Last Meal

Three men, an Italian, a Frenchman, and a Spaniard, were condemned to be executed. Their captors told them they had the right to a final meal before their execution. They started with the Frenchman.

“Give me some French wine and French bread,” he requested.

So they gave it to him, he ate it, and then was put to death.

Next, it was the Italian’s turn. “Give me a plate of pasta,” he requested. They brought him his pasta, he ate it, and was then executed.

Finally, it was the Spaniard’s turn. “What would you like for your last meal?” he was asked. “I want a big plate of strawberries,” he said.

“Strawberries? Are you serious?” they responded.

“Yes, I want a plate of strawberries,” he insisted.

His executioners replied, “But strawberries aren’t even in season!”

“I know,” said the Spaniard. “I’m willing to wait.”

The Bible says, “It is appointed for a man to die, and then comes the judgment.” You can be certain of both. Eating strawberries may put things off a bit, but nothing can change the facts. You are going to die. The question is not whether you will die, but whether you will be ready. That’s something only you can answer. And God.

“The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to the God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

The Rushmore Report – Here’s How We Can Protect Our Children If We Really Want To

The tragic attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is a deeply painful reminder of how much we have failed to honestly confront the problem of school shootings in America. Putting up “Gun Free Zone” signs is not a solution. It is an act of self-deception. Killers are not slowed by community sentiment.

America is not going to become gun-free. Firearm-specific bans such as on semi-automatic rifles won’t have an impact because the majority of mass shootings in the United States are committed with handguns. Case in point: the deadliest shooting in our history, in 2007, at Virginia Tech. The killer used a handgun.

Mental health-focused “solutions” are incompatible with civil liberties. America is not going to adopt laws to apprehend or restrict every person who might become dangerous. The fact is, each killer’s threat is much more obvious after the killings.

Make no mistake – evil people with guns must be stopped by good people with guns. Furthermore, the faster good people can respond, the fewer innocent people will be killed.

Every school in America should have several teachers and administrators trained in firearms who are permitted to carry concealed weapons. The number of these “protectors of the innocent” in each school should be determined by the number of students.

Agreeing to serve in this role might be encouraged with an appropriate monthly stipend. After all, in Georgia, teachers who agree to serve as coaches are paid stipends ranging from $150 to $400 per month.

Because these protectors would have concealed weapons and not be in uniform, would-be killers would have no idea who might be capable of ending their threat by ending them.

This idea is the same principle behind the Federal Air Marshal Service, which was rapidly expanded after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The marshals provide countervailing force to stop terrorists. And these marshals are unidentifiable, so the terrorists don’t know who they are. Do you ever hear of anyone who feels less safe getting on a plane because they know an armed air marshal in on board?

If we are really serious about protecting our children, we must have trained and equipped protectors prepared to handle this type of situation whenever there are school activities. The Parkland school had an armed officer assigned to the campus, but the officer never encountered the shooter and was not able to respond in time.

Dramatically increasing the presence of uniformed, visibly-armed security guards, however, might create an environment ill-suited for learning.

Instead, teachers and administrators serving as protectors could complement and support the dedicated officer or security personnel who are already serving in many schools.

This combination of using uniformed police officers to handle standard school security challenges – while also having responsible adult protectors who are already going to be working in the school prepared to provide additional force in the case of a catastrophic emergency, like a mass shooting – is the most effective and practical way to protect our children.

About the Author

Newt Gingrich is the former Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The Rushmore Report – The Question the Media Asks Ivanka Trump that They Would Never Ask Chelsea Clinton

On Monday, Ivanka Trump was interviewed on NBC’s Today Show, when reporter Pete Alexander asked her a personal question about the President of the United States. It was intended to create sensationalism. And it was a question the mainstream media would never ask Chelsea Clinton about her father.

Alexander asked Ivanka about sexual harassment allegations against the President. “Do you believe your father’s accusers?” Alexander asked.

Ivanka offered a brilliant response. “I think it’s a pretty inappropriate question to ask a daughter if she believes the accusers of her father when he’s affirmatively stated that there’s no truth to it. I don’t think that’s a question you would ask many other daughters. I believe my father. I know my father, so I think I have that right as a daughter, to believe my father.”

Ben Shapiro writes, “Whether President Trump ought to be believed in his rejection of all accusations of sexual misconduct is one question. (The simple answer is no, given his history and the multiplicity of the allegations.) But there’s little question that children tend to believe what their parents say. And there’s no question that Ivanka is absolutely right about the media’s variable treatment of Republican children and Democratic children. The question to Ivanka wasn’t inappropriate. But has any member of the media ever asked Chelsea Clinton about rape and sexual harassment allegations regarding Bill Clinton?”

