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Sunday, November 12, 2023

Billy Graham Embraced the Call to be a Christian


Ruth and Billy Graham

"I believe that Billy Graham had a profound impact on the world because he first embraced the call, not of being an evangelist, but being a Christian." - Curtis Hunnicutt

The Rev. Dr. Billy Graham was a bold proclaimer of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This was his first priority and it often put him at odds with both liberals and conservatives. Billy Graham's irenic approach was not fully appreciated in the polemic of the mid-20th century. 

Writing for the Britannica, Randall Balmer explains, "In New York City in 1954, he was received warmly by students at Union Theological Seminary, a bastion of liberal Protestantism; nevertheless, the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, a professor at Union and one of the leading Protestant thinkers of the 20th century, had little patience for Graham’s simplistic preaching. On the other end of the theological spectrum, fundamentalists such as Bob Jones, Jr., Carl McIntire, and Jack Wyrtzen never forgave Graham for cooperating with the Ministerial Alliance, which included mainline Protestant clergy, in the planning and execution of Graham’s storied 16-week crusade at Madison Square Garden in New York in 1957. Such cooperation, however, was part of Graham’s deliberate strategy to distance himself from the starchy conservatism and separatism of American fundamentalists. His entire career, in fact, was marked by an irenic spirit."

I believe this was part of the secret to Graham's expansive influence. Perhaps the greater part was his insistence that the Word preached has the power to save sinners, to make disciples, and to bring change even to the troubled world. He once said, "When the Gospel of Jesus Christ is presented with authority - quoting from the very word of God - He takes that message and drives it supernaturally into the human heart."

Related reading: Billy Graham on Discipleship, Be Salt, Light Where You Are

Thursday, October 12, 2023

The Irrepressible Truth

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”
 (Matt. 28:18-20)

This has been called “The Great Commission" and it is delivered by the One who holds all authority as ruler and high priest over the cosmos. Jesus gave this command citing His absolute authority in "Heaven and Earth" (a merism). The divine Son's authority was perceived by people even before His Incarnation.

Disciples of Jesus Christ are found around the world and the number is growing, especially in places where the Faith is suppressed and denied. The Truth of the Gospel is irrepressible. It makes itself known even in the darkest places. Indeed, it always ultimately overcomes the darkness!

The biblical Hebrew recognized three types of authority: derived, attributed, and achieved. The deification of rulers required derived and attributed authority. Because the ruler was seen as God's representative on earth and the one to enforce divine law, his authority was believed to be derived from God.

If the ruler proved over time to be just or righteous in his actions and decrees, the priests would attribute deification. Deification or apotheosis was an expression of the flamboyant honor shown to royal masters by their servants.

Deification was indicated by the SR designation in the ruler's epithet and or royal name. The historical ruler Osiris was deified as is evident in his name O-SiR. Among the Sumerians and Akkadians SR designated a king (šarrum) and a queen (šarratum). The Akkadian itti šarrim means "with the king".

None of the ancient rulers returned from the dead. They had no authority over death. However, the Son of God broke the hold of death. He tramped down death by His death. He leads his disciples to the Father and admits them to His eternal kingdom. This is the truth that can never be suppressed.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Angels Marvel at the Obedience of Faith

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

"Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:" (Rom 16:25, 26).

In this verse, the importance of obedience of faith is seen as the "the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures..." The obedience of faith springs from love of God Father, God Son, and God Holy Spirit. Without that love there can be no obedience, no true discipleship.

The relationship between faithful humanity and God is a matter into which even the angels desire to look (1 Peter 1:12).

In the Greek New Testament, there are only two words in this phrase: upakohn pistews -"obedience of faith." "Obedience" (upakohn) is in the accusative case showing that it is the designed result of God’s “grace” and “apostleship” (Rom. 1:5). Such grace is a cause of astonishment to the angels!

Grace (pistews) is a gift that cannot be earned. Apostleship is the God-given authority to convey the revelation of God’s salvation, to share the Gospel of saving grace. From the beginning, the Holy Trinity has been working out the salvation of all who turn to the Holy One.

This is the teaching point from Ephesians 3:9-10: "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God."

The grace of God, the gift of faith, and the obedience of love are a cause of wonder among the heavenly hosts. These are to be celebrated in the Church and we are to pray for their increase.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

A First Look at "The First Lords of the Earth"


Dr. Alice C. Linsley

My book The First Lords of the Earth: An Anthropological Study is available on Amazon. Options include Kindle, paperback, or hard cover and all are priced to accommodate the book lover on a tight budget. 

