Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Common Inclusion


This evening we will continue our study of the Book of Acts with Acts, chapter 11. As you may remember from last week:
·        A high-ranking Roman military commander named Cornelius who was stationed in the city of Caesarea, an important port on the Mediterranean coast of western Israel, received an angelic visitation.
·        Cornelius was instructed by the angel to send men to Joppa to summon Peter to come to his home and tell him how he and his household could be saved.
·        Seeing it was against the Jewish law for Peter to enter into the house of a Gentile and lodge or eat with him, God needed to prepare Peter to go with the men Cornelius was sending.

Acts 10:20  “Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.”

·        God gave Peter a vision and spoke directly to him from out of heaven and ordered him to go with them without any doubting.
o   The word “doubt”, in this passage, is translated from the Greek word, “diakrino” means:
§  To hesitate
§  To discriminate
§  To pre-judge; prejudice
§  To oppose
§  To separate
§  To contend
§  To be hostile towards
§  To desert
§  To strive with
§  To withdraw from
o   God said, “Peter you go with them, doubting nothing …
·        Peter arrived at Cornelius’ home where Cornelius had gathered his family and friends and entered without doubting.
·        Peter began his sermon, (Acts 10:34 & 35), by saying he had come to realize that God was “no respecter of persons”, that he did not show partiality or favoritism, but in every nation,  God accepts those:
o   Who fear Him
o   Who do what is right
·        While Peter was preaching, it was not his best sermon by the way … you can read it …
·        But when Peter got to the punch line, the meat of the message, the point of the sermon saying, “Everyone who believed in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through His name.”
·        God interrupted the meeting and poured His Holy Spirit out on Cornelius and everyone listening to Peter. They began to:
o   Speak in tongues
o   Praise God
·        Peter baptized them in the name of Jesus Christ then Peter and the six Jewish Believers who came with Peter from Joppa stayed with them for several days.

Well, it didn’t take long for the news to travel to Jerusalem.

Acts 11 NLT
1 ¶  Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God.
2  But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him.
3  “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said.

It’s sad, but true to human nature, that people are often more aggressive and therefore more engaged in things they don’t like rather than in the things they do like. The Apostles and the Believers in the Church at Jerusalem were displeased to hear about what had happened in Caesarea.

They were focused on adherence to a system they had adopted from the beliefs they had brought into the Church with them from their lives before Christ.
·        Exclusion from salvation is a doctrine that only exists in the minds of men who have set themselves up to judge the souls of others.
·        Everything in the Gospel message of Christ cries inclusion.

When we are called upon, or allowed the privilege, or seize some moment to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to one or to many, it is between God and those who hear as to whether they are:
1.   Informed
2.   Reformed
3.   Transformed

Don’t hesitate, discriminate, pre-judge, separate, contend, be hostile towards, desert or withdraw from those who must hear the Good News in order to be saved. The blood of Jesus is available to every person. God is not afraid of nor does He hate sinners. In fact, the opposite is true. God loves every person from every nation, tribe, kindred, tongue, culture, custom and condition of life … especially the poor, the needy, the widow, the orphan, and the chief sinners in every city.

Tell them all that God loves them right where they are, just like they are, and if they will believe in Jesus, they will receive forgiveness of sins in His name. Help God reach them all and teach as many as will listen how to fully follow Christ and please Him above else.

I LOVE THE CHURCH!!! The Church of the living God is wonderful and forgiving and grace-filled and loving and kind. When Peter told them how God baptized the Gentiles in Caesarea with the Holy Spirit just like He did to all of the Apostles in the upper room on the day of Pentecost …

Acts 10:18  When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.”

I believe that Acts 11 teaches us that anytime anyone gets a chance to witness to sinners and someone comes to Christ, let’s make sure we:
1.   Don’t doubt their salvation
2.   Not object to their inclusion
3.   Praise God for their transformation

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Rest of the Story


31st Anniversary as Pastor of Golden Triangle Church on the Rock.

On Wednesday evenings we have been going through the book of Acts together and enjoying revisiting the accounts of how the Holy Spirit worked in and through the first century Church and Believers. Each week we endeavor to cover one story from the next chapter and develop the truths God reveals.

This past Wednesday evening we studied the Roman Centurion named Cornelius in Acts chapter 10. It was very interesting and highly instructional. We discussed several life affirming principles, but time ran out before we got to cover some important facets of his life. Since concluding Wednesday’s service, I’ve been feeling like I didn’t get to say everything God wanted me to say from the account of Cornelius in Acts 10.

