“A Fresh Vision for America” by Billy Graham

From the Desk of Billy Graham:

All of us care a great deal about our country. The intensity of opinions and feelings during the long political campaign showed the depth of that concern.

Now with the votes counted, it is important to remember that whether we are personally pleased with the outcome or not, God wants us to pray for those chosen to be our leaders—at the national, state, and local levels. The Bible urges us to do so with both respect and thanksgiving (see 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Timothy 2:1–3).

We must also remember that no election will ever solve America’s most basic problems. That is because the trouble, at its root, is in the human heart, and the only path to true restoration—for a person or for a nation—is through repentance. The Bible says, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19–20, ESV).

Only the Gospel, God’s Good News, has the power to change lives, heal hearts, and restore a nation.

I want that to happen in America, and I know you want that as well. I turned 94 on the day after the election. Although my age and health have limited me physically in recent years, I plan to spend the next 12 months, if God permits, doing all that I am able to do in helping to carry out a fresh vision God has given us—a vision to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every possible place in America by the time of my 95th birthday. It’s called My Hope, and I pray that you will partner with us.

In the days of the Prophet Jeremiah, God commanded His people to “seek the peace and prosperity” of the land where He had placed them and to “pray to the Lord for it” (Jeremiah 29:7, NIV). I ask you to join me in committing the next 52 weeks to faithful, even fervent, prayer for this land in which we live. You can start by making a list of people you know personally who need Jesus Christ and then begin praying regularly for them, individually by name.

Pray also for your neighborhood and your city, asking God to bring men, women, teens, and children—people from your own community—to Himself during the next 12 months. And pray along with me for the nation, asking God for mercy on America and for a great spiritual awakening.

My son Franklin is spearheading this vision and outreach, working in partnership with thousands of churches across every state in the country (ask your pastor if your church plans to take part). Franklin will be sending you more details on how this will work through the coming months and how you can participate.

At the climax of My Hope one year from now, if God enables me, I want to call the entire nation to repentance and lasting hope in Jesus Christ. The message I give will be presented in a fresh format, different from preaching at a Crusade, but the same Gospel. I believe we will see God work in a mighty way.

It is my passionate, heartfelt desire to see God change hearts and lives in every community in America, and I pray He will stir the same desire in you.

Will you join Franklin and me in this bold venture?

May God bless you,

Billy Graham              

 Source: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Everyone Deserves a Chance

Garrett Kell’s post “The Great Tragedy of the 2012 Election” gives a wonderful perspective of the church’s responsibility to promote life. Please take time to prayerfully read this article and then pass it on to your friends. Regardless of the policies on abortion that come from the White House, Christians should make every effort to inform others of God’s love for everyone ever conceived.

Kell writes:

A great tragedy unfolded less than one week ago on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

The tragedy was not found in the celebrations of elected officials or the concessions of defeat. It was not colored red or blue, and it wasn’t wrapped up in meaningless campaign promises.

The tragedy of the 2012 election is that in this land of the free and home of the brave, many people were not allowed to vote. Their voices were silenced. Their votes were not cast. Their opinions not expressed. Why?

Because they were dead.

The great tragedy of the 2012 election is that roughly 33 million would-be voters had been murdered. From 1973 to 1994, roughly 35 million babies were aborted. That’s roughly 35 million 18- to 39-year-olds who could not vote from the grave.

This is an unspeakable tragedy.

They did not have the chance to learn what makes our nation so great. They did not have the chance to watch the results roll in with their friends and family. They did not have the chance to rest their heads on a pillow in the land of the free.

But this tragedy is not over.

In 2016, roughly 5 million more voices will be unheard. Why? Because more than 3,500 babies will be killed today. And each day leading up to Tuesday, November 8, 2016. In the three minutes it takes you to read this article, seven babies will have been aborted in the United States of America. Their voices silenced. Their freedom robbed. Their bravery unknown.

Close to Home

This is a tragedy that hits close to home. When I was 19, I chose to end the life of my first child through an abortion. My friend and I were in a scary place, we didn’t plan to get married, and we had nowhere else to go. So we opted to end the life of our child.

That child would be 16 today. They’d be excited about driving a car and, in just a couple of years, they’d be excited about voting. But they won’t be doing any of that. We won’t be sitting down together as I explain how to think about policies and the candidates who represent them. I won’t be able to tell them about freedom and justice for all. I took that freedom away with my injustice.

I cannot undo what I’ve done in the past. None of us can. Only Jesus, who shed his blood for sinners like me, can heal those wounds. Jesus gives us great hope in the midst of this tragedy, and all the other tragedies we face in this life.

Refuge in Jesus

If you have committed an abortion, I want you to know there is a refuge in Jesus. He will heal your wounds. There is no sin so great that he cannot forgive and no sin so small that does not need to be forgiven. If you will confess your sins and turn to him in faith, he will wash away all your guilt and all your shame. Come to Christ.

If you support abortion, I encourage you to spend time in prayer and ask God to show you if abortion pleases him or not. Ask a Christian to help you learn what God’s Word says. I know you already have deeply rooted ideas. I did too. But I encourage you to take the time to read what God says about life and who has the right to give and take it away. I encourage you to start with Psalm 139.

