January 21, Monday

The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith.  Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.

Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.  I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.  

 

Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the Trump Presidency”

1 Timothy 2:1-3

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.”

Since immigrating to America in 1974 and prior to the 2016 election, I’ve lived under seven presidents (beginning with Gerald Ford); and none of them have been quite like the current one (maybe ever).  So, while every President, whether Republican or Democrat, will get his share of good, bad and ugly when their presidency is appraised, the left will certainly make an exception with Donald Trump. No doubt they will point out a litany of negativity associated with him: several people around the president facing imprisonment for illegal activities and multiple investigations into Trump’s presidential campaign, even his foundation. But the right will counter that by pointing to things like record-low unemployment rate and NATO allies finally increasing their defense spending in response to Mr. Trump’s hard stance.  How should we then evaluate the performance of the current president?

I’m a pastor who has an adequate knowledge of the Bible. So I can assuredly say that although Scripture was completed a long time ago, it still speaks clearly on many current issues, such as same-sex marriage (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9; Eph. 5:31), terminating the life of the unborn (Ps. 139:14-15), unfair labor practices (James 5:1-6), etc. Nevertheless, such biblical clarity may not lend itself to other issues, such as whether to build a wall to secure porous borders (something most politicians on both sides of the aisle agree), discard the Obamacare, or pull the remaining U.S. troops out of Syria.  Therefore, if I were to bear prophetic witness to Donald Trump’s presidency, I would need to base it on his handling of those issues that are spoken clearly in Scripture, thereby leaving no room for your or my opinion.

Thus, when Trump’s current job performance is evaluated accordingly, one unequivocally good thing that is happening under his presidency is this: weekly Bible studies held in the White House, attended by several top Trump administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Agriculture Secretary Sunny Perdu, and Education Secretary Betsy Devos. As believers, we should be grateful to the President for allowing our leaders to gather at the White House to “humble themselves and pray and seek [God’s] face” (2 Chron. 7:14) over complex matters that are impossible to please everyone; of course, it would be even better if the president joins them—something to pray for in 2019.

But, what about the bad (a.k.a., illegality)? For instance, is building a wall an immoral act? There may be real good reasons for opposing it, but as CNN anchor Chris Cuomo—of all people— said, “Wanting barriers along the border is not propaganda. It’s not immoral. It’s not wrong.”  Truth be told, while the intensity surrounding Trump’s alleged misdeeds is reaching a fever pitch where Cuomo works, key allegations against his presidential campaign are just allegations at this point; some, in fact, have already been debunked.  The latest one had Trump tell his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, of all people, denied it. Nevertheless, it’s true that Trump committed adultery with an adult-film star before becoming the President and paid hush money for reasons yet to be confirmed. That is an unequivocal wrongdoing for which he ought to apologize.  Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if, eventually, Trump’s bad will outweigh any good he might’ve done; for now, I cannot speak against Trump’s alleged bad deeds surrounding his presidential campaign until all or some are confirmed later. Then we will mourn and demand our president to repent.

Meanwhile, there is much confirmed ugliness in the current presidency. So, what would prophet Nathan and John the Baptist, who called out King David and Herod Antipas, respectively, for their immorality, say to our President regarding his “ugly” if they were his spiritual advisors? You needn’t guess because Eddie Kim, a pastor at the Church of Southland, put it so well in his August 19 (2018) sermon that a relevant portion is cited here.  He said:

“I don’t mean to get too political here, but I am going there. Whether you like President Trump or not, economists say that our economy is actually steady; as a matter of fact, it is actually booming and growing.  Even the foreign policy experts and analyst are saying that despite crazy rhetoric and schizophrenic policy of this administration, there is a weird stability around the world. Even the Iranian pastor who spoke at AMI conference last week mentioned that the U.S. policy toward Iran right now is actually helping the people.  [This is] something you don’t hear about in the news. Now, the sad reality is no matter how well this economy does—we could have zero unemployment; we could have Middle East peace and world peace—this presidency sadly will always remain controversial. And that’s because our president comes across as lacking humility.”

And the absence of humility—also known as pride—wears ugly on anyone, including the most powerful person in the world. So, we pray for our president. That’s our duty, for we are commanded to offer “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings . . . for kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Tim. 2:1).  Pray that President Trump will “humble [him]self before God” (2 Chron. 34:27); afterwards, let’s repeat the same prayer for ourselves, for we need humility just as much as Mr. Trump.

Prayer: Lord, we pray for President Trump, the man whom You chose to lead this nation at this moment. God, cause him to humble himself before You and cry out for Your grace and mercy. Remind him to seek forgiveness for his sins and Your righteousness to govern our nation. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 24

Tomorrow’s Blog: Women’s Role in the Church (1): “Liberals, Complementarians and Egalitarians.”


Lunch Break Study

Read Daniel 4:28-37:  

All this [the king’s dream] came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws. Nebuchadnezzar Restored 34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

Questions to Consider

  1. In what way is our President similar to King Nebuchadnezzar?
  2. In what form did the humbling of this mighty king take place?
  3. What do you suppose this king realized while he was roaming in the wilderness for 7 years?

Note

  1. Nebuchadnezzar was an egotistical king who truly believed that his success was due to his own doing; and it was all for his own glory. A person like that shares credit with no one. It sort of reminds us of a man who used to fire people on his own reality show.
  2. God stripped him of everything, even his humanhood. This goes to show how hardened Nebuchadnezzar’s ego was.  To this end 1 Peter 5:5a says, “God opposes the proud.”
  3. He reached the end of himself. It took 7 long years for him to realize a simple lesson: God is everything and I am nothing. Jesus puts it: “For apart from me you cannot do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).  The second half of 1 Peter 5:5 says, “But [God] gives grace to the humble.” That grace was manifested through his men who searched for Nebuchadnezzar to restore his kingship.

Evening Reflection

As we began the day praying for our President, let’s end it by praying for him again. There is no doubt that he has become such a polarizing figure that many of us simply do not like him. But, if I may add, he also inherited a nation that was quite divisive due to what is called “identity politics” that prioritizes meeting the needs of certain groups historically marginalized, while largely ignoring those folks who were instrumental in voting for Trump that won the election for him.  I am veering off course here—it is a complex job that turns every President’s hair gray fast. Know that God put Mr. Trump in the office for reasons that are clear to Him and largely a guess work for us. So, pray for the President and his Vice-President Pence, your senators and governors. That’s our responsibility.

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