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Elvis’ Last Song

This month marks the 38th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. So let’s go back and remember his last song. The date was June 26, 1977. The place was Indianapolis, Indiana. The arena was Market Square. The concert was sold out. Elvis had been in failing health for years, often cancelling his shows or under so much medication that his speech was slurred and his movements minimal. At 42, the greatest entertainer in American history was an old and dying man. As his final concert neared its end, Elvis sang what would be his final song, as he never appeared on stage again, and died just two months later.

His last song was eerie. He sang the 1960 hit song that went gold, Are You Lonesome Tonight? Seconds before the song, he said to the audience, “Are you lonesome tonight? I know I am.” He forgot some of the words as he stumbled his way through it. He never performed again. Two months later, he was found dead on his Graceland bathroom floor in Memphis. Presley’s abuse of prescription drugs had brought on two comas, damaged his liver, and now ended his life.

Elvis was the most amazing entertainer we had ever seen. From the day he first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, 1956 until his last days, Elvis was an icon without equal. It was no wonder 80,000 fans lined the processional route to Forest Hill Cemetery. President Carter mourned with America, offering his own words of eulogy. Inducted into more music halls of fame than any other performer, Elvis’ memory still lives. Every year, on the date of his death, thousands gather at his home in Memphis to celebrate his life all over again.

But let’s return to that night in Indianapolis 38 years ago. The most beloved singer in American history, adored by millions worldwide, took the stage for the last time. Of the dozens of #1 hits he could have ended with, he chose Are You Lonesome Tonight? His final spoken words on stage still echo through time. “Are you lonesome tonight? I know I am.” Elvis Presley had everything this world can possibly offer. But he didn’t have peace.

Are you lonesome tonight? Think of the lyrics as if they were written from God to you. He would ask, “Are you lonesome tonight? Do you miss me tonight? Are you sorry we drifted apart?” Elvis was lonesome. But he treated his emptiness with the wrong drug. Blaise Pascal had it right when he said, “There is in the heart of every man a God-shaped emptiness that only God can fill.” If you are among the billions of hurting, lonely people in the world today, there is hope. You will not find peace until you find it in God. He offers you that peace through his son, Jesus Christ. There is no reason for you to go to bed lonesome tonight.

 

The Rushmore Report: Welcome to The Rushmore Report

Welcome to the Rushmore Report, the monthly newsletter of The Proud Americans. Four years ago, our founder, Jerrell Clay, launched this web-based ministry to influence America in three areas – God, family, and country. We are unapologetically Christian and proudly American, hence our name. We invite you to join the movement, as we seek to lead our nation back to her founding principles. We believe that the hope of the world is America and the hope of America is a spiritual revival. We pray daily for that revival to sweep our land.

After you read your August edition of the Rushmore Report, we hope you will join us in this exciting movement. Share the Report with your friends. And encourage them to read my daily blog at theproudamericans.org. One person can make a little difference. Together, we can be world changers. May God bless America as she once again blesses God. And may you be encouraged as you read our Report. It is a high honor to join you among the ranks of The Proud Americans!

Blessings,

Dr. Mark Denison

President – The Proud Americans

The Rushmore Report: Thank God for Answered Prayer

“O Lord, now I have heard your report, and I worship you in awe.” (Habakkuk 3:2)

If you want to hear God speak, then worship God. In other words, thank him for being a part of your life and for being interested in the details of your life. Thank him for answering your prayers. God gives you a vision. God gives you a dream. You know what God wants you to do, so now you thank him for answering your prayer. That’s part of worshiping God.

What I want you to do is to stop seeing your prayers as a monologue and start seeing them for what they truly are – a dialogue. Prayer is a conversation with God. God hears you when you pray, and he answers you when you ask questions. He wants to talk to you every day. If you will faithfully talk to God every day throughout the day, it will revolutionize your life.

