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In April 2017, I wrote about the plight of the Reverend Andrew Brunson in Turkey. At that time, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was trying to secure his release.

Nearly a year later, in March 2018, Fox News reported that Brunson could be imprisoned for 35 years:

An American pastor has been charged in Turkey with engaging in espionage and having links to terror groups, crimes that carry a potential sentence of up to 35 years in prison, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported Tuesday.

An indictment accuses Andrew Brunson of working with U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen’s network and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, to stir chaos in Turkey and divide the country, Anadolu Agency reported on Tuesday.

The news agency said the pastor faces 15 years for crimes committed in the name of Gulen’s group and the PKK and another 20 years for obtaining state secrets for political and military spying purposes.

Brunson is originally from North Carolina, but has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years. He was arrested during the mass detentions and firings soon after a failed July 2016 coup attempt. He denies any wrongdoing.

The United States has demanded his release.

In April, President Trump was still on the case:

In May:

In July, Trump tweeted:

In August, Trump used tariffs as leverage against Turkey. On August 15, CBS News reported that Turkey responded in kind:

Turkey announced Wednesday that it is increasing tariffs on imports of certain U.S. products as a local court denied an American pastor’s appeal to be released from house arrest — both moves which could escalate a feud with the United States that has helped trigger a currency crisis. In a decision announced in the Official Gazette, Ankara said it will impose extra tariffs on imports of products including rice, vehicles, alcohol, coal and cosmetics.

Tariffs on American cars were doubled to 120 percent while the tariff on alcoholic drinks rose to 140 percent. Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Twitter that the tariffs on certain products were increased “within the framework of the principle of reciprocity in retaliation for the deliberate economic attacks by the United States.”

A local court in Izmir, meanwhile, rejected the appeal by Pastor Andrew Brunson to be released from house arrest pending his trial on espionage and terrorism-related charges … 

The Trump administration imposed its own financial sanctions on two Turkish ministers and doubled steel and aluminum tariffs on the country earlier this month as President Donald Trump tries to secure the Brunson’s release.

The Turkish lira has dropped to record lows in recent weeks, having fallen some 42 percent so far this year …

On October 11, there was light at the end of the tunnel for the imprisoned pastor:

On October 12, Brunson was on his way home via Germany in a US military plane:

The US ambassador to Germany was on hand to greet the pastor and his wife:

President Trump spoke from a rally that day:

Fox News reported:

Brunson was arrested and detained for 18 months before finally being charged by the Turkish government with a connection to the coup attempt.

U.S. officials also refuted the accusations against Brunson, and amid mounting pressure from American politicians, Brunson was moved from prison to house arrest in July.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., hailed the verdict Friday, calling it “long overdue news” and adding that “the Turkish government should put Pastor Brunson on the next flight home.”

The Trump administration advocated persistently for Brunson’s release, leading to an intense economic showdown between the two NATO allies. In August, the U.S. slapped sanctions on an array of Turkish officials and on some goods, sending Turkish currency into freefall.

Brunson was not the only American behind bars in Turkey on questionable charges. Several Turkish-American citizens — including NASA scientist Serkan Golge and several workers from the United States Embassy in Ankara — are languishing in prison alleged to have a connection to Gulen’s group.

Trump has put much emphasis on not paying ransom money for the pastor’s release:

Trump’s efforts in arranging hostage and prisoner releases overseas have been historic:

Brunson’s release brought much gratitude, not only from the Brunsons but also the Evangelical community.

Breitbart reported that Brunson issued a statement:

“We are grateful for the President’s commitment and efforts in securing my release,” Brunson said in a statement released by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has been working to secure his release. “My entire family thanks the president, the administration, and Congress for their unwavering support.”

“This is the day our family has been praying for – I am delighted to be on my way home to the United States,” Brunson said. “It’s been an extremely difficult time for our family and we want to express our appreciation to the millions of people around the world who have faithfully prayed for this day.”

“I am thankful for the representation of the American Center for Law & Justice – especially ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow and ACLJ Senior Counsel CeCe Heil – as well as the many others who worked so hard to obtain my freedom,” Brunson said.

“I look forward to returning home and being reunited with my family,” Brunson said.

The Breitbart report has a comment from the ACLJ which says what many of us assumed; this was not about spying, it was about evangelising for the Christian faith (emphases mine):

The ACLJ said Brunson was targeted because of his Christian faith. Brunson has been leading a Christian congregation and mission in Turkey for two decades.

Pastor Brunson was on trial for the crime of ‘Christianization,’” the ACLJ statement said. “The ACLJ, which has been working in this country and abroad to secure his freedom, said President Trump, as well as members of Congress, continued to push for Pastor Brunson’s release and Turkish officials finally agreed.

“President Trump and his team have been tenacious in seeking the release of Pastor Brunson,” Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ said.“We’re grateful to the president, members of Congress and diplomatic leaders who continued to put pressure on Turkey to secure the freedom of Pastor Brunson.”

Politico reported on the enthusiasm of Evangelical pastors for Trump at the news of Brunson’s release:

When a Turkish court released American Andrew Brunson after two years of confinement, it was a profound moment for Christian evangelicals, who had made the pastor a symbol of religious persecution worldwide.

In Brunson’s case and others, they had prayed for deliverance. And President Donald Trump, they said, delivered …

Again and again, evangelical activists say, the administration has made good on promises made to the faith voters who lifted Trump into office — a group he will sorely need to turn out again for his 2020 re-election bid.

“He wouldn’t be our Sunday School teacher necessarily, but he’s doing a great job of leadership,” said televangelist and Trump adviser James Robison. “I love him so much I can hardly explain it.”

The Hand of God is at work. God is using President Trump as one of His many instruments.

Sarah Sanders’s father, former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, acknowledged the Trump administration’s efforts and wondered how the media would cover this joyous event:

At least one journalist understood:

On Saturday, August 13, the excitement was building.

Trump graciously acknowledged Turkish president Erdogan:

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) spoke to the press:

As scheduled, that afternoon, the Brunsons met with President Trump in the Oval Office:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also present …

… as were other members of the administration who worked long and hard to secure Brunson’s release:

Pastor Brunson then prayed over the president, asking the Holy Spirit to descend upon him, granting him wisdom and discernment:

CBN had more on the White House meeting:

Brunson prayed for the commander-in-chief in the Oval Office saying, “I ask that you give him strength. I ask you to protect him.. make him a great blessing to this country and fill him with your wisdom and strength.”

“We pray for you often as a family, my wife and I pray for you,” the pastor told the president …

“We are so grateful to so many people in Congress who stood with us, prayed with us and fought with us,” Brunson said.

President Trump said the US did not give up anything in return for the evangelical minister’s release and pushed back on reports he agreed to lift sanctions.

“Right now the whole world is a fan of yours, the whole world is a fan,” Trump said. “It’s a great honor to have you back home.”

You can see the full event below:

Trump was as energised about this as the Brunsons were:

My prayer is for Pastor Brunson not to return to Turkey, not that he is thinking of doing so now, but he might do so in future.

I hope that he and his family enjoy a happy reunion period at home in North Carolina. May he find a divine calling there.

In closing, may the Trump administration be successful in releasing the other innocent Americans being held in Turkey.

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John F MacArthurThe John MacArthur sermon I cited for my post on Acts 20:7-12 has some interesting information about rituals in the early years of the Church.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Worshipping on the Lord’s Day

MacArthur explains that the Lord’s Day — Sunday — became the day of Christian public worship to commemorate Christ’s Resurrection:

First of all, when did they come together? The first day of the week. Now that became the meeting time for the Church. You say, “Didn’t they meet every day?” Sure they did. They met, from Acts 2, “Daily, from house to house.” And listen. Christianity is not a one day a week thing, is it? It’s an everyday thing. And that little church, wherever it was, in whatever little town, those Christians were together usually during the week. There were Bible studies in home. They were breaking bread in homes. They were sharing the Lord’s table, perhaps, in home. So it was not uncommon for the Church to meet on a daily basis in its early years.

But together, the church came on the first day of the week. And you say, “Why did they do that?” Well, you go back to John 20, just to refresh your memory. Verse 19. This was immediately after the Resurrection, “The same day, at evening, being the first day of the week.” Do you know when the first day of the week started in the Jewish calendar? Saturday night, right? After the sun went down, the Sabbath ended. The days were counted from sunset to sunset. And so it was on Saturday night, literally, but it was the first day of the week. So then it was Sunday.

