A Matter of Perspective

Sugar Ray Leonard was one of the greats of boxing. He was asked to speak to the intellectual crowd of Harvard.

“I consider myself blessed. I consider you blessed. We’ve all been blessed with God-given talents. Some of you have the talent to create rockets that will inhabit the universe. Others can cure disease. My God-given talent happens to be beating people up.”

That’s an interesting perspective.

Agatha Christie once offered this perspective on marriage. “An archaeologist is the best husband a wife can have. The older she gets, the more interesting she will be to him.”

The great Picasso once asked his friend Rodin if he liked Picasso’s latest painting that was yet unsigned. Rodin studied the painting from all directions and, only after careful deliberation answered Picasso. “Whatever else you do, sign it. If you do that, we will know which way to hold it.”

God has signed his handiwork with a sunrise, a rainbow, a gentle breeze. But until you recognize the hand of God, you will never know which way is up.

The Old Testament tells us of a man named Ahithophel, who killed himself simply because he never discovered the right perspective. Only a close walk with the Creator can give you the perspective you really need.

The Rushmore Report – Leading Pastor Identifies Three Misconceptions About Heaven

Craig Groeschel, pastor of Life Church, has identified three misconceptions about heaven. Furthermore, he highlighted why it’s important to have a proper understanding of the afterlife. In a sermon titled “The Glory of Heaven,” Groeschel made news with a riveting idea – we should imagine what life will be like one minute after we die. The three misconceptions about heaven follow.

1. Heaven will be boring.

One reason many think of heaven as boring, said the pastor, is that the devil is a liar and wants people to believe that God is a “killjoy” who robs us of everything fun.

“I hope you’ll understand – heaven will be the opposite of boredom. It is the absence of everything evil, and it is the presence of God. When you think about it, everything that you enjoy on earth is the result of a gift from the God of heaven.”

2. This world – not heaven – is our home.

Groeschel encouraged his congregation to refrain from getting upset about the small, mundane things, and rather to live for what matters most. “I want to live on earth in a way that makes a difference in eternity,” he said. “What matters is how I love. What matters is what I give. What matters is who I serve. What matters is what I say that gives life – the things that we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

3. Heaven is a “default destination” for most people.

The misunderstanding is that most will go to heaven – if they are relatively good. “Don’t forget what Jesus said,” Groeschel warned. “Jesus said, ‘Broad is the road and wide is the path that leads to destruction and many people are on it. Narrow is the road and small is the gate that leads to life, and few people find it.'”

The mega-church pastor continued, “The truth is, good people don’t go to heaven when they die. Forgiven people go to heaven when they die.”

Groeschel concluded his message by emphasizing that those who truly understand the holiness of God are “acutely aware of the sinfulness of mankind” and that all people fall short of God’s standards. “But by the grace of God, anyone who calls on the name that is above every name in the name of Jesus, that person will be saved.”

He then said he decided to preach on the afterlife to remind those who are in Christ that they don’t need to fear death, and to create a “spiritual urgency” – to allow the reality of heaven to impact how we live today.

This was the third message in Groeschel’s message series, “One Minute After You Die.”

The Rushmore Report – Stephen Colbert Reveals What Brought Him Back to Jesus

“The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert says a chance encounter with a person handing out Bibles on the street is what brought him back to faith when he was an atheist. Colbert, a Roman Catholic, spoke last week with the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at America magazine, and said he was a convicted atheist in his 20s.

“I had lost my faith in God, to my own great grief,” Colbert said. “I was sort of convinced that I had been wrong all this time, that I had been taught something that wasn’t true.”

In past interviews, Colbert has opened up about the tragedy of his childhood, describing how his father and two brothers died in a plane crash when he was 10 years old.

In his interview with Martin on the “Faith in Focus” program, he said that it was a cold night in Chicago, Illinois, when one stranger handed him a little green pocket Bible. He was 22 then.

