Desmond Tutu Compromises the Gospel

Desmond Tutu Compromises the Gospel
Christians in South Africa are reeling at comments made recently by Archbishop Desmond Tutu*. Tutu was the guest speaker at the Alliance of Civilisations awards ceremony, in conjunction with the University of the Western Cape and University of Cape Town in October. In front of an international audience, Tutu claimed that God will not turn away good people from entering the Kingdom of Heaven. “Most of us think God is a Christian, but if you think that God is going to tell the Dalai Lama, ‘You’re a good person, but sorry you’re not a Christian’ then (I say) rubbish!”
Though we at JOY! commend the Archbishop for his social work and all his good deeds over the years, we are highly concerned at his comments. The Bible is clear that Jesus Christ is God’s provision for mankind’s sin, and that it is only through His Blood that we enter the Kingdom of God. John 14: 6 “Jesus answered, ‘I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” No matter what we may think, God’s Word is sovereign and we cannot call ourselves children of God (Christians) if we do not accept the authority of that Word. Tutu further went on to say, “We’ve conveniently forgotten that Christians burnt witches at the stake. It wasn’t pagans responsible for the Nazi genocide – it was
Christians.” (This is completely untrue – the Nazi’s were staunch atheists). He said it had also been claimed that apartheid was supported by the Scriptures and the symbol of the Ku Klux Klan was a cross. Tutu sounded a warning against a simplistic classification of good and bad. We sound a warning – “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to destruction.” Prov 14:12 Not everyone who says they are a Christian, is one. By the same token, Tutu who is a leader of the Church and a representative of God, needs to be careful what he says – He will be held accountable for misrepresenting the Truth. Good people don’t go to heaven. Believers do!

