The Greatest Gift

At the tender age of 20, Solomon was king of Israel. His kingdom was so respected that Pharaoh, the Egyptian monarch, formed an alliance with the new king by giving Solomon his daughter in marriage. Because Solomon understood that his youth and inexperience could topple the kingdom, he cried out to God for help, asking for divine approval and guidance. Solomon was so sincere that he offered 1,000 burnt offerings to God. Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream with an incredible offer. “Ask for anything you want.”

What would you have asked for?

As you probably know, Solomon asked for wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to discern and apply what you know. And the foundation for wisdom is Scripture. Samuel Chadwick said it best: “No man is uneducated who knows the Bible, and no one is wise who is ignorant of its teachings.”

Let me ask you again. If God came to you with the same offer – ask for anything you want – how would you respond?

Dark Clouds

There is a really odd verse in the Bible. You may have skipped over it a hundred times. It’s found in 1 Kings, a book you probably have never read with much intent.

“Then spoke Solomon, ‘The Lord spoke from a dark cloud'” (1 Kings 8:12).

I’m all about God speaking through the beauty of nature. I see God in sunrise, sunset, birds chipping, rivers flowing, and snow falling.

But dark clouds?

Here’s the message. When you and I are traversing easy ground, God is there, to be sure. But it is during the storms of life that we need him the most. And he is always there.

Are you going through a storm right now? Are the clouds gathering overhead? When your world gets darkest and the sun is not shining, take heart. The voice of God is about to speak.

C.S. Lewis

One of the most prominent minds of the first half of the twentieth century was philosopher and author C.S. Lewis. As a young man, he met Joy Greshem, a poet. They established a strong friendship that grew into love. They eventually married, then Joy was diagnosed with cancer. After a hard battle, she died. But there were many ups and downs along the way.

During a period when Joy was responding well to treatment, a colleague of Lewis’s approached him with words of praise. “I know how hard you’ve prayed. God is answering your prayers,” he said.

Lewis replied, “I didn’t pray for that. I prayed because I can’t help myself. The power of prayer isn’t that it changes my circumstances, but that it changes my heart.”

Most of us practice what I call “outcome prayers.” We pray in order for God to change an outcome. But real spiritual maturity is marked by the man or woman who prays in order to get in touch with the Father out of a desire to change their heart.

Joy still died. But C.S. Lewis went on to change the world. But before he changed the world, God changed his heart.

Inauguration Day – A Christian Response

Today is the day. Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. Whether you supported Trump’s run for the White House or spiraled into major depression with his win on November 8, he is about to be your president. The question is how we, as believers, should respond on this historic day.

One of America’s most prominent ministers has weighed in with great wisdom. Dr. David Jeremiah, the senior pastor at Shadow Mountain Community Church, says he believes the 2016 election has been a “moment in history when God has reminded us that our ultimate citizenship is indeed in heaven, and not on earth.”

Rather than placing focus and inherent trust in fellow men, Jeremiah said he’d like to encourage Christians to look to God, asking for prayer for Trump and his administration, and expressing hope that God will have mercy on the United States.

“We pray that God might have mercy on our nation and that our leaders might know and fear Him, for as the Scriptures say, blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,” he said. “This is a time when we must hold fast to our calling to be good citizens.”

So how can we be “good citizens” on this historic day? I suggest we can do three things.

1. Pray – I learned a long time ago, I should never criticize a man for whom I have not first prayed. Pray for President Trump’s wisdom, inner circle, and total reliance on God.

2. Serve – Do your part. Do random acts of kindness. Make a difference in your own way. You don’t have to hold elective office in order to change your world.

3. Lead – Lead by example. Someone is watching you. While others are either blindly cheering our new president or outwardly hoping for his demise, stay on track. Let others see the grace and love of God in you. Jesus said, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

The Rushmore Report: Pray for Our New President

Dear friend, God is never surprised. The election of Donald Trump shocked the pundits and Washington elite and even surprised some of the candidate’s own voters – but it is God who cleared the way for him, whether he fully realizes that or not. That’s because, whichever person had been elected, the rise and fall of a nation’s leaders happens under the sovereignty of God, who is often working in larger ways and with a longer perspective than we can know. The Bible says, “Wisdom and might are his. And he changes the times and the seasons; he removes kings and raises up kings” (Daniel 2:20-21).

No one should think that electing Donald Trump will fix our country. America is still a sin-saturated and divided nation, and Trump himself is a leader with human flaws. Elections matter, and this one will have lasting consequences, but only God can heal and restore a nation – and that comes through committed, faithful prayer.

When the people of Israel asked for a king after centuries without one, God gave them one. But the Prophet Samuel reminded the people that ultimately they did not choose their national leaders: “Take note, the Lord has set a king over you” (1 Samuel 12:13). The new king was inexperienced in governing, and God made no promise that things would automatically turn out well for either the new king or the nation. Instead, Samuel presented the people with God’s pathway to success, placing responsibility on both the people and their leader.

