The Vital Center

“One of the reasons, I believe, that knowledge is in a state of useless overproduction is that it is strewn all over the place, spoken in a thousand competitive voices. Its insignificant fragments are magnified all out of proportion, while its major and world-historical insights lie around begging for attention. There is no throbbing, vital center.”

Ernest Becker

In a world where knowledge is overproduced…

In a social media saturated society with a thousand competitive voices…

Among a people lost in insignificant fragments…

Here is the throbbing, vital center:

HE IS RISEN…HE IS RISEN INDEED!

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5 Reasons Why I Love Billy Graham

I originally wrote this post in honor of Billy Graham’s 96th Birthday. As I celebrate this great man’s homecoming, I needed to declare again why I love him.

I’m sure I could come up with 50, but I’ve zeroed in on 5 of the biggest reasons that I love Billy Graham.

#1  Billy Graham’s most often repeated phrase in preaching is:  “The Bible says. . .”

Culture didn’t drive his preaching.  Politics didn’t dictate his delivery.  He wasn’t seeker sensitive, He was Spirit sensitive.  Like John Wesley, you could honestly say that Billy Graham is “a man of one book.”  Although many tried to sway him, Billy took the Bible literally and declared it’s simple, clear message faithfully.  After 60 plus years of preaching, he still defers the power of his ministry to the Word of God.

#2  The primary focus of Billy Graham’s preaching was the cross of Christ

As I listened this week to what might be Billy’s last public message to the world, you could not miss his focus on the cross.  His theme, especially for America at this time, was “My Hope.”  With so much of the preaching in America centered on people’s felt needs, it was refreshing to hear Billy clearly address the most vital need in America:  forgiveness for our sins.  He never strays too far from the centrality of the cross and the power that is available to all those who repent of their sins by faith in Christ’s finished work.

#3  Billy Graham has maintained a life of integrity

Maybe one of the most important nights in Graham’s ministry happened in a hotel room in Modesto, CA in 1948.  Billy and his young team laid out some principles for their ministry and they all agreed to live by them.  They would be above reproach regarding money.  No matter how high the offerings were, they would receive modest salaries.  They would also let local leadership manage all the funds for each crusade.  Billy’s team agreed to stay away from even the appearance of evil with other women.  They would not even get in an elevator alone with a woman!  They would avoid any exaggeration when it came to describing the fruit of their ministry.  And Billy’s team would refuse to criticize other ministries or even respond to criticism.  These principles became known to them as the Modesto Manifesto, and they gave themselves to this for over 50 years!

#4  Even those closest to Billy Graham honor his humility

He is certainly one of the most recognized people on earth.  He has had the ear of presidents and kings.  Hundreds of millions of people have listened to him speak.  Multitudes have changed their lives because of his message.  Yet when anyone speaks of Billy Graham, they mention his humility.  My heart was moved as I listened to this great man describe where he has failed.  He wishes that he had studied more.  He believes that he should have prayed more.  And he regrets being away from his family so much.  What a tender heart.

#5  I love Billy Graham because of the impact he has had on my family

This one is very personal.  In 1961, Billy Graham held a crusade in Philadelphia, PA.  My parents were leaders in their church but not in a relationship with Jesus.  They had much of what the world considered success:  two beautiful daughters, a job that came with respect, and a brand new home that my father and grandfather built.  But they were without hope and without Christ.  They traveled with their church to the arena and climbed the steps to seats near the very top.  They listened to Ethel Waters sing “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” and watched Cliff Barrows lead a massive choir.  Then they heard Billy preach a simple message from the Bible and call for people to repent of their sins and commit their lives to Jesus Christ.  My parents walked down all of those arena steps and stood at ground level where a trained volunteer helped them invite Jesus into their hearts.  Their lives were changed that night in Philly, and even though I was yet to be born, mine was too.

