Standing on the Giant’s Shoulders: A Tribute to Reverend Billy Graham

The old Graham family home on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library, Charlotte, North Carolina. It was here that the great evangelist’s body lay in repose during visitation by the public, February 26-27 ,2018.

In the summer of 1982 I crossed the Pacific Ocean for the first time to spend some time in Japan and China. The occasion was a Christian missions trip. After six weeks of ministry work in Tokyo, we concluded the trip with a few days of sightseeing in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Beijing. I thoroughly enjoyed China, but it was somewhat surreal walking around Tiananmen Square, through the Forbidden City, and over the Great Wall. As one of my companions said at the time, we wouldn’t fully realize until we were back home in America that we had been all the way on the other side of the world.My companion was right. We don’t appreciate experiences at the time nearly as much as we appreciate them years later, when we can see the impact they had on us and how they shaped the course of our lives. It’s the same with people. We don’t know how important they have been to us until years later. Maybe even decades or centuries later, when the full tale of their story can be considered in context.

A flyer used to get the word out about the 1972 Alabama Crusade. (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, http://www.billygraham.org.)

The full tale of Billy Graham’s impact on my life is not yet told, but I have an idea what it encompasses now, nearly 50 years after I first saw him. That occasion was in the spring of 1972, during his second visit to my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. It was just before my 11th birthday, and I had no idea at the time what a tremendous effect Reverend Graham had already exerted on my city. For some reason, my parents deemed it best to shield us from the momentous societal transformations wrought by the Civil Rights Movement. All I knew in my childhood was that Billy Graham, like me, was a Southern Baptist, that he loved Jesus like I did, and that he was a very important preacher. I did not know that it was he who insisted on having an integrated choir in his first crusade in my divided city in 1964, and that the crowd gathered at Legion Field in that year was the largest integrated audience in Birmingham history. He addressed a deep, deep wound with the healing admonition of Jesus Christ – one of many ministers of reconciliation the Almighty used in that era to right grievous wrongs, curb the worst of abuses, and prepare the next generation to carry the progress forward.
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Documenting Redemption: A Review of Ten From the Nations: Torah Awakening Among Non-Jews, by Rivkah Lambert Adler

The history of humanity is filled with mothers in all eras and all cultures saying to their children the equivalent of, “I don’t care if you don’t like how that tastes. Eat it; it’s good for you.” In my case, it was broccoli, but I can imagine children around the world sitting glumly in front of their food as their mothers tell them they won’t grow up big and strong unless they finish their borscht, ceviche, pho, or ugali. God created mothers to be right about such things, which is why each generation survives and (depending on the degree to which they listen to Mom) thrives.

This principle works just as well regarding nourishment for the mind, soul, and spirit as for the body. That is why those who persevere in reading and studying even when the subject matter is uncomfortable tend to come out much better in the end – smarter, wiser, more tolerant, and better able to cooperate with others in the interest of a greater good. Rivkah Lambert Adler has provided rich nourishment of this sort in her book, Ten From the Nations: Torah Awakening Among Non-Jews.

The groundbreaking aspect of Ten From the Nations is that Adler is among the first (perhaps the first) Jewish scholars to document the global phenomenon of Christians coming to an appreciation of Torah. She describes the phenomenon this way:

All over the world, current and former Christians are becoming aware of Torah. They are learning about, and implementing, what most of the world thinks of as Jewish practices, including celebrating Shabbat [Sabbath] and the Biblical holidays. They are refraining from eating pork and shellfish. They are studying Torah and seeing the Land of Israel, and especially the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, in a new light. They are building positive relationships with the Jewish people.

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Not Satisfied with Half the Picture: My Quest for Truth Beyond Tradition

In April 2017, Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler sent out invitations to participate in a book project with the working title, Ten From The Nations: Exploring the Torah Awakening Among Non-Jews. Her motivation is to increase awareness of the fact that we are witnessing the gradual fulfillment of Zechariah 8:23. She did so by compiling testimonies from non-Jews who have experienced a Torah awakening of some sort, and from Jews who are actively building relationships with those who are stepping forward from the nations. Her book includes the voices of Christian Zionists, Bnei Noach, Ephraimites, Gerim and more.
It is an honor to be one of those invited to submit a testimony. What follows is the story of my journey into an appreciation of Torah and the Hebraic roots of my Christian faith.
For more information on Ten From The Nations, visit http://www.tenfromthenations.com/.

For the first few years of my life, people fell into one of two categories:  white, or black.  Then the rules changed and the world got complicated.

Scenes of my formative years. Left: going to church in Pensacola, Florida, with my father and older sister in 1962. Right: Dawson Memorial Baptist Church (with Pastor Edgar M. Arendall) and Briarwood Christian School in Birmingham, Alabama.

The world into which I was born was white, Southern, and Baptist.  That was in 1961, when the requirements of my father’s career in insurance caused my parents to depart from their native Alabama and take up temporary residence in Pensacola, Florida.  As we moved back to Alabama in 1963, the Civil Rights Movement entered its most active stage.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his Letter from Birmingham Jail, sit-ins and marches defied segregationist strongholds, and the Federal Government took steps to correct a longstanding injustice.  Little of this turmoil impacted me until 1968, when a Federal judge ordered the desegregation of Birmingham’s public schools.  One day I went to school with my all-white third grade class of about 20 students; the next day the class had swelled to over forty, half of whom were black.

