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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - Leveling the Playing Field

Andy Stanley - Leveling the Playing Field

TOPICS: Christmas, Gospel

You know most people, most people, and you're probably part of this most people, maybe not, you may disagree with this, but most people assume that there's some sort of universal code of conduct that we ought to ascribe to. And this code of conduct is basically reflected in the laws and the customs of every nation of the world and pretty much every ancient civilization as far back as we can study ancient civilizations. It's kind of a set of like universal oughts to which we hold, sometimes we hold ourselves accountable, like you know, I really should, you know, you see a couple come in and they're having a hard time.

You think I really should get up and give them my seat. I ought to do that. Somewhere outside of you there's a sense of ought. Or I really ought to apologize. I don't want to apologize, I don't want to admit I'm wrong, but I was wrong enough. I ought to apologize. Or you're tempted to do something that hurts you, or tempted to do something you know ultimately hurts somebody else and there's something that's like, I ought not to do that. I ought to do that so there's, there's this kind of ought that sits outside of us, and we know it doesn't we know it doesn't originate inside of us, because if it originated inside of us we'd just tell it to shut up, you know?

We would just move on and we would change it, but it's kind of, it sits out there and it informs our conscience and sometimes it condemns us and sometimes it encourages us when do the right thing. So sometimes we hold ourselves accountable to this universal sense of ought, but we always hold other people accountable, right? Isn't this true? A set of universal oughts to which we hold others accountable. I mean even if you don't even believe there is such a thing as that, you think it's all internalized, or just culture are part of the evolutionary process, even if you don't even believe that such a thing exists, the truth is, you hold other people accountable to these oughts even when you sort of negate them in your own experience. I mean liars right?

Liars don't like to be lied to. I mean a liar may say it doesn't matter I didn't tell the truth but it's okay if I lie because I need to get my way and that's part of my survival instinct. But whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, you can't lie to me. The somehow you know in those moments the liars reach out and grab that external thing and say, and apply it to you. Thieves, I bet you knew this, they don't like to be stolen from. You know somebody breaks in your house and take stuff, if somebody breaks in their house they don't go, "Oh well, that's how the world works". No, they're angry they call the police. Thieves call the police, did you know this? It's like it's crazy.

Cheaters do not like to be cheated on, they really don't. I have a friend who his thing is, he says, "I don't do guilt, I don't do guilt". 'Cause he knows I'm a pastor and we have conversations. "I don't do guilt". And it always kind of baffles me, because if you don't do guilt then everybody around you has to be wrong so you don't have to be. I'll say that again. If you don't do guilt, like you don't accept responsibility, then everybody else has to be wrong. They have to kind of dance around you. So, um, the thing is people who don't do guilt are adamant regarding the guilt of others.

So again, there's this kind of this universal ought that kind of sits out there, and we grab it when it's convenient but then sometimes we ignore it personally. But here's the hypocrisy that Christians and non-Christians share. So kind of level the playing field a little bit. Here's the hypocrisy that we all share. We can't help ourselves. We cannot stop holding others accountable to an external standard we sometimes ignore ourselves. We just can't help it. You know, we can kind of silence our conscience, and kind of get through doing the wrong thing. But when somebody does the same thing to us we reach out there and grab that thing. And all of this is dynamic that kind of condemns all of us, this underscores why the arrival of Jesus was such good news. It was it was such good news that, that ultimately it moved the needle. It was such good news that people eventually leaned in.

Now, as we said last time we were together. Some people resist Christianity and you may be one of these people, which I understand this. This makes perfect sense to me, and I'm not playing a game. I mean, I don't judge you a bit. If this is your thing, you have a good reason for it to be your thing. But a lot of people, their big question as it relates to Christianity is "Is it true"? But for more and more people, the question is different. The question now for more and more people is, "Is it good"? "Is it good? Is Christianity even good"?

I have a friend that lives in a different state, different city and different state, and I haven't seen him in a long time. And he texted me this week. He said, "I saw your message last week. Where you're asking the question is it good. And I couldn't believe you're talking about that because Andy", I'll be honest, this is a kid raised in church. He said, "I don't know anymore. I don't know if it's good anymore. I don't know if Christianity is good for society. I don't know if it's good for culture, I don't know if it's good for me", he said. And this is, you know, more and more people are asking this question and maybe that's your question. That's why we're talking about it, but here's the thing. Isn't this true?