There is a really good reason so many Republicans believe the media is biased against them. They are.

The Rushmore Report – How Billy Graham Changed My Life

Billy Graham was, with C.S. Lewis, one of the 20th century’s most influential figures in evangelicalism. I never had the honor of meeting Lewis, but I did know Billy, who died last week at 99. He changed my life.

I first met him on my grandmother’s porch in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1985. In her 80s, she was frail but sharp. They sat together and Billy held her hand while talking about the Bible. Later she described it as one of the most peaceful days of her life.

Soon after, I had my own personal encounter with Billy. As I wrote in Decision Points, he asked me to go for a walk with him around Walker’s Point. I was captivated by him. He had a powerful presence, full of kindness and grace, and a keen mind. He asked about my life in Texas. I talked to him about Laura and our little girls.

Then I mentioned something I’d been thinking about for awhile – that reading the Bible might help make me a better person. He told me about one of the Bible’s most fundamental lessons: one should strive to be better, but we’re all sinners who earn God’s love not through our good deeds, but through His grace. It was a profound concept, one I did not fully grasp that day. But Billy had planted a seed. His thoughtful explanation made the soil less hard, the brambles less thick.

Shortly after we got back to Texas, a package from Billy arrived. It was a copy of the Living Bible. He had inscribed it and included a reference to Philippians 1:6: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

God’s work within me began in earnest with Billy’s outreach. His care and his teachings were the real beginning of my faith walk – and the start of the end of my drinking. I couldn’t have given up alcohol on my own. But in 1986, at 40, I finally found the strength to quit. That strength came from love I had felt from my earliest days and from faith I didn’t fully discover until my later years.

I was also fortunate to witness Billy’s remarkable capacity to minister to everyone he met. When I was governor of Texas, I sat behind Billy at one of his crusades in San Antonio. His powerful message of God’s love moved people to tears and motivated hundreds to come forward to commit themselves to Christ. I remember thinking about all the crusades Billy had led over the years around the world, and his capacity to open up hearts to Jesus. This good man was truly a shepherd of the Lord.

Perhaps his most meaningful service came on September 14, 2001. After the 9/11 attacks, I asked Billy to lead the ecumenical service at Washington National Cathedral. It was no easy task. America was on bended knee – frightened, angry, uncertain. As only Billy Graham could, he helped us feel God’s arms wrapped around our mourning country.

“We come together today,” he began, “to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious or political background may be. The Bible says that he is ‘the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.'” God comforted a nation that day through a very special servant.

In a difficult moment, Billy reminded me – and all of us – where we can find strength. And he helped us start to heal by offering three lessons: the mystery and reality of evil, our need for each other, and hope for the present and future. “As a Christian,” Graham said at the 9/11 service, “I have hope, not just for this life, but for heaven and the life to come.”

A final story: One night while dad was away on a trip during his presidency, mother and I had dinner at the White House. Eventually we got to talking about religion and who gets to go to heaven. I made the point that the New Testament says clearly that to get to heaven, one must believe in Christ. Mother asked about the devout who don’t believe in Jesus but do God’s work by serving others. She then took advantage of one of the benefits of being first lady. She picked up the phone and asked the White House operator to call Reverend Graham.

It wasn’t long before his reassuring Southern voice was on the line. He told us, as I recall, “Barbara and George, I believe what is written in the New Testament. But don’t play God. He decides who goes to heaven, not you.” Any doctrinal certitude gave way to a calm trust that God had this figured out better than I did.

Those of us who were blessed to know Billy Graham benefited from his deep convictions and personal example, his wisdom and humility, his grace and purity of heart. We knew that his life was a gift from the Almighty. And I rejoice that he is now in the company of God, whom he loved so much and served so well.

About the Author

George W. Bush served as the 43rd President of the United States.

Great Organization

In his book, Harvest of Humility, John Seamands told of a wounded German soldier who was ordered to go to the military hospital for treatment. When he arrived at the large and imposing building, he saw two doors, one marked “For the slightly wounded” and the other, “For the seriously wounded.”

He entered the first door and soon found two more, one marked “For officers,” and the other marked “For non-officers.”

He entered through the latter and was suddenly faced with two more doors, marked “Party members” and “Non-party members.”

