Category Archives: Character

4 Lessons from the Life of Billy Graham

There are many lessons from the life of Billy Graham, but in this 5 minute video I share four powerful lessons from his life that came to mind after I finished watching his funeral.

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The Wisdom of Vice President Mike Pence and Evangelist Billy Graham

**WARNING… This post focuses on a sensitive topic that is inappropriate for children.

What do the men in the following list have in common?

Harvey Weinstein (Film Executive), Kevin Spacey (Actor), Glenn Thrush (NY Times Journalist), Jeffrey Tambor (Actor), Louis C.K. (Comedian, Actor), Al Franken (Actor, Comedian, Senator), Charlie Rose (Journalist), Matt Lauer (Today Show Host), Roy Moore (Former Judge, Senate Candidate), Steven Seagal (Actor), Ed Westwick (Actor), Brett Ratner (Film Director), Dustin Hoffman (Actor), Jeremy Piven (Actor), Michael Oreskes (National Public Radio News Chief), Mark Halperin (NBC Senior Political Analyst), George H. W. Bush (41st President of the United States), Terry Richardson (Celebrity Photographer), Leon Wieseltier (Literary Critic, Magazine Editor), James Toback (Film Writer and Director), John Besh (Celebrity Chef), Bob Weinstein (Film Executive), Oliver Stone (Film Director), Roy Price (Amazon Studios Chief), Ben Affleck (Actor), Garrison Keillor (author, speaker, radio celebrity).

They are successful men in their respective fields who have all been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior in the past two months. And that list is not exhaustive. It all began with Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein. He was the proverbial domino that led to what seems to be almost daily breaking news of another celebrity, or person in a psoition of power, being accused of inappropriate sexual behavior.

This morning it was music executive Russell Simmons (Def Jam Records).

For a lot of men in powerful positions, victims have chosen to no longer remain silent. For the ones who are truly guilty, their day of accounting is overdue. I suspect many more will be called out to accountability in the days, weeks, and months to come.

Some of the men on the list have only one accuser. Some have multiple. In both cases, we need to be careful of assuming someone’s guilt simply due to accusation. I heard about one pastor (several years ago) who was accused by a teenager of inappropriate behavior. It nearly cost him his church and brought untold turmoil on his family, his church, and the community. Sometime later the girl admitted that she made the whole thing up.

So what does this have to do with our Vice President and with famous evangelist Billy Graham?

Well, simply this… Both Pence and Graham chose to live by a very high standard that would make it virtually impossible to (a) engage in this kind of behavior and (b) be accused of this kind of behavior.

How? They live by a principle that my generation credited to Graham… strive to never be alone with another woman other than your wife, including, but not limited to, not eating out alone with a woman other than your wife in public. In ministry circles we called it the Billy Graham rule. This current generation is calling it the Pence rule because our Vice President applies the same rule to his life.

Men who hold positions of influence or power have more opportunity to act upon their sinful inclinations as well as are more susceptible to false accusations. Therefore, you would think that all Christians would see the wisdom in such a principle, especially for men who are in positions of leadership (which the Bible calls for being “above reproach”).  But if you think that, you would be wrong.

Case in point… Christianity Today editor Katelyn Beaty. This young lady recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which she argues that the Graham/Pence rule is demeaning to women. She writes, “The Pence rule arises from a broken view of the sexes: Men are lustful beasts that must be contained, while women are objects of desire that must be hidden away.”

Well, Ms. Beaty, if this Autumn’s news cycle hasn’t convinced you… men are lustful beasts (Ephesians 2.3) who, apart from the restraining grace of God, will engage in shocking and disgusting behavior to fulfill their lusts. Any man who tells you otherwise is lying or self-deceived. King David was a man after God’s own heart and yet he fell into the trap of using his position of power to sinfully fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Second, as for women that are objects of desire that must be hidden away, I hate further rain on Ms. Beaty’s pollyannaish parade, but the truth is that many women today actually need to do a better job of hiding away their sexual parts, instead of showing as much of them as possible. I’m not saying women need to cover all their skin and dress frumpy. But let’s be honest, the rebellion against modesty seems to know no limits these days. (And yes, I’ve read the viral article titled “Modest is Hottest” is not in the BibleThe author makes some good points but is dangerously naive, as well as weak theologically, on some critical points.)

God created them male and female. But because our society has summarily dismissed God and His wisdom concerning sexual standards, it’s no wonder that there is so much confusion about how to safeguard against sexual misconduct.  What’s disappointing is that an editor for Christianity Today thinks that the Graham/Pence rule is a bad thing.

As for me, I am going to stick with the Graham/Pence rule. As each “Breaking News” story unfolds in this current sordid news cycle, I’m increasingly seeing just how wise these men are.

