Billy Graham: Not in Heaven Because He Preached to the Crowds

Billy Graham: Not in Heaven Because He Preached to the Crowds

After watching the funeral of Billy Graham this week, I discovered his final column where Billy states: “By the time you read this, I will be in heaven.” I don’t think there is a doubt in anyone’s mind that Billy Graham is in heaven. Why are we all agreed that he is in heaven? We might answer, with all the good he has done through his preaching to millions, you know he is going to be in heaven. After all he was “America’s Pastor” and the world’s best known evangelist, so he is a obviously in heaven.

F82EB9F9-DBF9-4EBC-9A4A-C6ADF24A9A53What’s interesting is the reason Billy Graham gives for his entrance into heaven. He states, “But I won’t be in heaven because I preached to the crowds or because I have tried to live a good life.” It is only his faith in Jesus Christ that gave him the  confidence of heaven. If Billy Graham will “be in heaven for one reason,” our hope of going to heaven is because of  the very same reason.

Randy Alcorn says this:

Many mistakenly believe that heaven is our reward for doing good things. This is absolutely not the case. Our presence in heaven is in no sense a reward for our works, but a gift freely given by God in response to faith.

Well, what about the millions that Billy Graham preached to and the lives who came to Christ because of his preaching? Doesn’t that account for anything? The answer can be found in Eph. 2:9, which Billy clearly understood: “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (NLT). In other words, what you believe is the key to entering heaven, not what you do.  That is a good thing because if it is based on our efforts then most of us would have a difficult challenge ahead, especially if we compare ourselves to the accomplishments of someone like Graham.

However, we can’t stop reading there because immediately after saying salvation is “not by works,” the next verse clarifies that our works matter a great deal.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.

Even though salvation is not through our works, we are actually created to do good works. A lifetime of good works was actually prepared in advance by God for us to do. A few years ago I did a study using a book by Bruce Wilkinson called “A Life God Rewards” which explained how Jesus taught the promise of reward in heaven.

“He will reward each according to his works” (Matthew 16:27)

“You will have treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21).

“You will be blessed … for you shall be repaid at the resurrection” (Luke 14:14).

This certainly suggests that God is keeping track of what we do for Him every day. Wilkinson speaks of two keys: The first is belief that unlocks the door to eternal life and determines where we spend eternity. The second is our behaviour which unlocks the door to reward and determines how we will spend eternity.

The reality is we have the same hope of heaven that Billy Graham had because it is simply through faith that we enter heaven, which is really the foundation. At the end of Wilkinson’s book, there are several quotes from well-known theologians and preachers, of which is Billy Graham.

“The believer has his foundation in Jesus Christ. Now we are to build upon this foundation, and the work we have done must stand the ultimate test; the final exams come at the Judgment Seat of Christ when we receive our rewards.” –  Billy Graham

Are we living and working everyday with an eternal perspective? Will our good deeds, acts of kindness (works) pass the ultimate test?


Is Believing Enough?

Is Believing Enough?

Recently, I heard the amazing story of Charles Blondin, a famous French tightrope walker, which illustrates how we can be challenged. 

Blondin’s greatest fame came on September 14, 1860, when he became the first person to cross a tightrope stretched 11,000 feet (over a quarter of a mile) across the mighty Niagara Falls. People from both Canada and America came from miles away to see this great feat.

He walked across, 160 feet above the falls, several times… each time with a different daring feat – once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and blindfolded. One time he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet in the middle of the rope!


He also went across pushing a wheelbarrow and then a one point, he asked for the participation of a volunteer. Upon reaching the other side, the crowd’s applause was louder than the roar of the falls!

Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?

The crowd enthusiastically yelled, “Yes! You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. We believe!” How many volunteers do you think stepped forward? There were none, but the reason is the most interesting: They only observed and believed.

DDblondin1As the story is told only his manager was willing to take the step beyond belief and have sufficient faith in Blondin, to be carried across the tightrope on Blondin’s back.

Standing on the ground, it was easy to believe based on what the crowd was witnessing. However, when asked to risk their own life, it required more than simply believing. There is obviously an entirely different level that takes us beyond belief.

In June 1990, Petra release an album featuring a song written by Bob Hartman entitled: “Beyond Belief” which was based on Heb. 6:1a, Phil. 1:6 Rom. 1:17. Here is the chorus:

There’s a higher place to go, beyond belief, beyond belief
Where we reach the next plateau, beyond belief, beyond belief
And from faith to faith we grow
Towards the center of the flow
Where He beckons us to go, beyond belief, beyond belief

The song did not actually name on that place that is beyond belief, but I would call it trust. What Bondin was asking of the crowd is very similar to what “believers” are called to do, not just believe but trust. Trust is much difficult and beyond belief.

