April Fools’ Day

When I was serving as pastor of First Baptist Church in Gainesville, Texas, in 2006, I got a phone call in my office. The woman on the other end said, “Dr. Denison, your name was given to us as the local pastor who gets the most involved in community issues. I represent a man who is thinking about running for public office. There are four of us in a car, on our way from Oklahoma City to Dallas. We are stopping in Gainesville for lunch, and wondered if we could stop by your office for a few minutes while we are in town. Our candidate would like to meet you.”

I said, “Sure,” not even asking who this “candidate” was. And a few minutes later, my assistant knocked on my door, and in walked this “candidate,” happy to meet a local pastor on his way though our town.

His name was Barack Obama.

Now that is a great story. It’s not a true story, but it’s a great story. Hilda van Stockum wrote, in The Borrowed House, “It is much easier to believe lies than the truth.” Paul said there is coming a time when man will run after a lie rather than embrace the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:11). That day has come.

Today is April Fools’ Day – so watch out. You may hear some good-natured stories that aren’t true. Like mine. I never met the President of my local Rotary Club, let alone the President of the United States. But sometimes our words move beyond being good-natured. We need to recognize a lie. Better yet, we must learn to embrace the Truth.

United States Withdraws from Vietnam

On this day in history, 1973, the last U.S. combat troops left South Vietnam as Hanoi freed the remaining American prisoners of war held in North Vietnam. In 1961, after two decades of indirect military aid, President John F. Kennedy sent the first large force of U.S. military personnel to Vietnam to bolster the ineffective regime of South Vietnam against the communist North. Three years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered limited bombing raids on North Vietnam and Congress authorized the use of U.S. troops. By 1965, Johnson jumped troop levels to more than 300,000 as U.S. air forces commenced the largest bombing campaign in history. Finally, in January 1973, representatives of the United States, North and South Vietnam, and the Vietcong signed a peace agreement ending direct U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. Its key provisions included a cease-fire throughout Vietnam, the withdrawal of U.S. forces, the release of prisoners of war, and the reunification of North and South Vietnam through peaceful means.

Throughout history there have been thousands of wars. The bloodiest war in American history was not Vietnam. Nor was it WWI or WWII. It was the Civil War. Much like the war of Vietnam, the Civil War pitted brother against brother. It’s interesting that when we went to war with a foreign enemy, as we have done many times, we lost fewer lives. It was when we fought against ourselves that we lost more soldiers than any other time in American history.

That’s a good lesson for America today . . . but one we seem slow to learn.

 

Miracle at Niagara Falls

On July 9, 1960, Jim Honeycutt took his co-worker’s children for a boat ride on the upper Niagara River. Jim wanted to give the two kids, 17-year-old Deanne Woodward and her seven-year-old brother Roger, a great view of the rapids, so he took their boat past the marked “point of no return.” Soon, he was being quickly swept downstream, and his efforts to turn back were useless. The boat flipped, and Jim and Roger were rushed toward the brink of the Falls, while Deanne was rescued by John R. Hayes, a New Jersey police officer, who leaned over the protective railing and pulled her out of the water.

Mr. Honeycutt and the young boy fought with all their might, but were no match for the three thousand tons of water that crash over the Horseshoe Falls each second. Predictably, Honeycutt plunged to his death. But Roger, unable to swim, was spotted by Clifford Keech, Captain of the Maid of the Mist sightseeing boat, who saw his orange life jacket popping up within the white water. Keech threw the boy a life preserver, and Roger Woodward became the first survivor to go over Niagara Falls.

In 1990, Roger Woodward returned to Niagara Falls, Ontario, on the thirtieth anniversary of the event. He shared his story with the Glengate Alliance Church, telling of the panic that gripped his heart as he was thrust into the rushing waters. “I was scared to death. I can remember going through the rapids and being thrown into the water and being beaten up pretty badly. My panic shifted to anger as I saw people up and down the shoreline and wondered why they wouldn’t come out and rescue me.” How did the seven-year-old boy survive? “It wasn’t the hand of fate,” he says. “It wasn’t the hand of luck. It was the hand of God that saved my life that day and saved my sister so that we could one day come to know Him.”