So, after seeking God’s guidance, and even though I have tried to steer my studies in other directions, I concluded that we need to revisit Acts 10 for the rest of the story. There a lot of people in attendance on Wednesday nights, but I know many of you could not be in here because you were working with our children, youth, security and other ministries, or were otherwise unable to attend.

So allow me to catch us up on a few things we discussed on Wednesday night while you turn to or access Acts 10 in your Bible or Bible App if you wish. As well, thanks to diligence and hard work of our Executive Pastor, Casey Sitter, his wife Dana, and Jessica Wilson, our Media Director, the scriptures for today will be brightly displayed on the screens behind me.

By the time we get to the 10th chapter of Acts, Church membership had grown to thousands in Jerusalem. There was a great persecution taking place against the Church and many Believers had been scattered throughout that part of the world and had taken the message of the Gospel of Jesus everywhere they went. Seeds of the Good News revealing that salvation had come were being sown in hearts and lives in many cities. However, the message of the Gospel was being preached only to Jews by Jewish Believers.

God wanted all people, Jews and non-Jews to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. But this was as yet a foreign concept to the Jewish Believers … they had not heard about this before and it didn’t fit their paradigm or make them comfortable. Their imagination was that a person needed to be a Jew in order to receive Jesus and be Born-Again. God was ready to show them His greater plan.

Acts 10 is the first time God makes His plan to include Gentiles in salvation known to the Apostles. We all owe Cornelius a debt of gratitude because had it not been for him, or someone like him, you and I might not know that Jesus came to forgive our sins and save us too. He was the first pioneer of the Gentile inclusion in Christ. Cornelius and his family and friends were powerfully saved, filled with the Holy Spirit and baptized in the name of Jesus. Let’s recap a little to set the stage for the Word this morning.

Acts 10 NKJV
1 ¶  There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment,
2  a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.
3  About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!”

This is as far as we got this past Wednesday. The questions we asked were:
·        Why did God choose Cornelius?
·        What will make me the person God will choose and use?

Wednesday night we concluded that: Everyday ordinary life is the chance God gives us to impress Him.

God chooses and uses people He can depend on. And by the way … God is going to love, forgive, save and take to heaven every person who believes upon the name of Jesus and receives Him into their heart as Lord, whether they ever do anything to impress Him or not. God loves all of His children. However, we all want to become more like Jesus and be used by God to bring salvation to others who are lost and without Christ. What can we do to show God we can be trusted like He evidently trusted Cornelius?

Acts 10
7  When the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually.
8  So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.

There were evident qualities in the life of Cornelius which made God know that He could trust Cornelius to work hard and follow orders. Evidently these same qualities also existed in the lives of these two household servants and this devout soldier Cornelius chose to use as well.

Can you imagine Cornelius, after being visited by an angel and given the most important opportunity of his entire life, choosing someone he couldn’t depend on? Can you imagine Cornelius choosing someone who was lazy or selfish or distracted or unfaithful or a greedy, arrogant, self-willed, angry, discontent, or a reactionary person with low or loose morals? Neither can I and neither would God. The same qualifications you would look for in a trusted servant are the same ones Cornelius looked for and the very same set of character qualities God looks for today when He has a job He wants done.

I have developed some extensive notes under the heading: 2 Servants and a Soldier, that perhaps I’ll get to teach at some point in my life. But for now, let’s stick to our main character for this morning.

It has been said that “If you want to get a job done, find a busy person and get them to do it.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that statement. There is a reason why many people are sitting around doing nothing and why some are waiting and wishing they were somewhere else; with someone else; doing something else; and why they aren’t fully engaged in what they have, where they are, with those they’re with.

Instead of wishing they were somewhere else, with someone else, doing something else, Joseph and Moses and David and Rahab and Esther and Ruth and Matthew and Paul and Peter and Cornelius and those 2 servants and that soldier were working hard where they were, with what they had, for the person they were with.

If we aren’t willing to take what we have, start where we are and work hard for the person we are under, we will disqualify ourselves for anything greater with God. Jesus said that what we do with the little opportunities we have is the very same thing we would do if we were given greater opportunities. And, if we are unwilling to be faithful over those things which belong to others, we will also be unfaithful if given our own.

