Thursday, November 20, 2008


As a follow up to my post, What About Wilberforce?, which was about having the proper balance of grace and truth in the Christian life and not sacrificing truth for the sake of grace, or vice versa, I ran across a book that might have to jump up on my reading list. It seems to fit:

Don't Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus is Not Enough

Here is the product description on Amazon:

Evangelicals who reject the narrow fundamentalism of previous generations are in danger of over-correction. Don’t Stop Believing is an urgent call for both right practice and right belief. Our concern for social issues must not diminish the core doctrines of our faith. We must not stop believing.

And the last line on the back cover:

Genuine Christians never stop serving because they never stop loving, and they never stop loving because they never stop believing.

I have not read this book, so I can't necessarily defend it or wholeheartedly recommend it. But I'm encouraged that I'm not alone in thinking this way, and challenged not to over-correct myself, in either direction. The book tries to speak into the postmodern culture, specifically within the Church, and into such perspectives as those within the Emergent movement, (which is also carefully challenged in the book Why We're Not Emergent, if you need extra reading over the holidays) The chapters in Don't Stop Believing are based on 10 key questions often asked in our culture:

- Must you believe something to be saved?
- Do right beliefs get in the way of good works?
- Are people generally good or basically bad?
- Which is worse: homosexuals or the bigots who persecute them?
- Is the cross divine child abuse?
- Can you belong before you believe?
- Does the kingdom of God include non-Christians?
- Is hell for real and forever?
- Is it possible to know anything?
- Is the Bible God's true word?

I'll try to post further once I devour this book. It might be after Christmas though because I'm trying to have a spending freeze on non essentials. The problem is that "non essentials" is subjective and the economy is in bad shape and needs my money, right? So I'm torn between economic consideration and biblical frugality. I'm torn between Donatos' Pizza again or homecookin'. I'm torn between generosity towards my family and friends for Christmas or generosity towards the weak and hurting. Between time in bible study or time at a soup kitchen. Between a new book for me or a bible for someone who doesn't know Jesus. Between believing the Bible or living the Bible. Between being gracious or being truthful.

How about both? Brilliant!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

The best gift I ever gave for Christmas was a "Shrek" Donkey Chia Pet. The recipient may or may not have taken the gift back to Chicago with her. The best gift I ever received was a singing, dancing, talking hamster (no link available), which I still have in my bedroom closet to provide what the alarm clock and the shower can't completely accomplish in the form of a morning wake-up. I love Christmas, mostly because I don't take the presents seriously and it turns into utter chaos. Ok, I take some of the presents seriously. I still make a list.

Let's be honest, you're already thinking about Christmas, and you probably feel real guilty and annoyed about that. You don't want to think about it, but the stupid department stores are forcing you into it. The weather is getting cold. The college football season is winding down (or gearing up, if you're a fan). You will NOT hang Christmas lights until after Thanksgiving, but some of your neighbors are talking about it. The biggest shopping day of the year is approaching, and you want to be ready. The economy is in the toilet, so this year especially, you're looking at your bank statement and wondering how its all going to work. The Christmas bonus is looking questionable. You might have to kidnap your boss Cousin Eddie style.

But you're still thinking about it. Perhaps the holiday season is difficult for you because of pain or loss that once accompanied it. Perhaps you're thinking about it, but in reality dreading it and wishing you were as excited as when you were a kid. Perhaps you wish that Santa Claus could bring you that gift that would make everything seem right again. No worries, nothing but the anticipation of an authentic G.I. Joe figure in your stocking.

In whatever case, allow me to remind you of what I was so thankfully reminded of this year. The season of Advent is a conspiracy. It celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, born through the womb of a virgin, and into a small rural, hick town in a land far away from America. It represents the beginning of the ministry and the event that would become, and now remains, the center of history. God in the flesh came and lived a perfect life in the Person of Jesus Christ, and came to us, as sinners, and tax collectors, and prostitutes, to show us the image and character of the invisible God, and came to die on a cross, so that we could be reconciled with our Father in heaven and live forever with him and with all his children in perfect community.