I cannot say whether the addition of so many new playmates of color caused any trauma to myself, but I know that it shook my parents to their core.  At the end of that academic year, they removed my brother and me from the public school, opting to make the financial sacrifice of placing us in the sanctuary of a Christian academy where we could receive a better education.  It also had the advantage in their eyes of being an all-white school.

Well, almost.  What may have escaped their notice was that Briarwood Christian School had a non-discrimination admissions policy.  That explains the presence of one black child in the kindergarten – the only black child enrolled there during my years at Briarwood.  My education was hardly interracial, and yet this turn of events triggered inexorable alterations to my worldview.  By the age of 8, I learned that the antiseptic white society into which I had been born was less utopian than I had been taught.  There was a world of color awaiting my exploration, and a host of questions that the scripted answers could not begin to satisfy.

What I had been taught was not all wrong.  Much of it was right, but it was incomplete.  So was the worldview of my black counterparts –much of it quite right, but incomplete.  Our combined worldviews formed a far more complete picture, with the white perspective filling gaps in the black perspective, and vice versa.  Thus my education proceeded along two parallel tracks:  a formal track provided by the teachers and preachers at school and church; and an informal track hidden in the recesses of my heart and soul and mind.  The hidden track evaluated everything presented to it, often reaching conclusions at odds with the accepted norms.  Hence the reason it remained hidden.

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Resurrection of the Leprous Prodigal

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, The King Uzziah Stricken with Leprosy  (Wikimedia Commons)

Those who have leprosy might as well be dead.  Never mind that the disease we call leprosy today may or may not be one of the skin diseases meant by the Hebrew word tzara’at (צָרַעַת).  The fact is, whoever had it was cut off from the community:

Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, “Unclean!  Unclean!”  He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.  (Leviticus 13:45-46 NKJV)

Think about that for a moment.  Lepers could not go home.  They could not have any kind of normal relationship with their family members, friends, business associates, or anyone else with whom they interacted before the cursed condition fell upon them.  It did not matter what station of life the leper occupied; whether peasant or king, the disease cut them off from the life of the nation.  Even mighty King Uzziah of Judah learned that.  Although he reigned for 52 years in Jerusalem, the leprosy he contracted in the midst of his reign meant that he was king in name only:

King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death.  He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord.  Then Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land.  (II Chronicles 26:21 NKJV)

How can a person shepherd the people of God when he is cut off from the House of God?  Is there any hope for him, or for the people he is anointed to lead?

Yes, there is hope.  That is why the Torah portion Metzora (The Leper; Leviticus 14:1-15:33) provides elaborate detail on the procedures for cleansing lepers.  Once healed, the priests help them through this process to restore them to their place in society.  In a certain sense, this is a resurrection from a type of death, and thus it is a symbol of what Messiah will do. 

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Redefining the Last Act: A Review of The Revelation of Jesus Christ Revealed, by Christine Miller

If most of the events prophesied in the book of Revelation had already taken place, would we live our lives differently?  That is the question at the back of the reader’s mind while processing the wealth of data presented by Christine Miller in her book, The Revelation of Jesus Christ Revealed.

Another question one might ask is why the world needs yet another book on prophecy.  The answer, like the book, is logical and straightforward:  we need an understanding of how the symbols in Revelation correspond to real events and people in the history of the world since the Apostle John wrote Revelation in the year 96 CE.  In other words, Miller cuts through the hyper-sensationalized end-of-the-world drama to examine what Revelation really means in a way that readers not only can understand, but can use as a starting point for their own study.

Miller’s premise is that Revelation constitutes the history of the world as it unfolds between the first and second comings of Jesus Christ (Yeshua the Messiah).  She bases this premise on the precedent set elsewhere in Scripture, particularly in the book of Daniel, which presents the prophetic history of the world from the end of the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people to the first coming of Messiah.  In a lengthy appendix Miller relates the well-known histories of the wars over the Holy Land between the Seleucid (Greco-Syrian) and Ptolemaic (Greco-Egyptian) kingdoms in the centuries following the death of Alexander the Great.  Those wars produced the Abomination of Desolation, in which the Seleucid king Antiochus IV desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem and banned the Jews from every aspect of worship of YHVH.  As the Jews responded in the War of the Maccabees, YHVH intervened on their behalf to bring the victory memorialized in the festival of Hanukkah.  Yet Miller does not stop there; she continues her analysis of Daniel’s prophecies all the way through the ministry of Yeshua and his apostles, making a convincing argument about how they fulfilled the cryptic statement in Daniel 9:27 –

And he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week, and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the offering to cease; and on the wing of abominations shall be one which makes desolate; and even to that full end, which is determined, is poured out on that which makes desolate.

What Miller does with Daniel in an appendix of her book is a microcosm of what she does with Revelation in the body of the work.  She begins with this explanation:

The view that all the events of Revelation are future to us is a relatively new view in the history of the church.  Traditionally, Revelation was seen as an unfolding prophecy of the things which will take place between the first and second comings of Jesus Christ.  This unfolding historical prophecy is in the same manner as Daniel, which set the precedent.

With that introduction, she takes us on a whirlwind tour of two millennia of Roman history.

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