God is not obligated to use people who choose themselves. He uses people He chooses. Proverbs 25:27 says, “… for a man to seek his own glory is not glory.” Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let another man’s lips praise you and not your own …”.

What we are doing with what we have is exactly what we will do if we get more. That’s the Gospel truth. There is a reason why God chose to use Cornelius. Let’s look further into the account of Acts 10. The two servants and the soldier went down to Joppa and found Peter just where the angel told Cornelius Peter would be. As well, God had already prepared Peter to accept and embrace these three Gentiles, which was something that went against Peter’s understanding of his religious duties.

Acts 10
21  Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, “Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?”
22  And they said, “Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you.”

Bear in mind how important it is to gain favor with God and man:
Luke 2:52  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

And remember: Everyday ordinary life is the chance God gives us to impress Him.

If you want to know how someone really is, listen to their maid or butler or employee or close friend or close family member describe them. Evidently the household servants and the close military attaché were also impressed with Cornelius … not necessarily with his wealth, his wisdom, his stature, or his military tactics, but rather with his character.

Four things about Cornelius that impressed God and men
1.   He was a just man.
2.   He feared God.
3.   He had a good reputation among all.
4.   He acted on divine instructions.

Romans 14:18  For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.

We too will become candidates to be chosen and used by God, and by others, for things greater than we imagine if we will but live life committed and content - serving God and others where we are, with what we have, doing the best we can for Christ, and those to whom we are attached, with no promise of reward this side of heaven.

This morning I want to encourage each one of us to dig in where we are.
1.   Your current job is a blessing.
o   It may not be the best place or the last place you will work but right now it is the only place.
o   Treat it like a blessing from God.
o   If you don’t believe your job is a blessing from God, then come up to the altar after the service and I will agree with you in prayer that your will be let go this week.
2.   God wants you to work on the marriage you have right now.
o   Don’t be looking for someone else, somewhere else.
o   Invest in the spouse, the family and the friends you have.
3.   There are some situations you can change and others you can’t.
o   Dig in and make an investment.
o   Be the person your boss, your spouse, your students, your employees, your clients, your neighbor, your Church and your God can trust.
4.   Decide to be committed and content.
o   The Bible says that if you are called by God as a slave or as a free man, don’t spend your time trying to change it … be the best you can be right where you are.
o   Godliness with contentment is great gain.
5.   Be the person others can trust.
o   Impress God
o   Impress men
o   With your character and your commitment.

Let’s not fall into the trap of waiting and wishing for something better with someone better in some other place but rather let’s be faithful, committed and content to serve and do our best right where we are until God decides to choose and use us for His glory and not our own.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

God’s Orchestra


By the time we get to Acts 10, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was well on its way around the world. After Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on those 3000 devout Jews from every nation under heaven in Acts 2, many returned home to share that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. As well, Believers who were in the Church in Jerusalem were scattered because of the great persecution which followed the stoning of Stephen. They too had already gone throughout all Judea and Samaria preaching the Gospel as we read in Acts 7, 8 and 9.

However, up until now, the Gospel had only been shared with Jews. Followers of Jesus as Messiah, although filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, still believed that Jews were particularly favored by God and that a person needed to be a Jew before they could become a Christian.

Acts 10 gives us a look at the first time the Gospel was presented to the Gentiles and how God orchestrated this event. We will conclude this evening with a better understanding of what God looks for when choosing a person to work on His team. Let’s begin our study with:

Acts 10 NKJV
1 ¶  There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment,

·        Note: We don’t want to brush over the facts that:
o   Cornelius, is a Gentile, not a Jew.
o    He is evidently an Italian Roman soldier who was living in Caesarea.
o   He was well into his military career and was a centurion – this means he had 100 soldiers under his command. Those of you who have traveled with me to Israel will remember Caesarea as a beautiful moderate size port city on the Mediterranean coast. Most likely Commander Cornelius was in charge of security for the whole city and as such was a very important man there.
·        How did Cornelius get into that position at that place and time in his life? We know Cornelius did his job well because of his promotions.
o   It was no doubt orchestrated by the hand of God but Cornelius still had to be promotable … God knew he would be that guy.
o   Things like this, like most things that advance the Gospel, don’t just happen by coincidence. They are a part of God’s master plan.
o   Cornelius, like most people, was totally unaware that God was working so much in his life.
·        How does a person get where God wants them to be?
·        What is the normal course God takes to lead people to their perfect place?
·        What does it take to hit the waypoints on your journey to destiny?
·        You see:
o   It is God who promotes one and sets another down.
o   God sets us in the body as it pleases Him.
·        Everyday ordinary life is the chance God gives us to impress Him.
·        God will love us whatever we do but He may have a hard time promoting us and/or choose not to use us if we don’t do things right.
·        There is no doubt Cornelius had been called by God even from his mother’s womb … Just like Jeremiah and, just like you …

