Friday, June 15, 2007

Ruth Bell Graham dies at 87

MONTREAT, N.C. (BPNews.net)--Ruth Bell Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham, died at 5:05 EST June 14, surrounded by her husband and five children at her Montreat, N.C., home. She was 87.

"Ruth was my life partner, and we were called by God as a team," Billy Graham said in a statement after her death. "No one else could have borne the load that she carried. She was a vital and integral part of our ministry, and my work through the years would have been impossible without her encouragement and support.

"I am so grateful to the Lord that He gave me Ruth, and especially for these last few years we've had in the mountains together," Graham added. "We've rekindled the romance of our youth, and my love for her continued to grow deeper every day. I will miss her terribly, and look forward even more to the day I can join her in heaven."

For several weeks, Graham had been confined to bed as she suffered from degenerative osteoarthritis of the back and neck, and two weeks ago she was diagnosed with pneumonia and seemed to be recovering, A. Larry Ross, a spokesman for the Graham family, told Baptist Press. But on the morning of June 13 she fell into a coma.

At the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in San Antonio that day, SBC President Frank Page led messengers in a time of prayer for Graham, whom he called a "dear saint of God."

Ross said Graham was alert on Sunday, June 10, to celebrate her birthday and was encouraged by visits from family members.

Billy Graham released a statement June 13 announcing the plans he and Ruth had settled on for their burial.

"Earlier this spring, 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," Graham said. "We have held this decision privately and only decided to announce it now that she is close to going home to heaven."

Graham called Ruth his soul mate and best friend, saying he cannot imagine living a single day without her by his side.

"I am more in love with her today than when we first met over 65 years ago as students at Wheaton College," he said.

The worldwide evangelist said he and Ruth appreciated the prayers and letters of encouragement they had received.

"Our entire family has been home in recent days and it has meant so much to have them at our side during this time," Graham said in the June 13 statement. "We love each one of them dearly and thank God for them."

Graham, 88, suffers from fluid on the brain, prostate cancer, Parkinson's disease and age-related macular degeneration. The Billy Graham Library was dedicated in his honor May 31 with three former U.S. presidents in attendance, and it opened to the public June 5.

The Grahams married in 1943 and they have 19 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren in addition to their five children. Arrangements for a private funeral are pending.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

VBS 2007 Sermon, Get Off the Bench and Get in the Game, Hebrews 12

I just posted the sermon I preached this past Sunday as we kicked off our 2007 Vacation Bible School. The theme this year is a sports theme: "Game Day Central, Where Heroes are Made." The main Bible passage for VBS is Hebrews 12:1-2 so I used that as my scripture and used the daily VBS themes as my five points. (I found these on the VBS Gameday website in the section Daily Overview for Children.)

You may download my manuscript, handout, and PowerPoint files free from Proclaim Online.

This is the basic outline I used...
“Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (HCSB)
If you want to be great in God’s eyes …

1. Obey God and Get on the TEAM
“Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us…”
2. Do you best and Play your POSITION
“let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us…"
3. You believe in Him – Get in the GAME
“and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus”
4. Put others first & Take it to the next LEVEL
“keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame”
5. We tell others and Recruit new TEAMMATES
“and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne”
By the way, if you interested in the 2008 VBS theme, LifeWay has just announced it, you can learn more here...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Add Details to Make Your Sermon Illustrations Sticky

I mentioned last week in the Pastors Today e-newsletter that I have recently completed studying a book called Made to Stick by brothers Dan and Chip Heath.

One element that I've been applying is their recommendation to include "specific details" when telling a story. They say that it helps people to visualize the situation you are describing and makes the story more "credible" or believable.

For instance, this past Sunday our worship service used the sports theme "Game Day Central" since we were kicking off our Vacation Bible School. I was sharing a personal illustration during my sermon about a football player that lived next door to us. As I told the story, I purposefully used concrete details in my story.

Instead of saying, "Rocky drove up into his driveway," I said, "Rocky drove up in his Blue 1973 Fastback Mustang." Instead of merely saying he was a football player I added the following details, "Rocky is 6 foot 4 inches and 245 pounds and has red hair and freckles." (For my International pastors, that's 193 centimeters and 111 Kilograms.)

You can imagine how those details helped the listeners visualize what I was describing and also made my story more believable. I encourage you to try this in your next sermon.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Who do you want to Jott?

Jott.com is a new free service that uses voice recognition technology to e-mail you the contents of your recorded voice message. Go to Jott.com and set up your phone, e-mail address, etc. and you can do what I do...

My son's baseball coach is giving his speech at the end of a game and announces that the next practice is Tuesday at DuPont Tyler at 6:30 pm.

I grab my cell phone and call the Jott.com toll-free number 877--568-8486 and hear a perky female voice, "Who do want to Jott?"

I answer, "me." She say's "Jott to self," and I hear a beep. I then say, "Casey practice, Tuesday at DuPont Tyler at 6:30 pm." I wait a few seconds to hear her say, "Got it!"

I then get an e-mail with my message transcribed into text, "Casie practice, Tuesday at DuPont Tayler at 6:30 pm." It's not exact - but pretty close. I can then copy it into my calendar.

You might ask the question, "what if it doesn't understand what you say?" I wondered the same thing until I got the following message last week after Jotting something after a game...
Casie batting practice 4:30 Saturday at [unclear speech, please listen]. It then had a link where I was able to hear a recording of my message. I then realized that every time I get my Jott e-mail, there is an option to listen to my message.

Here are some ways a pastor or other church leader might use this free service...
  • Call Jott and record an idea for your sermon
  • Call Jott to e-mail yourself a reminder for something you need to do
  • Jott a journal entry, devotional thought, or something the Lord tells you.
You can also set it up to Jott others and even set up groups.
  • You might set up Jott to send quick updates to other church leaders, Sunday School teachers, or church staff.
  • You might Jott your administrative assistant with something you need.
You can use Jott.com for free - I say, "try it, what have you got to lose."

LifeWay Research Studies the Use of Private Prayer Language

The survey asked SBC pastors, Protestant pastors and laity their beliefs about private prayer language using this wording: "Do you believe that the Holy Spirit gives some people the gift of a special language to pray to God privately? Some people refer to this as a Private Prayer Language or the 'private use of tongues.'"

You may view a longer article on lifeway.com here but I was especially interested in the responses from pastors ...
Fifty percent of Southern Baptist pastors answered "Yes," 43 percent said "No," and 7 percent responded "Don't know."

Non-SBC pastors are more likely to believe that the Holy Spirit gives some people a private prayer language than Southern Baptist pastors. Sixty-six percent of non-SBC pastors responded "Yes," 32 percent responded "No," and 3 percent responded "Don't know."

Protestant pastors (Southern Baptists and non-SBC) are more likely to believe the Holy Spirit gives some people a private prayer language (63 percent) than Protestant laity (51 percent).

Of the Protestant laity surveyed, 15 percent responded "Don't know" when asked if they believe in the gift of private prayer language. Of the Protestant pastors, only 3 percent are unsure.
Again, you may view a fuller treatment of the survey here on lifeway.com... and be sure to listen to the Inside LifeWay podcast.

You may also see a PowerPoint presentation with results from the survey at www.lifeway.com/research