Now, you can’t hear God until you know God, and there are three levels of knowing God – recognition, acquaintance, and friendship. You may be at the recognition level; you know God is there, but you don’t really know him. Or, you may be at the acquaintance level; you know God a little bit, but you don’t know him very well. God wants you to live at the friendship level. He wants to be your friend, and he wants you to be his friend. God wants you to talk with him all the time.

Talk It Over

Pray this prayer today: “Dear God, I’m amazed that you would want me for a friend. I really want to learn to have conversations with you. Help me to spend time with you every day. Thank you that you care about every detail of my life. Jesus, I want to know you more and more every day, and I want to depend on you for guidance in my job, my family, my future, and in every other area of my life. I invite you to be the manager of my life, my Lord and Savior, as I follow you and trust you. In your name I pray. Amen.”

About the Author

Rick Warren is the founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, an evangelistic megachurch in Lake Forest, California, the eighth largest church in America. Warren is a best-selling author, whose books include The Purpose Driven Life. He is one of the preeminent Christian leaders of our time.

The Rushmore Report: Advice on Same-Sex Marriage from a Canadian Pastor

In June 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can marry in all 50 states, setting off a flurry of reaction by Christians and virtually everyone else on social media and beyond. Ed Stetzer wrote a helpful background post to the shift in opinion that led to the decision and included links to a number of other leading articles in his post.

The social media reaction ranged from surprising to predictable to disappointing to occasionally refreshing. I write from the perspective of a pastor of an evangelical church in a country where same-sex marriage has been the law of the land for a decade. That does not mean I hold any uniquely deep wisdom, but it does mean we’ve had a decade to process and pray over the issue. I hope what I offer can help. It’s my perspective. My fingers tremble at the keyboard because my goal is to help in the midst of a dialogue that seems far more divisive than it is uniting or constructive.

There will be many who disagree with me, I’m sure, but I hope it pulls debate away from the “sky is falling/this is the best thing ever” dichotomy that seems to characterize much of the dialogue so far. The purpose of this post is not to take a position or define matters theologically (for there is so much debate around that). Rather, the purpose of this post is to think through how to respond as a church when the law of the land changes as fundamentally as it’s changing on same-sex marriage and many other issues.

Here are five perspectives I hope are helpful as church leaders of various positions on the subject as we think and pray through a way forward.

1. The church has always been counter-cultural. Most of us reading this post have been born into a unique season in history in which our culture is moving from a Christian culture to a post-Christian culture before our eyes. Whatever you think about history, theology or exactly when this shift happened, it’s clear for all of us that the world into which we were born no longer exists.

Viewpoints that were widely embraced by culture just decades ago are no longer embraced. For some this seems like progress. For others, it seems like we’re losing something. Regardless, things have changed fundamentally. But is that really such a big deal? For most of the last 2000 years, the authentic church has been counter-cultural. The church was certainly counter-cultural in the first century.

Even at the height of “Christendom” (whenever that was), the most conservative historians would agree that Christianity as embraced by the state was different than the authentic Christianity we read about in Scripture or that was practiced by many devout followers of Jesus. Being counter-cultural usually helps the church more than hurts it.

If you think about it, regardless of your theological position, all your views as a Christian are counter-cultural and always will be. If your views are cultural, you’re probably not reading the Scriptures closely enough. We’re at our best when we offer an alternative, not just a reflection of a diluted or hijacked spiritually.

2. It’s actually strange to ask non-Christians to hold Christian values.

As the Barna Group has pointed out, a growing number in America are best described as post-Christian. The majority of Canadians would certainly qualify as having a post-Christian worldview.

Why would we expect non-Christians to behave like Christians?

If you believe sex is a gift given by God to be experienced between a man and a woman within marriage, why would you expect people who don’t follow Christ to embrace that? Why would we expect people who don’t profess to be Christians to:

Wait until marriage to have sex?

Clean up their language?

Stop smoking weed?

Be faithful to one person for life?

Pass laws like the entire nation was Christian?

Seriously? Why not?