Jeremiah 1:5  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”

·        Great news for Jeremiah, but we must remember that many are called but few are chosen. (Matthew 20:16 & Matthew 22:14)
·        What makes a person a good choice for God?
·        Why was Cornelius chosen? Well we can’t know all of the reasons, but we do see an evident pattern running like a thread through the Bible. Suffice it to say … God knows you better than you do …
o   Abraham, for example, was chosen by God in part because:

Genesis 18:19  For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

God knows us better than we know ourselves. God knows what we will do with the chances we are given, and He directs us according to His will and not according to our own aspirations or appetites.

It is wholly possible that Jeremiah and Abraham, and even Cornelius, felt the very same way Moses felt when Moses first heard that God wanted to choose and use him.

Jeremiah said: “I don’t think I can do it … I’m not experienced enough…”
Jeremiah 1
6  Then said I: “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.”
7  But the LORD said to me: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak.

Moses said: “I’m no different now than I was before You spoke to me.”
Exodus 4:10  Then Moses said to the LORD, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

Paul told Timothy: “Don’t believe you’re too young to be an example.”
1 Timothy 4:12  Let no man despise your youth; but be an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

Perhaps Cornelius experienced something like Saul of Tarsus experienced in the chapter before. Saul had a dynamic encounter with God that shocked him. God chose Saul of Tarsus like God chose Abraham; like God chose Moses; like God chose Jeremiah; and God chose Cornelius. We could go on and on with Believer after Believer being chosen by God when they least expected it, didn’t deserve it, didn’t work for it and can’t imagine how they are going to accomplish it. God finds people who are working hard in everyday life and not people who are sitting around waiting to be chosen.

These men and women we see as giants of faith in the Bible weren’t politicking, campaigning, selling themselves or seeking public support, they were simply on a mission, sent by God, with no idea how they got there, where they were headed, or if they’d be successful, except for one thing … they were fully committed to following the orchestration of God.

In chapter 10 we are introduced to Cornelius before he knows just how special he is in the eyes of God. Cornelius is simply going about his life, living his conviction, being responsible for the things at hand and those under his care … just like all the rest of the giants of faith in the Bible from Rahab, the harlot to Matthew, the tax collector … I bet they were really good at everything they did. They were committed and content. (1Ti 6:6)

Back to Cornelius:

Acts 10 NKJV
1 ¶  There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment,
2  a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.
3  About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!”

See, God knew Cornelius would gravitate to doing what he believed was best and right, just like Moses and Saul and Rahab and you. Now, you may or may not be right, but you, like the heroes of the Bible, aren’t going to live your life doing things you believe are wrong.

It’s hard for anyone to trust someone who can’t even trust themselves to live by their convictions. Saul of Tarsus wreaked havoc on the Church and persecuted Believers, binding them and dragging them to prison. However, he was living fully committed to his convictions. When Jesus showed him that he was wrong … Saul changed immediately and completely. He didn’t stop living his convictions, he just changed his convictions to line up with the truth of Jesus Christ.

I have a feeling Cornelius was just this sort of man.

Both heaven and earth choose aggressive, decisive, and determined individuals to lead the defining battles of life.

We can clearly decide whether to fight or to befriend people when we are certain we know where they stand. We despise a liar. Evidently God feels the same. He said, all liars will have their place in the lake of fire. Faking is lying. When we imagine living a lie is better than living the truth we believe, we deny ourselves and others the opportunity to know who we are. God knows us anyway. You should live what you believe. (Jos 24:15)

If you hate your sister, own it before God. I’m not suggesting you go and tell everyone all the reasons why on Facebook, but, until you own up the fact that you hate her, you’re going to continue to hate and you may never experience anything better. Lying won’t make it better. When you own the truth as you see it, you can go to the word and the word will tell you what to do to please God in every situation. For liars, God says … “stop!”