When you hear news that's not good. When you get news that's not good or you hear news that's not good, you hope it's not true, right? And when you hear news that is good. You hope it is true. And the amazing thing is this. When the birth of Jesus was first announced, it was announced as good news of great joy and this is the part we can't begin to understand how unusual this was for all people. And the reason this is so unusual... Isn't it true that, generally speaking, good news for one person's bad news for somebody else? Or bad news for somebody else is good news, and the kind of good news is bad news. If it's good news for you, then it's bad news for somebody else.

And the announcement of Jesus was good news of great joy for everybody. And the world was so divided, it's hard to imagine. It would have been hard for anybody in that culture to imagine there's something that's so good that's going to benefit everybody. Because generally the good news benefits one group and it punishes or undermines the integrity or the success of another group. So seriously, all people? Which brings us to the question that we're going to talk a lot about next week so don't miss next week. If the birth of Jesus really is good news of great joy for all people, why is there so much resistance? Because again, when we hear something that we think is good, or we're convinced is good, we want it to be true. We hope it's true. We look for reasons to believe it's true.

So if the birth of Jesus the coming of Jesus to Planet Earth is good news, why all the resistance? Why doesn't everybody lean in? And one of the problems is the original version has gotten so distanced from our cultural and our contemporary version. That's one of the problems. Because when Jesus first showed up, when Jesus stepped onto planet earth as an adult, people leaned in. In fact, the original version of Jesus' message and the original version of the Jesus story was actually called the gospel. It wasn't called the Bible. It wasn't called the story of Jesus. It was called the gospel, which is two old English words put together which means "The good story". The best title they could come up with was "euangelion" in Greek - the good news or the gospel.

And the good news of the gospel of Jesus was such good news it caught on. Sandwiched between the Roman empire that eventually made it illegal and the Jewish temple which was threatened by it. Somehow it caught on because so many people leaned in. Because again, when you hear something that sounds good. When you hear something that sounds good, you hope it's true. And the gospel, the original gospel. The original message of Jesus. The original story of the life of Jesus was so good people, in fact, Luke, Matthew, Mark, Luke, the third gospel writer who said I thoroughly investigated all these things that you would know with certainty the things that have happened among us. That's how he starts his gospel.

We talked about that last week. Luke says that at one point, Jesus said this- he said, "The law and the prophets", Which we call that the Old Testament, but it was just the Jewish scripture- the Hebrew Bible. "The law and the prophets were proclaimed until John". The Hebrew scriptures were proclaimed until John, and the Hebrew scriptures were very good news for the Hebrew people, especially the ancient Hebrew people. But they weren't good news for everybody. He said the law and the prophets have been proclaimed until John the Baptist, but then John the Baptist came and announced that God was about to do something new.

And when Jesus steps onto the pages of history as a man, as a grown up, things changed. The law and the prophets have been proclaimed until John, but since that time, here it is. The good news of the kingdom of God. God is about to do something in the world for everybody in the world. The good news of the kingdom of God is being preached and look at this. Jesus says, "Look around". Everyone. Everyone. Everyone who hears it. Everyone who understands it. Everyone who senses that God is about to do something in the world for everyone. Everyone is leaning in. Everybody is moving toward. Everyone is forcing their way into it. Everywhere Jesus went crowds upon crowds upon crowds. Which brings us to this tension.

If the life and the message of Jesus doesn't strike you as good news, perhaps you've never heard the original news. If the life and the message of teaching of Jesus doesn't strike you as good news of great joy, you may not believe it's true, but if there's not something in you that just says, "You know, I don't believe it's true, but wow, wouldn't it be great if it were true"? If there's not something in you that would lean forward and say, "You know what? At this point I think it's a fairy tale. At this point I don't know if we can trust New Testament documents, but wow. Wouldn't that be amazing"?

If the message of Jesus doesn't strike you as something that you would want to be true, perhaps you've never heard. Or perhaps you've never understood the original version. The good news of great joy for all people version, because the original version was so extraordinarily compelling. It was so extraordinarily worth telling and so it was told. Luke tells us that many people endeavored to give us an orderly account of the life and the teachings of Jesus. It was that good. Now, one of the things that makes the good news so good is that Jesus with his message, he basically leveled the playing field. The message of Jesus just stood as a disturbingly but appropriately humble reminder that we aren't so good. That we aren't so good.

