What Others Say

"Thank you for the words of wisdom in today’s Abilene Reporter News. In the midst of wars violence and pandemics, your words were so soft spoken and calming."

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Billy Graham

Billy Graham burst upon the scene in his California crusade in 1947 when I as one year old. I didn’t pay attention to him until God laid His hand upon me for Christian ministry when I was 18.

Many of us who were aspiring preachers mimicked him.  We could not preach as he preached, but we cold insert “and-uh” between our statements as he did, and we could copy his mannerisms. The world was full of little “would be” Billy Grahams.  I listened to his Hour of Decision on the radio, and launched m own 15 minute radio program called “Moment of Truth” on the local station.  At least my father listened to it.

Across the years I found more important aspects of Billy Graham I wanted to imitate. 

I wanted to imitate his integrity. When his organization attracted donations in the millions, he placed himself on a salary commensurate with the pastor of a large church.  He insisted that his Crusades be audited and made public.  He regularly turned down million dollar offers from Hollywood and television. He made much on royalties for his books, and gave much away.

In a world awash with sexual scandal, Billy Graham sought to avoid the potential for impropriety. He chose not to travel or dine alone with any woman other than his wife.  He loved his wife, Ruth Bell Graham.  They married in 1943 and remained devoted to each other until her death in 2007. He said of her, “Whenever I was asked to name the finest Christian I ever met, I always replied, ‘My wife, Ruth.’ … She was a gentle, smiling and kind person whose primary goal was to live for Christ and reflect His love.”

He stepped promoted integration before Civil Rights and included all people of every race and nationality. In 1953 he refused to preach in Chattanooga, Tennessee unless they removed the barriers that separated whites from blacks.  In 1957, he asked Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to join him in the pulpit in New York City.

Their family isn’t perfect. Some of their kids have had alcohol and drug problems.  Their daughter’s marriage failed and their granddaughter gave birth out of wedlock. But they continued to love their children with grace and acceptance. All of their children are in Christian ministry.

I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words to the Christians in Thessalonica, “You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” 

Billy Graham never wanted to hold himself up. He always wanted to exalt Christ.  I am sure that remains true as the world prepares for his funeral.  But we would do well to imitate many of the qualities reflected in his life and to live so that we might model for others the honesty, integrity and love that flow from faith in Jesus Christ.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Battling Cancer

Cancer is not new to our family.  My wife is a breast cancer survivor, as is her sister, who has been battling stage four cancer for the past four years.  My father died of multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow, when he was 53.  He bestowed on me a life-long memory of courage, faith and grace.  I took him to visit his friends the week before he died.  He was too week to stand.  He greeted each with a cheerful smile and his natural good humor.  But I could see the sadness written in their faces when they witnessed the seriousness of his condition.

My daughter-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks before Christmas.  She and my son still have three children at home, our grandchildren, ages 17, 16 and 15.  Life becomes precious when we are faced with our mortality and the mortality of those we love. My son and daughter-in-law are giving it their best, and hoping for the best with chemotherapy and radiation. But they know they are not in control.  They are trusting God and celebrating each day.

Knowing that thousands are traveling a similar journey, I wanted to share a couple of her posts on Facebook that have inspired me.

She recently wrote, “Today was a great day.  I woke up with no pain and I was able to spend the day with my kids.  My husband was able to go to work.  I ate more food with no sickness than I’ve had in over a week.  I had enough energy to attend a hilarious community play with the beautiful high school drama/English students and laughed until my chest hurt.  I stayed up late talking with my best friend about how blessed we are and how God answers prayers in ways we don’t even realize.  My children laughed and teased each other in ways that made us feel normal.  And I still have my hair.  Today was a great day!” 

A few days later she wrote, “As I mourn the loss of my hair, an outward symbol of my health and femininity, I am reminded of my true identity in Christ.”  Psalm 139:125 “You are more than beautiful. You are more than enough. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

I am proud of my daughter-in-law.  And I am grateful to be surrounded by men and women who inspire me.  Every day in thousands of homes mothers and fathers, sons and daughters fight quiet and little-known battles of life and love. 

Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[?  …  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow.“ (Matthew 6:25-34)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Winter Games

Skiers fly through the wind like birds landing lightly on the snow, lugers plunge down the chute at 90 mph in a death defying dive, skaters slice through the ice and downhill skiers carve moguls on the mountain. The PyeongChang Olympics stir memories: the magnificence of the mountains, the silence of the snow, the rush of the wind.

In the classic words from Wide World of Sports, it is “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”  In the Vancouver Olympics eight years ago it was the tragic story of Nodar Kumaritashvili’s fatal crash on the luge the day before opening ceremonies or Lindsey Vonn’s struggle to overcome a bruised leg and win gold in the downhill.

The Winter games remind us of Dan Jansen skating for gold moments after his sister died only to crash into the wall on the final turn.  Who can forget the image of Jansen sitting forlorn on the ice? Four years later he returned to capture the top medal and carried his two-year-old son on a victory lap in memory of his sister.

Two thousand years ago the Apostle Paul used Olympic metaphors to help us understand  faith.   He wrote, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

The race is different for each of us.  Our challenges are unique.  But we all have a race to run, a challenge to face.  No one has the luxury of sitting on the sidelines as a spectator. Faith requires discipline, determination, perseverance and sacrifice.  The good news is that we don’t have to face our challenges alone.  We are surrounded by those who have gone before who cheer us on through our discouragements and defeats. We have One who has run the race and shown us the way.  We have One who enters the race alongside us, pacing us and spurring us on to the finish. 

The author of Hebrews writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  (Hebrews 12:1-3). 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Providence and Luck

I love church “pot-luck dinners.”  All sorts of dishes show up from the kitchens in the community: fried chicken, ham, lasagna, chicken and rice casserole, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cucumber salad, macaroni and cheese, pinto beans, asparagus, cakes and puddings and much more, too much to list. Those who make their way down both sides of the table emerge with plates running over.  The biggest problem is finding enough space on the plate to sample everything. 

One church called a new pastor who was nor familiar with the culinary traditions of the community.  He was staunchly set against all forms of gambling and soon railed against the very idea of a pot “luck” anything.  The deacons and the women of the church got together and changed the name of their frequent fellowship to a “pot providence” dinner. This seemed to calm the theological storm so that everyone could once again enjoy the cooking.

I know it sounds a little odd. But strange things happen in churches and it does raise a question.  How much of life is providence and how much is just plain good and back luck?  For some, of course, there is no such thing as chance.  Everything, down to the smallest detail of every day is providential.  And for others, there is no such thing as providence.  Life is just the luck of the draw. But is it?
Forest Gump, in the classic movie, contemplated the question that faces us all. Is life the result of random chance, like a feather balanced on the breeze, or does destiny direct our path?

Mathematics contains an entire field of probability and chance. Any single flip of a coin cannot be predicted. But if that coin is flipped enough times, it will eventually sustain the laws of probability. It will turn up tails just as often as it lands on heads.  This is called the “law of large numbers.”
At the same time, some of the greatest men in American history have recognized the power of a providential presence. Benjamin Franklin opened his famous autobiography by saying, “I desire with all humility to acknowledge that I owe the mentioned happiness of my past life to His kind providence.”  George Washington repeatedly referred to “providence” as a guiding force throughout his life.
In 1862, during the Civil War, Lincoln stated, “If after endeavoring to do my best in the light which He affords me, I find my efforts fail, I must believe that for some purpose unknown to me, He wills it otherwise. … and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe, that He who made the world still governs it.”

Reflecting on his life, King David wrote, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me when as yet there was not one of them.” Psalm 139:16).
Isaiah declares, “And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”  (Isaiah 58:11)

While God has established laws of probability in the universe as real as the physical law of gravity, He has also established His providence.  He has a plan and purpose for our life.