Learning From Billy Graham

Just as we can learn from historical biblical figures like Paul and David, we can also learn much from servants of God in our time who have lived faithful and dedicated lives for Christ. Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1), and “Follow the way of love” (1 Corinthians 14:1).  I think about Billy Graham when I read these two powerful challenges, and I think about the many things we can all learn from his godly and faithful example.

First, make pleasing God the highest goal in your lives.  The Bible teaches us to please God rather than ourselves (John 5:30; John 8:29; Acts 5:29).  Paul said that while we are here in the body, our goal should be to please God (2 Corinthians 5:9), and we need to find out what pleases him (Ephesians 5:10).  Ruth Graham stated that Billy Graham wanted to please Jesus more than any person she had ever met.

Second, stay humble no matter what does or does not happen in life because Jesus deserves the glory. This man of God preached to over 200 million people and won millions to the Lord, and yet when he was visiting with Kathy Lee Gifford to read the Christmas story to her children for a television special, all he wanted was a Big Mac from McDonalds. Success in life and ministry should increase humility not arrogance, because God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).  Like Paul, and Billy Graham, we should have the same mind and practice as Christ (Philippians 2:1-8).

Third, stick to your call despite pressure and influence to deviate from that call.  Billy was enticed through the years with business opportunities and political opportunities, but would always turn them down saying that any step away from the gospel would be a step down and a demotion. As Paul was called to the gentiles, and Peter was called to the Jews (Galatians 2:8), Billy Graham knew he was called to the lost billions of the world.  He showed us how important it is to stay on your course and finish it (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Fourth, live a life of purity and integrity because the presence of impurity is the seed of your destruction.  Billy Graham created the “Pence Rule” or the personal conviction not to ride in a car or be in a room by himself with a member of the opposite sex.  Vice-President Mike Pence adopted this rule for his life and was ridiculed severely for it, that is until the onslaught of sexual harassment allegations in the news today.  Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright guides them.” We are called to purity (1 Thessalonians 4:7), commanded to abstain from even the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), and told we should not even have a hint of immorality in our lives (Ephesians 5:3).

Finally, speak the truth in love because some speak the truth without love, and some, appealing to a false construct of love, fail to speak the truth (Ephesians 4:15). Billy Graham took sin seriously painting clearly its destructive power on lives and society.  He also took redemption seriously and shared the way out of sin, Jesus.  He prayed with every President since Eisenhower and challenged each with the truth of the gospel.  We learn from Dr. Graham that we need the right manner for this most perfect message.  Billy Graham said it best when he said, “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.”

Heavenly Tweets

Mark RandallAs most of you know, my mentor and close personal friend Mark Randall went home to be with the Lord after a long battle with congestive heart failure (CHF).  While preparing for his memorial service, I began to write some tweets complete with hash-tags I imagined and know he we would say based on our 31 year friendship.  I sat in my office with tears in my eyes laughing as I wrote.  “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22, NIV).  I thought if the tweets made me smile and laugh, they might be a blessing to others.  I decided to include them in the memorial service as well as share them with you today.  May we all be as present, focused, and dedicated as Mark in his relationship with Jesus and his ministry…

To close today, I wanted to share a series of heavenly tweets I have received from mark since he went home to be with Jesus. Apparently, his tech savvy has grown and I want to share the tele-tweets with you today…

  • By now you know I’m gone – #I made it   #pain-free   #halleLUjah
  • Perfect sight – #no more lost reading glasses
  • Guess what – no need for money in heaven – #no more lost checkbook
  • Jesus is more amazing than I could ever imagine – #my king    #speechless
  • Heaven is so beautiful – #Grand Canyon is just a hole in the ground
  • Just saw Mom Dad and Jay – #family reunion    #so happy
  • Worshipped the Lord with Jerry and Tim – #my voice is aMAZing
  • Just corrected Apostle Stephen on some theology – #I’m always right
  • Just saw my reflection in the golden streets – #can you say “hot”
  • Ran into the thief on the cross – tried to get him saved again – #old habits die hard
  • Going to a banquet – #cheese    #mountains and mountains of cheese   #I feel like I’m in heaven    #cheese sandwiches
  • Tell my kids I love them – #the greatest group in the world    #world changers    #the purpose of my life
  • Tracy is the best sister ever – #amazing    #gone through so much    #strong and godly
  • Listen to Pastor Art – #greatest pastor in the world    #don’t make me come down there
  • Students don’t forget morning prayer – #7:14   #I will come find you
  • This service had better not last more than an hour – #didn’t you learn anything?
  • Heaven is real – it’s all real – #don’t miss it    #don’t miss it for anything    #help get everybody you can here.