For heaven’s sake, we should have the good sense to at least know who we are and be who we are and stop deceiving ourselves and others. God can deal with who you are. I’m not saying stop trying to be better … I’m saying recognize where you are and then really change where you need to … God wants to use you. God uses honest, hard working people … those who are committed and living their commitments. Be hot or be cold …

Throughout the Bible, the people who are used by God are those who aren’t looking for a better position or another promotion. God chooses those who are working hard where they are, content and committed to making life as good as it can be. God knows: The way you work where you are is the way you will work in your next place. If we cannot conquer discontentment and boredom where we are, it is evident we won’t be happy for long when we are under more pressure. That’s the truth!

Jesus said, if a person is faithful with little, they will be faithful with much also, and if they are faithful over what belongs to another person, they will be faithful if He gives them their own. Cornelius wasn’t seeking God imagining he was going to be chosen for something great. God is not impressed with those who always want to be somewhere else, with someone else, doing something else. Many times people mistake:
·        Passion for Purpose
·        Desire for Direction
·        Charisma for Calling
·        Reason for Right

What can we conclude about God’s choice to use Cornelius to be the initial fulfillment of Acts 1:8 and the Great Commission?

Cornelius, like Joseph in Egypt, was a faithful man at heart. He was content to build a future in a land that was not his own. Cornelius allowed God to choose the time and the place of his calling.

Be faithful where you are … that tells everything to everyone about how you will be in your next place, if and when God makes it happen.

And remind yourself … It’s God’s Orchestra!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

It’s Life


It has been said, “You can count the apples on a tree, but you can’t count the apples in a seed.” So it is with the influence of a single person.

In a few moments I’ll be reading the text for today from the New Testament book of Romans. We begin our study of the Bible this morning with a true story about a man named Mordecai Ham.

Mordecai Ham was born on April 2, 1877 to Tobias and Ollie McElroy Ham of Scottsville, Kentucky. Mordecai received Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior at the age of 8 years old.

In the 1890’s, along about 18 years old, Mordecai enrolled in Ogden College in Western Kentucky. At 20 years old he took a job in Chicago working for a photo enlargement firm, where he worked for 3 years. In July 1900, Mordecai married his sweetheart, Bessie Simmons. Along with the new responsibilities of marriage at 23 years old, Mordecai also was feeling the call to the ministry and wanted to be an evangelist.

Finally in 1901, at 24 years old, Mordecai was given the opportunity to hold his first revival at Mt. Gilead Baptist Church. This was the first of many more invitations to come. Times weren’t easy for Bessie and Mordecai, but they pressed on. On December 4, 1905, Bessie died and left Mordecai on his own. For the next few years he continued to hold revivals and call sinners to repentance.

When Mordecai was 31 years old, he met and married Annie Smith. Over the next few years they had three girls and one boy. Mordecai was on the road, traveling and holding revivals much of the time and wanted to settle down to raise his family. So, in 1927, when he was 40 years old, he accepted the invitation to become the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It provided some stability for the family for the next 2 years but in some ways,  it also limited Mordecai’s opportunities to travel the United States and hold evangelistic campaigns.

In 1929, at 42 years old, Mordecai struck back out on the evangelistic trail. During the next few years he went wherever he was invited and preached the life changing power of Gospel of Christ. One of Mordecai Ham’s favorite practices was to single out the most well-known sinners in town for personal evangelism. He wanted the worst sinners to come to Christ and he didn’t mind going through some conflict to make that happen.

Mordecai often encountered opposition to his preaching. He endured threats, bodily assaults and even police arrests. He named names and called them out. His revivals would often last for weeks eventually leading those worsts elements in town to the Lord. He wasn’t shy about the power of the Gospel to save sinners.

His revivals were often plagued by two men, W.O. Saunders and J.T. Ragsdale. He had offended these men and they followed him from place to place and circulated critical statements and handed out pamphlets about Ham trying to dissuade people from attend Ham’s revival services.

In 1934, when Mordecai was 47 years old, a group of Churches and businessmen from Charlotte North Carolina invited him to hold a revival. A large outdoor sawdust ground-covered Tabernacle was erected just for the revival and all the townsfolk were encouraged to attend. Thousands attended to hear this evangelist who preached six days a week, morning and evening. He didn’t mince his words about sin. The revival lasted 11 weeks.

Early on in the revival, one attendee recounts, Mordecai “claimed to have affidavits from certain students that a house across the street from the school, which was supposedly offering the boys and girls lunch during noon recess, was actually giving them some additional pleasures”.

