The Rushmore Report – Billy Graham on New Year’s Resolutions

Known as “America’s Pastor,” Billy Graham remains the most significant Christian figure of the last 100 years. In December, 2011, already well into his 90s, Graham fielded a question about New Year’s resolutions. Following is that question and Dr. Graham’s response. As we enter a new year, his words are as timely and inspired today as they were when he wrote them seven years ago.

Question: I’ve about decided I’m not going to make any New Year’s resolutions this year. I’ve always done it, but I don’t think I’ve ever managed to keep a single one more than a few weeks. Why should I bother?

Answer: You’re right; it’s probably not worth bothering with resolutions if you start out assuming you’re going to fail, because that’s exactly what you’ll end up doing. But it doesn’t have to be this way, and I suggest you reconsider.

The start of a new year is a good time to stop and look at our lives, and that’s the first step in making any realistic resolutions. What needs to be improved in our lives? What needs to be eliminated or added? Most of all, what does God see when he looks at me, and what does he want me to do with his help? What is his will for the coming year, and for my life? The Bible says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Then make sure your resolutions are realistic. Many New Year’s resolutions aren’t “resolutions” at all; they’re only vague dreams or wishes. Don’t focus on self-centered goals; focus instead on what God wants to do in your life. Above all, make sure of your commitment to Christ, and if it means little to you, why not begin the new year by giving your life to him?

Finally, think through how you can achieve the goals you’ve set. Pray for God’s help; plan what steps you need to take; get others to encourage and help you. May 2012 become the best year you’ve ever had, as you build your life on the foundation of Christ and his word.

Cleaning Up the Mess

We used to have a cocker spaniel named Duffy. She was one happy mess. Every time a guest would come over to our house, she would lick them to death and then wet the floor. Duffy’s bladder was unable to control her joy.

We were always cleaning up after her. She slobbered horribly. When she would run or shake her head, slobber flew everywhere, and we’d clean it up.

But we loved her anyway. She was incredibly loving, loyal, and fun. And messy.

One day, due to a back problem that is common among Cockers, Duffy became paralyzed. She couldn’t walk or get to her food dish. We spent a king’s ransom on her back surgery, knowing it may not be successful. Then we just had to wait and see. We fed her by hand and carried her outside where she could at least enjoy the view.

One day, she began to move again, and she eventually recovered fully. But Duffy remained a mess. That was okay, because she was our mess. We loved that dog. We didn’t like the messes, but we were willing to clean them up because we loved Duffy more than we hated the mess.

The truth is, we are all a mess. You are a mess. But God loves you more than he hates your mess.

And as you enter the New Year, know this. God loves you enough to clean up after you.

Football and Church

Note the contrasts between the average football fan’s worship of a pigskin and the average Christian’s worship of God. Football fans pay a hefty sum to park their cars and walk a long distance to the stadium. The churchgoer expects free parking close to the building. Football contests are noisy with loud cheering and the enthusiasm of the fans. The churchgoer sits in grim silence, and objects to loud music. Football stadium seats are narrow, backless, and assigned. The churchgoer hates a hard pew and insists on a particular seat.

Football games always last well past three hours, and if they go into overtime, fans consider it a bonus. The churchgoer expects worship to take only an hour. If the service goes into overtime, the churchgoer displays great movements of agitation and frustration.

Actually, things don’t have to be that way. At my church, season tickets are free, and if you come early enough, you can sit in the same seat every week. Our seats are comfortable, the music is excellent, and the home team (Jesus) wins every time. And we try to keep it to an hour. By any measure, the best arena you will ever attend is the one down the street with the steeple.

With the new year dawning, find a place of worship. Thenew year starts on Sunday. Make it count.

Taste of Power

A first-grade boy was told by his mother to return home directly after school was dismissed, but he got home as much as 20 minutes late almost every day. His mother asked him, “You get out of school the same time every day. Why can’t you get home at the same time?”

He said, “It depends on the cars.”

“What do cars have to do with it?” his mother asked him.

The youngster explained, “The patrol boy who takes us across the street makes us wait until some cars come along so he can stop them.”

When I was in elementary school, I was a crossing guard for both of my fourth grade years. I loved the power. The whole universe would stop on my command. I felt in charge. I had the pole, the orange vest, and a whistle. And I knew how to use it.

