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Eight Lessons to Learn From the Life of Billy Graham (1918-2018)

Written By Sheridan Voysey

A college dropout farm boy from North Carolina finds faith, starts to preach, begins travelling the world, meets dictators, becomes a confidante to presidents, becomes a media entrepreneur, catalyses dozens of global ministries, and ends his days as the most influential and best-loved evangelist in history.

Such is the Billy Graham story.

After years of ill health, Billy Graham has died at the age of 99. Books have been written about his life and legacy. Whole countries and generations of Christian leaders have been shaped by his work. After reading his autobiography Just As I Am at a key moment in my own life, I jotted down these 8 lessons to take on board. They are eight of just so many more that could be listed.

What will you take away from Billy Graham’s life? Share your lessons in the comments below.

 

1. Stay True to Your Calling

Billy Graham turned down a lucrative television hosting contract. He turned down Lyndon Johnson’s offer to run for the US presidency. For a short time he was the president of a Christian college until he realised it was a diverting him from his real calling: sharing the good news of Jesus to the world. There are many good things we could be doing. When God puts his finger on what that specifically is for us, do it.

 

2. Take Calculated Risks

Graham accepted an historic opportunity to preach in the Soviet Union, with all the propaganda hazards it entailed. He preached in closed countries and other dangerous places. But he was no cowboy. Each opportunity was weighed carefully, prayerfully and with much consultation. And some opportunities were refused. Combine bold risk with great wisdom.

 

3. Be Innovative With Media

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association explored the use of radio, TV and film long before others even contemplated the idea. Graham founded or helped found quality, reputable publications like Christianity Today. Excellence was always a key value in what he produced.

 

4. Handle Criticism Graciously But Firmly

Graham was publically denounced by both fundamentalists and liberals alike. He would contact his detractors privately through letter, and on the rare occassions he responded publically he was gracious and fair. He didn’t hit back or demonise. But he was firm when needed. When fundamentalist preacher Bob Jones attacked his work Graham wrote a series of letters, hoping to reconcile, the final one making it clear he would need to break contact should Jones continue his hostility. That’s what happened. Be gracious with critics. And be firm when necessary.

 

5. Expect Betrayal if You Dabble in Politics

 His friend Richard Nixon secretly taped their private conversations. Enough said.

 

6. Be Politically Prophetic But Astute

Graham was an early opponent of racial segregation. He judged the emerging Religious Right movement in America to be an unhealthy politico-religious mix (something many fellow evangelicals today could reflect on). Graham said he wasn’t always astute when it came to politics – sometimes he didn’t remain bipartisan. But he spoke out on many things that mattered. This is a hard one to get right, but we can learn from someone who both succeeded and made mistakes here.

 

7. Be Generous While Maintaining Your Convictions

Did you ever hear Billy Graham demonize another religion? Did you ever hear him waver from his belief that salvation comes through Christ alone? Graham was generous to other faiths while maintaining his convictions. Let’s do the same.

 

8. Pursue Integrity

 The Modesto Manifesto is now famous. In it, Graham and his team outlined the key temptations they knew they would face, along with strategies to stand strong. They would commit themselves to sexual integrity, honesty in their reporting, maintain close links with churches rather than operate alone, and handle finances transparently. The manifesto helped Graham avoid the moral failure so many other successful evangelists have fallen to.

Billy Graham was honest about his missteps, especially his not being around enough for his family. Others could list further weaknesses. But we can learn a lot from this faithful man. Today’s pressures are really age-old perils in new guises. Heroes like Billy Graham can show us how to face them, and propel us to exploit our own opportunities.

Well done Mr Graham.

***

Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God. —Billy Graham

 

 

Sheridan Voysey is a writer, speaker and broadcaster. His latest book is Resilient: Your Invitation to a Jesus-Shaped Life, and his free ebook Five Practices For a Resilient Life is available here. This post was originally published on his blog.

Harvey Weinstein: Monster or One of us?