And he came and did this, and accomplished this, as a baby. He was covertly hidden and transported away from his home as an infant to escape those who desired to kill him. And as the nation of Israel was waiting for a Messiah in the form of a triumphant king and ruler, the true Messiah prophesied about in the centuries before was growing up among them as a carpenter. As impurity and hate and war and evil swirled around everywhere in the world, and people longed and prayed for a deliverer, Jesus was building a chair for his mother and growing up in obscurity in a small town waiting for the perfect timing of the Father's will.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the One who came and shattered the chains of the kingdoms of this world, and introduced the Kingdom of God, overcoming evil and sin and purchasing for us justification and acceptance with the God of the universe. And he came as a baby. And he is now exalted at the right hand of the Father. His kingdom will have no end. Let's honor that this year, not as much with presents, but with presence, to those who he would have loved, cared for, and spent time with. Those in our city who may not be as excited as we are for the upcoming season, and to whom the $450 billion spent per year on Christmas seems hypocritical and appalling. And let's do it proclaiming that Santa Claus is not supreme. Christ is.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What About Wilberforce?

Despite an effort to be concise, somehow these posts keep getting longer. I’m sorry about that. Please bear with me, this one took some exertion and much prayer. A couple years ago, with a small group at my church, I helped lead through a series called Head, Heart, and Hands based on the book by the same title by Dennis Hollinger. It was foundational to me, my personal vision (see About Me section), and in a large part to the purpose of this blog. The basic premise of the series was the importance of developing a whole faith for the whole person by sufficiently understanding (faith of the head), wholeheartedly experiencing (faith of the heart), and effectively proclaiming and demonstrating (faith of the hands) the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I realized that if I neglect any of these areas, I will without doubt spiritually self-destruct. If you’ve been reading this blog long, you probably could guess that a faith of the head comes easy for me, and is where I default. A faith of the heart has been a natural result of my greater depth in the knowledge of God. Faith of the hands has always and continues to be my Achilles heel, and because of that I am at risk of self-destruction.

As I’ve started engaging the culture with the Gospel and encountered its complexity, specifically this year with politics, this weakness has become relevant because it would be very easy for me to hide behind well structured sentences, ideas, and arguments. I don’t regret any of these sentences, ideas, or arguments, but I don’t want the possibility to exist that such words are not backed up with actions. So I come to what is, unfortunately, a great hypocrisy and tragedy within the Evangelical Church in our generation (it’s not just me). As Ronald Sider asks in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, why are Christians living just like the rest of the world? I, in shame, can not answer that question effectively either for myself, or many like me.

Grace and Truth

Well, thanks be to God that answer is forming. I acknowledge the temptation and tendency to default towards proclamation and understanding, while neglecting demonstration, of the Gospel. And so I resolve to avoid that neglect and, as Pastor Greg Boyd says, by my life create the question that only the reality of Jesus Christ can answer. But I also acknowledge that without the effective, accurate, and faithful proclamation and understanding of the Gospel, my faith will self-destruct, my answer to the question from the world will be insufficient, and the reality of Jesus Christ will not be complete. In other words, I acknowledge that I must speak and live with a Christ-like balance of grace and truth, and I cannot sacrifice truth for the sake of grace, or vice versa. If I do, or if we do, it will all be for nothing, and all the encouragement, love, kindness, and grace in the world will not compensate for the reality of hell and the wrath of God; and all the brilliant and polished preaching in the world will not compensate for the damage done by hypocritical lifestyles and not loving our neighbor. Grace and truth are necessary. Jesus did not come as truly God and live a life of sin, nor did he come and live a sinless life as anything less than truly God.

This is all amazingly relevant and applicable, in my opinion, to political engagement by Christians. In other words, I tremble at the risk that Christians, so convicted by and ashamed of their hypocritical and inconsistent lifestyles (which I acknowledge), would silence their voices altogether, reduce their involvement either in public service or boldly advocating for issues that few others may defend, or neglect the truth of their convictions for the sake of grace and love. We have to do both; maintain the one and build on the other.

What I mean by Truth

What I mean by truth is that God is Sovereign and the Bible is authoritative, and Jesus Christ is supreme and no other name under heaven leads to salvation. God is holy, we are sinful, the Bible is preeminent, and the Cross in central. All this has overwhelming implications on our lives and the way we interact and love others. It means that we cannot compromise the truth that God created us in His image and knit us individually together in our mother’s womb. To mess with that is fundamentally unacceptable. It means that the sacred institution that God himself established to be, above all else, a representation of His relationship to the Church and the foundation of society, cannot be redefined. It means that we are obligated to care for the poor and not overlook those who are hungry or in need, and if we become wealthy by oppressing the poor, or fail to give to those in need, we are in very bad trouble. If we lose these things, we lose the Sovereignty and holiness of God, and we lose the authority and preeminence of the Bible, and we lose the centrality of Calvary. That is everything!

