Thursday, February 22, 2018

Billy Graham and Simple Faith - Feb. 22, 2018


          Billy Graham’s influence has been far and wide.  For over 60 years, he led crusades, wrote books, spoke on college campuses, was a chaplain to Presidents, and impacted other world leaders.  When you look at all he did it is nothing short of overwhelming.  However, Billy Graham was non-assuming and was, in fact, the antithesis of pride and arrogance.  He remained humble and simple both in what he said and what he did.  God used him in amazing ways of which he could never have dreamed.

          Unlike many who let fame change them, he never did.  His message was the simple message of faith in Jesus Christ and the power of the Gospel.  His appeals were almost redundant as he urged people to give their lives to Christ.  He always magnified God and His Word and proclaimed the necessity of being “born again.”  He could meet with Presidents and other world leaders, speak to scholars on college campuses, or to packed stadiums and he was still just a humble farm boy from North Carolina.

          Billy Graham’s legacy, in many regards, is not about what he did, but in the reality of what God can accomplish through one who truly yields their life to Him.  So many times we use the language of “I’ve given my life to Jesus,” but in reality all we mean by that is that we have had a religious experience and/or “gotten saved.”  We do not really think through the potential consequences of what it does/would mean to actually give our life (our whole life) to the Lord.  People tend to give God something yet claim they have given Him all.  God knows the difference and even people themselves realize the difference over the course of time.

          We can celebrate Billy Graham’s life, his ministry, his devotion, his consistency, or any number of things and we are not wrong to do so.  However, the greatest cause for celebration is that most of what was available to him is also available to us.  Let me illustrate by asking a question.  Do we celebrate today what Billy Graham did for God, or do we celebrate what God did through Billy Graham?  I believe the latter is the better question.  Remember the words of Scripture, Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase (1 Cor. 3:6).  Billy Graham grew up in a rural setting and he understood farm life and farm work.  He never forgot that he was a farmer out there preparing soil, planting seed, cultivating, fertilizing, and watering.  It was God who gave the increase but Billy Graham got the joy of being a part of the harvest.  Every Christian is afforded that same opportunity to do the work of the Lord.  Even though salvation is a sovereign work of the Lord, He graciously allows us to have a special part in this process and experience the overwhelming joy of seeing sinners come to repentance and faith in Him.

          Will there ever be another Billy Graham?  The simple answer is no.  He was one of a kind and God had a special, one-of-a-kind ministry for him to fulfill.  There will be, and already are, others who will do some of the things that he did, but there will never be anyone like him.  He was a specially appointed prophetic voice for the mid-twentieth through the early twenty-first century.  The power of his prophetic voice and pulpit and scope of his influence literally point to the end of days.  I speculate that even his passing somehow figures into the plans God has in store for the world.

          Billy Graham never claimed to speak for anyone other than God.  His voice thundered with the age old truths of the Gospel.  All that he ever did for good started with a simple faith and trust in God and His Word.  When he was a young man in the 1930s he experienced a crisis of faith and retreated into the woods by himself and wrestled with God.  Coming out of that time he determined that mere intellect alone could not bring a person to Christ but it must be accompanied by faith.  Faith being “The promise of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1)

          We mourn his passing, but it is hard to feel sorry for anyone who is now in the presence of Jesus.  We do not long for him to come back to this dark world, but we long to go where he has now gone and to hear the Savior say “Well done.”

 

In Christ,

 

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Re-Issue of “The Limits of Emotion in the Decision Making Process” - Feb. 1, 2018


          In May 2011, I wrote a weblog growing out of my concern that excessive reliance upon emotions and feelings were steering the practice of our faith and decision making processes in general.  Rather than being truly moved by the Holy Spirit of God, many I feared were being swept away by their feelings.  Satan enjoys using our feelings to drive us from the sobering truths of Scripture in a way similar to how people who are drunk or high are dulled to reality.  Getting caught up in euphoric aspects of worship, decision making, and the other processes of our lives is dangerous and can lead us way off track.  God’s Word must guide us, not our feelings and emotions.

