Billy Graham & the Gospel

Billy-Graham

Isn’t it funny that even when you know things will happen it’s seems to always be at least a bit of shock when they do? That’s how I felt this morning when I saw the new that Billy Graham had died at the ripe old age of 99.

What a life and what a man!

As far back as I can remember in my walk of faith Billy Graham was there. I had heard of him and knew that he was the most famous evangelist in the world. He didn’t have anything to do with my decision to believe the Gospel and follow Jesus but I knew about him.

In our Youth Group (embarrassingly enough called the “Key Teens”) we watched several of the movies the Billy Graham Association put out. They always ended the same way too – the star of the movie would go to one of his crusades, hear him preach and then give their life to Christ.

Sure enough that’s a good ending for a movie intended to be evangelistic, but I always wished they would have followed the character to see how he or she did in their new Christian life. I was probably secretly hoping they would have some of the struggles I had with understanding and living out my faith.

Billy was a fantastic role model for anyone in the ministry. I am tempted to say the role model given how most famous “evangelists” act and live today. But of course that’s not true. There are thousands of good people in the ministry out there and I hope God blesses them all. Hopefully I can number myself among them.

Still I can’t help but wish we had more Billy Grahams.

But we don’t and we won’t. He was a one of a kind. A man called to minister to a specific time in world history. That time has passed and so has Billy Graham. Let us remember him warts and all and learn all we can from him.

I’ve decided that I’m going to devote next weeks edition of Disciple Up to Remembering Billy Graham, I hope you’ll check out the episode when it drops next Wednesday morning. Listening to people talk about him on TV made me realize how most of them don’t understand the Gospel that the Bible teaches and that Billy preached. I want to talk about that and some personal memories of him as well.

Thanks Billy, God bless as you enter into your rest and the presence of your Lord Jesus.

#BillyGraham  #RIPBillyGraham  #Welldonegoodandfaithfulservant  #BillyGrahamandtheGospel

 

 

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Billy Graham & the Gospel

Tube Float Discipleship & No Safe Spaces

How can churches get involved in their communities and not come across as horrible and judgmental people? Do you know the ancient spiritual roots of the Safe Spaces we hear so much about today? And did you know these two things are connected? All that and more on today’s show!
Episode 9

Tube Float Discipleship & No Safe Spaces

The Disciple Up Low Down On The Karma Chameleon

[Since a new episode of Disciple Up comes out tomorrow morning, here’s the script for last week’s Disciple Up Low Down. Be sure and check out episode 9 of Disciple Up tomorrow!]

Way back in 1983 a song was released by a new group and it became a smash hit. It was called Karma Chameleon and it was by the Culture Club which was led by a man who called himself Boy George. From that alone you can see things here aren’t going to be what they seemed. Boy George was not the first gender bender but he certainly made a huge impact.

The song didn’t have anything to do with karma actually and I don’t know why he used the term in the song. Given the rhythm of the song I suspect it was used because it fit well and was basically a nonsense word as so many words are in modern music.

But the title really sticks in your mind doesn’t it? And I think it is actually making a real point, albeit an unintended one. Because as it turns out karma, or at least the way it’s used today in our culture, is a chameleon.

It changes color to blend in but doesn’t actually change its shape or nature. Chameleon’s use this ability as a defensive strategy in the wild. In our wild and wooly culture that’s exactly what karma is doing as well. Now I’m not blaming karma for that since karma is just a word and a concept. But the way it’s been used for decades now has helped lead us to our present state of dumbed down Christianity.

As I’ve talked about in this episode the way karma is talked about by many Christians it’s no surprise that many people have come to believe it’s part of the Christian faith. But as we’ve seen that’s not true. But when otherwise knowledgeable people who call themselves Christians say they believe in it, what do you expect people to think?

So karma is a chameleon that looks like something it’s not. It’s Hindu & Buddhist thought not Christian. But so well disguised is it that few notice. And so our faith continues to be dumbed down and watered down as well.

