It’s not often you hear a preacher confess they are descended from horse thieves and drunkards: Will Graham, grandson of the late Billy Graham, made his Falkirk Stadium debut a week past Friday night under a Scottish sky that his ancestors would surely have recognised. All evening there was the threat of rain with just odd drops reminding me that I hadn’t brought my brolly.
Will alluded to his ancestors several times both on the Friday and Saturday evenings, trying to create a connection with an audience that mostly had little idea who he was. And it worked, for me at least. Anyone who can admit their heritage was messed up is likely to have a streak of humility that I find myself drawn to.
Roughly thirty years before, I went forward at one of Billy Graham’s events. Now here I was, volunteering at his grandson’s event, trained and ready to lead someone to Jesus.
Well, trained anyway. I didn’t feel at all ready.
Fact is that it felt like an overwhelming responsibility. Questions were running through my mind like:
What if I mess this up?
What if I get things in the wrong order?
If you’ve never been to an “evangelistic” event, there is usually what people used to describe as an alter call. We want to introduce people to Jesus and so they are invited to walk down to the front (called down to where the alter used to be) and led in saying a prayer of confession and repentance of sin, and acceptance of Jesus.
I don’t know how this will sound if you’ve never experienced this, but I grew up in a church attending family and can remember numerous alter call’s being made.
I said I went forward at a Billy Graham event. I actually went forward twice, one year after the other. And neither of those were the first time I’d gone forward either. At the age of twelve, at a Luis Palau event, I’d gone forward as well.
Despite saying the prayer, despite meaning every word, I didn’t receive assurance through those acts that Jesus was in my life.
In our training for the Will Graham event, we’d been given leaflets to read through with those who came forward. Fairly simple step by step questions to help people verbalise their reasons for responding.
It’s a sensible approach. People can and do get caught up in the moment and it’s worth taking some time to allow them to think through what they are doing.
As a child I had a lot of head knowledge about Jesus. I knew backwards and forwards what it all meant and I knew absolutely what I was getting into, even at age twelve, when I went forward.
What I didn’t have was the Holy Spirit. I am certain that the reason I kept going forward when alter call’s were given was that I was still looking for God’s presence in my life. I’d said the prayers, but for whatever reason, hadn’t received the gift that Jesus promised his followers.
It was only aged nineteen, after going forward yet again at an event, that I finally did recieve the Holy Spirit and finally had assurance that Jesus was in my life.
What changed? Well, I was asked to confess sin, not just in silence, but out loud. It was only after I did that, when I made myself completely vulnerable, that I experienced what I can only describe as a physical sensation of being filled by God’s spirit.
The preparation for last weekend and the experiences there have given me a lot to think about.
What am I doing with my life?
What are the most important things?
Am I living for Jesus?
I know I’ve committed to writing, but have found myself doing more reading the last couple of weeks.
I’ve consumed long articles and posts by David Robertson, from his blog at https://theweeflea.com/
Articles like this one from Tim Keller on why the UK Church needs to “Stand apart from culture or risk being ineffective”:
We appear to be living in a time where society is regressing. Yet society has done so before, many times.
Despite whatever we may do to ourselves and each other, our creator is watching, hoping we will turn back to him. Jesus is often incorrectly labelled as only having taught a message of love. Yet read what Jesus actually said and you will quickly find that Jesus firstly and foremostly called people to repent of sin. That was an act of love, to call out truth to people who would mock him, who would reject him, who would go on to kill him.
Jesus went on to tell people to seek first the kingdom of God. Our society focuses on love your neighbour, but unless we love God first, our understanding of what it means to love ones neighbour has the potential to become horribly skewed.
You and I may not have ancestors who were horse thieves and drunkards, but we are living lives that will one day be judged by our creator. By his standards, not our own. I find this both reassuring and terrifying.
If you don’t believe in God, then you may as well eat drink and be merry, for what else is there to live for. But we were created. If you are willing to look closely at the world around you, there is evidence of God’s creation everywhere.
One day you and I will both stand before our creator in what God’s word says will be a day of judgement. I hope you will join me in seeking God’s kingdom now, while we still have time.
If you don’t know Jesus, but would like to, get in touch.
You can also visit the Scotland Hope website
Finally, a few clips to share with you. Someone shared part of this with me on Facebook this week:
Before The Person :: Relationship Goals (Part 1)
I really enjoyed the music of Aaron Shust on Friday night as he led us in worship. Here is his song: God of Brilliant Lights
On Saturday The Afters really did Light Up The Sky