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Bad Lab Report

A lady took her pet white duck to the vet. After examining the duck, the doctor pronounced, “Your duck is dead.”

The woman asked, “Is there any other test you can do to be sure?”

The vet brought in his pet black Labrador who sniffed the carcass, put his paw on the duck’s chest, and walked out of the room. The vet came back in with his tomcat that also sniffed the corpse, put its paw on the duck’s chest, meowed, and then jumped down from the exam table.

The vet then went to his computer to type out a bill. Upon telling the lady the bad news – indeed her duck was dead – he handed her a bill for $1,000.

“A thousand dollars? Why is it so expensive? You didn’t even do anything for my duck!”

The vet said, “The cost of the vet visit was just $50. The other $950 is for the cat scan and the lab report.”

The only thing worse than receiving bad news is having to pay for it. That’s where I’ve got good news for you. The Gospel is great news, and it costs you nothing. Jesus already paid the price for our sin in full – on the cross. And the exam results are in. You and I are dead in our sin. But there is hope. Jesus died to set us free. No cat scans or lab reports are needed.

Clear Direction

Pastor Clifford Stewart, of Louisville, Kentucky, sent his parents a microwave oven for Christmas one year. This is how he recalls the event.

“They were excited to join the instant generation. When my dad unpacked the microwave and plugged it in, within seconds, it transformed my parents’ smiles into frowns. Even after reading the directions, they couldn’t make it work. Two days later, my mom was playing Bridge with a friend and confessed her inability to even get the microwave to boil water. Her friend asked her, ‘What seems to be the problem?’ My mom responded, ‘The problem is that only my son knows how to work it. What I need is for my son to come along with the microwave.'”

When God gave us the gift of salvation, he didn’t send a complicated booklet to give us directions to figure everything out. He sent us his Son. Life is complicated. We have the Bible as our manual. But even that is not enough, because until you know the Author, it is difficult to understand the Book.

But God left nothing to chance. For your salvation, there is no assembly required – for one simple reason. God has given us his Son.

The Rushmore Report: Woman Buys Moon Dust for $995, Sells for $4 Million

It was one of the biggest moments in history. The Apollo 11 mission of 1969 brought man to the moon. There were also a few things that came back with the astronauts. While there, Neil Armstrong collected some moon dust and placed it in a bag. NASA forgot about it and accidentally auctioned it off for $995. Nancy Carlson bought it, and had it analyzed. Now NASA wants it back. But that will cost them a tidy sum – $4 million.

Carlson, a Chicago attorney, was certain the bag had real moon dust, so she sent it back to NASA to have it tested, knowing official verification would turn her bag of dust into a fortune. Carlson was right.

NASA confirmed that it was real moon dust, and then refused to give it back, saying they had made a mistake by selling it so cheap. Carlson went to court over the matter and won. Now she is auctioning it off, and it is expected to draw about $4 million.

How Carlson came to possess the celestial souvenir in the first place is a space odyssey in its own right. Previously, the government had seized the bag in a criminal case against Max Ary, the former president of a space museum in Kansas. He was convicted in 2006 of theft for selling objects from the museum, court records show.

While investigating Ary, authorities learned the moon bag had been auctioned off for $24,150 and seized it from its purchaser. But because of a mix-up with another bag that did not contain moon dust, no NASA official at the time was aware of the historical importance of the artifact.

The initial auction asked for a beginning offer of at least $20,000, but nobody bid on it. When Carlson, a corporate attorney and avid collector of space objects, saw the bag at auction again in 2015, she was the high bidder. She then sent the bag to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where its contents were verified.

Over time, the U.S. government has given away about 270 moon rocks to foreign dignitaries. Never have they sold any lunar objects.

Carlson did what many others could have done. She saw a value in that bag of dust that others simply missed, including the scientists at NASA. Then she bought it. Now she has a real prize, which is about to be turned into more money than she will need for the rest of her life.

Jesus told a similar story one day. He told of a man who found a rare treasure, then sold all he had to secure it. His point was simple. When we find that which brings us peace and security, for this life and the one to come, there is no price too high. We need to go all in.