Most people today are not pretending to be Christians. So why would they adopt Christian values or morals? Please don’t get me wrong. I’m a pastor. I completely believe that Jesus is not only the Way, but that God’s way is the best way. When you follow biblical teachings about how to live life, your life simply goes better. It just does. I agree, 100 percent.

I do everything I personally can to align my life with the teachings of Scripture, and I’m passionate about helping every follower of Christ do the same. But what’s the logic behind judging people who don’t follow Jesus for behaving like people who don’t follow Jesus? Why would you hold the world to the same standard you hold the church?

First, non-Christians usually act more consistently with their value system than you do. It’s difficult for a non-Christian to be a hypocrite because they tend to live out what they believe. Chances are they are better at living out their values than you or I are. Jesus never blamed pagans for acting like pagans. But he did speak out against religious people for acting hypocritically. Think about that.

3. You’ve been dealing with sex outside of traditional marriage for a LONG time.

If you believe gay sex is sinful, it’s really no morally different that straight sex outside of marriage. Be honest, pretty much every unmarried person in your church is having sex (yes, even the Christians).

I know you want to believe that’s not true. (Trust me, I want to believe that’s not true.) But why don’t you ask around? You’ll discover that only a few really surrender their sexuality. Not to mention the married folks that struggle with porn, lust, and a long list of other dysfunctions.

If you believe gay marriage is not God’s desire, you’re really dealing with the same issue you’ve been dealing with all along – sex outside of its God-given context. You don’t need to treat it any differently. By the way, if you don’t deal with straight sex outside of marriage, don’t start being inconsistent and speak out against gay sex.

And you may want to start dealing with gluttony and gossip and greed while you’re at it. At least be consistent . . . humbly address all forms of sex outside of marriage. The dialogue is possible. (Andy Stanley offers a great approach for sex staying inside marriage.) We have that dialogue in our church all the time. And people are grateful for it. We also talk about greed, gluttony, and hypocrisy as Christians. It’s amazing. Jesus brings healing to all these areas of life, including our sex lives.

4. The early church never looked to the government for guidance.

Having a government that doesn’t embrace the church’s values line for line actually puts Christians in some great company – the company of the earliest followers of Jesus. Jesus spent about zero time asking the government to change during his ministry. In fact, people asked him to become the government, and he replied that his Kingdom is not of this world.

The Apostle Paul appeared before government officials regularly. Not once did he ask them to change the laws of the land. He did, however, invite government officials to have Jesus personally change them. Paul consistently suffered at the hands of the authorities, ultimately dying under their power, but like Jesus, didn’t look to them for change. Rather than asking the government to release him from prison, he wrote letters from prison, talking about the love of Jesus Christ. Instead of looking to the government for help, Paul and Jesus looked to God.

None of us in the West are suffering nearly as radically as Jesus and Paul suffered at the hands of a government. In fact, in Canada and the US, our government protects our freedom to assemble and even disagree with others. Plus, it gives us tax breaks for donations. We honestly don’t have it that hard.

Maybe the future North America church will be more like the early church, rising early, before dawn, to pray, to encourage, to break bread. Maybe we will pool our possessions and see the image of God in women. And love our wives radically and deeply with a protective love that will shock the culture. Maybe we will treat others with self-giving love, and even offer our lives in place of theirs.

Maybe we’ll be willing to lose our jobs, our homes, our families and even our lives because we follow Jesus. That might just touch off a revolution like it did two millennia ago. Perhaps the government might even notice, amazed by the love that radical Jesus followers display.

5. Our judgment of LGBT people is destroying any potential relationship.

Even the first 72 hours of social media reaction has driven a deeper wedge between Christian leaders and the LGBT community Jesus loves. (Yes, Jesus died for the world because he loves it.) Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy. People don’t line up to be judged. If you keep being ineffective at reaching unchurched people, keep judging them. Judging outsiders is un-Christian. Paul told us to stop judging people outside the church.

Jesus said God will judge us by the same standard with which we judge others. Paul also reminds us to drop the uppity-attitude; that none of us were saved by the good we did but by grace. Take a deep breath. You were saved by grace. your sins are simply different than many others. And honestly, in many respects, they are the same. People don’t line up to be judged. But they might line up to be loved. So love people. Especially the people with whom you disagree.