Last week, Beth and I visited Niagara Falls. We rode the Maid of the Mist boat and observed the very spot young Roger went over the Falls. Indeed, it was the hand of God that saved him. While there were great numbers of tourists on either side of the Falls that historic day 55 years ago, God did for Roger what no person could possibly do. I’m sure many of them were well-intentioned. But none of them were a match for the raging Falls of Niagara. The boy himself did not know how to swim. All he knew how to do was take the life preserver that was thrown in his direction. That was a decision he had to make for himself.

Each of us were headed toward the inevitable falls. Our efforts could not save us, our friends could not reach us, and our works could not help us. The words of the Psalmist come to mind: “He lifted me out of the slimy pit . . . he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand” (Psalm 40:2). The miracle of Niagara Falls can be your miracle. The Captain has provided your life preserver in his Son, Jesus Christ. There is no more work to be done, but there is a decision to be made. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Like Roger Woodward, you have been preserved for a moment like this. It isn’t the hand of fate. It’s not the hand of luck. It is the hand of God that is reaching out to you today.

The Rushmore Report – Nine Parenting Truths from John Piper

John Piper addressed the question, “Does Proverbs Promise My Child Will Not Stray?” in a recent episode of Ask Pastor John. As you might have guessed, the question was based on Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Piper ended the episode by sharing these nine truths for parents to remember and follow:

  1. In general, bringing up children God’s way will lead them to eternal life. In general, that is true.
  2. This reality would include putting our hope in God and praying earnestly for our wisdom and for their salvation all the way to the grave. Don’t just pray until they get converted at age six. Pray all the way to the grave for your children’s conversions and for the perseverance of their apparent conversions.
  3. Saturate them with the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).
  4. Be radically consistent and authentic in your own faith — not just in behavior, but in affections. Kids need to see how precious Jesus is to mom and dad, not just how he is obeyed or how they get to church or how they read devotions or how they do duty, duty, duty. They need to see the joy and the satisfaction in mom and dad’s heart that Jesus is the greatest friend in the world.
  5. Model the preciousness of the gospel. As we parents confess our own sins and depend on grace, our kids will say, “Oh, you don’t have to be perfect. Mom and dad aren’t perfect. They love grace. They love the gospel because Jesus forgives their sins. And I will know then he can forgive my sins.”
  6. Be part of a Bible-saturated, loving church. Kids need to be surrounded by other believers and not just mom and dad.
  7. Require obedience. Do not be lazy. There are so many young parents today that appear so lazy. They are not willing to get up and do what needs to be done to bring this kid into line. So we should follow through on our punishments and follow through especially on all of our promises of good things that we say we are going to do for them.
  8. God saves children out of failed and unbelieving parenting. God is sovereign. We aren’t the ones, finally, who save our kids. God saves kids and there would hardly be any Christians in the world if he didn’t save them out of failed families.
  9. Rest in the sovereignty of God over your children. We cannot bear the weight of their eternity. That is God’s business and we must roll all of that onto him.

The Rushmore Report – Tim Tebow Says Parents Homeschooled Him to ‘Instill Love for God’

Christian sports star Tim Tebow has opened up about his experience being homeschooled as a child. Speaking to Olympic medalist Jessica Mendoza on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Tebow said that his parents, Bob and Pam, wanted to make sure he and his siblings were taught to love God above all else.

“They wanted to instill love in our hearts, love for God, love for one another. They wanted us to be able to learn a work ethic, a dedication,” he continued.

Now the two-sports star says he has “a heart to encourage the homeschooled kid.”

He said, “To let them know that they are loved, and they are special, and they might feel different, and sometimes might feel alone, sometimes might feel afraid. There might be those times where you go through that.”

The athlete, who was homeschooled until college, explained that his days were filled with Bible study and doing chores on the farm. He had some difficulties when interacting with children who attended regular schools while playing sports, however.