That Bible was indexed by topics, and so Colbert turned to the page about anxiety. Jesus’ words at the Sermon on the Mount were presented:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?… Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

The talk show host revealed that he was “absolutely, immediately lightened” by Christ’s words.

“I stood on the street corner in the cold and read the sermon. And my life has never been the same,” he added.

In another exchange posted online, Martin asked Colbert to tell him “who is God for you?”

“It’s Jesus Christ,” Colbert immediately replied. “Not an old man with a beard.”

The comedian went on to say that physically, he thinks of Jesus when someone asks him that question, but “that image dissolves, as I try to subsume that image into the Trinity.”

He added that one of the things he prays about is the ability to love.

“If I can love, I can be free,” he said. “When I think of love, I think of God, and when I think of God, I think of love.”

Colbert has featured several segments and comedy bits revolving around religion on his CBS “Late Show” program. He has also debated some notable atheist celebrities, such as comedian Ricky Gervais, on the topics of Creation, God, science, and religion.

He has also challenged some conservative Christian leaders, such as megachurch Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.

After Jeffress suggested last year that God has granted U.S. President Donald Trump the authority to “take out” North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Colbert featured a comedy bit where a white-haired spoof version of God suggested that he agreed with Jeffress’ comments.

“Oh yeah, I’m always on America’s side when it comes to blowing stuff up,” the spoof version of God said. Colbert then pointed out, “But that goes against your whole message of peace and forgiveness,” to which the character said that such thinking comes from his “hippy” son Jesus.

About the Author

Stoyan Zaimov writes for The Christian Post.

Power of the Saw

A man had a firewood factory that employed prisoners. He gave them a place to live, specific directions on what to do, and he paid them good wages, but they were unproductive. Eventually the man had no choice. He fired them and purchased a circular saw powered by a gas engine. In one hour, the new saw did more than all the men had done in a week.

The man talked to his new saw. “How can you turn out so much work?” he asked it. “Are you sharper than the saws my men were using?”

The saw answered, “No, I am not any sharper than the other saws. The difference is the gas engine. I have a stronger power behind me. I am productive because of the power that is working through me, not because my blade is any sharper.”

Many of us work for God in the power of the flesh. We use our best intellect, charming personality, and enthusiasm to its fullest. We are like the saw. We’re really pretty sharp. The problem isn’t our blade. It’s our power source.

Until we are plugged into the right power, we will never produce the right results, no matter how sharp we may be.

Jesus promised, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8). That is the power than makes any blade sharp.

Cheerful Giving

The long-awaited morning finally arrives. The heap of torn wrapping paper rivals the size of the remaining pile of unwrapped packages. Mom sips coffee and nibbles on fruitcake. Grandma admires the present her granddaughter has just opened. Then the young son eagerly bounces over to Dad with a poorly but carefully wrapped present.

Of course, inside waits a gift the boy has made himself. It might be a pencil holder or a beaded keychain. Dad doesn’t really care, because he’s already received his gift – the indelible image of his son jumping up and down, eyes shining, unable to contain his excitement until Dad opens his lovingly made gift.

Perhaps this child’s eagerness to give to his father comes close to the idea of the “cheerful giver” God desires of us. Paul said, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Richard J. Foster wrote, “Giving makes life with God an adventure in the world; and that it worth living for and giving for.”

During this week of Thanksgiving, we will do well to focus on the second part of that word – giving. God is pleased when we are filled with thanks. But the real proof is in the giving. When was the last time you brought some gift of sacrificial proportion before your heavenly father with the same zeal as the young boy who brought his gift to his Dad on Christmas Day?

Heaven

A few weeks ago, I was blessed to attend First Baptist Church in Dallas with my wife and two of 0ur dearest friends. Pastor Robert Jeffress brought an amazing message on heaven. He taught from Daniel 12:2 – “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these believers to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”

Dr. Jeffress made four great points about heaven.

1. There is the promise of a resurrected body.

God’s original design is that of spirit and flesh (Genesis 2:7). His future plan includes two resurrections, one of the dead and one for the living.