We don’t prefer to call it Sunday. It’s all right if you want to call it Sunday, but that represents the sun god. But that’s okay, because there is no sun god anyway, so you can call it Sunday without feeling bad. But I prefer to call it the Lord’s Day. That’s Revelation 1:10. John says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” That’s why in your bulletin you’ll find that we call it the Lord’s Day.

Now they met together here in John 20:19 on the first day of the week, and who appeared to them? Jesus did. Eight days later, verse 26 says, “The next time the first day of the week came, they were meeting together, and the Lord appeared.” Well, you see what happened? They were together on the first day. That was Resurrection, commemoration day. The Lord appeared both times, so He had risen on the first day, appeared on the first day, appeared again on the first day, and they just took the first day and ran with it. That became Resurrection Day, the Lord’s Day.

And so the early Church celebrated its fellowship and its worship and its teaching together on Sunday. And let me hasten to add that I think such meeting together of the Church is strictly important. In Hebrews 10:25 it says, “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is, and much the more as you see the day approaching.” That means you ought to come together with the believers and not forsake that.

Now notice that it is not the Sabbath Day anymore. Sunday is not the Sabbath. You hear people talk about going to church on the Sabbath. This is not the Sabbath. The Sabbath was yesterday. And the Sabbath is a dead issue, friends.

You know, I was on the radio in Honolulu. They have a talk station, like KABC. It’s the number two rated station in Hawaii. And they give three hours Sunday afternoon to a Christian kind of dialogue. And so I was the three-hour answer man on Honolulu radio station, KORL. And it was really interesting just to sit there, you know, and be on the grill with all these people. You know how talk radio goes. You do have that little button, however, you know, that you can just say, “I’m sorry, ma’am.” Boing, you know, and it’s all over.

But anyway, people called in, and one fellow asked me a question at the very beginning. He said, “What day is the church supposed to meet?” And you know, I didn’t realize I was being baited, but I was, apparently, because I went into this long, lengthy answer about the meaning of the Lord’s Day and the whole thing and everything. Got all done, and the lines went bananas. And I realized there’s a tremendous contingent of Seventh Day Adventists in Honolulu. And all of a sudden, I had opened up Pandora’s box, and they couldn’t handle the calls, and everything was going, and it was amazing, all the calls that were going on.

Through all of this, I simply maintained, in answering these various questions, that the only way you can allow for the – to worship on Saturday is, one, to ignore the history of the Church; two, to assume that the old covenant is still in vogue; three, to reject the teaching of the Apostle Paul. Well, they didn’t take too kindly to all of those junctions, but I supported them by Scripture. In Colossians 2:16, it says, “Let no man therefore condemn you in food -” That is, if you don’t eat like Jewish people used to eat. “In drink, or in respect of a Feast Day,” if you don’t keep the Passover or the Sabbath, “or of the new moon, or of a Sabbath, which are a shadow of things to come.” And once the thing comes, you don’t need the shadow anymore. So don’t let anybody [try to influence] you in those things.

So we went on and on about that. It’s clear to me that the Lord’s Day historically and biblically became the time when the Church met together. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul just assumes it. He says, “When you come together on the first day of the week, that’s the time to bring your offerings.” Right? The Church should meet on the first day. If you want to meet on the Sabbath and you want to buy the Sabbath, then you’re going to have to buy the whole old covenant and you’re going to be saved by works, and that’s what we got into on the radio.

And I finally just turned the tables and I asked the question, I said, “Well, let me ask you about your doctrine. You’ve asked me about mine.” So I said to some guy who was giving me this long argument, I said, “Why is it that you say that the only covenant people are the ones who worship on the Sabbath, and that the mark of the beast is on everybody who worships on Sunday? That’s in your theology.” And there was a long silence. And then he admitted that that was true, that the mark of the beast is on those who worship on Sunday. And ultimately, what they were saying was you’re saved by works, keeping the whole covenant. Obeying the law. And we got into all kinds of legalism, and it became a tremendous thing because I’m so fresh in Galatians that, you know –

You know, the Lord has a way of just arranging things. Somebody must have thought, “Man, he’s got all that stuff down, you know?” That’s why it’s good to study the Word of God. You know, I’ve found that in my life. You study a certain passage, and the Lord will give you opportunity to use it.

The Church met then on the Lord’s Day, and at the beginning, they met on a daily basis, and pretty soon it became a kind of thing where they would continue to meet in small groups, in homes. But on the time that the Lord’s Day came around, the first day of the week, they would congregate together [e]n mass[e]. I don’t believe for a minute that the Church is just to be little groups scattered all over town. I think the Church is to come together.

Worshipping as a congregation

The earliest Christians eventually had to leave the synagogue environment and worship in people’s houses. Then, congregations grew to the point where churches were built. It is important that believers come together to worship publicly:

I don’t believe for a minute that the Church is just to be little groups scattered all over town. I think the Church is to come together.

Now where did the Early Church meet? Well, look here. It says in verse 8 they met in an upper chamber. They met everywhere. First, they met in the temple, didn’t they? And you imagine how popular that was. Boy, that must have been interesting. And then after that, they started meeting in synagogues. You know, Paul would go to a town. A bunch of people would get saved in the synagogue, and they’d keep coming to the synagogue and having their meetings there.

But eventually, it just didn’t work in the temple and it just didn’t work in the synagogue, and so they began to pull out and establish their own Christian assemblies. And the natural place to go, first of all, was to homes. Right? So the Church began in homes. And they must have been some very substantial homes. Some very large homes, to accommodate the many Christians that existed in those early years.

By the – oh, I’d say between the middle and the end of the second century, they began to build their own buildings to accommodate all of the Christians. But here, they were still meeting in an upper room, in a home. And when Paul wrote Colossians 4:15, he referred to the Church in the home. When he wrote Romans 16:5 and 1 Corinthians 16:19, he referred to the Church in the home, Aquila and Priscilla and Philemon too, refers to the Church that met in the home. And so there was a very common occurrence in the Early Church, and that was to meet in homes. And then later on, buildings were built.

Just all of that to say this. It’s important for the Church to come together someplace. We cannot exist in isolation, can we? We need the fellowship, the unity of the body. And so this little pattern here that we see gives us an example of how the Early Church met. On the first day of the week, verse 7, “When the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart the next day, and continued to speak until midnight, and there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.”

The love feast

MacArthur explains, scripturally, how the love feast came into being and how it disappeared. Centuries later, with the Reformation, Pietist communities in various countries revived it, and certain Christian sects still hold a love feast of some sort today, even if it involves only a non-alcoholic beverage and a piece of cake.

MacArthur doesn’t go into the revival of the love feast, however, he tells us that Paul told the Corinthians not to hold any more, because they were being selfish about the dishes they brought to the love feast:

You say, “What was the love feast?” Well, the love feast was like a potluck meal, and it was for the purpose of sharing. You had – one of the very basic things of the Christian Church is fellowship, isn’t it? And love. And so the poor people would come, and they couldn’t bring anything, and the people who could would bring enough for the poor people, and they would all share as an expression of love. It was a beautiful sharing. The common meal. And it was followed immediately by the breaking of bread and the celebration of the Lord’s Day. This was the breaking of bread for the Early Church. The agape love feast and communion.

You know, it’s a sad thing to think about, but the agape love feast kind of faded from the scene. You know why? Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. Do you know what he said to them in chapter 11? He said, “You really messed up the love feast.” 1 Corinthians 11. Let me just read you a couple of verses. And this is what happened to the love feast. It just deteriorated. He says in verse 20, 1 Corinthians 11, “When you come together therefore into one place, this is not the Lord’s Supper which you eat.” In other words, “You think you’re coming together for the Lord’s Supper, but you’re not. You polluted it. It isn’t His supper.” “For in eating, everyone takes before the other his own supper.”

Can you imagine going to a potluck and have everybody sit in their own corner and eat their own potluck? It’s what was happening. And some of the hungry people who had nothing were coming, and they were going away hungry. And so he says, “One is hungry and another is drunk.” In other words, the people who come and have nothing get nothing. The people who come and have a lot overindulge.

He says, and I think this is important. He says, “Don’t you have houses to eat and drink in?” If that’s all you’re going to do, go home. “Or despise you the Church of God and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. You have literally despised the unity of the Church.” And so that’s what happened, and the whole beautiful commonness of the love feast just faded historically.