In my search to highlight the difference between belief and trust I read a blog that quoted Peter Enns and he provides a great illustration.  Jesus tells a famous story about why those who follow him need not worry about anything. Don’t fret about how much you have, what you wear, or what you will eat. Don’t worry. Trust. (Matthew 6:25-34).

Jesus illustrates the point in what at first blush seems rather off topic–at best marginally helpful. He tells us to consider the grass of the field and the birds of the sky. Look at them, Jesus says. They’re doing just fine and they don’t worry for a second.

Of course they don’t worry, Jesus, because they are–if I’m not mistaken–grass and birds. Grass doesn’t have a brain and birds are skittish little things that fly into windows. These things aren’t really relevant, Jesus, because, you see, by definition, Jesus, these things are incapable of worry.

And when you put it that way, you can see the profound point–and challenge–of what Jesus is saying: worry should be as impossible for us as it is for grass and birds. His followers–if they get it–should be as incapable of worry as insentient grass and bird-brained birds.

“Believing in God” doesn’t get you to that place Jesus is describing here. Belief leaves room for worry. Trust explodes it.

The question I would leave you with is this: Are you one who can step further than the crowd of believers, beyond belief, and move to trust, where you are incapable of worry?

Is God’s Love Reckless?

Is God’s Love Reckless?

My youngest daughter recently sent me a youtube video of a song called, “Reckless Love,” which is written to describe how God pursues each of us through His love. If you are a parent who has ever quoted the verse, “Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it,” then this is a song that you should listen to. It will lift your faith in God because He pursues all who are away from Him to bring them back into relationship.

It is easy for us to focus on the word “reckless” and say that this word cannot possibly describe God in any way. At first glance, the dictionary definition seems to confirm this thinking since “reckless” is not a good descriptive word for God. It is defined as “without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action,” providing the example of  “reckless driving” which is clearly a careless act.

God is certainly not “careless” but actually the exact opposite. “He cares for us” so much that He will go to any extreme to reach us, which is the heart of the song, Reckless Love. Verse 1 highlights how God created us and gives us life. Verse 2 focuses on how God redeems us, despite the fact we were His enemies and rebellious in our sinfulness. The chorus focuses on how incredible it is that God loves us and pursues us.

The biblical basis for the song is Luke 15 which contains 3 parables: the lost son (or the prodigal), the lost sheep and the lost coin. Think how “reckless” it was for the father to receive with open arms his son who had squandered his inheritance.  He did not care about the consequences of what other people thought of this act of love. Same thing with the parable of the lost sheep. Why would a shepherd not care about the safety of the 99 to go find the one?  The shepherd was a little reckless … without thinking or caring about the consequences of leaving the flock, he recklessly drove to save the one that was lost.

Is this really any different than the song “Amazing Grace?” The language of that time speaks of “saving a wretch like me” which is picture of reaching out to someone who “once was lost, but now am found.” The message of “Reckless Love” focuses on God reaching to us in much the same way as through Amazing Grace. The important issue here is not how this new song compares to an older song, but rather the biblical support the author was inspired by to write it.

If Luke 15 isn’t sufficient, look at 1 Cor. 1:18 where Paul writes: “The word of the cross seems foolishness to those who are are on the way to destruction; but to us … it is the power of God.” The word “foolishness” is easily comparable to “reckless,” which can be seen as one way to describe how God extends His love to humanity.

Here is an excerpt from what the author of the song, Cory Asbury, says:

“When I use the phrase, “the reckless love of God”, I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being. His love isn’t crafty or slick. It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.”

What an interesting perspective. I am not sure you can bankrupt heaven, but I get the point: “God gave his only son.” As a parent, I want the Reckless Love of God to relentlessly pursue my children with the goal of drawing them back to Himself. For that matter, when I myself am distant in my relationship with my Creator, I trust He would “recklessly” leave the ninety-nine to seek after me. This song truly displays the message of redemption, which is the ultimate message of the church. I truly cannot understand how a church would not have this song as part of their worship service.

I will admit that the word “reckless” in reference to God’s love does push the boundaries a little but the whole point of the song is exactly that … His love reaches beyond any barrier. Isn’t that the whole point of John 3:16? Isn’t that a reckless expression of God “coming after me,” as the song says?