Speaking of his football days as a teenager, he said, “I was brand new at this place [high school football field] and you could tell that that group just, it had so much disdain, you know, because I wasn’t part of them.”

The Rushmore Report – Sanders, Warren, Moore Speak Out on Inequality While Owning 13 Homes Worth $61 Million

On Monday evening, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Michael Moore, and economist Darrick Hamilton hosted a townhall on inequality in America. This makes sense, since they should know an awful lot about it: Sanders owns three homes, Michael Moore owned nine homes as of 2014 and was worth $50 million then, Warren lives in a $2.4 million home and is worth between $3.7 and $10 million herself. All three of them are intent on rectifying the financial imbalances in America by taxing people who make less than they do to pay people who make even less than that, presumably.

All in all, 1.7 million people engaged with the live townhall, at which the participants whined about the terrible fate of people living in the freest, most prosperous country in world history. The participants also ripped into the media for covering Russia and Stormy Daniels but not the downtrodden, with Sanders spitting, “What I would say to our friends in the corporate media: Start paying attention to the reality of how many people in our country are struggling economically every single day — and talk about it.”

Several guests joined during the course of the evening to talk about issues ranging from environmental regulation to campaign finance reform. Elizabeth Warren touted unions: “Unions built America’s middle class. It’ll take unions to rebuild America’s middle class.” This isn’t even close to true, but it makes for a good campaign talking point for her 2020 run (in point of fact, America’s middle class was burgeoning long before the advent of the union movement, and in the aftermath of the downfall of private unions, Americans have been moving into the upper middle class at a rapid rate). Moore, meanwhile, directed his fire at the Democrats: “It’s so important that we hold the people who say they’re for the people — hold their feet to the fire! And if they’re not going to do the job they say they’re going to do, let’s get somebody else.” Never mind that Moore backed Hillary Clinton, the essence of the establishment, in the last presidential cycle.

And, of course, there was Sanders’ usual economic illiteracy: “In recent years, we have seen incredible growth in the number of billionaires, while 40 million Americans continue to live in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on Earth.” The billionaires are not, of course, stealing from small children; America has a rich welfare system for childhood poverty. And America does not have the highest rates of childhood poverty — we have higher rates of relative poverty than other countries (meaning the number of children living at 50% or below a country’s median income, which is still relatively rich by global standards). Even Politifact, a left-wing outlet, has rated Sanders’ statements along these lines “mostly false.”

If these rather rich central-planning advocates want income equality, they can begin by taking out their checkbooks. But that’s not the agenda. The agenda is political power, and demagoguery in its pursuit.

About the Author

Ben Shapiro is chief editor of The Daily Wire, and hosts the most popular conservative blog in the world.

 

 

The Rushmore Report – NBA Broadcaster Tells How He Became a Christian

He has become the voice of the NBA. Now he is the lead studio host for March Madness, as well. His name is Ernie Johnson. He is one of the top sports broadcasters in America. He is a family man. But more than that, he is God’s man. And now he is speaking out – telling how he became a Christian.

Johnson is profiled in the latest issue of FCA Magazine. He tells the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ lead publication how his life was changed at the age of 41.

Twenty years into his studio assignment, working alongside Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O’Neal, Johnson credits his most significant success to his relationship with Jesus Christ.

This is how it happened. Twenty years ago, Johnson’s two oldest children, Eric and Maggie, asked him why they didn’t attend church as a family. After some discussion, Ernie and his wife Cheryl decided to give it a try. They began attending Crossroads, a nondenominational church in Atlanta.

The Emmy-winning broadcaster was moved by the first service he attended, when the pastor asked the congregation two questions: Who’s the provider in your family, and are you pursuing happiness or wholeness?

Those questions challenged Johnson. He knew he needed to be a better husband and father. He returned to Crossroads the next three weeks, and then asked the pastor, Kevin Myers, out to lunch. On December 10, 1997, at an O’Charley’s restaurant, he prayed to God and became a Christian. Cheryl made the same commitment a few months later.