Communion

MacArthur takes issue with the way Holy Communion has evolved over the centuries:

… communion also got hit in history. The Catholic Church moved in, and when the Catholic Church dominated the world, before the Reformation, communion stopped being a natural, informal, warm sharing together in the memory of Christ, and it became a mystical priestly ceremony that’s now continuing to go on, known as the mass. And somehow, Protestantism sprang out of that, and we got a little closer to the truth, but I’m not sure we’re there yet. We still think of communion as something that’s performed by a whole lot of ministers, and it has to be done with little silver trays and little – and walking up and down aisles, and organs playing. And I think that’s wrong, too. I think that’s one way to do it, but I think communion is something we all ought to do much more frequently than we do.

Often people will say, “You know, John, I’d like to participate in communion, but I can’t come on Wednesday nights.” That’s no excuse. That’s no excuse.

Communion at home

I’m still digesting MacArthur’s suggestion for home Communion, which follows on from people saying they’re unable to attend his church’s Communion service, but then I come from a theological background wherein a Real Presence is part of consecrated bread and wine.

For MacArthur, Communion seems to be a symbol of the Last Supper, therefore, he says to hold one’s own Communion ceremonies at home:

You can have communion any time you want. The best place I think to teach your children communion is in your home. Teach them the meaning of breaking of bread. You know, some people just go crazy when you talk like this, because they say, “Only ordained ministers can do that.” You can’t find that in the Bible. You can share around the Lord’s Table any time you want, and you should. Jesus said, “Do this until I come, and do it with you in the kingdom.” It’s your responsibility.

There are plenty of occasions. You know, can you imagine when you get together – have you ever gotten together with other Christians and gone home after evening and said, “What a wasted evening. We could have talked about the Lord, and all we did was fool around and talk about Aunt Mary and Mrs. So and So, and how we don’t like this guy and this girl.” Have you ever done that? Sure. And you had a whole _____ thing. How about if you came together three or four couples, and just started out by breaking bread. I think that might change the pattern of your evening. It might even change where you go after you got done, or what you talk about, for sure.

And so I think we need to remember that this is part of the Early Church. It was a common and easy and a natural and a flowing thing, right out of the life that they had and their love for the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s just what they did when they came together. And that’s the way it should be with us. But unfortunately, I think we’ve been victimized by those who have told us that all of these things are to be performed in some kind of a formal, ritualistic manner as well.

Then he says that, along with this, comes edifying, instructive conversation. That I can get on board with:

But the disciples came together to break bread, and here’s the second thing that I want you to notice about the time they met together. Paul preached unto them. They came together for teaching. Whenever the Early Church came together, this was primarily the purpose. Sometimes it was to break bread, and there is no command here as to how frequently. It’s just to be done often. And this time when they came together, they did that. But Paul preached unto them. This became the priority when they met, was preaching and teaching. And the word preaching here is not to preach the Gospel. You don’t need to preach the Gospel at a service of breaking of bread, because everybody’s already a Christian.

Paul taught them, and the word preaching here has to do with dialogue. He answered questions, and there was feedback, and he shared with them. Teaching. That was the priority. The Apostles had earlier said, “We will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word,” Acts 6:4. And Acts 6:7 says, “And the Word multiplied and the Church multiplied.” It says the same thing in Acts 12:24 and Acts 19:20. “The Word of God grew and prevailed.” This is the priority.

Interesting, to say the least.

Agree or disagree, it’s food for thought, especially for those who consider themselves Christians but who no longer attend church because they find many of today’s churches lacking in solemnity and teaching.

That said, an effort should be made to find a good congregation or a good service that you feel comfortable with. Attend now and again to make it a regular habit.

In 2012, I excerpted a series of articles by the Revd James A Fowler of Christ in You Ministries on a concept he calls Resurrection theology.

As we are in Eastertide for the next 50 days — until Pentecost — readers might enjoy reading excerpts of what Revd Fowler wrote:

Remembering the reality of the risen Christ

Are we bypassing the risen Christ?

A call for Resurrection theology

Christianity IS the Risen Christ

Unlocking the meaning of the Gospel

The extension of the risen Christ

A Lutheran minister, the Revd Rod Rosenbladt, wrote along similar lines, although he did not use the term Resurrection theology:

A Lutheran application of Resurrection theology

It’s really essential that we Christians remember the Resurrection as often as the Crucifixion — every day.

I was glad to hear our vicar read the following verses from 1 Corinthians 15 at Easter this year. He also told us to spread this message. (Already done.) This is the heart of the matter (emphases mine):

The Resurrection of the Dead

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Both the Crucifixion and Resurrection had to occur in order for our salvation.

Believers feel elation on Easter, the Church’s greatest feast day. Paul’s words and Resurrection theology can help us maintain that elation the rest of the year.

Rather than considering Easter as just one day and Eastertide as just one season, we would do better to contemplate the Resurrection at every opportunity.

On March 17, 2018, I watched the Alex Jones Show, where his big headline was about an Evangelical church in Australia that was told to amend an Easter sign with the name of Jesus on it.

Not surprisingly, Jones was deeply unhappy.

So were many people watching or listening, no doubt.

However, it turns out that Jesus’s name can remain on the sign.

The Daily Mail, despite its title for the story, tells us what happened. The source story is at the 2GB radio site.

Elim Church is located in a shopping centre in Gosford, New South Wales. Between March 29 and April 1, they are running revival meetings on the Gosford Waterfront. The digital sign they want to put up at their church in the shopping centre reads (photo at the Mail link):

the greatness of His Power

Jesus is Alive!

Lendlease manage the shopping centre. They objected to the name Jesus:

Pastor Martin Duffy told 2GB radio that shopping centre manager Lendlease objected to the signs and forced them to be changed to read ‘Risen Christ’ instead of ‘Jesus’ …

Pastor Duffy claimed Lendlease requested to withdraw the word ‘Jesus’ from the sign as it may have offended shoppers and non-Christians.

The logic in Lendlease’s argument is mystifying. Why would ‘Risen Christ’ be any less ‘offensive’ than ‘Jesus’?

In any event, there is good news about the Good News:

Pastor Duffy said Lendlease has since changed their mind and allowed the word ‘Jesus’ to be included in the sign.

Although:

He said Lendlease said the word ‘Jesus’ has yet to be added to the sign but he is hopeful it will be returned eventually.

One wonders if the locals made a righteous fuss. Lendlease issued a statement:

It was an error of judgement to ask the church to change its messaging and we apologise unreservedly.

Lendlease values diversity and inclusion and we welcome people of all backgrounds at our shopping centres.

Good. All being well, the sign will be up soon and the church’s Easter events will be well attended.

Last week, I featured two posts on Billy Graham:

Remembering Billy Graham

More on Billy Graham

My last piece on him relates more to his daughter Ruth, who, in 2012, first opened her heart on Beliefnet. Since then, she writes regularly for the site on her page Safe Place with Ruth Graham.

In 2012, Beliefnet recapped her first column in an article called ‘Billy Graham’s daughter Ruth has been through the fire, says it’s time for honesty’. Anyone who has been through a marital breakup or has been dogged by self doubt will want to read it.

The article also has great Graham family photos from the 1950s, which are definitely worth seeing.

Excerpts and a summary of the article follow, emphases mine.

The article begins by introducing her Safe Place page and assuring readers that she will reply to anyone commenting on her posts. Ruth said that she felt it was time to be open and honest, something she could not always do growing up:

She knows what it’s like to have to put on a false smile. The third of Billy and Ruth Bell Graham’s five kids remembers having to pretend nothing is wrong – even when her world was falling apart. All preachers’ kids endure that, but a famous evangelist’s kid has to be especially careful. Stepping out of line can result in a front page headline in the National Enquirer – and bring shame upon a beloved dad.

Fortunately, for her, she was always a devout Christian:

“I really did have a genuine relationship with the Lord,” she recalls. “I gave my heart to Jesus when I was seven, kneeling beside my bed with my mother. At age 11, I made that commitment public by going forward at the altar call at a church revival held by a friend of my father. Daddy went with me.”

Incidentally, she said that she and her siblings met a lot of famous people who were friends of her parents, but they were only introduced and that was the extent of it.

Ruth was not a rebellious teenager and, at the age of 15, was sent to:

an exclusive boarding school in New York. There, “I came down with mononucleosis and I was miserable.” All alone, it was just her and God. “I just had to claim my faith as my own. At that point, it was no longer Mother or Daddy’s faith, it was mine.”

She followed a conventional middle class route of college followed by marriage. In the 1990s, she faced a greater personal crisis than mononucleousis:

her world fell apart when her husband was unfaithful. After 18 years of marriage, Ruth was devastated. They went through months of counseling before admitting defeat. Then just a few months after the divorce, she remarried “on the rebound” but knew within 24 hours that she’d made a terrible mistake. Her life a shambles, she loaded up everything and sought refuge with her parents.

