Archives For Billy Graham

The Scriptures are replete with exhortations, illustrations and examples of the importance of singing.

Think of the Psalms.

Think of Paul’s exhortation to engage in worship of our great God through our Lord Jesus Christ by/in the Holy Spirit to the believers in Ephesus: “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Eph. 5:18b-20). And think of his exhortation repeated to those in Colossae: “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Col. 3:16).

One could summarize that redeemed people sing.

But there are a number of appropriate questions that arise from this foundational truth. Questions like:

  • What are we to sing?
  • Are we to sing only Scripture?
  • How do we determine what to sing?
  • How do we distinguish between what is fitting and appropriate to sing and be edified, and to edify others, for the Christian, or for a Christian concert, and what is fitting and appropriate to sing for the church, the gathered people of God?
  • Since singing consists of lyrics and melody, how do we discern what is biblical, what is God-honoring, what is people-edifying?
  • How does one discern between one’s own preferences and a biblically faithful theology expressed in music, and, as importantly, how does one respond?

These are all important questions to consider as we think about music and singing in our own lives as Christians, the place of music in our own spiritual lives and the singing of music corporately as the people of God.

Recently The National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC) sponsored a conference on “The Worship of God.” During a panel Q & A a question was asked about Reformed rap artists, the questioner pointing out that though the style may be offensive to some, the doctrine contained in the lyrics of the songs is sound.

This form of music was condemned by all of the panelists. The conclusion was that these artists are “disobedient cowards,” they are “serving their flesh,” and through this means of artistic expression “follow the world” and manifest “a picture of weakness and surrender.” In many ways, these panelists reveal how not to think through such matters.

If you were asked this question, how would you respond? Why? How would you support your response biblically?

Here are a number of responses from those who defend this form of music and musical expression. Though this sort of music and musical expression is not my preference, though it is my son’s, and though it is a form that is not particularly conducive for corporate singing, it is a form that abides by Paul’s exhortations above. This is also affirmed by the statements made by these respondents below.

Mike Cosper, “Creation, Culture, Redemption, and Hip Hop: A Response to the NCFIC Panel

Ligon Duncan, “The Holy Hip Hop Hullabaloo

Carl and Karen Ellis, “A Letter to Our Young Brothers and Sisters

Al Mohler, “Thinking about Thinking about Rap – Unexpected Thoughts over Thanksgiving

Owen Strachan, “Did a NCFIC Panel Really Say That Reformed Rappers Are ‘Disobedient Cowards’?

Douglas Wilson, “Rap Tide

Here are two posts that attempt to summarize some of the major rejoinders to the panel’s response, both defending and affirming Christian rap.

Thabiti Anyabwile, “A Round-Up of the Holy Hip Hop Squabble

Joe Carter, “Debatable: Is Christian Hip Hop Ungodly?

I appreciate Mohler’s explanation of how he processes this followed by his summary:

No, I allow myself those arguments in my head when I want to absolutize my preferences and satisfy myself in the righteousness and superiority of my own musical taste and theology. The problem for me is that my theology of music will not allow me to stay self-satisfied on the matter, and by God’s grace I have not made arguments out loud that would violate that theology.

Rap music is not my music. I do not come from a culture in which rap music is the medium of communication and I do not have the ear for it that I have for other forms of music. But I do admire its virtuosity and the hold that is has on so many, for whom it is a first and dominant musical language. I want that language taken for the cause of the Gospel and I pray to see a generation of young Gospel-driven rappers take dominion of that music for the glory of God. I see that happening now, and I rejoice in it. I want to see them grow even more in influence, reaching people I cannot reach with music that will reach millions who desperately need the Gospel. The same way that folks who first heard Bach desperately needed to hear the Gospel.

The good, the beautiful, and the true are to be combined to the greatest extent possible in every Christian endeavor, rap included. I have no idea how to evaluate any given rap musical expression, but rappers know. I do know how to evaluate the words, and when the words are saturated with the Gospel and biblical truth that is a wonderful thing. Our rapping Gospel friends will encourage one another to the greatest artistic expression. I want to encourage them in the Gospel. Let Bach’s maxim drive them all — to make (their) music the “handmaid of theology.”

