The Power of a Text

I was on the treadmill yesterday morning. I do it every day for an hour. It’s the best 1-mile walk of the day! Then it happened. I got a text from an old friend. And it made my day.

My friend is someone you have probably heard of. He is one of America’s most popular communicators and keeps an incredibly busy schedule. I won’t use his name because he wouldn’t want the credit for what I’m about to say.

My friend has pastored a megachurch, is a close friend of Billy and Franklin Graham, and has entertained millions, from the rich and famous to people you will never hear of. But yesterday morning, I was on his mind. We hadn’t spoken in a couple of months, and I certainly didn’t expect to hear from him yesterday.

And then my phone lit up. I looked at it and saw my friend had just sent me a picture along with a message. It was 32 words of pure encouragement. And it made my day – because of what he said and because of who said it.

It cost him a couple minutes and blessed me for 24 hours and counting. Encouragement does that. The encouragement guy in the Bible was a fellow named Barnabas. He stood by Mark when no one else would. Mark went on to write the first Gospel, the one on which the others were built. He stood by Paul when no one else would. Paul went on to write a third of the New Testament. Without Barnabas, one could argue there would have been no Gospels or epistles. Barnabas was good at one thing – encouragement.

Studies tell us we need 17 words of encouragement for every negative word we hear. And we need 13 words of encouragement each day just to stay level. Have you met the man who said, “Please stop encouraging me! I’ve had too much encouragement already!” I haven’t met him either.

So go out today and make a difference. Encourage someone. It can change their day, and that can change their life. And it can be done with something as simple as a text.

Van Gogh Paintings Are Shown

On this day in 1901, paintings by the late Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh were shown at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery in Paris. The 71 paintings caused a sensation across the art world. Eleven years before, Van Gogh had committed suicide without any notion that his work was destined to win acclaim beyond his wildest dreams. Born in Zundert in The Netherlands in 1853, Van Gogh worked as a salesman in an art gallery, a language teacher, a bookseller, and an evangelist before settling on his true vocation as an artist. He studied drawing at the Brussels Academy and in 1881 went to The Netherlands to work from nature. In 1886, Van Gogh went to live with his brother, Theo, in Paris. There, he met the foremost French painters of the postimpressionist period, including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro, and Georges Seurat. In 1888, Van Gogh, mentally exhausted, left Paris and took a house at Arles in southeastern France where he was joined by Gauguin. Shortly after, he suffered a bout of mental illness and was diagnosed with dementia.

It’s too bad Van Gogh didn’t recognize his own greatness. What made him great was not that he was a painter for the ages, but that he quit selling books, teaching school, and preaching. He found the one thing he was best at and poured himself into it. The result was one of the finest painters the world will ever produce. The Bible says to find the things God created you to do (I Corinthians 14) and get after it. You will never attain greatness by turning your weaknesses into strengths, but by making your strengths even better. So find your “thing,” and get after it. The world is waiting.

The Rushmore Report – A Dying Pastor’s Final Wish Come True

Shane Hall was the beloved pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. For three and a half years, the 46-year-old battled stomach cancer. Friday, the battle ended, as he went to be with the Lord. Knowing all medical options had been exhausted, Hall knew his fate. He had one dying wish. And that wish came true.

Hall’s final desire was to see his youngest daughter, Mallory, come to faith in Christ before he died. Here is the timeline of the pastor’s final days.

On Wednesday, February 7, Mallory trusted Christ as her personal Savior. Two days later, on February 9, Misti, Shane’s wife, announced that all medical options to save Shane’s life were exhausted, and they were now focused on pain management until his death. Then, on Sunday, February 11, Pastor Hall baptized his young daughter. On February 16, Misti posted, “Tonight he is worshiping with Jesus.”

The last person Hall would baptize would be his daughter.