She was worried about their reaction. However, all was well. Her father Billy stood in the driveway, awaiting her arrival:

He wrapped his arms around me and said, ‘Welcome home.’”

Ruth said that, at the age of 40, she was in a deep spiritual crisis. Although she followed her mother’s example of being active in the church, including teaching Bible studies, Ruth did not feel as if God was ‘taking care’ of her — and her children. One daughter had an eating disorder. Another gave birth out of wedlock in her mid-teens. Her son had to go to rehab for drug abuse.

Gradually, Ruth came to understand that these were severe trials God’s people sometimes have to endure:

He had something to teach me about the difficulties of life: to show me that none of us are exempt, that we all have hardships. We all have things that happen to us that we don’t ask for, but we have to endure.

And it’s OK. It’s all part of God’s plan. I didn’t like having to go through that – none of us do.

But it was very important for me to have that experience – and to grow from it. I’m still growing. The story is not over. But that’s OK, God gives me grace. And God is a covenant-keeping God. He is faithful even when I am not. Now I’m living life. I am just living in the grace of God.

During her crisis years, her father told her she was being too harsh on herself:

I remember one day when I was really beating myself up and taking responsibility for my marriage falling apart – just pouring my heart out. Daddy said, ‘Quit beating yourself up. We all live under God’s grace and we just do the best we can.’

Whenever I go home, there’s always a bouquet of flowers in my room with a handwritten note that reads, ‘Welcome home. Daddy.’

Ruth said she had been focussing too much on meeting other people’s expectations rather than on God’s love:

I have realized that I have an audience of One. As long as He’s happy with me, then that’s OK. You can’t please all those other people anyway. There’s always going to be somebody who doesn’t think you measure up.

At each stage as I went through this, I knew I loved the Lord. There was no question of that. At each stage, He has taken me deeper. And I don’t like the fact that the deep things of God are taught in suffering.

As a result, I know God’s grace in a way that I never would have otherwise. I’m learning to tell myself the truth.

Hence the reason for her Beliefnet columns. She wants to help others open up, too:

I want to share that and also to dialogue with my readers – so they can unburden themselves – making my column a confessional of sorts. And they will find no condemnation from me. I am not into shaming people.

I believe in passing along God’s grace.

Ruth told Beliefnet that it was difficult watching her father battle pain and illness. It was also hard for him to lose his beloved wife Ruth after so many decades. That said, his daughter thought he was less distracted and a gentler person in his twilight years.

After her father’s funeral earlier this month, Ruth wrote a column, ‘Taking Daddy Home’. She described the funeral and interment — and the bitterly cold weather:

It was freezing in the tent! Daddy started in a tent in Los Angeles and Franklin thought it would be appropriate. Fortunately, my older sister brought an extra coat for which I was grateful.

Each of us had 3 minutes to speak. I asked the Lord to help me and He did. I felt the freedom from the Holy Spirit to talk of my father’s lasting legacy to me. It touched many hearts for which I am grateful. I want to pass on my father’s legacy of grace.

I stayed until he was buried – even though it was so cold – but I didn’t want him to be alone. I went back the next day to see it all finished and landscaped. At long last Mother and Daddy are side by side!

She also had things to take care of at home. Her refrigerator was not working properly and one of her daughters is staying with her. A tree fell on the daughter’s house and they have no heat, so Ruth is hosting her and her family. As such, she says she has had no time to reflect on her father’s death.

Nevertheless:

God has been working wonderful ways and I praise Him that I have seen His hand in a multitude situations that could have been difficult. God just paved the way.

He keeps His promises of Isaiah 40:4-5.

Those verses are as follows:

4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.

5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

May God continue to bless Ruth Graham and her family at this difficult time.

Yesterday’s post discussed Billy Graham’s lying in state and his funeral.

Today’s looks at aspects of his life some of us might not know about.

Church upbringing

Billy Graham’s parents, Morrow (née Coffey) and William Franklin Graham Sr., were members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. The ARPC still exists today but is a tiny denomination affiliated with the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council as well as the World Reformed Fellowship. The denomination was founded in 1803 in Winnsboro, South Carolina. It emerged from a Scottish Covenanter/Seceder tradition. Theologically, it is Evangelical Calvinist.

Early life

William Franklin Graham Sr was a dairy farmer. The family farm is just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Billy was the eldest of four children. He had two sisters — Catherine Morrow and Jean — and a brother, Melvin Thomas.

Billy enjoyed reading, especially boys’ adventure books. He liked Tarzan so much that when he climbed trees and gave out the famous Tarzan yell, he scared horses and drivers. His father later said imitating Tarzan led him to the ministry.

When Prohibition ended in December 1933, Billy was 15. Graham Sr made all his children drink beer until they were physically ill. None ever touched a drop of alcohol after that.

Despite church and abstinence from drink, Billy was considered ‘too worldly’ for membership in a local youth group. One of the Graham farmhands, Albert McMakin, encouraged Billy to attend a revival given by Mordecai Ham, a Baptist evangelist. Billy duly attended and was born again in 1934.

Further education

Billy graduated from Sharon High School in 1936. He enrolled at Bob Jones College which, at the time, was located in Cleveland, Tennessee.

After his first semester, he found it too legalistic and rule-driven. Although he was advised by Pastor Charley Young from Eastport Bible Church, he was almost expelled. Bob Jones Sr told him:

At best, all you could amount to would be a poor country Baptist preacher somewhere out in the sticks … You have a voice that pulls. God can use that voice of yours. He can use it mightily. [23]

In 1937, Graham transferred to the Florida Bible Institute in Temple Terrace, Florida, near Tampa. That year, he preached his first sermon at Bostwick Baptist Church in Palatka, Florida. While at the Florida Bible Institute, the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club played a significant role. He later wrote, he got his call to ministry on the 18th green.

Graham practiced preaching to the birds, alligators and cypress stumps across the Hillsborough River directly across from that 18th green. Later, this area was transformed into the Reverend Billy Graham Memorial Park, which still exists today.

In 1939, he was ordained in Palatka, Florida, at the Peniel Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation.

The Revd Graham then moved to northern Illinois to attend Wheaton College. He graduated with a degree in anthropology in 1943.

During his time at Wheaton College, Graham accepted the Bible as the infallible word of God. However, this decision took place in California. He attended Forest Home Christian Camp (now called Forest Home Ministries) in the southern part of the state. Henrietta Mears, an evangelist and Director of Christian Education at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood (yes, that Hollywood), helped him arrive at that decision. A memorial at the ministry camp marks the spot.

Love, marriage and family

Wheaton College can take credit for Graham’s love story with a fellow student, Ruth Bell, a surgeon’s daughter.

The two married in 1943. Their devotion for each other lasted until Ruth’s death in 2007. Interestingly, Ruth remained a Presbyterian her entire life. She never became a Baptist, Graham’s denomination after ordination.

Ruth gave birth to five children:

Virginia Leftwich (Gigi) Graham (b. 1945), an inspirational speaker and author; Anne Graham Lotz (b. 1948), runs AnGeL ministries; Ruth Graham (b. 1950), founder and president of Ruth Graham & Friends, leads conferences throughout the US and Canada; Franklin Graham (b. 1952), serves as president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and as president and CEO of international relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse;[34] and Nelson Edman Graham (b. 1958), a pastor who runs East Gates Ministries International,[35] which distributes Christian literature in China.

The Graham children, in turn, had their own families:

At the time of his death, Graham had 19 grandchildren, including former pastor Tullian Tchividjian, and 41 great-grandchildren.[36]

Notable events in early and middle ministry

Before Graham graduated from Wheaton, he became pastor of the United Gospel Tabernacle. He also took on various speaking engagements.

From 1943 to 1944, he was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Western Springs, in the Chicago suburbs. He left to take over a Christian programme on radio, Songs in the Night, which was about to be cancelled because of lack of money. The church in Western Springs financed the programme. Although Graham left the programme in 1945, it continued for many years afterwards.

In 1947, the first Billy Graham Crusade was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at the city’s civic auditorium. Six thousand people attended.

In 1948, at the age of 29, Graham became president of Northwestern Bible College in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was the youngest president of any higher education institution in the United States.  Despite this privileged position, Graham wanted to be a military chaplain. Instead, he came down with the mumps and went to Florida to recuperate.

Whilst in Florida, Graham joined a new ministry, Youth for Christ (YFC), which his friend Torrey Johnson co-founded with a Canadian evangelist, Charles Templeton.