2. There is the possibility of a resurrection body.

“How are the dead raised? And what kind of body do they have?” (1 Corinthians 15:35). Paul goes on to answer his own question. We have the opportunity of a new body.

3. There is a prototype of the resurrected body.

The Scriptures say, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that, when he appears, we shall be like him, because we will see him just as he is” (1 John 3:2). Jesus is the picture of our resurrected body.

4. We see the particulars of the resurrected body.

Our bodies will be physical (1 Corinthians 15:39-44). Our bodies will be perfect (Revelation 21:4). And our bodies will  be personal (Luke 24:39). Heaven is real, and our heavenly bodies will be real, as well.

The Rushmore Report – Will Graham Calls on Christians to Fight CA Fires

Will Graham, grandson of the late Billy Graham, has urged Christians to help victims of the California wildfires, saying that believers “should be the first ones to be responding because we represent the King of kings and Lord of lords.” He continued, “I think as Christians, we should be the first ones to respond to anybody in need – pray for them, help with physical needs, do whatever they need in the love of Jesus Christ.”

California is experiencing unprecedented fires, claiming close to 80 lives so far. And the fires are still not contained. A staggering 8,650 homes and 10,000 total structures have been burned to the ground.

Graham told the Christian Broadcasting Network that chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team have already been deployed near Sacramento to provide physical and spiritual assistance to those suffering due to the fires.

“We send chaplains to simply sit there and pray with people, cry with people, and hold people,” he said. “People have lost everything – they’re devastated, and they don’t even know where the next step begins. So we just go, sit there, and we start praying with them.”

Graham continued, “We will see some people come to know Christ, but I don’t think we’ve ever been there when somebody said, ‘No, don’t pray for me.'”

Samaritan’s Purse, the humanitarian organization led by Will’s father, Franklin Graham, will also be on the ground providing disaster relief.

What triggered the fires is yet unknown, but experts say the blaze continues to be fueled by strong winds, low humidity, and the dry terrain caused by a prolonged drought.

On Facebook, Franklin Graham has urged his seven million followers to pray for all those affected by the inferno: “Would you pray especially today for all those in the paths of these deadly fires and especially for the families whose loved ones were killed? Also we need to pray for protection and strength for the many firefighters who are battling these blazes 24/7.”

The Rushmore Report – Nicole Kidman Talks About Her Faith

In promoting her upcoming film Hollywood icon Nicole Kidman has opened up about her faith and personal belief in God.  For the December/January issue of Allure magazine, Kidman, who was raised in an Irish Catholic family, sported a diamond-studded crucifix, which she said was a gift from her grandmother. She wears it all the time. “I’m spiritual in the sense that I absolutely believe in God,” she said.

Kidman went on to reveal that she once thought of becoming a nun. “I loved the idea of being a nun,” she said. “I did not choose that path, but I was very drawn to it.”

The 51-year-old is the star of the new film, “Boy Erased,” in which she plays a pastor’s wife. Her role as Nancy Eamons is the wife of a small-town Baptist pastor who put their son in a “gay conversion” program after discovering that he was gay.

Once linked to Scientology, Kidman shared that she had become estranged from her two oldest children. Her kids left her for a life with their adoptive father Tom Cruise following their divorce.

“They are adults. They are able to make their own decisions. But my job is to love them,” Kidman said.

Now married to country music star Keith Urban, the two recently visited a children’s hospital in Australia together. There, they sang “Amazing Grace.”

Urban and Kidman toured the Monash Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, visiting kids with cancer. Others in the hospital halls joined them in singing the famous hymn.

Such outings and quiet ministry have become commonplace for both Kidman and Urban. Nicole Kidman has returned to the faith of her childhood. Her Christian faith is growing and increasingly becoming a part of her daily lifestyle.

The Rushmore Report – Barna: The Christians Who Vote for Trump Don’t Pray for Him

The Christians that the Barna Group believes were key to President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, due to their movement away from Democrats, do not largely pray for the commander-in-chief, according to the evangelical research organization. Earlier this month, Barna released a report that included a compilation of recent research that they conducted on various politics-related issues.

