Filter By:
Showing items filed under “Tim Garner”

Resurrection Truth

main image

Two men I greatly respect passed away in the last week or so.  One I knew from a distance as a brother in Christ, Billy Graham, and the other, I knew close up and personally, my father. In honor of Billy Graham and Warren Garner lives I offer a few reflections:

Billy Graham’s faith came under siege in the summer of 1949, just before the Los Angeles Crusade that propelled him onto the national scene.

As president of Northwestern Schools, Mr. Graham was invited to speak at the College Briefing Conference, which was held at Forest Home, a retreat center east of Los Angeles. Also speaking was his good friend and fellow evangelist Chuck Templeton, whose views on the authority of Scripture were quickly changing. Not for the first time, Templeton challenged Mr. Graham:

“Billy, you’re 50 years out of date. People no longer accept the Bible as being inspired the way you do. Your faith is too simple.”

Alone in his room that night, Mr. Graham studied the Scriptures profusely.

“I had no doubt concerning the deity of Jesus Christ or the validity of the Gospel,” he later wrote in his biography Just As I Am, “but was the Bible completely true? With the Los Angeles Campaign galloping toward me, I had to have an answer. If I could not trust the Bible, I could not go on. I would have to quit the school presidency. I would have to leave pulpit evangelism.”

His heart heavy, he went for a walk.

The moon was out and the shadows were long in the San Bernardino Mountains surrounding the retreat center. Dropping to his knees there in the woods, he opened the Bible at random on a tree stump in front of him.

“O God!” he prayed “There are many things in this Book I do not understand … There are some areas in it that do not seem to correlate with modern science.”

He paused, then continued: “Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word—by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word.”

When he stood up from his knees that August night, his eyes stung with tears. “I sensed the presence and power of God as I had not sensed it in months. Not all my questions were answered, but … I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won.”

I don’t know how many times Billy Graham spoke in his storied and powerful preaching ministry, but the heart of his preaching always involved the heart of the Bible. Pastor Brock focused on these verses this past weekend, Romans 3:21-26.  T Brock stated as others have declared, these verses are the hinge upon which the gospel swings.  In spite of the darkness of sin and wrath it permits God to use on all of creation, God chose another way. He gave his son, Jesus, to meet the demands of the law allowing us to be made right with God and God’s holiness to remain intact.  We, then, can again enjoy a relationship with him, first offered in Gen. 1 and 2. While we all fall short, sin, God freed us from eternal consequences of our sin through the life, death and resurrection of his beloved son. He allows us to ride his son’s coattails.  As Pastor Brock noted (and I add my two cents):

Through my faith/trust in Jesus, Jesus:

  1. Atoned for my sin. He gives me/us a way back to relational oneness with God.
  2. Justified me in spite of my guilt – this a legal term/courtroom term. In God’s courtroom when asked, “How do you plead?” our only honest plea is “Guilty, your honor.”
  3. Redeemed me in spite of the costliness of my sin. I/We don’t have enough assets – materially or spiritually to buy my freedom from the debt incurred by my/our sin. So, redemption involves a payment that covers a debt. That payment was Jesus’s life.

So, relationally, legally and financially, we have no way to cover the debt of our sin.

“But God” (Romans 3:21) provided a way.

As some point like Billy Graham we have to come to our knees and say, “Whether this makes sense based on science or even logic or not, I put all my chips on biblical truth.” (Sorry, for the gambling reference.)  Either Jesus is who he says he is, did what the Bible states he did as he taught, lived and died offering a way to eternal life free from damnation, or he did not. This is the choice of, by and through faith.

Billy Graham has been quoted as saying, “Without the resurrection, the cross is meaningless.” For me, this truth has always resonated.  I wrote a paper in college for a religion class where I argued for the truth of the resurrection.  I received an “A” on the paper, but my professor noted, “Since you stated in this paper that the resurrection is a core foundation to your faith, I won’t debate you on that point.”  That’s a smart and back-handed way of saying, “Though I believe I am a Christian and teach religion is a denominationally affiliated college, I don’t believe the resurrection has to be true or is.” Yet, if I cut out this idea from the Bible, where do I stop.  If I cut this idea, then faith becomes a list of opinions or wishful thinking.

Thus, the resurrection means that God the Father accepted Jesus back into heaven after he bore the penalty of and cost of our sin. Without the resurrection, Jesus just died in agony. Without the resurrection, Jesus was just a charismatic martyr of the fledging sect known as ‘the people of the Way” or “Christians”.

At some point like Rev. Graham, I said, I’ll take my chances with the Bible.  What about you?

Rev. Graham said on another occasion: “The resurrection of Christ changed the midnightof bereavement into a sunrise of reunion; it changed the midnight of disappointment into a sunrise of joy; it changed the midnight of fear to a sunrise of peace.”  After 91 years, my dad’s physical body failed him last week (Feb. 24), but thanks be to God my grief is mitigated by reunion with his friends and family, and my mom!  As the Graham quote notes: What would have been totally heart-breaking, heart-wrenching and bitter separation, has a mixture of sweetness to it. I can grieve with hope and a feeling of peace. My family, his church family and friends could celebrate my dad’s incredible life because death for the believer is merely a graduation exercise, a change from this material world to the eternal beauty of heaven.

A few snippets about my dad.  He lived by the verse “I have learned to be content in whatever state I am” (Phil. 4:11). When my mom was failing, he said, “I married her for better, for worse.  This just happens to be the ‘or worse’ part.” This contentedness stemmed from a rock solid faith in Jesus Christ.

