Tuesday, June 26, 2007

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK ME!

People ask me often, “What do you like most about what you do?”

Do you have a few days?

I like—no, I love—every part of what God has called us to do here at Faith and Action: Praying for and with our nation’s elected and appointed officials; taking the Gospel to them; gently—and sometimes not so gently—exhorting, challenging, rebuking, even chastising them; befriending sometimes lonely, seeking, searching, and even desperate people cloaked in the pretentiousness of power and prestige; and facing down the arrogant, pompous and God-hating.

I love working with our outstanding ministry team. Those who carry out our vital programs, manage our facilities, process the mail, order and stock supplies, set up delivery of our Christmas and Easter congressional outreach packages, collect and bundle our petitions, send out and receive prayer and praise lists, arrange our Ten Commandments presentations and special events, go grocery shopping and lay out gorgeous spreads for the many receptions and meals we put on, distribute our news releases and set up, video, photograph and chronicle our many news conferences, panel presentations, symposia, private and public meetings with officials and run people back and forth to airports, rail stations and subways. (And I didn’t mention those who manage an absolutely frenetic, never, ever boring schedule!)

Believe it or not I love the dozens and dozens of strategic planning meetings we have each month, as well as our regular trustee meetings, numerous conference calls, sit-downs with vendors, suppliers, planners and cooperative ministries. (And, while I can no longer sit in for the entirety of weekly staff meetings, I do drop in to add my bit—and I love that, too!)

I also love the privilege I enjoy of speaking the truth—hopefully in love—to reporters, editors, producers, interviewers, authors, commentators and opinion makers. Truth—especially God’s Truth—has a dramatic affect on everyone who hears it—whether they like it or not.

Oh, and I love sharing all this with God’s people! We host a lot of visitors at our ministry center on Capitol Hill. I also meet up with many groups touring Washington. Sometimes it will be in the U.S. Capitol itself, or in some other official building. I’ve even walked along with church and other Christian groups for blocks in the high summer heat of Washington, enjoying every sweaty minute giving testimony of what the Holy Spirit is doing here!

I love writing this blog—drafting the many E-mail alerts sent regularly each month to some 70,000 Internet friends—and dictating the letters that millions of people will read this year.

I look forward to every Wednesday when I broadcast our live missionary field report from my office looking out over the United States Supreme Court—across the way to the dome of the U.S. Capitol—up Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues to the White House. I am always excited to bring you these reports because, again, they are the answers to your prayers. God does hear and answer prayer!

I also love the hundreds of Christian radio interviews I do each year telling of the great acts of God here in the most powerful city in the most powerful nation on earth.

And I love hearing from you. I get thousands upon thousands of E-mails each month; hundreds of phone calls; scores of letters. I try to get to all of them personally. I don’t have “readers” or “correspondence secretaries.”

And, of course, I love very much the many, many opportunities I get to go out and preach, teach and report to churches across the country. In the course of a year I will visit the pulpits of churches of every size, shape, persuasion and denomination and I will speak at conventions, conferences, seminars and banquets. I will sit with countless pastors, ministry leaders, lay members of church and organization boards, vestries and missions committees. And I will visit with scores of major donors who make extraordinary contributions to this vital outreach.

I’ve left a few things off the list to spare you. But, as you can see, there’s plenty of things to like and to love here at Faith and Action.

Oh my! Did I leave you off the list? Certainly not intentionally. I guess I always risk taking those I love for granted. And I do love you in the Lord! You are God’s greatest gift to all of us here at Faith and Action! I love sharing this great calling with you. If you didn’t do what God has called you to do, neither I, nor my brother, Paul, nor any of our team members could do what God has called us to do!

Be careful about ever asking me again what I love about what I do. You may get more of an answer than you wanted!

Friday, June 15, 2007

DR. HOLSINGER’S "SIN" AND THE NEW PHARISEES

President Bush’s nominee for U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. James Holsinger of Kentucky, is being viciously assailed by homosexual activist groups and their allies, like the Washington Post, because he states the truth about homosexual behavior.

Dr. Holsinger is an active layman in the United Methodist Church. (Hardly one of those right wing fundamentalists the Post loves to insult.) He is being pilloried for presenting an honest view of the consequences of homosexual behavior. In a 1991 report to a United Methodist committee, Dr. Holsinger, who holds both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in anatomy and physiology, wrote that homosexual practices were physically dangerous and unnatural.

Now, what is wrong with that statement? Need we go into a detailed anatomy lesson on the structure of the anus and rectum and their suitability for sexual intercourse? Surely no intellectually honest—scientifically informed—person would argue with Dr. Holsinger’s conclusion.

Now, if the anti-Holsinger activists, their congressional sympathizers and the Washington Post editors want to be honest, they should simply say, “Sound scientific observations about homosexual behavior are incompatible with our desired social and political outcomes, so we therefore choose to ignore them and silence others who wish to comment on them.” That would be honest.

