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The Rushmore Report – A Dying Pastor’s Final Wish Come True

Shane Hall was the beloved pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. For three and a half years, the 46-year-old battled stomach cancer. Friday, the battle ended, as he went to be with the Lord. Knowing all medical options had been exhausted, Hall knew his fate. He had one dying wish. And that wish came true.

Hall’s final desire was to see his youngest daughter, Mallory, come to faith in Christ before he died. Here is the timeline of the pastor’s final days.

On Wednesday, February 7, Mallory trusted Christ as her personal Savior. Two days later, on February 9, Misti, Shane’s wife, announced that all medical options to save Shane’s life were exhausted, and they were now focused on pain management until his death. Then, on Sunday, February 11, Pastor Hall baptized his young daughter. On February 16, Misti posted, “Tonight he is worshiping with Jesus.”

The last person Hall would baptize would be his daughter.

The funeral service for Shane will be today in Oklahoma City. This week, Misti posted, “We continue to see God’s sustaining grace in all of this. Shane said he just wanted to baptize Mallory. So, for him to say that and then to see it within two or three weeks was just a precious gift to him. I felt like, that’s what kept him here for awhile, his wanting to fulfill that desire to see her come to know the Lord.”

Frank Page, President and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, prayed with Hall many times in his final weeks. “When I heard about Shane’s miraculous efforts in helping to baptize his daughter, I wept,” he said. “It spoke of a father’s love. It spoke of a pastor’s determination. God bless his wonderful family.”

 

Congress Enacts Slave Law – This Day in 1793

On February 12, 1793, Congress passed the first fugitive slave law, requiring all states, including those that did not allow for slavery, to forcibly return slaves who had escaped from other states to their original owners. The law stated that “no person held to service of labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”

Several Northern states enacted measures prohibiting state officials from aiding in the capture of runaway slaves or from jailing the fugitives. This disregard of the first fugitive slave law enraged Southern states and led to the passage of a second fugitive slave law as part of the Compromise of 1850 between the North and South. The second fugitive slave law called for the return of slaves “on pain of heavy penalty” but permitted a jury trial under the condition that fugitives be prohibited from testifying in their own defense. Notable fugitive slave trials, such as the Dred Scott case of 1857, stirred up public opinion on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.

The Bible says we are slaves to sin (Romans 6:20). But someone came to set us free. His name was Jesus. And Scripture proclaims that those who are free from sin are “free indeed” (John 8:36). But an odd thing happened in the old slave days. Some of them returned to their former owners and acted as if they had never been set free.

One day a man captured a monkey. To make sure he never left him, he tied a rope around his neck and attached it to a tree, allowing the monkey the freedom to roam about 100 feet in any direction from the tree. After a few months, he noticed the monkey was no longer even trying to break free, so the man removed the rope. For the rest of the monkey’s life, he stayed within 100 feet of the tree.

The monkey was free, but lived like a slave. If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, you have been released from your sin and your past. You are no longer a slave. You are free – free to enjoy life, live for God, and be victorious in every way. You are no longer a slave. It’s time to act like it!

Lost Cat Found 1,400 Miles Away

It takes about 22 hours to travel from Wisconsin to Florida – unless you’re a cat. In that case, the 1,484-mile journey takes more like two months. At least that’s how long it took Nadia to get from her snowy home in Wisconsin to sunny Florida. The Naples Daily News reports that Cheri Stocker adopted the cat nine months ago in Wisconsin. On Christmas Eve, the cat escaped.

A woman in Naples, Florida found the kitty last week. Workers at an animal shelter found the cat’s microchip and, through a pet relocation service, got ahold of Stocker’s sister, who had been listed as an emergency contact. Now, the cat has been returned to her owner.

This is a parable on life. Let me count the ways.

1. We all have lost our way. The Bible says, “All we like cats have gone astray” (2 Barnicles 7:14). Ok, I made that up. But people are like cats. We are independent thinkers who like to do life our own way. That’s why, out of the top 100 businessmen in America, not one owns a cat. You don’t “own” a cat. Jay Leno said he came home one day and “found my cat ignoring the neighbor.” He told his cat, “Hey, I’m your owner. You’re supposed to ignore me!” Most of us have gotten really good at ignoring our Owner.

2. We follow who feeds us. Put food down for a stray cat and he is no longer a stray. He’s now yours. They follow their stomachs. Where they find food, shade, and comfort, they go. We are like that. We bow to the god of pleasure. Whatever feeds us for the moment becomes our friend.

3. Rarely is the return permanent. I’m sure Nadia was happy to be back home. And she will stay at home – until the urge hits her again. We say we will never sin again, but we do. We say we are done with our cheatin’ ways right up until the moment we cheat again. The Bible says we are like the dog who returns to his vomit (Proverbs 26:11). Only a radical transformation and all-out commitment to our God will keep us from straying again.

4. Our owner celebrates our return. I know. I’ve been there. When Beth and I came home from a wonderful vacation several years ago, we were greeted with the news that the people watching our cat left a door open, and the cat escaped. We put up flyers, went door-to-door, and recruited a gang to help us in our search. After a nine-day journey to who knows where, Tabitha was found. She was weak, tired, and dirty. But she was still our cat. When we spotted her, Beth lit up with a joy I haven’t seen since the last time I left for a week’s business trip. Our cat was lost, but now was found. We celebrated her return.