Like the people at NASA, we often don’t recognize what is right before us. God has provided peace and eternal blessing through his Son, Jesus Christ. The next move is ours and it’s a simple one. We must be willing to give up that which we cannot keep anyway, in order to secure that which we will never lose.

But unlike the moon dust, God’s gift has already been paid for. And because we have an Advocate in Christ Jesus, no attorneys need to be involved.

Texas v. White

It was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1869, as it 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, which lacked the necessary signature of the Governor, and were therefore 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 for 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.

How Can I Know that I’m Saved?

Ephesians 2:8-9 “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of god – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

In Luke 23:42, one of the criminals hanging next to Jesus on the cross prayed, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Notice that he didn’t ask Jesus to stop his pain, although he would have been in excruciating pain on the cross. By that time, Jesus was famous for doing miracles, but the man didn’t ask Jesus to save him from death, either.

He said, “Jesus, remember me.” Why? Because he knew that his deepest need was salvation from sin – not just salvation to get into heaven. He believed in Jesus.

The Bible says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

So how do you know for sure that you’re saved? How do you know you’re going to heaven when you die? How can you be certain? How can you eliminate doubt?

Your assurance of salvation is not by your works, because you can’t earn your salvation. Your assurance of salvation is not by your feelings, because feelings come and go.

What is your assurance of salvation? The promise of God’s word. If God says it, that settles it, because God cannot lie. You can trust the promise of God’s Word. You can rest in it.

Jesus replied to the criminal hanging on the cross, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Your assurance of salvation is the same: God’s promise that you will be in heaven with him one day if you believe by faith.

Just One Road

It happened in the big city of Kingman, Arizona. A dude rancher filed a notice of appeal with federal authorities to stop the use of a bypass road to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Nigel Turner is the owner of the Grand Canyon Ranch Resort, which supplies the total income and livelihood. His problem with the bypass road was that it was an unnecessary route into the Skywalk area because two other routes already exist.

Here’s the real issue. Nigel wants all tourists to the Grand Canyon to pass by his resort. This means more business for him. He is already upset that two routes exist; he can’t stand the thought of three.

Most places have multiple routes. When my wife and I drive somewhere, her smart phone tells this dumb driver about three possible routes, whether we want three possible routes or not. But that comes in handy in times of heavy traffic.

But there is one place that only has one route. That place is heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way.” There is one way in and no way out.

The Most Important Day of My Life

It happened on February 3, 1974 – 43 years ago today.

In August of 1973, the bus ministry of College Park Baptist Church in Houston came knocking on my door. I lived with my parents and brother in an apartment in southwest Houston. We’re weren’t much for going to church. But things suddenly changed for my brother and me.

Under the excellent preaching of Dr. Cecil O. Sewell, Jr., we heard a clear presentation of the Gospel every Sunday. We kept riding the bus to church each week, we made friends, and we saw the difference Christ can make, in the lives of dozens of other students who were a part of the youth ministry at the church.

In September, my brother made a faith commitment to Christ. I didn’t fully understand it, nor did I inquire.

Fast forward to February 3, 1974.

After the morning service, I asked Brother Sewell if we could talk. He took me into his office, where we met for about an hour. His wife, Sharon, was with us, as well my my brother, Jim. Dr. Sewell read several verses from Romans. He explained that all have sinned (Romans 3:23), the payment of sin is separation from God (6:23), that Jesus died for me (5:8), and that I could experience permanent life change and receive eternal life in heaven through Christ (10:9).

Then he read Romans 10:13 – “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” There, in my pastor’s office, I prayed with him to receive Jesus as my Savior.

That was 43 years ago. I was just 14 years old at the time. Since then, I met my future wife, got married, and we now have a godly son who is 26 years old. But that moment in time when I trusted Christ as my Savior made it all possible. If I hadn’t trusted in Christ, I wouldn’t have become a youth minister and met Beth five years later, and I wouldn’t be David’s dad.