Now, surely you are saying, it is more complicated than that. You say, we don’t have to lose all these things, but we also don’t have to force our beliefs on others, or speak so publicly about them especially in the political sphere, or expect a secular culture and government to adopt our theology and value structure. But what I am saying is what a tragic pendulum swing it would be if Christians went from boldly proclaiming and defending the implications of the Gospel (albeit living in a way that is often inconsistent to this proclamation), to demonstrating with love and consistency the grace and mercy of God, without mentioning or defending the reality and implications of the Gospel which such actions are based on and receive their power from. Not enough grace should not be replaced by not enough truth. Christians should practice good theology and good works, and not abandon either for the sake of the other.

Greg Boyd in his sermon series, The Cross and the Sword, identifies five disastrous consequences when we mix the kingdom of this world with the Kingdom of God, or more specifically, when the Church involves itself in issues of political concern:

1. Our witness to Christ is compromised
2. We lose our missionary focus
3. We trust power-over instead of power-under
4. We allow the kingdom of the world to set the agenda
5. The Church sees itself as the guardian of social morality

You can listen yourself to hear at length what I could not easily summarize here, but what I hear Greg Boyd saying is that all we as Christians should do, living with a Kingdom of God mandate, is see the need, meet the need, and proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand; anything more he says, will be disastrous. What does the Kingdom of God at hand mean and what does it include? Living and loving like Jesus, he would say. Does loving like Jesus mean ignoring obvious injustices that could be reversed through gracious, truthful political engagement? William Wilberforce didn’t think so. He spoke up inside his culture and political structure and eventually brought about the end to the obvious injustice of slavery.

I think it is inaccurate and dangerous to ignore the fact that God uses the Church to bring about positive social change that glorifies him and honors his demands (See: When God Disturbs the Peace). Just as those demands did not tolerate, and through His Spirit working in His people brought about the end to, slavery; so it will not tolerate the destruction of His image bearers in the womb and will, I believe, in His sovereignty bring such horrors to an end also. May it be through the Church, and may we not abandon our role in such a God-glorifying, people-loving, culture-transforming, Kingdom-building development.

When discussing the Church’s embarrassing examples of attempting to guard morality, Boyd is rightfully appalled at the lack of criteria the Church uses to decide on moral issues to guard. Why is there so much fuss about nudity on television and so little concern at all about sexual trafficking in Cambodia? Why are there so many rallying outside a courtroom protesting gay marriage and so few outside a homeless shelter protesting or combating homelessness? In his frustration at why Christians choose the wrong issues to guard, and in turn paint the picture of hypocrisy to the outside world (which is true), he seems to imply that Christians should not be concerned about either. Why can’t we be concerned about both? I would ask why are some so passionate about racial reconciliation in our world but so unconcerned about the lives of unborn babies (many of which are black) that are taken every day? Why can’t we be concerned about both?

Without the proper balance of truth, the Church would become just a well-meaning and loving charity organization with no ultimate foundation and no eternal impact that accepts that some innocent babies will be killed, and some fundamental institutions will be redefined, and no ultimate and complete answer is available to hurting people who look at our love and ask, “Who is this Jesus”? The answer will never only be that He is a good man who came to this earth to show us the way to live and treat people, who spoke one version of truth that you can take the parts you like and discard the parts you don’t. A much better, more loving, more encouraging, and more helpful answer is that He came to do all those things and love people in the way he did, and he did all this as truly God with all the authority under heaven and only in His sovereign and gracious and glorious name will anyone be saved. The pendulum needs to be balanced.

What I mean by Grace

So let me say that what I mean by grace is that we all are sinners and we must first remove the tree trunk in our eye before we will have any ability or effectiveness helping others with the speck in theirs. It is fundamentally and eternally true that the world will know us by our love. And not the kind of love that is articulated in Hallmark cards, but the kind of selfless, sacrificial, Calvary-type love that demonstrates Christ through the surrender of time, resources, energy, and even life, if necessary. What I mean by grace is the Philippians 2 kind: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

What I mean by grace is that social change is more possible through soul change, and we should by our witness love people into relationships with Christ before lobbying for some political party that will not exist in the fullness of time. But not all political involvement destroys the Church or is inconsistent with the life and demands of Jesus. Ronald Sider says it this way: “Unless we embrace the biblical truth that sin is personal and social, we will never understand either the full set of causes or a comprehensive set of solutions to racism and economic injustice – or, for that matter, the destruction of the family and the loss of respect for the sanctity of human life. Because of the way God made us, we change society both one person at a time and through changing unjust systems. A biblical perspective demands both personal conversions and structural change.”