You and I were weak, tired, and dirty. But mostly, we were just lost. Never one to quit searching, our God found us, took us back home, and then he cleaned us up. We don’t know what Nadia was up to for those 22 months or how she managed to stray so far from home. And to the owner, it doesn’t really matter anyway. All that matters is that she is home now. It matters not how far we stray or how much dirt we collect in the process. The important thing – the only thing – is that we come home.

Grand Canyon Turns 110

The Grand Canyon is 108 years old today. Well, not exactly. On January 11, 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a national monument. By the end of the nineteenth century, America’s biggest hole in the ground was attracting thousands of tourists each year. One famous visitor was Roosevelt, a New Yorker with an affection for the American West. After becoming president in 1901, he made environmental conservation a cornerstone of his administration. After establishing the National Wildlife Refuge to protect the country’s animals, fish, and birds, Roosevelt turned his attention to federal regulation of public lands.

In January, 1908, he helped turn more than 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon into a national monument. “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is,” he declared. “You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

Did you hear about the two guys who had a bet on which of them could jump from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other? The first man stepped back, got a running start, and took off. He jumped 20 feet out, off the ledge, before plunging to his death. His buddy looked down into the canyon and yelled, “I can do better than that!” Then he proceeded to jump 25 feet before joining his friend below.

Each of us is facing a canyon that separates us from God. And no matter how good we are – how far we can jump – none of us is good enough to jump all the way to the other side. That’s where the bridge comes into play. In Jesus Christ the Creator of the universe built a bridge from where we are to where He is.

It doesn’t matter how good you are or how far you can jump. You can’t cross the canyon on your own. The bridge has been built and the toll has been paid. All you have to do is take one step – by faith.

The Golden Gate Bridge Turns 85 Today

On this day in 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, construction began on the Golden Gate Bridge, as workers began excavating 3.25 million cubic feet of dirt for the structure’s huge anchorages. Following the Gold Rush boom that began in 1849, speculators realized the land north of San Francisco Bay would increase in value in direct proportion to its accessibility to the city. Soon, a plan was hatched to build a bridge that would span the Golden Gate, a narrow, 400-foot deep strait that serves as the mouth of San Francisco Bay, connecting the San Francisco Peninsula with Marin County. When the Golden Gate Bridge officially opened on May 27, 1937, it was the longest bridge span in the world at the time. The first public crossing had taken place the day before, when approximately 200,000 people walked, ran, and even roller skated over the new bridge. With its tall towers and famous red paint job, the bridge quickly became a famous American landmark and a symbol of San Francisco.

Elsewhere on our website, you can view the top ten bridges in America. According to the Associated Press, there are 607,380 bridges in the United States. But their study offers alarming news. They found that 65,605 of those bridges, over ten percent, are classified as “structurally deficient.” Of those, 20,808 are “fracture critical.”

The point of a bridge is to get someone from one place to another, which he or she could not otherwise access. But with the passing of years, wear and tear, and weather assaults, bridges eventually fail. Except one. Paul told Timothy, “There is one mediator [bridge] between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

We need a bridge to God, because in our efforts to get there on our own, we can’t be good enough, give enough, pray enough, or excel enough. There is this huge chasm between us and God that only Jesus could bridge. When he said “It is finished” (John 19:30), he finished the bridge. The toll has been paid. With his resurrection that bridge opened to all a personal access to God that otherwise would have never been possible. All that is left is for us is, by simple faith in Christ, to cross over.

The next step is yours.

Preliminary Emancipation – 1862

On this day in 1862, just after the Battle of Antietam, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling on the rebellious Southern states to return their allegiance before the end of the year. If they failed to do so, their slaves would be declared free men. As no state responded to the threat, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863. One result of this action was the recruitment of black soldiers to the Union, resulting in nearly 180,000 men enlisting during the remainder of the war. Lincoln considered the proclamation “the central act of my administration, and the greatest event of the nineteenth century.”

But the first proclamation came on September 22, 100 days before the final edict.

Here’s the lesson for us today. A declaration of freedom is not the same thing as freedom. Jesus died to set us free – 2,000 years ago. But until we accept that gift personally, freedom will remain beyond our grasp.

On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” He paid the price. Your freedom has been purchased for all time. The next move is yours.

Doctor Fear

A woman went to the doctor’s office. She was seen by one of the new doctors, but after about four minutes in the examination room, she burst out, screaming as she ran down the hall. An older doctor stopped and asked her what the problem was, and she explained. He had her sit down and relax in another room.

The older doctor marched back to the first and demanded, “What’s the matter with you? Mrs. Terry is 63 years old, she has four grown children and seven grandchildren, and you told her she was pregnant?”

The new doctor smiled smugly as he continued to write on his clipboard.

“Cured her hiccups, though, didn’t I?”

That’s the mistake a lot of us make. We treat the wrong disease. For example, when it comes to the sin disease, we focus on good works, water baptism, and following the Ten Commands. All of that makes us better, but none of it makes us well.

We are saved by grace and by grace alone. No other “cure” will do.

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.