The book identifies the social structure and religious beliefs of the early Hebrew ruler-priest caste (6000-4000 years ago), their dispersion out of Africa, their territorial expansion, trade routes, and influence on the populations of the Fertile Crescent and Ancient Near East.

Readers say this book brings the figures of the Old Testament to life. 

The research took 40 years, but I was able to make a rather complex subject easy to understand. I hope you will buy the book and discover answers to some perennial questions, such as:

  • Who were the Horite Hebrew and the Sethite Hebrew?
  • Where is the oldest known site of Horite Hebrew worship?
  • Why did so many Hebrew men have two wives?
  • What was the difference in status between wives and concubines?
  • What types of authority did the biblical Hebrew recognize?
  • What were some symbols of authority among the early Hebrew?
  • How did their acute observation of patterns in Nature inform their reasoning?
  • If Judaism is NOT the Faith of the early Hebrew, what did they believe?

I hope you will find the book helpful and informative.

Best wishes,

Alice C. Linsley

Friday, July 7, 2023

Shoeless Worship


By Hope Ellen Rapson

“…Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up”. When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”

And he said, “Here I am.”

The He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said also, “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.”
Gen. 3:1-9 (ESV)

In many cultures, it is a sign of respect, humility, and honor to remove one’s shoes or at least to ask the host or hostess what their preference might be, before entering their home. Moses belonged to one of these cultures. His religious life reflected traditional practices. Then, when he found himself in the very presence of Almighty God, the Lord gave him these instructions.

First, Moses had to present himself as other, and lesser, than God. Second, he had to fully recognize whose Presence he was entering. Third, Moses had to honor, submit, and worship, not a tradition, but the living Creator and Sustainer of all.

Moses was a prince, a skillful shepherd, a businessman, and a family leader in Midian. His successes and status perhaps gave him a sense of exalted self-importance. This had to be counted as nothing in the presence of Almighty God. It had to be set aside with his shoes.

C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity that pride is the ‘anti-God’ state, the position in which the ego and the self are directly opposed to God. “Shoeless Worship” is the position in which the ego and self are discounted and surrendered to glorify God. It is easy and common to attend church services with our ego-shoes on, and neglect to humbly recognize why we are there and Who we have come to meet.

In her poem “Aurora Leigh,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning expressed it this way:

Earth’s crammed with heaven;

And every common bush afire with God,

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.

The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,

And daub their natural faces unaware.

Let us not “sit, and pluck, and daub” unaware or ignoring God who deserves our “shoeless worship.”

Monday, June 26, 2023

Being at Peace


Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Webster’s dictionary defines peace as a state of tranquility. However, to be at peace with evil never brings tranquility, only chaos. Peace with Satan means war with God.

Imagine the emotional experience the soldiers had in World War I when peace was declared. They were about to rush out of the trenches to face the machine guns. The battles had taken the lives of many thousands of their fellow soldiers. They were facing imminent destruction and then the message of the Armistice came! Peace, peace, not bullets!

But the peace lasted for a short 2 decades before the greater suffering of World War II. 

A heart doctor wrote about how he was trying to save a man’s life by strongly pumping on his chest. Instead of asking relief from the painful pushing, as many others had, the patient cried out for the doctor to keep it up.

He said: “It's so terrible, over there!” 

After several repetitions, the doctor repeated several Bible verses to him. When the man revived, he related a great peace he felt during his loss of consciousness. He had trusted God’s promises!

I too have experienced that kind of inner peace. Once, it was like sitting in a rowboat in a lake without a ripple or slight movement of air. Another time, after I was immersed in baptismal waters, I experienced pure joy coming down on my head as honey poured from a bucket. My experience of God’s peace was glorious!

This is the peace that passes human understanding. It is more than tranquility. It is a foretaste of life eternal in the peaceable kingdom.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13).

Friday, June 16, 2023

Dallas Willard on Worship


Professor Dallas Willard championed the cause of evangelicalism.
(Courtesy of USC University archives)

The core of the person is what he or she loves, and that is bound up with what they worship - that insight recalibrates the radar for cultural analysis. The rituals and practices that form our loves spill out well beyond the sanctuary. Many secular liturgies are trying to get us to love some other kingdom and some other gods.  Dallas Willard

Dallas Willard was an American philosopher known for his writings on Christian spiritual formation. Much of his work in philosophy was related to phenomenology, particularly the work of Edmund Husserl, many of whose writings he translated into English for the first time. He is considered a "champion of Evangelicalism".

He was longtime Professor of Philosophy at The University of Southern California in Los Angeles, teaching at the school from 1965 until his death in 2013 and serving as the department chair from 1982 to 1985.