Those are a few of the things I’ve learned and I’m struggling with. The dialogue is not easy when culture is changing and people who sincerely love Jesus sincerely disagree. I think there’s more hope than there is despair for the future. The radical ethic of grace and truth found in Jesus is more desperately needed in our world today than ever before. Is the path crystal clear? No. But rather than being a setback, perhaps this can move the church yet another step closer to realizing its true mission.

About the author

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Church. He has just released his latest book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations that Can Help Your Church Grow. Carey speaks to audiences around the world about change, leadership, and parenting, and hosts the top-rated Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast.

 

The Rushmore Report: The Threat to Religious Freedom

In his speech to the European Parliament in November 2014 Pope Francis asked, “In the end, what kind of dignity is there without the possibility of freely expressing one’s thought or professing one’s religious faith?” Recent rulings on such issues as same-sex marriage raise the question most never saw coming. Is there a clear and present danger facing religious freedom in America? In a nation that was founded on this very principle, can the alarmists be discounted? The evidence is mounting that religious liberties are under attack. Let’s frame the situation with three statements.

1. The threats to religious freedom are undeniable.

In Oregon, a Christian couple has had their bakery shut down by government officials because they refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The University of California Hastings has denied only one religious group from meeting on campus in its 100-year history: the Christian Legal Society. Why? Because this group requires its leaders to be Christian and abstain from sex before marriage. New York City has adopted a policy barring the Bronx Household of Faith and other churches from renting public schools for Sunday services. The HHS mandate for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs demands coverage be provided by religious institutions. In Massachusetts, Illinois, and Washington, D.C., faith-based agencies have been forced to end foster care and adoption services rather than abandon their belief that children need both parents. Gordon College has found its accreditation threatened because of its stance on abstaining from sex until marriage. In the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli acknowledged the possibility of religious schools being stripped of their non-profit tax status for affirming marriage as the union of a man and woman.

2. Congress has a role to play.

The government must be blocked from discriminating against any individual or group, non-profit or for-profit, based on their belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman and that sexual relations are to be reserved for marriage. Specifically, Congress should prohibit the federal government from such discrimination in tax policy, employment, accreditation, and grants. Senator David Vitter, of Louisiana, is to be congratulated for introducing the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act of 2015. Similarly, the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act was sponsored by Representative Paul Labrador in the House and by Mike Lee in the Senate in 2014. But with mounting cases that fly in the face of religious tolerance, Congress must remain vigilant. They cannot afford to sit this out.

3. Protecting religious freedom hurts no one.

The national media likes to promote the straw man argument. They say to protect one group’s liberty equals stripping the protection of others. Stunningly, Martin O’Malley, candidate for president, felt the need to apologize for saying “black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter.” Certain minority leaders were appalled that he put whites on the same level as blacks. This either/or mentality is a cave-in to political correctness. The fact is, to protect the conscience of one does not infringe on another. Congress can, and should protect religious freedom and prohibit government coercion. The federal government should respect the rights of individuals, businesses, and organizations whose desire is to speak and live within the boundaries of their personal beliefs and convictions. Is religious freedom under assault? of course it is. Does it have to be? Of course not. But for religious institutions who hold to conservative, Christian values, the thought of Congress being the final defense of their freedom of speech and expression is a scary thought.

The Rushmore Report: Ten Evangelicals Running for President

Ohio Governor John Kasich has become the 16th major candidate to run for the Republican nomination for President and the 21st candidate from both major parties. Now, the field appears to be complete, at least on the Republican side. Amazingly, Kasich is the tenth evangelical in the race. This means that in a country where evangelicals represent just 25 percent of the population, they represent 63 percent of the Republican candidates for President.

Here’s the complete list, in alphabetical order: Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and Scott Walker. Most, if not all, of the other six candidates have strong Christian beliefs, but are not as clearly identified as evangelicals. But using the more conservative number of ten, a full 63 percent of the Republican presidential candidates are evangelicals.