Please watch the video:



The Loudest Voice

The Loudest Voice

We live in a world filled with voices and depending on the voice that is loudest, that is what we will hear. Oftentimes, the voice we hear most will actually begin to shape us. One of the ideas expressed by Mark Batterson in his book entitled, Whisper, is that a whisper speaks of intimacy.  In other words, you have to get close in order to hear what is being said and if you don’t get close, you will likely miss it.

My google search resulted in this definition of whisper: speak very softly using one’s breath without one’s vocal cords, especially for the sake of privacy.

In order to hear a whisper, we must be in a quiet place, or lean in towards the whisperer.  During our busy days, we are most often in the midst of many voices and actually have to make a choice as to which voice we will tune our ears to.

Some voices are in our head, previously shaped by what we have already heard or been thinking about and will compete with a current voice we hear with our ears. In the Christmas story, Zacharias heard the voice of Gabriel say he and Elizabeth would have a son and they were to call him John. Unfortunately, that was not the loudest voice in his life at the time. The loudest voice was actually more about his age and how his wife was unable to have a child. Interesting that he was then silenced until his son was born and he only received his ability to speak again once he wrote, “His name shall be John.” It seems it was only after these months of silence that he was finally able to align his thinking and speaking with the voice of the angel he had heard months earlier. In the time of his silence, I am sure he thought a great deal about what he had heard the angel say.

What a relief it must have been for Zacharias to finally to be able “to give voice” fulfilling what he was actually called to do. Here is what I find most interesting: the origin of the word for “calling” comes from the Latin word “vocare” or “to give voice.” The big question as we embark upon another year is, “What are we giving voice to in our lives, our work, our relationships?”

Think about your work-life for a moment: Are you called to do what you do everyday?

Do you have a job, a career or a calling?

– A job can be defined as something you do for money (often temporary and one you can and will change in your life.) My first job was “pumping gas” which is pretty rare to see now-a-days with mostly self-serve stations and options to pay at the pump.

– A career comes from the Latin word “cart” and the French word for “racetrack.” I did move on to a career, or actually changed careers a couple of times.

Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 12.55.38 PM– I have discovered that you can actually fulfill your “calling” in a job or a career but the key is to fulfill your calling, no matter what your hand finds to do. I guess you can say, it’s finding that sweet spot and I think many times that simply means following the voice that is within.

For me, that sweet spot is the overlap of my gifts and passions that enable me to fulfill a kingdom need. That means I am able to help others find and fulfill their individual calling.

You can be in a job and you just desire to get another, a better higher paying job. You may be in a career and feel like you are circling the racetrack, going around in circles and feeling like you are accomplishing so little.  Sounds like a frustrated life, but in the midst of that, you may need to simply quiet yourself and listen because there is a still small voice that desires to move you toward what you were purposed to accomplish in your life. This may not mean a new job, a change in career or retirement. It may simply mean a new perspective because you tuned out the many voices around you and listened to the One voice that really matters.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart!  (Psalm 37:4)


My Prayer for 2018?

My Prayer for 2018?

This is definitely the time of year where we have family and friends coming to visit with us. As I have reflected on the Christmas story from Luke 1, it is filled with visits, some even from angels. Particularly, think about Gabriel who first visits Zachariah, then Mary.  These meetings have much in common: (a) the immediate response in both cases is fear with the instruction to “Fear not”; (b) then to each was an announcement of a miraculous birth in circumstances that were humanly impossible; (c) they both respond with a question but it is here that the differences begin to be magnified.

1. The Angel Gabriel visits Zechariah

Here are the facts of their story: (a) He and his wife were too old to have children (b) God heard their prayer for a child (c) He was told they would have a son and to name him John (d) He questioned: “How can I know this?”

2. The Angel Gabriel visits Mary

The facts of this visit are: (a) Mary was unmarried; (b) Mary was too young to have a child (in other words a virgin); (c) She was told she would have a son and to name Him Jesus; (d) She questioned: “But how can this happen?”

Despite the similarities of these visits, there is one significant difference: Zechariah questioned because he did not believe while Mary questioned because she did believe. Mary was interested in how this was going to happen, while Zechariah considered the obstacles and failed to recognize the presence of the Divine. He was then unable to speak until John was born. His focus was more on the limits of their age, rather than seeing how the ageless one could fulfill a promise through them. Many times our present reality can keep us from seeing all that God has purposed for us and desires to accomplish through us.