A Chance and Hope for Change

Hope Harbor Church just completed the final performance of The Gospel According Scrooge. The three night outreach and ministry resulted in nearly 100 decisions for Jesus Christ. I am praising God for the investment of time, energy, and love from the cast, crew, and leadership team, and for His very strong and obvious anointing and blessing on the outreach. This team of volunteers spent literally hundreds of hours in preparation, rehearsals, set building, and promotion. I know that the Lord is pleased and the angels in heaven are rejoicing in the presence of the Father for the souls that have been added to the Kingdom. When all is said and done and we are standing in eternity with the one that bought us all with His blood, the only thing that will matter is what we have done to reach the unreached and tell the untold. We will, of course, take nothing else with us into glory. Thank you all for your part in bringing the hope of a fresh start to many hearts the past three nights.

I also praise God for the successful launch of our new live internet streaming platform that allowed us to broadcast the production live over the web. The internet broadcast was viewed this evening alone by over 300 people including viewers outside of the United States. Technology truly is amazing and the ability to leverage it to spread the gospel locally, nationally, and globally is the greatest possible use of it. With this tool we will begin to broadcast, with excellence, all regular services and share the life-changing, uncompromising Word of God with all that happen to make their way to our site.

I want to say a special “thank you” to Production Director, John Barrett, Choreography Director, Sue Barrett, Drama Director Becky Lile, the cast, the crew, and the hospitality team for their efforts in making Scrooge the most powerful and effective evangelistic Christmas production we have ever had. Jacob Marley, the fictional business partner in Dickens’ classic short story, comes to Scrooge offering a chance and hope for change. Tonight, many people accepted God’s offer for change and a fresh start. Our prayers are with the many who have accepted Christ or rededicated their lives to him. Jeremiah 29:11 promises that the Lord has a bright future for all of them, and for all of us.

As you head toward the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, let me exhort you to mindful of the hurt that hides behind many smiles today. Take this message of a changed life through Jesus wherever you go and be extra aggressive to tell people during this season the reason for the hope that is within you. Let us also be mindful that all of us can be a bit “Scrooge-like” in our attitude and demeanor rather than walking in love, kindness, and patience. Decide each day to let the joy of the Lord warm your heart and let the love of God guide your words, actions, thoughts, and attitudes.

Stand Up

“For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, fomenting oppression and revolt, uttering lies our hearts have conceived. So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him” (Isaiah 59:12-16, NIV).

I was privileged to hear an amazing message by Dr. Beth Grant tonight at the Kentucky District Council being held near the Cincinnati airport. Most believers have no idea the unbelievable atrocities women and girls face around world through human trafficking. Grant explained that in Bombay, India alone around 100,000 women and children are trapped in a vicious cycle of bondage and degradation. Becoming aware of the problem nearly fourteen years ago, missionaries David and Beth Grant are doing everything they can to rescue and restore these individuals by providing them an escape from the brothels, by introducing them to Jesus Christ, by providing them a safe place to go, and by ongoing ministry. I want to share her message with you. I believe it will challenge and stir you to stand up.

The essence of her message is that the world is awash in evil and darkness, truth and justice are hard to find, and as Isaiah says, “and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.” The Scripture indicates that the Lord was “appalled” that there was no one to intervene or stand up so he stood up himself to work salvation with his own arm. The call tonight is for the people of God to also be appalled by the condition in this world and be subsequently motivated to stand up to address the issue with the message of freedom and redemption in Jesus Christ. Dr. Grant’s pointed question to the congregation was simply this: God is standing up. Are we? My blog today is based on four powerful principles she shared for standing up in this dark hour.

First, stand up with presence. We must go where the people are in bondage because people in bondage are so demonized that the last place they will go is to church. The story of the incarnation is clearly a demonstration of God being present to help hurting, crying, sighing, dying humanity (to quote John Osteen). Man could not go to him so he came to man. From the brothels of India to the hurt of the middle class home in America we too need to be present, engaged, and among the hurting.

Second, stand up in truth because it is the truth that sets people free. There is no substitute for truth. We can’t talk people into freedom with our good intentions and good ideas. We can’t just wish them free. We must give them the truth. Recall the words of Jesus: “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” It is amazing to realize that when Jesus makes someone free through his truth he makes that person free like he is free. As the mind is renewed to the truth the life begins to go in the direction of God’s thoughts rather than the old patterns of defeat, bondage, and despair.

Third, stand up in transparency. The challenge is for the believer to be open and honest revealing to the hurting where hope can be found (and how we ourselves found it). To that extent, our personal stories of deliverance and freedom shared in humility with those in bondage are a powerful tool for healing. We must not be apologetic for boldly presenting Jesus Christ as the key and the source of our hope and deliverance. A bold, authentic, and transparent witness for Jesus Christ and the difference he made in our lives has the ability to arrest the attention of the hurting and deposit into their hearts the seeds of hope for freedom.