In fact, it was this message that disturbed the people that thought they were so good, and it's the very part of his message that gave hope that people that knew they weren't all that good. People like us. That know from time to time we reach out there and we grab and we leverage and we use that universal sense of ought. When people have hurt us, but when it comes to us sometimes we kind of play it down and ignore our consciences and just do what we want to do. Anyway. But for the people who were aware of the fact that they weren't so good, this was good news of great joy for all of those people.

Now, in February of 2018, I saw a great example, to me a great example of what this must have looked like. Maybe from God's perspective and a little microcosm. In February 21, Billy Graham passed away. And on March 2nd, his funeral was scheduled in Charlotte, North Carolina. And when I heard that Billy Graham passed away, I called my dad because I heard they were only going to invite 1000 people to the memorial service, and everybody who got invited could bring one person because there's only room for 2000 people. And I called my dad. I said, "I know you're going to get invited. Can I go with you? Because I would love to be a part of Billy Graham's memorial service". And then, lo and behold, I got an invitation. Which means I'm one of the thousand most important... Just kidding.

So, I think people just kept, they couldn't go and they got down to me. But anyway. So I got invited. I know. To Billy Graham's funeral. So Sandra and I went. And my dad went and He took a friend. And it was so amazing. This was okay this - there's dignitaries. There are famous journalists. Everywhere you look, there are people you either know who they knew that they were, or they're like, okay, I've seen them on television. I know that's somebody important. People from all over the world - heads of state. I mean, it was incredible. 1000 people invited. They could all bring one person. And the best part of this was these were mostly all people who were like big shots somewhere. Who are used to traveling and motorcades. Who are used to showing up and tricked-out Escalades with their people.

You know their people get out and got sunglasses. We got people, we got security. And the beauty of this day was, you couldn't bring your people, you could bring one people. That's it. And we showed up at a distribution center, okay, that wasn't even that was like, 20 minutes away from where the ceremony is going to be. And everybody has to go into this kind of warehouse area, and we had to stand around for about an hour and 15 minutes while we waited for buses to come pick us up. It was beautiful. So you have all these important people, and they can't be important because they're surrounded by other important people, and suddenly nobody is important. And then they put us in line to wait in line. And we all got herded onto these buses. Everybody had to go to the back of the bus. Fill up every single seat from the back to the front. These people haven't ridden on a bus since they were in elementary school, okay?

Now they're all sitting in these buses and they're in. And then we drive for about 20 minutes, we get out, and it's freezing cold. This is March 2nd. Charlotte, North Carolina, It's a beautiful, sunny day. Freezing cold, and the service is in a tent without any sides. So you can get under the tent and you're super freezing, or you can stand out in the sun where you're just freezing. So we're miserable for an hour and 15 minutes before this thing started, and I'm telling you. I was enjoying this part so much as I looked at all these famous people. They couldn't be famous, because there weren't any people for them to be famous for. Because everywhere they look there were people more famous than them and more important than them and we all just kind of milled around waiting for the ceremony to start. Nobody, nobody was anybody special that day. I mean, you may be a big shot in some circle that you work in and they may be a big shot on some television station but, hey, you're not Billy Graham, okay? So, that just leveled the playing field.

And again, you know, you may have a big ministry, but hey, this is amazing and I wanted to show you a picture but we didn't get permission in time. In 1973, I mean most of you weren't around. In 1973, talk about big church. He preached in Seoul, South Korea, and 1.1 million people attended. Let me tell you how big my church is. Shh, Let me tell you about this. Billy Graham showed up to preach. I don't mean they watched on television. You should see this picture, you should Google it. Over a million people showed up, okay? So you may be a big deal, but your funeral isn't going to be on Fox News and CNN and C-SPAN, okay? You may be a big deal, but your body is not going to lie in the US capital for people to line up all around the block to come see your body, okay?

You know some people were better known than others. You know some people were more famous than others. Some people had more followers than others. But on that day, we all fell short of the glory of Billy Graham, and it was amazing. But perhaps the most amazing part of that part of it. That dynamic, was you could tell who was uncomfortable. They didn't like it. They were used to being special. They weren't special. Leveled the playing field. Peter, the fishermen that eventually became one of Jesus's followers. Peter was a good man. He was a really good man. He was a businessman. He was a family man. Had a good reputation in the community. Had brothers, you know.