3. Mary Visits Elizabeth

(a) Mary greeted Elizabeth; (b) the baby kicked; (c) Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit; (d) She told Mary she was blessed for believing.

good newsThe speaking of words seems to be important enough that Elizabeth was prevented from hearing the words of unbelief that would have undoubtedly been spoken by Zechariah, and was instead greeted by Mary. Both Mary and Zechariah were visited by an angel. Zechariah didn’t believe despite having prayed for a child. Mary believed without having prayed for a child (at least I suspect that to be the case at this time in her life).

So what’s most important?  The believing, the praying or the saying? Zachariah didn’t believe, yet John was born. Mary didn’t pray to have a baby, yet Jesus was born. Also noteworthy is how Elizabeth declared Mary blessed because she believed. Mary’s belief is evidenced in the words she spoke, exactly as it is with all of us. We speak out of what fills our heart and belief is a function of the heart. Zechariah was unable to align his speaking with his prayer or the message spoken by the angel.

In many cases, the words we speak are based more upon our circumstances rather than on what we have prayed concerning that circumstance. We would do so much better if we speak according to the promises that God has given to us. The reality is the words we verbalize not only impact ourselves but also others who hear.

Here is an interesting statement in scripture: “At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”  We greet people all the time and we should consider what can happen within others when we speak to them. When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.

Mary’s words created joy, which is an example of how powerful our words can be. We can stir emotions and cause others to believe as we speak with them. Despite a divine encounter with two special individuals, one, who would regularly interact with his spouse, was prevented from speaking to Elizabeth, while the other, who believed, was moved to visit and inspire her.

Christmas Greetings are meant to be good news of great joy! If you are sensitive you will be moved to speak with many people in the year ahead. What will be the results of those meetings and interactions?

My prayer for 2018 is:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

Giving: The Sad Reality

Giving: The Sad Reality

It seems quite natural to ask a young child what they are getting for Christmas and it is obviously quite natural for kids to be excited about opening gifts on Christmas morning. Yet we all know that Christmas is more about giving than it is about getting.

A quick look into the origin of Santa Claus will reveal a heart of giving. It begins in the third century with Nicholas. His wealthy parents raised him to be a devout Christian, but died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young.

Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Here is the statement that stands out to me: “Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy …” Let’s face it, this is the time of year we think much about giving, but our emphasis tends to be towards those who are closest to us (family and friends), not necessarily those in need.

By asking “what are you getting for Christmas,” I wonder if we are putting the emphasis in the wrong place. Obviously, in order for some to receive, someone has to give, so maybe we ought to change the question to: “What are you giving for Christmas?”

However, the focus of one of the articles in the Toronto Sun this week, presents a not so bright picture in Canada, especially when it comes to giving. I couldn’t help taking a screen shot of the online article:


It’s interesting how this article is about being “Scrooge-like” when it comes to charity while there are ads surrounding the headline to entice us to spend our money on costly things. Without some sort of ad blocker, we are constantly bombarded with these ads which actually helps “program” us to want more. Let’s face it, whether younger or older, we are programmed “to get” but not programmed “to give.”

I was disappointed as I read the article as it described how little we are actually giving in Canada. It quotes a new Fraser Institute study stating that Canadians have reached a new ten-year low when it comes to donating to charities.

Here are some of the surprising takeaways from the most recent trackable year, 2015:

*One in five Canadian tax-filers claimed charitable donations on their tax return — compared to almost one in four Americans

*The total amount donated by Canadians — just 0.56% of income — is the lowest amount in a decade and down from a 10-year peak of 0.78 % in 2006.

*The average dollar amount, in local currencies, claimed in Canada was $1,699 – compared to $6,058 in the U.S.

Why are we giving less than 1% of our income to charity?

1. Maybe we think we are more generous than we are. We buy someone a coffee or a meal, we give a few dollars when we are asked at the ckeckout and add it to our bill, or we drop $5 or $10 in the Salvation Army Kettle during the Christmas season … and we feel good when we walk away.

2. Many of the comments after that article said the government takes too much in taxes, so it limits a person’s ability to give.

3. Maybe we support a cause with our time and we feel that’s sufficient. In some cases, by just liking or sharing something online, we have a sense that we are giving enough.

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 8.20.14 AM

4. Maybe we simply don’t see the value in giving. When we give a gift to children or grandchildren, we have the satisification of seeing the joy of the gift being received. When we give to a charity, we often don’t get to see that same impact. Even beyond that, we tend to completely miss the eternal impact and therefore, fail to see our giving as an investment.