23 Minutes in Hell

23 Minutes in Hell

On Sunday 22 November 1998, my wife, Annette, and I spent the evening at the home of close friends. There was nothing unusual about that night. Annette and I headed home around 11:00 p.m., and we fell into bed shortly before midnight, unaware that my life was about to be changed forever by an event I still find hard to explain. Suddenly, at 3:00 a.m. on the 23rd, without any notice, I found myself being hurled through the air, falling to the ground and completely out of control.
I landed in what appeared to be a prison cell. I was completely naked, which added to the vulnerability of being a captive. This was not a dream – I was actually in this strange place. Fully awake and cognisant, I had no idea what had happened, how I had travelled, or why I was there until it was shown to me and explained later during my journey.
The very first thing I noticed was the temperature. It was hot – far beyond any possibility of sustaining life. It was so hot that I wondered, “Why am I still alive? How could I survive such intense heat?” My flesh should have disintegrated off my body at any moment. The reality was that it didn’t. This wasn’t a nightmare; it was real. The severity of this heat took every ounce of strength out of me.
I wasn’t yet fully aware of it – but I had fallen into hell. If you are like most people, you are probably reading this article out of pure curiosity. Somewhere in the back of your mind you may be thinking, ‘Did this man really go to hell – hell, as in fire, burning, and torment?’ Or maybe you think I’m making the whole thing up, because no one could go to hell and live to tell about it. You might not even believe there is a hell. If you do believe in a literal hell, you probably think that the only reason God would send someone to hell was if that person was evil and deserved it?
Well, in my case, it’s none of the above. Yes, I was taken to a literal burning hell, and no, it had nothing to do with being good or bad. The reason I was shown this place was to bring back a message of warning. My story is not one to condemn, but rather to inform you that hell is a real place – it does exist. God’s desire is that no one goes there. But the sad and simple fact is that people make the choice to go to hell every day!
Why is it that when God warns us of what will happen if we travel down the wrong road, we are quick to say that He is judgmental and condemning? The truth is that He warns us because He is a good God, one who loves us and wants to help, guide and protect us.
This experience is not something I asked for or ever wanted. However, I am able to overlook my discomfort in light of God’s overall perspective. I have since discovered that my story coincides with what Scripture details about hell. My horrifying journey felt like it lasted an eternity, but, actually, it lasted less than half an hour. Those twenty-three minutes were more than enough to convince me that I would never ever want to return, not even for one more minute. It has become my life’s purpose to tell others what I saw, heard and felt so that whoever reads this story will be able to take the proper measures to steer clear of this place at all costs…
That night I was catapulted out of my bed into the very pit of hell. My point of arrival was a cell with walls of rough stone and rigid bars on the door. I felt as though I was in a temporary holding cell, like a prisoner awaiting his final hours. Isa 24:22 and Prob 7:27 refer to the chambers of hell – this is where I was. As I lay there on the floor, I felt extremely weak. I began to look around and realised I was not alone in this cell. I saw two enormous beasts, unlike anything I had ever seen before. These creatures were towering and far, far beyond intimidating. They were not of this natural world. They were entirely evil, gazing at me with pure, unrestrained hatred which completely paralysed me with fear. ‘Evil’ and ‘Terror’ stood before me. I had no idea where I was and felt utterly panicked. These creatures weren’t animals, but they weren’t human either. They resembled a reptile in appearance with bumps and scales all over their bodies. I could hear the creatures speaking to each other, and though I could not identify their language, I could hear them speaking awful words – blasphemous language that spewed from their mouths expressing hatred for God. Suddenly they turned their attention toward me, like hungry predators staring at prey. I wanted to get up and run, but I had no strength. I could barely move (Ps 88:4). I knew it was much more than physical weakness I was feeling. I was mentally and emotionally drained, even though I had only been there for a few minutes.
The second beast, with its razor-like claws, grabbed me and threw me against the wall. He plunged his claws into my chest and ripped them outwards. I knew I could not escape this torture via death, as death was not an option. Death penetrated me, but eluded me. (Ps 116:3). I pleaded for mercy, but they had none. They seemed incapable of it. The mental anguish I felt was indescribable.
The Living Dead
At this time, I was extremely nauseous from the terrible, foul stench coming from these creatures. It was absolutely disgusting, foul and rotten. It was by far the most putrid smell I have ever encountered. The odour was extremely toxic and alone should have killed me. Instinctively I knew the things I experienced were a thousand times worse than what would be possible on the earth’s surface – things such as the odours, the strength of the demons, the loudness of the screams, the dryness and loneliness I felt. I was horrified as I heard the screams of an untold multitude of people crying out in torment. It was absolutely deafening The terror-filled screams seemed to go right through me…through the panic and deafening noise I realised, “I’m in hell! This is a real place and I’m actually here!” I tried to understand… “I am a good person. This is inconceivable”…the fear was so intense I couldn’t bear it, but then again, I couldn’t die. I knew that most people up on the surface of the earth did not believe or even know that there was a whole world going on down here. They wouldn’t believe it. But here it existed, and it was all too real. This place was so terrifying and hostile. I felt the darkness (Ex 10:21). The darkness was not simply the absence of light – it had a distinctive evil presence, a feeling of death, a penetrating evil. I looked off to my right and could faintly see flames from afar off that dimly lit the skyline. I knew the flames were coming from a large pit, a gigantic raging inferno.
