The Death of Billy Graham – A Few Reflections

The death of Billy Graham today has caused me to reflect on how this man impacted me and the moments where our lives intersected. One of the special privileges that the Lord gave me was to serve personally with Billy Graham on two occasions:

  • During my undergrad years at UNC Chapel Hill, Billy Graham came to speak at a lecture series in 1982 that a number of campus ministries had planned. One event that served as an impetus for this lecture series was the death of his nephew, Sandy Ford, Leighton Ford’s son. Sandy was a contagious Christian who impacted many lives in his short 21 years, including mine.
  • I was asked to lead the worship for a gathering of Christian students and faculty who were preparing and praying for this series. This initial gathering of believers took place at Memorial Hall in 1982.

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  • On another occasion, I will never forget watching a feeble man struggling with Parkinson’s Disease ascend the stairs to a podium and listening to him energetically and boldly proclaim the gospel to a packed house at River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1991. His messages were broadcast all over the Spanish speaking world at the time. What struck me that week was how evidently the Spirit of God had anointed this country boy from North Carolina to powerfully proclaim the gospel.

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  • On both occasions, I was deeply impacted by how unashamed he was of the simple gospel of grace and how committed he was to living a life of integrity.

O Lord, be pleased to raise up a new generation of men and women like Billy and Ruth Bell Graham and revive us again that your people might rejoice in you (Psalm 85:6)!

After the Lord Jesus greeted Billy, I wonder how many others greeted him in heaven with hearts full of gratitude for leading them to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I bet there is a lot of rejoicing in heaven today, but that is true every day because in the Lord’s presence “there is fullness of joy; at his right hand are pleasures forevermore!” (Psalm 16:11)

The below link is a tribute by FoxNews to the life, legacy, and ministry of Billy Graham.

The Life and Ministry of Billy Graham

For Preachers and Their Listeners

JCRyle

In Mark 1:38, Jesus states succinctly the reason why He came from the Father:

“Let us go on to the neighboring towns,
so I may preach there also;
that is why I came
.”

J.C. Ryle comments in the late 1800s on this verse from Mark’s Gospel:

Let us never be moved by those who cry down the preacher’s office,
and tell us that sacraments and other ordinances
are of more importance than sermons.
Let us give to every part of God’s public worship
its proper place and honor,
but let us beware of placing any part of it above preaching.
By preaching, the Church of Christ
was first gathered together and founded,
and by preaching, it has ever been maintained in health and prosperity.
By preaching, sinners are awakened.
By preaching, inquirers are led on.
By preaching, saints are built up.
By preaching, Christianity is being carried to a lost world.

There are many now who sneer at missionaries,
and mock at those who go out into the highways of our own land,
to preach to crowds in the open air.
But such persons would do well to pause,
and consider calmly what they are doing.
The very work which they ridicule
is the work which turned the world upside down.

Above all, it is the very work which Christ Himself undertook.
The King of kings and Lord of lords Himself was once a preacher.
For three long years He went to and fro proclaiming the Gospel.
Sometimes we see Him in a house, sometimes on the mountain side,
sometimes in a Jewish synagogue, sometimes in a boat on the sea.
But the great work He took up was always one and the same.
He came always preaching and teaching.
He says, “That is why I have come.”

Let us leave the passage with a solemn resolution
never to “despise prophesying.” (1 Thess. 5:20.)
The minister we hear may not be highly gifted.
The sermons that we listen to may be weak and poor.
But after all, preaching is God’s grand ordinance
for converting and saving souls.
The faithful preacher of the Gospel is handling the very weapon
which the Son of God was not ashamed to employ.
This is the work of which Christ has said, “That is why I have come.”

The Sweet Exchange of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

There is not a better prayer that beautifully speaks of the mysterious, sweet exchange that takes place when we repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Love Lustres at Calvary

519bbajnjglMy Father,

Enlarge my heart, warm my affections, open my lips,

Supply words that proclaim ‘Love lustres at Calvary.’

There grace removes my burdens and heaps them on your Son,

Made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;

There the sword of Your justice smote the man, Your fellow;

There Your infinite attributes were magnified,

And infinite atonement was made;

There infinite punishment was due,

And infinite punishment was endured.

