The seed sown among weeds represents the person who receives the message, but all of life’s busy distractions, his divided heart, and his ambition for wealth result in suffocating the kingdom message and prevent him from bearing spiritual fruit. – Matthew 13:22
Today the Internet is bursting with Billy Graham content. Tributes, testimonies, timelines, statistics, reflections. A great man with a great message.
So I am going to break with my Monday, Wednesday, Friday routine and add this brief post as my contribution to the anthology. Because among all the numbers, the statistics, the invitations, and the “decisions,” stands the moment when I responded to Billy Graham’s compelling message. I got to my feet and quietly made my way to the front of the auditorium in London because I understood that the God I had always known as Creator, and Lord, and Friend, could also be my Savior.
I was only a child, eleven or twelve at the time, but the essential simplicity of Billy Graham’s presentation of the Gospel – the good news about Jesus – struck me with a clarity and a gravity that has never left me.
When I got to the front I was met by a volunteer. His name was Norman Lynn, and he did everything 100% right. He listened to me, he prayed with me, he gave me some scripture to think about, and he sent me on my way with some helpful reading material. But that wasn’t all; he also talked with my parents, he wrote a letter to my pastor, and he followed up with me.
Norman Lynn followed up for more than a decade! He sent notes of encouragement, postcards when he went on vacation, and – once in a while – a longer letter. Then, in a wonderful gesture, he wrote to Rebekah when he heard we were getting married. “I understand you are going to be a pastor,” he said. “So I am handing the spiritual nurture of Derek over to you.”
So this is the heart of my Billy Graham story – that the authenticity of his witness, the passion of his love for Jesus, and the integrity of his message rang true and did not waver.
Later, Rebekah and I attended Graham’s 1998 crusade in Tampa, and his message was still the same.
It’s all about Jesus. Nothing else matters. People can stake out a thousand different positions when it comes to doctrine, and opinion, and politics, and social norms, and more, but those – Billy Graham said – are all distractions. There is an invitation on the table, it is from Jesus, and the only thing that matters is the decision we make in response.
This country needs such clarity of vision. This country is in want of such integrity. So let’s make (or renew) the decision to follow Jesus, and let’s not allow all the other stuff to distract us from the message of love and reconciliation.
More than one of the statistics, but a child of God – DEREK