The Last Lunar Mission

The Apollo lunar landing program ended on this day in 1972, when the last three astronauts to travel to the moon splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean. Apollo 17 had lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on December 7. In July of 1969, after three years of preparation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) accomplished President John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the moon and safely returning him to Earth with Apollo 11.

From 1969 to 1972, there were six successful lunar landing missions and one aborted mission, Apollo 13. During the Apollo 17 mission, astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt stayed for a record 75 hours on the surface of the moon, conducting three separate surface excursions in the lunar rover vehicle and collecting 243 pounds of rock and soil samples.

It’s hard to believe all that NASA accomplished in just ten years, from the time of Kennedy’s pronouncement at Rice University in Houston, Texas, to the final lunar landing. It has been nearly 45 years since that historic moment. Amazingly, most living Americans have no memory of man on the moon. In this era of modern technology, the generation that trains the rest of us in how to use a smart phone came after what is arguably the most significant technological achievement of mankind – going to the moon.

For those of us old enough to remember Neil Armstrong’s “giant step for mankind,” the Apollo program represents far more than winning the space race over the Russians. It represents everything that is great about the American spirit. Sadly, since that day in 1972, we have never been back to the moon.

So this is a good day to reflect on that incredible day – December 19, 1972.

The Boston Tea Party

The biggest tea party ever took place 245 years ago today. In Boston Harbor, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded three British tea ships and dumped 342 chests of tea into the harbor. The midnight raid, popularly known as the Boston Tea Party, was done in protest of the British Parliament’s Tea Act of 1773, a bill designed to save the faltering East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a virtual monopoly on the American tea trade.

The low tax allowed the East India Company to undercut tea smuggled into America by Dutch traders, and many colonists viewed the act as another example of taxation tyranny. When three tea ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor, the colonists demanded that the tea be returned to England. After Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused, Patriot leader Samuel Adams organized the “tea party” with about sixty members of the Sons of Liberty, his underground resistance group. The British tea dumped in Boston Harbor on the night of December 16 was valued at approximately $18,000.

What the colonists did 243 years ago remains at the heart of the American spirit today. They were all about fairness and democratic representation. As we enter a new year and a new presidential administration, these are unchartered waters. May God bless us with the same spirit and values of our founding fathers.


The Great Portuguese Discovery – 498 Days Ago Today

Okay, let’s take a shot at a history question. For whom did they name the Strait of Magellan? I’ll give you a hint. We have his picture here. Was it . . .

A. Columbus

B. Magellan

C. George Strait

I’ll go ahead and remove the suspense. The correct answer is Magellan.

Born to a wealthy Portuguese family in 1480, Magellan became a skilled sailor and naval officer. He would eventually be picked by King Charles I of Spain to lead a search for a westward route to the Spice Islands. Commanding a fleet of five vessels, he headed south through the Atlantic Ocean to Patagonia, passing through what would become known as the Strait of Magellan.

What he found on the other side, he called the “Peaceful Sea.” We call it the Pacific Ocean. Despite a series of storms and mutinies, the expedition reached the Spice Islands a year later, and returned home via the Indian Ocean. This completed the first trip around the earth.

Unfortunately for Magellan, he did not complete the voyage himself, as he was killed during the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines in early 1521.

It was on this day in history – November 28, 1520 – that three of Magellan’s ships passed South America into the Pacific Ocean. Was this by design? Of course not. Magellan had little idea what lay ahead when he set out across the Atlantic Ocean. But his was an exercise in vision and perseverance.

Magellan did what no one had done before. For that he has a strait named after him. Not many of us can say that. But it came at a high price. Magellan would not live long enough to see his name on an elementary school globe. Nor would he live long enough to make it back home.

Life is a lot like that. As with the great Portuguese explorer, we often don’t live to see the fruits of our labor. But if we pay the price of vision and perseverance, results will come.

We aren’t called to know what lays ahead. But we are called to set sail. You may never discover an oceanic passageway. You may not even have a strait named after you. But you will go places you never imagined.

