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.

The Rushmore Report – John Piper Answers: What Is My Reason for Existence?

John Piper, reformed theologian and head of the popular website DesiringGod.com, has offered answers to hundreds of questions about faith, doctrine, and the Christian life. Recently, he was asked one of the most intriguing questions of his ministry. It is the question at the heart of most people: “What is my reason for existence?” His answer will inspire you. In an episode of the podcast, Ask Pastor John, a listener named Tyler asked the “why” question.

“What is the overarching concept for my life, my reason for existence, and relationship with God?” Tyler asked. “I know if I better understood this, I would dive into the details and perform them more effectively and joyfully within the larger contest.”

Piper responded by saying that the purpose for his life was to “live to make Christ look magnificent.”

He said, “Almost everything I’ve done in the last 50 years has been a working out of what it means that God created the universe for his glory. The greatness of being human is to join him in that eternal purpose. Everything else finds its ground and its significance in God’s purpose to create and do all acts of providence and all acts of redemption for his glory.”

Piper encouraged Tyler that if he lives “in view of this great overarching purpose,” he can “be able to dive into the painful and happy particulars in your life.”

To review, the great purpose of life, in Piper’s words, is “to make Christ look magnificent.”

He is right. As Rick Warren says in his introduction to The Purpose-Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” It’s about God. A Christ-centered life is a life full of purpose. It’s that simple.

The Rushmore Report – Florida Atlantic Coach Lane Kiffin’s Remarkable Journey of Faith

Lane Kiffin has been a football coach at some impressive places: the Oakland Raiders, University of Tennessee, USC, and Alabama to name a few. Along the way, the colorful coach has made a lot of friends – and enemies. He has developed a reputation as the coach the other teams’ fans love to hate. But along the way, God never gave up on him. And now, the coach who has resurrected the anemic program at Florida Atlantic University, has found God. This is his story.

After his USC team lost a game to Arizona State, the coach was pulled off the team bus, where he was told he had been fired. He had to find another way home.

“I don’t wish that feeling upon anyone,” he says. “I wanted to die, because at the time, I was defined by my job.”

But God had other plans.

Kiffin says, “Just when I needed God most, he answered in a big way. I don’t know if God is a sports fan or not, but I do know this: he loves a good comeback.”

When he was at Tennessee, team chaplain Roger Woods gave the coach a copy of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Drive Life. Years later, that book would change his life.

“On the first page were four words that changed everything,” he says. “It’s not about you.”

Kiffin says that brought an old message a fresh meaning to his life. He believes he had “too much success, fame, and money in life too soon.” He was the youngest head coach in NFL history.

Looking back on his dismissal from USC, he says, “What it turned out to be was the beginning of God humbling me to become the man I am today. I was not using the platform he put me on for him. As my pastor once said, God wan’t punishing me; he was just giving me a wake-up call.”

Kiffin plans to use the rest of his career to point others to Christ. Already, he has made a difference in the life of the man he respects most, as his dad has come to Christ, as well.

The coach says, “I don’t like to focus too much on my past, because then it stops becoming your past and starts to become your present. However, my story is a special exception, because it shows people that it’s never too late to discover God, and we can overcome anything in our past. I like to tell people these days, if God can forgive me, he can forgive anyone.”

Texas v. White

This was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1869, that decreed by law what the Union’s victory in the Civil War had established by force; namely, that the United States is an indestructible union from which no state can secede. In 1850 the State of Texas had received $10 million in federal bonds in settlement of boundary claims. In 1862 these bonds, which lacked the necessary signature of the Governor, were transferred to pay for Confederate supplies. At the war’s end, Texas brought a suit in the Supreme Court, to recover the bonds.

The defendants claimed that because Texas had seceded from the Union, it could not sue. The court upheld the right of Texas to sue and recover the bonds. The ruling stated, “The unsuccessful effort of Texas to secede may temporarily have lost the state the privileges of membership in the Union, but not membership itself.”

Now, what is the point of this history lesson? The Bible says believers are “adopted” into God’s family. Even if they wanted to “secede,” they could not. Our membership in God’s Union is secure.

Make no mistake. Saved people act differently than those who are unsaved. But their relationship with the Father is secure.

Standing Still

The Tartar tribes of central Asia spoke a certain curse against an enemy. They didn’t call for their enemy’s swords to rust or for their people to die of disease. Instead they said, “May you stay in one place forever.”

The best way to assure yourself that you will never get better is to stand still. Jim Rohn said, “In order to do more, you first have to be more.”

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, said, “The great mystery isn’t that people do things badly but that they occasionally do a few things well. The only thing that is universal is incompetence.”

Drucker’s point is that we all have flaws, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is standing still, not doing anything to improve.