And this isn’t just some obscure or unimportant doctrine either. Because if karma is true then the Gospel cannot be true. You can’t have salvation by grace coexist with the wheel of karma and reincarnation. It can be one or the other but you can’t have both.

Yes I know, there I go again with my exclusive truth claims again. But as we’ve seen all truth is exclusive and that’s just the way the universe was made folks.

So while we get ourselves straightened out about karma we can’t stop there. We’ve got to push on and challenge all kinds of other truth statements our culture is making that aren’t true as well. We must learn to test everything by Scripture, weed out the false and cling tightly to what is true.

Karma isn’t the only chameleon out there. There’s lots of others as well, and we’ll be talking about many of them on future episodes of Disciple Up. Meanwhile remember that unless you look carefully and closely you won’t even see a chameleon, so keep your eyes peeled and prepare yourself to test, test, test.

And that’s the Disciple Up Low Down on the Karma Chameleon.

The Disciple Up Low Down On The Karma Chameleon

Disciple Up Low Down On Deciding What’s God’s Will

Episode 5

[Here’s another Disciple Up Low Down, this script is taken from episode 5. Hope you enjoy it.]

We’ve been discussing God’s will in this edition of Disciple Up but there’s one aspect we haven’t addressed yet and that’s who is it that gets to say what is and isn’t God’s will for me? Most of us probably have more than a few people vying for that authority. Whether it’s parents or children, a spouse or a boss or a Pastor or someone in your Bible Study, or maybe someone you just ran into at the supermarket – the world is full of people who love to play prophet and tell others what the Will of God is for them.

Look at this passage from Paul: 12  We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13  and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14  And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15  See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16  Rejoice always, 17  pray without ceasing, 18  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19  Do not quench the Spirit. 20  Do not despise prophecies, 21  but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22  Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 (ESV)

Note that Paul was talking to a church community who had experienced some difficulty and division. So as he wraps up his letter he’s giving them some quick exhortations to help them move forward in the right direction. He tells them to respect their leaders and be at peace among themselves. Then he says they ought to urge the lazy to get to work while helping the weak and being patient with them.

Then he starts spitting out short commands like machinegun bullets. Do good, rejoice always because that’s God’s will, pray, don’t quench the Spirit and don’t despise prophecy, BUT don’t just accept them either. Instead test everything and hold on to what is good while avoiding all evil.

You might be wondering what all of that has to do with deciding what God’s will is, but I assure you it’s in there. For while I respect my leaders and listen carefully to what they say, I don’t allow them – or anyone else – to make my decision for me.

Even when someone comes to you and says “The Lord told me you should do this, or shouldn’t do that…” You should, never – EVER – just accept that as a message to you from God.  And if they push you to do so then you should really treat what they said with a great deal of skepticism because that’s not what God teaches us!

No, Paul says we are to TEST EVERYTHING, and that includes advice from respected elders and any so-called messages from God to you or anyone else. Test it to make sure that it’s rational and Biblical. Think it through carefully. God’s not in a hurry and if someone is trying to hurry you then that’s pretty good evidence they aren’t speaking for God.

The truth is that the Bible teaches us that we are responsible for everything we say and do. I cannot blame others, God holds me accountable and responsible for what I do. Therefore I’m the only one who, as an adult, can decide what God’s will is for me.

I’ll listen to what other people have to say. I’ll think about it, pray about, but ultimately I’m the only one who can make that decision. And I’m the one who will have to live with it as well.

A little over eight years ago I had just such an experience. I felt like God was leading me to leave the church I was serving and go elsewhere. I had no idea where but after over 20 years there I felt like it was time to move on. I gathered about 5 of my friends in that church and talked to them about it. We prayed and I began sending out resumes, and we met several times.

They all expressed skepticism about my leaving and said they didn’t want me to go. While I respected each of them I finally decided to knock and see if the door opened. After more than a year of knocking through resumes to other churches one finally came through and I accepted the call.

Three years later I was fired after church on Sunday with no warning and in the end the new ministry I tried starting failed, I sold my house with a huge loss and ended up in Phoenix jumping between my two sisters homes unemployed.