It’s time to set sail.

The Rushmore Report – It’s Been 55 Years, and He Still Blames Himself for JFK’s Death

As of this past Thursday, America’s greatest unsolved case turned 55. To this day, an amazing 80 percent of the population believes John F. Kennedy was not shot by a single gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald. Over these 55 years, conspiracists have blamed the CIA, Russia, Cuba, Lyndon Johnson, and the Easter Bunny. They have blamed everyone except one guy – the guy who still blames himself for the death of President Kennedy after all these years.

They were the eight seconds that changed the world. Former marine Lee Harvey Oswald leaned out of the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository Building and fired the three shots that took the life of a president and wounded the Texas governor.

Yes, for the sake of this article, we will dismiss the crazy theories and go with the evidence – Lee Harvey Oswald was the gunman that fateful day, November 22, 1963.

As a bullet blasted through the president’s neck, secret service agent Clint Hill was the first to respond. While others froze in the moment, the 31-year-old agent leaped from his car just behind the president’s and raced on foot toward the lead limousine.

Without a thought for his own safety, Clint jumped onto the back of the accelerating car, trying to create a human shield to protect the president and first lady.

But he was a few seconds too late. Before Clint Hill could scramble into position, another shot pierced Kennedy’s head, bringing a sudden and horrific end to the president’s life.

Last week, the now 86-year-old Hill lamented the event that is never far from his mind. And sadly, he still believes that he “should have been faster.” He blames himself for the president’s death.

Hill said, “One thing that I’ve never been able to erase from my mind is being on the back of the car looking down at the president, who was lying with his face in Mrs. Kennedy’s lap. The right side of his face is up and I can see that his eyes are fixed. There’s blood everywhere. I can see the gunshot wound. In the room that’s in the skull I can see that there is no more brain matter left.”

Hill concluded, “That is something I could never, and have never been able to, erase from my mind.”

Clint Hill is an American hero. But like all heroes, he looks back and says he could – and should – have done more.


It was 84 years ago today – August 24, 1934. The first civilian prisoners arrived at the federal prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay.

The United States Disciplinary Barracks on Alcatraz was acquired by the United States Department of Justice on October 22, 1933, and the island became a Federal Bureau of Prisons federal prison in August of 1934. Alcatraz was designed to hold prisoners who continuously caused trouble at other federal prisons. At 9:40 am on August 11, 1934, the first batch of 137 prisoners arrived by railroad from the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Most were notorious bank robbers and murderers.

During the 29 years the prison was in use, the jail had some of the most notorious criminals in American history, such as Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz), George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Bumpy Johnson, and Alvin
“Creepy” Karpis (who served longer than any other Alcatraz inmate). It also provided housing for the Bureau of Prisons staff and their families.

I can’t imagine living a life behind bars. Yet, millions of people do just that – not behind the bars of a federal prison, but the bars of their own making. Fortunately, we don’t have to live in the prison of our guilt or sin. We have been paroled. Jesus says, “Go and sin no more.”

The Rushmore Report – The Four Words JFK Spoke Seconds Before He Died

The last words John F. Kennedy said to his wife on that fateful day of November 22, 1963 were not his final words. He told Jackie she looked “smashing” in her new pink suit. But his final words were spoken from the back seat of the 1961 Lincoln Continental in which he was riding, just seconds before the shots rang out that would forever change the course of history. JFK’s last words came in answer to a question. The last four words of the 35th president were . . .

“No, you certainly can’t.”

Here’s the story. The Kennedys were seated behind Texas Governor John Connally and his wife Nellie in the Lincoln. It was well-known that Kennedy had picked Lyndon Johnson as his running mate in order to carry Texas in the 1960 election. Without Texas, he would have lost the election, and without Johnson, he would have lost Texas. But the president was never particularly popular in the conservative Lone Star State.

And that is why he was in Dallas in the first place – to lay the groundwork for his reelection bid that was less than one year in the future. But to his great surprise, Dallas really turned out to support him as his car made its way along the parade route. By the thousands, cheering supporters demonstrated their love for the president and first lady.

