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"Would you like a Coke?"  

Imagine that you are 23 years old, standing outside a door.  On the other side is the confidant of presidents and princes—the most famous evangelist of our time—Billy Graham.  You are there for an interview.  But what will he say to you?  What will he actually be like?

That was me, along with my friend Dave, waiting for our appointment  in Amsterdam’s Rai Convention Center.  It was a muggy July afternoon more than 30 years ago.  Feels like an hour ago, though.  

Had we prepped enough?  Would we come across as hicks?  And what about the formalities—do you call him Dr. Graham or Reverend Graham or Mr. Graham or what?

The door swung open and there we were, shaking hands, exchanging smiles.  Reverend Graham’s opening statement shocked me.  In that North Carolina drawl of his he said with a slight grin, “Would you like a Coke?”

No air conditioning on a hot day. Saying yes to a Coke was a no-brainer.  But then came a follow up from the man who graced the cover of Time Magazine not once but twice.  “Would you like some ice?” 

I’d never been to Europe before and was shocked at the lack of ice.  So we readily agreed to his offer and did our best to express appreciation.  Yet in my mind, this was all so surreal.  THE Billy Graham is offering me a Coke and a glass of ice?

But that’s the way he was—and who he was: common, courteous, affable.  No one was less impressed with Billy Graham than Billy himself. 

Our entire conversation revealed nothing other than a North Carolina boy who loved Jesus and still seemed a bit caught off guard that God had put him on the world’s largest stages. 

I suppose  a profound theological truth or golden biblical nugget from one of his addresses at the International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists should have stuck with me.  But it was Billy’s servant attitude that blew me away.

Pundits and preachers will seek to define Dr. Graham’s legacy.  But for me, it has always been—and will always be—his humility.  I saw a tiny glimpse of it for myself in his kind offer, “Would you like a Coke?”

Thank you, Billy Graham.

One Name  

One name.  That’s all it took to send toddler Sadie into a joyful romp.  She squealed from the next room and then trotted over once she heard that name, hoping for a little face time on FaceTime.  

What name generated all this excitement and anticipation?  “Di-Di,” the moniker our little grandkids have affectionately chosen for my wife, Diana. Guess that’s a lot easier for them to pronounce.  So Di-Di it is.

Once, when Sadie’s brother Caleb was just learning to talk, we went to McDonald’s and enjoyed a visit to the play area after lunch. Caleb made a grand show of climbing up and through the labyrinth of plastic tunnels, then skittering down the slides—over and over again.  Zooming right by me, he flashed a silly grin as he repeatedly giggled, “Di-Di.”  Mind you, he was looking straight at me, not my wife (who was enjoying some peace and quiet back at our booth).   Yup, her name is apparently that wonderful to those kids.  

I, too, have always loved my wife’s name.  From the day I met her, the name has been magical.  I love to say it, to hear it (and I’ve been known to call her Di-Di myself, or  Lady Di).  

Charming thoughts, this fascination with a name.   But indulge me just a moment further as I ask pointedly, do we ever feel that kind of excitement when we hear the name of Jesus?  How often do we break out in a smile at the thought of Him?  When we approach our prayer time, do we squeal with delight that Jesus Himself is interceding for us to His Father? Do we drop what we are doing just to be with Him?

I’m just asking here, kinda “thinking out loud.”  Couldn’t there—shouldn’t there—be regular moments when we are overwhelmed at the mere mention of His name?

Do we love the name of Jesus…or merely like it?  Big difference between the two.  And despite what you or I might say or do in public to impress others with how much we love Jesus, He knows the truth.  He knows exactly how we feel about His name.  

So…do you love the name of Jesus?

Ultimate Picture of Love  

The knock at the orphanage door brought a little child with no birth certificate and almost no background.  Would they take in this little one? 

Not many will ever hear this saga of a young Mexican mother whose child was taken from her. You, however, are among a handful who will know the truth (minus a few key details I must hold back for security reasons). 

This lady had once thought her boyfriend the man of her dreams, so they married and had a baby.  But the dreams turned to nightmares when her husband immersed himself in a life of crime, ultimately kidnapping his child from his wife.

When arrested, the father cruelly told police that the child’s mother was dead.   The father was then hauled off to jail. That’s when the little one was taken to a Christian orphanage, launching an odyssey fit for Hollywood.

At the orphanage, the administration worked tirelessly with authorities, pushing them to uncover the truth. At the same time, the mother plugged away relentlessly—searching, looking, hoping.