In todays society, it is natural to be self-centred so we must determine to give. Otherwise, we will give less and only when we see a need. So just as you set a savings goal for a purchase, education or retirement and set aside funds for that goal, maybe it’s worth establishing a giving goal. If you are working with a financial planner, this ought to be part of your overall strategy and a topic of discussion in your annual review.

Take a look at your overall income. Have you ever calculated where it’s all going? It’s pretty sad to see that just 20% of Canadians are giving and the overall average of the gift is only 0.56% of income (obviously because 80% are not reporting a charitable receipt). On the other hand,  65% of Canadians are saving 4.6% of income. These stats reveal that we are less interested in giving to others and more focused on saving for our future needs or wants.

Obviously we must use wisdom and save, but we ought to make giving more of a priority in life. Let’s re-program ourselves: Instead of “what are you getting for Christmas” let’s ask: “What are you giving for Christmas?”

What percentage of your income will you save next year? What percentage of your income will you give or invest in the lives of others?

Merry Christmas!


The Impact of a Gift

The Impact of a Gift

In 2012, my wife and I visited our youngest daughter in Calgary. We attended Centre Street Church (where she is now on staff) and then browsed the book store where I found a Stewardship Bible. I decided to purchase this item because I had just completed training for financial professionals and the notes contained in this Bible supported the course so well. When I went to the cashier, she said, “That is yours.”

I said, “Yes, I am here to pay for it.”

“No,” she responded. “A lady donated this to us with the instructions that whoever was interested in it, please give it to them.” This is the first and only time I ever went into a book store and walked out with a book in hand that was given to me.

This was one of those moments where there was a sense that something divine was at work. It was like the Lord was sending me a message that it was important for me to more fully understand the message of stewardship. I do not know who donated that Bible to the bookstore, and that person, therefore, cannot know the significance this kind gesture had on my life. It was one of those “little things” that led me to change my 24-year career as a financial advisor to actually becoming a director of a national ministry working with financial professionals.

With our limited perspective, it is nearly impossible to fully comprehend the impact we can have on others with the gifts we can give. Maybe that is exactly the reason for this statement in 1 Cor. 4:2: “Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful.”

We have all been “put in charge of things” to manage in this life and it is a good idea to consider the potential impact we could have with those things. Consider your time. Can you impact others with how you use time? In 2012, I read the book, “Money, Possessions & Eternity” which helped change my perspective on money. This means the investment of time by the author to write this book was impactful on my life. Until I met the author, Randy Alcorn in 2017, he could not have known that impact. In the same way, our use of time can influence people beyond what we typically realize.

Ken Boa speaks of stewardship this way:

In every stewardship relationship there are two parties involved: the master who hands out the resources and will one day ask for an accounting; and the steward who is entrusted with the resources and must eventually answer for how they were invested. God is the master; he distributes gifts at his discretion. We are stewards, accountable to him for all that we do with all that we have.

December is a time of giving for most, but we should see it more as an opportunity to invest in the lives of others. I have wondered if that Stewardship Bible just sat on a shelf and the thought was, “This Bible would be of better use if it was given to or invested in someone else.”

The reality is: “to whom much is given, much is required.” We must understand we have a responsibility to be faithful with all that has been entrusted to us.  The steward is not actually accountable for the results, but called to be faithful with the resources. It is easy to look for the results rather than focus on our stewardship responsibilities. When we focus on the results and they are not clearly evident, we can easily ask “Why should I continue?” The fact is we are not always aware of the results, nor are we responsible for the results. That is why our calling is to be faithful.

Faithfulness with our resources is vitally important because of the future accounting. This is exactly why we ought to expand our thinking to view our giving as an investment in others.  Investors look for opportunities to get a good return on that investment, which is actually the perspective of a steward.

If you think about all you have received in this life, how are you managing it? It is important to have a focus beyond yourself.


We all have an ability to give something:

  1. Maybe it’s time, which we all have in equal measure
  2. Or opportunity to use your talent, which is unique to you
  3. Or perhaps it is giving from your treasure, which varies by each person.

When considering all that we have and all that we do, it is important to see opportunities, not only to give but also to invest in others. When we give of our time or talent or make a financial donation, do we see it as giving or investing?  Is it just semantics? When making donations most millennials want to feel like they’re making an investment, which is really a steward’s perspective on giving.

During this Christmas season:

How can you use time to impact others? Are there opportunities for your unique gifting to bring joy? Can you make an investment financially through your resources that can have reverberations beyond what you can imagine?

May you experience the Joy of giving this Christmas season!