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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.

Feeding the Dead

I have a friend who used to be a nutritionist at a hospital. Ashley’s job was to tell patients what to eat. One day, she walked into a room, ready to feed the patient. There was just one small problem. When Ashley approached the patient, she noticed that he was dead.

The man had died four hours earlier. Her assignment was to feed the man, but she made an executive decision. Ashley decided that it really wouldn’t be worth the trouble. Dead people don’t need food, they need life.

One day, an old man was wondering if his wife had a hearing problem. He was standing behind her while she was sitting in her chair. He asked her, “Honey, can you hear me?”

There was no response. He moved closer and repeated the question, “Honey, can you hear me?” When there was still no response, he asked her again.

His wife replied, “For the third time, yes!”

We all need to hear God’s voice. We all need to be spiritually fed. But unfortunately, some of us have had our ears clogged by the things of this world. Or worse yet, we are spiritually dead. We don’t need food; we need a resurrection.

 

Flotation Device

On my flight from Tampa to Dallas the other day, I had forgotten to put my tray table up in its “upright and locked position.” The flight attendant gave me “the look.” I left my phone on as the plane was approaching Love Field. The pilot spoke over the speaker, “Turn off your electronic devices.” It felt like he was speaking just to me.

My immediate thought was, “Is my tray table really going to bring this plane down if I don’t lock it into place? And will my iPhone really throw off the million-dollar computer on this aircraft?” One day, out of sheer curiosity, I think I’ll throw caution to the wind and leave the tray table up and maybe even leave my phone on, just to see what happens.

But what the flight attendant said just before take-off was the most troubling thing I’ve heard in awhile. Pointing to the sides of the plane, she instructed, “The white lights lead to the red lights that lead to the exit doors.” Now, I’m thinking, “Why do we need exit doors at 30,000 feet?” But she wasn’t through. The flight attendant then told us our seat cushions doubled as “flotation devices.” Now I was really worried. If my plane dove into the Gulf of Mexico from 30,000 feet, at 300 mph, if I’m remembering my physics class from the 12th grade (and I took it twice), this will not be a smooth landing. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which my seat cushion will save me.

At least the plane had a “black box.” You know what that is. It’s the thing they retrieve after the crash. It tells them how the tray table, cell phone, exit doors, and seat cushion all went in together to bring the plane down. The black box will be the sole survivor of such a crash.

So here’s my question. Why don’t they just make the entire plane out of the same material they use to make the black box? Until they do, I’m avoiding the exit signs, keeping my tray table up, disarming my cell phone, and holding onto my “flotation device.”

Wouldn’t it be easier if they just gave us all a parachute?

That’s what God did. He understood that in life, sometimes we crash. And nothing can save us when our plane starts to go down. So he provided a parachute in the person of his son, Jesus Christ. In life, there are no guarantees of a gentle take-off, a smooth flight, or a soft landing. But we know that even if our plane goes down, we don’t have to go down with it.

The Rushmore Report: How Billy Graham Led Me to Christ

For most of my childhood, my family honored God in a general sense but didn’t know him personally. We were culturally Jewish on my father’s side and culturally Christian on my mother’s side. But our faith – and indeed everything about our lives – began to change one night when I was 12. I came home to see my mother and sister in our living room, sobbing in front of the television. A couple years prior, President Kennedy had been assassinated, so I walked in thinking, “What cataclysmic event has happened this time?” But I discovered that my mother and sister had been watching one of Billy Graham’s televised crusades. That night they both came to Christ.

A few months later, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association released its first movie in theaters, The Restless Ones. It is about a girl at the cusp of making big decisions in her life. She asks herself whether she’ll follow the way of faith or the way of the world. I went to see it at a small theater in our town, Annapolis, Maryland. As I watched, I heard a voice speak to me directly. Although it wasn’t audible, I sensed God saying deep in my spirit, “Kathie, I love you. If you’ll trust me, I’ll make something beautiful out of your life.”

At the end of the movie, someone in the theater stood up and announced, “Whoever would like to make this step of faith, come forward.” I couldn’t get out of my seat fast enough. My brother didn’t want me walking into the crowd on my own and said, “You’re not going anywhere.” I spurted back, “Oh yeah? Stop me.” He came with me to make sure I was safe. Standing at the front of the theater, I asked Jesus into my heart.

