My Spiritual Birthday!

today is the day of salvation_t_nvI can’t believe it has been thirty-nine years! So many things have happened since January 17, 1974. Life has not always been the easiest, but the decision I made that day has influenced the rest of my life.

January 17, 1974—I was nine years old and attending a church service at Parkland Baptist Church in Tulsa. Brother J. Harold Bryant was the pastor. I really can’t remember what he said that morning; however, at the end of his message I told my dad, “I need to be saved.” He took me by the hand, walked me down to the front of the church, and we talked with Pastor Bryant about what I needed to do to become a Christian. He simply led me in a prayer admitting I was a sinner, believing that Jesus died for my sins, that He arose from the dead, and that I was committing the rest of my life to Him.

When we got home that afternoon I wrote the following:

“From this day on I will be a Christian and have everlasting life. For God has been knocking on my heart’s door. He has been wanting me to be saved. But I was to [sic] scared and wouldn’t let him in and I knew I should let him. So I let him in. Bobby Pittenger January 17, 1974”

Now I realize the grammar is not that great, but I was only nine! Nevertheless, notice what I understood:

1) God was pursuing me

2) Becoming a Christian means everlasting life

3) We must choose to accept His offer of forgiveness and eternal life

4) We must turn from our sinful ways and commit to living a life of righteousness

Sometimes I think adults make it way too difficult. Jesus told us to come with a child-like faith. We want to know all the details and have everything figured out before we make a decision. The only way to become a Christian is to admit our spiritual poverty, cry out to Jesus, and then live out the decision we have made.

Over the last thirty-nine years I have made a lot of mistakes, and for several years, most people could not tell that I was a Christian by the way I was living. However, God’s grace has been sufficient for me. At the age of twenty-six I realized I had spent several years out of the church, and I was no longer sure if the decision I made in 1974 was genuine. So, once again I made the long journey down to the front of the church and recommitted my life to Jesus. That was twenty-three years ago, and my life has been filled with incredible peace and joy. Regardless of what happens in this short life, I know that one day I will stand before the King of kings and Lord of lords and will worship Him forever!

How about you? Has God been knocking at your heart’s door? He wants you to be saved. If you are not sure, please contact me at Living Oaks Baptist Church and I will tell you how to become a Christian.

“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

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.

Are You Ready?

I have been reading through David Jeremiah’s book “Searching for Heaven on Earth.” It is a thirty-one day study through the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. This is my second time to read the book; nevertheless, every day I find new truths for life that makes living here on earth that much more enjoyable.

I pray that this passage from chapter eight will cause you to think deeply about where you will spend eternity. People often say they are afraid of death, but what they should really be afraid of is their being judged by Almighty God. Are you ready to meet the Judge?

In recent years, doctors and social scientists have been studying deathbed scenes and interviewing people who have had near-death experiences. Dr. Maurice Rawlings, a Chattanooga cardiologist, has written about his research. He observes that death survivors tell us that the moment of death is absolutely painless, regardless of every instinct we have about it. “Feels like fainting,” survivors say, or “like a missed heartbeat” or “a lost breath.” Many have a sense of their souls leaving their bodies on a tranquil voyage down what seems to be a tunnel. But not all the stories have happy endings. Dr. Rawlings was an agnostic and a cynic when something happened to him that changed his life. One day he was examining the heart of a forty-eight-year-old mail carrier named Charles McKaig, from LaFayette, Georgia. McKaig was on the treadmill when his heart monitor became erratic, then flatlined. Surprisingly, Charlie continued to talk for a moment, unaware that his heart had stopped. Four or five seconds later, he looked suddenly dumbfounded. Then his eyes rolled up in his head and he fell, the treadmill sweeping his body away like so much trash, as Dr. Rawlings later put it. Rawlings immediately began applying CPR. As Charlie’s heart began beating, he screamed, “Don’t stop! I’m in hell! I’m in hell!” Rawlings thought the man was having hallucinations. But Charlie continued, “For God’s sake, don’t stop! Don’t you understand? Every time you let go, I’m back in hell.” Charlie begged Rawlings to pray for him, but Rawlings told him to shut up. “I’m a doctor,” he said, “not a minister.” The nurses gave Dr. Rawlings such terrible looks that even while applying CPR he said, “All right. Say it! Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Go on and say it.” Charlie said those words, and a strange thing happened. He was no longer a wide-eyed, screaming, combative lunatic. He was relaxed and calm and cooperative. He survived the experience, a changed man from that moment on. He went on to live a committed Christian life. The experience shook Rawlings deeply. He began a long-term study into near-death experiences, and out of his research Rawlings himself became a Christian. What he discovered in his research is that near-death experiences are often horrifyingly negative and terror filled when the person has no relationship with God. Dr. Rawlings summed up his findings, saying, “Most people are deathly afraid of dying. They say, ‘Doctor, I’m afraid of dying.’ But I have never heard one of them say, ‘Doctor, I’m afraid of judgment.’ And judgment is the main concern of patients who have been there and returned to tell about it.” We need to be careful about building our theology on the ambiguity of near-death incidents. Even so, it is interesting that such information often harmonizes with what the Bible tells us. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,” says Hebrews 9:27. And one chapter later we read this sobering verse: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

Joy Inexpressible

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1.3-9 NASB)

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

While I was on vacation back in June I read the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18.9-14). The introduction of the parable clarifies the point Jesus was trying to make, “He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt…” Jesus was talking to those who define themselves as superior believers because of their acts of righteousness. They do all the right things—tithe, study the Bible, pray, attend worship, practice the spiritual disciplines, as well as other things expected from those who call themselves Christians. So, what is the problem? It is their attitude. They do everything to show how deserving they are of God’s salvation. They look down on those who do not measure up to their definition of holiness.

I have to admit, there have been times in my life when I have played the part of the Pharisee. I have observed the life of others and looked down my nose at their unworthiness to come into God’s presence. There have been times when I figured I must make God proud to call me one of His children. Of course this all happened in my younger Christian days. I mean I would never have this type of arrogant attitude after being a Christian for over thirty-eight years, right? Unfortunately, if you are like me you fight pride and arrogance every day. It takes great humility and discipline to look at others as equals and not lesser humans because of their sinfulness.

God taught me a great lesson this summer that has helped keep my pride and arrogance in check. As I get alone with God to pray, I try to always begin with the prayer of the tax collector, “God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk 18.13). It is important to remember that I am always the sinner, and Jesus is always the Savior! My righteousness is as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64.6); however, when I abide in Christ, His righteousness works in and through me to produce fruit for His glory and not mine (John 15.4).

When I remember that it is Christ working through me I have a different attitude toward those who are not abiding in Christ. I want to share with them why certain actions, attitudes, and aspirations are wrong. It is when I abide in Christ that I can approach those living in sin as someone who understands being tempted on a daily basis. I can approach them as someone who has walked in the same shoes, and yet, has been set free from the chains of self-righteousness and sin. I am moved by compassion to share with them the good news of Jesus and how He is able to change the life of those who place their faith in Him.

The truth is, if I try to help others live up to my measure of righteousness they are going to miss heaven. Living like Bob Pittenger will never save anyone. However, if I abide in Christ and live an example of a life changed by Jesus, then they too can experience His forgiveness, love, grace, and mercy. They too can learn to live a life of daily dependence on the finished work of Jesus Christ.

I would like to challenge you to try something new. As you have your prayer time today, try starting like the tax collector, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Life is so much sweeter when we go along justified in God’s eyes instead of our own.