Bach’s English Suite No. 3 in G Minor is playing as I write this. It makes me happy to hear it. But knowing that the Gospel is being taken to the ears and hearts of new generation by a cadre of gifted young Gospel rappers makes me far happier.

For the final statement on this matter, I encourage you to read the testimony of one of these Reformed rappers, Lecrae Moore in “Lecrae’s Arresting Call to Serve Christ.” God miraculously spared and saved him by the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was literally arrested for possession of drugs and it was through that experience that the Holy Spirit arrested him spiritually as well.

Lecrae’s conversion resulted in the conversion of everything about him and his life. This is true and real transformation. All is made new (2 Cor. 5:17). He began serving through singing at juvenile detention centers. He has since served at numerous Billy Graham crusades. He notes,

It is very humbling that I get to do this, and I don’t want to get used to it. People are hungering and thirsting for something. I want to serve them with quality music, and more importantly, deliver a message that will challenge and inspire change in their lives.

He prepares for the gospel message through song at these crusades in the following manner:

I spend time in prayer and meditate on God’s truth, and allow that truth to penetrate my heart. If I don’t believe it can change anyone, they are just empty words.

Though Lecrae is one of the better known Christian rap artists, he never wants to forget what he once was, and what he now is through what God has done for him.

have to remember what God did for me. He loved me when I was unlovable. I feel fortunate to have a huge family that extends beyond race and culture. Now, I also have a Father who shepherds us all. When I think about that, it blows my mind. There’s nothing like it.

An Interview with Billy Graham

Greg Strand – November 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Christianity Today, founded by Billy Graham 60 years ago, interviewed Graham about his life, ministry and his most recent book: “Q&A: Billy Graham’s Warning Against an Epidemic of ‘Easy Believism‘.” This interview was conducted in conjunction with the “My Hope America with Billy Graham” campaign during the month of November, which accompanies the release of likely his last book, The Reason for My Hope: Salvation.

Since 2002, the “My Hope” crusade has reached 57 countries, America being the 58th, with more than 298,000 churches participating, and with more than 4.4 million Christians serving as hosts. According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, more than 10 million people have become Christians.

I will highlight a few key statements, though I encourage you to read the whole interview. What Graham says is always worthwhile to hear.

In response to the question of how he refers to himself first, as an evangelical or a Christian and why, he stated that “what really matters is how God sees me. He isn’t concerned with labels; he is concerned about the state of one’s soul.” This is exactly right and refreshing to hear. It reminds me of Paul when he writes to the Galatians, “now that you have God, or rather to be known by God “(4:9a).

Graham tells the story of his own life in which he had previously thought he was a Christian, but realized after he experienced the new spiritual birth that he had not been. He claims that what accompanies is a new birth is a new life.

If there is no change in a person’s life, he or she must question whether or not they possess the salvation that the gospel proclaims. Many who go to church have not had a life-changing transformation in Christ.

He was also asked, “Why, according to the title of your book, is salvation the reason for your hope?,” and his response gets to the heart of his concern, “easy-believism.”

As I approached my 95th birthday, I was burdened to write a book that addressed the epidemic of “easy believism.” There is a mindset today that if people believe in God and do good works they are going to Heaven. But there are many questions that must be answered. There are two basic needs that all people have: the need for hope and the need for salvation. It should not be surprising if people believe easily in a God who makes no demands, but this is not the God of the Bible. Satan has cleverly misled people by whispering that they can believe in Jesus Christ without being changed, but this is the Devil’s lie. To those who say you can have Christ without giving anything up, Satan is deceiving you. While I am no longer able to stand in the pulpit and deliver a sermon from the Bible, God laid on my heart a burning desire to put this message in book form—a message that resonates within me every time I switch on the news. When I visit with people from all walks of life the question is asked, “What is happening in the world?”