One of the most painful thoughts I had was that I could never get to my wife. She had no idea of my existence in this place. I would never ever see her again or tell her of my doom. (Ps 140:10). The air was filled with smoke and a filthy, deathly odour hung in the oxygen-depleted atmosphere (Rev 14:11). One of the worst sensations I experienced was an insatiable thirst and dryness. I was so extremely thirsty. There was no water, no humidity, nothing (Zech 9:11).
With thoughts of utter hopelessness flooding my mind, I looked out at the desolate, barren cavern toward the flames. All the memories of what a wonderful life I had enjoyed were now a world apart. There was no work, no goals, no wisdom and no opportunity to speak to anyone. No comfort, no kindness. All life was over and a useless ‘wasting away’ permeated my being. How could I accept the reality I was now faced with? It was a reality filled with an endless eternity of pain, loss, loneliness and doom – a most miserable existence. I realised this horror would last for an eternity and that knowledge thrust me back into a frantic state of mind. I didn’t even possess the thought of calling on God for help, because I was there as one who didn’t know God. The Lord didn’t even come to mind.
The Pit
Momentary relief hit my soul as I realised I had been taken away from those hideous creatures. However, now I found myself next to an enormous pit with raging flames of fire leaping high into an open cavern. As I looked up into that dark, eerie, tomb-like atmosphere, it seemed like a mouth that had swallowed her dead. (Num 16:32-33) The flames of her ravenous appetite were never satisfied with the pitiful screams of untold multitudes. The heat was far beyond unbearable and I desperately wanted to escape before being thrown into that inferno. I could see the outlines of people through the flames…the screams of the condemned deafening. They were contained in a massive pit with no way of escape as horrible creatures surrounded the perimeter. Human strength was no match for the demons. The continual emotional, mental and physical trauma of hell feeds a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation. You desperately long for even a few minutes of rest, but you never ever get the privilege. There is never any peace of mind (Ezek 7:25). I desperately wanted to talk to a human being, but I knew I would never get the chance. You are kept from any kind of fellowship, conversation or human interaction.  There is no escape…
I possessed the knowledge that there were different levels of torment and varying degrees of punishment. I knew some people were in worse positions than others, though all the areas were horrid and filled with torment. I was aware there were other levels far far worse.
Can good people go to hell?
You might be thinking, “I am a good enough person to go to heaven. Only bad people, murderers, rapists and people like Hitler and Stalin go to hell”. This sounds reasonable to most of us. But what standard is used to determine if one is ‘good enough’ to go to heaven and ‘bad enough’ to go to hell? This is something we need to know for certain. The qualification for heaven (or hell) is not based on how we compare to others. You may look pretty good to yourself, but what if you were looked at through the eyes of Someone who is sinless? What if you were judged not only by your actions, but by your thoughts? (Matt 5:28)
Most of us realise that we have broken God’s law – the Ten Commandments – as if it’s no big deal. But, it is a big deal. Have you ever lied? You say, “Yes, but only white lies.” Have you ever stolen? “Yes but only little things.” Can you see what you are doing? You are trivialising your crimes. You will deceive yourself if you think you are not a thief or a liar. What is the judge’s ruling for lying and stealing? “All liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.” Rev 21:8. You say, “I don’t believe in hell.” That’s like someone saying to a judge, “I don’t believe in jail.” What we believe or don’t believe doesn’t change realities. No thief will enter heaven. Not one. God has not left us in a hopeless state concerning our eternity. Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins. He was brutally beaten beyond recognition as a man, severely whipped and nailed to a cross where He suffered an excruciating death. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom 5:8
Jesus is God’s plan for salvation. Our religious deeds, our own opinions, can NOT save us. God is the Judge and He has provided the solution. We have no right to dispute His salvation plan. If you are a Christian, don’t keep the plan to yourself. Share it with your friends and family – don’t let them go to hell! You will be accountable for not sharing the good news. If you are not a born again child of God, don’t delay your decision. You do not know what tomorrow holds. Pray this prayer now, and get in touch with a Bible-believing church where you can plant yourself. Read your Bible and start with the Gospel of John…and tell others of what the Lord has done for you!
Dear God,
I confess I am a sinner. Thank you that Jesus took my punishment upon Himself when He died on the cross for my sins. Thank you that He rose again. Today I repent of my sins and turn from my evil ways. I place my trust in Jesus Christ alone for my salvation. In Jesus name I confess this, Amen.
“Hell is going to be an eternity filled with grief and pain, and unquenchable fire, according to the Bible.” Franklin Graham.
“Scripture speaks of the ‘Lake of Fire’ (Rev 20:14), ‘Wailing and gnashing of teeth’ (Matt 13:42) and where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:44). If we really believed in Hell, we would plead with sinners.” Ray Comfort.
“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty.” Mal 4:1
“If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” John 15:6
“The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will weed out of His kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” Matt 13:41-43
“…If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of His wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever.” Rev 14:9-12
“Fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matt 10:28