How does that compare with the rest of the country? Just two months ago, Pew Research published the results of an exhaustive survey of over 35,000 Americans. They found that over the past seven years, those identifying as “Christian” dropped from 78.4 percent of the population to 70.6 percent. Evangelical Protestants decreased from 26.3 percent to 25.4 percent, while mainline Protestants dropped even more, from 18.1 percent of the population to 14.7 percent. Catholics are also down, from 23.9 percent to 20.8 percent. The largest growth is among the religiously “unaffiliated” (atheists, agnostics, or “nothing in particular”), increasing from 4.7 percent to 5.9 percent.

So we live in a day when 25.4 percent self-identify as evangelical Christians. Internal studies track their actual church attendance, Bible reading, and personal activities. While a fourth of Americans call themselves evangelicals, only about seven percent live the lives of evangelicals. Still, 63 percent of our Republican presidential candidates are evangelicals, and by all accounts they are very active in their faith. That’s the good news. Now for the bad news. All projections indicate evangelicals will continue to decrease as a slice of the pie in American life, while the unaffiliated and those of non-Christian faiths (such as Islam) will continue to explode in numbers.

What does that say about our future as a country? The sad truth is that politicians are generally thermometers, not thermostats. They reflect culture rather than shape it. So my prediction would be that in another eight to 16 years (two to four presidential election cycles), we will see the percentage of candidates who are truly evangelical reflect where America is at that time. That means that if we have 16 candidates from one party again, we can expect that one to four will have a committed New Testament, evangelical faith. Yes, times are tough now. But if America doesn’t have a revival of Great Awakening proportions, expect a sharp, continuing slide in her faith conscience and morality. That’s okay, though. God said there’d be days like that. And then he will return. So no matter what party and what kind of candidate gets the most votes, we still win.

The Rushmore Report: Marriage Top 40

Dennis Rainey, President of Family Life, has been married to Barbara for 40 years. In honor of the date, he recently published his top 40 keys to a successful marriage. Here they are. For more details, visit his website: www.familylife.com.

1. Marriage and family are about the glory of God.

2. Marriage is taking place on a spiritual battlefield, not on a romantic balcony.

3. Your spouse is not your enemy.

4. The couple that prays together stays together.

5. Isolation is a subtle killer of relationships.

6. It’s easier for two broken people to build a marriage and family from the same set of biblical blueprints.

7. It is healthy to confess your sins to your spouse.

8. It is impossible to experience marriage as God designed it without being lavish in your forgiveness of one another.

9. One of the greatest threats in any marriage is losing a teachable heart.

10. Every couple needs a mentor couple who is one lap ahead of them in the seasons of life.

11. What you remember is just as important as what you forget.

12. Marriage was designed by God to be missional.

13. It’s okay to have one rookie season, but it’s not okay to repeatedly repeat it.

14. Never use the d-word (divorce) in your marriage.

15. Honor your parents.

16. Different isn’t wrong; it’s just different.

17. Marriage and family are redemptive.

18. A man’s wife is his number one disciple.

19. Go near the orphan.

20. Make your home a storm shelter.

21. Suffering will either drive you apart, or it will be used by God to merge you together.

22. Men and women process suffering very differently.

23. Loss is a part of life and increases as we age.

24. Communication is the life-giver of a relationship.

25. No shepherd can lead any faster than the sheep can follow.

26. Maximize your wife’s talents, gifts, experience, and passion as you would an Olympic athlete.

27. Wives, your respect will fuel your husband, and your contempt will empty his tank.

28. Women spell romance differently than men.

29. Your marriage must be built to outlast the kids.

30. Build too many guardrails around your relationship rather than too few.

31. Wives, generously use your sexual power in your husband’s life.

32. The first essence of rearing children is “identity.”

33. The second essence of rearing children is “relationship.”

34. The third essence of rearing children is “character.”

35. The fourth essence of rearing children is “mission.”

36. Determine your core values as a couple.

37. Interview your daughter’s date, and train your sons to not be clueless.

38. Become smaller, not bigger, in the lives of your adult children.

39. As I get older, I want to laugh more with my wife, gripe less, and be found guilty of giving her too much love, grace, and mercy rather than too little.

