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.

Act Like a Wigglesworth

If you’re reading this post today you might be wondering, “What’s a Wigglesworth?” Smith Wigglesworth was a 20th century revivalist from Britain – an individual the Lord used in extraordinary ways including personal soul-winning, countless healings, and documented resurrections from the dead. What’s interesting about Wigglesworth, illiterate until his wife Polly taught him to read using the Bible, is that he was a master plumber who loved the Lord, but his wife was the preacher in the family ministering through the flourishing Salvation Army movement. It is reported that he could barely get through two to three minutes in a sermon before he would break down in tears and ask someone else to complete the message.

But all that changed when Smith received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. Polly challenged Wigglesworth on his new doctrine and experience saying that she too was filled with the Spirit but without tongues. “I have been preaching for 20 years,” she asserted, “and you have sat beside me on the platform. But on Sunday you will preach yourself, and I’ll see what there is in it.” She thought given his track record with public speaking that this was the perfect test of his claim. The late Gary McGee (former professor of church history at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary) described Polly’s reaction to Smith’s transformation: “The next Sunday he entered the pulpit and, prompted by the Spirit, preached from Isaiah 61:1-3: ‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings….’ The bold and fluent preaching that came forth startled his wife as she sat in the back of the mission. Speaking in a voice loud enough that everyone around her heard, Polly sputtered, ‘That’s not my Smith, Lord; that’s not my Smith!’ “

The prophet Samuel explained to a young Saul that an amazing transformation would happen to him. He told Saul that he would be changed into a different person when the Spirit came upon him (1 Samuel 10:6). Like Saul and Wigglesworth, the Lord desires to first transform us by the Holy Spirit and then use us as a vessel and tool for transforming the lives of others by our Spirit empowered witness and the signs that follow such a bold, faith-filled witness for Jesus Christ. What an amazing testimony that day: “Lord, that’s not my Smith.” God desires that every believer would also stun their wives, husbands, relatives, children, friends, and coworkers with a similar transformation.

Even though Smith did not write any books (the books about him and his ministry were recorded and compiled by others) and we do not have the benefit of his powerful messages in bulk on tape, he did leave a legacy of how to walk in a similar anointing before the Lord. He was asked once the secret of the power that operated and flowed in and through his life. He shared three vital principles or keys and I want to share them with you today in this blog because I believe that if we will do what he did, we can see similar results. Wigglesworth also believed this to be true. So, here’s how you act like a Wigglesworth:

First, in addition to being born again, Smith taught and modeled that the believer needs to be literally saturated and immersed in the Word of God. In fact, he would not allow the newspaper in his house opting instead to spend his time in the good news. It was the exception for Wigglesworth to go very long without either reading, quoting, preaching, or thinking about the Word of God. His nose was always stuck in the Bible. Today with so many believers, the exception is to get into the Word. The norm is to fill the time with anything other than reading and studying the Word of God. The Bible says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). If we want to become faith giants like Wigglesworth we must act like him and become fanatical about our Word intake.

Second, Wigglesworth was transformed by the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the corresponding ability to speak in tongues. Wigglesworth was an advocate of spending vast amounts of time praying in the Spirit. He often equated “praying without ceasing” with the use of his heavenly language. Some Spirit-filled believers never learned the value of prolonged and protracted tongues speech thinking that this ability was simply a physical marker for the baptism in the Holy Spirit to be used occasionally if moved to do so. Wigglesworth understood that we are to build ourselves up in our most holy faith, praying in the Spirit (Jude 20). He knew from experience that the more he prayed in tongues the more sensitive he became to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the more fluid he was in preaching, and the more results he saw as a result of his ministry. If we want to act like a Wigglesworth we need to begin to speak in tongues more than ever before. Let’s desire to be like the Apostle Paul who declared that he spoke in tongues more than anyone. No wonder Paul and Wigglesworth has so many similarities in their respective ministries.

Third, Wigglesworth taught that the believer that desires to flow mightily in the things of the Spirit must pay careful attention to personal holiness. He believed that the continued separation from the world and separation unto God positioned the believer to be a vessel unto honor that the Lord could use. The holy man or woman could be trusted with the precious anointing of the Holy Spirit. Paul told Timothy, contrary to some religious and traditional teaching, that the individual believers, not God, determined whether they would be wood pots, clay pots, silver pots, or gold pots. The choice to be used in a powerful way – to be a vessel unto honor – is the decision of he believer and not the Lord. Paul wrote, “If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:21). We too can be used like a Wigglesworth if we will act like a Wigglesworth and make personal holiness and the diligent maintaining of a sensitive conscience the highest priority in our lives.

I want to encourage you to spend more time in the Word, to actually use your prayer language all the time, and pay attention to the things you allow in your lives. The Lord knows we need more Smith Wigglesworths in the world today. Any volunteers?