The Persecuted Church

The Persecuted Church
In the daily battles of life, one can be tempted to give in to depression or fatigue as we see sin and compromise increasing. Yet, there is hope: God is Sovereign. Nothing is inevitable except what God has decreed. And there is great power in prayer. Nothing is beyond the reach of prayer – except that which is outside of the Will of God.
Christians are not doomed to defeat, but called to victory. If God can actually change us, then He can use us to change some part of this world. Christians can change the course of human history by prayer and obedience to God. The Bible is full of example of believers “who through faith conquered kingdoms…” Heb 11:33
Recent history confirms the power of prayer.
Shortly after I was converted to Christ early in 1977, I remember a missionary from Overseas Missionary Fellowship urging us to pray for God to open the doors to Red China. Even as we prayed my heart was filled with unbelief – how could a Communist country like China ever be open to the Gospel again? Yet, we have seen Mao Tse Tung die, his little ‘Red Book’ discredited and the doors to China gradually open since.Not that China is at all free – the brutal massacres of thousands of unarmed civilians in Peking’s Tianamen Square have shown that Communism is still in control in China.  Brutal slave labour camps and ongoing harassments and persecution of the House Church movement, make it clear that the battle for the soul of China is still raging. But whereas in the past people questioned if the Church had even survived the ‘Cultural Revolution’ and vicious persecution in China, now we know that there are over 100 million Christians in China!
When I first started praying for Mozambique in 1981, it was firmly closed to the Gospel. And many of my friends thought I was foolish to try to enter Marxist Mozambique. Yet, on my motorbike, loaded with one thousand Gospels and New Testaments in Portuguese and the Jesus film, God opened the doors time and again and we managed to deliver many tons of Bibles and relief aid and show Christian films throughout that war-torn Marxist country in the 1980’s.  By God’s grace, Mozambique is now open to the Gospel.
As the persecution of Christians in Angola intensified under the Marxist dictator, Agestino Neto, we prayed for God to intervene. Shortly after Neto declared, “Within 20 years there will not be a Christian or a Bible left in Angola! I have destroyed the Bible!” he died in mysterious circumstances on an operating table in Moscow. Frontline Fellowship has delivered many thousands of Bibles to Angola and today the Church is flourishing and thriving.
When I first saw the Berlin Wall in March 1988, and the many crosses in memory of those who had been shot in the back whilst fleeing socialism, I wept. I prayed, as had so many others, that God would break down that evil system even as he had demolished the walls of Jericho. Yet, how amazed I was when our prayers were answered in 1989, and millions poured across the border for the first look at the other half of their city and country.
When my wife, Lenora, and I visited Romania for Easter services in 1989, we experienced the oppression of Communism and witnessed the tyranny of Ceaucescu. Along with millions of others we prayed. And before the year had ended, we saw the dictator, Ceaucescu, executed, Communist symbols smashed and God’s Word openly proclaimed in the public squares of Romania.
Albania had declared itself to be the first fully atheistic state in the world in 1966. Yet, in answer to prayer, the Communist government of Albania was overthrown. When missionary, Rev. Bill Bathman, and I drove into Albania in 1993, we were inundated with ministry opportunities and people hungry to hear about the God Whom they had been forbidden to even whisper about for all those decades of Communism.
In Nigeria, where the 12 Northern states have declared Islamic Sharia Law, Muslims have burned down many hundreds of Christian churches and have killed thousands of believers in recent years. Yet, tens of thousands of Muslims are coming to Christ in Nigeria and the churches are dynamic.