Their pastor explained to them that even before they became believers, God was working in their lives. For example, beginning in 1990, they began adopting children out of love, empathy, and compassion.

That same year, Cheryl watched a “20/20” report on overcrowded orphanages in Romania, where thousands of children were being neglected. Five months later, in 1991, Cheryl convinced Ernie to adopt Michael, a three-year-old boy with special needs. Michael eventually learned how to walk and later speak. Two years later, the Johnsons adopted Carmen from Paraguay. Then in 2011, they added half-sisters Allison and Ashley to the family. Cheryl had met the girls through her work with Street Grace, a faith-based organization mobilizing community leaders to end the sexual trafficking of children throughout the United States.

“She has taught me so much,” Ernie said of Cheryl. “I wanted to play it safe sometimes. She had bigger dreams. You have to put other people first. This can’t be all about you.”

As his faith grew, Johnson considered leaving TNT. Should he continue his career after turning his life over to God? Should he try to find a faith-based job? He asked Cheryl what he should do. She responded on his spiritual birthday by giving him a large compass as a gift. Cheryl’s handwritten note with it reminded him to remember the day he found his ultimate direction in life – and to let God direct him.

Johnson ended up staying with TNT. He knew the platform God gave him would provide opportunities for him to share his faith. And God did just that.

Several moments for these opportunities stand out. First, in August 2003, after noticing a bump near his ear, Johnson was diagnosed with stage two Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. During that time, “Trust God – Period” became his mantra. He was candid about his cancer after the NBA’s All-Star weekend, and six grueling chemotherapy treatments later, Johnson’s cancer was in remission, where it has remained since. He returned to “Inside the NBA” in 2006, never missing a show. A year later, Johnson won the Emmy for outstanding studio host.

“God sometimes whispers and sometimes shouts that His way is better than my way,” Johnson said during his acceptance speech.

Years later, Johnson experienced hardship again when his beloved father died in 2011. About a month later, Michael, who has muscular dystrophy, was put on a ventilator to remain alive. Since then, Johnson spends most of his mornings caring for Michael, now 29, at their home.

Then soon after the most recent presidential election, “Inside the NBA” decided to discuss on air the results that left the country divided. In just over two minutes, Johnson’s commentary resonated with many and was shared millions of times on social media.

“I never know from one election to the next who’s going to be in the Oval Office, but I always know who’s on the throne,” Johnson said into the camera. “I’m on this earth because God created me, and that’s Who I answer to. I’m a Christian. I follow a guy named Jesus; you might have heard of Him. And the greatest commandment He gave me was to love others. And Scripture also tells us to pray for our leaders, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to pray for Donald Trump.”

Johnson sums up these opportunities to shine for Jesus – and the many more chances that will undoubtedly follow – with one concept.

“The Son of Man came to serve, not to be served,” Johnson told FCA. “Being a servant is where I find myself.”

The Rushmore Report – What Do the White House Shake-Ups Mean?

Beleaguered politicians like to complain they are too hemmed in by circumstances and handlers. If only they could throw off the shackles and be themselves, they would surely succeed. President Trump is going through one of those moments now and the restraints are flying off before our eyes.

Look out, world — no more Mr. Nice Guy!

Trump’s decision to be more Trumpian is reflected in a flurry of personnel changes that signal shifts in policies, including his approach to special counsel Robert Mueller.

Asked what was behind one change, an insider described the president’s mindset: “I tried it your way, and it hasn’t worked.”

The topic was a revamp of Trump’s legal team, where the feisty husband-wife team of Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing signed on and the more conciliatory John Dowd signed off. But the legal shake-up was just one example of how Trump is reshaping his presidency for the fights ahead.

Facing crises on several fronts, he is at a political and legal crossroads. With Mueller methodically probing every corner of his life and with women from his past grabbing headlines, the midterm elections are not looking good for Republicans.

Even more important, they’re shaping up as make-or-break for Trump.