Some think that the “religious right” is in turmoil and utter fear after the election of Barack Obama. I’m not as concerned about the religious right political agenda as I am Jesus Christ’s Kingdom of God agenda, but I don’t believe the political agenda is altogether damaging to the Kingdom agenda, as long as we are careful and have a Christ-like balance of grace and truth. Again, William Wilberforce is a striking example here. Sider gives additional perspective: “Wilberforce and the evangelical abolitionists did not argue that the only way to end slavery was to convert all the slave owners. They worked for new laws that would change the structures by making slaveholding illegal.” And in the process, God changed the hearts of many slave owners, not to mention slaves and activists!

I was greatly impacted and convicted by The Cross and the Sword series because I, like many, so quickly preach and talk and much more slowly love and listen and help people who are in need. The stories of missionaries and servants and social workers and Mother Teresa-types are so few but so glorious. People who so selflessly love and care for hurting people that those people (unprompted) ask the question that only the reality of Jesus Christ can answer, and then through the Gospel those servants answer the question to the salvation of God’s people. It is healthy for me to hear that the enemy is not the liberal or the atheist, but the enemy is the principalities and powers of this present darkness who would have me hate the liberal and atheist instead of love them.

Grace and Truth in the Sanctity of Life

Boyd gives the example of Dorothy, who demonstrates more than proclaims the concept of being pro-life by her love and sacrifice for women who find themselves in crisis pregnancy situations. An example of loving and honoring and respecting women so much that even in the worst of situations, the opportunity is made available to make abortion an unwanted and unneeded option. His example of Dorothy indicates what all in the pro-life movement need more of: defense and love of the mother as much as that of the unborn baby. But then at the end of his description of the example of Dorothy, he indicates that she still considers herself pro-choice. Why can’t the perfect example be of someone who loves and lives like this, but also proclaims and defends the truth that abortion has no place in the Kingdom of God? We need to do both! Wouldn’t Jesus Christ do both?!

So if we’re going to be like Dorothy and love women at every level, helping them and pleading with them to avoid the option of abortion, but still philosophically be pro-choice, shame on us. We are sacrificing truth for the sake of grace. But of course, if we are going to be pro-life and not be at all like Dorothy in our love and support and defense of women in addition to unborn babies, shame on us. We are sacrificing grace for the sake of truth. Jesus Christ did not come to us that way and I do not believe he desires us to go out into the world that way.

You might say, wait a minute: you are making the political pro-life stance to be synonymous with truth. What I am actually doing is presenting the concept of pro-life to be a more true application of the Gospel and grace and truth of Jesus Christ. I feel confident saying this because to be pro-life (by my definition) does not mean to be anti-choice, and so it leaves open the option of not only defending unborn babies but also loving women and counseling them towards the most loving and Christ-like choice. Being pro-choice does not necessarily mean anti-life, but does leave open too much of a possibility for abortion and death to be a result. Perhaps you could refer to what I define as pro-life as pro-choice, and that would be fine. I don’t care about semantics. Just as long as we are both loving the women and defending the unborn in all circumstances, and not just loving the women and potentially sacrificing the unborn if that seems like the only option. We should never allow it be the only option. The only exception I personally can accept is when the life of the mother is at stake, and as the commentary in the ESV Study Bible says, “Here it is necessary to recognize that removing the unborn child is done with the direct intention of saving the life of the mother, and not with the direct intention of taking the child’s life (which, if the medical technology exists, should also be preserved).”

Grace and Truth in Marriage

As far as the marriage debate, I plead ignorance to both marriage and homosexuality, so I would be hard pressed to muster an educated comment on what the political and legislative priorities should be on such a delicate issue, but one that the God of the Universe is not silent about. What I will say is that it seems that the question of equal rights is small potatoes compared to the spiritual and social implications of allowing marriage to be redefined. In other words, allow tax benefits and hospital visits (because those who consider themselves homosexual obviously are equal as people) without redefining a sacred institution meant to show us the most mysterious and glorious relationship in the world, and meant to serve as the foundation of the family, which is the foundation of society. Either way, the Church should love unconditionally, and proclaim what is important to God unconditionally, and how that is worked out politically, I don’t presume to know. But I absolutely do care, and so should the Church.