In Sudan, I have had the privilege of ministering in many churches which have endured repeated aerial bombardments by the National Islamic Front government. We have flown far behind enemy lines to the Nuba Mountains – an island of Christianity in a sea of Islam. The Nuba church in Kauda was bombed 18 times in a 12 month period. We went there to encourage them, actually they encouraged us. We not only found the church building still standing, but the church was packed to overflowing for Sunday worship services! They were not going to allow 18 brutal air raids to keep them from their highest priority: to worship our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!
The Episcopal Church of Sudan in Kotobi was attacked by helicopter gunships and burnt to the ground on, 23 August 1996. Five civilians died in the hail of bullets and shrapnel from these gunships. We had the privilege of conducting worship services in the charred remains of the building, and, after the church was rebuilt, conducting many seminars and services in this building which is a testimony to the fact that Jesus Christ is building His Church,” and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!”
The birthplace of Christianity in Moruland, in Southern Sudan, is Lui Cathedral. In 1965 the cathedral was burned down by Muslim government forces who also destroyed the hospital and school buildings. Yet all these buildings were later rebuilt by the local Christians. Then again in the 1980’s the Arab army swept over Lui and occupied the mission station putting an end to all education, medical and spiritual work for the second time. When I first saw Lui in May 1997, it had just been liberated from the Muslim government forces by the SPLA Resistance movement. The signs of the Arab occupation were everywhere – trenches, gun emplacements, pill boxes, mine fields, the debris of war, a newly painted mosque and many vandalised graves. There were a shocking number of broken crosses in the graveyard by the cathedral. Rev. Jeffery Kayanga pointed out a huge tree: “The first Christian missionary, Dr. Kenneth Fraser, chose that tree to start the first Moru church under because it was the same tree under which the Arab slave traders had bought and sold our people as slaves.”
By the slave tree were the graves of the early missionaries and Christians and beyond the graves the remains of the church that they had established. The cathedral in Lui was restored, and soon packed to overflowing with thousands of enthusiastic Christians. The hospital was renovated and the school restored. Then the government of Sudan Air Force bombed this community on 10 separate occasions, severely damaging the church for a third time. Yet, Fraser Cathedral in Lui has been restored yet again. It is the church that will not die. It is a dynamic testimony to the vibrant faith and resilience of the persecuted Christians in Sudan. We have had many seminars and services in this church that has been bombed 10 times and rebuilt time and again.
Sunday 11 November is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted.
Please pray for:
The courageous Karen Christians suffering under the Buddhist military dictatorship in Burma.
Christians suffering under the brutal Communist dictatorship in North Korea.
Over 1,000 Christians imprisoned for their faith in Eritrea.
Millions of Coptic Christians suffering under militant Islamic persecution in Egypt.
Many Christians in India suffering under vicious militant Hindu Nationalists.
Christians suffering under violent Islamic Jihad in Indonesia.
Christians in Laos who have been tortured, beaten and attacked by the Communist authorities.
The courageous Christians in Vietnam, for healing, courage and grace as they suffer violence at the hands of the Communist authorities.
Christians in Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, for strength to endure persistent discrimination and persecution.
The Christians in Zimbabwe who have had hundreds of churches bulldozed and burned down by the Communist government.
“When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous, but terror to evil doers.” Proverbs 21:15
Pray that the persecutors of the Church may be exposed and opposed and may be brought to repentance, or that they may be removed. Pray that the persecutors may fall into the traps that they have dug for others, that their declarations may come back to haunt them, and that their actions against God’s people be exposed, confounded and confused.  Pray that God’s people may respond to the desperate needs of our suffering brethren in love and action.
“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them.” Hebrews 13: 3
Dr. Peter Hammond has been a missionary to the persecuted for over 25 years.