The funeral service for Shane will be today in Oklahoma City. This week, Misti posted, “We continue to see God’s sustaining grace in all of this. Shane said he just wanted to baptize Mallory. So, for him to say that and then to see it within two or three weeks was just a precious gift to him. I felt like, that’s what kept him here for awhile, his wanting to fulfill that desire to see her come to know the Lord.”

Frank Page, President and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, prayed with Hall many times in his final weeks. “When I heard about Shane’s miraculous efforts in helping to baptize his daughter, I wept,” he said. “It spoke of a father’s love. It spoke of a pastor’s determination. God bless his wonderful family.”

 

33% Have This Problem

It afflicts 100 million Americans and causes 38,000 deaths each year, including 1,500 on the road. It costs the U.S. a whopping $70 billion worth of productivity. Sixty-four percent of teens suffer from it. It hits hardest between ages 30 and 40. Fifty percent of seniors suffer from it. Treatments range from mouth guards to herbal teas to medication.

I am talking about insomnia. America can’t get to sleep. To fight back, Americans consume 30 tons of sleeping pills, aspirin, and tranquilizers every day! Thomas Edison lived off 15-minute naps. But Albert Einstein averaged 11 hours of sleep each night. In 1910 we slept an average of nine hours; now we are down to seven.

It’s funny. We are the only creatures who struggle with sleep. Dogs doze, bears hibernate, and my cat sleeps 23 hours a day. So what makes us (people) different? We worry. We worry a lot. Psychologists say that 90 percent of what we worry about never even happens. But we worry anyway.

I’m reminded of a Carpenter who lived 2,000 years ago. He said, “Give me your burdens. Do not worry.” The dog, bear, and cat get it. What about you? To each of us St. Peter offers great advice. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

On this day in 1929, four gangsters dressed as police officers gunned down six of George “Bugs” Moran’s North Side Gang, as well as a mechanic, at the Moran headquarters on Chicago’s North Clark Street. The incident, known today as the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, was another in an ongoing war between Al “Scarface” Capone and the North Side Gang, his chief underworld rivals.

In February 1929, Capone was ahead, having killed Moran’s predecessor, Dion O’Banion, five years earlier. On February 14, as Moran’s men waited outside their headquarters to take delivery on a load of bootlegged liquor, they were devastated by the arrival of the four “police officers.” Coming late to the gathering, Moran saw what he assumed to be an impending arrest and retreated to a nearby coffee shop. The disguised assassins gunned down the seven men undisturbed.

“Bugs” Moran learned what some of us never learn – actions have consequences. Unfortunately, he learned it too late.

The Rushmore Report – Which Sports League Is the Most Christian?

When the Philadelphia Eagles upset the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl two weeks ago, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was quick to give God the glory. “I can only give the praise to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” he said. His quarterback, Nick Foles, plans to become a pastor. As chaplain for the Houston Rockets, I was amazed that entire teams – the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder – attend chapel. But which of the four major sports – football, baseball, basketball, or hockey – is the most Christian? The answer may surprise you.

Of course, we cannot really say one sport is “Christian” or “non-Christian.” But Ryan P. Burge of Eastern Illinois University has analyzed each sport by an interesting matrix. Burge has looked over the Twitter profiles of each athlete in each major league – Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, and the National Hockey League.

Specifically, Burge analyzed each Twitter account in search of Scripture references. And based on that analysis, it’s not even close. The most Christian sport is baseball.

Burge found that MLB players are the most likely to have Bible verses cited in their bios, with eight percent of the 1,265 accounts having at least one verse.

Next comes the NFL, where about four percent of the players cite Scripture. Coming in third is the NBA, at three percent. And the least Christian league is the NHL, where not a single player cites Scripture in his Twitter account.

Burge speculated as to the reasons for his findings. He attributes the relative strong Christian presence in baseball to demographics. MLB players tend to come from more rural areas and Latino countries, where Christianity is strong.

On the other extreme is hockey, where many players come from non-religious countries in Europe.