Graham somehow managed to continue as president of Northwestern Bible College and tour the US as well as Europe with YFC.

Graham also held his own revival during this time. In 1949, he held a long-running revival in Los Angeles in a car park equipped with circus tents. The revival was supposed to last three weeks. Instead, it lasted for eight.

In 1950, he founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), which will continue to exist. Initially, it was based in Minneapolis, as that was where Graham worked. Later, it moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, his home city.

Graham resigned from in Northwestern Bible College in 1952.

In 1953, he came out openly against segregation at his own rally in Chattanooga, Tennessee:

Graham tore down the ropes that organizers had erected in order to segregate the audience into racial sections. In his memoirs, he recounted that he told two ushers to leave the barriers down “or you can go on and have the revival without me.”[49] He warned a white audience, “we have been proud and thought we were better than any other race, any other people. Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to stumble into hell because of our pride.”[49]

In 1957, he made friends with black clergymen:

Graham’s stance towards integration became more publicly shown when he allowed black ministers Thomas Kilgore and Gardner C. Taylor to serve as members of his New York Crusade’s executive committee[50] and invited the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whom he first met during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955,[50] to join him in the pulpit at his 16-week revival in New York City, where 2.3 million gathered at Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, and Times Square to hear them.[10] Graham recalled in his autobiography that during this time, he and King developed a close friendship and that he was eventually one of the few people who referred to King as “Mike,” a nickname which King asked only his closest friends to call him.[51] Following King’s assassination in 1968, Graham mourned that the US had lost “a social leader and a prophet”.[50] In private, Graham advised King and other members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).[52]

In 1974, he co-founded the Lausanne Movement with two Britons, Graham and John Stott. The first meeting was held in Lausanne, Switzerland on July 16–25 that year.

Videos

As we know, Billy Graham made countless public appearances, not all of which were in a religious setting.

In 1969, he gave an interview to William F Buckley Jr, who was a devout Roman Catholic. At the time, young people were wondering if God was dead. Buckley’s interview on Firing Line centred on the decline of Christianity.

Here is a short clip, which everyone should watch if only to hear Buckley speak. I’ve never heard better American English, both in vocabulary and tone:

The full interview is here.

Graham told Buckley that 75% of scientists believe in God, a higher percentage, he said, than when he was growing up. He also said that he thinks there is life on other planets (!!), but only on Earth does God face rebellion. He said there has to be a theocracy during Christ’s 1,000 year reign. He said that a theocracy is in the Apostle’s Creed. Buckley, who knew his prayers, said that was a reference to the next life. Yes, indeed!

Graham thought that being born again had to be a deep ‘personal experience’. He thinks that churches intellectualise receiving the Holy Spirit. That was, no doubt, a polite reference to Confirmation classes.

Graham also said that people should go to church as Jesus attended synagogue. He also foresaw that, by 2000, there would be home churches just as there were in the days of the early Church.

People on other websites have found the following Billy Graham videos memorable.

This is his address in the National Cathedral in Washington DC after 9/11. He tells the audience that they mustn’t give up hope or faith:

In the next video, from 2014, Graham discusses death and Heaven:

The last video celebrated his 99th birthday. Those who knew and worked with Graham discuss him and his astounding ministry:

Billy Graham and Steve McQueen

In closing — and saving the most intriguing fact for last — Billy Graham helped the famous actor Steve McQueen to embrace Christianity:

The Charlotte Observer has the story:

Actor Steve McQueen, who personified cool during his nearly two decades as a Hollywood superstar, retreated from the glamor and excesses of the movie scene late in his short life and embraced Christianity.

When he died at age 50, McQueen was clutching a Bible – one given to him by Billy Graham.

In fact, it was Graham’s personal Bible, the one he preached from at crusades. The Charlotte-born evangelist had handed it to the actor, then gravely ill with cancer, during a private meeting Nov. 3, 1980 – just four days before McQueen died after surgery in Mexico …

And though Billy Graham, now 98 and living in his mountain-top Montreat home, doesn’t speak or appear in person in “Steve McQueen: American Icon,” the preacher and his Bible play a major role in its final minutes …

Viewers are told that McQueen took along the Graham Bible – with a prayerful note from the evangelist on an inside page – when he traveled to Juarez, Mexico, for the operation to remove a tumor.

The actor died of a heart attack shortly afterward, on Nov. 7, 1980. And when Grady Ragsdale, the manager of McQueen’s ranch in California, went to retrieve the body, he pulled the sheet back and found that McQueen had died clutching the Bible to his chest.

Laurie puts it this way in the film: “He was holding on to the Bible of Billy Graham as he entered eternity.”

How cool is that?

The Revd Billy Graham departed this mortal coil on February 21, 2018, aged 99.

Only the good Lord knows how many people he converted or awakened to Christianity. If he spoke in person to 250 million people around the world during his ministry, imagine the hundreds of millions of people watching his televised Crusades and specials or listening to him on radio. What he accomplished over his 80 years as a preacher was so extraordinary that it might not be repeated for generations to come.

CBS News reported that Graham was (emphases mine):

the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history

Spokesman Mark DeMoss said Graham, who long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina on Wednesday morning.

Tributes from American presidents

President Donald Trump tweeted and followed up with a formal statement later that day:

President Trump’s statement reads as follows:

Melania and I join millions of people around the world in mourning the passing of Billy Graham. Our prayers are with his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and all who worked closely with Reverend Graham in his lifelong ministry.

Billy’s acceptance of Jesus Christ around his seventeenth birthday not only changed his life—it changed our country and the world. He was one of the towering figures of the last 100 years—an American hero whose life and leadership truly earned him the title “God’s Ambassador.”

Billy’s unshakeable belief in the power of God’s word to transform hearts gave hope to all who listened to his simple message: “God loves you.” He carried this message around the world through his crusades, bringing entire generations to faith in Jesus Christ.

In the wake of the September 11th attacks in 2001, America turned to Billy Graham at the National Cathedral, who told us, “God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.”

Reverend Graham would be the first to say that he did not do it alone. Before her passing, his wife Ruth was by his side through it all—a true partner, a wonderful mother, and a fellow missionary soul. He also built an international team and institution that will continue to carry on Christ’s message.

Melania and I were privileged to get to know Reverend Graham and his extraordinary family over the last several years, and we are deeply grateful for their love and support.

Billy Graham was truly one of a kind. Christians and people of all faiths and backgrounds will miss him dearly. We are thinking of him today, finally at home in Heaven.

George H W Bush also issued a statement:

Billy Graham was America’s pastor. His faith in Christ and his totally honest evangelical spirit inspired people across the country and around the world,” Bush said. “I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man. I was privileged to have him as a personal friend. He would come to Maine to visit with Barbara and me, and he was a great sport. He loved going really fast in my boat. I guess you could say we had that in common. Then we would come home and talk about life. He was a mentor to several of my children, including the former president of the United States. We will miss our good friend forever.

It’s true. There was never a whiff of scandal around Billy Graham. God blessed him abundantly, and the Holy Spirit worked through him until the end.

CBS News discussed the long line of past presidents Graham met with:

from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, but always denied any role in setting policy saying, “I don’t advise them, I pray with them,” CBS News reported. Lyndon Johnson looked up to his close friend, the pastor. Richard Nixon asked for his counsel during Watergate. The elder Bush called Graham to the White House the night before he launched the first Gulf War. Younger President Bush has credited Graham with turning him away from drinking and towards embracing God.

These are the names of those 12 past presidents from at least the early 1950s through to the present day: Harry S Truman, Dwight D Eisenhower, John F Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Richard M Nixon, Gerald R Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush, William J Clinton, George W Bush, Barack Obama. That’s a mighty long list.

And he met with President Trump.

That’s 13 presidents in all.

Obama was the first sitting president to visit Graham at his home in North Carolina. That was in 2010, three years after Graham’s wife Ruth went to her heavenly rest.

CBS reported that Graham also became friends with Martin Luther King Jr about a decade before the civil rights movement took root:

In 1952 he stopped segregating his crusades and began a friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“All the problems of America tonight and of the world stem from the fact that we as the human race have sinned against Almighty God,” he said in May 1997.