Samuel made this commitment to the new king. “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23). Will you make that same commitment to pray for our new president?

About the Author

Franklin Graham is President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse.

The Wall

A journalist was assigned to the Jerusalem bureau of his newspaper. He got an apartment overlooking the Wailing Wall. Whenever he looked at the wall he saw an old Jewish man praying and wondered whether there was a story there.

He went to the wall and said, “You come to this wall every day. What are you praying for?”

The old man replied, “I pray for world peace, then I pray for the brotherhood of man. I go home, have a glass of tea, and then I come back to the wall to pray for the eradication of illness and disease.”

The journalist was taken by the old man’s sincerity and persistence. “You mean you have been coming to the wall to pray every day for these things?”

The old man nodded.

“How long have you been doing this?”

The man replied, “About 25 years.”

The amazed journalist asked, “How does it feel to come and pray every day for 25 years for the same things?”

The old man said, “It feels like I’m talking to a wall.”

Here’s the good news. Whether you feel like you are talking to the wall, the ceiling, or the hand, Someone is always listening. And he is glad to hear your voice.

The Bible says, “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up” (James 5:15).

The Rushmore Report: The #1 Reason You Should Pray for President-elect Trump

Donald Trump has been named President-elect of the United States. Like it or not, he won. And half the country does not like it. Still, we are all called to pray for the new president. We are commanded to “pray for kings and all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:2). And keep in mind, when Paul wrote that, Nero, no friend to Christians, sat on the throne. But what is the #1 reason to pray for Mr. Trump, and how do we pray?

Joe McKeever, a vocal opponent of Mr. Trump, acknowledges the call on believers to now pray for him. He suggests one overriding reason to pray for the new president . . .

So much is riding on this.

McKeever writes, “Donald Trump is weak. He does not have what it takes to do this right. But no one does. Please don’t miss that. No. One. Does.

Indeed, the job is too big, the pressures too great, and the needs too overwhelming. We need to pray for our new president for one overriding reason.

So much is riding on this.

Scripture is clear. “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself; nor is it in a man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). That’s why we need to pray for Donald Trump. He clearly has a propensity for “directing his own steps.” And that won’t work. A man who has said he has never asked for God’s forgiveness, Mr. Trump needs God’s direction all the more.

So much is riding on this.

Anyone can pray for those he supports and believes in. If you didn’t vote for Trump, pray for him all the more. Jesus said we are to pray for our enemies (Luke 6:27). For many of us who find some of Trump’s statements about minorities and women reprehensible, we still must pray for the new president. We as Christians can do this.

So much is riding on this.

Let me suggest ten ways to pray for the President-elect.

1. Pray for him to focus on God (Luke 4:1-2).

2. Pray for guidance and direction (Acts 13:2-3).

3. Pray for personal purity (Isaiah 55:6).

4. Pray for personal breakthroughs (Ezra 8:23).

5. Pray he has godly influence (Isaiah 58:8).

6. Pray for good health (Isaiah 58:8).

7. Pray for personal holiness (1 Samuel 7:6).

8. Pray for courage (Hebrews 13:6).

9. Pray for the compassion of Christ in his life (Matthew 14:14).

10. Pray for personal protection (Isaiah 58:8).

After his admonition to pray for our national leaders, Paul had a bit more to say to young Timothy. “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). Paul said it. God inspired it. We, as followers of Christ, must do it. Every single one of us must pray for our new president. Why? It’s simple . . .

So much is riding on this.

The Rushmore Report: Praying for Our New Leaders

Early in his presidency, Barack Obama asked for prayer as he led our country in tumultuous times. His request was a pointed reminder to me that I should be praying for our president and our leaders every day – not to get something from them – but simply in obedience to Scripture. With the election of new national leaders, we must pray as never before. Here’s why.

1. The Bible teaches that God can turn the hearts of kings (Proverbs 21:1). That means we should be praying for God’s will to be done and for our new leaders to seek God and listen to Him. We should pray they seek godly counsel and that our leaders will come to know God personally through His Son, Jesus Christ.

2. We must pray with an eye on the issues of the day. Think about the issues before our new president. Ebola is not only a huge problem in Western Africa, but could be in the United States, as well. ISIS is still expanding. We are in the midst of a jobless recovery. Our new president and national leaders need wisdom to face the issues of our day.

3. We must pray for a mighty movement of God. Charles Spurgeon said, “Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the omnipotent muscle of God.” The Bible commands us to pray for authorities, because all authority has been established by Him to accomplish His purposes.