What is the most-cited Bible verse? That would be Philippians 4:13, which reads, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Of course, Christians are found in every league, and probably on every team. I suspect this is especially true of the Houston Astros, Houston Texans, and Houston Rockets. And yes, I am from Houston.

The Rushmore Report – Five Devout Christians on the U.S. Olympic Team

The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea are well underway, bringing together athletes from across the world to compete in various sports. As the Games begin, the United States has brought a diverse team of competitors to the global event that features many devout Christians.

Here, in no particular order, are five openly Christian athletes who are competing at the Olympic Games under the red, white, and blue banner.

1. Kelly Clark

Professional snowboarder Kelly Clark is a veteran of the Olympic Games, going into this year’s event having already won Gold and Bronze medals.

On her Twitter profile, Clark identifies herself as a “lover of coffee, God, and good times,” with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes noting in a January feature on her that she gave her life to Christ in 2004.

“My ministry, and what God is doing in my life, is really found in my career in the marketplace,” she told FCA earlier this year.

2. Elana Meyers Taylor

World champion bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor won a Silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Games and a Bronze at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

In an interview with Christian Sports Journal published in November 2016, Taylor spoke about how when she competes internationally, she sees herself as representing not just herself or her country, but also “Christ and what He’s done through me.”

3. Nic Taylor

Professional bobsledder and husband to Elana Meyers Taylor, whom he met at a Bible study, Nic Taylor has accrued his share of medals in various competitions over the past several years.

According to an interview with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes published last month, Nic came to faith in 2005 when he survived three separate car accidents.

“It shouldn’t have taken three, but it took three for me to realize I’m not in control of my life,” he said.

4. David Wise

David Wise made history in 2014 as the first-ever Olympic champion in Men’s Skiing Halfpipe at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Calling himself a “truth follower” on his Twitter profile, wise explained in a 2014 interview that faith plays a “huge role” in his confidence.

“I don’t have to worry about what’s happening or the outside influences as much because I feel like I can trust God, and He’s going to see me through,” Wise said, as reported by CBN.

5. Maame Biney

American short track speed skater Maame Biney started skating when she was six and qualified for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics before she turned 18.

On her Instagram account, Biney explained that the “smile on my face doesn’t mean my life is perfect. It means I appreciate what I have and what God has blessed me with.”

In response to her qualifying win in Utah last December, Biney took to social media to “start off by thanking God.”

About the Author

Michael Gryboski writes for The Christian Post.

Congress Enacts Slave Law – This Day in 1793

On February 12, 1793, Congress passed the first fugitive slave law, requiring all states, including those that did not allow for slavery, to forcibly return slaves who had escaped from other states to their original owners. The law stated that “no person held to service of labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”

Several Northern states enacted measures prohibiting state officials from aiding in the capture of runaway slaves or from jailing the fugitives. This disregard of the first fugitive slave law enraged Southern states and led to the passage of a second fugitive slave law as part of the Compromise of 1850 between the North and South. The second fugitive slave law called for the return of slaves “on pain of heavy penalty” but permitted a jury trial under the condition that fugitives be prohibited from testifying in their own defense. Notable fugitive slave trials, such as the Dred Scott case of 1857, stirred up public opinion on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.

The Bible says we are slaves to sin (Romans 6:20). But someone came to set us free. His name was Jesus. And Scripture proclaims that those who are free from sin are “free indeed” (John 8:36). But an odd thing happened in the old slave days. Some of them returned to their former owners and acted as if they had never been set free.

One day a man captured a monkey. To make sure he never left him, he tied a rope around his neck and attached it to a tree, allowing the monkey the freedom to roam about 100 feet in any direction from the tree. After a few months, he noticed the monkey was no longer even trying to break free, so the man removed the rope. For the rest of the monkey’s life, he stayed within 100 feet of the tree.