Billy Graham: Living Legend

Billy Graham: Living Legend
He has preached to nearly 215 million people in live audiences in more than 185 countries.  Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film and webcasts.  Millions of individuals have been led into a relationship with the Lord through his message.  With a ministry that started in the early 1940’s and has spanned over six decades, Billy Graham has become one of the best known evangelists in history.  Join us, as we reflect on the life of a man who lives Acts 1:8   with every fibre of his being.
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
How it all began
Billy Graham was born on 7 November 1918, and was raised on a dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina.  His favourite hobby as a child, after all the chores on the farm were complete, was to read for hours on end on a wide variety of subjects.  He loved learning and had a vast general knowledge from a young age.
At the age of 16 he attended a meeting of a travelling evangelist, Mordecai Ham, and gave his life to the Lord.  At that moment, his whole life changed.  He studied Theology at the Trinity College in Florida and was ordained in 1939 by a church in the Southern Baptist Convention.  In 1943 he graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois and married fellow student, Ruth Bell, daughter of a missionary surgeon.
After graduating from college he pastored the First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois before he joined Youth for Christ.  He preached throughout the United States and Europe directly after the war and soon became a popular young evangelist.  In 1949, at a Los Angeles crusade, Billy Graham was launched into international prominence.  He erected a series of circus tents in a parking lot and began preaching.  Crowds overflowed the tents each night and eventually they had to extend the crusade from three weeks to eight.  The rest, is history.
Looking back over six decades
Since that first crusade Billy Graham has preached at a further 415 crusades all over the world.  In many of these crusades he would preach night after night for up to 16 weeks.  He never complained and never showed his exhaustion.  His passion for souls only grew stronger and his legacy will go on for many generations to come.  Millions of people who serve the Lord today, gave their hearts to Him at one of Graham’s crusades, and those they lead to the Lord will add to the many hearts written in the Book of Life because of one man’s simple obedience.
Billy Graham has preached in cities such as New York and in remote African villages.  His audience has ranged from Heads of State to the simple-living tribesmen of Africa.  Yet his message was always the same:  “Jesus loves you and wants to know you, come forward and give your life to Him.”
In 1950 he founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and through this ministry many millions are reached by the ‘Hour of Decision’ which is a radio  broadcast around the world every Sunday.  The Association has a newspaper column which is carried by newspapers in the United States and internationally, as well as several television specials.  Their official publication, the ‘Decision’ magazine, has a circulation of more than 600 000 and is available in English and German with special editions in Braille and is also available on cassette tape for the visually impaired.  World Wide Pictures has produced and distributed over 125 productions, making it one of the foremost producers of evangelistic films in the world.  These have been translated into 38 languages and have been viewed by more than 250 million people worldwide, including those in prisons and correctional facilities.  Billy Graham has stopped at nothing to bring the Gospel to the world.  As of 2002, Graham’s lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, topped two billion.
He has written 25 books, many of which have become best-sellers.  “How to be born again”, published in 1977, had the largest first print run in publishing history – 800 000 copies.  “Angels: God’s Secret Agents”, published in 1975, sold one million copies in 90 days.  His influence on the world is staggering.  Institutions, both secular and Christian, have honoured him and he has been awarded numerous honorary doctorates in several countries. 
Despite all these accolades and achievements, Billy Graham only does what he does out of a deep love for the Lord.  He still lives on a farm and money holds no interest to him.  He was once offered a five-year, R35 million contract from NBC, but he turned it down in favour of continuing his touring revivals.  He is clay in God’s hands and because of his unwavering service, the Lord has used him in mighty ways. 
During the Cold War, Graham became the first Christian to speak behind the Iron Curtain, addressing large crowds in countries throughout Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union, calling for peace. During the Apartheid era, Graham consistently refused to visit South Africa until its government finally allowed attending audiences to sit desegregated. His first crusade here was in 1973, during which he openly denounced apartheid. Graham said, “There is no scriptural basis for segregation…the ground at the foot of the cross is level, and it touches my heart when I see whites standing shoulder to shoulder with blacks at the cross.”