Difficult Choice

If you are a Christian, be patient with those who view things differently. But also speak truth in love to those who are in need. Find ways to help those who are struggling through unplanned pregnancies. Investigate options for adoption and invest in the lives of those who are facing difficult choices.

I have on my wall a picture of a 3-year-old boy in cowboy boots. He nearly wasn’t with us today because his mother was in a difficult place. She was unmarried, pregnant, and scared. But my wife met with her, prayed with her, and took her to a Christian doctor who showed her the baby in her womb through a sonogram. That young mother had the courage to keep her child.

That young boy’s smile reminds me that God can save children, one at a time. He does this by using his people to come alongside the struggling to lovingly show them the Christ who can walk them through any terrifying situation—even an unplanned pregnancy.

I believe the only hope to turn the trend of this tragedy is for people to turn their hearts toward the God who made them through the way paved by his Son Jesus. Jesus changes hearts, and changed hearts can change a nation. May God give us grace as a country, and may God give us courage to stand up in the midst of this tragedy so that, if he tarries, many more will cast votes in 2030.

Lord Jesus, we need your help.

7 Things a Pastor’s Kid Needs from a Father

Here is a great post by Barnabas Piper:

Pastors, your position is a demanding one, and those demands bring unique struggles on your family. A pastor’s wife bears a great burden, but she usually enters into the ministry willingly. A pastor’s children, though, are carried on the current of their parents’ calling. It is often a life of singular struggle and uncommon needs. These struggles often stem from the failures of the father. This isn’t to cast full blame on pastors for their children’s problems. But it is to say that pastors need to work to be good dads.

My own father has worked hard at this. He had his blind spots and weaknesses, and they have been a source of tension between him and me. But to this day, in his 33rd and last year of pastoral ministry, he has never stopped trying to be a better father. As I wrote this I thought of his failures, yes, but I also thought of successes. Lots of them. I also thought of dozens of conversations with fellow PKs about such struggles and their own relationships with their fathers. So know that my writing does not stem from bitterness of heart or some jaded desire to expose a good man’s faults. I love my dad. My desire is to see struggles avoided or defeated for other pastors and PKs.

So here are seven of the most significant ways a pastor can be a good father to his children. Pastors, your child needs . . .

1. A dad, not a pastor

Yes, you are called to pastor your family, but PKs want a dad–someone who plays with them, protects them, makes them laugh, loves their mom, gives hugs, pays attention, teaches them how to build a budget and change the oil and field a ground ball. We want committed love and warmth. We want a dad who’s not a workaholic. It’s hypocritical to call your congregation to a life of love, sacrifice, and passionate gospel living while neglecting your own family. If a mortgage broker or salesman works too much at 60 hours a week, so do you. Leave work and be present for your kids. Your children will spit on your pastoring if they miss out on your fathering.

2) Conversation, not sermons

Sermons are an effective way to communicate biblical truth to a congregation, but not to your kids (or wife). Preaching at your children will stunt their view of Scripture, dull their interest, and squelch what passion you are trying to stir. Speak TO your children about the Bible in a way that’s interesting, applicable, and conversational. Help them see the Bible as a normal part of life. Rather than teach lessons, imbue your conversation with biblical worldview to help your children shape their life lenses. That way they’ll think they, too, can interact with this important book. Sermons at home separate them from the Word by implying that only the learned can understand it.

3) Your interest in their hobbies

Jonathan Edwards may be your homeboy or Seth Godin your muse, but your first-grade daughter doesn’t give a flip. Her love language is playing Barbies and dancing to Taylor Swift. Your son wants to build a Lego fort, beat you soundly at Modern Warfare on Xbox, or learn how to run a 10-yard out pattern. Your hobbies are yours alone, but engaging your children’s interests speaks love that matters deeply to them.

4) To be studied

It gets harder to share time with kids as they get older. So study them as hard as you study your Greek lexicon. They’re more important, anyway. Would your high school son appreciate going out to pizza with you or chilling on the couch and watching college football on a Saturday afternoon? Does your teenage daughter want you to take her shopping or to coffee? Maybe they don’t want recreation but just help–so talk through their friend challenges or algebra problems, whichever are the most pressing. LEARN these things, even if it seems like there are no right answers. Teenagers are hard; they treat parents like idiots all the time. But these acts, when done consistently, add up. Make them a pattern so that when your kids are done thinking you are a moron they have a path to walk with you.

5) Consistency from you

No one can call hypocrisy on you faster than your kids (and wife), and nothing will undermine you in the home faster. If you stand in the pulpit on Sunday and talk about grace after spending Friday and Saturday griping at your family, grace looks awfully cheap and unappealing to your son in the second row. If, however, you treat your son as if you need his grace and forgiveness for your crappy attitude, it may open a door to God’s grace. (And use phrases like “crappy attitude”; it sounds more like you actually know what you’re apologizing for.)

