the gospel would run and triumph, and millions would turn to Christ and be saved for his great glory.

Such conditions would include freedom for other religions too, since Christians do not spread their faith by the sword, but by proclamation and service (John 18:36).

Father in heaven, and Lord of all nations, rule over the Middle East in these tumultuous days so that political leaders and laws and practices are established that support peace and freedom for the followers of your Son. We praise you that you are not a tribal deity, and that you desire people of all ethnic groups to be saved through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. In ways we cannot imagine, O God, govern the minds and hearts and systems and regimes and authority structures and intrigues and revolutions and constitutions and localities and neighborhood networks so that your people have protection, provision, peace, and spiritual power to lead holy lives, filled with fruitful passion to reach millions with the gospel. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

(Original post here)

The plot to kill Lazarus…

Yes, that Lazarus, the one Jesus raised from the dead. Opponents of Jesus wanted him dead. Why? Read for yourself, in JOHN 12 [emphasis added] — 

9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

Two “wow” thoughts come to mind.

#1. Here a life greatly changed by Jesus was changing the lives of others! I have been changed — born again — because of Jesus; am I impacting the lives of those around me?

#2. Those opposing Jesus couldn’t help but face, in Lazarus, evidence for the divine power of Jesus. Nevertheless, they sought to get rid of the evidence rather than change their view of Jesus! How rock hard is the heart of unbelief! How irrational are those who refuse to believe.

I praise God for His grace to me, in opening my eyes, and giving me life in Christ.
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Small steps to conversion

The wise J. C. Ryle writes:

The first beginnings of the work of grace in a sinner are generally exceedingly small. It is like the mixture of leaven with a lump of dough:

A single sentence of a sermon…

A single verse of Holy Scripture…

A word of rebuke from a friend…

A casual religious remark overheard…

A tract given by a stranger…

A trifling act of kindness received from a Christian…

…some of these things are often the starting-point in the life of a soul. The first acts of the spiritual life are often small in the extreme–so small, that for a long time they are not known except by the person who is the subject of them, and even by them not fully understood:

A few serious thoughts and prickings of conscience…

A desire to pray for real and not formally…

A determination to begin reading the Bible in private…

A gradual drawing towards means of grace…

An increasing interest in the subject of religion…

A growing distaste for evil habits and bad companions…

…these are often the first symptoms of grace beginning to move the heart of man. They are symptoms which worldly men may not perceive, and ignorant believers may despise, and even old Christians may mistake. Yet they are often the first steps in the mighty business of conversion. They are often the “leaven” of grace working in a heart.

~ J.C. Ryle
Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke vol. 2 , Banner of Truth, 1998, 126, 127.

PS: I always enjoy reading Ryle. I find these compact volumes some of the best Christian reading in print today! – pdb