The Legacy of Billy Graham

bgrahamBilly Graham’s death today at the age of 99 gives me a moment to pause and reflect on his influence in American Christianity. I’m not alone as I see so many people expressing both sorrow at his passing and memories of his great accomplishments. 

Graham’s influence can partly be attributed to the times in which he lived. His crusades persuaded many people to follow Jesus Christ both in person and through television. He had a simple way of preaching the basics to the everyday person in such a way that it could be received. Though he sat with Presidents and celebrities, he never seemed to let that become his purpose. From the excellent obituary in the New York Times we are reminded about the vast influence of Dr. Graham: 

In 2007, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association estimated that he had preached the Gospel to more than 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories since beginning his crusades in October 1947 in Grand Rapids, Mich. He reached hundreds of millions more on television, through video and in film. (Link below)

Confession. My experience with Billy Graham isn’t all wine and roses. I grew up in a faith family that often scoffed at Graham’s crusades and the multitude of people who poured forward to pray for salvation. (To be honest, my tribe is so independent that I’m not saying ALL of them felt that way. But I heard many criticisms, corrections, and dismissals.) That sounds really harsh and I wouldn’t say it just that way but after reading some Facebook posts from some who still cling to that perspective I know it’s still true. Yes, it is my conviction that the Bible teaches that our salvation experience with God includes baptism that washes away sin. Graham invited people to say a “sinners prayer” to be placed in a right relationship with God. We differ. But somehow for me, that doesn’t translate into dismissing the greatest evangelist of my generation. Billy Graham was an evangelist. The work of discipleship and growth in God’s will was left up to the teaching and ministry of local churches. I am pretty sure he knew that he had one job: bring people to Jesus. 

– Admiration for Billy Graham –

My admiration for him has grown over the years. I admire his strong convictions about the Word of God and the passion for reaching out to the lost that characterized his efforts. I admire him for his high moral character and faithfulness to God, even as other televangelists crumbed into the morass of greed and sexual sin. I admire the way he had a connection with his audience. Stadiums full of expectant hearts awaited him during the crusades. Local churches were invited to participate and to follow up with the respondents.  Everything I can see about his efforts point to Jesus Christ and not Billy Graham. I respect that.

I don’t think there could be a Billy Graham today. The advent of the internet widens the field of influence among many teachers and preachers. The spirit of division and hatred that has a big influence over our country has even influenced our churches. Though as I noted earlier there were always critics among the churches, today I think that the cynics, punsters, and self-appointed saviors would be relentless in the attempt to destroy his efforts. The fact that there is no Billy Graham-like figure today demonstrates the truth of the matter. The televangelists who draw large-scale audiences today mostly do not resemble the humble and Bible-centered approach that Graham took.

My appreciation for Billy Graham is not based on total agreement with him on everything he said and taught. But he brought awareness of God’s presence and a positive influence on our country through some very difficult times. 

My guess is that the current generation if they have heard of Graham at all, will think of him as a relic of the past. Maybe so, but our world was better off because Billy Graham loved Jesus Christ and stood before masses to beg them to follow Him through books, television specials, and in crusades. 

God bless all the voices that keep calling us to look to Jesus … that call us out of the world of darkness into His marvelous light … they remind us that out here hope remains. JED 

Obituary in the New York Times

Beyond Beyoncé

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It appears that Beyoncé fans were under the mistaken impression that she does not require makeup and has amazingly perfect skin. Her “flawless” skin was exposed in some leaked photographs that revealed the real Beyoncé behind the superstar image. I’m sorry fans, but this woman is simply a human being. She has blemishes and bumps just like everyone else.  The images that showed her with less-than-absolutely-perfect-skin came from commercial and ad shoots for L’Oréal’s 2013 Feria and Infallible campaigns. Enough hatred was spewed that the site took down the photos within the hour, but not before they were snagged and posted all over the net.

Is there anyone who believes that any woman (or man) who models for magazines and advertising campaigns is as flawless as they appear? Apparently the answer to that is ‘yes’.

Do we sometimes fall into the trap of believing that other people are REALLY faithful to God and we are just spiritual weaklings in comparison? Maybe we think we could never be as godly or as committed as another believer. We would admit that everyone sins, but we think our sin is worse than can be found in other people’s closets.

There has only been ONE FLAWLESS human being and His name is Jesus!

Hebrews 9:14 says that Jesus “offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God”.