Instead, as I have said and written before, irrational activists willingly surrender the truth in pursuit of their goals, which they consider to be more important than the truth.

What we now have is a new breed of Pharisees—hypocrites who say one thing and practice another. While they’re busy assailing George Bush and the Republicans for ignoring what they allege are scientific facts on climate change and evolution, they condemn Dr. Holsinger and his sponsors for factually stating what is scientifically accurate.

It’s supremely ironic when these same opponents challenge me during a debate by saying something like There you go again, Reverend, asserting moral absolutes. There’s no such thing as a moral absolute! I love it when they say it because I have my rehearsed comeback, “Are you absolutely certain of that?”

It’s funny how absolute people can be about what they assert to be non-absolutes! Let us remember those oft repeated thunderous denunciations by Christ Himself, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”

Sunday, June 10, 2007

BREATHLESS IN WASHINGTON!

Last week was one of the busiest we’ve had in the nearly 13 years Faith and Action has been on Capitol Hill. It started Sunday evening when several of us hunkered down for five days of almost non-stop ministry. Here are just a few things we did:

Monday evening we sent our team across town to the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University where Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards answered questions about faith, values and poverty from CNN’s Soledad O’Brien. Their performances, individually and collectively, were abysmal. Read our reports on http://www.faithandaction.org/. (Good for our friend and colleague Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition for being the lone voice outside the theater exposing the charade!) Of course, Republican top tier candidates Giuliani and McCain didn't do much better Tuesday night. Rudy's attempt to compromise on the Sanctity of Life was met with the literal "lightnings of His terrible swift sword." (See my discussion of the Battle Hymn of the Republic below and my article, "Rudy Giuliani's Moment of Judgment" at www.faithandaction.org.)

While the Democratic “revival meeting” took place at the University, back on Capitol Hill a carefully selected team of 12 of us took our seats at a dinner in the marbled Great Hall of the Supreme Court building. The elegant affair was hosted by Chief Justice John Roberts. Five associate justices and retired justice Sandra Day O’Connor also attended. There were plenty of one-on-one conversations. While this sort of exercise requires extreme deference and discretion, it is none-the-less a powerful opportunity for prayerful witness. The highlight of the night was when the United States Army Chorale sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic, including Julia Ward Howe’s exhilarating stanza,

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me,
As He died to make men holy let us die to make men free,
His truth is marching on!

Since we’re on this subject, it’s worth taking a little time to learn more about this amazing and truly “Gospel” song. Check out:

http://memory.loc.gov/cocoon/ihas/loc.natlib.ihas.200000003/default.html and follow all the links related to Howe, her lyrics and the music.

Tuesday we held the second annual Reese Roundtable on Capitol Hill. (Read the details at our website.) This year we staged this unique forum at the National Press Building, the headquarters for the National Press Club. This is where we had the previous week’s news conference to unveil our Ten Commandments Postage Stamp. C-SPAN and other news networks broadcast a lot of events from the “Press Club” (as it’s known for short). Ironically, the new president of the club is Jerry Zremski, Washington bureau chief for the Buffalo News, the newspaper from my brother’s and my hometown of Buffalo, New York. The paper has published stories and editorials about Paul and me for 20 years—and it hasn’t necessarily been complimentary! You should have seen Mr. Zremski’s face when the two of us rounded a corner into the main hallway of the building. His eyes were like saucers! After seeing us on his sacred territory for the second week in a row, he gasped something like, “You’re here again!” We invited him to the Roundtable, but he was a no-show. (I did grow a little suspicious though when the ceiling mounted closed circuit television camera’s indicator light came on!)

Wednesday morning was filled with strategic planning for future ministry, as well as my live Internet radio / television missionary field report. If you’re not a regular listener/viewer, please join the growing numbers who are. Go to our website each Wednesday at 12:00 (EST) and click on the link—you’ll get addicted! This week I’ll talk with Rev. Mahoney about his night of street preaching last week at the Faith and Values forum--and his face-to-face confrontations with “Sister Hillary,” “Brother Barack” and “Deacon John.”

Wednesday afternoon we dedicated our new computer network server donated by Bernie and Lee Reese’s private foundation. This blog is just one of hundreds of ways we use the server, including the processing of millions of E-mails in and out. In a short reflection during the ceremony, I compared the server to St. Paul’s private scribe who helped the Apostle in his Gospel work by taking dictation and publishing it on scrolls.

Thursday and Friday, Paul and I headed north to College Park, Maryland, where internationally known Bible teacher Joyce Meyer and her husband Dave held a three-day conference in the giant Comcast Center at the University of Maryland. Joyce and her organization have been enormously generous to Faith and Action. This was our first opportunity to say thank you for the extraordinary investment the Meyers’ ministry makes in “Challenging Capitol Hill with Biblical Truth and Changing the Nation One Policymaker at a Time.”