I read a story about a St. Louis doctor who met a young man in high school who had lost his hand at the wrist. When the doctor asked about his handicap, the teenager responded, “I don’t have a handicap, sir. I just don’t have a right hand.”

It turns out the boy was the leading scorer on his basketball team. He learned to focus on what he had left rather than on what he had lost. He learned to not stand still.

Paul said, “But as for you, be strong and do not give up. Your work will be rewarded” (2 Chronicles 15:7).

The Rushmore Report – Ray Lewis Inducted to HOF, Talks Faith & Second Chances

A conversation with former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is typically dotted with homespun philosophy, frequent mentions of faith, and biblical references. Upon his induction to the NFL Hall of Fame, Lewis has encouraged members of the press to read Psalm 91, which ends, “With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation.” This isn’t the first time the all-time great has spoken out about his faith. And Ray Lewis also likes to talk about the God of a second chance.

Lewis said, “For me, through the ups and downs, the roller coasters of 17 years, you have to find a safe place. You have to find that place that is very quiet in your head, and anytime I read it, anytime I come across it, my Bible, the first Scripture I read is Psalm 91.”

The former NFL Player of the Year compared himself to the character of David in the Old Testament. He sees David as a flawed, but righteous king, warrior, musician, and poet.

Speaking of his personal faith, Lewis said, “Man doesn’t dictate what you do or how you do it. If you believe in God, never stop trusting. That is where my faith lies.”

Back to the comparison with David, Lewis identifies with him because he was a sinner who turned his life around and made good. There were ramifications for his mistakes, but David discovered a God of a second chance.

Lewis has become a force in the community and a mentor to young athletes. His standard piece of advice to them is not to use his life and career as a model. “Follow my advice, not my footprints,” he says. “Don’t ever do it the way I did. You got to be willing to walk in a storm. That’s what I tell people all the time. If there’s something in your life that you know needs changing, make sure you change it before God has to do it for you. Because if God’s got to change it, you ain’t going to like it.”

Ravens executive Ozzie Newsome, himself a former NFL great, said of Lewis, “It’s not about how many times you get knocked down but how many times you get back up. And Ray has gotten up. He has followed his faith to a second chance God. Ray Lewis is a Hall of Fame player, but more than that, he has become a Hall of Fame person.”

About the Author

William Rhoden writes for the New York Times.

The Rushmore Report – The Very Simple Reason Evangelicals Are Sticking with Trump

He has been married three times. He has admitted to multiple affairs. His use of crude language is indisputable. He is not an active church person. Yet, President Donald Trump enjoys record support among Americans known as evangelicals – men and woman devoted to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Christian leaders such as Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr. acclaim him as the greatest friend Christians have ever had in the White House. Last week’s poll by YouGov found that those who self identify as “born again” support the president by a majority of 87-13 percent. Yet, only 45 percent of this group approve of the president’s personal behavior. So what gives? How come Christ followers support President Trump by greater numbers than for Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush? The answer is actually quite simple.

We have President Trump for no more than eight years. But we will have the ramifications of his policies for decades.

It is certainly understandable that many see this as the definition of hypocrisy. Here we have a sitting president who has been tied to an affair with a porn star, and his greatest defenders are evangelical leaders. What could be a greater disconnect than that?

But keep in mind, while Trump only has about a 45 percent approval rating, that trumps the media’s 24 percent trustworthy rating (CBS survey).

The CBS poll found that by an overwhelming majority, people find Trump’s behavior unbecoming of a president. But it also found that most people vote based on policy, not personality – or so they say.

So this is where most evangelicals stand. They would rather have a president with questionable character who delivers lower taxes, stronger defense, secure borders, religious freedom, a growing economy, conservative judges, low inflation, a rising stock market, and more jobs – than a president who is a great Sunday school teacher, but leads the country to a weakened national defense, higher taxes, porous borders, liberal judges, and higher unemployment.

The way evangelicals look at it is that in ten years, we won’t have Trump around. But we will have the result of his policies. And they are willing to put up with some personal issues with which they disagree for the sake of the long term good of the country.

For those who like to see ISIS on the run, North Korea discussing a reduction in its nuclear threat, Russia under economic sanctions, lower taxes, conservative judges, low unemployment, stronger national defense, secure borders, record jobs, and a soaring stock market – evangelicals make a good point.

Evangelicals are sticking with Trump. The reason is quite simple.

The Rushmore Report – African American Pastor Calls Trump a ‘Pro-Black’ President

President Donald Trump met with inner-city pastors from all over the country Wednesday. He listened to each man’s story as the group discussed prison reform, among other issues. Trump stressed the importance of churches in American life. And then prominent pastor Darrell Scott did the unthinkable. The African American pastor raised eyebrows when he praised the president for his support for minority communities. Of course, that has landed Rev. Scott in hot water.

Scott said, “To be honest, this is probably going to be the – and I’m going to say this at this table – the most pro-black president we have had in our lifetime. This president actually wants to prove something to our community, our faith-based community and our ethnic community.”

Scott said of President Obama, “The last president didn’t feel like he had to. He felt like he didn’t have to prove it. He got a pass. But this president is probably going to be more proactive regarding urban revitalization and prison reform than any president in your lifetime.”

Several pastors in attendance faced criticism from within their black communities. John Gray, formerly a pastor under Joel Osteen at Houston’s Lakewood Church, said he understood that the “optics” of the meeting did not look good. But he reasoned that he could do a lot of good “for people who look like me” by attending the meeting.

Another prominent pastor, Van Moody, of Worship Center Christian Church in Birmingham, faced intense scrutiny. He praised Trump for being “compassionate and caring for all people.”

For his part, President Trump concluded the meeting by telling the black pastors that “they will always have a friend in this White House.”

These pastors are to be commended for a) attending the meeting, and b) speaking truth as they see it. The best outcome will not be that a majority of African Americans suddenly embrace President Trump and his policies. The best outcome would be that they simply give him a chance.

In 2008 it was wrong for millions of white Americans to oppose President Obama because he is black. And today, it is just as wrong for millions of black Americans to oppose President Trump just because he is white.

What we need is open dialogue. President Trump was wise to invite the black pastors to the White House, and they were wise to go. But it’s what happens next that will matter most.

Jumping Out of Airplanes

When Luke Aikins jumped from a plane at 25,000 feet with no parachute, he made history last Saturday. But he wasn’t the first man to make news jumping out of a plane. It happened on November 24, 1971. An unidentified man hijacked a Boeing 727 Northwest Orient Airlines plane in Portland, Oregon. Carrying a black attache case, he approached the counter of the airlines at the Portland airport. He identified himself as Dan Cooper, and purchased a one-way ticket to Seattle.

The plane took off as scheduled, at 2:50 p.m. A few minutes into the flight, he told Florence Schaffner, the flight attendant, that he had a bomb. He told her his simple demands: $200,000 in “negotiable American currency,” four parachutes (two primary and two reserves), and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle to refuel the plane upon arrival. Ms. Schaffner told the pilot, William Scott, his demands.

Scott contacted authorities, who authorized the payment of the ransom. The other 36 passengers were told the plane had a “minor mechanical difficulty,” to explain why it circled Seattle for two hours, in order for authorities to respond to Cooper’s demands.

FBI agents assembled the money – 10,000 $20 bills. The parachutes were located and brought to the airport. At 5:24 p.m. Cooper was told his demands had been met, and at 5:29 p.m. the plane landed in Seattle. Once his demands were met, Cooper released most of the crew and all the passengers. At 7:40 p.m. the plane was airborne once again.

At about 8:00 p.m. Cooper opened the aft door and jumped. The FBI began an immediate investigation. In the decades to follow, hundreds of investigators have run down thousands of tips, but to no avail. Last week, 45 years after the crime, the FBI announced they are formally ending the investigation in order to focus on “more pressing priorities.”

Nine individuals have been considered suspects through the years. But whoever “Dan Cooper” really is (or was), one thing is certain. No amount of money is worth living out a life of isolation. Jesus asked, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

Mr. Cooper, if you are reading this (admittedly not likely), you can run from others. You can run from the law. But you can’t run from yourself – or God.

Stuck in Time

In 1957 there was a famous neuropsychology case that has been studied for years. The patient was called Henry M. He was born in Harford, Connecticut in 1926. He suffered from a case of epilepsy that was so severe and debilitating that he couldn’t function. At age 27, he underwent an experimental surgery in which parts of his brain were removed to try to treat his epilepsy.

The good news was that after surgery, he no longer suffered constant debilitating seizures. And there was no negative impact on his intelligence, personality, or social abilities. There was just one side effect. He had no short-term memory.

Henry M. couldn’t remember anything that happened after his surgery. He couldn’t recognize his doctors. Once home, he’d do the same jigsaw puzzle over and over, and read and re-read the same magazines.

When interviewed 30 minutes after lunch, he couldn’t remember a single thing he had just eaten. Henry M. was stuck in time, unable ot learn, grow, or change.

As sad as that is, I know a lot of people who are the same way. For them, all change is bad. So they never grow. It’s sad to be stuck in time. Paul wrote, “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, now grow up in him” (Colossians 2:6).

Don’t be stuck in time.