At that age, all I wanted was to become an actress and a singer. The Lord met me in a movie theater, in the very world I dreamed of being a part of. From that point on, God was with me at every twist and turn, every decision. The Holy Spirit would say, “Go that way. Go down that road,” or, “No, Kathie, don’t take that part. No, that will not glorify the Lord.” God kept me on his path and eventually led me to Hollywood.

When I first got there, I met for Bible study with about a dozen fellow Christians who felt called to serve God through arts and entertainment. We were chastised far more by Christians than by anybody else back then. They’d ask, “How can you say you’re a Christian and be in Hollywood?” I’d always respond, “How could I be in Hollywood and not be a Christian?” How could I put up with the work and rejection without the security of God’s faithfulness?

But even in the entertainment industry, I never felt pressured to downplay or hide my faith. That doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle, make mistakes, or break God’s heart on occasion. But the story of my life – and I dare say any Christian’s life – is not the story of my faithfulness to God but of his faithfulness to me.

During the 1990s, when I was co-hosting Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, I faced a wave of vicious attacks in the tabloids. I was accused of exploiting sweatshop labor in the factories that made my clothing line, then sold at Walmart. The following year the news of my husband’s infidelity broke. Frank and I both stopped watching TV and reading the papers. We focused on the Word of God. I chose to read what God said about us, not what the world said. We weren’t new to the business; by that time, we knew how the Enemy worked. It became our Hebrews 12:2 moment, fixing our eyes upon Jesus, who endured the shame of the cross on our behalf.

When I was accused of awful things, and when the news came out that my husband had been unfaithful to me, the first phone call always came from Billy Graham, who had become our friend. Decades after I saw Billy on TV and the movie screen, he continued to share the same gospel hope with us directly: God loves you, God died for you, God has a plan for your life. And God is coming back to take you to glory. In a world where trends, people, fads, and politics change, the Word of God never changes. God himself never does. And Billy’s message never did.

I said, “I love you” and goodbye to Billy at his 95th birthday party in 2013, not knowing that Frank would leave the earth before Billy. Last year, I got another call from the Graham family – this time from Franklin – to extend their sympathies the day that Frank died at age 84.

Frank passed away on a Sunday morning as we were getting ready for church. He was wearing my favorite outfit of his, a white shirt and tight black jeans. After his death, I felt at once the tragedy of losing him and the triumph of his life. While mourning the loss of the man I had been married to for 29 years, I felt the love of my coworkers, friends, and many others like I had never known.

A week after Frank died, I felt the Lord calling me to go back to the Today show and share about his life. I had no idea what I would say. I prayed, “Lord, give me utterance.” I spoke from my heart, as I have for 40 years on television. I sat in my chair in the studio, looked into the camera, and told viewers about the core of our Christian faith. I said that Frank died in complete peace, knowing that every sin he’d ever committed was forgiven, and with the hope that we would one day be together with the Lord. Our faith had always been the answer, and it could be theirs too.

I also shared a story from our last trip to Israel, when we went to the Valley of Elah – the place where David battled Goliath. Our friend Ray Vander Laan, a Bible teacher and historian, explained that the miracle of David and Goliath was not that a shepherd could kill a giant, but that David had a personal relationship with the living God who gave him the victory. Remembering David’s story, we picked up stones from the brook. Ray looked at each of us and asked, “What’s your stone? What has God already prepared you to do?”

I thought of God’s promise back in that theater – to make something beautiful with my life – and all that he’d enabled me to do in his name in music, television, and on Broadway. The question hit deeply for Frank, enough that I believe it changed his life and deepened his faith more than ever. Frank lived his last years focused on his stone and his legacy as a servant of God.

The Scripture tells us, “Let us not be weary in well doing.” When I read that, I prayed, “Okay, Lord, you’re going to have to help me be strong. You’re going to have to help me with inspiration. You’re going to have to help me keep going.”

The devil would have us give up. The devil would have us stop sharing the Word. He would have us stop giving hope to the hopeless. And we can’t fall for that. As much as we long for a different world, we have to stay in this one for now. It’s up to us to make an impact for Christ until he comes or until he takes us. The words God spoke to me 50 years ago are just as true today, and for every moment I have left, I will trust him to work his beautiful plan in me.

About the Author

Kathie Lee Gifford is a Today show co-host and the wife of the late NFL star and commentator Frank Gifford.