Within a couple of years, my father answered God’s call to be a pastor.  My parents left that respectable job and their dream home, packed up their daughters and their newborn son, and moved into a duplex in Wilmore, KY.  It was there my father began his training for ministry at Asbury College.  For over 50 years, I’ve had the privilege of watching them be faithful in their service to Christ.  That family of 5 multiplied to over 40 and I am so thankful to be able to say that we all love and serve Jesus.

And it all started that night in Philly under the faithful ministry of Billy Graham.  I love him.

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Epic Week for the Malachi Network – Preparing for a “Radiant Church”

We are at the very beginning of establishing a training arm in the Malachi Network called the “Radiant Church Round Table.” These amazing people came together in Ocean City, NJ for four days this week to help us develop the first pillar on Christology. We will meet three more times this year and focus on Eschatology, Ecclesiology and finally Missiology.

Our premise is that you can’t have healthy, sustainable mission unless you are saturated with right thinking about Christ, clear on his storyline from beginning to the end of this age and full of love for the Church who is prophetically promised to become a “Radiant Bride.”

Tania and I are grateful that Jesus has allowed us to run with such passionate and theologically grounded young people! We hope to launch the Radiant Church Round Table in 2018 for future missionaries, church planters and church leaders who are ready to “Rethink Church for the End of the Age.”

Would you pray for us as we continue to develop this training arm and collaborate with these fine people?

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Wise Worship

This Christmas, I’m focusing on Wise Worship. I’ve been studying the Wise Men in Matthew 2 and looking at an interesting possibility regarding their origin. About 600 years before Christ’s birth, Daniel saves the lives of hundreds of Wise Men in Babylon (Daniel 2). In fact, in Daniel 5:11, the Bible says that he became their leader. Daniel’s message revolves around a coming Messiah or “Anointed One” (Daniel 2:44,45; 9:24-27). And Daniel is visited by none other than the angel Gabriel who prophesied the birth of Jesus to Mary (Daniel 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26-38).

Could it be that for 30 generations, the message of Daniel was passed down through the ranks of the Wise Men of Babylon? Were the Wise Men who visited Jesus in Bethlehem the great, great, great, great (You get the idea) grandchildren of Daniel’s Wise Men?

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.” Mt. 2:11

Here’s an amazing definition of worship from William Temple (1881-1944). He served as the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1942 to his death in 1944. He gave Europe a visionary and prophetic plan for a post-war society in his book “Christianity and Social Order.” And he was one of the founders of the Council of Christians and Jews in 1942.

“Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. Worship is:

  • To quicken the conscience by the holiness of God
  • To feed the mind with the truth of God
  • To purge the imagination by the beauty of God
  • To open the heart to the love of God
  • To devote the will to the purposes of God

All of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.”

What are you seeking this Christmas? Where are you looking this Christmas? What are you giving this Christmas?

The first and best gift of all is your Wise Worship.

 

Merry Christmas,

Rich and Tania

 

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You Can Support Two Malachi Network Families On the Ground In Puerto Rico

Here is the latest report from CNN News on the devastation in Puerto Rico:

“Ten days after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, the island is dealing with a humanitarian crisis as millions remain without electricity and water, and limited access to gas and cash. At least 16 people have died in the US commonwealth as a result of the storm.”

The Malachi Network has two of our most precious resources on the ground on this island: The Steinhauer family and the Bruno family. They are highly gifted in ministry and uniquely prepared to meet the needs that now surround them. The Bruno’s have served previously in some of the hardest places in the Middle East. And the Steinhauer’s have been trained in crisis response and have already been through ministry with similar devastation in Haiti.

YOU CAN SUPPORT BOTH OF THESE FAMILIES THROUGH THE MALACHI NETWORK AS THEY JOIN WITH OTHERS IN SERVING PUERTO RICO’S RECOVERY.

Just click on their pictures below to give online through the Malachi Network website:

The Steinhauer Family

The Bruno Family

If you would like to give through regular mail, you can send a check with a note designating who your gift is for to: The Malachi Network – PO Box 368 – Avalon, NJ 08202.

Thank you so much for your part in seeing God’s glory come in the midst of chaos and loss.

 

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