Heaven Is Rejoicing!

 

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photo –  wfmynews2.com

Billy Graham passed on to his eternal reward yesterday. Heaven is rejoicing!

I was 11 years old in 1962 when I had the privilege of hearing Rev. Graham preach. (along with the 50,000 or so other people who were there at McCormick Place in Chicago) I will always remember the power of his message. “For God so loved the world…”

In thinking about the legacy that Billy Graham has left, I have two personal memories that stand out.

The first memory surrounds the crusade mentioned above.

My parents had attended the training to counsel individuals who responded to the invitation at the end of the crusade to accept Jesus as Lord and savior. This training included people from all over Chicago and the suburbs representing various denominations and churches. Billy Graham required pastors and church leaders, Catholics and Protestant to come together and commit to cooperation and participation in planning, volunteering, and participating in all aspects of the crusade. If the local churches couldn’t commit to working together, Billy Graham would not hold a crusade in that city.

This required religious leaders to put aside sectarian differences for the importance of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. Literally hundreds of churches joined together involving thousands of Christians. What an example for being one Body!

My family attended College Church in Wheaton, just west of Chicago. My father was a very loyal person and this extended to our family’s involvement in church. We did not attend other churches, even for special events. If the doors to College Church were open – we were there. Yet my parents felt this crusade merited our family’s involvement.

Attending the Billy Graham Crusade was an eye-opening experience for me. Seeing thousands of people singing and praising was awe-inspiring. All these people were worshiping together! The choir was made up of several hundred people led by Cliff Barrows. Seeing individuals of every race and ethnicity gathered in one place to worship offered me my first glimpse of the enormity and diversity of the Body of Christ.

The second memory is from my teen years, during the racial turmoil of the late 1960’s.

Billy Graham made it a priority to include black Christians front and center on the platform at his crusades. These spiritual brothers and sisters were embraced by Billy Graham and Graham’s actions set an example for all Christians – “we are one in Christ”.

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photo – billygraham.org

 

I remember being so pleased by the fact that Billy Graham had Andre Crouch and the Disciples sing for one of the crusades. They were my favorite singing group! Their pride in their race, and more importantly their savior, Jesus Christ was evident. Rev. Graham practiced what he preached when it came to demonstrating the fact that …  God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Billy Graham was not perfect – he boldly acknowledged,including himself “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23  He then shared the truth that we become new creations when we accept Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

He left a legacy of life long (99 years long) commitment to serving the God he loved.

Heaven is rejoicing!

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Seeds of Change

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As I mentioned recently, Phil has been ordering seeds. A box of seeds just came in the mail.

This is a sign of hope!

We still have snow on the ground, and I was waiting to take a picture of our first blooms of 2018. I guess I will have to continue waiting. As you can see from the above picture, our hellebores, our earliest bloomer, have yet to open up. Some folks call these flowers Lenten Roses. Winter has not loosened its grip here!

My hellebores were given me by a dear friend, Lois, and I think of her each time I see them. These plants re-seed themselves and spread, so before long there is a lovely group of these hardy, long lasting bloomers.

Seeds are a metaphor for hope. When seeds are planted, there is no guarantee that a plant will grow. There are many variables that influence the outcome.

  • sun, full sun for some plants, shade for others
  • water, not too much, not too little
  • soil, the right composition for various plants
  • critters! – (groundhogs have gotten their fill of tender bean plants too many times in our garden)
  • temperature – a late freeze, intense heat

All these factors determine the outcome of planting seeds. Yet isn’t is glorious when the right conditions all come together at the right time?

We have a bountiful harvest!

When these factors don’t align, we need to make changes to obtain a harvest. It may mean planting in a different location, supplementing with additional water, guarding tender sprouts from predators, or covering plants to protect from frost.

It may mean changing the type of seeds we plant. We take the necessary steps so our hard work gardening doesn’t go to waste.

This is much the same in our spiritual lives.

We may go through a time spiritually where we don’t “harvest” any spiritual fruit. We lack love, joy, peace, patience, and the other fruit of the Spirit. We may be doing all the things we have always done, yet we aren’t getting the same results.

Psalm 51: 10-13 says –

10  Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.

These verses give me hope!

It may be time for a change. Just as doing the same things in our garden year after year doesn’t produce the same results, doing the same activities spiritually doesn’t insure the same peace, joy, or patience.

My friend Patti has walked with God for many years, and recently began sharing God’s Word in a local jail ministry. “I get so much from these ladies every time I go.” she told me today. “They have really had hard lives and to see the way God is working in them blesses and challenges me.”

Patti is planting seeds of change in these ladies’ lives, and it is changing her as well.

I’m praying that God will show me what I need to change so that I can continue to bear fruit – the fruit of the Spirit.

In My Garden with God – 4