“Allah Is God!”

On April 18, 2007, three Christians in Turkey were killed for their beliefs. Necati Aydin was one of them. He was a 35-year-old pastor in the city of Malatya. In a country of 76 million people, Christians number 153,000. And the persecution from Muslims is severe.

It seems Necati came to his office that morning with two friends. They were ambushed by a group of Muslims, captured, and told to shout, “Allah is God!” They were ordered to recite, “There is no God except Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”

When Necati refused, the torture began. For an agonizing hour, they were cut, beaten, and terrorized. Finally, when they refused to say “Allah is God,” their throats were sliced.

Their dying words were, “Christ is Messiah. Christ is Messiah.”

This leads me to a question. These men gave up their lives for Christ. What have you given up for him lately?

God may not be asking you to give up your life. But could you at least give up your parking spot, your place in line, or your pew on Sunday morning? Could you at least give up a little time to feed the hungry?

The Rushmore Report: How a Christian Should Respond to Charlottesville

When I watched the crisis in Charlottesville on TV last weekend, I was filled with both sadness and anger. I am a descendant of Robert E. Lee. Though he was a slave owner (as were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson), I see much good in the man. But the men who have co-opted his memory – white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan, and the alt-right – revealed themselves to be thugs of the highest order. But they are not alone in their thugary. The seeds of violence and disharmony have been sewed by movements on the left for years, often fueled by the rhetoric of national leaders and men claiming the banner of religion.

As a white evangelical, I am a part of a demographic that supported President Trump in record numbers. And this group is still largely behind him. They point to the way he has embraced Christian leaders, opened the White House to daily prayer gatherings, and embarked on policy initiatives that have bolstered our economy and national security. On the other side are millions of Americans who can find nothing good to say about their president.

What we have is a national divide. And the chasm is only getting wider.

The question we must confront as Christ-followers this week is simple. How are we to respond to the crisis of the moment – the senseless acts of protest and murder we just witnessed in the otherwise peaceful city of Charlottesville, Virginia? I see three responses, as called upon by the Gospel.

1. Pray for our leaders.

At the risk of sounding harsh and judgmental, I will say what I have observed. We do not pray for our leaders. We criticize them, but we don’t really pray for them. I think God has a standard – do not criticize a person for whom you have not prayed. If you are a never-Trumper, have you prayed for him today? We must pray for our leaders – fervently, daily.

2. Speak out against racism wherever we find it.

Are there white people who support President Trump simply because he is white? You bet there are. And that is a form of racism. But remember, blacks voted for President Obama in numbers never seen in the black community before. Why did they turn out for Obama in numbers that were vastly greater than for Bill Clinton, Al Gore, or Hillary Clinton? I suggest they could not identify, for the most part, a single policy difference that would favor their community, between Obama and the other Democratic nominees, in the years they stayed home and did not vote. And that is a form of racism. Whether we are talking about Black Lives Matter, the alt-right, or any other group that sections Americans into sub-groups, it is not healthy for our unity and purpose.

3. Build bridges, not walls.

I’m not talking about a border wall, but sociological and relational walls. One of my proudest moments was when the black leaders of my town, where I was pastor of a largely white, downtown Baptist church, asked me to serve as Grand Marshal in the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. parade. I was on the program for their annual service every year. Ours was the only “white” church on the program. We hosted the event in our church one year. That is how it is supposed to work.

The Bible is clear that sin isn’t going anywhere. That means hatred and racism will always be with us. We live in a divided nation. Sure, it would be a good thing if our political leaders got their collective acts together. But it must start with the people who elected them in the first place.

The question is not, will there be another Charlottesville crisis down the road, but how we will respond to it.

The Rushmore Report: Two Baseball Greats You Didn’t Know Were Christians

The race to the playoffs for Major League baseball is in its stretch run. Teams are gearing up for one final push toward their goal of a 2017 World Series Championship. In the history of team sports, there is no title more coveted than this. Personally, I’m pulling for my hometown Astros to win their first title since – ever. But two perennial All-Stars are chasing a higher crown. This is their story.