He took the second, and then found himself standing back on the street. When the soldier returned home his mother asked him, “How did you get along at the hospital?”

“Well, Mother,” he replied, “to be honest, the people there didn’t do anything for me, but they have tremendous organization!”

That is a picture of many modern churches. The people are busy, and things are well-organized. Things run well. But lives aren’t being changed. The church has just one product: changed lives. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how organized we are.

The Rushmore Report – What Kathie Lee Gifford Told Megyn Kelly Off Camera

During an interview on Megyn Kelly Today last week, NBC Today Show anchor Kathie Lee Gifford was on to honor the memory of the late Billy Graham. While there, Kelly revealed what the two women have been talking about off camera for months. It’s a conversation you can’t have on the air these days.

Kelly revealed that Gifford has been talking to her about God behind the cameras.

“Billy was really one of a kind,” Kelly told Gifford in reference to Mr. Graham. “When I look back at what he preached after 9/11 saying, ‘The lesson here is our need for one another,'” I am amazed.

Kelly highlighted the message of sin and redemption Graham left with former president Bill Clinton in the middle of his Monica Lewinsky scandal. The host admitted that she also holds Gifford in high regard because she likens her to the world renowned minister who peacefully passed away in his North Carolina home at the age of 99.

Kelly said to Gifford, “You and I have been having an ongoing conversation about faith and a connection with God.”

She continued, “Who else is there today that has that kind of message? That uplifting, joyful, faithful, help me get reconnected, don’t shame me, don’t guilt me, someone who’s nonpartisan, someone who’s full of love, someone who’s not covered in scandal, not trying to rip anybody off.”

Gifford took the opportunity to continue Graham’s legacy right there and then while on Kelly’s program. The Emmy Award winner spoke openly of the free gift of salvation as Kelly looked on in admiration.

“Every one of us should ask, ‘Do I have a malignancy on my soul? Where’s the doctor?'” Gifford answered her own question: “The good doctor is in. And He conquered death for all time for every one of us. And it’s free. It’s probably the only thing in this whole world that is completely free.”

Gifford shared her personal connection with the famed evangelist. While attending a movie produced by the Graham organization, she reflects, “God met me right where I lived. I wanted to be an actress. So where does God meet me? In a movie theater.”

At Graham’s 95th birthday celebration, Gifford said she got to tell Graham “thank you” in person one last time.

As for sharing her faith with Megyn Kelly, the conversation will continue.

About the Author

Jeannie Law writes for The Christian Post.

The Rushmore Report – Oakland Mayor Does the Indefensible

Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf thinks she is the new Paul Revere. This week, the mayor rode through the streets of Oakland to warn the locals that the bad guys were coming – not the British; it’s scarier than that. The fine people of Oakland needed to be warned because the enemy was on the way. They were under attack. But from whom?

Law enforcement.

Yep, those terrifying federal law enforcement agents known as ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) were on their way.

Mayor Schaff issued the most dire warning of her administration. Her statement read, “Earlier today, I learned from multiple credible sources that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is preparing to conduct an operation in the Bay Area, including Oakland, starting as soon as within the next 24 hours. As Mayor of Oakland, I am sharing this information publicly, not to panic our residents but to protect them.”

In direct opposition to federal law, the mayor continued, “Oakland police officers are prohibited from participating in ICE activities. Additionally, California state law prohibits business owners from assisting ICE agents in immigration enforcement and bars federal agents from accessing employee-only areas.”

Despite ICE making it clear on numerous occasions that when local authorities do not cooperate with the federal government, safety actually decreases, Mayor Schaff said her priority was to get people to prepare, not panic.

“My priority is for the well-being and safety of all residents – particularly our most vulnerable – and I know that Oakland is safer when we share information, encourage community awareness, and care for our neighbors,” the defiant Democrat said in the statement.

So when the mayor speaks of keeping “all residents” safe, she means she wants to shield them from trained law enforcement personnel, and open legal residents up to thousands of undocumented men and women who are in the country illegally, and who have killed dozens of Oakland citizens over the past few years.

My message to the mayor is this: We are a nation of laws. How can you serve as the head of a major city while exposing your legal American citizens to illegals whom you choose to shield from the law you are sworn to uphold?

My message to Paul Revere is this: Your legacy is safe.

The Rushmore Report – Rick Santorum: ‘What All These Shooters Have in Common’

In an interview with CNN host Jake Tapper, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum said the public debate after the Parkland mass shooting should not be focused only on gun control, but also on the real problem. Santorum identified the number one problem that is leading to all these mass shootings across the country.