40. Have a view of God that will guide you all of your days.

The Rushmore Report: The Faith of George Washington

Excerpt from Church and State: Religion and Politics

By Dr. Jim Denison

George Washington became president of a nation still bitterly divided by its War for Independence. When the Revolutionary War started on April 19, 1775 with “the shot heard round the world,” at least a fourth of the colonists supported England. Patriots and Loyalists maintained tensions and bitterness for years after the conflict was ended.

One nation?

It is a surprise to many to learn that Washington became president of a nation which was still not sure it was a nation. In April, 1507, Martin Waldseemuller, professor of cosmography at the University of Saint-Die, produced the first map showing the Western Hemisphere. He called it “America,” after Amerigo Vespucci, the Florentine merchant. But from the very beginning, it was a question much argued whether the country which emerged on these shores would be one nation or many.

The Declaration of Independence dropped the word “nation” from its text, with all references made to the separate states instead. Its final heading reads: “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.” The resolution which adopted the declaration states, “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.” Many felt that independence did not create one nation, but thirteen. Interestingly, the word “nation” or “national” appears nowhere in the Constitution. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson warned soberly that “a single consolidated government would become the most corrupt government on earth.” New England threatened secession at the end of Jefferson’s first term over his economic and political stances. His response: “Whether we remain in our confederacy, or break into Atlantic and Mississippi confederacies, I do not believe very important to the happiness of either part.” And he added, “Separate them if it be better.”

Under God?

Washington also became president during a time of enormous conflict regarding the role of the church in the state. Protestant ministers cried out against “foreign Catholics” and warned of the dangers of electing “papal loyalists” to public office. “No Popery” banners flew in parts of New England. Following the constitutional decision to avoid any state supported church, many were concerned that the nation’s new leadership not endorse a particular denomination or faith tradition.

Despite such concerns, our first president made his personal faith commitment clear. He was a lifelong Episcopalian, worshiping regularly at Christ Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia. He rode ten miles to church (two or three hours on horseback) whenever weather permitted, an example which both shames and encourages us today. John Marshall (Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and Washington’s biographer) described his as a “sincere believer in the Christian faith and a truly devout man.” He believed in God the creator, arguing that “it is impossible to account for the creation of the universe, without the agency of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to reason without arriving at a Supreme Being. If there had been no God, mankind would have been obliged to imagine one.”

He trusted God as his helper. Washington encouraged his troops during the Revolutionary War: “The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own . . . The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army . . . Let us therefore rely on the goodness of the cause and aid of the Supreme Being, in whose hands victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble actions.”

Immediately following his first inauguration, President Washington and other officials rode to St. Paul’s Chapel on Fulton Street and Broadway for a religious service. However, since most of the crowd could not fit into the sanctuary, the president suggested that they walk seven blocks to hear prayers offered by Episcopal Bishop Samuel Provoost, just named Chaplain of the Senate. This was the only time a religious service has been an official part of a presidential inauguration.

On October 3, 1789, General Washington issued the first thanksgiving proclamation in national history:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor . . . Now, therefore, I do recommend . . . that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are now blessed . . . And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions . . . to promote the knowledge and practice of one true religion and virtue.

On March 11, 1792, he wrote: “I am sure there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a Divine interposition in their affairs than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that Agency which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them.”

In his farewell address (September 19, 1796), President Washington made clear his belief that religion is indispensable for the morality essential to America:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man ought to respect and cherish them . . . And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. ‘Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.

And yet our first president was a firm supporter of religious freedom. Writing to a general convention of the Episcopal Church in 1789, he stated, “The liberty enjoyed by the people of these States, of worshiping Almighty God agreeably to their experiences, is not only among the choicest of their blessings, but also of their rights.”