Among their findings, Barna reported that as of early 2017, around the time Trump was sworn in as president, 37 percent of American adults said they pray for the president.

“Evangelicals were the group most active in their prayer, along with majorities of groups with an active Christian faith,” noted Barna earlier this month.

“These prayers were just as common among black Americans as among white Americans, but less common among those who profess a non-Christian faith or fall into the category of notional Christians.”

Barna defines “notional Christians” as people who identify as Christian and likely attend church, but do not consider themselves to be “born-again.”

Barna found that while their research indicated that “Notional Christians” were a key factor in Trump being elected, only 35 percent report praying for the president.

According to Barna’s post-election report, “perhaps the most significant faith group in relation to the Trump triumph was notional Christians. These individuals … have supported the Democratic candidate in every election since 1996. On average, notionals have given the Democratic candidate 58 percent of their votes. That trend was broken this year as Hillary Clinton took just 47 percent of the group’s votes while Trump was awarded 49 percent. Given that notionals are by far the largest of the five faith segments, that transition was a game changer for the Republicans.”

Among evangelical Christians, a group that strongly supported Trump, 88 percent reported praying for Trump. By contrast, 18 percent of non-Christian religious believers reported praying for the president.

Unlike most polling on evangelicals, Barna defines evangelicals based upon beliefs, a set of nine questions, rather than self-identification.

Barna drew from a 2017 survey of 1,109 American adults with a sampling error of plus or minus 2.9 percent.

The survey was one of multiple recent findings that Barna highlighted in response to the midterm elections, with the organization explaining that they believed this and other findings “may help provide context—or prompt more questions—about our present political moment.”

Last year, it was reported that some theologically liberal churches, All Saints Episcopal Church of Pasadena, California among them, were going to refuse to state Trump’s name in their prayers for him.

“We are in a unique situation in my lifetime where we have a president elect whose name is literally a trauma trigger to some people,” said All Saints Church Rector Mike Kinman, as reported by local media outlet Pasadena NOW in 2017.

“Whereas before we prayed for ‘Barack, our president,’ we are now praying for ‘our president, our president elect, and all others in authority.’ This practice will continue for at least the near future.”

The Rev. Alice Rose Tewell, associate pastor at The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., told The Christian Post in an interview last year that her congregation will “pray for our political leaders from all backgrounds during our worship service.”

“We have and we will continue to pray that our next president would act on with justice and mercy for each person throughout our nation and the world,” said Tewell.

“We pray that our next president will turn from the rhetoric of his campaign and instead stand up for the rights of the immigrant and refugee, the rights of women and children, the rights of people of color, the rights of those who live with disabilities, the rights of the LGBTQ community, for the rights of those living without homes or in unstable conditions, and for all who are lack enough opportunity, chances at a good education, and healthcare.”

About the Author

Michael Gryboski writes for the Christian Post. Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

God’s Grace in Full Force

From Rick Warren – November 6, 2016

“Your circumstances cannot change the character of God. God’s grace is still in full force.”

Regardless of your circumstances and how you feel, hang on to God’s unchanging character. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 1:12, “Now that the worst is over, we’re pleased we can report that we’ve come out of this with conscience and faith intact, and can face the world – and even more importantly, face you with our heads held high. But it wasn’t by any fancy footwork on our part. It was God who kept us focused on him, uncompromised” (MGS).

Your circumstances cannot change the character of God. God’s grace is still in full force. He is still for you, even when you don’t feel it.

Remind yourself what you know to be eternally true about God: he is good, he loves you, he is with you, he knows what you’re going through, he cares, and he has a good plan for your life.

Raymond Edman, one of Billy Graham’s mentors, once said, “Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.”

So, what has God told you in the light that you now doubt in the dark? Why do you think you doubt God now? Remember, your circumstances cannot change the character of God.