Moments after their Lincoln made its final turn onto Elm Street in Dealey Plaza, Nellie Connally turned back toward Mr. Kennedy and said, “You can’t say Texas doesn’t love you!” Kennedy replied, “No, you certainly can’t.”

And then Lee Harvey Oswald changed everything by assassinating the president from his sixth floor loft in the Texas School Book Depository building.

As the Lincoln sped off toward Parkland Hospital, Jackie Kennedy cradled the president’s head in her lap, repeating these words: “Jack, Jack, can you hear me? I love you.”

Of course, the president was already gone, and would be pronounced dead after receiving the last rites at the hospital a few minutes later. And while some have tried to dramatize JFK’s final moments by alleging his final words were, “My God, I’ve been hit,” physicians agree that his wounds would have made it impossible for him to speak.

A historic presidency was ended in a few seconds by the bullets of a deranged shooter. But not until Kennedy had acknowledged the hospitality of the people of Dallas.

While a man born in another state (Louisiana) was already pulling the trigger of his 6.5 mm Carcano rifle, John Kennedy was acknowledging the love of Texas.

“You can’t say Texas doesn’t love you.”

“No, you certainly can’t.”

The Liberty Bell Tolls to Announce the Declaration of Independence

On July 8, 1776, a 2,000-pound copper and tin bell now known as the Liberty Bell rang out from the tower of the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Liberty Hall) in Philadelphia, summoning citizens to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Here’s the history of the most famous bell on earth. In 1751, to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of Pennsylvania’s original constitution, the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly order the bell to be constructed. After being cracked during a test and then recast twice, the bell was hung from the State House steeple in June, 1753. Rung to call the Pennsylvania Assembly together and to summon people for special announcements and events, it was also rung on important occasions, such as King George III’s 1761 ascension to the British throne and, in 1765, to call the people together to discuss Parliament’s controversial Stamp Act. With the outbreak of the American Revolution in April of 1775, the bell was rung to announce the battles of Lexington and Concord. Its most famous tolling, however, was on July 8, 1776, when it announced the reading of the Declaration.

Freedom demands a grand announcement. The Bible says of Jesus, “The Spirit of God is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18-19). Twice in that passage we find the word “free.” And here’s the good news. Those who have been set free in Christ are free indeed.

The Rushmore Report – God’s Providence in the American Revolution

It can hardly be doubted that God’s providence had a lot to do with the victory of the American colonists in their war of independence against Great Britain, the world’s mightiest power. The colonies had been founded by those with deep Biblical convictions. The Puritans in New England had come to the New World to establish a Bible commonwealth, in which God’s Word would reign supreme in the lives of its citizens.

When George III imposed his tyranny over the colonies, the voices from the pulpits were loud and unequivocal. John Calvin, in his Institutes, had preached that it was lawful for a people to overthrow a tyrannical system of government that made a mockery of God’s law. In his Prefatory Address to the King of France, Calvin wrote in 1536:

The characteristic of a true sovereign is, to acknowledge that, in the administration of his kingdom, he is a minister of God. He who does not make his reign subservient to the divine glory, acts the part not of a king, but a robber. He, moreover, deceives himself who anticipates long prosperity to any kingdom which is not ruled by the sceptre of God, that is, by his divine word.

Calvin further wrote:

We are subject to the men who rule over us, but subject only in the Lord. If they command anything against Him let us not pay the least regard to it, nor be moved by all the dignity which they possess as magistrates – a dignity to which no injury is done when it is subordinated to the special and truly supreme power of God.

Thus, the colonists believed that it was their duty to oppose a tyranny that violated God’s law and the concept of Christian freedom. This was the spiritual resolve that led the leaders of the colonies to write the Declaration of Independence.