1 Peter 1:19 reminds us that we were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.”

The flawless Jesus was nailed to a cross. Wicked men gathered around the cross to ridicule and torment Him could hear Him praying for God to forgive them. They heard him promise a thief that he would be in paradise along with him that very day. They heard him say, “It is finished” and saw the sky turn black. Three days later the stone was rolled away and the Savior was raised. Jesus IS the Resurrection! He reigns with the Father and will return for His Bride, the church, on that great day.

Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found at peace with Him without spot or blemish. ~2 Peter 3:14 

When I think about the flawless Jesus in His glorious perfection I’m not surprised by the blemishes of Beyoncé … nor my own. Take your blemishes and imperfections to Jesus and let Him make you new. He won’t just airbrush them away or cover them up, He will remove them when we follow our faith into obedience.

Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. ~Colossians 2:2

Thanks for reading.  JD

 

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Monroe Proud Pair Share Shoe Drive

Here in Monroe, LA there is a way to share your new and gently used shoes with those who are less fortunate here in NE Louisiana. It’s called the Monroe Proud Pair Share Shoe Drive and runs through November 30th.

Most of us have shoes in our closet that we never wear. This is a way to put them to good use and to help your neighbor who may not be able to afford a good pair of shoes. The goal is to collect 3,000 pairs of shoes.

According to THIS ARTICLE IN THE NEWS-STAR:

Residents can donate shoes at any Monroe City or Ouachita Parish school and all city of Monroe Community Centers. Shoes should be tied by the laces or bound together with rubber bands to prevent loss and the need for later sorting issues.

What a great way to make a difference in our community! The Keep Monroe Beautiful website is HERE (appears to be seldom updated).

KNOE story on this effort.

Join In!

Thanks for reading,

The Real Issue Is Money

I am not among the group(s) of religious people who believe that birth control is sinful. It’s not that I investigated that and found it to be lacking. I was brought up in a faith family that does not generally present a message one way or another on this subject. But I am interested in the current discussion as it has become a political pawn in the implementation of Obamacare especially as it relates to Catholic hospitals, universities and charities. (One of a thousand news stories HERE.) The distribution of contraceptives is mandated via the Federal Government and this is being seen as an intrusion into the practice of religion in America.

While I guess there is something to be said for the ‘slippery slope‘ (i.e. what’s next?), I do not think that contraception is the real issue here. The issue is money. This ruling applies to those institutions that are receiving money from the Federal Government. (It does not apply to the churches – only the institutions that receive federal funding).

So, let me get this right. If I get millions of dollars from the Federal Government, there are some strings attached? I would have to do some things the way they say I have to do them? I really do not have any problem understanding that.

But I don’t know how much the Catholic Church receives from the Federal Government. I’m not alone.

Why has no one found out how much the federal government gives to the Roman Catholic Church already and why that does not affect the division between the State and religion? ~Political Center at NewsVine

So the answer is a tough one. If the Catholic church stops taking government funds then hospitals close, universities suffer, and all of the good being done by Catholic believers is diminished. THIS STORY says, “Religious groups that oppose the regulation say that it forces people of faith to choose between upholding church doctrine and serving the broader society.”

Interesting that the secular press is reminding churches of their primary focus. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote about this very clearly recently in USA Today.

It’s not at all simple, and it will certainly continue to be a political football. Just remember when people are shouting that religious liberties are being trampled upon that the other side of the coin is Federal funding has been received for years. Our area is served by a Catholic hospital – and I would hate to see that service diminished.

But it’s not a political issue (but certain ones will rise up to try to appear to be the hero of the day!). It is not a religious issue – no one is being forced to use birth control, nor write prescriptions for contraceptives. It is a money issue. And the way the world works is that the one who gives you the money gets to tell you how to use it.

~John

 

Rapture Disappointment

Harold Camping

I will admit that the days leading up to Harold Camping’s proposed rapture date were filled with great humor on Facebook and Twitter and everywhere else. No one could help themselves, there was just too much sport to make of such a nutty situation.

Well, almost no one. The ones who were the true believers weren’t laughing. The ones who sold all that they had in order to buy advertising to let the rest of us know of the impending doom weren’t laughing. And Harold and his wife weren’t laughing.

There have been strong denunciations from evangelicals – many calling Camping a false prophet. I understand what they are saying. It is a media-driven black eye from which we all want to distance ourselves. I do think that ‘false prophet’ is a misnomer. It is true that his calculations led him to an incorrect rapture date. It’s also true that most evangelicals dismiss the idea of trying to find THE DAY, noting that Jesus said it would come as a thief in the night. (Although I have heard MANY evangelicals talking about the ‘signs of the times‘ and saying ‘the end must be near‘ – which is not far removed from Camping’s effort.) I would not call Camping a false prophet. I would say that he is a mistaken believer. And I would say that the Christian world has tossed him to the garbage heap in disdain.