It was a real rush, controlling when others could walk, drive, or stand still. But there was one problem. At the end of the day, I put my whistle back in the box and returned my snappy vest and pole. Then I had to walk home. And there was no one to help me.

I learned a hard lesson. It’s a lot easier to tell others how to walk than it is to get it right yourself. Maybe that’s why Jesus said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned” (Luke 6:37).

The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

‘Twas the Night Before Jesus Came

‘Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house, not a creature was praying, not one in the house. Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care, in hopes that Jesus would not come there.

The children were dressing to crawl into bed, not once ever kneeling or bowing a head. And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap, was watching the Late Show while I took a nap.

When out of the East there arose such a clatter, I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!

When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but angels proclaiming that Jesus was here. With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray, I knew in a moment this must be The Day!

The light of his face made me cover my head; it was Jesus, returning just like he had said. And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth, I cried when I saw him in spite of myself.

In the Book of Life which he held in his hand, was written the name of every saved man. He spoke not a word as he searched for my name; when he said, “It’s not here,” my head hung in shame!

The people whose names had been written with love, he gathered to take to his Father above. With those who were ready he rose without sound, while all the rest were left standing around.

I fell to my knees, but it was too late. I had waited too long and this sealed my fate. I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight. Oh, if only I had been ready tonight.

In the words of this poem the meaning is clear – the coming of Jesus is now drawing near. There’s only one life and when comes the last call, we’ll find that the Bible was true after all!

The Rushmore Report – The Moral Bankruptcy of ‘Progressive’ Christianity

So-called “progressive” Christians love to bash conservative Christians. They call us dinosaurs. They mock us as outdated fundamentalists. They taunt us as “Bible bashers.” They claim to be the enlightened ones, and they celebrate their departure from the “traditional church.” But the reality is that they are simply following the spirit of the age, swimming with the current cultural tide rather than against it. In the name of conformity to Jesus, they are being conformed to the world. How ironic.

On Saturday night, while working on a major book project at my computer, I noticed a tweet from a “progressive” pastor. I had reached out him to several times before, but always without response. He wrote, quite out of the blue, “When hopelessly phobic people of faith like @DrMichaelLBrown claim that God is against ‘homosexual practice.’ #ThatsNotAThing”

As soon as I spotted the tweet, I replied, “Hey John, I’ve reached out to you on several occasions, always without response. Rather than engage in baseless (and silly) name-calling, let’s a have a mature, scripture-based, minister-to-minister dialog. You’re welcome on my show any time. Why not?”

For the record, he still has not replied to my invitations – not once, ever – and I continue to reach out to him. But despite his lack of response, I decided to engage some of his followers. Talk about enlightening!

The first thing that became immediately evident was this. There was virtually no substantive interaction. Instead, there was mockery and insult and misrepresentation, making me wonder out loud, “What’s so scary about the truth?”

It started out of the gate with this pastor maligning me as hopelessly phobic (for reaching out to the LGBT community with the truth of the gospel while opposing radical LGBT activism). And, remarkably, while the Bible consistently and categorically opposes homosexual practice (meaning, same-sex relationships and sexual acts) a pastor – yes, a pastor – came against me for standing with God’s Word.

How dare I – how dare you – do such a thing. How dare you agree with Scripture. How dare you affirm that the Lord’s ways are best. That is so 1950s!

Rather than interact with a single thing I said, he later posted, “Michael thinks LGBTQ people can NOT be LGBTQ. Michael thinks you can pray the gay away. Michael preys upon already marginalized people. Michael thinks other people’s bedrooms and body parts are his business. Don’t be like Michael.”

Now, you would think it would trouble a pastor to post blatant falsehoods about other people, but when you’re “progressive,” you’re morally superior, which means you are the judge of the motives of others. You determine what they really think and believe, despite what they say and do. In the name of not judging, you are now the judge!

Of course, the issue is not what “Michael” thinks but what God says. That’s why, later in the night, I posted this: “To all professing LGBT Christians and their allies: Please give me just ONE explicit verse in the Bible where God sanctions same-sex relationships. Just one. You know already there are clear verses saying the opposite.”

Not a single one gave me a single supporting verse. How telling!