Finally, stand up with supernatural authority. Satan knows the voice of authority and he knows if we do not have it. We need to remember that we do not speak for ourselves, we speak for God. The enemy is not impressed with our affluence, our assets, or our education. All that matters is can we as believers touch God on behalf of those in bondage. Let us not hide out in the church for we demonstrate just how “Spirit-filled” we are by what we do outside of the church rather than inside of it. Let us become the voice of supernatural authority in a world too often under the heel of the enemy.

The great need of the hour is for the body of Christ to stand up unapologetically against the darkness, against the wickedness, against the spiritual power in the heavenly realms that is destroying and enslaving human lives in the physical realm. I encourage you to look for the chains of the enemy wherever you happen to be in the world because you don’t have to be in Bombay to find bondage. Stand up with presence, truth, transparency, and spiritual authority and watch the Lord set the captives free in your mission field.

Eager to Excel

UntitledMy family and I attended the West Coast Believer’s Convention recently in Long Beach, California. There’s nothing like sitting under the uncompromised Word of God from morning to night for an entire week. There is never a time that I do not receive life-changing revelation as I sit diligently listening to the Word and the voice of God speaking that Word to my heart. Once you receive the awesome revelation of the goodness of God and the reality of the blessing, you can’t help but want everyone to know about the possibilities through Jesus Christ.

We were packing up getting ready to leave Long Beach. I had just emailed the notes to our speakers for Sunday services at the Harbor. I had some time before we had to leave so I walked down the street a few blocks to Starbucks for a quick mocha. On my way back I spotted an elderly homeless man sitting quietly nearby reading the morning paper. He carried all of his worldly possessions in one backpack and one large green garbage bag. I got about a half a block past the gentleman when I heard the unmistakable prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Go talk to this man. He doesn’t have long to live.” After trying to get the wax out of my ears (you know the feeling), I took a few more steps before stopping to wait for the pedestrian sign to change so I could cross the street. I don’t know everything, but I do know when God is speaking to me about an assignment. I turned around, retraced my steps and sat down about ten feet from Emilio.

I quickly learned that this man spent most of his life working hard until challenging economic times forced him out of a job, out of his home, and on to the streets. His English was measured but understandable. He responded graciously to my questions about the condition of his soul and his readiness for heaven. Ironically, he told me that he had been given several Bibles through the years but that they were often stolen from him during the night. Although deeply religious, Emilio admitted that he had never personally repented of his sin or asked Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of his life. He agreed to pray to receive Christ with me and then I asked if I could explain the power of the blessing to change his life while he was still on earth. He listened intently as I described God’s ability and willingness to minister to him in every way including the practical needs of life. He then agreed to let me pray for God’s blessing on his life. I prayed specifically that the Lord would even that day do some amazing things on his behalf to confirm that blessing and the covenant he now has with the Father and I took that opportunity to be the first one to bless him.

The name Emelio means “eager to excel.” The Lord reminded me that day just how eager many people are to hear the good news of the gospel. Many Christians simply do not witness to others because they have believed the lie that nobody wants to hear about our Jesus (in reality they don’t want to hear about some dead religion). I challenge you to find an Emelio every week to tell about the blessing that has been restored through the blood of Jesus Christ. No one can truly excel in life (meaning to go to the the highest level) without the blessing active and operating daily. We have been given such a wonderful trust, message, and mandate. Don’t be surprised when you’re minding your own business at a restaurant or store and you hear the familiar voice of the Holy Spirit urging you to hook up with your own eager Emelio!

Coming Home

Max the Gladiator

Pet owners understand something that people without pets cannot understand – our pets literally become part of the family. So when a precious pet goes missing it’s quite traumatic for the family and particularly that member of the family that most identifies with the animal (Tim’s Bambi likes to stress everyone out by charging through any open door and bolting like a convict during a prison break – but we always find him wandering blindly and aimlessly two doors down). The Klotz family has been believing God for the safe return of Max (Maximus Decimus Meridius) from “gladiator” fame who, as I understand it, has been missing for a couple of weeks. Having been raised with an adventurous tabby colored tom cat, I knew when I heard about Max (and saw his feline wanted posters all over the neighborhood) that he was probably out trying to sharpen his fighting skills and conquer the south end of the city of Murray. 

Max made his way home today to the delight of a very appreciative family (and a certain man of the house). I felt the same way when Tiger returned home after weeks and weeks of prowling around. I remember looking every night for Tiger to show up. I always thought he was alright but I could never be sure. Then one day he came prancing up the driveway, apparently laying waste to every rival cat in town that would dare challenge him (neighbors would tell me later that my cat was a bully to the other cats in the neighborhood – I can’t help it if they raised wimpy cats).

Following the Max saga reminds me of how the Father feels when one of his kids goes missing. The story of the Prodigal Son reveals the heart of God that longs for the return of his child. The return of a family pet pales in comparison to the exuberance and pleasure it brings the Lord when we get tired of catting around and return home where we belong, but thanks Max for reminding us of the Father’s love.