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Google the name “Harvey” today and you’ll immediately get a deluge of negative articles about Harvey Weinstein—previously celebrated but now disgraced American media mogul.

Weinstein’s nightmare started a month ago, when allegations of sexual harassment against him by several women, including actresses Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, came to light in a New York Times article.

Since then, more than 90 women have stepped forward to accuse Weinstein of rape, sexual harassment, or assault starting from the 1970s. And the allegations show no signs of abating.

The spectacular fall from grace of entertainment company Miramax’s founder has triggered a flurry of articles about the power dynamic of the casting couch and systemic abuse of women in Hollywood. And the backlash against Weinstein has been immense.

Not only has he suffered professionally—he has been sacked by the board of his company, expelled by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and kicked out of the Producers Guild of America and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, among other things—but his personal life has taken a big hit as well. His wife, Georgina Chapman, has announced that she would divorce him, saying that her heart “breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions”.

Weinstein has been called “a monster” and a “beast”, and the shocking allegations about his unbecoming behavior, if true, seem to warrant only one appropriate response: condemnation. Those who have tried to make jokes about the saga—like English talk show host James Corden and Britain’s Environment secretary Michael Gove—have been slammed for being insensitive and making light of the situation.

Sure, it’s hard to sympathize with a man who—if all this is indeed true—has for decades abused his power and gotten away scot-free with his actions against women.

But in a Telegraph article, writer Laura Bates offered an interesting perspective. “Harvey Weinstein is not a ‘beast’ or a ‘monster’,” she wrote. “He is a man who has behaved like many other powerful men. The only difference is that Weinstein’s alleged offences have finally, after decades of shameful silence, emerged into the public eye. But thousands of men like him continue to operate with impunity.”

It’s true, isn’t it? Weinstein is not the only who may be guilty of such misdeeds. In recent weeks, allegations against other high-profile figures in Hollywood, like Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, and Steven Seagal, have also come to light.

If there is anything to learn from such cases, it’s this: regardless of how powerful or important we are, our sins will find us out eventually—if not in this lifetime, then in eternity when we face God. Ecclesiastes 12:14 says, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

In a way, this is both comforting and disturbing. It is comforting, because it means that even those who have managed to keep their misdeeds hidden from the public eye will ultimately face judgment from the ultimate judge. But it is also disturbing, because it means that every one of us will be called by God to account for our actions—no one is excused and no one is exempted.

So, perhaps, it’s wise if we—instead of pointing the accusing finger and casting stones at those who have fallen from grace—put in more effort to make sure our lives are in check. After all, what if we were in Weinstein’s shoes? What if one day you woke up to see all your past sins suddenly uncovered and put under the spotlight for the world to see? Would that make any difference to the way we respond to Weinstein now?

We could take a leaf out of actress Ashley Judd’s (one of the first victims who came out to accuse him) book. When asked in a television interview with ABC news about what she would say to Weinstein today, even as he continues to deny the allegations, she responded with a message full of grace: “I love you, and I understand that you are sick and suffering. And there is help for a guy like you, too, and it’s entirely up to you to get that help.”

You see, though the extent of our sinfulness may differ, we all are sick and suffering. And we all need help (Romans 3:23-24).

Crying Over Nabeel Qureshi

Screenshot taken from YouTube

I never thought I would cry over a complete stranger. But the death of a man whom I have never met had me tearing up a few times this week.

Last night, it happened again while I was watching the live stream of Christian apologist and author Nabeel Qureshi’s memorial service. Hearing two of his mentors, apologist Ravi Zacharias and Rice University chemistry professor Jim Tour, recount their time with the 34-year-old and his love for Jesus as well as his non-Christian family, had me welling up in tears.

Perhaps it was because the tributes were heartfelt and heart-breaking, or because it felt like I actually knew him personally. I bought Nabeel’s book two years ago, and have been following his progress since he first announced that he had advanced stomach cancer. Whichever reason it was, Nabeel has certainly made an impact on my life—as well as the lives of many others.