In direct response to the pastor’s tweet, I wrote, “John, by God’s grace, I know MANY ex-gays and lesbians who are so thankful for new life in Jesus. And I continue to have fruitful ministry around the world, NOT focused on LGBT issues. I have simply responded to biblical deception and radical activism. You have accommodated sin.”

How did he reply? He tweeted, “No you don’t. You know people who you and others have badgered into modifying their behavior to stay in community. You’ve squandered your time here and you’ve caused irreparable harm to already marginalized people. That’s on you.”

Are you detecting a pattern? This “progressive” pastor has the right to misrepresent me publicly because, well, he’s progressive, so it must be right. He has the right to put words into my mouth (like “pray away the gay”) and make inane and ridiculous comments (such as the bedroom remarks), no matter how farfetched they may be.

But since, in his eyes, I’m a Bible-bashing religious fundamentalist and he’s a liberated progressive, his perceptions are the truth. Who cares about facts? Who cares about Scripture?

Not only so, he claims the right to deny the very real stories of thousands of ex-gays, people who, with God’s help, have left homosexual practice and gay identity behind. They do not exist. They cannot exist. If they did, it would cause his house of sand to collapse in an instant. It would mean that Jesus can change anyone.

So, in the name of standing with the marginalized, he casts out and mocks the most marginalized group in America today: ex-gays. This is the heart of Jesus? This is pursuing righteousness? This is practicing mercy?

The “progressives” also fail to realize that they are joining forces with those who want to take away rights, who want to silence Christians, who want to impose their ideology, who want to penalize all dissenters. (Yes, I’m talking about LGBT extremists and their allies, sometimes known as the pink mafia for a reason. I and many others have documented this steadily for years.)

And when it comes to fealty to the Word of God, the Twitter interaction proved extremely interesting.

A professing gay Christian tweeted with joy about his upcoming wedding to his partner, telling me the Scripture he would use at the event. When I came back to him with other scriptures about same-sex relationships, he told me plainly that the Bible was not his final authority and that God was bigger than a book. Fascinating!

When I challenged a zealous supporter of “gay Christianity” when she simply repeated the standard, LGBT theological talking points, she told me I was obviously not a scholar. How dare I set the record straight. How dare I share the fruit of decades of serious academic study of the Scriptures (in their cultural context and in their original languages, with due attention to the Spirit’s intent). How dare I rely on the best research by the best scholars. How dare I burst her bubble.

Of course, when I asked her for a verse to back her points, she had none. When I presented her with verses that rebutted hers, she had vacuous talking points and nothing more.

But she was progressive, and I was not. Of course she was right. Of course I was not a scholar.

What I experienced over the course of hours of interaction with scores of different people was a steady tide of condescending, name-calling, biblically-bankrupt, and morally-hypocritical rhetoric, and all of it devoid of a single substantive response.

So, these folks can have their “progressive” religion (although I pray they’ll see the light). I’ll stay with the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus who liberates and transforms, the Jesus who doesn’t affirm us in our sin but delivers us out of it.

He was good enough for the last 2,000 years. He’ll be good enough for eternity.

About the Author

Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Donald Trump Is Not My Savior: An Evangelical Leader Speaks His Mind About the Man He Supports As President.

The Rushmore Report – The Best George H.W. Bush Story Ever

Over the past few weeks, we have read all the stories that reflect the greatness of our 41st President. George H.W. Bush was indeed a founding father from the 20th century. He was a war hero, a patriot, and a quiet man of God. But it is the story that just came to light a few days ago that takes the cake. It was the story that the president never intended to get out.

Almost 20 years ago, Mr. Bush, at the age of 75, attended a concert. At the end of the concert, Compassion International made a brief presentation. They were looking to sign up men and women willing to sponsor a child from a third world country. Moved with compassion, President Bush raised his hand so he could receive a card.

Dr. Wess Stafford, President of Compassion International, said, “I could see the security people going, ‘Is this okay?'” Stafford spoke with security and it was decided that the president’s identity should be protected if he sponsored a child.

Stafford said, “They couldn’t use his full name, so they went with George Walker.”

Thus, the unlikely relationship between the former leader of the free world and a five-year old Filipino boy began.