I’d like to think there have been many significant days in my life. But I know, without a doubt, that the most important day of my life was when the God of the universe entered my life. It was on this day, February 3 – 43 years ago – that I receive Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord.

It was the most important day of my life.

Gene Cernan, Last Man on the Moon, Dies at 82

Gene Cernan, an early NASA astronaut who was the last man to set foot on the moon, died Monday. He was 82.

Cernan was the commander of Apollo 17 in December of 1972. It was the last lunar mission and one of the final Apollo flights. When Cernan stepped out from lunar module “Challenger” he became the 11th person to walk on the moon. His lunar module pilot, Jack Schmitt, was the 12th. But as commander, Cernan was the last to re-enter the lunar module, giving him the designation of being the last person to walk on the lunar surface.

His words would not become as famous as Neil Armstrong’s first sentence spoken from the moon. But Cernan’s final goodbye to the moon was just as poetic . . .

“America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed – the crew of Apollo 17.”

In the 2007 documentary, “In the Shadow of the Moon,” Cernan spoke of the epiphany he experienced while standing on the desolate – yet majestic – surface.

“There is too much purpose, too much logic, it was just too beautiful to happen by accident,” Cernan said. “There has to be somebody bigger than you and bigger than me. And I mean this in a spiritual sense, not in a religious sense. There has to be a creator of the universe who stands above the religions that we ourselves create to govern our lives.”

Gene Cernan was an American hero, a trailblazer of the highest order. We honor this giant of a man who, 44 years ago, touched the face of the moon – and in the process touched the face of God.

 

The Rushmore Report: CNN’s Highly Reluctant Jesus Follower

Just seven years ago, if someone had told me that I’d be writing for Christianity Today magazine about how I came to believe in God, I would have laughed out loud. If there was one thing in which I was completely secure, it was that I would never adhere to any religion – especially to evangelical Christianity, which I held in particular contempt.

I grew up in the Episcopal Church in Alaska, but my belief was superficial and flimsy. It was borrowed from my archaeologist father, who was so brilliant he taught himself to speak and read Russian. When I encountered doubt, I would fall back on the fact that he believed.

Leaning on my father’s faith got me through high school. But by college it wasn’t enough, especially because as I grew older he began to confide in me his own doubts. What little faith I had couldn’t withstand this revelation. From my early 20s on, I would waver between atheism and agnosticism, never coming close to considering that God could be real.

After college I worked as an appointee in the Clinton administration from 1992 to 1998. The White House surrounded me with intellectual people who, if they had any deep faith in God, never expressed it. Later, when I moved to New York, where I worked in Democratic politics, my world became aggressively secular. Everyone I knew was politically left-leaning, and my group of friends was overwhelmingly atheist.

I sometimes hear Christians talk about how terrible life must be for atheists. But our lives were not terrible. Life actually seemed pretty wonderful, filled with opportunity and good conversation and privilege. I know now that it was not as wonderful as it could have been. But you don’t know what you don’t know. How could I have missed something I didn’t think existed?

Very Open-Minded

To the extent that I encountered Christians, it was in the news cycle. And inevitably they were saying something about gay people or feminists. I didn’t feel I was missing much. So when I began dating a man who was into Jesus, I was not looking for God. In fact, the week before I met him, a friend had asked me if I had any deal breakers in dating. My response: “Just nobody who is religious.”

A few months into our relationship, my boyfriend called to say he had something important to talk to me about. I remember exactly where I was sitting in my West Village apartment when he said, “Do you believe Jesus is your Savior?” My stomach sank. I started to panic. Oh no, was my first thought. He’s crazy.

When I answered no, he asked, “Do you think you could ever believe it?” He explained that he was at a point in life when he wanted to get married and felt that I could be that person, but he couldn’t marry a non-Christian. I said I didn’t want to mislead him – that I would never believe in Jesus.

Then he said the magic words for a liberal: “Do you think you could keep an open mind about it?” Well, of course. “I’m very open-minded!” Even though I wasn’t at all. I derided Christians as anti-intellectual bigots who were too weak to face the reality that there is no rhyme or reason to the world. I had found this man’s church attendance an oddity to overlook, not a point in his favor.