Could you spend just a minute in Camping’s shoes? How certain he must have been! He had to know the risk, after failing at this attempt once before. Yet whatever calculations he was using, whatever process, however often he prayed… he remained convinced. So convinced that he wanted to tell the world.

I know I’m assuming some things here. I’m assuming he is honest, that he had nothing to gain by this, and that he was simply wrong. I think he dismissed some clear statements of Jesus – but hey – I think that about some of my friends too. And they think it of me. We just haven’t rented billboards to tell the world of our conclusions. (Or have we?)

If you laughed at Harold Camping last week, you’re certainly not alone. I did too. I just don’t see the evil genius who fooled the gullible and rejoices in his power. I see an old Christian who has studied the Bible through and through and somewhere took a wrong turn. Haven’t you met one of those before?

We all need to be committed to studying for ourselves, placing our full faith in Jesus Christ. It is important to get input from others, but ultimately my faith is my own. We’re not always going to get it right – even the most scholarly among us get sidetracked from time to time. Camping’s followers can be disappointed, upset, even broke – but they made their own decisions. Just like I make mine.

I know he’s already targeting October. Maybe he’s just in too deep to get out. I don’t know him. I probably have very little in common with him.

There’s just something about this situation that causes me to think that we shouldn’t join the world in kicking this clown in the rear. Maybe it’s the mercy I’ve received from time to time when I didn’t deserve it.

Thanks for reading,

John

A Reflection of Our Losses

Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Jose Conseco, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez … larger than life heroes in the baseball world. Their stats raise them above their peers. In a world where performance equals millions of dollars and the life of a celebrity, they are admired and adored.

They are also men over whom a dark cloud resides … and about whom Baseball as a sport is confused. The Baseball Hall of Fame is the place where the best and brightest are memorialized for as long as this earth stands. It is the pinnacle and those who soar to the top of the game desire, even expect, to be there. If it’s just a numbers issue then there are no questions and all of those mentioned above should be honored in the Hall of Fame. But it’s not just a numbers issue because those listed above are known as cheaters.

Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.  ~Ted Williams

I am interested in the wringing of hands in regard to who should be in the Hall of Fame because I have no history with baseball. I do not love the game, though I find it mildly interesting. I have no emotional stake in who gets in the Hall of Fame and who doesn’t. Visiting the Hall of Fame is not on my life’s agenda.

Don’t forget to swing hard, in case you hit the ball.  ~Woodie Held

Do they get in? Do they get in the Hall of Fame but with an asterisk or an explanation that they were cheaters? Perhaps they were great players before they used steroids… it only helped them a little. Maybe they’ll be kept from the Hall. Some are worried that an entire generation of baseball players will be missing, making the Hall irrelevant.

During my 18 years I came to bat almost 10,000 times.  I struck out about 1,700 times and walked maybe 1,800 times.  You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at bats a season.  That means I played seven years without ever hitting the ball.  ~Mickey Mantle, 1970

Baseball’s quandary is a reflection of our cultural losses. Ours is a time when there is no right or wrong. It is a day when everyone’s personal opinion of good and evil is true only for them. How can we possibly say that any of them were WRONG for taking steroids? The only thing WRONG today is to tell someone that they’re wrong. Baseball can’t figure out what to do because our lost culture can’t find it’s way.

The rejection of the notion of something being true or false, right or wrong, good or evil has left humanity in the position of moral equivalence. It’s only wrong if it feels wrong. And to some, leaving Pete Rose (who turns 70 this week) out of the Hall of Fame seems wrong. Hasn’t he suffered enough? To others, it seems right, because he compromised the game – and he can never undo that.

It ain’t like football.  You can’t make up no trick plays.  ~Yogi Berra

On a personal level, I hope all of these men find redemption and enjoy the hope that comes from following Christ. But the Hall of Fame isn’t really about personal redemption, is it? Isn’t it about the men who surpassed all others in the game? If you took a performance enhancing drug to help you be better – an unfair advantage – then your stats are skewed … bogus … useless. That is, unless you’re going to have a Cheater’s Wing at Cooperstown.

I certainly do not believe I’ve settled the issue for Baseball fans. However, what is happening in Major League Baseball today is a reflection of the loss of moral courage in our culture today.

Baseball is an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex, and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem.  ~Saul Steinberg

God has preserved His will for us, and when we decide we know better then we lose our way. As long as each one of us is following our own idea of what is right and what is wrong, we will have chaos. And in that world cheaters are winners, those who reject the rules are heroes, and the love of the game is defined by the contents of a syringe.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105