And Luke, who thoroughly investigated all this stuff, tells us that one day, Jesus was in the community. And he was teaching and he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, which is the Sea of Galilee. And there were people crowding around Jesus and they were listening. And I can't spend much time on this, this is an amazing phrase. They were listening as he taught the Word of God. But it doesn't say he taught the Word of God. They were listening to the Word of God. This is a big deal. When we see the phrase "Word of God", we think the Bible. This is way, way, way before there is the B-I-B-L-E. And he wasn't teaching the law and the prophets.

After the resurrection, the people closest to Jesus realized, "Oh my goodness. When we sat and listened to him teach, we were hearing the words of God. Oh my goodness, that afternoon when he told that story, I was just a rabbi telling a cool story, we were hearing the word". So Luke recognizes after the resurrection. When Jesus taught, the people had the amazing opportunity. They were hearing not the Bible being taught. There's no Bible yet. Not the law and the prophets, you know, that's just the backstory. They were hearing the very words of God. It's just amazing. Anyway. So he saw. Jesus looks around at the water's edge. Two boats left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.

So the way this works, you fish all night when the water's cool. The fish come up to the surface. You can fish with the net. When the sun comes up the water heats up. The fish go deeper. So, they fish all night. They come in after fishing. They string out their nets. They lay out the nets, dry the nets. Get all the seaweed, the beer cans out of the nets. Then they roll the nets back up. Stash them away. And then they sleep during most of the morning, and then they do it all again the next night. So these guys have been up all night. They are cleaning and drying their nets. Peter has one of his nets cleaned and drying and rolled up in his boat. And Jesus says, "Hey. Let's push out a little bit. I'd like to get away from the shore a little bit. I'll be able to see the people more and they won't crowd so much".

So he got in to one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, or Peter. And he says, "Now let's put out a little from the shore". And then he sat down and he taught the people from the boat. So there's Peter sitting there. You know, captive audience, he can't leave early. You know, slip out for lunch. He's sitting there on the boat. There's Jesus, got the net. And Jesus is teaching, amazing. I mean, you're listening to the Word of God. They didn't know it at the time. And then Jesus finishes his sermon. Peter gets ready to kind of oar back over to the shore for Jesus to get out.

And Jesus says, "Peter take me fishing". Take me fishing. And I don't know what Peter thought. He thought, "Hey we already did that and we didn't catch anything when you're supposed to fish, so this is gonna be a complete waste of time". Maybe he thought, "Well you know, I've never taken a rabbi fishing. Maybe I'll have some good luck. Who knows? It's rabbi. Good message. Great guy, you know"? And then he says this. He says, and we don't know what's behind this phrase, but it's pretty powerful. He says, "Well, Jesus, you know, we've been fishing all night and we haven't caught anything. But since it's you, and since we're out here, let's give it a try".

So, apparently, we forget this part. Jesus and Peter now row out a little ways. Unfurl those nets. Drop them down. And they start catching fish. You may remember this story. And they catch fish and they kept fish. And they catch so many fish, it almost sinks the boat. And somewhere within the process, Peter looks up at this rabbi from Nazareth and he realizes something's going on. And suddenly, he's overwhelmed with self-awareness. Suddenly Peter begins to see himself in a way that he had not seen himself before. And suddenly he's not okay with what he sees in himself. And he's, you know, being above average in the community and being the above average brother to James and John. Suddenly, that just didn't matter. Suddenly in this moment with Jesus in the boat with all these fish.

You know, he's not gonna have to fish for days and days. He's ashamed. And he lets go of the net. And Luke, who probably got the story straight from Peter, said when Simon Peter saw this. When he saw what was happening, suddenly. Some of you can relate to this. Suddenly, the fish and fishing and the fishing business and the crowd on the shore watching. All of a sudden that become inconsequential. Because his world was way out of balance. And Peter was not okay with Peter.

Listen to what happened. Luke says that Peter let go of the net and he drops down on his knees in this boat. And he falls at Jesus' knees and he says, "Go away from me, Lord". "Go away from me, Lord. I am a sinful man". To which we'd say wait wait wait. Peter, get up. Peter, you haven't done anything wrong! In fact, not only have you not done anything wrong, you did something right. You took Jesus fishing. I mean, you took Jesus fishing when it was a waste of time and your nets were already dried. I mean, you did the right thing. To which Peter would have said, "No no. I didn't say I sinned. I'm not here to confess a sin. I'm just telling you. In the presence of this person, I'm just telling you I suddenly became aware of the fact that I am a sinful man. I'm not okay. And I just became more aware than ever of how not okay I am". Then he said this, "Jesus, I need you to go away so I can feel okay about myself".