There are a lot of believers who fill Major League rosters. But two players really stand out.

1. Clayton Kershaw

The Los Angeles Dodgers ace has accomplished many things on the baseball field and has three National League Cy Young Awards to show for it. But to Kershaw, what matters more than his accolades on the field is the impact he makes off the field.

“For me, it’s about the legacy you leave off the field. It’s about how many people I can affect with the platform God gave me,” Kershaw wrote.

“Being a Christian means you have to keep reminding yourself that you’re supposed to stand out, you’re supposed to be different, you’re supposed to act boldly in your faith,” he added. “It’s not easy, but it’s worth the fight.”

Kershaw highlights Colossians 3:23 in his Bible. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

2. Andrew McCutchen

The five-time All-Star outfielder with the Pittsburgh Pirates grew up with a pastor for a dad. He says his dad instilled Romans 8:28 into his heart.

“I know God gave me talents to use to the best of my ability for His glory and to be able to help others. The game is not mine. It doesn’t control me. I give it all to God,” he says. “People say that when something happens to you with the Lord, you start seeing things differently. That’s kind of the way I started seeing things; and the more I started to see things differently, the more my game took off.”

Being in a sport in which failing seven out of ten times is considered a success, McCutchen said that his relationship with the Lord has made failure easier for him to encounter.

“You understand it’s just an obstacle He put you through to get where He wants you to go,” McCutchen added.

On a side note, you will have plenty of chances to catch Clayton Kershaw pitching in this year’s playoffs. His Dodgers have the best record in baseball. As for McCutchen, you better watch him now. The only way the Pirates will get into the playoffs is if they buy tickets.

The Rushmore Report: Franklin Graham Defends Trump, Blames Satan for Charlottesville

The president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham, defended President Donald Trump from critics saddling him with blame for the deadly clash that erupted at a white nationalist protest event in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend and blamed “Satan” for being “behind it all.” Graham came out strong against the president’s critics.

“Shame on the politicians who are trying to push blame on President Trump for what happened in Charlottesville. That’s absurd. What about the politicians such as the city council who voted to remove a memorial that had been in place since 1924, regardless of the possible repercussions? How about the city politicians who issued the permit for the lawful demonstration to defend the statue? And why didn’t the mayor or the governor see that a powder keg was about to explode and stop it before it got started?” Graham asked in a statement on Facebook.

“Instead, they want to blame President Donald J. Trump for everything. Really, this boils down to evil in people’s hearts. Satan is behind it all. He wants division, he wants unrest, he wants violence and hatred. He’s the enemy of peace and unity. I denounce bigotry and racism of every form, be it black, white, or any other. My prayer is that our nation will come together. We are stronger together, and our answers lie in turning to God,” Graham added.

On Saturday, James Alex Fields, Jr., 20, an alleged Nazi sympathizer, reportedly plowed a car into a crowd of activists in Charlottesville, killing one person and injuring 19.

About the Author

Leonardo Blair is a reporter for The Christian Post.

The Rushmore Report: Was Elvis a Christian?

Elvis Presley died 40 years ago this week. As we look back on the King of Rock ‘n Roll, it is a good time to consider his faith. Charles Hughes, a writer on the history of Southern Gospel, has looked closely into Elvis’ past. In his search for answers about his faith, Hughes has made an unexpected discovery. He has found Elvis’ personal Bible – and the notes he wrote in the margins. He has discovered an Elvis many did not know.

“Throughout his career he kept returning to Gospel music,” writes Hughes. “He was always singing Gospel songs, recording Gospel records, and incorporating in his live shows performance techniques that he would have gotten from the church.”

Joe Moscheo, a member of The Imperials, who traveled with Elvis, wrote a book called The Gospel Side of Elvis. He wrote of an Elvis who would often gather other singers into his hotel room and sing Gospel songs for hours at a time. “That’s what he wanted to do. It was like there were two parts. There was Elvis the superstar and he went out onstage in his jumpsuits and then he came offstage and he was Elvis Presley from Tupelo, Mississippi, that was brought up in the church and wanted to sing Gospel music,” he said.