For 20 years, the two exchanged dozens of letters. Stafford said, “George Bush had a sense of humor and a bit of an impish spirit. So I don’t think he could help himself, and he started slipping in little hints of who he was.”

Bush wrote about his dog Sadie and how she’s met a lot of “famous people.” He wrote about visiting the White House for Christmas. Bush regularly asked the boy about his school work. He even sent the boy a calculator and art supplies, which he personally bought at the local Walmart nearest his home in Houston. When “Timothy” (the young boy) reached adulthood – and Bush’s Compassion International responsibilities went away – he continued to bless Timothy with gifts and notes of encouragement. And he never sent a gift that he had not personally picked out.

When the president’s health began to fail, Stafford commissioned his secretary, while on a trip to the Philippines, to tell Timothy why he would no longer be receiving letters and gifts. She told him who his friend really was.

Timothy was overwhelmed. He had no idea that the man who basically saved his life was the President of the United States. But more impressively, the rest of the world did not know, either. Why is that? Because George H.W. Bush was far more concerned with blessing others than getting an iota of credit himself.

That is the definition of a great American. That is the definition of George Bush.

The Rushmore Report – A Timeless Christmas Message by Billy Graham

Read this timeless piece, originally penned by Billy Graham in 1969, on the reason for Christmas.

Christmas is a special time. It is a family celebration. Other holidays are different. Good Friday and Easter are usually celebrated in church. National days are honored with speeches, parades and the ceremonies of government. But Christmas is glorified in the home because it is the celebration of a birthday.

Yet there is irony in the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. He was born away from home, on a journey that symbolized the restless and the wandering nature of the world into which He came. He was born in the insecurity of a barn, a symbol of the fact that during His public ministry, He would have very little home life. He roamed the roads and towns of ancient Palestine. He died, taking the ordeal of the cross so that out of His suffering and His victorious resurrection mankind could find redemption.

Christmas means different things to different people. To some, Christmas is merely a means to make more money. People vie with each other in their preparation for the celebration of the occasion. Some of them do not believe in Christ; they may even hate Him. But Christmas has become big business. People are more concerned to hear about their profit from Christmas than to hear about the Prophet from Bethlehem. The clinking sound of money is sweeter to some than the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the angels to the shepherds.

Many people cannot hear Christmas carols today because their ears are attuned to different sounds. Some minds are riveted to Wall Street, and their eyes are focused on reports about the stock market going up or down.

Pleasure-seeking consumes the time and the thoughts of many people. Some try to find a merry Christmas in what they call entertainment and fun. Instead of imbibing the spirit of Christmas, they choose to imbibe spirits at Christmas. For many people the holiday is an opportunity to celebrate in the wrong way.

The Apostle Paul once said, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27). He meant that he conquered his appetites and kept his passions and desires under control. We, too, need to conquer our hatreds, our fears, our doubts, our anxieties. We need to conquer selfishness—even the desire for special Christmas gifts for ourselves.

We cannot have a merry Christmas or a happy new year when we have become slaves to the passions and vices that hound us. These things—materialism, money, artificial pleasure—are crowding Christ out of Christmas for multitudes. They are so busy with a thousand and one other things that they have no time to consider the message of the Baby of Bethlehem.

On that first Christmas, 2,000 years ago, the world experienced three phenomena:

First, the star. Many stars shone in the sky, but none like this one. This one shone with aura and brilliance! It was as though God had taken a lamp from the ceiling of Heaven and hung it in the dark sky over a troubled world.

Second, a new song in the air. A world that had lost its song learned to sing again. With the coming of God in the flesh, hope sprang up in the hearts of people. Led by angelic beings, we can now take up the refrain, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).

And third, good news—the Good News that at last a Savior had come to save men and women from sin: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus was the central theme of that first Christmas. The star, the song, the gifts, the kneeling, the joy, the hope, the excitement—all were because of Him.

God’s star promised peace to the world if we will believe and trust Him. But having rejected Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we have no peace in the world. Too often our synthetic stars bring only fear, anxiety and even more war.

In our world today are self-proclaimed saviors, people who claim to be God’s gift to the world. How different they are from Jesus, who “was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

The Scriptures say, “There is born to you this day … a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Heaven and Earth joined together! God and mankind reconciled. Hope for the hopeless, pardon for the guilty, forgiveness for the conscience-stricken, peace for those who knew no peace, Good News for those who have had nothing but bad news!