George Washington, of all our great leaders, was certainly blessed with God’s providence. By all accounts, he should have been killed in the French and Indian War (1754-1763), but was miraculously saved. At the Battle at the Monongahela, Washington and the British army were ambushed by the French. Every officer on horseback was killed except Washington. He later wrote to his brother John on July 18, 1755:

But by the all-powerful dispensations of providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me.

Washington was only 23 when he faced that ordeal of death on the battlefield. He emerged unscathed with his faith deeper and stronger than ever. God had protected him, and he became the military leader of the greatest war for independence ever fought in all of history. On June 1, 1774, when the Colonies were seeking God’s will in making their momentous decision to sever their ties with England, Washington wrote in his diary: “Went to church and fasted all day.”

When he became Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army he appointed chaplains for every regiment, recognizing that his men needed spiritual nourishment as well as the bodily kind, for this was a war that could not be won without miracles.

One such miracle occurred on August 27, 1776. British General Howe had trapped Washington and his 8,000 troops on Brooklyn Heights on Long Island, and he intended to advance the next morning to destroy them. But Washington gathered every vessel he could find and spent all night ferrying his men across the East River. In the morning there was still a large number of soldiers facing annihilation by Howe. But a heavy fog descended on the area enabling the rest of Washington’s troops to escape the British trap. That too was nothing less than a miracle!

When Washington became our first President under the new Constitution of the United States, he said at his Inaugural Address:

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency… We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.

Many of our legislators and judges seem to have forgotten what Washington said. It is up to us to restore to America its Godly heritage and to never forget the miracles that made us the great nation that we have become.

About the Author

Sam Blumenfeld has written eight books on education, including his latest book, The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection.

The Rushmore Report – The Confederate Gift to the Nation

Memorial Day began as a Confeder­ate holiday — Confederate! God save the mark! — only a year after the end of the great War Between the States. The ladies of Columbus, Georgia, went to the graveyard with broken hearts to decorate the graves of their husbands, sons and brothers who had died defending hearth and home from the depredations of old William Tecumseh Sherman on his infa­mous march from Atlanta to the sea.

“I can make the march,” Sherman said to Abraham Lincoln, “and I can make Georgia howl.” He would cut a path of fire, death and destruction so complete that “if a crow flies across Georgia it will have to carry its own rations.”

“The action of the ladies on this oc­casion,” said the Daily National Intelli­gencer in the nation’s capital, “in burying whatever animosities or ill feeling may have been engendered in the late war to­wards those who fought against them, is worthy of all praise and condemnation.”

The Cleveland Daily Leader agreed: “The act was as beautiful as it was unselfish, and it will be appreciated in the North.”

The ladies of Columbus decorated the graves with flags and flowers in remembrance of what love and sacrifice had wrought. They decorated the few Union graves among their dead with flowers, too. “They were cruel,” said one of the ladies of the Yankee invad­ers, “only to be true to their cause.” This simple act of generosity was quickly noted by several important newspapers in the North.

The New York Commercial Adver­tiser drew a lasting lesson: “Let this incident, touching and beautiful as it is, impart to our Washington authorities a lesson in conciliation.” Two years later, at the behest of Gen. John A. Logan, who was wounded at the battle of Fort Donelson in Tennessee and became the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, a commemorative associa­tion of Union veterans, established the holiday as a federal remembrance.

To the irritation of some of his colleagues, he acknowledged the holiday’s origins. “It is not too late for the Union men of the nation to follow the example of the people of the South.”

And so Decoration Day became a day of remembrance and reconciliation across the land, later to be called Memorial Day, and still, particularly in the small towns of the South, a day of decorating graves of Confederate soldiers of the War Between the States with flowers and flags.

This year, as in many years before, my beloved sister Joan went to a country graveyard in Arkansas with a clutch of tiny flags, of both Union and Confeder­ate persuasion, to remember those who gave the last full measure of devotion in the service of God and country. She stooped with particular care to put a tiny banner of the Stars and Bars next to the headstone of Cpl. David J. Pruden, late of Cocke’s Regiment of an Arkansas army of the Confederacy.