The monkey was free, but lived like a slave. If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, you have been released from your sin and your past. You are no longer a slave. You are free – free to enjoy life, live for God, and be victorious in every way. You are no longer a slave. It’s time to act like it!

I Can’t Believe What I Just Saw

I can’t believe what I just saw. Saturday, I was in Texas to conduct a wedding ceremony. After the wedding, Beth and I stopped at a Raceway Station. When I started to pump gas, I saw the lady at the next pump – smoking a cigarette while pumping gas. I walked toward her and warned her of the danger of smoking while pumping gas. She said some rather unpleasant things to me. It was clear she was not going to put her cigarette out. So I got in my car and drove off out of fear of what might happen next.

And then it did happen next. As we began to drive off, Beth saw it in our car’s side mirror – a spark – and then a flame. I turned the car around and saw the lady waving her arm violently. She was on fire.

Within seconds, several customers had run to her with some sort of blanket, throwing it around her arm as fast as they could, to put the fire out. But before they could get to her, the sound of her screams and the sight of her waving arm, completely aflame, were etched in my mind. It was a horrible sight and sound.

We got out of our car. Just then, a police car pulled up. It must have already been close by. The officer got out of his car and walked over to the lady. After making sure the fire was out, he proceeded to do the unexpected. He put her into the backseat of his car.

When the manager of the store left the scene, walking back toward the store, many of us gathered around him. “Why did the officer put her in the car?” I asked him. He said, “The police put her under arrest.”

“Why did they arrest her?” I asked him.

The man replied, “For illegally waving a firearm.”

Okay – so that’s a horrible (but funny) story. But there’s a point. You bought it, didn’t you? I know I did, when I heard that story last week!

Here’s the lesson. Don’t believe everything you hear. Sounding true and being true are two different things. We live in a world in which the media is screaming messages at us every day. I won’t get into the politics of that. But I will say this – again. Be careful what you believe. The Bible says to “test the spirits.” That means to make sure what you buy into is really true.

And avoid illegally waving a firearm.

The Rushmore Report – Eagles’ Nick Foles, from QB to Pastor

On Twitter, the bespectacled Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles places his faith in Jesus before everything else that defines him in his tagline. “Believer in Jesus Christ, husband, father, son, brother,” he writes. It’s no surprise then that at the end of his football career, Foles plans to become a pastor.

“I want to be a high school pastor,” the 29-year-old said at a news conference ahead of the Super Bowl. “It’s on my heart. I took a leap of faith last year and signed up to take classes at seminary. I wanted to continue to learn and challenge my faith. It’s a challenge because you are writing papers that are biblically correct. You want to impact people’s hearts.”

Foles continued, “When I speak to students, that’s such a time of young men and young women’s lives that there’s a lot of things that are thrown at them. So much temptation in this world, so much going on with social media and the internet that you want to talk to them, address it, and share the weakness. I have because I’ve fallen many times. It’s something I want to do. I can’t play football forever. I’ve been blessed with an amazing platform and it’s just a door God has opened, but I still have a lot of school left and a long journey.”

After suffering a few years of inconsequential performances since 2013 when he made the Pro Bowl after throwing 27 touchdown passes for the Eagles, he was thinking about retiring. Before making the decision, however, Foles and his family prayed and he chose to remain in the NFL.

He returned to the Eagles this season to play back-up quarterback to the Eagles’ young superstar Carson Wentz. When Wentz got injured with a torn ACL in December, Foles was ready and he powered his team to success with a lot of “faith throws,” passes thrown before the receiver breaks for the ball.

Foles told the Associated Press, “It took a lot more faith to come back and play than it would have taken to go in the other direction. Either way would have been fine. Either way, I would have trusted in God. I would have done something else and glorified God in that instance. I knew as a person that the more growth I’ve had and the more opportunity I would have to glorify God and trust in him would be to go back and play football,” he added.

About the Author

Leonardo Blair is a writer for the Christian Post.