The last time Moscheo saw Elvis, he gave him a Bible. When asked if he thought Elvis was a Christian, Moscheo said, “I believe that he was. He had demons. I mean, he had problems. But, from all indications and just being around him in these intimate settings, I really feel that he was a Christian.”

And here’s where it gets interesting.

Hughes has dug into Presley’s Bible – one given to him by his aunt and uncle on his first Christmas at Graceland in 1957. It was found at the Museum of the Bible. Given the opportunity to review it in private, Hughes thumbed through its pages and discovered several hand-written notes, by which Elvis expressed his true faith

Here are some examples.

Beside Psalm 11:1, he wrote, “In the Lord I place my trust and He will guide me.”

Psalm 43:3 is underlined with a note that reads, “Lord send me light to guide me.”

On page 670, in reference to Psalm 137:5-9, Elvis wrote, “Trust in the Lord, not man.”

Jotted under Psalm 81 are these words: “Sing the Lord’s praises.”

In reference to Psalm 149:3-6, he added, “The highest graces of music flow from the feelings of the heart-soul.”

And under Psalm 149, he wrote, “Sing for the glory of God.”

Was Elvis Presley a Christian? It appear so. Did he struggle with his faith? Certainly. That makes him a lot like most of us.

The Rushmore Report: Texas Governor Signs Historic Abortion Bill

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed a bill into law that limits insurance coverage for abortion procedures. Gov. Abbott signed House Bill 214 on Tuesday, with the legislation scheduled to be enacted on December 1. The bill reads, “A qualified health plan offered through a health benefit exchange may not provide coverage for elective abortion,” though it provides for abortions that save the life of the mother.

The bill continues, “This section does not prevent a person from purchasing optional or supplemental coverage for elective abortion under a health benefit plan other than a qualified health plan offered through a health benefit exchange.”

In a statement quoted by local media, Abbott said that he was “proud to sign legislation that ensures no Texan is ever required to pay for a procedure that ends the life of an unborn child.”

“This bill prohibits insurance providers from forcing Texas policy holders to subsidize elective abortions,” stated Abbott, as reported by KXXV-TV.

“I am grateful to the Texas legislature for getting this bill to my desk, and working to protect innocent life this special session.”

Chiefly sponsored by Republican State Rep. John Smithee of Amarillo, the bill passed the House in a vote of 92-46 and later in the Senate in a vote of 20-10.

“This isn’t about who can get an abortion. It is about who is forced to pay for an abortion,” stated Rep. Smithee during debate over HB 214.

Critics, including Democratic State Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie, argued that the bill forces Texas women to buy “rape insurance.”

“Women don’t plan to be raped. Parents don’t plan for their children to be victims of incest,” stated Rep. Turner, as reported by the Texas Tribune.

“Asking a woman or a parent to foresee something like that and buy supplemental insurance to cover that horrific possibility is not only ridiculous, it is cruel.”

This is not the first pro-life measure signed into law by Abbott this summer. In June, the governor signed Senate Bill 8 into law, which banned the procedure of dismemberment abortion, which involves ripping apart a human fetus and then removing the pieces one at a time from a womb.

Abbott’s signature made Texas the eighth state to ban dismemberment abortions, joining Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

About the Author

Michael Gryboski is a reporter for The Christian Post.

The Rushmore Report: Hillary Clinton’s Pastor Compares Her Election Loss to Jesus’ Death on the Cross

After Hillary Clinton suffered a devastating loss in the 2016 presidential race to Donald Trump, her longtime pastor compared her loss to the death of Christ on the cross. Rev. William S. Shillady, who currenlty serves as executive director of the United Methodist City Society in New York, told CNN that Clinton leaned on her faith in the wake of her political loss, and compared the loss to the death of Christ.

