I found myself feeling a little giddy this past week, excited about my three-day weekend: catching up on sleep, going to the beach, firing up the barbeque. I’m ashamed to admit that never once did the reason for my extended weekend come to mind. So today, as many of us in America have an extra day to sleep in and relax, I hope that you will take a moment to reflect on Memorial Day. I know many people will visit gravesides of loved ones lost, and my heart goes out to you and to all of the brave men and women who serve and protect our country. I am truly thankful for you. I leave you with this thought from John Piper:
“This is a weekend for all Americans to give thanks for what God has given us through the sacrifice of all the men and women who have died for our country. However great the faults of our government and whatever our dissatisfactions, we have much to be grateful for. ” -From Memorial Day 2008
To know the stories behind the authors of devotionals like Anne Graham Lotz’ Just Give Me Jesus gives new depth of meaning to the written work. Today, we take a peek into the life of one of the daughters of the world’s most famous evangelist, Billy Graham.
Anne Graham Lotz, Billy Graham’s second daughter, is a powerful force for God’s Kingdom in her own right and was even called “the best preacher in the family” by her father. But Anne’s road to ministry was an uphill battle. She married early and had her first child at age 20. Several years later, Anne was struggling with depression as she cared for three small children and wrestled with her role as a stay-at-home mother. She wanted an opportunity to serve the Lord outside the home.
In 1975, God revealed an opportunity for Anne to lead a Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) group at her church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Though some disapproved of her choice, it quickly became clear, when the audience numbered 300 and counting, that Anne had found her niche.
After 12 years of ministry with BSF, Anne began to receive speaking requests both nationally and internationally and was shaped by other women in ministry, including Audrey Wetherell Johnson, the founder of BSF. Since then, Anne has started a non-profit called AnGeL Ministries, formed from her initials AGL, whose mission is to “give out messages of biblical exposition so that God’s Word is personal and relevant to ordinary people.” Anne’s ministry includes numerous speaking engagements and writing devotional books. Olive Tree has four of Anne’s books, including The Vision of His Glory, Just Give Me Jesus, Heaven: My Father’s House, and God’s Story, which will be on sale at OliveTree.com later this week in honor of Mother’s Day.
In Just Give Me Jesus, Anne longs for her readers to know God and reflects on her own life-long journey to know Christ:
“I am growing in my knowledge of God, and I say without hesitation or qualification that knowing God is my joy and reason for living. He is…
the Wind beneath my wings,
the Treasure that I seek,
the Foundation on which I build,
the Song in my heart,
the Object of my desire,
the Breath of my life—
He is my All in all!”
Encouraged by Anne’s example, may Jesus also be our all in all!
Lent is the time of year when we clean out the cobwebs of our spiritual lives, a spiritual “spring cleaning,” if you will. And just as we likely don’t enjoy this season of self-denial and discipline (as I certainly don’t enjoy spring cleaning), it’s a necessary task in the Christian life. It’s similar with Good Friday. If we mean good in the sense of pleasant or cheerful, Good Friday is anything but good. Rather, Good Friday is a day of grief, of sorrow, of darkness. Before joy comes sorrow. Before light comes darkness. Before new life comes death. Before resurrection comes crucifixion.
Coupled with the Good News of the Gospel is bad news about the human condition. As Paul writes in Romans, “There is no one righteous, not even one…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Humanity has gone astray and the only way to redeem this incredible wrong is for God himself, in human flesh, to take on humanity’s brokenness in suffering and death.
To sit in the Good Friday service or to read through the Passion accounts in the Gospels is not particularly enjoyable either. We are left to sit in darkness when Christ dies on the cross, pondering our part in Jesus’ death by our own sinfulness. It is with this realization that the cleaning of our spiritual lives begins, with an acknowledgement that the cleaning is necessary. It is Christ who cleans; Christ sweeps away our pride and washes away our sin. “’Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’” Though the full spring cleaning, top to bottom, will come with Easter when Christ settles sin and death for good, we begin with the crucifixion.
And in doing so, we get our first glimpse of Easter.
“[Jesus said,] ‘Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples– when they see the love you have for each other.’”
Mandatum. The Latin word for “command” is at the root of Maundy Thursday, the night in which Jesus issues the command to his disciples to love one another. In 1 Corinthians 11:24-26, Paul quotes Jesus’ Maundy Thursday words: “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do, this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Just as the joy of Easter is undermined if we ignore the sorrow and grief of Good Friday, ignoring Maundy Thursday also diminishes Easter’s joy. Maundy Thursday gives us a beautiful picture of Christ’s love-filled sacrifice in the Bread and Cup of Communion. It’s crucial that we remember that Jesus’ body was sacrificed for us. His blood establishes a new covenant with God that calls us to new life in Christ. Maundy Thursday thus forces us into the world around us to obey the command that Christ not only gave, but modeled.
This Maundy Thursday, may the love of Christ overflow from you into the lives of the people surrounding you!
Do you have a mentor or an elder that has shaped your life in an unforgettable way? Have you watched a loved one age with such grace and dignity that you desire to model your life after theirs? While we may look up to our elders, many of us still tend to shy away from the difficult issues that the older generation face. But we can only ignore the truth for so long. We are all getting older and for some of us, that reality is beginning to rear its ugly head. If you’re like me, getting out of bed in the morning produces a symphony of groans, pops and creaks that aren’t coming from the bedsprings.
For believers, more than failing physical bodies, growing older brings its share of challenging questions: What is God’s purpose for this time in my life? How do I serve God with my growing limitations? How do I remain hopeful when I’m surrounded by pain and loss?
These concerns are addressed honestly in Billy Graham’s Nearing Home: Life, Faith and Finishing Well. Written for more than just the elderly, Graham teaches readers of all ages how to prepare for the challenges of growing old. At ninety-three Billy Graham is no stranger to the difficulties of advanced age, but he doesn’t let it keep him from faithfully ministering to people around the world. His new book shows that old age is “not a time to be despised or a burden to be endured with gritted teeth.” Instead, Graham uses examples form Scripture to show how God continues to work through His people, no matter their age.
No one knows God’s plans for the future, but we can know for sure that whether or not we live to be ninety-three, someday all of us will be called home. It is Graham’s desire and ours here at Olive Tree that we would learn to grow older with grace and, like our mentors before us, find the guidance needed to finish well.
We had a fantastic time connecting with people at the Desiring God National Conference in Minneapolis last week. Around 3500 people attended. Ian Fallon and Daniel Scott were Olive Tree’s representatives. “We talked to so many people that first day we could feel a soreness in our throats even before the day was done,” commented Daniel. “It is exciting to share about Olive Tree with a crowd that loves to study the Bible.” This year’s theme was “Finish the Mission” and plenary speakers came from a wide variety of mission backgrounds.
Below is a picture of Ian and Daniel in action with an Olive Tree enthusiast.