Asked about topics and illustrations that address people’s needs, Graham noted that there is a great deal of confusion today – about religions, about God, about heaven and hell – and the answer to it all is Jesus Christ.

There are so many religions in the world, and I have never witnessed as much confusion as there is today about where to find truth. We have people preaching that God is a God of love, not of wrath. We have people proclaiming that Heaven is real but Hell is only a figment of imagination. As research was done for this book, my heart ached to hear story after story of people bragging that Hell will be one continuous happy hour; high profile comedians joke that they are happy to know they will one day go there.

This book is written to sound a warning—a loving warning from Heaven—that Heaven is created for those who humble themselves before God and Hell is created for Satan and those who serve him. Christ came to turn mankind away from the hold Satan wants to have in people’s lives. Jesus Christ is the answer for the world—he is the anchor of the soul—he is the God of hope that came in human form to rescue us from Satan’s grip. A seminary professor once made a profound statement to his students: “Never preach Hell without tears in your eyes.” My message is to proclaim that we are all sinners in need of a Savior and ask each one this question: Have you ever been saved?

I thank the Lord for Billy Graham. I am also grateful that the Lord, in His faithfulness, preserved Graham so that he remained faithful to Him in carrying out his call as an evangelist and as evidenced in his commitment to the gospel in proclamation and life.

The theme the past couple of days has been weakness, aging and death. Many of the dear saints who have walked with the Lord many years and served Him and His people faithfully, by His grace, are transitioning from this life to the next.

J. I. Packer (b. 1926) addresses the reality of weakness. This is not just the weakness we experience in the flesh and the need to learn and live the reality of God’s grace being sufficient, and it is not just the truth that our true spiritual strength is realized in our weakness. Both of those are true and real and ought to be our experience. But Packer also speaks to his increasing weakness as his body ages and wears out. In addition to Packer finding his strength in weakness, he also finds that his inner spiritual life is being renewed, and therefore he does not lose heart (2 Cor. 4:16). This is a good, right and important truth and lesson for us all.

George Beverly Shea’s homegoing (1909-2013) to be “with the Lord” reminds us that this is not all there is to life, that all of us age, all of us die, and those who know the Lord transition joyfully from this age to the next. Though this aging process is marked by many losses, it is not just begrudgingly bemoaned but rather a cause of “boast[ing] all the more gladly of my weaknesses” (2 Cor. 12:9).

In Billy Graham’s (b. 1918) most recent book, Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011), he notes something missing in most contemporary Evangelical writing in theology, discipleship and Christian living. Most Christians and books, he writes, address how to live, but they don’t talk about how to die. This is precisely what Graham attempts to do. There is much to glean and learn from Graham about aging and preparing to transition to be with the Lord.

It is one of the things I appreciated about Pope John Paul II (1920-2005). He stood strongly for the sanctity of life, all of life from womb to death. And then he modeled that in his own life in the way he aged, weakened and died publicly. This said very positively even while disagreeing with his theology.

I am not there yet, either physically, spiritually or age-wise. I acknowledge it is one thing to speak of biblical truth and the experience of others as if I truly “know” what this is like. I don’t. But I want to. I want to know from Scripture and I desire to learn from other godly men and women who have gone on ahead of me having been faithful to the Lord to the end. Then when that stage and season of life come, which it will as there are no exceptions this being the only path to glory, I will, by God’s grace, engage in that season of life faithfully manifesting that in this jar of clay, God’s grace will be personally precious and it will be seen “that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7). It is the vicarious learning that prepares us for the experiential living.

By God’s grace and for God’s glory, and through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, may we live well in weakness, and may we die well in strength reflecting Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

George Beverly Shea: With the Lord

Greg Strand – April 17, 2013 Leave a comment

George Beverly Shea died last evening at 104 years of age.

Shea first sang at a Billy Graham crusade in 1943 and did so faithfully thereafter for almost 60 years. Since they shared in this crusade ministry, Shea sang to as many as Graham preached.