Even though his health was poor, Billy Graham stood in the gap for millions of Americans during their time of crisis.  On September 14  2001, in the aftermath of the September 11 2001 attacks, Dr. Graham led a prayer and remembrance service at Washington National Cathedral attended by President George W. Bush and past and present leaders. On the weekend of March 11 2006, Billy Graham held the ‘Festival of Hope’ with his son, Franklin Graham. The festival was held in New Orleans, which was recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
At the dedication of the Billy Graham Library in May this year, three former presidents- Jimmy Carter, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton –  joined the audience to pay tribute to a man they all love  Bush, now aged 83, gave the keynote address.  He said that Graham “helped tip the balance of history in freedom’s favour.”  Bush, choking up as he spoke, thanked Billy Graham for ministering to four generations of his own family.  He ended by saying, “Billy is a spiritual gift to all of us.”
Bill Clinton said that he recalled going to Billy Graham crusades since the late 1950’s.  “Billy has known me since 1985,” he said, “but I have known him for nearly 50 years.”
Carter praised Graham as a boundary-breaking preacher who had the greatest influence on his own spiritual life.  He said, “I’m just one of tens of millions of people whose spiritual life has been shaped by Billy Graham.”
From presidents to businessmen to others in ministry, Billy Graham has become an inspiration to millions.  He is the leader that leaders look up to and admire most. 
Getting to know Billy Graham on a more personal level
Most of us know Billy Graham as a strong and powerful preacher; one who has preached to more people than any man who has ever lived. Yet, few of us know of his private life, the hardships he has endured and the courage he has shown in the face of death.
Graham has had Parkinson’s disease for about 15 years and is regularly admitted to hospital to drain fluid from his brain.  He has suffered from pneumonia, broken hips and prostate cancer.  Most recently he was admitted to hospital for intestinal bleeding in August this year.  Yet, his failing health doesn’t stop him from his mission.  When he was released from hospital in early September, he said that he was looking forward to writing another book.
His greatest challenge this year was not his health, but the death of Ruth, his beloved wife of 64 years.  Her death literally broke his heart.  On June 13th 2007  Billy Graham said, “Earlier this year, after much prayer and discussion, Ruth and I made the decision to be buried beside each other at the Billy Graham Library in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. We have held this decision privately and only decided to announce it now that she is close to going home to heaven. Ruth is my soul mate and best friend, and I cannot imagine living a single day without her by my side. I am more in love with her today than when we first met over 65 years ago as students at Wheaton College.” The day after this announcement, on 14 June 2007, Ruth died after entering a coma. She was 87.
Graham reminisces about the first day he met Ruth: “I saw her walking down the road towards me and I couldn’t help but stare at her as she walked. She looked at me and our eyes met and I felt that she was definitely the woman I wanted to marry.” Ruth thought that he “wanted to please God more than any man I’d ever met.”  They had 5 children together –  three daughters and two sons.  Their son, Franklin Graham, will be his father’s successor at Billy Graham Ministries.  Billy and Ruth also have 19 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren. 
Billy Graham adores his family and is thankful for the many years he has had to spend with them.  When asked what he would do differently, if he had his life to live over again, Graham says he would spend more time immersed in Scripture and theology. “The greatest regret that I have is that I didn’t study more and read more,” he says. “I regret it, because now I feel at times I am empty of what I would like to have been. I have friends that have memorised great portions of the Bible. They can quote so much, and that would mean a lot to me now.”
Where to from here?
Billy Graham knows that he doesn’t have much longer to live and he is absolutely fine with that.  He hasn’t wasted a single day of the 88 years he has spent on earth.  This is surely a life that will reap an eternity of blessing. 
Towards the end of Ruth’s life, he said, “At night we have time together; we pray together and read the Bible together.  It’s a wonderful period of life for both of us. We’ve never had a love like we have now—we feel each other’s hearts.” He misses her terribly and longs to see her again.  At night, as they read and reminisced and sometimes just gazed at one another, the Grahams’ conversation often turned to what they believed awaited them beyond the grave. This comforts Graham now.  He says, “I think about heaven a great deal, I think about the failures in my life in the past, but know that they have been covered by the blood of Christ, and that gives me a great sense of confidence.  I have a certainty about eternity that is a wonderful thing, and I thank God for giving me that certainty. I do not fear death. I may fear a little bit about the process, but not death itself, because I think the moment that my spirit leaves this body, I will be in the presence of the Lord.”
As this incredible man lives out his last years, let us keep him in our prayers as he has kept us in his. Although we may lose a great friend and mentor, heaven will certainly be gaining one of the greatest Christians of all time.  God bless you, Billy.