About the Author

James C. Denison, Ph.D., is a subject matter expert on culture and contemporary issues. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, a nonsectarian “think tank” designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth in 2009. Dr. Denison writes a cultural commentary available at www.denisonforum.org/subscribe. His free daily commentary is distributed around the world to 85,000 subscribers in over 200 countries.

The Rushmore Report: A Gem from Charles Spurgeon

“They gathered manna every morning” (Exodus 16:21).

Labor to maintain a sense of thine entire dependence upon the Lord’s good will and pleasure for the continuance of thy richest enjoyments. Never try to live on the old manna, nor seek to find help in Egypt. All must come from Jesus, or thou art undone for ever. Old anointings will not suffice to impart unction to thy spirit; thine head must have fresh oil poured upon it from the golden horn of the sanctuary, or it will cease from its glory. Today thou mayest be upon the summit of the mount of God, but he who has put thee there must keep thee there, or thou wilt sink far more speedily than thou dreamiest.

Thy mountain only stands firm when He settles it in its place; if He hide His face, thou wilt soon be in trouble. If the Saviour should see fit, there is not a window through which thou seest the light of heaven which He could not darken in an instant. Joshua bade the sun stand still, but Jesus can shroud it in total darkness. He can withdraw the joy of thine heart, the light of thine eyes, and the strength of thy life; in His hand thy comforts lie, and at His will they can depart from thee. This hourly dependence our Lord is determined that we shall feel and recognize, for he only permits us to pray for “daily bread,” and only promises that “as our days our strength shall be.”

Is it not best for us that it should be so, that we may often repair to His throne, and constantly be reminded of His love? Oh! How rich the grace which supplies us so continually, and doth not refrain itself because of our ingratitude! The golden shower never ceases, the cloud of blessing tarries evermore above our habitation. O Lord Jesus, we would bow at They feet, conscious of our utter inability to do anything without Thee, and in every favour which we are privileged to receive, we would adore Thy blessed name and acknowledge Thine unexhausted love.

About the Author

Charles Haddon Spurgeon is still known as the “Prince of Preachers” 123 years after his death. A British Particular Baptist pastor, he was a strong figure in the Reformed Baptist tradition. It is estimated that he preached to 10 million people in his lifetime. He was the senior pastor of London’s famed New Park Street Chapel (later named the Metropolitan Tabernacle) for 38 years. Spurgeon’s sermons touched continents, inspired thousands of young preachers, and remain the finest examples of oratory to this day.

 

The Rushmore Report: Why Joe Biden Will (and Won’t) Run for President in 2016

Will he or won’t he? Most pundits have assumed Vice President Joe Biden will not seek his party’s nomination for President in 2016. In his prior runs he started much earlier. With every passing day, Hillary Clinton moves one step closer to the “inevitable” stage, while Biden barely cracks 10 percent in Democratic preference polls. But Biden has not ruled out a run. So will he or won’t he? I say he will stun the powers that be, the Clinton machine, and even President Obama with an announcement later this summer. Joe Biden will run for President of the United States. I give you four reasons.

1. Biden thinks he can win. I didn’t say he thinks he will win, but he thinks he can. Clinton’s lead over Bernie Sanders (less known than Col. Sanders) has slipped from 58 percent to 34 percent in the last 30 days. And neither of the other two announced Democratic candidates (bet you can’t name them) have topped one percent. Joe Biden has made a life of proving his critics wrong, from his first run for Senate at age 29 to his ascendency to the VP slot. He doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life wondering, “What if?” He thinks he can win.

2. Being part of the Obama Administration is not the drag it once was. President Obama’s favorable ratings are in the 45 percent range, which isn’t great, but it’s steady and not horrible. Biden recently commented that whoever wins the Democratic nomination should run on the success of the Obama years. “Some say this amounts to a third Obama term. I call it sticking with what works.” Does that sound like someone who isn’t running?