Upon learning of his death Graham wrote,

I first met Bev Shea while in Chicago when he was on Moody Radio. As a young man starting my ministry, I asked Bev if he would join me. He said yes and for over 60 years we had the privilege of ministering together across the country and around the world. Bev was one of the most humble, gracious men I have ever known and one of my closest friends. I loved him as a brother. My prayer for his wife, Karlene, and his children, Ron and Elaine, is that God will strengthen them during this time.

David Neff, editor in chief of Christianity Today,  noted that “the song most associated with Billy Graham is ‘Just As I Am,’ but Bev Shea’s signature tune is clearly ‘How Great Thou Art.’” These two songs depict their unique gifting and calling in their common ministry of the gospel: one speaks/sings of how great God is, and the other calls people, just as they are, to come to this God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Associated Press also identified this song as representing something much more: “Shea’s rendition of ‘How Great Thou Art’ came to define the faith of a Protestant generation that Graham helped bring to Jesus Christ.”

Paul Davis, Shea’s authorized biographer (George Beverly Shea: Tell Me the Story), concluded that “The history of George Beverly Shea, in many senses, is the history of Christian music in the 20th century.”

Shea summed up the musical ministry with which he was blessed by God in this way: “The Wonder of It All.”

Though there are few in the older generation that would not have known Shea, there are likely few of the present generation that do know him. On the one hand it is important to know our history, and to learn of those who have served the Lord faithfully. Shea is one of those dear saints. And yet on the other hand, we cannot live in the past either, but must seek to minister effectively and fruitfully to our own generation. As noted of David, Shea served the Lord faithfully in his own generation (Acts 13:36). May we do the same, by God’s grace and for God’s glory.

What a wonderful testimony . . . and a long life lived well for Christ and the gospel!

Christians, Billy Graham and Voting

Greg Strand – November 5, 2012 3 Comments

Some have wondered about Billy Graham’s political statements over the course of the past couple of months. Recently BGEA took out an advertisement with Billy encouraging people to vote. Here is what Billy states (which can be seen at this link):

The legacy we leave behind for our children, grandchildren and this great nation is crucial. As I approach my 94th birthday, I realize this election could be my last. I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.

Timothy George, The Christian Post, October 31, 2012, dean of Beeson Divinity School and many other vital Evangelical ministries, concluded the following, from which I include excerpts:

Graham’s statement about the election reveals three things about him and the times in which we live. First, it is a message filled with the pathos of a person who has long outlived most of his contemporaries. The end of life approaches, and one’s thoughts turn toward things that really matter, things of eternal moment.

Second, Graham reveals in his words a deep love and genuine concern for his country. Jesus (and Jeremiah before him) loved Jerusalem and wept over it. There are some tears in Billy Graham’s lament about the turning point we face in our American republic today.

Third, Graham asks his readers to take a stand on three non-negotiable commitments of the Christian worldview: the sacredness of every human life including those children still waiting to be born; the dignity of marriage as God intended it to be, a lifelong covenantal union of one man and one woman; and religious freedom, not only for Christians but for all persons, for individuals and institutions of faith alike.

George concludes by recognizing that the earthly kingdom and the political process are important, but not ultimate. Politics are not the kingdom of God, and solving the political quagmire is not at the heart of our deepest need. But he also acknowledges that every generation of Christians must stand and speak out for certain truths because they are being undermined in that generation. Today is no exception.

I write these words as an Independent who holds no loyalty to any political party and who has voted for candidates of both the red and the blue. Chuck Colson knew all too well that the kingdom of God cannot be equated with any partisan movement. He also knew that politics was not the answer to the deepest needs of our society.

But there are also times in human history when people of faith cannot in good conscience opt out of the political process. Wilberforce was a leader in Parliament and worked tirelessly to pass legislation that ended the British slave trade. Christians living in 1930s Germany were concerned about many issues other than anti-Semitism, but Bonhoeffer knew that following Jesus required taking a stand against that intrinsic evil. Martin Luther King, Jr. lobbied both Congress and the president to enact civil rights legislation. Today we face a similar moment with respect to the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious freedom.