Here was a man who centered his entire life on Jesus and the gospel even though it meant turning his back on the people he loved most dearly—his family, who were staunch Muslims. Not only that, he went on to proclaim the good news of Christ, through talks and books—such as New York Times Bestseller Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus—despite threats to his safety and relentless criticism from those who considered him an apostate.

So many, including myself, were shocked that God would take him home so early on in his earthly life. Like most people, I couldn’t help but wonder, Why? Why now, when he was at the peak of his ministry? Why now, when he had just started a family? Why now, when the world needs gifted and passionate communicators like him to build bridges with the Muslim community?

Though none of the answers that have been circulating online can fully answer these questions, a post I stumbled on provides a deeply encouraging and helpful perspective. It was written by Nabeel’s colleague, the North American Director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). In a beautiful tribute to his dear friend, Abdu Murray wrote:

Ravi Zacharias, who loved Nabeel deeply, has written about him in a secular news source. Thousands who had never heard Nabeel or the gospel he loved to preach have now been exposed to Jesus’s life-changing message. People have seen Nabeel’s steely faith remain steelier yet in the face of death. They have seen the “peace that passes all understanding,” as the Bible calls it, in Nabeel’s voice. And they are encouraged to face difficulty with grace. A deaf world is roused through the megaphone of pain to hear the message that God has overcome the troubles of the world through Jesus. Nabeel was a megaphone for that message in his life and he is a megaphone for that message in his passing.

 If not for anything, Nabeel, who made a significant impact during his life, continues to make an impact in his death. Many have come to know of him, his books—and his God—after hearing about his life and death over the past week. I believe Nabeel’s legacy will continue in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

Of course, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Nabeel is no longer with us. We will miss him dearly. But while his passing may seem like a huge loss, let us not forget that he is in a far better place today. And let’s not mourn without hope—for we have the full confidence that God will continue to raise up men of great faith to continue His kingdom work. Just as God can raise up a devout Pharisee like the Apostle Paul and an ex-Muslim like Nabeel to become effective ambassadors for Him, He can—and He will—continue to convict the hearts of men in His own time and way.

Words Can Kill—Literally

Screenshot taken from YouTube Inside Edition


Written By Jasmine Koh, Singapore 

Is telling someone to commit suicide a crime? According to the verdict of a landmark case in US, it is. For urging her boyfriend to take his own life via text messages that led to his suicide in 2014, Michelle Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter this week.

In dozens of text messages and phone calls, Carter had encouraged Conrad Roy III, who had a history of depression, to kill himself. And when the 18-year-old had last-minute jitters after filling his truck with poisonous carbon monoxide gas using a generator, Carter even ordered Roy by phone to “get back in”. It was these final words, said Massachusetts judge Lawrence Moniz, that constituted “wanton and reckless conduct”.

Many legal experts had expected Carter to be cleared of the charges, and were shocked by the verdict, which sent a strong message that encouraging someone to kill himself can be considered as severe as the act of killing. Some have denounced the verdict as unconstitutional, saying it violates free speech protections.

Whatever we may think of the judge’s decision, what we can probably agree on is this: words have power. The Bible notes this too—God spoke the world into being through His words; Jesus healed many just by speaking through to them; and we are reminded of how words can build up or tear down (Proverbs 12:6). In Roy’s case, Carter’s words clearly played a part in destroying his life.

We need to consider the weight of our words and to control our tongues. James 3:6 says, “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell” (NASB, emphasis mine) .

The comparison of the tongue to a fire is apt: it encapsulates the perverse, powerful nature of this tiny part of the body. Just as a fire that starts at one part of the body can burn up the entire being, misusing the tongue can bring about massive and dire consequences on our lives.

That’s why the apostle Paul, in Ephesians 4:29, urges believers to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”.

May we learn to be mindful to speak words worthy of Christ, and to use our words to show God’s love and saving grace in our daily lives.

Would you make this your prayer? “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)