I have told people that I have never had to disentangle by view of God the Father from my earthly father because I never had any reason to question his love for me or whether I could trust him.

One final word on the power and the beauty of faith. During Lent, our staff is having a Thursday 11:30-noon prayer time. On the day after the funeral, as we neared the end of our prayer time, with my eyes closed a picture of my Dad lying in the casket came into my mind.  His head moved from prone position (in the casket) to a vertical one (with nothing distinguishable behind him or really around him).  With a smile, I heard him in that non-audible, audible way say, “I’m okay!”

What a gift when the line between the physical and spiritual realities becomes permeable!  What a gift that resurrection applies to fellow human beings, my dad! This allows me to proclaim the truth of the Bible as noted in two hymns of the faith we sung at my Dad’s funeral.  “Great is thy Faithfulness, O, God my Father…” “Blessed assurance Jesus is mine, O, what a foretaste of glory divine…”

Not only does the Bible as believed and accepted by Rev. Graham and Dad guide our day-to-day living, it declares the eternal truth of resurrection. These truths allowed me to say to my Dad, not good-bye, but see you later! And, go give your parents and mom great big hugs and kisses from me. He smiled, and passed away three days later.  That's the resurrection truth which informs my hope, my life, now and forever.  What informs your life?


Posted by Tim Garner with

Advice and Direction

main image

Advice and Direction

While babysitting my 4 ½ yr. old granddaughter at her house, I asked if she knew where some hand lotion might be.  My hands were really dry and even cracking around my knuckles.  Her response was spot on and priceless.

“Grandpa, go down the hall to my bedroom,” (as she pointed in that direction.) 

“Go over to my dresser.  On top on the right side there is a small tube of lotion with a blue cap. Snap open the blue cap.  Squeeze a little lotion into your hand. Close the cap and put the tube back on my dresser.”

Then, continuing to illustrate by rolling her hands over each other, she said, “Rub it in like this.”

These moments make me smile and now serve to outline a few thoughts about the advice and direction in our faith walk. She spoke from experience.  She spoke from a complete grasp of the situation.  She provided visual aids to show me what I needed to do.  And, she knew what I needed to meet my need.

The current sermon series on The Terrible Advice of Jesus creatively explores how Jesus’ comments from the perspective of the non-believing world can come across as counterintuitive, confusing or even terrible advice.  For instance, these two verses: “Turn the other cheek” (Mt 5:38) and “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44) make no sense to many people. Yet they are part of Jesus’ terrible advice on how to live well. 

1 Peter 3:15: “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it” (NLT); or, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...(NIV)”

Comparing the two verses creates this truth:  As Christ-followers we are commanded to live out of and speak about our personal experience with Jesus Christ. As a response to salvific grace, we live our lives as thank-offerings.  To live as thank-offerings equates nicely to worshipping Him. Once we understand from what we have been saved and how, it is our reasonable act of worship to surrender all to His advice and direction, even if it seems terrible advice at times.  This verse doesn’t suggest, but commands that we live life from an experience of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This means we have put Jesus in the driver’s seat of our lives.

When I was about 3 yrs old my brother, Greg, was my savior.  I fell into a swimming pool and he, being 5 years older, plucked me out of the pool.  He saved me; yet, I don’t worship him.  I like him.  We get along well.  However, the one I worship saved me from eternal damnation: He died for me, so that I, in turn, can live for Him in grateful thanks.  Jesus is death-conquering hero, making Him a king worth to whom I can easily and fully surrender my everything. To honor, revere and worship Him as Lord means I check with Him, ideally, on every action and decision.  That is, I would not want to contradict my reverence by acting independently of His advice and guidance.  Life flows and goes so much better when I live like this. 

So, firstly, we speak from our experience with Jesus. He asks us to share our experiences with others to guide them to meet the ultimate need of their lives: a relationship with Him.

 Secondly, we need to  grasp the needs and neediness of those around us.  Sometimes we bemoan the state of our world.  We wring our hands in either worry or frustration. We read the paper. (I just started getting one again.)  We hear or watch the news. We know there are needs in the world.  We also know many will look sideways at believers; many will not understand our motivations; many will always be at odds with or antagonistic to people of faith; and, many live in ignorance about God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I’m not saying people uneducated or stupid. I am saying that we who have an experience with Christ are obligated to show, tell and illustrate that experience – like my granddaughter did with the lotion.

Lastly, the people of this world need to be shown and experience the power of the Cross through the love and forgiveness of the people of the Cross. 

This passage challenges us to up our game and always be ready to offer truth in a grace-filled way, to turn the other cheek and to forgive.  This passage call us to live as a people of hope – which using hope as an acronym can mean – heavenly optimism pervading every day. Jesus lives in our hearts.  We worship him in our hearts.  With Christ as savior and Lord, we have lives of purpose, power, and directed toward heaven’s goals, and we shall, can and must be the most hopeful folks in the world. So, live life with a smile!

My granddaughter helped me meet a need because she shared clearly, directly and lovingly.  May we, like her, give advice and direction to meet the needs of rough, dry, and even cracked souls with whom we live, work and play.  May we with gentleness and respect share what we believe, why we believe and what a difference to our own souls our belief gives us.

As a Faith Development pastor let me offer a couple of ways to hone your practice and conversational skills to honor 1 Peter 3:15. Check out Alpha, and Fourward, and any of the numerous on-going women’s, men’s, co-ed groups.  To work out your faith walk, do it with others in community of small groups or serving groups. These groups are available at WRCC.  Just go to the website, snap open the “Connect” tab, and squeeze out some time and you’ll be prepared to give the reason for the hope that is within you!

Posted by Tim Garner with