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,

Cast off that I might be brought in,

Trodden down as an enemy

That I might be welcomed as a friend,

Surrendered to hell’s worst

That I might attain heaven’s best,

Stripped that I might be clothed

Wounded that I might be healed,

Athirst that I might drink,

Tormented that I might be comforted,

Made a shame that I might inherit glory.

Entered darkness that I might have eternal light,

My Savior wept so that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,

Groaned that I might have endless song,

Endured all pain that I might have unfading health,

Bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem,

Bowed his head that I might uplift mine,

Experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,

Closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,

Expired that I might forever live.

O Father, who spared not Your only Son that You might spare me,

All this transfer Your love designed and accomplished;

Help me to adore You by lips and life.

O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,

My every step buoyant with delight, as I see…

My enemies crushed,

Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,

Sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,

Hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open.

Go forth, O Conquering God, and show me the cross,

Mighty to subdue, comfort, and save.

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, PA, 1975, pp.42-43.

 

Success & The Dictatorial Demands of Incessant Expansion

thielicke-3
Success exposes a man to the pressure of people
     and thus tempts him to hold on to his gains
     by means of “fleshly” methods and practices,
     and to let himself be ruled wholly
          by the dictatorial demands of incessant expansion.
Success can go to my head, and will
unless I remember
     that it is God who accomplishes his work,
     that he can continue to do so without my help,
     and that he will be able to make out with other means
          whenever he cuts me down to size.
– Helmut Thielicke, Encounter with Spurgeon

God’s Vision for His Church

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John Stott (1921-2011)

God’s vision for His new community – the church.
It is His family which He loves,
His kingdom which He rules
and His temple in which He dwells.

 

As this reality dawns in our hearts,
we “shall constantly be seeking to make
our church’s worship more authentic,
its fellowship more caring,
and its outreach more compassionate.
In other words, we shall be ready
to pray, to work and if necessary to suffer”
in order to make God’s vision more of a reality in our world.
– John Stott

Eternally and Completely Satisfied

Psalm 17:15 describes what theologians call the beatific vision… that moment in your future when you shall see God. It reads: “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.”

Think about what you will be in eternity. When you see the King in all of His glory, you will be like Him.  You will be eternally and completely satisfied.

C.S. Lewis describes this beautifully in his book The Weight of Glory:

God “will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into …
a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through
with such energy and joy and wisdom and love
as we cannot now imagine,
a bright stainless mirror
which reflects back to God perfectly…
His own boundless power and delight and goodness” (p. 176).

There are no ordinary people. You’ve never talked to a mere mortal.
Nations, cultures, arts, civilization, these are mortal and their life
is to ours as the life of a gnat.
It’s a serious thing to remember
that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to,
may one day be a creature which,
if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship.

A Psalm Prayer for an Election Year

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-7-04-39-amPsalm 2 teaches believers how to counter the bullying world that intimidates them to retreat and hide.  We learn that the LORD’s Anointed One (Messiah) is personally and powerfully involved in this world, rescuing and ruling it for His glory and His people’s good.

How is Jesus Christ the LORD’s King? He is the Son who rules for his Father (2:7-8). There is a twofold kingdom of God committed to Jesus Christ: First, a spiritual kingdom by which he rules in the hearts of His people; and, second, a providential kingdom by which he rules the affairs of this world. During an election year, it is very important for us to remember His providential rule.

Psalm 2 paints an exalted picture of Jesus Christ. This heavenly prince rules all the kings of the earth, judges all the nations, crushes all of God’s enemies, defends and protects all of God’s people, marries His Bride – the Church, and fulfills the promised hope of David’s eternal throne. No wonder this Royal Psalm ends with the exclamation, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Ps. 2:12).

A Psalm Prayer:

Gracious Father, thank you for the future hope
that all the nations that rage against You
will become the inheritance of the Messiah.
You have given to Your Son our Savior
the ends of the earth as His possession.
He declares triumphantly
that all authority in heaven and on earth is rightfully His.
Based upon that authority,
we pray that you would supernaturally cause a massive ingathering of souls
who would come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have mercy upon them,
open blind eyes like you did long ago,
pour the wine of your love and Word on calloused, stony hearts.
Raise up a group of young people throughout the world
who devotedly kiss Your Son as Savior.
May they serve You with fear and rejoice with trembling
as they contemplate your loving reign in their hearts as King,
but also as a just judge who will come again with a rod of iron
to break all those who resist Your reign. AMEN.