Such was the impact of Billy Graham’s life that flags flew at half mast in Washington DC from February 21 to March 2, the day of his funeral and burial:

Tributes from clergy

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, remembered his family’s respect for Graham’s ministry:

As anyone growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s can tell you, it was hard not to notice and be impressed by the Reverend Billy Graham,” Dolan said in a statement. “There was no question that the Dolans were a Catholic family, firm in our faith, but in our household there was always respect and admiration for Billy Graham and the work he was doing to bring people to God. Whether it was one of his famous Crusades, radio programs, television specials, or meeting and counseling the presidents, Billy Graham seemed to be everywhere, always with the same message: Jesus is your Savior, and wants you to be happy with Him forever. As an historian, my admiration for him only grew as I studied our nation’s religious past, and came to appreciate even more the tremendous role he played in the American evangelical movement. May the Lord that Billy Graham loved so passionately now grant him eternal rest.

One of Graham’s grandsons, the Revd Tullian Tchividjian, noted his grandfather’s universal appeal:

My granddad wasn’t just Christian-famous, he was famous-famous, he was crossover famous.

Unfortunately, Tchividjian succumbed to temptation in his own ministry. He resigned his pastorate at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale after admitting to an extramarital affair. The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) deposed him from their South Florida Presbytery as being ‘unfit for Christian ministry‘. A subsequent pastorate and outreach ministry also failed because of more sexual impropriety. In 2015, Tchividjian divorced his first wife Kim after 21 years of marriage. He married his second wife Stacie the following year. Hmm. What a contrast to his grandfather.

Honour of lying in state in Capitol Rotunda

Billy Graham was honoured greatly prior to his funeral:

This is a good photo of the exterior of the Capitol Building from Billy’s son’s — Franklin Graham’s — Samaritan’s Purse ministry:

A memorial service took place. Pictured is one of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s daughters, Lynda Bird. I remember when she and her husband married in 1967:

President Trump spoke at the service:

What follows is the text of President Trump’s address. It’s very moving — probably written by the incomparable Stephen Miller — and really expresses not only who Billy Graham was but how much he appealed to his audiences. I remember watching his Crusades when I was a child. During the first one I watched at the age of seven, I approached the television set when he made his call for people to come forward!

11:21 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell. And, most importantly, thank you to the entire Graham family for honoring us with your presence here today. Thank you.

In the spring of 1934, Billy Graham’s father allowed a group of Charlotte businessmen to use a portion of the family’s dairy farm to gather for a day of prayer.

On that day, the men prayed for the city. They prayed that, “Out of Charlotte, the Lord would raise up someone to preach the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.”

We are here today, more than 80 years later, because that prayer was truly answered.

Billy Graham was 15 years old at the time. Just a few months later, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

That choice didn’t just change Billy’s life — it changed our lives. It changed our country, and it changed, in fact, the entire world.

The North Carolina farm boy walked out of those fields, into a great and beautiful history.

And I remember that, because my father said to me, “Come on, son” — and, by the way, he said, “Come on, mom. Let’s go see Billy Graham at Yankee Stadium.” And it was something very special.

But Americans came in droves to hear that great young preacher. Fred Trump was a big fan. Fred Trump was my father.

In London, Tokyo, Seoul, Bogota, Moscow, New Delhi, Saigon, Johannesburg, and scores of other places all over the world, Reverend Graham shared the power of God’s word with more than 200 million people, in person, and countless others through television and radio where people loved to watch and listen.

In 1978, with the support of the Catholic Bishop who would soon become Pope John Paul II, Reverend Graham went to Poland and spoke of the meaning of the cross to a people suffering under the soulless oppression of communism.

Billy Graham carried his message around the world, but his heart, as Franklin will tell you, was always in America.

He took his message to the poorest places, to the downtrodden and to the brokenhearted, to inmates in prison, and to the overlooked and the neglected. He felt a great passion for those that were neglected.

Everywhere he went, Reverend Graham delivered the same beautiful message: God loves you. That was his message. God loves you.

We can only imagine the number of lives touched by the preaching and the prayers of Billy Graham –- the hearts he changed, the sorrows he eased, and the joy he brought to so many. The testimony is endless.

Today, we give thanks for this extraordinary life. And it’s very fitting that we do so right here in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol, where the memory of the American people is enshrined.

Here in this room, we are reminded that America is a nation sustained by prayer. The painting to my left is of the pilgrims as they embarked for America, holding fast to the Bible and bowing their heads in prayer.

Along these walls, we see the faces of Americans who prayed as they stood on the Lexington Green, who prayed as they headed west, prayed as they headed into battle, and prayed as they marched for justice, and always marched for victory.

Around us stand the statues of heroes who led the nation in prayer during the great and difficult times, from Washington to Lincoln to Eisenhower to King.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America. Thank you very much.

END

11:28 A.M. EST

That evening, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump hosted a dinner for the Grahams. Franklin Graham is sitting to the left of Mrs Trump (her right):

The funeral

Billy Graham’s funeral took place in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday, March 2.

His grandson Roy provided the story behind the evangelist’s simple wooden casket. Recommended video:

This was the scene under a tent at the Billy Graham Library before the funeral:

The Trumps and the Pences walked together:

The Charlotte Observer reported:

His funeral service under a massive tent at the Billy Graham Library in his hometown of Charlotte drew more than 2,000 guests, including President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, governors, senators, religious leaders, celebrities and longtime Graham family friends. It was the kind of star-studded turnout that would have made Graham blush, suggested some of the speakers, who lauded this pastor to presidents and everyday people for always trying to steer the attention away from himself and toward Jesus Christ.

Family members escorted Graham’s plain wooden casket into the 28,000-square-foot tent, which was meant to harken back to Graham’s 1949 crusade in a “canvas cathedral” in downtown Los Angeles that shot him to national attention.

The service lasted the planned 90 minutes. Franklin Graham, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association — BGEA — as well as his own Samaritan’s Purse, gave the address:

My father’s greatest longing has been granted,” the younger Graham said. “He’s in the presence of God” …

Franklin Graham recalled his father’s love of his late wife, Ruth, his sense of humor and joy in his grandchildren. “The Billy Graham that the world saw on TV, and in the big stadiums, is the same Billy Graham we saw at home,” he said. “There weren’t two Billy Grahams.”

But Graham said the late evangelist also believed in heaven and hell, and in the Bible as the infallible word of God: “He didn’t understand it all, but he sure believed it all.”

In an era of political correctness, he added, some “want you to believe there are many roads to God. It’s just not true.

“Daddy, I won’t see you on this earth again,” he ended, gazing at the casket before him, “but I will see you again, and maybe soon.”

The article concludes by stating that the Graham family and the BGEA consider the funeral to be the Last Crusade. They hope it will stimulate new interest in the Gospel.

The videos of the funeral service follow:

More on Billy Graham to follow.

John F MacArthurThe other Sunday, a group of parishioners who had attended an Anglican diocesan series on church growth spoke after the service.

Oh, dear, I thought. Church growth programmes are so wrong, so very, very wrong.

John MacArthur explains how to get people coming in the doors and get them out again, evangelising. It involves teaching doctrine and the Scripture at every church service.

This excerpt is from a 1973 sermon I cited in my post on Acts 11. MacArthur had been at Grace Church for a little over four years at the time. This is his gimmick-free formula (emphases mine):

For four years, plus, I have endeavored basically to do one thing and that is to teach doctrine. Now we teach through the Bible verse after verse after verse, but really what we’re doing is taking Scripture and framing a doctrine, framing a principle. Doctrine is just principles. And we’ve endeavored for four plus years to build a strong doctrinal base.

I believe in my heart for all the time I’ve been here this has been my goal, my one single desire. And I really think that God in His wonderful providence has blessed His Word here. It’s not me. I’m the first one to know that. It’s the Word of God. But as you teach the Word of God strength is built, doctrine becomes firm and strong. That’s the very basis. The Word is established and my commitment has been to do just that, to spend the time establishing with the Word.

During that same time I feel God has prepared instruments and I prayed this would happen. I prayed that we wouldn’t just have a good theology on paper, but that we’d have a lot of people who had grown up with that theology and who were a part of it, and who lived it, and who would mature, and I prayed that this would happen …

I think the last two months have been one of the most exciting times in my life. I couldn’t begin to remember the names or even count the people who come to me and say, “John, I’ve had enough. I’m full. I’ve learned. I’ve got to get out of here. I’ve got to take it somewhere. What can I do?” You wouldn’t believe how many people have been coming and telling me this. Everyday I hear this.

Sat down last night playing basketball, a guy on the basketball team says to me, “God wants me to go on the mission field. I never dreamed this could even happen. I just feel in my heart I have to go on the mission field. I got to share. I got to get out.” That’s just one in a long chain. A lady came in my office the other day and she says, “Is there a place for me in this church? I just want to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. I want to evangelize women.” I can count on my hand five people I can think of who told me they’ve got to go to the mission field soon. God’s just leading them. God’s calling.

