Archives For Pastor J.D.

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Billy Grahams’ Ministry in Four Words

Posted by Pastor J.D. on February 13, 2017
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My wife, kids, and I recently had the chance to visit the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC. We’ve long been impressed with Graham’s life and ministry, and this trip only increased our appreciation for Graham.

As I reflect on Billy Graham’s six decades of ministry, four words stand out:

1. Conviction

As we looked over various exhibits and heard stories about Graham’s life, Veronica commented to me, “He wasn’t complex, and not usually ‘profound.’ But you can tell that he really believed what he was saying.” And it’s true: Billy Graham had struggled with the hard questions, so when he spoke with assurance, it wasn’t the naïve assurance of a neophyte. It was the absolute assurance of someone who has wrestled with questions of faith.

During the beginning of Graham’s ministry, theological liberalism was on the rise in mainline denominations, and Graham’s faith was shaken. He often told the story of a moment when, in the height of his doubts, he took a walk in the woods. During that walk, he finally acknowledged, “I either believe God has spoken or I don’t. I believe Jesus Christ is God’s Son, and I believe the Bible he authorized is his Father’s word, just like he said it was. I’ll believe it by faith—even the parts I don’t quite understand.” (my paraphrase)

Graham’s conviction was contagious. Conviction always is. It reminds me of David Hume, the 18th-century atheist philosopher, who consistently went to hear the preacher George Whitefield at his evangelistic rallies. Someone recognized Hume, and—surprised to see him there—said, “I thought you do not believe in the gospel.” Hume answered, “I don’t, but he does.” That was the draw that Billy Graham had at his rallies: he believed in his message so deeply that he drew in some of the most skeptical and non-believing.

At this point, you can’t name a single one of Billy Graham’s friends who drifted with the tide of theological liberalism; but Billy changed the world.

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Mountain View

Just a few weeks ago, I got this update from one of our missionaries. He and his family are living in a predominantly Muslim context, in an incredibly remote part of the world. They may be the most remote family we have on the field. When we talk about missionaries dangling at the end of a long rope, these are the people I think of.

This story is an astounding testament to God’s saving power, and a reminder to me that God is so often at work in ways we can’t see.

-Pastor J.D.

People like me shouldn’t get to see what I get to see.

The Thursday before Christmas, I went on a day trip into the mountains to see a friend, “Frank,” who used to help in our yard. I was hoping to tell his family the Christmas story, maybe pray with them, nothing much more than that. I had given Frank a Bible a few months ago, and he recently said that he believed it. Even so, I didn’t expect much more than a quick visit.

After driving the three hours up to Frank’s village, and another hour wandering around town (until he found me), we went up to his house, where I sat in front of a large meal he had prepared. He had invited some of his family, but there were other men there, too.

Before long the oldest of them brought up something religious, so I took the chance to talk about the Christmas story. It’s honestly a pretty offensive story to the religious mindset here—God impregnating a girl, Son of God, worship of a man. Really, all the most offensive parts of the gospel are combined into one story. So when I got to the end of the (rather labored) telling, I braced for their response.

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TWS-4

Seeing Jesus as He Really Is

Posted by Pastor J.D. on February 6, 2017
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When you think of the book of Revelation, what images come to mind? The four horsemen? Human-eating dragons? The number 666? People read the book of Revelation—with all its dragons and beasts and bowls—and imagine it as this delusional fantasy-world.

But Revelation is actually the most accurate description of the world you’ll see—when you see it with spiritual eyes. “Revelation” means “unveiling,” and the book shows us Jesus pulling back the curtain to unveil the truth about world … and about himself. Through Revelation, we see that the powers and forces of our current world are, in fact, an illusion.

John witnesses the unveiling of Jesus at a time when he needs it most. All of the Apostles have been martyred, except for John, and he’s been exiled to the isle of Patmos. It’s a particularly dangerous time for Christians, as Roman and Jewish leaders have made Christianity illegal almost everywhere, and Christians are being hunted down like dogs and fed to the lions. The movement is still growing, but it seems like the bad guys are winning. I can think of many parallels around the world today.

It is into this time of uncertainty and violence that Jesus appears to John. In a dingy prison cell, John gets a revelation of how God sees the world and a forecast of what he plans to do in the world. Continue Reading…