Rumors flew around town that students angered by his preaching planned to march on the tabernacle to demonstrate right in front of the platform and that maybe they would even injure the evangelist. The whole town was getting stirred up and it looked like a fight was certain to break out at the meetings.

A few months earlier, one of the families who lived on a farm out of town had invited a group of businessmen to come out to the farm to pray. As they gathered in a circle in the pasture on that May day they prayed: “That out of Charlotte the Lord would raise up someone to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”

This family had a 15-year-old boy and they wanted to see him saved. But with this revival now in full swing, stirring up the students, their son refused to attend and hear this evangelist Mordecai Ham preach. He later wrote: “Everything I heard or read about him made me feel antagonistic toward the whole affair … It sounded like a religious circus to me.” No matter what the parents tried, their son said no.

However, as the rumors grew about students marching on the tabernacle and perhaps even injuring the preacher, the boy’s interest was stirred. But, how could he save face if he went now after holding out for over a month. Finally a friend of the family asked this strapping 15-year-old boy to come out and hear this fighting preacher. “He’s a fighter? I like a fighter.” That puts a different slant on things, the boy thought.

Then the friend added another incentive, “If you go with me, I’ll let you drive my old vegetable truck into town for the meeting.” That night the friend loaded as many folks in the truck as he could, and the boy drove them to the revival to see the fight.

When Mordecai began to preach that night that 15-year-old son of a praying North Carolina farmer sat spellbound. Later he recounted that: “In some indefinable way, he was getting through to me. I was hearing another voice … the voice of the Holy Spirit.”

The boy returned the very next night. “All my father’s mules and horses”, he said, “could not have kept me from getting to the meeting.” He enjoyed hearing the lively sermons and the Bible made plain. But each night it seemed to him that the evangelist was pointing his bony finger right at him. He became deeply convicted about his sinfulness and rebellion.

After a few nights in an attempt to get the conviction off of him and to keep the preacher from preaching right at him, he and a school friend cooked up a scheme to join the choir and just mouth the words. This way they could still hear the sermons but avoid the glare since the choir sat behind the preacher.

That seemed like a good plan but a few weeks into the meeting, just a few days short of his 16th birthday, Billy Graham remembers hearing Dr. Mordecai quote Romans 5:8 and invite that tabernacle full of people to accept Christ. On November 1, 1934, that young 15-year-old Billy Graham walked down front feeling as if he had lead weights attached to his feet.

Billy Graham's decision card from Nov. 1, 1934

Here is a photocopy of the decision card filled out by Billy Graham that November night. This 15-year-old boy was the answer to the prayer prayed on his father’s farm just a few short months earlier. “Lord, raise up someone from Charlotte to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth!” Later Billy said that “certainly no one ever thought it would be me.”

No one ever thinks it might be them. Just as sure as Billy Graham was an answer to prayer, so are you. Perhaps you just don’t know it yet. Someone has been praying for God to raise up moms and dads, sons and daughters, pastors and teachers, evangelists and witnesses to take the Gospel from right here in Southeast Texas to the ends of the earth. But first someone has to tell them about God’s love and His plan for their life.

Who will be the Mordecai Ham? Who will endure the hardships, the disappointments, the losses and the threats to stand and declare the goodness of God to a lost generation? Who will dare to be that preacher of righteousness saying God loves you and wants to save your soul? Will you?

This is life!

In his years after giving his life to Jesus, Billy Graham preached to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history - nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories, plus the 2.2 billion who have heard him preach the gospel on television. But whose to say it would have happened if it had not been for;
·        Mordecai Ham, enduring the hardships, or
·        Billy’s Christian father, being the spiritual leader of his home, or
·        the praying businessmen of Charlotte, gathered for prayer in a field, or
·         the Churches who invited Mordecai to preach, and attended night after night, week after week, or
·         those who built that sawdust ground-covered Tabernacle for the meetings, those nameless, faceless people who labored out in the cold October of 1934 in Charlotte, North Carolina, or
·        the friend who found some common ground and invited Billy to come and hear a fighting preacher, and then enticed him further by letting him drive that old farm truck?  

Have you found the book of Romans yet?

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Let me be the one who tells you today that God loves you and has a plan for your life. He wants to save your soul and reach others with your help. Every part of the work of God is an important part and you have a part to play. Like Billy Graham said:

 “God has done everything possible to provide salvation. But we must reach out in faith and accept it.” —Billy Graham

It’s life!