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The Idle American
"A Birthday Well-Earned..."
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 • Posted November 13, 2013

Our citizens, in general, wait—too patiently, too quietly—for a big dose of indignation.

Used to, folks usually spoke of “righteous indignation.” Today, most would consider other kinds—hopeful that a few righteous ones might slip through, jarring us from our lethargy.

We hunker, fearful of both the real and imagined. If we make any noise at all, we whimper instead of exclaim. We hesitate signing our names to anything, however worthy, however noble. Instead, we limp along….

    *****

What does this have to do with birthdays? Well, Dr. Billy Graham turns 95 this month, and his evangelistic association is executing a long-planned, multi-faceted blitz: “Hope for America.”

With gatherings in thousands of homes in the US and Canada, pulpit messages and telecasts on hundreds of stations, the thrust is to honor God and observe Dr. Graham’s birthday.

Yearnings for indignant boldness can result. We can “hunker up” instead of “hunker down,” pushing for purposeful turnarounds that transcend religions, political parties, age groups and races….

    *****

I’ve seen Dr. Graham in person only twice—at a Fort Worth dinner held in his honor some 40 years ago. I also attended one of his last crusades in 2001 at Irving’s Texas Stadium. Both were memorable experiences, but for different reasons.

At the dinner where 250 gathered, a woman marched to the head table. She extracted a Graham book from her purse and asked for his signature, just as he’d begun eating his salad.

Immediately, a line formed; two dozen others brought books, seeking similar attention from this Christian giant. They got it; he never finished his salad….

    *****

At the crusade, thousands of persons responded to his appeal. His sermon—preached in the long-admired “Graham way”—was marked by courage, conviction, clarity and urgency.

I noticed, though, that he gripped the lectern with both hands during the final moments. Body language suggested that he truly wanted to preach a few minutes more.

But his legs were shaky, so he closed a bit abruptly, perhaps fearing a fall….

    *****

So many have said it so often—“We need another Billy Graham to rise up among us.”

Perhaps there’ll never be another with such focus, such clarity and such a calling.

May God be honored with the massive undertaking; may Dr. Graham’s life of service spark in all of us the “courage of conviction” he has long proclaimed….

    *****

I thought of Dr. Graham recently upon reading a book by Jeremy Courtney, a graduate of Howard Payne University, where I was president for 12 years. He and his wife, Jessica, have served across Iraq for almost a decade. They’ve risked their lives on numerous occasions in their passion to facilitate heart surgeries for dozens of stricken children. Fueled by the support of churches and educational groups throughout the US, the Preemptive Love Coalition he directs is making rapid gains.

His book, Preemptive Love: Pursuing Peace One Heart at a Time, has become an immediate “must read.” It vaulted to the #15 spot among all books purchased during its first week, according to Publishers Weekly. I read it through tears, grateful that the Courtneys—with their two children—dare to serve in one of the earth’s “uttermost parts”—and one of the most dangerous.

It intones the biblical admonition to “love our enemies.” Our copy now rests in a special place in our home—next to the Bible, nestled among books by Dr. Graham. All are about matters of the heart….

    ******

On matters of faith and Christian commitment, I am too often timid. And truly, I have plenty of company. With this in mind, I recommit to boldness that is ours to claim. In a spirit of peace and thanksgiving, I extend birthday wishes to Dr. Billy Graham, and sincere thanks to Jeremy and Jessica Courtney, who make us proud. The three of you remind us that Christians should be bold—even when boldness calls for indignation.

They do so one day at a time, a pattern worth following. The other day, I read an anonymous piece. It’s short, but instructive: “Before you assume, learn. Before you judge, understand. Before you hurt, feel. Before you say, think.”

I think that’s what God admonishes us to do boldly each day….

    *****

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speaker.doc.com. Twitter: @donnewbury.

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