Impeachment is almost certain if Democrats take the House and even if they can’t fulfill the left’s dream of removing him, they will block his agenda. In that case, the spending bill the president reluctantly signed Friday would be a fond memory because he’ll never get one closer to his liking.

Trump’s frustrations run the gamut of policy and people. The departure of the perpetually unhappy Gary Cohn from the economic team was timely and the firing of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State was especially liberating.

Neither man was fully on board with Trump’s America First mantra and they weren’t shy about letting outsiders know. Trump was more patient with public dissent than most presidents would be, though he’ll never get credit for restraining himself for as long as he did.

Larry Kudlow, Cohn’s replacement, differs with Trump on tariffs, but was an early supporter and is a happy warrior for tax cuts and economic prosperity.

Tillerson’s planned replacement, CIA chief Mike Pompeo, is sure to bring a harder, more Trumpian edge to diplomacy. The same can be said for the president’s decision to replace Gen. H.R. McMaster as national security adviser with John Bolton.

Bolton is a lightning rod for the left and the Democratic media greeted his appointment with a screaming chorus of “hawk,” as if that’s a sin. In truth, Bolton is a hawk because the world is full of dangerous actors and some evil ones and he sensibly believes there’s no point to being America if we’re going to roll over and surrender our advantages.

Already there are rumblings that Russia, China and North Korea won’t be happy to see Bolton having the president’s ear — which proves Trump chose wisely.

Then there’s Iran. Trump has made it clear he won’t recertify the deeply flawed nuclear deal this year without major changes, and he’s not likely to get those changes because Europeans are leading the talks. Enough said.

Nor is Trump likely to keep tolerating Iran’s regional aggression when our most important allies and the most unlikely bedfellows — Israel and Saudi Arabia — are united in their desire to stop the mullahs. If this is not a coalition worthy of American leadership, what would be?

Each of these issues is perilous, but Trump has a new security sidekick who realizes that the status quo is more dangerous if America does nothing. Bolton, in spirit if not words, has always been an America First kind of guy.

But what does it mean for Trump to be Trump when it comes to Robert Mueller? My reading of the change in lawyers is that Trump gave up on Dowd’s idea that the way to handle the investigation was to cooperate with every request in the belief that, at some point, Mueller would concede he had nothing and close up shop.

Trump’s decision to do it his way, meaning counterpunching with personal attacks, is captured in tweets, such as when he wrote: “Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans?”

Still, that’s fairly mild compared to the views expressed by diGenova and Toensing. He is a former federal prosecutor and she worked for Sen. Barry Goldwater, and both believe top officials within the FBI and Justice Department concocted the collusion charges against Trump for partisan reasons.

I basically agree with them, but it’s not clear how their belief will change the legal strategy in the case at hand, including whether Trump would agree to be interviewed by prosecutors. Dowd argued it would be a mistake and a perjury trap, but Trump said again last week that “I’d like to” meet with Mueller.

He probably will. After all, it’s his neck on the line and he believes he’s always his best defense, even when he’s not.

About the Author

Michael Goodwin writes for the New York Post.

The Revival at Howard Payne

On January 22, 1995, at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood, Texas, two students from Howard Payne University, stood up and confessed their sins. As a result of this incident, many others started to confess their sins before the church. On January 26, a similar event took place on the campus of Howard Payne, a Baptist institution. Word quickly spread to other colleges, and Howard Payne students were soon being invited to share their stories, and similar revivals broke out. From these schools, more students were invited to still other schools, where the movement of God continued to spread.

One of the first two students to confess his sins was a young man named Chris. As he testified about his own life and the spiritual condition of his classmates, “People just started streaming down the aisles” to pray, confess their sins, and restore seemingly doomed relationships,” according to John Avant, pastor of Coggin Avenue. From this time forward, the church  began holding three and a half hour services. Avant said, “This is not something we’re trying to manufacture. It’s the most wonderful thing we’ve ever experienced.”