Yes, Jesus Christ can save us from despair. I have talked with many leaders, and one thing that most of them have in common is pessimism. The tensions, conflicts and seemingly insoluble problems of this world tend to make them cynical and doubtful.

Many cynics will blame God for the troubles of the world. We should blame ourselves. We have a spiritual disease, and that disease is called sin. Until sin is conquered, the world will not be a better place in which to live.

When people willfully reject the Prince of Peace, they pay a terrible price. A secular and materialistic society that has rejected the Prince of Peace yields to pessimism and despair. The blighting cynicism that has come as a result of our rejection of God is reflected in our literature, our art, our films, our television programs and even our pulpits.

Christmas should be a time of renewed hope—not hope in a particular political concept, but Christmas hope; Christian hope; hope in Jesus Christ; hope that, despite our tangled bungling, God will bring order out of chaos.

But Christmas is even more personal. The angel who said, “He will save His people from their sins,” was touching the very heart of your need.

People today would rather not talk about sin. They don’t want to face the reality of their spiritual disease. I heard of a man who found conversation about cancer distasteful. When the subject came up, he would walk away. He would not consent to periodic examination.

He would permit no X-rays. But one day, having experienced a loss of weight and appetite, he was persuaded to have a physical examination. The doctors found a cancer of massive proportions.

So it is with sin. Our reluctance to discuss it, our tendency to ignore it, our resentment of anyone’s talking about it, may be a revelation of our secret fear that we may be sin-filled.

Jesus Christ has a great deal to say about sin. He came on that first Christmas night to “save His people from their sins.” No doctor in the world can treat sin. No psychiatrist in the world can cure sin. They can work on symptoms, they can help the sinner to live with his sin, but they cannot get rid of the disease. Only Jesus Christ can heal the disease of sin.

This is what the cross and the resurrection are all about. And Christmas is not Christmas without the message of the death and resurrection of Christ. This is why He was born. This was the message of the first Christmas night: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” The Christmas message says that God’s grace is greater than our sin. It says that the sin question was answered at the cross. Christmas says that the cross went as deep as our needs. The cross was the cure—offered, paid for and administered by a loving God in His beloved Son.

I never come to Christmas without thinking of the thousands of people who are lonely, diseased and troubled at this time of year. Christmas is a reminder from God Himself that we are not alone. The Prophet Isaiah said that His name would be called Immanuel, which means God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). God revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus a reconciling love that rescues us from separation and loneliness.

At this Christmas season you can be assured that Jesus Christ is here. He is here to give us hope, to forgive our sins, to give us a new song, to impart faith and to heal our spiritual wounds, if only we will let Him.

The Christmas message has not changed after 2,000 years. Christmas still reminds us that God is with us.

In spite of all the pessimism and cynicism, in spite of all the headlines about murders, assassinations, riots, demonstrations and war, Jesus Christ is alive. He is alive to conquer despair, to impart hope, to forgive sins and to take away our loneliness. He is alive to reconcile us to God.

This Christmas, accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Give Him the gift that He wants—your heart, your soul, your life.

About the Author

Billy Graham was the most significant Christian figure of the 20th century.

The Rushmore Report – The 20 Most Popular Christmas Songs of All Time

What are the most popular Christmas songs of all time? Christmas carols capture the spirit of the holidays and tap into a nostalgia that crosses multiple generations. The Ranker Group ventured into the realm of popular Christmas music with a nationwide poll. They asked one question of 10,200 Americans – What is your favorite Christmas song ever? Here is the list of the 20 most popular.

1. White Christmas
2. Silent Night
3. Santa Clause Is Coming to Town
4. Winter Wonderland
5. Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer
6. O Holy Night
7. Joy to the World
8. Last Christmas
9. Little Drummer Boy
10. Jingle Bell Rock
11. Frosty the Snowman
12. Jingle Bells
13. Here Comes Santa Claus
14. A Holly Jolly Christmas
15. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
16. Santa Baby
17. Baby It’s Cold Outside
18. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
19. Do They Know It’s Christmas?
20. I’ll Be Home for Christmas