3. Running from behind usually works. Inevitable winners seldom win. Just ask President Ed Muskie (1976), Ted Kennedy (1980), John Connally (1980), Gary Hart (1984), Steve Forbes (1996), Rudi Guiliani (2008), and Hillary Clinton (2008). An amazing 43 percent of Democrats, in a recent poll, said they would switch their vote to Biden if he ran. They want a challenger to Mrs. Clinton. The front-runner takes all the shots. Biden will enter the race just as voters are tiring of Socialist Bernie Sanders and Sanders’ money dries up. The door will be wide open. Biden will walk through it.

4. The Biden family wants him to run. His late son Beau wanted him to run. His son Hunter wants him to run, according to the Wall Street Journal. Jill Biden has indicated her desire that her husband go for it. Joe Biden has his critics, for sure, but his family is not among them. The Biden family is famously close. As Senator from Delaware, Biden rode the train home for weekends to be with his family. Joe’s inner circle of personal advisors are all named Biden.

There you have it – the four reasons Vice President Joe Biden will run for President. They make for a convincing argument, except for one thing. Biden won’t run in 2016. He has tasted the White House, given to his country, and made a difference. Sure, he likes to keep the buzz going about a potential run, because he loves the spotlight. There is no more dangerous place to stand than between Joe Biden and a camera. But that doesn’t mean he will run. The fact is, he won’t. While many, including his family, are encouraging a run, there’s not a chance he’ll do it. How can I be so sure? I give you four reasons Joe Biden will not run in 2016.

1. Biden would be 74 at his inauguration. At 69, Ronald Reagan was considered old. It’s not that Biden feels his age, but he is his age. He knows that he would be seen as a one-term President because of his age. That would make him a lame duck from day one. He would not be able to get much done. And who wants to spend their 70s in the most pressure-filled job in the world? The stress and rigor of the presidency are not an old man’s game.

2. Family comes first. Joe Biden just buried his son, who was expected to be the next Governor of Delaware. He lost his first wife and a daughter, tragically, 40 years ago. The demands of the campaign would be difficult. Biden has taken his family everywhere lately, such as to the World Cup in Canada. He longs for time with his young grandchildren, still grieving the loss of their father. The only priority that comes ahead of public service for Joe Biden is family.

3. He wants to go out on top. Insiders have told him he would lose to Hillary Clinton. He would make a good run at it and earn a spot on the platform, in a key speaking role at the Democratic National Convention. Or he can sit the election out and still have a spot as a key speaker at the Convention. Joe Biden knows what it is to win and he knows what it is to lose. He is a smart guy. He wants his final legacy to be that of a winner, not someone who lost to Hillary Clinton, and brought a level of division to his party in the process.

4. There is unfinished work to do. Biden is close to President Obama. He said recently, “The reason why we never have any conflict in the West Wing is because 80 percent of the people he has worked for me before.” He knows that to run for higher office would mean being shoved aside for the final year of Obama’s term. He still has key roles to play, especially in areas of national security. He loves the battles and negotiations with Congress. He will be Obama’s primary point man for 2016, on much of his agenda. A campaign, sure to fail, would only get in the way of that.

Joe Biden has given his life to public service. From the New Castle County Council (1969) to the vice-presidency of the United States (2008) he has never known a life away from the public eye. Now the most powerful position in the world is within his grasp. He’s not about to pass on this chance to make history. Joe Biden is running for president in 2016. Biden understands the political landscape better than anyone. He knows he can’t win, so at 74, he will assume the role of elder statesman, make a lot of money giving speeches, and enjoy the one treasure he loves more than the White House – his family. Joe Biden is not running for president in 2016.

Will Joe Biden run or not? I hope I’ve put that to rest for you. The answer could not be more clear.

About the Author

Mark Denison, D.Min., is President of The Proud Americans. Denison also serves as founder and President of Church Made Better, a national consulting firm, and on the Board of Directors for Revival in Our Times. A former pastor, author, and chaplain to the Houston Rockets, Mark and Beth make their home in Bradenton, FL. He can be reached at mbdenison@sbcglobal.net.