Shillady says Clinton is considering opportunities in the church, including lay preaching, a long-held tradition in the Methodist Church. He said, “I think she is going to look at occasionally doing that [preaching] and sharing the good news without it being a politically charged environment.”

The pastor added, “She is very comfortable in the pulpit. It’s something that comes naturally to her, and she knows the Bible. That’s why I think she’d make a great preacher.”

But it is the comparison to the death of Christ that is baffling. Shillady says her loss was “so devastating” that it “might have been comparable to what the disciples experienced when Jesus died.”

He continued, “I woke up that morning [after the election] and it felt like maybe what the Apostles experienced on Good Friday. Their leader, master, and savior was dead and gone and they didn’t know what to do.”

I don’t know the pain of losing a presidential election I was expected to win. I’m sure it is traumatic. But to compare the loss Clinton suffered, and the grief of her followers to the death of Christ on the cross and the grief of his followers is a bit much. For one, Hillary didn’t die. Second, if her pastor’s metaphor is accurate, those who considered her their “leader, master, and savior” really need to aim a little higher.

The Klondike Gold Rush

The Klondike Gold Rush was a migration by 100,000 prospectors to the Klondike region of the Yukon in northwest Canada from 1896 to 1899. Gold was first discovered there on August 16, 1896, which set off the stampede for the prized metal. The initial discovery was made by three miners: Skookum Jum Mason, George Carmack, and Charlie Dawson. But most who followed came up empty.

In 1899, gold was discovered near Nome, Alaska, prompting a mass exodus from Klondike. At its peak, the area boasted a population of 30,000. But that didn’t last long, as the exodus all but wiped out the local economy.

What the prospectors did in 1899, we still do in 2017. We chase after our dreams with great focus, until another shiny object captures our interest. Then we run after that one.

God has a better plan. Jesus said the wise man sold everything he had and focused on the kingdom of God. When we abandon all else to seek Him, we find something far better than gold. We find a peace this world can neither understand nor afford.

Praying Lions

The man was an experienced mountain climber, hiker, and outdoorsman. But this day would be unlike any other in his entire life. Lost, searching for a way down, he spotted a lion nearby. Worse yet, the lion spotted him. The lion started his approach. The man had no chance to escape. So he prayed.

He said, “God, you can see I’m in trouble here. I’m lost and I’m stuck. There is a lion coming, and he looks really hungry. If you get me out of this mess, I’ll do anything you want me to do. I’ll give to the poor, I’ll be a better husband, I’ll be a good father, and I’ll even go to church this Easter. Just get me out of this mess.”

When he finished his prayer, he looked up. It was a miracle! Just as he prayed, the lion stopped. The lion sat. And then the lion prayed.

“Wow! A praying lion!” the man thought to himself. “This lion must be a Christian!”

Then he heard the lion’s prayer. “Lord, thank you for this meal you have prepared for me.”

Don’t worry. No animals (or people) were hurt in the telling of this joke. But you can get hurt, really badly. How? By waiting until you are in trouble before you pray.

Don’t Quit!

I recently read The Six Phases of a Project, which lists a step-by-step progression (or regression) of any initiative. In order, the six phases are 1) enthusiasm, 2) disillusionment, 3) panic, 4) search for the guilty, 5) punishment of the innocent, and 6) praise for the nonparticipants.

When things aren’t going well, we are encouraged to quit. Let’s consider how one man made a difference, simply by refusing to let a young boy go down this road.

Ignace Jan Paderewski was the greatest composer/pianist of his day. He was scheduled to perform in a great concert hall one evening. In the crowd was a nine-year-old boy. Before the concert began, the boy ran to the stage, sat at the piano and played Chopsticks. The crowd shouted in disapproval. Paderewski heard this from backstage, rushed out, sat by the boy, and began to play a harmony that went with his Chopsticks. And he whispered into the boy’s ear, “Keep going. Don’t quit.”

When you are ready to quit, just remember there is Someone by your side, who can make a great song from your feeble efforts. And he is whispering in your ear, “Keep going. Don’t quit.”