People come to me and say, “I got to start a work of evangelism. I want to do this. Can I work here?” We trust God by the time fall comes around we’re going to have a campus evangelist on almost every high school campus in the Valley, people establishing Bible studies and winning people to Christ and nurturing Christians. We’re going to do the same thing on every college campus and I haven’t generated any of it, haven’t invented a program, haven’t done one single thing, just teaching and praying that God will raise some people up. You know what they do, they knock my door down and finally I just tell them, “Go ahead and do it.” Shows you what kind of an administrator I am. But anyway, that’s the way everything works around here. Just wait till people get excited about it. They’ll do it. Get them praying about it. A guy prays long enough the Lord will shoot him out and that’s the supreme joy for me I’m telling you.

Somebody told me the other day that by next semester we have 24 young men at seminary, Calvin Seminary. You don’t know what a joy that is. That’s reproduction. See that’s reproduction. Those men are going to affect thousands of people in their lifetime. And that’s what I hoped would happen, and I praise God that we’re beginning to see the little murmurings of it beginning to happen. People are coming to me and say I feel God’s calling me to begin a work over here and over there. Will you help support us?

I think our church is going to have to catch a vision, people, because we’ve come to the place now where we’ve got prepared people and they’re going to demand, by the Spirit of God, that we turn them loose on this world, and we’re going to have to be ready to handle it and it’s going to mean sacrifice to do it financially. But oh the dividends are eternal, amen? We got to be ready. It’s coming. Believe you me if I come up here in the next month and tell you there’s ten new staff members. You’d better be ready to handle that. Don’t laugh, it might be. The way God’s working right now I’m just drowning in them. You don’t know what a joy this is.

I think it’s a similar thing right here in this situation in this text. The groundwork was laid and it took seven years. For us it’s been four years of teaching and teaching and teaching and teaching and we’ll keep doing that because there’s new people coming all the time and we’ll just keep flip flopping them over and someone says, “Do you want more people in your church?” I want more people in here for a little while so I can send more people out of here. That’s what I want. I don’t people want to just come here and stay. I want people to come here and leave. Now some of you can stay because we need some of you here to train the people to leave. Don’t everybody go so next Sunday I’m here alone, right? …

Some people have talked to me about beginning pastorates; about outreach on campuses, about adult evangelism mobilizing people for reaching out, all kinds of things. I’m just thrilled and I think we’re seeing a phase like we see here in the 11th Chapter of Acts. As a church, when the groundwork is laid, begins to move out. And you know it’s not something you have to generate. Amazingly the Spirit of God does it. He does it.

So, one of our local Anglican churches is opening a café as part of church growth. Big deal. Our area has half a dozen cafés.

I told a good friend of mine — Anglican, but no longer a churchgoer — about the café. He thought it was absurd to think that it would bring more people to church. I agree.

He said he no longer goes to church because the services have been watered down such that there’s no more mysterium tremendum that takes you out of the world and puts you in God’s presence.

He also complained about the poor preaching.

He said that if the Church of England wants people coming back in droves, they will have to go back to basics regarding the liturgy and the sermons. In short, have more 1662 Book of Common Prayer services and robust preaching that gets one thinking about the state of one’s soul.

In short — my friend’s advice is not far from what John MacArthur advocated in 1973 and continues to advocate today. His Grace Church in California is jam packed every Sunday. His Masters Seminary is also highly successful. His Grace To You Ministries is international. That is because MacArthur is doing what the Apostles did.

Church growth programmes do not work. Return to doctrine and Scripture instead for real, lasting growth in the Spirit.

John F MacArthurJohn MacArthur has a new book, The Truth War, which he is adapting for a series of blog posts on his GTY — Grace To You — site.

On September 18, 2017, he wrote ‘Modernity to Postmodernity: From Bad to Worse’. It is a good summation of how we got to where we are with our 21st century thinking. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Postmodernism in general is marked by a tendency to dismiss the possibility of any sure and settled knowledge of the truth … Objectivity is an illusion. Nothing is certain, and the thoughtful person will never speak with too much conviction about anything. Strong convictions about any point of truth are judged supremely arrogant and hopelessly naive. Everyone is entitled to his own truth.

Postmodernism therefore has no positive agenda to assert anything as true or good. Perhaps you have noticed that only the most heinous crimes are still seen as evil. (Actually, there are many today who are prepared to dispute whether anything is “evil,” so such language is fast disappearing from public discourse.) That is because the notion of evil itself does not fit in the postmodern scheme of things. If we can’t really know anything for certain, how can we judge anything evil?

Therefore postmodernism’s one goal and singular activity is the systematic deconstruction of every other truth claim. The chief tools being employed to accomplish this are relativism, subjectivism, the denial of every dogma, the dissection and annihilation of every clear definition, the relentless questioning of every axiom, the undue exaltation of mystery and paradox, the deliberate exaggeration of every ambiguity, and above all the cultivation of uncertainty about everything.

If you were to challenge me to boil down postmodern thought into its pure essence and identify the gist of it in one single, simple, central characteristic, I would say it is the rejection of every expression of certainty. In the postmodern perspective, certainty is regarded as inherently arrogant, elitist, intolerant, oppressive—and therefore always wrong.

Postmodernism has resulted in a widespread rejection of truth and the enshrinement of skepticism. Postmodernists despise truth claims. They also spurn every attempt to construct a coherent worldview, labeling all comprehensive ideologies and belief systems “metanarratives,” or grand stories. Such “stories,” they say, can’t possibly do justice to everyone’s individual perspective, and therefore they are always inadequate.

Postmodernism’s preference for subjectivity over objectivity makes it inherently relativistic … Instead, truth, if acknowledged at all, becomes something infinitely pliable and ultimately unknowable in any objective sense.

Postmodernism therefore signals a major triumph for relativismthe view that truth is not fixed and objective, but something individually determined by each person’s unique, subjective perception. All this is ultimately a vain attempt to try to eliminate morality and guilt from human life.

And as we’ll see next time, eliminating rational thought is key to those objectives.

It’s a funny thing, postmodernism. A postmodernist will deny Christianity as being subjective or irrational. Yet, that same person will say that it is established science that diet soft drinks are bad for everyone and that climate change science is settled.

Postmodernists pick and choose their ‘truths’, generally alighting firmly on something that needs more research, the way a bluebottle eagerly lands on decaying rubbish to lay its eggs.

MacArthur’s next essay is called ‘Rationality Without the Rationalism’. We all know how atheists pride themselves on being rational, whereas, in their eyes, the Christian is irrational. Similarly, an increasing number of Christians eschew the study of philosophy, which they consider harmful because there is no Scripture involved.

However, MacArthur says:

Rationality (the right use of sanctified reason through sound logic) is never condemned in Scripture. Faith is not irrational. Authentic biblical truth demands that we employ logic and clear, sensible thinking. Truth can always be analyzed and examined and compared under the bright light of other truth, and it does not melt into absurdity. Truth by definition is never self-contradictory or nonsensical. And contrary to popular thinking, it is not rational to insist that coherence is a necessary quality of all truth. Christ is truth incarnate, and He cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13). Self-denying truth is an absolute contradiction in terms. “No lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:21).

Nor is logic a uniquely “Greek” category that is somehow hostile to the Hebrew context of Scripture. (That is a common myth that is often set forth in support of postmodernism’s flirtation with irrationality.) Scripture frequently employs logical devices, such as antithesis, if-then arguments, syllogisms, and propositions. These are all standard logical forms, and Scripture is full of them—Paul’s long string of deductive arguments in 1 Corinthians 15:12–19 being a great example.

MacArthur points out that what postmodernists object to about Holy Scripture and Christianity are propositional statements which are either true or false, with no middle ground:

The reason behind postmodernism’s contempt for propositional truth is not difficult to understand. A proposition is an idea framed as a logical statement that affirms or denies something, and it is expressed in such a way that it must be either true or false. There is no third option between true and false. (This is the “excluded middle” in logic.) The whole point of a proposition is to boil a truth-statement down to such pristine clarity that it must be either affirmed or denied. In other words, propositions are the simplest expressions of truth value used to express the substance of what we believe. Postmodernism, frankly, cannot endure that kind of stark clarity.

In reality, however, postmodernism’s rejection of the propositional form turns out to be totally untenable. It is impossible to discuss truth at all—or even tell a story—without resorting to the use of propositions. Until fairly recently, the validity and necessity of expressing truth in propositional form was considered self-evident by virtually everyone who ever studied logic, semantics, philosophy, or theology. Ironically, to make any cogent argument against the use of propositions, a person would have to employ propositional statements! So every argument against propositions is instantly self-defeating.

