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“The greatness of a man is the measure of his surrender!”

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Apr 292018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The greatness of a man is the measure of his surrender!”

 By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     Most of us are very familiar with the ministry of the Salvation Army.  We have all given donations to the Red Kettle, and probably many of us have even taken a turn or two at “ringing the bell”.  Every major town or city has its Salvation Army Church and ministry center right in the heart of where it is needed most!  That was the aim of their founder from the beginning.  William Booth started this ministry in 1865, on the East Side of London England with that very intent.  He said, “Go for souls…and go for the worst”.  He did that very thing.  He encountered and won the prostitutes, gamblers, alcoholics, and homeless beggars to Christ.  His ministry revolved around the three “s”‘s-Soup-Soap-Salvation!  He was converted under the ministry of John Wesley, carried on by Wesley’s followers after his death in 1791.  Booth found Christ at a Methodist revival in 1844, at the age of 15.  He said, “I worshipped everything that bore the name Methodist.  To me there was one God, and John Wesley was his prophet.  I had devoured the story of his life. No human compositions seemed to me to be comparable with his writings…the best hope for the salvation of the world was the faithful carrying into the practice the letter of the spirit of his instructions”.  He spent his life doing just that!  He said. “The greatness of a man is the measure of his surrender!”  In that regard William Booth is a great man and a great example of those who would follow Jesus.

 

     Let me share a few of his impactful quotes.  He said, “to get a man soundly saved it is not enough to put on him a pair of new breeches, to give him regular work, or even to give him a University education.  These things are all outside a man, and if the inside remains unchanged you have wasted your labor…you must graft on the man’s nature a new nature, which has in it the element of the Divine!”      Listen to this:  “It is against stupidity in every shape and form that we have to wage eternal battle.  But how can we wonder at the want of the sense on the part of those who have had no advantages, when we see such plentiful absence of that commodity on the part of those who have had all the advantages!”.  Called to ministry?  His view:  “Not called!  Did you say?  Not heard the call.  I think you should put your ear to the Bible and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin.  Put your ear down to the burdened agonized hear of humanity and listen to their pitiful wail for help.  Go stand by the gates of hell and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters not to come to this place of torment.  Then look Christ in the face, whose mercy you have professed to obey, and tell him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish his mercy to the world!”  “God loves with a great love the man whose heart is bursting with passion for the impossible!”  “We must wake ourselves up or somebody else will take our place, and bear our cross, and steal our crown”. 

 

     He said the danger for the future is: “A religion without the Holy Ghost; Christianity without Christ; forgiveness without repentance; salvation without regeneration; politics without God; and heaven without hell!”  He was a very perceptive prophet.  Listen to his determination.  “While women weep, as they do now.  I’ll fight.  While children go hungry, as they do now-I’ll fight.  While men go in and out of prison, as they do now-I’ll fight!  While there remains one dark soul without the light of God-I’ll fight.  I will fight until the very end!”  “We are not to minister to a congregation and be content to keep things going.  We are sent to make war and to stop short of nothing but the subjugation of the world to the sway of the Lord Jesus”.  When he was asked to speak to a graduation class of clergymen he said, “If I would have had my way you men would not have be graduated with just these studies.  I would have had you spend twenty-four hours in hell to experience the torments of those who are damned and then turned you loose on a dying world!”.  Toward the end of his life he was unable to attend the annual meetings of his denomination.  They asked him to telegraph a message for the congregants.  He responded with one word-“Others!”  When he was told that the work was failing and they did not know what to do next-he responded with a two-world telegraph-“Try tears!”  It would not hurt us to take a refresher course in the theology of General William Booth.   He sounds very much like our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen? 

 

 

 Posted by at 2:29 pm

A VITAL VISION FOR THE CHURCH-ONE NEEDED FOR REVIVAL?

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Apr 222018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: A VITAL VISION FOR THE CHURCH-ONE NEEDED FOR REVIVAL?

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     A.W. Tozer wrote several years ago “If we, (who belong to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ), are ever going to bring back spiritual power to our lives-we must SEE God and Jesus AS THEY REALLY ARE!”.    We are told in First Peter that “having not seen Jesus, we love Him”. (I Peter 1:8).  We are also told that we serve a God who is invisible and “dwells in unapproachable light” (I Tim. 6:16). In Colossians 1:15 we are told that “Jesus Christ is the express image of that invisible God”.  We are also told in Hebrews 11:27 Moses “endured as seeing Him who is invisible”.  The question to be answered is then “how do we see Jesus Christ AS HE REALLY IS?”  One the very early reformers, Desiderius Erasmus, wrote a very interesting preface to his Greek New Testament.  He wrote, “The Bible will give you Christ…in an intimacy so close that He would be less visible if he stood before your eyes”. I believe that is true.  But I think that we have lost clear perception of the Christ that is revealed in Scripture.  Dr. Peter Kuzmic, President of the Evangelical Seminary in Osijek, Yugoslavia speaks to this issue.  He tells his students, “We must renew the credibility of the Christian Mission.  Missions and Evangelism are not primarily a question of Methodology, Money, and Management…but a question of authenticity, credibility, and spiritual power.  In going out to evangelize in Yugoslavia I frequently tell our seminary students that our main task may be to simply ‘wash the face of Jesus’ for it has been dirtied and distorted by the compromises of the institutional Christianity through the centuries and the angagonistic propaganda of athiestic communism in recent decades”.  That is not only true of Europe.  Even in America our perspective of the Jesus of Scripture has been dirtied and distorted by our failure to preach and teach the “truth about Him as presented in the Bible!”  Someone has written, “More than 1900 years ago there was a man born contrary to the laws of nature.  He lived in poverty and raised in obscurity.  He did not travel exclusively.  The only time He crossed the borders of His country was when He ventured into Egypt-as a child-fleeing Herod the Great.  His relatives were inconspicuous.  He had neither training nor formal education.  Yet in His Infancy-He startled a King.  in His childhood-He confused the Scholars; In His manhood He ruled the course of nature; He walked on the billows of the sea as if it was paved sidewalk; He put the raging sea to sleep by His own lullabies; He healed the multitudes and did not charge them for His services; He never wrote a book, yet all the libraries in this country could not hold the volumes written about Him.  He never wrote a song-yet He has inspired more songs than anyone in history.  He never founded a college-yet all the schools of all time, cannot boast of more students than the multitudes that have been discipled at His feet.  He never marshalled an army, nor drafted a soldier, nor fired a gun, yet no leader has ever had that many followers follow Him, and been under His marching orders, then all the armies of the world, and men and women have surrendered to Him without Him firing a shot.  He never practiced psychiatry-yet He has brought healing and stability to more people than all the counselors in the world combined!  He stands on the highest pinnacle of Heaven’s glory. Proclaimed by God-Acknowledged by Angels-Adored by Saints-Feared by Demons!  The Living Lord Jesus Christ-Lord and Savior!”

 

     H.G. Wells, the great historian, and not a Christian historian I might add, said that “historians give a test of greatness to men of history.  The big question is-what did they leave behind?  Did he start men to thinking in fresh lines?  Stimulate new vigor-followed after him? You judge the size of the ship by the size of the wake it leaves behind”.  What kind of wake did Jesus leave behind?  Bishop Stephen Neill, in his Interpretation of the New Testament, writes, “What kind of stone could it be that, once thrown into the pool of human existence could set in motion ripples that would go on spreading until the utmost rim of the world had been reached?” (p.19).   That is what Jesus did!  But have we lost that vision?  Do we still feel the awe and impact after these centuries? William Blake in his poem on The Vision of Christ doesn’t think so.

 

 

He wrote:  “The Vision of Christ that thou dost see

                                               Is my vision’s worst enemy.

                                               Thine has a great hooked nose like thine

                                               Mine a snubbed nose like mine!

                                               Both of us read the Bible day and night-

                                               You read it black, I read it white!”

 

Dorothy Sayers agrees with our distortion.  She says that the Church today has tamed the Biblical Christ.  She wrote:  “The Church has very efficiently clipped the claws of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah…and certified Him as a safe household pet for pale curates and old ladies!”  H.A. Ironside said that it is dangerous for Christians to traffic in unfelt truth.  In other words, we may know Jesus…without really KNOWING the Jesus of the New Testament in the fulness that we need!  IN OTHER WORDS, THERE MAY BE A GAP BETWEEN OUR VISION AND OUR VENTURE-BETWEEN OUR DOCTRINE AND OUR DUTY-BETWEEN OUR POSITION AND OUR PRACTICE-BETWEEN OUR PERSPECTIVE AND OUR PERFORMANCE!  When the Apostle John, banished to the Isle of Patmos, saw a vision of Christ, he was so awe-struck that he shared a transforming message to the Churches.  Perhaps we need to get a glimpse of that glory again.  Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade of Christ had such a life transforming vision.  He visited Scotland in 1947.  He spent time with the great N.T. scholar James Stewart.  Stewart told him-“Bill if we can show the world that being committed to Jesus Christ is not tame, humdrum, sheltered monotony-but instead the most exciting thrilling adventure a human spirit can ever know.  Those standing outside the Church looking in-wondering who Jesus is-will instead come in-crown Him King-pay allegiance to Him-and we will see the greatest revival THIS SIDE OF PENTECOST!”    That can still be true for us today.  We need a renewed and refreshed vision of Our Lord.

 Posted by at 2:28 pm

“IDENTITY-YOU CAN’T GO BACK HOME TO FIND IT!”

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Apr 152018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “IDENTITY-YOU CAN’T GO BACK HOME TO FIND IT!”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

      In 1975, two years before his death, Charlie Chaplin was visiting France.  He visited nearby Monaco, and while there he entered “Charlie-Chaplin Look-Alike Contest”.  He thought he was a shoe-in to win the prize money, and everyone would have a good laugh.  Charlie came in third!  Most thought it was due to the fact that most of his movies were in black and white, and in real life his genuine baby blues may have made him look less like Chaplin than at least two others in the contest.  Coming in third in your own contest might just cause you to suffer an “identity crisis”!  Identity crisis-i.e. “knowing who we really are”, can be devastating.  Arthur Miller, in his book Death of A Salesman, brings that out in relation to his main character Willy Loman.  In one excerpt Miller describes the precarious position of his character by saying, “He’s a man out there in the blue, riding a smile and a shoeshine.  And when they start not smiling back-that’s an earthquake.  And then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat, and you’re finished!”  The identity crisis was too much for Willy to handle, and he ended up “taking his own life”.  At the funeral, with just a hand-full of people there, Bif, his oldest son remarks, “Willy had all the wrong dreams…he never knew who he was!”

 

     Miller was quite adept at describing not only Willy Loman’s predicament, but the one that the entire human race faces every day.  Who are we?  Why are we here?  Where are we going?  Is there any meaning to all of this?  What is my mission for being here?  Do I even have one?  G.K. Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, points out that this is the condition of all human-kind apart from their relationship with God, through Jesus Christ.  He writes, “We have all read in scientific books, and indeed in all romances, the story of the man who has forgotten his name.  This man walks about the streets and can see and appreciate everything: only he cannot remember who he is.  Well, every man is that man in the story.  Every man has forgotten who he is…We are all under the same mental calamity; we have forgotten our names.  We have all forgotten who we really are…we all feel the riddle of the earth without anyone to point it out.  The mystery of life is the plainest part of it…Every stone or flower is a hieroglyphic of which we have lost the key; with every step of our lives we enter into the middle of some story we are certain to misunderstand”.  Frederick Buechner points out that we lose our true identity, our “true shimmering self” that God intended for us to be by letting this world force us to become who they think we should be.  In his book Telling Secrets he illustrates this: “Starting with the rather too pretty young woman and the charming but rather unstable young man, who together know no more about being parents than they do the far side of the moon, the world sets in to making us what the world would like us to be, and because we have to survive after all we try to make ourselves into something that we hope the world will like better than it apparently did the selves that we originally were.  That is the story of all our lives, needless to say, and in the process of living out that story, the original shimmering self, (that God intended us to be through Him), gets buried so deep that most of us hardly end up living out of it at all. Instead, we live out all the other selves which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather!’  Buechner, in a later book Now and Then, went on to explain that we can recover the buried shimmering self though listening to God’s Word, listening to fellow Christian’s that God puts in our lives through His Church, but also by seeking His face in the experiences of life.  He writes, “God speaks to us…through official channels as the Bible and the Church,…but I think He speaks to us largely through what happens to us…if we keep our hearts and minds open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize, beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that however little we may understand of it, at the time, His Word to each of us…is precious beyond telling”.

 

 

Most people live their life with that Willey Loman identity crisis.  David Letterman, in an interview not long before he retired, basically said that his sense of himself was only grounded in the twenty-four-hour period between shows.  If the last show was good, he felt good about himself.  If the audience didn’t respond, he felt horrible instead.  Women often share the same identity crisis when society tells them their only value is in their external beauty.  Marilyn Monroe, after becoming famously the most beautiful woman in the world, went to nightclubs disguised in a black wig to see if she could still attract a man as Norma Jean.  When she got so much less response the emptiness of her Hollywood identity turned into a crisis that left her with the same fate as Willy Loman!  That is why God comes to us, desires us to know Him, and find our true identity in who He intended us to be.  Simon Tugwell writes, “So long as we imagine that it is we who have to look for God, we must often lose heart.  But it is the other way about; He is looking for us.  And so we can afford to recognize that very often we are not looking for God; far from it, we are in full flight from him, in high rebellion against Him.  And He knows that and has taken it into account.  He has followed us into our own darkness; there where we thought we finally escaped Him, we run straight into His arms.  So we do not have to erect false piety for ourselves, to give us hope for salvation.  Our hope is in His determination to save us, (see the Cross), and He will not give up!”  Finding our identity in Christ, through the salvation that God provides through His grace, is the only way to be completely at peace with who we are and what God is making us to be.  Gerald May, a dynamic Christian counselor who deals with battles that Christians struggle with all the time says: “There is a desire within each of us, in the deep center of ourselves which we call heart.  We are born with it, it is never completely satisfied and it never dies.  We are often unaware of it, but it is always awake…Our true identity, our reason for being, is found in this desire”.

 

Peter had found this identity in Christ.  Jesus had called him to follow Him, and to become a fisher of men.  After Calvary, and even after the resurrection, Peter was still languishing with an “identity crisis”.  He decided that he would go back home, take up the fishing for fish business, and walk away from what he had been called to do.  He found out what Thomas Wolfe found out, and expressed in his great novel-You Can’t Go Home Again.  After Jesus…Peter’s identity was never to be on the old shores of the Sea of Galilee.  It was going to take him on a mission…with His Master still by his side.  He would become even more than he ever dreamed on that first day he forsook the boats and the nets to follow Jesus!  But before he can set off to discover his true destiny he must ask and answer the question Jesus asked him about MISSION-OR MISSING?  Which would it be?  So must we!  It’s our identity!

 

 Posted by at 12:52 pm

GOD’S PLODDER-PERFORMING THE DISCHARGE OF SMALL DUTIES…RESULTING IN GREAT THINGS FOR GOD

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Apr 082018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: GOD’S PLODDER-PERFORMING THE DISCHARGE OF SMALL DUTIES…RESULTING IN GREAT THINGS FOR GOD.

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     The father of modern missions is William Carey, a Baptist missionary in the late 1700’s who gave his life to reaching the Hindu world of India.  William Carey was born in England on August 17, 1761.  His early life was spent as an apprentice to a shoe cobbler (repairing shoes). He gave his life to Christ on February 10, 1779…not quite 18 years old.  He joined the Baptist Church in 1783, being baptized by Dr. John Rylands.  While repairing shoes this uneducated man taught himself Greek and Hebrew in order to study the Scriptures in their original languages.  His aggressive study of the Bible soon led to a call to the ministry and in 1789 he became Pastor of the Harvey Lane Baptist Church.  He read a book, by a fellow Baptist Pastor Andrew Fuller titled The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, and was moved by one line in the book…”If it is the duty of all men to believe whenever the gospel is presented to them, it must be the duty of all who have received the Gospel to endeavor to make it universally known!” That line convinced Carey that the Gospel needed to be shared with the heathen all across the world who had never heard.  He built a leather globe of the world, and while repairing shoes, sought God’s direction about how to relieve this heart burden for the world.  Once a month Baptist ministers met for prayer, Bible study, and fellowship.  Carey was asked to share at one of those meetings.  He shared his view of how Genesis 12:1-3 demanded that we bless the world with the Gospel.  He felt that Matthew 28:19-20 was a binding commission for the Church to obey.  While preaching on this subject to his fellow Baptist ministers, Dr. Ryland, the very one that had baptized him, interrupted him and said, “Sit down young man and be still!  When God wants to convert the heathen, He will do it without consulting either you or me!”  That caused Carey to study the Scriptures even more over the next eight years, and resulted in him printing a pamphlet entitled “An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to use means for the conversion of the Heathen”.  His theme verse became Isaiah 54:5 “Thy Redeemer…The God of All The Earth shall He be Called”. Carey came in contact with a surgeon John Thomas who had returned from India, and was so moved with their lostness he was baptized, ordained and intended to return to the country to share the gospel.  Carey’s friend Andrew Fuller heard John Thomas say “India was a veritable Gold mine, but was as deep as the center of the earth”. Thomas asked “who will go down?”  Andrew shared that with Carey.  Carey responded, “I will if you will hold the ropes!”  Just before Carey left to go to his missionary work in India he preached a farewell sermon in which he declared that we should “Expect Great Things From God, and Attempt Great Things For God!”  Those were his intentions.

He left for India in 1793.  It took them five months to sail to India.  During this time Carey was learning Bengali.  He took his wife, and sons William, Felix, and Peter with him.  His wife only went reluctantly.  The first event was his five year old son Peter died to disease.  Dorothy, his wife, suffered a mental breakdown and would spend the next 14 years on the mission field battling fits of insanity.  The work was hard.  In order to support their work Carey worked as a manager of an Indigo plant for six years.  He worked during the day, and learned the languages and dialects during the nights.  He translated the Bible into Bengali, and forty other languages.  Just before he completed the Bengali translation, a fire destroyed all his laborious work.  He had no choice but to begin it all again.  It took seven years to see his first Hindu convert in 1800.  His wife Dorothy finally passed in 1807.  His son Felix forsook the mission work to become an Ambassador for the government.  Carey wrote home to supporters, “Felix has shrunk from a missionary to an ambassador!”  Carey was known for his patience and perseverance.  He founded the Christian Church of India, the school system, including females in his education process, the postal system.  This self-educated missionary translated the Scriptures into over 40 languages known to India, and printed 213,000 Bibles.  Carey called himself “God’s Plodder!”   He wrote, “If He give me credit for being a plodder He will describe me justly.  Anything beyond that will be too much.  I can plod.  I can persevere in any definite pursuit.  To this I owe everything”.  He reminds me of what Alexander MacLaren wrote-“We have all of a few moments in life of hard, glorious running; but we have days and years of walking-the uneventful discharge of small duties”.  The steady plodding and discharging of those small duties enabled William Carey to “Accomplish Great Things for God!”  The same is true for us.  Just before he died in 1834 he wrote home to supporters and said, “Say nothing about Dr. Carey-speak about Dr. Carey’s God”. On one occasion a British ambassador tried to embarrass Carey by asking “haven’t you been a shoemaker for most of your life?”  Carey responded, “Not a shoemaker-a shoe cobbler.  I repair shoes”.  He was a humble servant of God.  His tombstone had only these words:  William Carey.  Born August 17, 1761.  Died June 9, 1834.  “A poor wretched worm-on Thy kind arms I fall”.

I came across a quote the other day by Joseph Parker.  I believe it fits William Carey, and all who endeavor missionary work which can take so long to lay the foundation and see fruit.  Joseph Parker wrote: “Is God all wise?  Then the darkest providences have meaning.  We will set ourselves as God’s interpreters, and because we cannot make straight lines out of our crooked lot, we think that God has turned our life into inextricable confusion.  The darkest hours in our life have some intent, and it is really not needful that we should know all at once what that intent is.  Let us keep within our own little sphere, and live a day at a time, and breathe a breath at a time, and be content with one pulsation at a time, and interpretation will come when God pleases, and as He pleases.”

 

 Posted by at 11:18 pm

THE TREASURE OF AN EASTER WEEK SNOW

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Apr 012018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: THE TREASURE OF AN EASTER WEEK SNOW

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

This past week we were all surprised by the sudden winter storm that left 5-7 inches of very wet Spring snow as we began the week leading up to Easter.  God used the snow to give a message to Job.  Isaiah and David both understood the snow to give an object lesson of the Gospel to all who have eyes to see.  It might be good for us to revisit the treasure locked in this Easter snow.  Waking up Saturday morning reminded me of a quote I had read in a book by Frederich Buechner called Telling the Truth.  He wrote, “You wake up on a winter morning and pull up the shade, and what lay there the evening before is no longer there–the sodden gray yard, the dog droppings, the tire tracks in the frozen mud, the broken lawn chair you forgot to take in lasts fall.  All this has disappeared overnight, and what you look out on is not the snow of Narnia but the snow of home, which is no less shimmering and white as it falls.  The earth is covered with it, and it is falling still in silence so deep you can hear its silence.  It is snow to be shoveled, to make driving even worse than usual, snow to be joked about and cursed at, but unless the child in you is entirely dead, it is snow, too, that can make the heart beat faster when it catches you by surprise that way, before your defenses are up.  It is snow that can awaken memories of things more wonderful than anything you ever knew or dreamed.”  The Bible has a lot to say about “snow”.  In one Scripture, in particular, God, (pointing out the ignorance of Job), asks, “Have you personally taken inventory of the wondrous treasure-house of snow that I reserve in the Heavens?” (Job 38:22).  God was reminding him, and us, of his power to display His glory, wonder, power, and awe, by sending a silent but substantial storm that deposits snow that covers the land and leaves us awe-struck.  Scientists have been awe-struck by the glory and majesty of the snowflake.  The snowflake is amazing.  This tiny six-sided miracle of creation baffles scientists with its ingenious structure and awe-inspiring beauty.  This magnificent piece of art is a perfect example of pure beauty and marvel.  Wilson Bently was one of the first to take photomicrographs of a snowflake.  He photographed snowflakes for over 47 years!  He discovered that the average snowflake is made up of 2 to 200 separate snow crystals, larger ones containing over 1000 separate snow crystals.  These crystals form around tiny dust particles that have been carried high into the atmosphere.  When the temperature drops below freezing water vapor clings to these dust particles.  The water vapor skips the liquid stage and turns directly into ice, in a process called sublimation.  The moisture turning into ice crystals then begins to fall as snow.  There are four different types of six-sided snowflakes with no two flakes alike!  Each snowflake a geometric hexagonal structure, similar to the honeycomb of bees, which scientists believe provide the maximum space to compact the maximum ice crystals, or honey in this tiny storehouse.  God took credit for that design being beyond Job’s comprehension!  Johannes Kepler studied snowflakes for years and came to the conclusion that this well-thought-out pattern can only have been the imprint of an all-wise artistic Creator!  The Bible tells us that God’s power and glory is revealed in the snow,”He spreads the snow like wool, and scatters the frost like ashes” (Psalm 147:16); The weather is ruled by Almighty God-“lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding” (Ps. 148:8).  Daniel’s vision of the Ancient of Days in his heavenly glory was seated on a flaming throne and wearing clothes that were “white as snow” (Dan. 7:4).  When Jesus was transfigured on the Mt. of Transfiguration that Jesus’ clothes became shining, exceeding white, like snow” (Mark 9:2-4). On the first Easter, the angel that rolled the stone of the tomb away was sitting on it with clothes “as white as snow”. (Matthew 28:3).  And of course, in John’s parallel vision to that of Daniel, he too saw Jesus in all His glory, and takes note that “the hair of His hair was white like wool, white as snow”.  So snow symbolizes the glory of the purity of God, revealed in His Son Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

To carry this thought to its practical conclusion results in snow being an illustration of the purity that becomes the possession of the sinner that has his crimson sin-stains washed white in the shed blood of the Sacrifice of Calvary.  We read David’s pray of confession in Psalm 51.  He pleads, “wash me and I shall be whiter than snow!”  Isaiah, pleading with a sinful people who were sick from the top of their heads, to the bottom of the soles of their feet, to come “let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow:  though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool”.  One of the most interesting stories in the Old Testament is the story of Beniah.  He was a special warrior of King David, who later became the head of the army for David’s son, King Solomon.  On one occasion the Scripture records one of the amazing feats of Beniah.  He is said to have jumped into a snow pit and killed a lion.  This is what the Scripture says in I Chronicles 11:22.  “Beniah, son of Jehoida, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits.  He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors.  He also went down into a snowy pit on a snowy day and killed a lion”.   Imagine this warrior.  He falls into a pit only to be confronted by a vicious lion.  Imagine the dead lion’s blood staining the pure white snow.  What a contrast!  What an illustration.  Sin as crimson as blood…covered with blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world leaves the sinner pure as freshly fallen snow.  Erwin Lutzer tells how a fresh snowfall is an illustration of how God can cover “the dirtiness of the earth with the purity of his grace”.  Warren Wiersbe tells a story of an English father that took his son to watch a parade that displayed the British army dressed in their brilliant red coats.  The father asked the son if he saw their red coats.  He responded that he only saw white coats.  The father was puzzled, but understood as the looked down at his son.  The son stood at the window, but his eyes were looking through the red stain glass that bordered the window from which they were watching the parade.  Looking at red, through red, resulted in white!  When God sees our crimson stain through the prism of the crimson blood of his son, we are white as wool, white as the freshly fallen snow!  Those sudden heavy snows can cover some pretty big stuff.  Some pretty ugly stuff!  Don’t lose the wonder!  That is what God can do from His treasure-house of Grace!  A great reminder as we started the week that concludes with the triumph of Calvary and the Transformation of Easter!

 

 Posted by at 1:09 pm

“EMBALMING THE OLD MAN / EMBRACING THE NEW MAN”

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Mar 252018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE “EMBALMING THE OLD MAN / EMBRACING THE NEW MAN.”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

Charles Swindoll, in his book The Grace Awakening, tells a humorous story that was told by the late J.Vernon McGee during one of his preaching assignments in Chafer Chapel at Dallas Theological Seminary.  This is what Swindoll shares, “I remember sitting in Chapel as Dr. McGee was waxing eloquent on Romans 6.  He told the story of a lady who lived in the Deep South and had a close relationship with her childhood sweetheart.  She fell in love and ultimately married him.  Their life together was not perfect, but it was rewarding.  There was faithfulness and there were times of joy.  This continued for years, until he was suddenly taken from her side with a heart attack.  Not being able to part with him visible, she decided to have him embalmed, put in a chair, sealed up in a glass case, and placed immediately inside the front door of their large plantation house. Every time she walked through the door she would smile and say-‘Hi John, How are you?’  Then she would walk up the stairs.  Things rocked along as normally as possible month after month.  There he sat day after day as she acknowledged his presence with a smile and friendly wave.  A year or so later she decided to take a lengthy trip to Europe.  It was a delightful change of scenery.  In fact, while in Europe she met a fine American gentleman who was also vacationing over there.  He swept her off her feet.  After a whirlwind romance, they got married and honeymooned all over Europe.  She said nothing of ol’John back home on the farm.  Finally they traveled back to the States.  Driving up the winding road to her home, he decided-This is my moment to lift my bride over the threshold and carry her back in her home-this wonderful place where we will live together forever!  He picked her up, bumped the door open with his hip and walked right in.  He almost dropped his bride on the floor!  ‘Who is this?’  ‘Well it is John.  My old man from’…He is history…he is dead!’  The new husband immediately dug a big hole and buried her former old man in it, case and all.” 

That is exactly what Christ has done.  However, without realizing the effect, many Christians put the old man in a case and greet him every morning and cater to him every day of their lives!  We live as if the “old man” is alive, even though the Bible says that we are dead to him, since Calvary.  He has no right to be in our conscious thinking.  We serve a New Master who has walked us across the threshold, who has awakened us to a new life, new love, and new relationship, and entirely different future.  But we still struggle with how to break the habit of thinking of and catering to the old man and start enjoying fully the benefits of our new relationship with Him.

C.S. Lewis talked of doing just that, when in Mere Christianity, he illustrated this truth in his analogy about the Tin Soldier.  Lewis says, “Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man.  It would involve turning his tin into flesh.  Suppose the tin soldier did not like it.  He is not interested in flesh.  All he sees is that the tin is being spoiled.  He thinks you are killing him.  He will do everything he can to prevent you.  He is an obstinate soldier.  To be obstinate is to be stubborn, and the tendency of humankind toward God is extreme stubbornness.  The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God…the natural life in each of us is something self-centered, something that likes to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives…and especially it wants to be left to itself:  to keep well away from anything better or stronger or higher than it, anything that might make it feel small…it knows that if the spiritual life should get hold of it, all its self-centeredness and self will are going to be killed and it is ready to fight tooth an nail to avoid that.  Yet the Second Person…the Son, became human Himself…a real man of particular height, weighing so many stone, with hair of a particular color, speaking a particular language…becoming not only a man, but before that a baby, and before that a fetus.  Think how you would like to become a crab or a slug.  The result was that now you had one man who really was what all men were intended to be:  one man in whom the created life allowed itself to be completely and perfectly turned into the begotten life…He choose an earthly career that involved the killing of His human desires at every turn-poverty, misunderstanding from His own family, betrayal by one of His intimate friends, being jeered and mishandled by the authorities, and executed by torture.  And then the Man in Christ rose again: not only the God, The whole point is just that!  For the first time we saw a real man.  One tine soldier-real tin soldier.  By the same Spirit that transformed Him He longs to transform us, to become alive, splendidly real and alive”.  Time to bury the old man.  Time to yield the old tin flesh and put on the transforming glory of the risen Christ.  II Corinthians 3:18 tells us that “we behold with unveiled faces the Lord, and are transformed from glory unto glory”…tin to transform…enjoy the process…it is glory!  Well glory!

 

 Posted by at 2:23 pm

“We have not seen the last of the best!”

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Mar 182018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “We have not seen the last of the best!”

By:  Ron Woodrum

Revivals have been a big part of my life for over six decades.  I was saved in September of 1968.  My parents were saved the next fall, November 1969, during a revival with Gerald Thompson as the Evangelist at the Salem Baptist Church of Decatur.  Later, after God had called me into the ministry, my very first ministry was being a bus Pastor.  But that was soon followed in 1969 with opportunities to preach youth revivals in Central Illinois.  I preached 25 youth revivals during the years of 1969-1971 averaging nearly 10 per year.  The focus of most of those revivals was for Christian youth to surrender their lives to Jesus, and witness and bring friends to the youth meetings.  Many young people came to faith in those days as the sixties welcomed the seventies! I began pastoring my first Church in May of 1971 at the age of 17.  Every Church that I have pastored over the years has had one to two revivals per year.  Over nearly 50 years of ministry I have participated in over 250 revivals, counting the ones I hosted as a Pastor of a Baptist Church, and the one I personally preached as an Evangelist.  In the eighties I averaged preaching about 8-10 revivals per year-all over Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and South Carolina, and Tennessee.  I have had the joy of witnessing revivals transform Churches collectively, and Christians individually.  I can honestly say my life was touched by every one of them.  As a young person I made it a habit to attend revivals at sister Baptist Churches, and also several other denominations-Methodist, Church of God, Assembly of God, Nazarene, Pentecostal, Bible Churches, etc.  Even though there are many that feel that revivals are a thing of the past that no longer impacts American Culture today…I strongly disagree.  Even though most revivals today reach fewer non-Christians than they used to; they still impact the people of God.  When the Church is revived…the community that surrounds it is impacted for Christ.

I want to share a few famous Christian quotes that help us understand the role that revival plays in the life of a local Church, and in the lives of the individual Christians who are identified with the Church.  J.I. Packer defines a revival as “a visitation of God which brings to life Christians who have fallen asleep spiritually, and restores a deep sense of God’s near presence and holiness.  All this ushers in a vivid sense of sin and profound exercise of heart in repentance, praise, and with an evangelistic overflow”.  Stephan Olford writes, “Revival is that strange, sovereign work of God in which He visits the people-restoring, reanimating, and releasing them into the fullness of His blessing.  Such a divine intervention will issue in evangelism, though, in the first instance, it is a work of God in the Church and among individual believers”.  Charles Finney, the revivalist of the early nineteenth century, defined revival concisely as “a new beginning of obedience”.  Simply put a new closeness to God; a new passion for Christ; A new love for God; A new holiness in life; A new filling and refreshing of the Holy Spirit.  One of my favorite descriptions of revival is from John Wesley.  He wrote, “We need to storm the throne of Grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.  I continue to dream and to pray about revival…in our day, that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community, in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit, to fulfill God’s intentions!”  Probably the best quote I have been influenced by on revivals is by Andrew Bonar.  He wrote, “Revivals begin with God’s own people, The Holy Spirit touches their hearts anew, and gives them a new fervor, and compassion, and zeal, new light and life, and after He has come to the Church, He next goes to the Valley of Dry Bones…Oh what responsibility this lays upon the Church of God.  If you grieve Him away or hinder His visit-the poor perishing world suffers sorely!”  The responsibility for the condition of America and the World may just be related to the fact that we have neglected the continual need of revival in the life of the Church to keep God’s people passionate and productive in our ministries to that very world!

One of the complaints I often heard about revivals was that the same people came forward revival after revival to re-dedicate their lives anew and afresh to the Lord Jesus Christ!  My response has always been-“WHAT IN THE WORLD IS WRONG WITH THAT!  PERHAPS THAT IS WHAT HAD KEPT THE CHURCH ON THE CUTTING EDGE”.  Like the Hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing says, “Prone to Wander, Lord I feel it.  Prone to leave the God I love!”  If rededication, at a minimum of once per year, kept us vitally functioning as Christians individually, and Churches collectively…then Praise The Lord.  We could use a few rededications right now!  I came across an interesting story the other day.  It was the story of a man of God that felt the call to be a missionary to Formosa.  Formosa was the Portuguese name for Taiwan.  The Chinese country in the Far East, recently given back to mainland China.  Thomas Barclay answered the call to go as a missionary to Formosa, and ministered there for over 60 years.  He translated the entire Bible into their language.  Behind that life of service lay a covenant with God that he wrote when he was sixteen, and which he renewed every year for the rest of his life!  (I would call that a re-dedication).  It read, in part, “This day do I, with the utmost solemnity, surrender myself to Thee.  I renounce all former lords that have had dominion over me, and I consecrate to Thee all that I have:  the faculties of my mind, the members of my body, my worldly possessions, my time, and my influence over others; to be all used entirely for Thy glory, and resolutely employed in obedience to Thy commands, as long as Thou continuest me in this life; with ardent desire and humble resolution to continue Thine through all the ages of eternity; ever holding myself in an attentive position to observe, with zeal and joy, to the immediate execution of it.  To Thy direction also I resign myself, and all that I am and have, to be disposed of by Thee in such a manner as Thou in Thine infinite wisdom shall judge most subservient to the purposes of Thy glory.  To Thee I leave the management of all events, and say without reserve, ‘Not my will, but Thine, be done!’ “Renewing that annually brought about 60 plus years of faithful service.  I would, without hesitation, define that as an on-going REVIVAL!

When we usually talk about revivals we refer to Great Awakenings of the Past.  It has been so long that they are now viewed as “Ancient History!”  No one expects to see them ever come again.  Shame on us.  God has not changed!  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!  One of my favorite quotes speaks to this very subject.  It is a quote from the great Scottish Preacher and Theologian-James Stewart.  He wrote, “It is God’s way to go beyond the best that He has done before; therefore a living faith will always have in it a certain element of surprise and tension and discovery; that what we have seen and learned of God up to the present is not to be the end of our seeing, nor the sum total of our learning; that whatever we have found in Christ is only a fraction of what we can still find; that the spiritual force which in the great days of the past vitalized the Church and shaped the course of history has not exhausted its energies or fallen into abeyance but is liable to burst out anew and take control.  God is promising wonders that He has never done before so that there will be more jubilant doxologies, more exultant hallelujahs.  For there is no limit to the love of God, no end to the redeeming Grace of Christ, and NO EXHAUSTION OF THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”.(“Expect Great Things From God”-The River of Life: Sermons of James S. Stewart-1972). My prayer is-“God Do It Again!”  “Do it as you have never done it before!”  “Lord send a revival-let it begin in me-in us-and spread like wild-fire”.  WE HAVE NOT SEEN THE LAST OF HIS BEST!  BELIEVE IT!

 

 Posted by at 8:34 pm

“We Can Stand Fast!”

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Mar 112018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “We Can Stand Fast!”

By:  Ron Woodrum

A young boy was standing out in a pasture, holding the bridle leading to his horse. His horse was an old sway-back mare. A passer by asked him, “Hey son, can your horse run fast?” He smiled, as he replied, “No sir, but she sure can sure stand fast!” As we rush further into this new year of 2018, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is being attacked from all sides! We continue being attacked by opposing groups with their own agendas.  Radical New  Atheist Crusaders attack the Church as never before, encouraging those who are forsaking the faith, to profess their apostasy by joining in a de-baptism service and celebration.  Proponents of the same-sex marriage agenda continue to call the Church “haters” and “bigots” for defending the position of the Bible’s teaching on the subject and defending traditional marriage.  Before it is all over our Churches, who hold to the Biblical position, will likely lose their tax-exempt status over this issue.  Abortionists continue to assault the Church claiming that to protest abortion is in reality robbing women of their autonomy over their own bodies and denying them, what they call birth control, (coming in the form of an abortion-causing pill); In reality the Church is only protesting a war on the unborn, that has killed more than all the wars, between all nations, over all the generations of history, put together!  Pseudo-intellectual professors, teaching our students in our country’s colleges, continue to try to silence people of faith, by insinuating they are morons and imbeciles, if they disagree with what they teach as unaltering facts and remain true to the clear teaching of Scripture, even if they cannot reconcile both positions at this time!; God is Not Dead! Is a movie that applauds Christians for not rolling-over and surrendering to the bullying of these pseudo-professors!  Most of the Universities in our country started out as institutions, founded by Christian thinkers, who were seeking Unity out of Diversity in learning.  Then of course we are facing left-wing political attacks from politicians in our own country; and violent murderous radical Islamic terrorists hell-bent of eradicating all Christians from the face of the earth.  This onslaught upon the Church has left the Church of Jesus Christ stunned and discouraged, waving the white flag of surrender, and cowering behind locked and closed doors, trembling at every threat, praying for Jesus’ soon return to rescue them from their self-imposed exile from the world.  The Church has not been in this terrified a state since the Upper Room, the week following Calvary’s public crucifixion of Jesus, the Head of the Church.  What is the Church to do?

General Douglas MacArthur was no stranger to opposition and great odds.  After Batan, Corrigedor, and Iwogema, and one defeat after another to the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army, MacArthur decided to regroup and return and win the war in American fashion!  One one occasion he said, “We are not retreating-we are advancing-in another direction!”  At another critical battle he was reported to have said to his troops-“The enemy is in front of us, the enemy is behind us, the enemy is to the right of us, and the enemy is to the left of us…THEY CANNOT GET AWAY THIS TIME!”  That is our command!  “Forward-don’t let a single one of them escape!”

Every time God’s people faced a crisis God would appear to them to assure them of His presence and power.  Once they had seen the INVISIBLE they were ready to face the IMPOSSIBLE!  When God needed a deliverer to go back to Egypt and deliver His people out of the hand of the enemy-the most powerful nation on the face of the earth in that day-He appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush.  After convincing Moses of His presence and power-Moses returned to the challenge and the rest is history!  Let me assure you that “Bushes are still Burning!”  God has not left Himself without witness on this earth.  God’s presence and power are still manifested in mighty ways to mankind if we will turn aside to see.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning put it powerfully in these words-

Earth is crammed with Heaven

                                                    Every common Bush is Aflame with God.

                                                    But only they see who take off their shoes!

                                                    The rest stand around and pick blackberries!”

 

We must sound the trumpet for Christians to arm themselves.  We must amount an offence and “be ready to always give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that lieth in you” (I Peter 3:15).  You can rest assured that the forces of unbelief are hard at work.  Listen to Christian apologist Wilbur Smith-“It is a strange thing, but these men who insist that we are not to impose our belief on others, never hesitate to impose their disbelief on others.  They write books to spread their wretched denials.  They stand in the classroom to impose their skepticism on the plastic minds of the immature students.  They go up and down the land, giving lectures, writing articles in outstanding periodicals, to impose their agnosticism upon youth looking for something to believe in” (Therefore Stand p. 485). The Christian faith requires tough minds, and the stakes are high.  The everlasting souls of young people, and those young in the faith, hang in the balance.  It is high time we enter the battle, armed with abundance of evidence that God has supplied, and with the kind of assurance and enthusiasm becoming our faith!

If we are to do this successfully and challenge our generation it will require two ingredients-resolution and relevance!  Martin Luther, who challenged his generation with Truth, while facing almost single handedly, (of course he had many reforming fellow-soldiers joining him in the battle), not only “stood-fast” but also struck an offensive that changed the entire world of his day.  We would do well to listen to his convicting words on these two subjects.

First of all it will take a genuine resolution on our part to become involved in this imperative work!  Listen to what Luther said, “Christendom must have people who can beat down their adversaries and opponents and tear off the devil’s equipment and armor, that he may be brought into disgrace.  But for this work, powerful warriors are needed, who are thoroughly familiar with the Scriptures and can contradict all false interpretations and take the sword from the false teachers-that is, those vey verses which false teachers use and turn them round upon them so that they fall back defeated.  But not all Christians can be so capable in defending the Word and articles of their faith (creed), they must have teachers and preachers who study the Scriptures and have daily fellowship with it, so that they can fight for all the others.  Yet each Christian should be so armed that he himself is sure of his belief and of the doctrine and is so equipped with the sayings from the Word of God that he can stand up against the devil and defend himself, when men seek to lead him astray”. (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, Illustrations and Meditations from the Life of Martin Luther. (Compiled by Pastor Mark Anderson and Marjorie Young).

The other quote relates to genuine relevancy.  There is a quote often debated whether Martin Luther ever spoke this quote in any of his writings.  So far it has not been found.  But word of mouth from other authors attributes it to him and indeed it sounds like him without a doubt. Here it is-“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him.  Where the battle rages there is the loyalty of the soldier proved!  And to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that one point!”  Is that not one of the greatest quotes you have ever heard?  It is one of the most convicting statements concerning our taking a genuine stand for Christ, where and when it counts, that I have ever heard!

 

2018 is proving to be a renewed “call to arms” for the Church to Stand up and Speak up for Jesus.  Especially on the points we are facing the fiercest attacks.  That will require resolution and relevancy.  Remember the words of Thornton Wilder, “in Love’s service, only the wounded soldier can serve”.  As Amy Carmichael has said, “When we get to heaven our Saviour may ask us upon arrival -“Hast thou no scar?”  2018 should give us plenty of opportunity to earn our Red Badge of Courage!

 

 Posted by at 8:17 pm

“BILLY GRAHAM-THE REAL ‘LEFT-BEHIND’ STORY”

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Mar 042018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE“BILLY GRAHAM-THE REAL ‘LEFT-BEHIND’ STORY”

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

      In his book, Just As I Am, Billy Graham reminds us that the ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was and is a team effort.  He writes, “The dedicated men and women working with us have been willing to do anything and everything.  In the case of Grady and T.W. Wilson, both gone home to be with the Lord, the ties go back to our youth.  They were heaven-sent ones who propped me up…”  “As long as I live, I will miss Grady Wilson at my side.  From the beginning of our friendship, he was a God-given balance wheel.  His down-to-earth sense of humor saved the day…and did not let us take ourselves too seriously…he often filled in for me when I had laryngitis.  His style was different from mine, but the Holy Spirit always used him to point people to Christ.”  T. W. Wilson, his older brother accompanied Billy in all his travels in the early years, and had oversight of all the radio stations.  Billy writes, “I leaned on him in practical ways perhaps more than any other person”.  I heard Billy Graham tell a funny story about him and T.W. Wilson.  They were traveling back home in the early days of crusades, when they often traveled by car.  T.W. was driving.  Billy was exhausted from all the activity.  He lay down in the back seat of their car to get some rest while T.W. drove through the night.  T. W. stopped for gas, pumped it, and went in to pay.  Billy was still asleep.  Waking up…Billy got out and went to use the restroom.  While Billy was in the restroom, T.W. returned to the car, assuming Billy was still sleeping in the back seat, and left…leaving Billy behind!  Billy came out of the restroom only to find himself stranded…left behind.  He was unshaven; hair disheveled, and looked nothing like the famed evangelist!  In days when there were no cell phones…there was nothing for him to do but to wait at the gas station for T.W. to discover he was gone and return.  He just prayed it would not be for too many miles, or hours!  He told quite a humorous story about trying to convince the owner of the gas station that he “really was the real Billy Graham!”  The owner kept saying, “Sure…you’re Billy Graham…and I’m the President!”

 

     In his December 2011 Facebook post, Billy Graham told another story.  This time Billy was traveling alone.  He was driving through the South, in a big hurry to get home.  He got pulled over for speeding.  The officer issued him a citation, not recognizing the famous evangelist.  In those days, in that particular town, offenders were taken right to court to plead, pay the fine, or have a court date set.  Billy chose to take care of it immediately.  He appeared before the judge.  The judge asked him how he pleaded.   Billy admitted, “Guilty”.  The judge hit the gavel-and ordered “ten miles over the limit…ten dollar fine!” (One dollar per miles over in that day).   Then the judge, looking back over the ticket, saw the name William Franklin Graham.  He looked closer and asked, “Aren’t you…Billy Graham?”  Billy, who had already pulled out his wallet to pay the fine, looked kind of sheepish as he agreed, saying “yes I am your honor”, putting his wallet back in his pants!  The judge said, “I am sorry.  There are no exceptions to paying the fines for breaking the law!”  Billy got his wallet back out.  But then, to his surprise, the judge got up from his chair, walked over to the court clerk, took out his wallet and paid the fine for Billy.  Then dismissed court and took him out for a steak dinner!  Billy said, “What an example of God’s grace!”  Jesus took our penalty, and then treats us to love beyond measure.  Amazing Grace!

 

One of my favorite stories that Billy Graham told during his preaching ministry was about Albert Einstein.  Einstein often took the railway to his speaking engagements. He did not drive.  He was always nearly late for the train’s departure and always seemed quite disorganized when he boarded the train.  On one occasion he came in at the last minute, boarded the train, and took his seat.  As the conductor came by to collect the tickets Einstein was searching his pockets for his ticket that he had misplaced!  The conductor assured him it was ok…”I know who you are Professor Einstein!”  The conductor proceeded to collect ticket/boarding passes.  As he came back to where Einstein was, he was on his knees looking under his seat.  The conductor again assured him, “Don’t worry Professor Einstein, we know who you are, you ride the train so often, not to worry”.  Einstein stood up…replied to the Conductor…”I know who I am too…what I don’t know is where I am going!”  After Billy Graham told that story, he said, “Because of Jesus Christ I know who I am…and because of the cross, and my personal faith in Him, I can say that I also know where I am going!”  The same faith in the Savior and His Cross can give that assurance to all who believe in Him that they know where they are going!

 

Billy said, “Someday you will read that Billy Graham has died.  Don’t you believe it…I will be more alive then than ever before!”  He has “left behind” again…left this old world behind…and gone to be with the Lord that he so loved and served!  Only eternity will be long enough to recount the number of lives that he touched for His Lord.  We could never come close to such influence…but we can impact our world too, as God opens the door.  Go and be faithful to your own calling.  Billy Graham’s 32nd book was called The Reason for My Hope.  Today’s message tells us how we can share our own story to our world.

 

 Posted by at 1:31 pm

“The Stump That Changed the Course of History”.

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Feb 252018
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Stump That Changed the Course of History”.

By:  Ron Woodrum

 

     This past Wednesday morning one of God’s most distinguished servants went home to be with his Lord.  The Evangelist William Franklin, (Billy) Graham passed away at the age of 99 years old, at his mountain home in Montreat, N.C.  He finally lost his battle to Prostate Cancer and Parkinson’s disease, and like the Apostle Paul he “finished his fight, run his race, and was ready to depart”.  He had come to Christ at a tent revival at the age of 16.  From an early age he answered God’s call to the ministry in the 1940’s and took his Lord and His Bible to the ends of the Earth for six decades! Susan Harding, anthropologist at the University of California-Santa Cruz gave the best concise biographical summary of Billy’s life and ministry I have ever heard.  She said, “He was homespun, historical, and newsworthy all at once.  He could span the times from Christ to today, from the globe to you, all in one sentence…He was so real, he made Christianity come true for our generation”.  Billy Graham was America’s Pastor.  He was a friend to 12 Presidents, from both parties, and offered love, support, guidance, and counsel in a non-partisan way.  He was the first one that President Bill Clinton called on to be there after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.  Wednesday Karl Rove talked about how the only plane allowed into America’s air space after 9/11 was the plane that brought Billy Graham to the Washington D.C. National Cathedral to speak at the Memorial Service there on the morning of September 14th.  Rove said, “It was my job to meet Graham in his room and convey him through the back halls of the back elevators of the hotel to this ballroom so we got to spend a few moments together…I have only twice in my life felt I was in the presence of the eternal.  Billy Graham was the first time and there was something about the man.  He was gentle, he was kind, but there was something serious about this man that gave off the sense of godliness and service.  The other person to have such an impact?  Pope John Paul…They both were deeply filled with the Spirit of our Lord”. 

     We have all lived with the Presence of our Lord, incarnated in the person and ministry of His true and faithful servant Billy Graham.  But we may not be aware of the fact that there was a cross road to this ministry right at its inception.  It could have gone an entirely different way, with historically different results.  In 1945 Billy Graham and a friend Charles Templeton were answering the call to help with evangelism for Youth for Christ.  They both were room mates on an evangelistic tour in Europe.  After the tour Charles decided to go to Princeton Theological Seminary to prepare for further ministry.  Billy accepted the Office of President for Northwestern College and Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  This institution was not accredited yet, and for it to be taken seriously their President would have to earn an advanced degree that would require him to take a few years off evangelistic preaching.  He was going to have to make a decision which direction he would take.  In the summer of 1949 his friend Charles Templeton came to visit him.  Charles had changed!  In the course of their conversation Charles said, “But, Billy, it’s not possible for to believe any longer in the Bible…for instance, in the Biblical account of creation.  The world was not created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years.  It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s a demonstrable fact”.  “I don’t accept that” Billy said, “And there are reputable scholars who don’t”  “Who are these scholars?  Men in conservative Christian colleges?” asked Charles.  “Most of them, yes.  But that is not the point.  I believe the Genesis account of creation because it’s in the Bible.  I’ve discovered something in my ministry.  When I take the Bible literally, when I proclaim it as the Word of God, my preaching has power.  When I stand on the platform and say, ‘God says’ or ‘The Bible says’, the Holy Spirit uses me.  There are results.  Wiser men than you or I have been arguing questions like this for centuries.  I don’t have the time or the intellect to examine all sides of the theological dispute, so I’ve decided once for all to stop questioning and accept the Bible as God’s Word”.  Charles went on to forsake the faith he once preached, even writing a book describing his apostasy in 1996 titled Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith.  Before he left Billy, his dear friend warned him, “Billy you cannot do that.  You dare not stop thinking!  It’s intellectual suicide!”  Billy responded, “I don’t know about anyone else, but I have decided that that is the path for me”.

In August of 1949 Billy was invited to come and teach Bible Study and preach at a California Christian Retreat called Forest Home.  Henrietta Mears, famous Christian author and educator had invited him.  While there Billy was still struggling with the words of his dear friend Charles Templeton.  While at Forest Home he did a lot of Bible Study.  He kept seeing words “Thus sayeth the Lord”, “Thus sayeth the Lord” and “Thus sayeth the Lord”.  He was at a cross road.  One night he walked out into the woods.  He set his open Bible upon a stump-more an altar than a pulpit-and he cried out, “Oh God!  There are many things in this book that I do not understand.  There are some problems for which I have no solutions.  There are some seeming contradictions.  There are some areas in it that do not seem to correlate with modern science.  I cannot answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions Chuck and others are raising”.  Then he fell on his knees and being moved by the Holy Spirit he said, “Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word-by faith!  I am going to allow faith to go beyond by intellectual questions and doubts, and I believe this to be your Inspired Word!”  He later wrote in his autobiography, Just As I Am, “as he stood up his eyes stung with tears, but he felt the power and presence of God in a way he had not felt in months…a major bridge had been crossed”.  The next day he spoke at Forest Home Retreat and over 400 people made a commitment to Christ.  Henrietta Mears remarked that “he preached with authority she had never seen in him before!”  A few months later he would hold his Greater Los Angeles Crusade of 1949.  The crusade was scheduled to go for three weeks but ended up going eight weeks, with many celebrities finding Christ, and they packed out that “Canvas Cathedral” at the corner of Washington and Hill streets in Los Angeles.  That was the beginning of six decades of Crusades that would span the globe, and finally conclude in New York in 2005.

In 1955 John R.W. Stott invited Billy to come to Cambridge University in England.  He accepted the invitation, but soon regretted that.  He told Stott, “I am deeply concerned and in much thought about this mission.  I have never felt more inadequate and totally unprepared.  As I think over the possibility for messages, I realize how shallow and weak my presentations are.  I shall be relying heavily on you…”  Stott countered by inviting Billy to come and meet the great intellectual Christian apologist C.S. Lewis.  Billy arrived in Cambridge.  John arranged for him to have a private talk with Lewis at Magdalene College.  The three of them spent an hour together.  Billy later said, “I was afraid that I would be intimidated by Lewis.  But I was relieved that he immediately put me at ease.  I found him to be not only intelligent and witty but also gentle and gracious.  He was genuinely interested in our meetings”.  As the meeting ended, Lewis told Billy, “You know you have many critics, but I have never met one of your critics who knows you personally”.  In the last interview before his death in 1963, (Lewis died the same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated), Lewis told Sherwood Wirt, the editor of Billy Graham’s Decision magazine-“I found him to be modest and sensible.  I liked him very much indeed!”  He later contrasted his apologetic ministry with the evangelistic ministry of Graham.  He wrote, “My work has suffered very much from the incurable intellectualism of my approach.  The simple emotional appeal, (of Graham), is successful.  But those who lack that gift had better not attempt it”-(God In The Dock). Billy indeed had the gift!  Still others tried to dissuade him.  One influential Churchman told Graham that he would go far if he would quit preaching all that blood stuff!  Billy said, “I determined to preach on the cross and the blood of Christ more than ever!”  Not a bad choice.  He had preached to over 215 million people in more than 185 countries.  Only eternity will reveal the number of converts that he was instrumental in bringing to the Savior.

In his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, J.I. Packer wrote these words, “Paul, in his own estimation, was not a philosopher, not a moralist, not one of the world’s wise men, but simply Christ’s herald.  His Royal Master had given him a message to proclaim; his whole business, therefore, was to deliver that message with exact and studious faithfulness, adding nothing, altering nothing, and omitting nothing”.  He could well have been describing Billy Graham.  And what about Charles Templeton?  In 1995 Lee Strobel, in doing research for his book The Case For Faith, interviewed Billy’s friend Charles, just before his death.  Charles was in his 80’s.  He was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, but was still clear in his conversation.  Strobel asked him what he thought about Jesus Christ.  Charles told him-“He was the greatest human being who ever lived.  A moral genius…the wisest person that ever lived…His commitment was total and that led to his death.  What can anyone talk about except his greatness”?  Strobel said, “You sound like you really care about him”.  Charles continued, “Well yes, He is the most important thing in my life…I…I…I…adore Him…I miss Him.”  Strobel asked about Billy Graham.  Charles replied, “There is no feigning in him, (hypocrisy).  He believes what he believes with an invincible innocence.  He is the only mass evangelist I would trust!”    What an endorsement.  “Invincible Innocence!”  An evangelist worthy of trust.  And we have.  Because of WHO He trusted!  Well done thou good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of our Lord.  We can only hope to follow your example.  Thank you for the right turn at that Stump that Changed the Course of History!

 Posted by at 12:58 pm