When Chip and Joanna Gaines began remodeling homes, they had no idea that God would turn their business into a global witness. Their television show became the most-watched series in the history of HGTV, with an estimated audience of twenty-five million viewers.
Chip and Joanna left their show to have a fifth child and take time off for their family. But they announced last Friday on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon that they are about to return to television. Discovery has confirmed that it is in exclusive talks to create a lifestyle-focused media network for the couple. Consistent with their Christian faith, the Gaineses hope “to build a different kind of platform for unique, inspiring and family-friendly content.”
Our culture needs such content more than ever.
When Billy and Ruth Graham received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1996, Dr. Graham told an assembly of our nation’s most powerful leaders: “You know the problems as well as I do–crime and violence, children taking weapons to school, broken families, drugs, teenage pregnancy, and corruption. The list is almost endless. We have confused liberty with license, and we are paying the awful price.”
In the two decades since, has our culture moved closer to God or further from him?
An advisor to twelve presidents
Billy Graham spent his first birthday in heaven this week.
The man who preached to more people than anyone in Christian history passed into God’s presence last February. He would have turned one hundred last Thursday. And so, he celebrated his first century of life with the One who gave him eternal life.
Speaking of the man she called “Daddy,” Anne Graham Lotz remembered his love for “old blue jeans, comfortable sweaters, and a baseball cap.” As she thought about his remarkable mind and heart, she noted: “I can’t help but also think of his message because he was immersed in it. Saturated in it. He was his message . . . a simple man who had responded to God’s love by placing his faith in Jesus, receiving the assurance that his sins were forgiven, that he would not perish, but would have everlasting life. Simple faith. Faith that now matters more than anything else” (her emphasis).
Dr. Billy Graham was an advisor to twelve US presidents and perhaps the most influential evangelical of the twentieth century. But his daughter is exactly right: Her father’s influence lay in the fact that he was what he preached. His integrity was the currency of his ministry. His servant heart was captured by his Savior and reflected his Father’s love to a broken world.
“The most important thing in your life”
Dr. Graham has been much on my mind because Janet and I spent the weekend at the Billy Graham Training Center (known as The Cove) in Asheville, North Carolina. We were invited to speak at a spiritual renewal weekend hosted by Dallas Baptist University, a school we both love.
In his introductory remarks Friday evening, DBU President Adam Wright made a statement that powerfully impacted me. He quoted the noted Christian philosopher Dallas Willard, who once advised pastor and author John Ortberg to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” As a result, Dr. Wright chose Psalm 46:10 as our theme for the weekend: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
At Dr. Wright’s suggestion, I purchased Ortberg’s book, Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You. In his introduction to the book, he offers this observation from Dr. Willard: “The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become. That’s what you will take into eternity. You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.”
Billy Graham was the living embodiment of Dr. Willard’s statement. As Anne noted, her father was his message. As a result, his life was his most powerful sermon. And now, “he being dead yet speaketh” (Hebrews 11:4 KJV).
Why people believed Billy Graham
Our culture is desperate for genuine Christians. Not religious rules and institutions. Not surface spirituality. People whose lives are being changed by the living Lord Jesus and whose example offers others a path to the peace and joy they know.
In one of The Cove’s displays, I read this statement by Dr. Graham: “The greatest need in the world is the transformation of human nature. We need a new heart that will not have lust and greed and hate in it. We need a heart filled with love and peace and joy, and that is why Jesus came into the world. He died on the cross to make peace between us and God and to change us from within by His Spirit. He can change you, if you will turn to Him in repentance and faith.”
Millions of people believed his words because they witnessed his life.
A changed life can change the world. When Billy Graham was growing up on a North Carolina farm, he could never have imagined the ways God would use him. Nor could Chip and Joanna Gaines when they began remodeling homes in Waco, Texas. If we focus less on what we do and more on who we are becoming–if our lives are the message of God’s grace–there is no limit to the catalytic ways God can use us for his glory and our good.
When the authorities “saw the boldness of Peter and John . . . they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
Would the people who know you say the same of you?