The church I left was in a crisis and asked me to fill their pulpit, and in the end called me back here. And here I am today. I fully intend to finish my Pastoral career here at CCR as well.

So was I wrong about moving on? I’d say there’s about a 99.99% chance that the answer to that question is yes. I wish I hadn’t done it, shouldn’t have done it, but I did and have paid for it in full. Unfortunately so have a lot of other people and two churches as well.

So yeah, I should have listened. But in the end it was my call to make. I made it to the best of my ability and by God’s grace have learned a few things in the messy aftermath. I thank God so much that he led me back home again and that He’s blessed me with great people to work with as well.

But in the final analysis you are the only one who make those kind of choices for yourself. Not on else can or should, just remember not to complain too much if you make a bad choice like I did. It was your choice and if made in faith you can be assured God will bring good out of it, and all the evil men can do, in the end.

And that’s the Disciple Up Low Down on Who Gets To Decide What’s God’s Will Is For Me.

[If you enjoyed that you’ll really like the entire episode which you can listen to right here.]

Disciple Up Low Down On Deciding What’s God’s Will

The Disciple Up Low Down On Testing Myself

disciple-up-300X300[The following is taken from the 4th Episode of Disciple Up. I like to include a “Disciple Up Low Down” in each episode as sort of a closing editorial related to that show’s topic. Enjoy!]

We’ve talked a lot in today’s show about testing. At this point I hope it’s clear to everyone that we are not just encouraged to test but commanded too. It is absolutely vital that we test everything and this of course includes not just what other say and do, but our thoughts and opinions as well.

Yes, what I think, feel and say isn’t beyond testing. In fact it’s even more necessary that I test myself not only because I am accountable to God for what I say and do but because of the damage I might to do to others if I don’t.

There’s a problem however when it comes to testing myself. And that problem is that I cannot see myself with anywhere near the objectivity needed to make a fair and just test. I’m hopelessly subjective when it comes to myself no matter how hard I try to be objective. I can never get completely outside myself and thus cannot see myself accurately.

The writers of the Bible knew this to be true, as does anyone who really thinks about it.  Happily for us they found a solution to this otherwise insoluble problem. What is it? It’s quite simple really, we must call upon God to test us and to give us the courage to face the results of that test.

Here’s just a few examples:

2  Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. Psalm 26:2 (ESV)

2  Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; Psalm 26:2 (NIV)

23  Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

That last verse is probably the best known of the bunch. I quoted the other two just to show you that there’s more than one place in the Bible where someone calls upon God to test or judge him. And this awareness of our need for God’s clear and perfect test is not limited to the Old Testament either.

3  But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4  For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 (ESV)

I love how Paul knows that in the end the only opinion that counts is God’s opinion. Just because everyone thinks we’re wonderful and we tend to agree means nothing. It’s God’s opinion that matters for he alone is the King of the Universe and the only right and just judge. He sees all things clearly and therefore we are answerable to him.

It is before him that we stand or fall as Paul says in Romans chapter 14: 4  Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:4 (ESV)

He goes even further a few verses later when he writes: 7  For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8  For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9  For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10  Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11  for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” Romans 14:7-11 (ESV)

So this ingrained testing that I’ve been talking about must apply to myself before it applies to anyone else. But I must be honest enough with myself to know the depth of my bias and the understand that without God’s searching test and judgement I will surely fail.

One of the greatest goals in life is not to live a life of self-delusion. I must face the facts about myself no matter how awful they might be. But I need God’s help to do so. I also need other people to help me face facts and to know how to go about changing what needs to be changed in my life. Then God can continue his great work of transforming me into the likeness of Christ. But he can’t do that if I don’t first see myself as I really am, repent of that, and then seek his Spirit’s power to change.

And that’s the Disciple Up Low Down on Testing Myself.

[If you enjoyed that you’ll really like the entire episode which you can listen to right here.]

The Disciple Up Low Down On Testing Myself