Reality TV romances – The spiritual perspective

By Jackie Georgiou

The camera zooms in on Sarah…just as the Bachelor calls for Jessica. Sarah’s face falls and the tears build as she is forced to explain to the camera how rejected she feels…In the background the Bachelor toasts to the next romantic date with the 19 remaining women.
Sound like a bizarre fairytale? Well, it’s not – in fact this is top rated, award winning reality TV. America, and in fact audiences world wide, are soaking up this type of ‘instant romance’ and even Christians are being sucked into this fantasy of love at first sight followed by a millionaire’s happily ever after life.
Although we know these shows are ‘competitions’ rather than real life, many of us are subconsciously influenced by the message that reality TV preaches: “To be loved you must be the best, only the beautiful are chosen, rich men rule the world and romance is all that counts.” As women (and men) we need to have a Scriptural understanding of love, marriage and relationships. As children of God, we live by the Kingdom example and not by the world’s morals. Whereas sexuality, beauty, money and power are prioritised in worldly relationships, we have been called to a higher standard – one of purity, respect, Godliness and unconditional love.
Lisa McMinn, Associate Professor of Sociology at Wheaton (Christian) College, explains, “These shows paint a warped image about love. The women claim to be in love after spending a few moments with someone. It’s such a Hollywood notion – love (lust) at first sight. What a misconception! In reality, love is not based only on attraction, but on choice and commitment. Healthy relationships take time to grow and deepen.” These shows give a shallow model of love and rarely show the long term challenges and blessings of marriage.
So, as a single Christian girl what is the alternative? We live in a superficial culture swamped with messages of inadequacy and the need for self-improvement. Married women live in fear that if they gain weight, or have a bad day, their husbands will simply ‘dump’ them for a better model – especially as it seems there is a lack of strong, dependable leading men. Christ is our hope! He is the perfect example of unconditional love and submission to the Will of the Father. If we as singles submit our lives to God, He will bring the right person, in His timing, across our path. It is not in our own striving that we will ever achieve the ‘perfect’ relationship. If we as married couples follow the Bible’s teachings on how to be a good wife and a Godly husband (see 1 Pet 3 and Eph 5), we will endure the trials and tribulations of life far better than if we do things out of selfish desires and competitive gain (as many of these reality shows advocate).

How then do we practically walk through our singleness without falling prey to false hopes of being “rescued by a knight in shining armour”?

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul…” Deut 6:5
We can’t love anyone else adequately, until we love the Lord and receive His love in our lives. It is only when we are complete as individuals that we are ready to marry and love another.

“Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you” Matt 6:33
If we pursue fleshy or sinful desires, we will always be disappointed. No person or thing can ever fill the void that God has placed inside you – a void only He can fill. If we expect our family/friends or spouse to fill that void, we will never be satisfied. Place the Lord’s will and His Word first in your life, and then everything else will be blessed.

“Do not awaken love before its time”
Song of Sol 2:7b
As single ladies, we tend to run ahead of ourselves (and even the Lord) with our romantic plans, dream holidays, fantasy wedding and glowing groom. So often, we “fall in love” with any man who shows us a bit of attention. We need to have discernment and guard our hearts – and this can only come from the help of the Holy Spirit. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Prov 4:23
As single men, lust and sexual temptation is a huge stumbling block, especially as the media drives men to value outward beauty. As Christians we need to prioritise according to God’s standard, and as men, to encourage Godliness in others.