Ultimately, the mother finally learned the truth, trekked to the orphanage and identified her beloved.  But authorities demanded a DNA test before they would let the child go—a financial roadblock for this Mexican mother who had pursued her child for so long. In God’s kindness, the test was finally performed, proving the birth connection. Yet there was no fairytale reunion.

In fact, the mother cried herself to sleep for the first few nights when the child, separated for so long, refused to leave the orphanage. The orphanage leaders proposed that if the child would get into the car with the mom, they would ride together with them to the mother’s home. The idea worked.

But upon arrival, there was initial resistance to entering the house!  Finally, at the sight of many family members eagerly welcoming the long lost child, the door opened and the little one walked in.  Home.

Quietly, the orphanage workers left the scene, confident that though the adjustment would take more time, it would surely succeed.  And it has.

Consider the extreme lengths this mother went to in bringing her lost child home.

Consider the extreme lengths our heavenly Father went to so He could bring us home!

If this isn’t the ultimate picture of love, what is?

Tony and Tory  

Everyone has heard of Tony Evans.

Okay, I’ll qualify that: almost every single Christian who has a pulse has heard of Tony Evans.

But not as many know Tory.  I met them both last week.

We were at Dr. Evans’ church, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, to record some audio and video content for Moody Radio.   Now, recording a radio interview doesn’t take much more than a microphone and a portable recorder.  But video?  That requires a camera, tripod, lights, batteries, shotgun microphone, backdrop, etc.  It’s a long list of stuff—and you never seem to have enough of it.

That’s where Tory came in.   The room we were going to record in sounded a bit boomy and we needed to absorb some of the reflections.  Tory quickly found a large throw rug and lugged it inside.  The sound was better, but still not right.  Could we borrow a fabric covered room divider? Tory carted it in.   Acoustics were better…but not good enough. Tory then found some sound-absorptive panels and he schlepped them into the room as well.   Much better. 

About then, I discovered I was in need of an extra microphone stand.  Tory dug around for one and hauled it over. Then we decided I was shy one light (the plant next to where Dr. Evans would be sitting looked a little wimpy in the shadows). Tory came up with a light. 

The truth is, Tory bailed me out again and again.  And he did it all with a cheerful attitude and a kind smile.  People will hear our interview on the radio or watch the video clips and never know that it was Tory who really made it possible.  But I know.  More importantly, God knows.  And God will remember Tory’s servant spirit.

Are you one of those behind-the-scenes people?  Hebrews 6:10 has a word for you: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

Thanks for the help, Tory—and your example in godliness!

When Jesus Comes for Dinner  

“Been pokin’ around the gospels a bit,” spouted my friend, Jack, as he shoved a toothpick in his mouth.  The long pause he left dangling meant I was supposed to inquire further. 

“Whatcha find in the gospels lately, Jack?”

“I’ve noticed Jesus spent a surprising amount of time at dinner with lost people—and amazing things often happened at those dinners.”  Here his toothpick waggled in the left corner of his upturned mouth.

“Take me to one of.…”  Jack anticipated my response.  Didn’t let me finish. 

“Luke 19.  The short guy—Zaccheus.  Couldn’t see Jesus so he climbed the sycamore tree.  But Jesus saw him up there and urged him to come down quickly so he could stay at Zaccheus’ home.”

“Sure.  Every Sunday School kid knows this one,” I offered.

“Then you’ll recall that the religious folks were less than thrilled with Christ’s choice of dinner associates.”  With an impressive (and thankfully invisible) swish of his tongue, Jack whisked the toothpick from the left corner of his mouth to the right.  He continued. 

“‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner!’ Jesus critics charge. And Jesus Himself is silent with regard to any defense for Zaccheus’ character or conduct.  Not even Zaccheus defends himself.”

“Maybe Zaccheus was a bigger man than his short stature suggested,” I offered.

“Not a bigger man.  A changed man.  Zaccheus assures Christ, ‘Half of my possessions I will give to the poor.’  Then comes the show stopper. Jesus gestures toward Zaccheus (here Jack removes the toothpick and jabs at the air) pointing out that ‘today salvation has come to this house because he, too, is a son of Abraham.’  In other words, he is now headed for heaven.  And it all happened over dinner.  Amazing!”  Jack was suddenly silent.

“So what’s your big takeaway?” I asked, my friend still lost in Zaccheus’ story.

“Discipleship—sometimes it begins at dinner.”

Jack could read my mind—I’m sure of it.  He saw me pondering too many of my comfortable dinners with too many comfortable Christian friends.  Yet I’m guessing he saw something else deep inside—a hunger to have dinner with unsaved people.

That’s when he smiled—and popped the toothpick back in his mouth. 





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