 

Allen Raynor Weblog: The Limits of Emotion in the Decision Making Process

(May 16, 2011)

          How often have we been given the advice, “Just follow your heart?”  Maybe you have even given that advice to others.  This certainly sounds good on the surface, but if we probe a little deeper it comes up a bit short.  One of my friends has said one of her all-time favorite quotations is “live, love, laugh.”  I would ask, is this a legitimate philosophy of life?  Somehow many feel that you say most when you say little or nothing at all.  What does it mean to live, love and laugh?  At its most basic level it means – it’s all about you!  Live life to its fullest because life is all about you; love to the fullest (whomever you wish) because love is about you and what makes you happy; and laugh hard and often (at whatever is funny to you) because laughter is essentially all about you and what is funny to you.  Now this is not all bad.  Neither life, love, or laughter are inherently bad, in fact, each are good and are, most certainly, gifts from God.  They become bad only when they are seen as a destination and not as a part of the journey.

          Our culture often fails to lose sight of where it is going.  We are on a trip which does have a destination.  What is happening is that people are stopping at the roadside diner and not wanting to leave – saying just one more cup of coffee and then we will go.  They are milling around the truck stop gift shop searching for something they never quite find.  They are stretching their legs at the rest stop but never quite get ready to get back in the car to continue the trip to its full destination.  Those grounded in God’s Word know that everything is headed somewhere.  The mundane happenings of daily life are like houses or farms we pass on a long trip.  Travel through Kansas a few times and you will appreciate what I am saying!  Really what is happening is that “emotion” is not only clouding judgment, it is actually determining judgment!
          When certain topics are discussed on talk shows or news programming, there is little appeal anymore to what is right or wrong.  There is rarely any reference to the Bible or historical precedent.  Instead the crux of the argument is made in the realm of emotional appeal.  It is about getting you to empathize with someone who has allegedly been wronged or hurt in some manner. 



It is far less about the law, morality, absolute truth, or anything else.  It is about how you feel.  Those pushing for a certain outcome know how to manipulate the emotions to produce the desired response.  In fact this is being done more and more with art and with precision.  In his April 2011 newsletter, John MacArthur writes,

You can’t deny our world is shaped and driven by emotion.  Everything today – from music and entertainment to advertising and even the news – is designed to affect and manipulate our feelings.  Facts and objective truth only matter in terms of the emotional response they can prompt from you.  And the preeminence of emotion goes far beyond how and what we consume.  We’re encouraged to use our emotions as the final standard for determining what is true or false, good or bad, right or wrong.  Even important decisions are made based on nothing more than how we feel about our choices.

          Are Christians immune to the world’s proclivity toward following emotions?  Certainly not!  A growing list of our churches play nearly exclusively to emotions.  Music, d├ęcor, programs, even sermons are often more concerned with hyping up emotions than glorifying God by a clear presentation of Biblical truth.  A middle aged lady told me recently, in defense of her attending the particular church she attends, that the music at her church “makes me feel like a teenager again.”  Truth was not a part of that discussion and it rarely is ever a part of the discussion anymore.  Instead she enjoyed the feelings and emotions the music evoked in her and felt no need to explain further.  MacArthur goes on to write:

If we’re honest, many Christians put far too much trust in their emotions – we have become like the world in that way.  Instead of holding to objective, immutable truth, they chase the highs and lows of their own feelings.  And in many cases, they let their moods or subjective impulses determine how they think and live.

          Certainly there is nothing wrong with demonstrations of emotion in the worship of our Lord.  In fact many of our churches give every appearance of being dead because of a lack of emotion.  But emotion must be more of an outgrowth and expression of a heart full of praise rather than an end unto itself.  Christians need to be deeper than the superficial world, yet one of the major, ongoing criticisms of the church by the world is that the church is superficial and full of hypocrisy!  Although it will never be eradicated, we certainly could strive a little harder.  Actually drawing a distinction between absolute truth and emotions can be a good entry point from which to share the Gospel.  Although the world strives to not think too deeply and allow emotions to rule, Christians must not fall into the same trap.

In Christ,

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor