“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

“Destroy This Temple…and I will raise it up…forever!”

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Feb 182018

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Destroy This Temple…and I will raise it up…forever!”

By:  Ron Woodrum


     We read in the Bible that David wanted to build a house for God.  God allowed him to build a palace for himself.  David, a man after God’s own heart wanted to build God a house.  God allowed him to purchase the land for the Temple, but did not allow him to build it.  Instead, God allowed his son, Solomon to have the privilege of building God a permanent dwelling place on earth-the first Jewish Temple.  Even though God made it plain that a “house made with human hands could not contain him”-He chose to accommodate Himself and display all of His glory in that first Temple.  You can read in Scripture about the awesome Temple that Solomon built and you can read of the awesome time when the glory of God came to fill the Temple (II Chronicles 7).  Then if you get the chance to read I Kings 10 you can read about the time the Queen of Sheba came to visit Solomon.  She came to see his Kingdom…to see his palace…to test his wisdom. But the Scriptures tell us that when she saw the Temple that he had built for Yahweh the LORD…the glory of it literally “took her breath away”.  She honored Solomon with a gift of gold that allowed him to add golden pillars to the temple.  That Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.  Ezekiel saw a vision of the Shekinah glory of God departing the Temple gradually in chapters 9-10-11.  Then the Temple was looted and destroyed.  Zerubbabel and Joshua rebuilt the second Jewish Temple…finishing it in 516 B.  C. It was not as glorious.  God realized that both Priests and People saw that this Temple was inferior to that of Solomon.  We read about this in Haggai 2:3-9.  Listen to these words:  “Who is left among you that saw the House of the Lord in its first glory?  And how do you see it now?  Is it not, in your eyes in comparison…as nothing?  Be strong Oh Zerubbabel.  Be strong Oh Joshua.  Be strong all ye people of the land.  For I am with you…The Desire of the Nations shall come and I will fill this house with glory.  The glory of the latter house shall be greater than the glory of the former!”  Herod the Great…to make up for the hatred the Jews felt for him because of his madness, was known as a great builder.  In 14 B.C.  He began to remodel the Second Jewish Temple.  This remodel continued on until 63 A.D.  At the beginning of Jesus ministry he cleansed the Temple.  When asked about a sign that he had the authority to do that.  He told them the sign would be that when they destroyed the Temple…He would raise it up in three days!  They went nuts!  This Temple had been in the process now for 46 years of hard construction labor.  How could it be rebuilt in three days!  Of course He was referring to the genuine Temple-of His body-the “real dwelling place of God on earth” during the days of His flesh!  As great as that Temple was now…it was inferior in every way.  According to the Jewish Temple historian Alfred Edersheim, in his book The Temple,  it did not have the original Ark of the Covenant; The Tablets of the Law; Aaron’s Rod that Budded; The Pot of Manna; or was there evidence of the continual fire of the Shekinah glory of God in that Temple.  Jesus honored the Temple with His presence.  He taught there.  He was the Desire of the Nations that Haggai had prophesied and His Presence in the Incarnation made the glory of the inferior Temple greater than that of Solomon’s Temple.  But because the nation rejected Him, He rejected them, and He would call out a New People…called His Church…and they would be the New Temple of God.  (See Matt. 16:18; Ephesians 2:19-22; I Peter 2:4-8).  In the Old Testament God had a Temple for His People.  In the New Testament God had a People for his Temple!  The Jews destroyed Jesus on the Cross!  They destroyed the real Temple of the Presence of God in the body and person of Jesus.  God raised it up in three days.  Soon the Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed by Titus in A.D. 70.  Josephus and Tacitus tell us of a vision at that time that appeared to be armies of heaven surrounding Jerusalem in the clouds, and a loud voice saying…”the gods are leaving the Temple”.  Josephus saw that as the Glory of the Presence of God leaving before the Romans pillaged away the gold and the furniture of the Temple and used it to build the Coliseum, which was done by 79 A.D. God’s presence was then incarnate in the Church of Jesus Christ, The Living Temple of the Lord, made up of believing Jews and Gentiles, all a part of the Family of God!  Peter is giving believers the assurance that even if the Romans or anybody else decides to physically destroy this Temple, that we have a Living Hope and Inheritance In Heaven that is Eternal and Indestructible!  He said, in so many words…“Destroy This Temple and God will Raise it up forever…in Heaven”!  That is what we see in the New Jerusalem with the names of the Twelve Tribes and the names of the Twelve Apostles, and with all of our names forever written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!  Well Glory!


Soon all the Living Stones of the New Temple were being destroyed.  Paul was beheaded.  Peter crucified upside down.  Thomas slain with a spear in India; Simon, the brother of Jude crucified in Egypt.  Mark died in flames; Bartholomew beaten with clubs, crucified, and beheaded!  Philip stoned; James stoned by a mob, and then killed by a blow to the head; Andrew crucified too. Jerome said, “There is no day of the year unto which the number of five thousand martyrs cannot be ascribed”.  Foxes Book of Martyrs says, “Whatsoever the cruelness of man’s invention could devise for punishment was practiced against Christians…scourgings, drawings, tearings, stonings, burnings, gibbets, gallows, lions, tossing upon horns of bulls!  Notwithstanding all these continual persecutions and horrible punishments, The Church daily increased…watered plenteously by the blood of the saints!”


There is a letter explaining this to the Church and the pagan world.  It is the Letter to Diogenes (150 A.D.-200 A.D.)  This is what it says:  “Christians love all men, but all men persecute them!  Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again.  They live in poverty, but enrich the many; They are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything.  They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory.  A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their answer to insult.  For their good they receive punishment, but even then they rejoice, as though they were receiving the gift of life.  They are attacked by Jews as aliens; They are persecuted by the Romans and the Greeks, yet no one can explain this hatred.  Such is the Christians’ divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself”.  All I can add to that is the words of the writer of Hebrews…”The world was not worthy of them!”  (Heb. 11:38).  The Temple Destroyed becomes the Temple Eternal!  See God’s Glory In His Temple…The Church!


 Posted by at 12:57 pm

“What took YOU so Long?”

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Feb 112018

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “What took YOU so Long?”

By:  Ron Woodrum


     In his book I Believe In The Holy Spirit, by Michael Green, he relates a story told by the renowned Indian Methodist Evangelist Dr. Samuel Theodore Kamelesan. Dr. Kamelesan had a friend who was passing out Bibles and Christian literature in the heart of Brahmin country in Southern India, in a town called Kumbbakoman.  He invited other Christians to join him.  They refused…saying “We have to live here!”  So this brave Christian took his witness for Christ into the heart of a dangerous area.  He went alone fully expecting to be killed in the line of service.  He entered the main courtyard of the main temple in the town.  He began to preach Jesus.  He had just begun when he was embraced by a Brahmin woman who asked, “Why did you not come sooner?”  He related the following fascinating story.  This rich, high caste woman, a Brahmin Hindu had been diagnosed with cancer.  She was given a very short time to live by her doctors.  So she went to Madras, in whose pleasant climate she would live out the few remaining weeks of her life.  Then she apparently died.  She was taken to the mortuary.  Lying in the mortuary-she was not dead, but was only deeply unconscious.  In this state she had a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ…who she knew nothing about.  In the vision the Lord looked upon her with love.  “If you let me live again, Lord I will give my life to you” she promised.  While she was lying in that unconscious state in the mortuary, a cleaning lady noticed a faint movement of the “corpse”.  She went immediately to the mortician…who contacted the doctor that had signed the death certificate.  The doctor examined her and found a faint pulse.  He swung into action to resuscitate the patient.  A blood transfusion was desperately needed.  The cleaning lady, who happened to be a Christian, had the same blood type, and freely volunteered to give of her precious supply.  The doctor later told the lady he had rescued, “You owe your life to the cleaning lady who gave her blood for you.”


The Brahmin lady was good to her word.  From that day on she worshipped Jesus only, and renounced her Hinduism.  This provoked intense opposition from the people of Kumbbakoman.  Much of the opposition and mistreatment came from members of her own family.  Her own brothers attacked her and knocked out two of her front teeth!  Her simple witness led three of the five of her brothers to Christ.  When this friend of Dr. Kamelesan began to preach Jesus in the temple courtyard she heard him.  She ran out and embraced him.  He was shocked to find a believer in such an unusual place.  There was no human proclamation used to bring this woman to faith in Jesus…Just the Holy Spirit using a vision of Jesus.  Of course the blood of the Christian cleaning lady was no accident either.  The Spirit of Life not only revived the woman, but the same Spirit caused a spontaneous remission of the cancer too, and brought her to faith in Christ.  All in all it was quite a miracle of healing and salvation.  Green, the author of the book responded…the story confirms what we say in our creed.  “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Lifegiver”.


How many people are there that we know who are searching for Jesus?  Their souls are tired of the life that provides no answers to the deepest yearnings of their heart.  Our Lord has chosen to ask us to be his hands, his feet, and his voice as instruments to lead others to faith and salvation.  We need to be like that friend of Dr. Kamelesan and step out in faith, come what may, and bear witness for our Lord and Savior, no matter what the risk.  We might be surprised by the number who will ask us, “where have you been?”  “Why did you wait so long?”  Let God’s Holy Spirit empower your life to show Christ.  Let Him empower your lips to share Christ.  Listen to what the Apostle Paul told the Philippians.  He wrote, “Let the Holy Spirit work out your salvation…with fear and trembling.  Let Him cause you to shine as lights in a crooked and perverse world, while you are holding forth the Word of Life”.   A transformed walk, combined with a timely word, can result in a tremendous witness to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.


 Posted by at 3:13 pm

“The Most Perfect Hope-Out of a Public Execution?”

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Feb 042018

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “The Most Perfect Hope-Out of a Public Execution?”

By:  Ron Woodrum


     Our world has learned that civilization has failed.  Six thousand years of world history tells us on every page that our situation is hopelessly without answers.  It is only when history intersects with the Road of Calvary, and the Christ of the Cross-does that picture change for the better.  God has chosen to take the most horrible day of history and transform it into the most glorious.  Malcolm Muggeridge, the brilliant English journalist, who surrendered his life to Christ, spoke very poignantly on this subject.


“We look back on history and what do we see?  Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counter-revolutions succeeding one another; wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed; one nation dominant and then another.  As Shakespeare’s King Lear puts it, ‘the rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon’.  In one lifetime I’ve seen my fellow countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world, and the great majority of them convinced-in the words of a favorite song-‘that God has made them mighty and will make them mightier yet’.  I have heard a crazed Austrian announce the establishment of a German Reich that was to last for a thousand years; an Italian clown report that the calendar will begin again with his assumption of power; a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite as wiser than Solomon, more enlightened than Ashoka, and more humane than Marcus Aurelius.  I’ve seen America wealthier than all the rest of the world put together, and with the superiority of weaponry that would have enabled Americans, had they so wished, to outdo an Alexander or Julius Caesar in the range and scale of conquest. 


     All in one lifetime-gone with the wind.  England now part of an island off the coast of Europe, threatened with further dismemberment; Hitler and Mussolini…buffoons; Stalin a sinister name in the regime that he helped to found and dominated totally for three decades; Americans haunted by fears of running out of the precious fluids that keeps their motorways roaring and smog settling, by memories of a disastrous military campaign in Viet Nam, and the windmills of Watergate.  Can this really be what life is about-this worldwide soap opera going on from century to century, from era to era, as old discarded sets of props litter the earth?  Surely not!  Was it to provide a location for so repetitive a production as this that the universe was created for homo sapiens, as he likes to call himself-heaven knows why-came into existence?  I can’t believe it.  If this were all, then the cynics, the hedonists, and the suicides are right; the most we can hope for from life is amusement of our senses and then death.  But it is not all!


     Thanks to the great mercy and marvel of the Incarnation, the cosmic scene is resolved into a human drama.  God reaches down to become a Man and man reaches up to relate himself to God.  Time looks into eternity, and eternity into time, making now always, and always now.  Everything is transformed by the sublime dream of the Incarnation-God’s special parable for fallen man and a fallen world.  The way opens before us that was charted in the Birth, Ministry, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The way that successive generations of believers have striven to follow, deriving themselves the moral, spiritual, and intellectual creativity out of which have come everything truly great in our art, our literature, our music, the splendor of the great cathedrals, and the illumination of the saints and mystics, as well as countless lives of men and women serving their God and loving their Savior in humility and faith.  It’s a glorious record-not just of the past, but continuing now.  The books are open, not closed!


     The Incarnation was not a mere historical event like the Battle of Waterloo, or the American Declaration of Independence-something that’s happened, and then was over.  It goes on happening all the time.  God did not retreat back into Heaven when the fateful words-‘It is finished’ were uttered on Golgotha.  THE WORD THAT BECAME FLESH HAS CONTINUED AND CONTINUES TO DWELL AMONG US FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH.  There are examples on every hand; we have but to look for them.  For instance, the man in Solzhenitsyn’s labor camp who scribbled sentences from the Gospels that he pulled out of his pocket in the evening to keep himself serene and brotherly in that terrible place.  Then Solzhenitsyn himself-a product of this world’s first overtly atheistic materialist society who can tell us in shining words that ‘it was only when I lay there, on rotting prison straw, that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good.  Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either; BUT RIGHT THROUGH EVERY HUMAN HEART AND THROUGH ALL HUMAN HEARTS!  So bless you prison for having been in my life’.  What insight, what wisdom, acquired in a Soviet prison, after a Marxist upbringing!




Peter would agree with that.  The only hope for the world of his day, and ours, Is the message of the cross, embraced by the first century followers of Christ.  While those pilgrims suffered the persecution and mocking of the society they dwelled in, and the government that ruled over them, he reminded them that their living hope was to found only in the death, resurrection, and soon return of Jesus Christ.  Muggeridge reminds us of that same truth!


 Posted by at 2:05 pm