If you act like the great shepherd in the pulpit but the hired hand who runs away at home, your children will see church and all it entails as phony because you are phony. If you encourage a life of joy but are morose or exhort your people toward a life of sacrifice but are lazy and spendthrifty, nobody will notice faster than those in your home. To your family, your interactions with God and them are far more important than your Sunday sermons.

6) Grace to fail

Pastors speak much about grace. It is the basis of our salvation and the source of hope. But when the rubber meets the road, do you offer enough of it to your children? PKs feel enormous pressure to be “good” and to be confident in all things biblical. But we are often not good and often lack confidence in biblical realities. We sin and doubt like everyone else, but when we do, the road to restoration and peace often feels like an impossible one to travel. Are we allowed the same grace to fail and to doubt (assuming you preach grace to your congregation)?

7) A single moral standard

One of the graces PKs need is a single moral standard. Too many PKs feel the pressure of their fathers’ priestly profession in our moral lives. The pastor and elder qualifications in 1 Timothy and Titus feel like a threat: “If you screw up, your father not only looks bad, he will be out of a job.” But those standards are the same ones that every Christian should be held to (other than the ability to teach). Nobody else’s dad is at risk of being unemployed if his kid is rebellious, but mine is. The additional pressure to be morally upstanding does not help my heart. It creates a convoluted soul environment in which temptation to rebel and temptation to be a hypocrite battle the desire to honor Jesus and my dad.

You have heard that it was said PKs should be holier than their peers, and their parents should raise them better, but Jesus says to us all, “Be holy for I am holy.” So it should be.

Barnabas Piper works in marketing and acquisitions at Moody Publishers in Chicago. He is the son of John Piper. Source: The Gospel Coalition.

Desperate for the Holy Spirit

So, now you’re a Christian, and you figure the next thing you need to do is get a Bible and start reading. The more you read the more you see changes that need to happen in your life. In fact, it may take the rest of your life to get all these rules, commandments, and instructions down to an art. Nevertheless, it is like mom always said, “You can do anything if you just put your mind to it.” So, that is exactly what you do. You roll up your sleeves and get busy conforming your life to look like the Word of God. Sooner or later you find yourself discouraged at your own failure and inconsistency with living out this new-found faith. You know that as a Christian the Holy Spirit of God is living within to equip you for every good work, and yet, failure seems to be the only thing you can do correctly!

Does any of this sound familiar? I know after thirty-eight years of being a Christian, I have had more than my fair share of days not living up to Christ’s standard. Maybe the problem is this–we too often look at the Bible as a “How to for Christian Dummies.” We think that if we work hard, are determined to change, only think positive good thoughts, help others, and give of our time that surely we will begin to look like Jesus. Yet, regardless of our efforts, failure still rules the day. Why? Now, that is an easy question to answer. The Bible clearly teaches that we could never be good enough to earn our salvation, yet after becoming a Christian, we seem to think that we can read the Bible and then conform ourselves into the image of Christ. The truth is, only the Holy Spirit can bring about true spiritual transformation into our lives.

We will never be transformed into the image of Christ until we learn how to live in light of the Holy Spirit working within our heart—allowing Him to work through us for God’s glory. When we begin to be filled with and walk in the Spirit, we will see a growing maturity in our daily life.

If you struggle with living out the Christian life on a daily basis, I would encourage you to listen to this message from last Sunday, November 4: Desperate for the Holy Spirit. We talked about a few of the ways that the Holy Spirit works in us to change us, and that unless we allow Him to do His work, we will never be transformed into the image of Christ. You can download or listen to the message by following this link: Desperate for the Holy Spirit.

I pray that God will use this message to help you “attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which
belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4.13 NASB).

A Renewed Strength

28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Yahweh is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the whole earth.
He never grows faint or weary;
there is no limit to His understanding.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Youths may faint and grow weary,
and young men stumble and fall,
31 but those who trust in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary;
they will walk and not faint.

(Isaiah 40.28-31 Holman Christian Standard Bible).

Desperate for the Gospel

Have you ever had a time in your life when you were afraid that you were not really saved? You know of a specific time when you committed to live the rest of your life for Christ Jesus; nevertheless, there are days you wonder if you are really saved. The fear of spending eternity separated from God is paralyzing.

These insecurities are compounded as you examine your life and realize how much you do not reflect the image of Christ. You think to yourself, “I should not still be fighting this temptation. I should have better control over the words of my mouth. I should be more knowledgable of the Bible. If I were really saved I wouldn’t be having these spiritual struggles!” Then in your frustration, you roll up your sleeves and determine to try harder, study more, and volunteer to serve in several church ministries. What usually happens is an even great sense of failure, disappointment, and discouragement.

Does any of this sound familiar? The truth is we are desperate for the gospel. It is the gospel, not our works, that brings about the assurance of our salvation. It is when we daily apply the gospel of Jesus Christ to our lives that we will not only find confidence in our salvation, but we will begin to see a growing maturity in the Lord. Whether we know it or not we are Desperate for the Gospel!

If you struggle with the assurance of salvation, I would encourage you to listen to this past Sunday’s message. You can listen to or download the message at this link: Desperate for the Gospel.

I pray God will use this message to bring about His perfect peace within your life.