That is no doubt why so many established denominations are moving away from centuries-old dogma and doctrine. Whereas the ancient Church thinkers and, later, the Reformers repeated the same biblical truths, these have now become ‘offensive’ to many Christians, hence, the movement towards ‘all are saved’ and ‘Jesus loves you’. Yes, and no. Mankind must submit to God’s will in order to be saved. All mankind seems to do these days is to submit to addiction (including psychotropes) and/or depravity.

Although MacArthur acknowledges that there is more to Christianity than adopting a set of beliefs, we cannot claim to have our hearts and heads allied with the Lord unless we accept certain truths — which are propositional:

While it is quite true that believing the truth entails more than the assent of the human intellect to certain propositions, it is equally true that authentic faith never involves anything less. To reject the propositional content of the gospel is to forfeit saving faith, period.

Postmodernists are uncomfortable with propositions for an obvious reason: They don’t like the clarity and inflexibility required to deal with truth in propositional form. A proposition is the simplest form of any truth claim, and postmodernism’s fundamental starting point is its contempt for all truth claims. The “fuzzy logic” of ideas told in “story” form sounds so much more elastic—even though it really is not. Propositions are necessary building blocks for every means of conveying truth—including stories.

But the attack on propositional expressions of truth is the natural and necessary outworking of postmodernism’s general distrust of logic, distaste for certainty, and dislike for clarity. To maintain the ambiguity and pliability of “truth” necessary for the postmodern perspective, clear and definitive propositions must be discounted as a means of expressing truth. Propositions force us to face facts and either affirm or deny them, and that kind of clarity simply does not play well in a postmodern culture.

Hence the accusations of notional Christian ‘hate’ towards others. Fellow Christians accuse each other of that, too. We see it in the controversy over same-sex marriage in church, the Anglican synod being one example. Those who oppose it were shouted down as being haters or reactionaries. No, they are simply being true to Scripture. It also doesn’t mean they don’t want persons of same-sex persuasion banned from church. What they object to is the church performing misplaced wedding ceremonies.

It seems to me, from what I have seen, that postmodernism has produced a lot of unhappy people. Never before are there so many depressed, angry and violent men, women and children. They react negatively at the drop of a hat — over anything that even politely contradicts their little, individual worldview.

That includes churchgoers.

Clergy aren’t helping the situation by turning sermons into ‘addresses’ and making what should be worship of God into therapy for humankind.

I just reread a recent church bulletin I received. It mentions a new programme on the Bible which will be conducted in ‘a non-confrontational atmosphere’. It is sure to be steeped in postmodernist relativism.

When Christians, through the aid of prayer, open their hearts and minds to the truth of Scripture — all of which condemns man’s base, sinful nature — and see a good explanation of it, they will come to understand the unchanging truth of Jesus Christ and reject postmodernist thought.

That time cannot come too soon.

John F MacArthurIn this final instalment on St Peter‘s spiritual journey, what follows are excerpts from the other two blog posts from John MacArthur on this great Apostle.

My other two in this series, based on MacArthur’s posts, are ‘John MacArthur on Peter’ and ‘John MacArthur on Peter’s leadership qualities’.

MacArthur tells us that Jesus taught Peter a number of lessons, all of which helped his spiritual and apostolic development. He outlined these in ‘Peter: Learning from Life Experience’, excerpts from which follow. Emphases mine below.

Previous entries covered Peter’s denial of Jesus early on Good Friday. However, there were other episodes which were also learning experiences for him. Highs were followed by lows:

… the experiences—even the difficult ones—were all necessary to shape Peter into the man he needed to become.

He learned, for example, that crushing defeat and deep humiliation often follow hard on the heels of our greatest victories. Just after Christ commended him for his great confession in Matthew 16:16 (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”), Peter suffered the harshest rebuke ever recorded of a disciple in the New Testament. One moment Christ called Peter blessed, promising him the keys of the kingdom (Matthew 16:17–19). In the next paragraph, Christ addressed Peter as Satan and said, “Get behind me!” (Matthew 16:23)—meaning, “Don’t stand in My way!”

That incident occurred shortly after Peter’s triumphant confession. Jesus announced to the disciples that He was going to Jerusalem, where He would be turned over to the chief priests and scribes and be killed. Upon hearing that, “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it Lord! This shall never happen to You!’” (Matthew 16:22). Peter’s sentiment is perfectly understandable. But he was thinking only from a human standpoint. He did not know the plan of God. Without realizing it, he was trying to dissuade Christ from the very thing He came to earth to do. As usual, he was speaking when he ought to have been listening. Jesus’ words to Peter were as stern as anything He ever spoke to any individual: “He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s’” (Matthew 16:23).

Ultimately:

Peter had just learned that God would reveal truth to him and guide his speech as he submitted his mind to the truth. He wasn’t dependent upon a human message. The message he was to proclaim was given to him by God (Matthew 16:17). He would also be given the keys to the kingdom—meaning that his life and message would be the unlocking of the kingdom of God for the salvation of many (Matthew 16:19).

But now, through the painful experience of being rebuked by the Lord, Peter also learned that he was vulnerable to Satan. Satan could fill his mouth just as surely as the Lord could fill it. If Peter minded the things of men rather than the things of God, or if he did not do the will of God, he could be an instrument of the enemy.

He backslid only once — and briefly — but the Apostle Paul sharply corrected him. The incident is in Galatians 2, discussed here.

MacArthur says that, whatever Peter’s experiences with Jesus, he learned to truly be a fisher of men:

Sometimes the experiences were bitter, distressing, humiliating, and painful. Other times they were encouraging, uplifting, and perfectly glorious—such as when Peter saw Christ’s divine brilliance on the Mount of Transfiguration. Either way, Peter made the most of his experiences, gleaning from them lessons that helped make him the great leader he became.

There is one more illustrative exchange between Jesus and Peter, which taught the Apostle about obeying earthly law. MacArthur discusses it in ‘Peter: The Submissive Leader’. It is the story of the temple tax in Matthew 17:

This account comes at a time when Jesus was returning with the twelve to Capernaum, their home base, after a period of itinerant ministry. A tax collector was in town making the rounds to collect the annual two-drachma tax from each person twenty years old or older. This was not a tax paid to Rome, but a tax paid for the upkeep of the temple. It was prescribed in Exodus 30:11–16 (cf. 2 Chronicles 24:9). The tax was equal to two days’ wages, so it was no small amount.

Matthew writes, “Those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, ‘Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?’” (Matthew 17:24). Peter assured him that Jesus did pay His taxes.

But this particular tax apparently posed a bit of a problem in Peter’s mind. Was Jesus morally obliged, as the incarnate Son of God, to pay for the upkeep of the temple like any mere man? The sons of earthly kings don’t pay taxes in their fathers’ kingdoms; why should Jesus? Jesus knew what Peter was thinking, so “when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, ‘What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?’” (Matthew 17:25).

Peter answered, “From strangers.” Kings don’t tax their own children.

Jesus drew the logical conclusion for Peter: “Then the sons are exempt” (Matthew 17:26). In other words, Jesus had absolute heavenly authority, if He desired, to opt out of the temple tax.

But if He did that, it would send the wrong message as far as earthly authority is concerned. Better to submit, pay the tax, and avoid a situation most people would not understand. So although Jesus was not technically obligated to pay the temple tax, he said, “However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me” (Matthew 17:27).

As Christ’s example is the ultimate of all time, from it Peter learned to submit to earthly authority in his own ministry. He also encouraged his converts to do so, too, thereby following Christ’s example:

… in 1 Peter 2:13–18, he would write,

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.

That is a tall order to fulfil, especially when governments are tyrannical and employers unreasonable.

MacArthur reminds us:

Remember, the man who wrote that epistle was the same man who when he was young and brash slashed off the ear of the high priest’s servant. He is the same man who once struggled over the idea of Jesus’ paying taxes. But he learned to submit—not an easy lesson for a natural leader. Peter especially was inclined to be dominant, forceful, aggressive, and resistant to the idea of submission. But Jesus taught him to submit willingly, even when he thought he had a good argument for refusing to submit.

MacArthur’s posts came at a serendipitous time, just as Peter’s great works and miracles are the subject of where I am in Acts (most recently here and here). Peter will be the dominant Apostle for the next few weeks.

Let us remember MacArthur’s words of wisdom as we read more about this great saint in the weeks ahead.

End of series

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