This is what he meant when he said, "Go away from me, Lord". What he meant was this: I need you to go away so I can get back to feeling okay about myself. I was fine with me. I was fine with Peter until you showed up. Then I love this. Jesus smiles. And he says to Peter, "Don't be afraid". To which he could have said, "It's true. You are a sinful man".

In fact, Peter, let me tell you. Your greatest sin is still in your future. Peter, you're about to see things that mere mortals long to see. And at the end of that journey you're going to deny that you've ever even met me. You are gonna deny the events of this day. And I know that, because you are a sinful man. That's why I've come. That's why I'm here. To level the playing field. Because in the kingdoms of this world, it's all about power and prominence and prestige. But good news Peter. Good news. It's a new kingdom. With a new kind of king. And Peter, I am going to go away, but I'm taking you with me. And together, we will introduce the world to the kingdom of God.

Whew. Luke says at that point, they pulled up their boats onto the shore. And they left everything and they followed him. They left their mark on western civilization and the journey begins the moment Peter recognizes, "I'm good, but I'm not that good. And in your presence I'm not just not good, I am a sinner and should not even be in your presence". And Jesus sends him a message and a signal. And sends you a message and you a signal and says, "I know. Now follow me. And we will do something significant together".

See what makes the good news so good, is that we aren't so good. We fall short of our own expectations. We fall short of other people's expectations. And we know we know we know we fall short of that elusive sense of ought. In fact, it's worse than falling short. We hold other people accountable to what they ought to do, then we give ourselves an out. What do you call that? We hold other people accountable to this sense of ought, but at the same time we decide that there's an excuse to be made. There's a reason not to. Then suddenly Jesus shows up. And suddenly, all the excuses burn away. And we realize what we're really like and who we really are. He smiles and he says, "And that's why I came".

And let's be honest, okay? Our falling short, it's not always an accident, is it? Sometimes we fall short on purpose. We call it a mistake, in our culture we call it a mistake. Well she made a mistake. I'm like, well, she did it four times. Is that a mistake, you know? I mean, is there such thing as a premeditated mistake where you plan it out and then you make the mistake? That's not a mistake, but we call it a mistake. Jesus says no. A premeditated mistake where you hurt somebody and you plan to do something that ultimately hurts somebody. That's not a mistake. Look at me, he would say. That's a sin. When you hurt another person on purpose and then you do it again. And you plan it and you scheme. And you hurt another person or you hurt another company or you hurt someone you love, either by accident or on purpose. That's not a mistake. A mistake is when you're doing math, right? A mistake is when you put the wrong button in the cellphone and call someone you don't know. That's a mistake.

Jesus says, "Come on. Let's just be honest, all right"? You're not mistakers. You're sinners. And suddenly, the playing field is level. And suddenly, the good news gets even good-er. Paul. This is amazing. And if you don't know this story, you should read the book of Acts. A-C-T-S. It's amazing. Paul shows up in the pages of history as someone who claimed to be like one of the best people who ever lived. He said when it comes to righteousness, when it comes to keeping the law. When it comes to keeping the law of Moses. When it comes to keeping God happy, you know, I'm the best. I don't know any other way to say it. I'm like the best. I'm like the Hebrew of Hebrews. I'm the Pharisee of Pharisees. I mean I can out-Pharisee all the Pharisees. I'm so good.

I mean, when I get to the temple they're just happy to see me there. I'm so good. I mean, I'm a law-keeper. I'm a meticulous law-keeper. And then he meets Jesus. And do you know what label he gave himself after he met Jesus? This man that was the best of the best. He said, "I'm the chief of sinners". Okay, wait wait wait. What? You just said you're like the best person that ever lived now you're the chief of sinners? Now you're the worst of the worst? How can you go from being the best of the best to the worst of the worst? And Paul would say because I encountered God in a body. Because I encountered the resurrected Savior.

And like Peter, there was just a sense of, "Please. Just go away from me. I am a sinful man". And Jesus would say to Paul what Jesus said to Peter. "I know Paul. I know Paul, but guess what. Follow me and we will change the world together. Together, we will introduce the kingdom of God to earth". Here's what he wrote. You've heard these words before. Talking about himself, he's not, believe me, he's not waggin' his finger at you. This is an all skate. He says, "For all have sinned and all fall short".