As he talked, I grew conflicted. On the one hand, I was creeped out. On the other hand, I had enormous respect for him. He is smart, educated, and intellectually curious. I remember thinking What if this is true, and I’m not even willing to consider it?

A few weeks later I went to church with him. I was so clueless about Christianity that I didn’t know that some Presbyterians were evangelicals. So when we arrived at the Upper East Side service of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, I was shocked and repelled by what I saw. I was used to the high-church liturgy of my youth. We were meeting in an auditorium with a band playing what I later learned was “praise music.” I thought, How am I going to tell him I can never come back?

But then the pastor preached. I was fascinated. I had never heard a pastor talk about the things he did. Tim Keller’s sermon was intellectually rigorous, weaving in art and history and philosophy. I decided to come back to hear him again. Soon, hearing Keller speak on Sunday became the highlight of my week. I thought of it as just an interesting lecture – not really church. I just tolerated the rest of it in order to hear him. Any person who is familiar with Keller’s preaching knows that he usually brings Jesus in at the end of the sermon to tie his points together. For the first few months, I left feeling frustrated. Why did he have to ruin a perfectly good talk with this Jesus nonsense?

Each week, Keller made the case for Christianity. He also made the case against atheism and agnosticism. He expertly exposed the intellectual weakness of a purely secular worldview. I came to realize that even if Christianity wasn’t the real thing, neither was atheism.

I began to read the Bible. My boyfriend would pray with me for God to reveal himself to me. After about eight months of going to hear Keller, I concluded that the weight of evidence was on the side of Christianity. But I didn’t feel any connection to God, and frankly, I was fine with that. I continued to think that people who talked of hearing from God or experiencing God were either delusional or lying. In my most generous moments, I allowed that they were just imagining things that made them feel good.

Then one night in 2006, on a trip to Taiwan, I woke up in what felt like a strange cross between a dream and reality. Jesus came to me and said, “Here I am.” It felt so real. I didn’t know what to make of it. I called my boyfriend, but before I had time to tell him about it, he told me he had been praying the night before and felt we were supposed to break up. So we did. Honestly, while I was upset, I was more traumatized by Jesus visiting me.

Completely True

I tried to write off the experience as misfiring synapses, but I couldn’t shake it. When I returned to New York a few days later, I was lost. I suddenly felt God everywhere and it was terrifying. More important, it was unwelcome. It felt like an invasion. I started to fear I was going crazy.

I didn’t know what to do, so I spoke with writer Eric Metaxas, whom I had met through my boyfriend and who had talked with me quite a bit about God. “You need to be in a Bible study,” he said. “And Kathy Keller’s Bible study is the one you need to be in.” I didn’t like the sound of that, but I was desperate. My whole world was imploding. How was I going to tell my family or friends about what had happened? Nobody would understand. I didn’t understand. (It says a lot about the family in which I grew up that one of my most pressing concerns was that Christians would try to turn me into a Republican.)

I remember walking into the Bible study. I had a knot in my stomach. In my mind, only weirdoes and zealots went to Bible studies. I don’t remember what was said that day. All I know is that when I left, everything had changed. I’ll never forget standing outside that apartment on the Upper East Side and saying to myself, “It’s true. It’s completely true.” The world looked entirely different, like a veil had been lifted off it. I had not an iota of doubt. I was filled with indescribable joy.

The horror of the prospect of being a devout Christian crept back in almost immediately. I spent the next few months doing my best to wrestle away from God. It was pointless. Everywhere I turned, there he was. Slowly there was less fear and more joy. The Hound of Heaven had pursued me and caught me – whether I liked it or not.

About the Author

Kirsten Powers is a contributor to USA Today and a columnist for Newsweek/The Daily Beast. After a lengthy career as a Democratic commentator at Fox News, she is now a nightly guest commentator for CNN – and a devoted follower of Christ.

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.