The Union adoption of a Confederate holiday was particularly poignant, and unexpected, so soon after Appomattox. Men who had fought to the death for four miserable years put aside bitter remembrance to embrace each other as friends. Grant became friends with Lee, and Joe Johnston, as an old man, whose army had fought Sherman’s at Atlanta, stood for an hour in a cold rain to pay honor to the passing of Sherman’s funeral cortege, caught cold and then pneumonia and died four days later.

Such men would not understand the current fashion of contempt for old foes, the tearing down of monuments to bravery, courage and devotion to hearth and home. They wouldn’t know what to make of the Episcopal divines of the Washington National Cathedral who celebrated brotherhood not long ago by punching out tiny images of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in a stained glass commemoration of their faith in the Christ.

Francis Miles Finch (1827-1907), a judge in Ithaca, New York, was moved by the gesture of the ladies of Georgia to write a poem that became famous in its day. “No more shall the war cry sever/Or the winding rivers be red/They banish out anger forever/When they laurel the graves of our dead/Under the sod and the dew/Waiting the Judg­ment Day/Love and tears for the Blue/ Tears and love for the Gray.”

About the Author

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

The Rushmore Report – Should the Church Avoid Politics?

The founders built this country on God’s Word. God said, “I will be your judge, I will be your lawgiver, and I will be your king.” Here we see the three distinct bodies of government – the executive, judicial, and legislative branches – because of the Word of God. I truly do not understand people who think we should not talk about this. Before Fox News and CNN, the pulpit was where people acquired their information.

Spurgeon preached against slavery. Martin Luther went against the political leaders of his day. John Calvin wanted to make the city of Geneva a religious city – a city on a hill.

Men and women of God filled with the Spirit want to make a difference in all areas of life: civil government, the public schools, our homes, our communities. For example, local school districts should be ashamed for allowing the current sex-ed curriculum into the schools. Have we lost our moral compass? Yes we have. We shouldn’t be surprised that sexual perversion, suicide, and depression are on the upswing when we are contributing to it.

If My People . . .

There comes a time when we must be a “voice crying in the wilderness.” We fight this battle on our faces and on our knees before God, crying out, “God, save us!” Have mercy on us! We are a prideful, arrogant people. God, we are repenting; we are turning back to You. Have mercy on us and fill us with your Spirit, and bring revival. Bring renewal.” Prayer is our weapon.

You might say, “But I don’t want to get involved.” I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you already are involved. When you say nothing, you speak the loudest. We are involved, whether we like it or not. As much as we would love to live in utopia with peaceful days, we don’t live in that world. We live in the real world, and God calls us to battle – on our knees. “If My people” – not Washington, not Hollywood – “If My People humble themselves . . .” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

So here’s the big question. Does God desire that we seek Him for our marriages? Does God desire that our families seek Him? Of course, but does God desire that our governments seek Him? Yes. He instituted all three. All three have different functions, but He created all three institutions.

This is not about political parties; it’s about God’s love. When you love God, you want to honor His Word. When you see people mocking His Word, spitting on it, and blaspheming it – if something doesn’t break in your heart, I want to challenge you. Where in the world is your heart?

John Hancock said, “Men, I beg you by all that is dear, by all that you hold honorable, not only that you pray, but that you act.” Praying without action is not biblical either. How is that so? You pray, “Lord, make me a better husband,” yet you still curse at your wife. You pray, “Make me a better leader,” but you beat everybody up with your words. You see, prayer and action are married.

But what is our action? Bended knee, hearts broken before God. God can then say, “Oh, I can use that person. See how they are broken and humbled before Me? How they are emptied of themselves? How they’re not on arrogant political rants?”

There are right ways to do things and wrong ways. Nothing breaks my heart more than to see the immature behavior of Christians on Facebook going on political tirades with hate instead of love. Jesus said the world will know we are Christians by our love (John 13:35). God changes a heart, not you. I’m concerned that a lot of us have passion for this area, but we don’t have love. We desperately need both!

About the Author

Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California.