Regarding the Media’s Shock at Last Night’s Historic Upset and the Need for Integrity Among Politicians and Journalists

As a pastor, I try not to wade too much into politics, but I refuse to refrain from commenting occasionally on the subject. Now is one of those occasions. I am not going to communicate any happiness or distress at the outcome of this election. I was honestly disappointed that these two candidates were the best the leading two parties could put forth.

I’ll start by saying (in case you have successfully ignored the news) that last night Donald Trump shocked most of the world, and seemingly the entire Democratic Party, by defeating Hillary Clinton for the highest office in the land. Although it looks like Trump has probably lost the popular vote, he has handily defeated Clinton on the electoral map.

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I tried to stay up last night to witness the final conclusion of the matter, but my eyelids wouldn’t cooperate. When I went to sleep at a little after 1:00 a.m. (EST), the New York Times had projected an almost 100% chance that Trump would win.

When Trump announced his candidacy so many moons ago, I was one who never thought he would actually win the Republican nomination, let alone the Presidency.  However, as he stormed through the primaries and won the Republican nomination, I began to realize he should not be underestimated.

The Media “Experts” Speechless

As I sat in bed with my computer, going back and forth between CNN and Fox News (both were providing free live streaming of their coverage), I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the shock and confusion of the media pundits. It was almost like they hadn’t prepared any talking points for Trump winning easily, so certain were they of only three options: (1) Clinton winning easily, (2) Clinton winning a close race, and, least likely, (3) Trump surprisingly pulling out a squeaker. They never dreamed that Trump would actually “flip” any blue states.

Once it was clear that Trump was going to win, they started trying to put into words how this could have happened. And for the most part, they were clueless. They couldn’t figure out how they could have missed so badly. Using a baseball analogy, it’s not that the media swung and missed. They weren’t even in the right ballpark.

Why the Media Could Not Envision a Trump Victory

Here’s why I think the media missed it.

(1) They underestimated how much of America is sick and tired of the political establishment. And rightly so. The American people haven’t forgotten when their representatives in Washington voted themselves a raise right in the middle of a recession (2008). The American people don’t have so short of a memory as to forget when their representatives exempted themselves from the increasingly not-so-affordable Affordable Healthcare Act that they thrust on the rest of us. The American people haven’t forgotten that their representatives passed that legislation before they, the lawmakers, even knew what was in it. Remember Pelosi’s famous words:”We have to pass it to know what’s in it!” As more than one person has pointed out, by choosing the political outsider, Trump, it’s as if America shouted to the political establishment, “You’re fired!”

Continue reading Regarding the Media’s Shock at Last Night’s Historic Upset and the Need for Integrity Among Politicians and Journalists

The Dream Is Still Unfulfilled (In A Way That May Surprise You)

"I Have a Dream" (August 28, 1963)
“I Have a Dream” (August 28, 1963)

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. In that historic speech, King said:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

As a nation we have come a long way. Sure, there are still examples of racism in the United States, but as a whole, we no longer judge a person by the color of their skin. Surely Dr. King would be pleased with the progress that has been made in this country.

But the problem is that we have also reached a point where we no longer judge someone by the content of their character. The spirit of the age is to not judge at all, with the ironic exception being judging those who do still seek to judge according to the content of character.

When Dr. King spoke of judging someone by the content of their character, he spoke from an underlying worldview that accepted the reality of moral standards. Our nation has jettisoned those moral standards, which makes it impossible to judge character.

America’s favorite Bible verse is the first part of Matthew 7:1…”Judge not” interpreting it to mean, in essence, “Don’t judge anyone for the content of their character.” Such an interpretation of that command completely contradicts Matthew 7:6, where Jesus says, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” Here Jesus clearly and strongly calls us to judge content of character.

Jesus fully expects us to judge the content of a person’s character, but He qualifies it with an admonition against hypocrisy and a mandate to be willing to help the person improve, as we see in Matthew 7:5…”First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” For Jesus, it’s not enough to judge someone without hypocrisy, we must also proactively seek to help that person.

Because we have rejected moral standards and because we are misinterpreting, and therefore, misapplying Jesus’s teaching on this subject, we also run the risk of descending back into a nation that judges others by the content of their skin. Both the negative half of Dr. King’s statement (not judging by the color of skin) and the positive half (judging by the content of character) must be embraced for racism to truly be put to death.

Dr. King’s dream will be fulfilled when a person is no longer judged by color of skin but rather is judged by content of character in a way that is loving and redemptive.

Two Quizzes…One Great Point

Quiz #1
1. Besides Bill Gates, name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman (football) trophy winners.
3. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
4. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
5. Name the last five years’ World Series winners.

Quiz #2
1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
5. Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.

And now, one great point by Randy Alcorn. It’s inspiring.