God is Still Sovereign

The effectiveness of the Gospel depends so much on grace and truth. If we are not gracious, our truth will be altogether unattractive, and if we are not truthful, our grace will lead to nothing in which to believe and have no power in which to save. The Gospel of the Kingdom, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whatever you want to call it, will be lost without the appropriate amount of both.

God willing, I will also be able in future posts to mobilize Christians in our generation to be equally passionate about other injustices that are just as horrible and just as inconsistent with the grace and truth and person of Jesus Christ as abortion; like poverty and racism and sexual trafficking. And may our focus, on our knees, be to approach these things with just as much grace as we do truth.

Ronald Sider also asks in a more recent book (called The Scandal of Evangelical Politics, which probably does a much better job than me making the point of this post), why are Christians missing the opportunity to change the world? He argues that the evangelical community’s approach to a comprehensive political philosophy has been inconsistent and confusing, but that is no reason to not form a better one. For example, regarding the sanctity of life, we focus only on abortion, “as if life begins at conception and ends at birth”, and we ignore other problems like starving children and adults who are killed each year due to tobacco smoke. If we focus on only some of these things, our passion for the “sanctity of life” is confusing and ineffective. If we focus on all of these things, God through us could change the world. Let’s not miss that opportunity.

And at the end of the day, our hope for these things is ultimately in God, not in any government or any culture. But we should not assume the role of the Church in governmental structures or cultural realities is altogether ineffective or damaging or outside of the Sovereignty of God. The Church can stay separate from the state and still be engaged and effective. History has some promising, yet rare, examples of social change working within God’s Sovereignty that we should look to for inspiration, and we should trust God to work through us in these ways again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One For the Books

Today I woke up to an interesting feeling. Physically, I was below par still struggling with a sore throat and fever. I accidentally took Nyquil instead of Dayquil to start my day, which is not funny, despite the fact that you are laughing right now. But that is neither here nor there. Emotionally, I was a bit confused; in between excited, like so many in the country, and heartbroken, at what the election of Barack Obama might mean for the issues I care deeply about, especially defenseless unborn babies whose voices were further silenced yesterday. I was also confused wondering how I really even would have responded if McCain had won. Probably, I would have had a harder time demonstrating humility and reinforcing the importance of talking about Jesus instead of how I was right. Spiritually, I was broken and desperate for the sovereignty and never-ending mercy of God to overwhelm and sustain me, for yet another undeserved day of life.

After indulging in the political mess for several months, in a way and with words that I do not regret, I now have a fresh resolve to know and talk more about the Bible and Jesus Christ and less about everything else. God is as holy, we are as sinful, the Bible is as preeminent, and the Cross is as central, and shocking, and appalling, and glorious, as it was before this Presidential election. And it will remain so after, perhaps, several more. I resolve to more faithfully and ruthlessly read and study the Bible, and speak the name of Jesus Christ in a way that is true and relevant to our culture, our generation, and our time. I resolve to more courageously and selflessly engage the culture and participate in the work of God, through service (even that inspired by the President-elect) in the strength that God provides, so that reconciliation can be realized racially, culturally, and spiritually, and justice can roll on like a river, all in the name that is above all names, that at the name of Jesus Christ every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father and to the lasting joy of those who put their trust in Him. And all the while I resolve to do this not compromising or giving up the absolute truths that I know to be true. (Please read this excellent challenge on the implications and necessities of being pro-life with an Obama Administration: Pro-Life Advocacy in the Obama Era. Please read it no matter your stance on the issue).

And then these words by Dr. Albert Mohler are a perfect way to further motivate in this effort:

"The election of Sen. Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States came as a bang, not a whimper. The tremors had been perceptible for days, maybe even weeks. On Tuesday, America experienced nothing less than a political and cultural earthquake.

The margin of victory for the Democratic ticket was clear. Americans voted in record numbers and with tangible enthusiasm. By the end of the day, it was clear that Barack Obama would be elected with a majority of the popular vote and a near landslide in the Electoral College. When President-Elect Obama greeted the throngs of his supporters in Chicago's Grant Park, he basked in the glory of electoral energy.

For many of us, the end of the night brought disappointment. In this case, the disappointment is compounded by the sense that the issues that did not allow us to support Sen. Obama are matters of life and death -- not just political issues of heated debate. Furthermore, the margin of victory and sense of a shift in the political landscape point to greater disappointments ahead. We all knew that so much was at stake.

