All posts by stephen

The Beautiful Feet of Billy Graham

Graham preaches in Tallahassee, Florida (1961)

Today, our nation grieves the loss of Baptist evangelist Billy Graham, who went home to be with the Lord Wednesday morning at the age of 99.

Dr. Graham was a towering figure during the second half of the 20th century, even playing an advisory role to many of our Presidents. As President George H.W. Bush said, “Billy Graham was America’s pastor. His faith in Christ and his totally honest evangelical spirit inspired people across the country and around the world.”

Dr. Graham had a direct impact on my life as well. He was the instrument God used to lead my dad to Christ back in the early ‘70s. Were it not for Graham’s ministry, perhaps my dad would have never heard the gospel and I wouldn’t know Jesus today.

In 2004, my wife and I had the privilege of attending Billy Graham’s last crusade on the west coast — at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. It was like a step back in time to the old tent revival days, complete with George Beverly Shea singing “I’d Rather Have Jesus” at age 95. What a voice!

As we waited for the evening’s festivities to begin, I marveled at the massive crowd and variety of cultures assembled in the name of Jesus. I was reminded several times of the scene in Revelation 5 where we are told “myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands,” indeed, “every created thing” (Rev. 5:11, 13) will gather together to worship our blessed Lord.

Natalie and I were particularly impressed how Dr. Graham’s sermon was saturated with scripture throughout. I will forever be indebted to this man, and praise God he has now entered his heavenly reward. Here is an article by Steve Lawson with much more on the man and his ministry.

Dr. Graham finished his race, and over the next few days, we will hear stories of his legacy. Now it is our turn to carry the powerful torch of the gospel to a whole new generation, “that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD” (Psalm 102:18).

Another great evangelist, the Apostle Paul, said it best of Billy Graham: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15)

If You Don’t Have Something Nice To Say…

“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Seems like good advice at first. We certainly don’t want to open our big mouths and say something  we’ll later regret.

In the book War on Words, Paul David Tripp suggests, “Listen to the talk that goes on in your home. How much of it is impatient or unkind? How often are words spoken out of selfishness and personal desire? How easily do outbursts of anger occur?”

Most of us would have to admit we have a lot of room for improvement. It’s true we need to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you” (Eph. 4:31). That’s a challenge in itself.

But for the Christian, the standard goes even higher. When frustrated or angry, we don’t have the option of just biting our lip and saying nothing.

Paul also gives a positive command regarding our speech in Ephesians 4. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:15). Then down a little further, he says our talk is to be “only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (v. 29).

In communication, step one is to “put off” words that bring harm and destruction. Step two is to “put on” words of edification in their place. Unless you’ve done both, you have not completed the cycle of sanctification. It would be like hitting a baseball, running to second base, then just walking back to the dugout instead of continuing on to home plate.

Being slow to speak is a sign of wisdom (James 1:19). But how can you then “put on” words that will build others up? Here are five ways you can start today…

  • Learn to say “thanks” for little acts of service or kindness. There’s always something we can be thankful for.
  • Instead of being nit picky, find ways to commend a person’s character, their beauty, their gifts, and a  job well done.
  • Ask questions with a sincere desire to know others better and to serve them.
  • Be willing to ask for help or advice. It’s one of the best ways we can say, “You are important. Your opinion matters to me.”
  • Look for ways to talk about Scripture – what you’ve been learning, what you’ve been reading, and what issues you’d like to understand better.

In light of Ephesians 4, I propose a new motto. “If you don’t have something nice to say, keep thinking until you have something nice to say. Then say it!”

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Photo credit: Rebecca Barray

Under New Management

Struggling with a bad habit? Maybe it’s alcohol, or gambling, or pornography, or an out-of-control temper.

Many professing Christians assume that having been saved, the battle with sin is now over. Sure, they try to avoid a few “really bad” sins. But exempt from eternal punishment, they are pretty much free to live however they want.

This is a serious misunderstanding of God’s grace, leading to many bad habits. It gives Satan a foothold into our lives and lets sin ascend back onto the throne of our hearts.

In our latest podcast, we learn from Romans 6:12-19 that salvation is not so much a declaration of independence (allowing us to live however we want) as it is a transfer of ownership (from the bondage of sin to the righteous rule of Christ). Only when we view ourselves as slaves of Christ will we be able to overcome the bondage of sin.

Click here to listen, or you can use the media player below:

To subscribe to our weekly podcast , you can use this link. And be sure to rate our channel in the iTunes Store to help spread the word!

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Dead to Sin

Christians will continue battling the presence of sin until our future glorification. We are not, however, any longer under the power of sin. In our latest podcast, we look at Romans 6:1-11 and learn how our new identity in Christ gives us victory over temptation. Click here to listen, or you can use the media player below:

To subscribe to our weekly podcast , you can use this link. And be sure to rate our channel in the iTunes Store to help spread the word!


If you’re a subscriber to my blog, you probably received a deluge of emails into your inbox the past couple days. Please accept my apologies!

Last week, I inadvertently *deleted* my blog account. That’s right. I deleted it. How, you may ask, did I manage to do that? Well, it’s sort of a long story, but a couple years ago, I changed my blog address from to When the previous blog expired recently, I just let it cancel out. What I didn’t realize is that my current blog was a secondary account still attached to PassTheCloak.

When my old blog cancelled, the other cancelled with it. As soon as I discovered my mistake, I bought back the domain PinchOfClay and changed it my primary account. As it turned out, this actually made matters work. It created a database conflict and caused me to lose my entire archive of old blog posts. That’s over ten years of work and 700 posts, suddenly vanished into cyber oblivion.

I spent an hour on the phone with Bluehost Thursday night, but we were not able to restore any backups. Thankfully, I did discover a workaround export from an old WordPress blog of mine. The remaining posts from 2015-2017 I have to add manually from individual blog post emails I received and filed away. It is a slow, time-consuming process, but I am gradually getting my blog back up and running. The main downside is that as I post old articles, they appear in your email inbox as a new posting.

So, please bear with me as I continue to get my blog back in order. Moral of the story is, always backup your work regularly, and never delete a self-hosted blog unless you make absolutely sure all the content has been saved!

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds via Flikr