Appearing on State of the Union, Santorum said the most consistent problem among the school shooters is that “these kids come from broken homes without dads, and that is not something we’re talking about. We want to talk about things we can work together on. How about working together to try to see what we can do to get more dads involved in the lives of their kids?”

Santorum continued, “The idea that we’re going to ban these guns is never going to happen and the idea that we’re even focused on this when there are so many other issues that are much more relevant to the systemic problem we have in this country of the breakdown of the family and father – we need to be talking about these things.”

Sen. Santorum has hit on the real issue. Messed up families produce messed up kids, and messed up kids do messed up things. The only real solution is not to control the guns or to arm the schools (though some legislation in these areas may be appropriate). The real issue is to clean up the mess – the mess created by fathers who are not present in the lives of their kids.

Drop the Rock

There is an old story told by Alcoholics Anonymous. A group of Twelve Step members was taking a boat ride to an island called Serenity, and it was a happy bunch of people. As the boat pulled away from the dock, a few on board noticed Mary running down the street trying to catch up with the boat. One member said, “Darn, she’s missing the boat.” Another said, “Maybe not. Come on, Mary! Jump in the water! Swim! Swim! You can make it! You can catch up with us!”

So Mary jumped into the water and started to swim for all she was worth. She swam for quite a while and then started to sink. The members on board, now all aware that Mary was struggling, shouted, “Come on, Mary! Don’t give up! Drop the rock!”

With that encouragement, Mary started swimming again, only to start sinking again shortly afterward. She was going under when she heard all those voices shouting to her, “Mary, drop the rock! Let go and drop the rock!”

Mary was vaguely aware of something around her neck, but she couldn’t quite figure out what it was. Once more, she gathered her strength and started swimming. She was doing quite well, even gaining a little on the boat, but then she felt this heaviness pulling her under again. She saw all those people on the boat holding out their hands and hollering for her to keep swimming and shouting, “Don’t be an idiot, Mary! Drop the rock!”

Then she understood when she was going down for the third time. This thing around her neck, this was why she kept sinking. So when she finally got tired of going under, of her inability to reach Serenity, she let go. She dropped the rock. And then she was free to reach the Serenity that had otherwise eluded her.

God has created for each of us a place called Serenity. But you, like the rest of us, have something you are holding onto. Whatever it is, you have to let it go. It is too heavy and you can’t possibly swim hard enough. In order to find Serenity, you have to drop the rock.

Keys to a Great Christian Marriage

Surveys show the average couple gets married when the man is 31, the woman 29. For someone who is age 30, their average life expectancy is 82. So the average couple getting married in 2016 can expect 50 years of marriage, barring divorce. So what makes for a happy marriage, based on the principles of God? I offer a few suggestions.

1. Put God first, not your marriage. When couples marry, they always assume the best. But when God brings two sinful people together, they don’t leave their sin nature behind. And people are self-centered. That is because of sin. So don’t give your spouse a God complex. Only God deserves to be on a pedestal.

2. Do unto your spouse as you would have your spouse do unto you. Consider the consequences of our words and actions. Ask how you want to be spoken to, and speak that way to your spouse. The Bible says, “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, or criticize their faults – unless, of course, you want the same treatment” (Luke 6:27 The Message).

3. Learn to defer. I met a couple last week, who has been married for 56 years. I asked the man the key to a lasting, happy marriage. He said he learned to say two words: “Yes dear.” The Bible says believers are to submit to one another. That works better in marriage than anywhere else.

4. Put friendship before intimacy and you’ll get both. Sex is not the key to an enduring bond – friendship is. The typical couple spends less than five minutes a day in conversation together. They share only two meals a week. They drift. And then, too often, they divorce.

5. Love as God loves – unconditionally. Until God is at the center of your life, he won’t be at the center of your marriage. God’s love is like an airplane. It overcomes gravity because it is built according to the laws of aerodynamics. What happens if it loses power? The natural law of gravity takes over. A successful marriage is not natural. It is dependent on the power of God, understood or not.

6. Avoid debt. In the first year of marriage, studies show three things are toxic: sexual issues, in-law issues, and money issues. Read about debt. Get on a budget. The Bible speaks of debt a lot. And it never has one good thing to say about it.

7. Learn to forgive. This may be the most important thing I’ve learned in 33 years of marriage. A great marriage is the union of two forgivers. Don’t wait for the apology. True, biblical forgiveness is unconditional.