Playing field leveled. We don't just fall short of our personal ambitions and our personal standards. We fall short of others' and we all fall short of that nagging sense of ought to that we feel accountable to and always hold others accountable to. This is the way he says it, "And we all fall short of the glory of God". The reason Peter fell at Jesus' knees was suddenly a little bit of glory leaked out. The reason the apostles Paul finds himself flat on his face and scrambling for words and trying to figure out what to say is because a little bit of glory leaked out. And the God that we say we believe in, and the God that we say we serve, and his son who came to earth to pay for our sin, was a God of glory. And in the midst of that glory and in light of that glory, everybody falls on their knees and the playing field is leveled.

That's part of the good news because you cannot get to where you need to be until you acknowledge where you are today. And don't ever forget this. In these moments where people were so aware of their failure, those were the moments when Jesus leaned in and said, "Now. Come on. Follow me and we will leave our mark on the world together". That's the, kind of the bad side of the good news. But listen to what he says. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". Here's the part that you didn't memorize in Sunday School. Or maybe you didn't hear before. "And all are justified".

Justified means made right. That we're all made right. But we're not made right by doing right, and we're not made right by promising to do right. The problem with promising and committing is this. Promising to do better next time doesn't do anything about the last time, right? If I promise I will not break another window in your house, that doesn't do anything to pay for the one I broke, or you know, make sure, I mean it doesn't do anything to fix the one you broke. And it doesn't do anything to pay for the one that I broke.

So when you make someone a promise not to do something again, it doesn't do anything for last time. That's why you need more than just a second chance. This is why you need more than a commitment. This is why the playing field is leveled. Because everybody needs a savior. Everybody need someone who can do something about what's been done in the past. Listen to how he finishes this up. Freely. Freely. This is the differentiator between Christianity and everything else. Freely by his grace, that is you don't earn it. Through the redemption, the buying back. The paying back that came by Christ Jesus.

The birth of Jesus was good news of great joy for all people. Because we all share something in common. We all fall short. And we all have been invited. We all have been invited to embrace the same solution to our falling short. My favorite moment at the Billy Graham memorial service was when his daughter, Ruth, spoke. Billy and Ruth had five kids. Their middle child was Ruth, the daughter. And all the kids spoke and it was wonderful and great. And then Ruth gets up. And Ruth is kind of the hippy of the five Graham kids. Which is kind of a strange thing to say and if I ever meet her I'll apologize. But you sort of got that sense. And here's what she said. I wanna read you her story. You can find this. It's easy, it's all over the internet. She said:

I have learned this week as never before. That everybody has a Billy Graham story. I have my own Billy Graham story, so I'm going to tell you that one. After 21 years, my marriage ended in divorce and I was devastated. I floundered. I did wrong. The rug was pulled out from underneath me. My family thought it would be a good idea if I moved far away and get a fresh start somewhere else.

So I decided to live near my older sister and her family and near a really good church. And the pastor of that church introduced me to a handsome widower and we began to date fast and furiously. My children didn't like him, but I thought, you know, they're almost grown and they don't know. I mean, they couldn't tell me what to do. I mean I know what's best for my life. My mother called me from Seattle. My father called me from Tokyo and they said, 'Honey, why don't you slow this down? Let us wait to get to know this man'. But they had never been single. And they had never been a single parent. And they'd never been divorced. What did they know?

So being stubborn, willful, and sinful, I married this man on New Year's Eve. And within 24 hours, I knew I had made a terrible mistake. After five weeks, I fled, because I was afraid of him. And now what was I gonna do? I wanted to talk to my father. And I wanted to talk to my mother. It was a two day drive to their home and questions swirled in my mind. What was I gonna say to my daddy? What was I gonna say to my mother? What was I gonna say to my children? I had been such a failure. And what were they going to say to me? We're tired of fooling with you? We told you not to do it? You've embarrassed us?

Then she said this:

Let me tell you. You women will understand. You don't want to embarrass your father. You really don't want to embarrass Billy Graham. Many of you know we live on the side of a mountain. As I wound myself up the mountain, I rounded that last bend in my father's driveway and my father was standing there waiting for me. As I got out of the car, he wrapped his arms around me and he simply said, 'Welcome home'. No shame. No blame. No condemnation. Just unconditional love. And you know, my father was not God, but he showed me what God was like that day. When we come to God with our sin, our brokenness, and our failure. Our pain and our hurt. God says, 'Welcome home'. And that invitation is open to all of you.

No blame. No condemnation. Just unconditional love.

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