For others, the night was magical and momentous. Young and old cried tears of amazement and victory as America elected its first African-American President -- and elected him overwhelmingly. Just forty years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, an African-American stood to claim victory as President-Elect of the nation. As Sen. Obama assured the crowd in Chicago and the watching nation, "We will get there. We will get there." No one hearing those words could fail to hear the refrain of plaintive words spoken in Memphis four decades ago. President-Elect Obama would stand upon the mountaintop that Dr. King had foreseen.

That victory is a hallmark moment in history for all Americans -- not just for those who voted for Sen. Obama. As a nation, we will never think of ourselves the same way again. Americans rich and poor, black and white, old and young, will look to an African-American man and know him as President of the United States. The President. The only President. The elected President. Our President.

Every American should be moved by the sight of young African-Americans who -- for the first time -- now believe that they have a purchase in American democracy. Old men and old women, grandsons and granddaughters of slaves and slaveholders, will look to an African-American as President.

Regardless of politics, could anyone remain unmoved by the sight of Jesse Jackson crying alone amidst the crowd in Chicago? This dimension of Election Day transcends politics and touches the heart of the American people.

Yet, the issues and the politics remain. Given the scale of the Democratic victory, the political landscape will be completely reshaped. The fight for the dignity and sanctity of unborn human beings has been set back by a great loss, and by the election of a President who has announced his intention to sign the Freedom of Choice Act into law. The struggle to protect marriage against its destruction by redefinition is now complicated by the election of a President who has declared his aim to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. On issue after issue, we face a longer, harder, and more protracted struggle than ever before.

Still, we must press on as advocates for the unborn, for the elderly, for the infirm, and for the vulnerable. We must redouble our efforts to defend marriage and the integrity of the family. We must be vigilant to protect religious liberty and the freedom of the pulpit. We face awesome battles ahead.

At the same time, we must be honest and recognize that the political maps are being redrawn before our eyes. Will the Republican Party decide that conservative Christians are just too troublesome for the party and see the pro-life movement as a liability? There is the real danger that the Republicans, stung by this defeat, will adopt a libertarian approach to divisive moral issues and show conservative Christians the door.

Others will declare these struggles over, arguing that the election of Sen. Obama means that Americans in general -- and many younger Evangelicals in particular -- are ready to "move on" to other issues. This is no time for surrender or the abandonment of our core principles. We face a much harder struggle ahead, but we have no right to abandon the struggle.

We should look for opportunities to work with the new President and his administration where we can. We must hope that he will lead and govern as the bridge-builder he claimed to be in his campaign. We must confront and oppose the Obama administration where conscience demands, but work together where conscience allows.

Evangelical Christians face another challenge with the election of Sen. Obama, and a failure to rise to this challenge will bring disrepute upon the Gospel, as well as upon ourselves. There must be absolutely no denial of the legitimacy of President-Elect Obama's election and no failure to accord this new President the respect and honor due to anyone elected to that high office. Failure in this responsibility is disobedience to a clear biblical command.

Beyond this, we must commit ourselves to pray for this new President, for his wife and family, for his administration, and for the nation. We are commanded to pray for rulers, and this new President faces challenges that are not only daunting but potentially disastrous. May God grant him wisdom. He and his family will face new challenges and the pressures of this office. May God protect them, give them joy in their family life, and hold them close together.

We must pray that God will protect this nation even as the new President settles into his role as Commander in Chief, and that God will grant peace as he leads the nation through times of trial and international conflict and tension.

We must pray that God would change President-Elect Obama's mind and heart on issues of our crucial concern. May God change his heart and open his eyes to see abortion as the murder of the innocent unborn, to see marriage as an institution to be defended, and to see a host of issues in a new light. We must pray this from this day until the day he leaves office. God is sovereign, after all.

Without doubt, we face hard days ahead. Realistically, we must expect to be frustrated and disappointed. We may find ourselves to be defeated and discouraged. We must keep ever in mind that it is God who raises up nations and pulls them down, and who judges both nations and rulers. We must not act or think as unbelievers, or as those who do not trust God.

America has chosen a President. President-Elect Barack Obama is that choice, and he faces a breathtaking array of challenges and choices in days ahead. This is the time for Christians to begin praying in earnest for our new President. There is no time to lose."