Can our diligent, heartfelt prayers make a difference for the future of our country? Most certainly. Does our new president need our prayers? Most definitely. Do our prayers make a difference? Absolutely.

About the Author

Franklin Graham is President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, a best-selling author, and founder of Samaritans Purse.

The Rushmore Report: FDR’s D-Day Prayer Is Needed Today

On June 6, 1944, American, British, and Canadian troops with their Allies assaulted Nazi strongholds on Normandy’s beaches. Those French sands and cliffs are as quiet as a cathedral now, and constitute sacred ground. The last time I visited was July 4, 2013. Our group included one of our granddaughters who had just finished a five-year stint as a U.S. Marine, rising to Sergeant (E5).

Just as we entered into the vast cemetery at Omaha Beach with its 9,000-plus graves, a visiting choir broke out with “Amazing Grace,” followed by the “Star Spangled Banner.” I remembered my first visit in 1995 and my initial impression when I suddenly confronted that burial ground: How great is the price of liberty.

In 2013 my granddaughter and I hiked down the slope at Omaha, and stood where so many had died. Clusters of both young and old planted little American flags in the sand. Here and there others had taken rocks from the stony bottom of the slope and spelled out tender and holy words.

This was no Spring Break crowd desecrating God’s beautiful beaches, but people in serious contemplation about the nature of the human being, what it takes to sustain liberty, and honoring the blood that long ago soaked into the sand.

On a 1997 Normandy journey I took some old soldiers whose units had landed not long after the invasion. I lost track of one of them – Jack – as I walked among the crosses and stars of David that mark the graves. I found him at a monument at the end of the cemetery that listed the names of hundreds who had perished when an American ship was blown to bits just in front of him. Now Jack stood with his hands on the wall of names, and caressed them as he wept and, knowing him, prayed.

The President of the United States himself was inspired to pray on June 6, 1944. Millions listened as FDR spoke on radio a prayer that in our age would evoke outrage, condemnation, scorn, and lawsuits.

This is just a small portion of that lengthy public, national prayer.

“Almighty God, our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness to their faith. They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again, and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

“They will be sore tired, by night and by day, without rest until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war. For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

“O, Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment – let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

“With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world of unity that will spell a sure peace – a peace unvulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

“Thy will be done, Almighty God.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was moved to prayer because, as Warren Kozak said in a 2012 Wall Street Journal column, Roosevelt “was an American president unafraid to embrace God and to define an enemy that clearly rejected the norms of humanity.”

Had women been in combat back then, and my granddaughter in that invasion force, I would have wanted her to be under a commander-in-chief like Roosevelt. I am not a fan of the progressivism for which he and his wife are now icons, and he was not a religious man, but Roosevelt knew that he was not the lord of the universe or master of history.

And he recognized evil when he saw it and said so.

In 2012 Kozak wrote that “it seems strangely difficult for our leaders to clearly define our values, our way of life, our causes for going to war to defend our ideals. It is unfathomable today that a president would embrace God the way Roosevelt did on that night.”

In the current presidential campaign we have a socialist who, if true to the dialectical materialism of his philosophical heroes, may be a closet atheist, another who has seen no need for God’s forgiveness in his life, and yet another who is said to be a Christian, but whose stance on some issues would be anything but biblical.

God help us.

“As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts,” prayed President Roosevelt in 1944.

And so must we now.

About the Author

Wallace Henley, a former Birmingham News staff writer, was an aide in the Nixon White House and congressional chief of staff. He is a teaching pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

The Dark Night of the Soul

In one of his lesser known plays, Orpheus Descending, dramatist Tennessee Williams wrote, “We’re all of us sentenced to a solitary confinement inside our own skins for life.” What a sobering description of loneliness. Perhaps the only worse feeling than human loneliness is separation from God’s presence. You might describe this desperately solitary feeling with phrases such as “my prayers don’t get past the ceiling” or “I’m going through ‘the dark night of the soul.'”

Imagine the lonely feelings the children of Israel experienced. Because of their sinfulness they became strangers in strange lands, scattered in exile among foreign nations. Yet God declared that he was providing a sanctuary for them even in their exile. Although they didn’t always see his hand at work in their circumstances, God never left them alone.

God showed up in the darkest hour. The prophet Ezekiel wrote, “The word of the Lord came to me. ‘Son of man, the people of Jerusalem have said of your fellow exiles and all the other Israelites: They are far away from the Lord; this land was given to us as our possessions.’ Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone'” (Ezekiel 11:14-15).

Thomas Kempis wrote, “Bear patiently your exile and the dryness of your mind. The time will come when I will make you forget these painful moments and you will enjoy inward quietness. I will open the Bible for you and you will be thrilled by your new understanding of my truth.”

God never promised that we wouldn’t have “dark nights of the soul.” He did better than that. He promised that we’d never face them alone.