The events at Coggin Avenue were preceded by about seven weeks of increased prayer. According to Avant, “God is shaking us – something no person could do. God began doing some things in very isolated ways. He transformed the life of a prominent man in the community who was considering suicide, and couples who were within days of divorce were walking the church aisle to seek God’s forgiveness at the altar.” The pastor said that after the events of January 22, the motto among several high school students had become, “God’s going to rock the world, and it’s starting in Brownwood.” They said, “Southern Baptists, Nazarenes, Pentecostals, Independent Baptists, and Presbyterians are getting together just to kneel and pray for revival.”

At Howard Payne, revival broke out during a January 26 “celebration” service, as students praised God in song and shared their testimonies. Students then started to schedule all-night prayer meetings in dormitories. Then, things really got interesting, February 13-15, during five meetings at Howard Payne. A Southern Baptist revival leader preached a series of five worship services, attended by guests who came from as far away as 200 miles. On Tuesday, February 14, more than 600 attended, and student leaders went up to the platform to confess their sins publicly. About 200 stayed after the service to continue praying. Andrea was one of the students there. She reported, “Once we saw the Holy Spirit move, we didn’t want to leave.”

After Howard Payne, some of the first schools to be affected were Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Olivet Nazarene University in Kankakee, Illinois, Criswell College in Dallas, and Moorehead State University in Kentucky. In each case, students went forward during long services to publicly repent of pride, lust, bondage to materialism, bitterness, and racism.

Like the Great Awakenings, the revival of Brownwood has long since faded. Evangelist Billy Sunday used to say, “Revivals are like baths. They don’t last.” That may be true, but that doesn’t mean we stop taking baths. Today, all over the country, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of adults ministering in churches, schools, banks, and civic clubs, whose lives were changes in 1995. So, in retrospect, the revival really hasn’t faded. Perhaps you are the product of a revival. Have you been the one to walk the aisle in a church someplace, to confess your sins and receive the grace of Christ?

God did an amazing, unplanned thing 20 years ago. It started in a small church and on a college campus. I have been in that church and I have preached on that campus. I celebrate what God did then. And I celebrate that fact that what God did in Brownwood in 1995, he can do in your town today. You don’t need an evangelist, choir, or committee. You need two people who are willing to confess their sins. Then all heaven will break out. What God did at Howard Payne he can do in you.

Man Credits Gallon of Milk for $22 Million Lotto Win

A gallon of milk has made a Milwaukee man the biggest winner in Wisconsin Megabucks history. John Rumpel, a high school teacher, claimed his $22.2 million check Friday. And he gives the credit to his wife, who sent him to a convenience store for a gallon of milk. While he was there, he decided to buy a ticket.

“It wasn’t until after the drawing that I flipped on the news and saw that the winning ticket was sold in Milwaukee,” he said of the May 30 drawing. “I looked up and saw this convenience store and went, ‘Oh man, that might be me.'” Rumpel had 180 days from the drawing to claim his prize at the Lottery’s headquarters in Madison.

Rumpel took the cash payment option, and walked away with $15.7 million. The store, A&I Services, also received a $100,000 check for selling the winning ticket. The jackpot was the largest in Megabucks history. The game was first introduced in 1992. Drawings take place every Wednesday and Saturday night.

We can take three things away from Mr. Rumpel’s story. First, he is now a former high school teacher. Second, he is very, very, very rich. And third, he has forever discovered the value of a man doing exactly what his wife tells him to do. I know a lot of men who would have told their wives, “You get the milk!” But not John Rumpel.

Here’s the deeper lesson. Marriage is a partnership. Paul said that love asks what it can do for the other person, not what is can receive from the other person (1 Corinthians 13). And when a man loves his wife in deed and not just words, blessings will follow. Try it, guys! You may not win $22 million. In fact, I’m pretty sure you won’t. But you will win something far greater – the appreciation of a wife who you probably don’t deserve in the first place. It is truly amazing . . . the blessing you can receive . . . all for the price of a gallon of milk.