I was a little tired after doing all this, plus attending innumerable other meetings, participating in telephone conference calls, reading and writing hundreds of E-mails, having countless phone conversations and even sneaking in a very long private conversation about spiritual things with a top-ranking U.S. Senator! (Oh, I should also mention we entertained a wonderful family of seven from Boise, ID, during their vacation in Washington. Like these folks, when you're in the Nation's Capital, please include a visit to our ministry center!)

As you can see, we don’t get bored around here. We take very seriously the task God has given us to complete. Missionary work has never been easy work. I’d appreciate your continued prayers as the next few weeks will be just as busy as this past one and will include quite a bit of travel to meet with Faith and Action supporters and do some guest preaching at several churches. Watch your inbox for my invitation to you, your family and friends to attend a Faith and Action “Family Circle” coming to a location near you. We’ll also announce my upcoming preaching engagements. Be sure to pass along the information to relatives and friends!

Be back later . . .

Friday, June 01, 2007

GETTING REAL ABOUT BILLY GRAHAM

Yesterday, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association dedicated a library that will archive the amazing life and career of this great evangelist and hero of my youth. Three former presidents joined Dr. Graham and his long-time team on stage for the service held appropriately in a tent on the sprawling lawn of the new facility outside Charlotte, North Carolina.

In my late teens and as a newly baptized Christian, I wanted to be like Billy Graham. I watched him whenever he was on television. When I later enrolled in Bible school to prepare for ministry, I studied Graham’s preaching style, attempted to emulate it, and even got to know his director of crusades who gave me priceless advice. When Graham announced his first International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists, I immediately signed up, praying earnestly that I’d get one of the limited slots for Americans. I did and I went to Amsterdam—Praise God! During that week in Holland, I was even assigned to do street preaching on the same team that Graham was on, but because he was in disguise, I never got to personally meet him.

Years later, I will admit I was envious when my brother, Paul, then the pastor of a leading church in western New York State, was asked to serve on the steering committee for the 1988 Greater Niagara Billy Graham Crusade. He has a picture with Graham and I don’t. I still begrudge him that.

Still, my early and na├»ve hero worship of Graham sobered over the years. It has never been jaded, but it has been tempered by a more realistic assessment of the man. Graham has his strengths—and, I might say, extraordinary strengths. Throughout his more than 60-year preaching ministry, he has remained laser-focused on the simple Gospel, rarely, if ever, straying into extraneous subject matter. He’s also stayed above the tawdry scandals so many other television and celebrity preachers have perpetrated. But Graham does have his weaknesses and as the years passed, I saw more and more of them.

You may recall that I caused quite a stir when I publicly walked out of Graham’s last full-blown crusade in New York City a couple of years back. That was after he surrendered the microphone to former President Bill Clinton who stood next to his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton, in the crusade pulpit. Had I lived 150 years earlier, it would have been like watching abolitionist preacher Charles Finney allowing a pro-slaver to speak at his tent revival! There was no more fiendishly pro-abortion administration than Clinton’s. I also spent six years of Clinton’s terms in Washington watching as he weekly paraded a new homosexual appointee to his administration. His official Liaison for Gay and Lesbian Affairs once attended my Bible study. And nothing more need be said about Clinton’s behavior in the Oval Office.

While I appreciate Graham’s acceptance of all no matter their failings, Clinton’s spectacular and very public moral collapse had enormous consequences in the culture. Graham needed to speak clearly to that. People look for particular traits in their spiritual leaders and moral certainty is one of them. Graham failed the country on that score by, among other things, excusing Clinton’s adultery as due to the ladies going crazy over him. And, while I am always quick to tell my audiences that God is neither Democrat nor Republican, it’s hard for me to understand why Graham says he’s remained a “life-long Democrat.” Today’s Democratic Party has as its platform policies that directly contradict Biblical and historic Christian moral instruction.

There are, or course, many other failures on Graham’s list: From his questionable conversation with Richard Nixon on Jews in the media to his equivocation on the sanctity of life in an interview with Larry King.

We all give up something in exchange for something else. I won’t say Graham has made his deals with the devil, but he’s come awfully close.

With the passage of time and experience, I learned my style was not Graham’s style, and so I preach very differently than I did those 30 years ago. I still admire this extraordinary servant of Christ and I do plan to visit his library. But these days my assessment of him is closer to the assessment I have of myself: He has tried his best and given his most to faithfully proclaim the Gospel, but he’s done it far from perfectly. And while we’d all like to think someone, somewhere, is the paragon of Godly virtues, we just won’t find him or her on this side of eternity.

With Graham now in his dotage, I’ll likely never get personal time with him before he goes home to be with his Lord. But when I see him over there, I won’t bother to ask how I could have been a better preacher. Instead, I’ll ask him how and what he learned from his failures—for, like me, he has plenty.

Thank God He uses imperfect human beings to do His work—or none of us would have anyone to emulate. Congratulations Dr. Graham on the dedication of your library—and thank you for managing your weaknesses so well.

Back later . . .