I found out from my daughter last night, that Rev. Jm Graham, the former senior pastor of Goldhill Baptist Church has passed away. So many people in so many places will have heard that news with sadness mixed with a profound and heartfelt thankfulness for Jim and his ministry. I have reposted in this blog my thoughts that I expressed when I first heard he was ill with one or two slight alterations.
“I am so thankful for Jim’s influence and the influence of his ministry upon my life personally as well as to the church in general. I am remembering today times when he used to come up North to Thurso to speak at conferences. Whatever else people may remember from these days I remember being stuck to my seat by the presence of God that attended Jim’s ministry to the extent that I could not get up to close a meeting, and Jim, the visiting speaker, had to do that instead of the host!
Jim was one of these people that I always think of with a smile but also one of these people who intrigues me still even after the sad news of his passing. His ministry among us in Thurso was so powerful and blessed. Why?
I can think of 2 or 3 reasons, which I want to share with you briefly. Whether you are a pastor, leader or not, I think they are lessons which could hep us all to carry the presence and fragrance of Jesus in the way that I think of when I think with thankfulness of Jim today.
1 – He was someone who honoured the Word of God as the Word of God. One of the things he often said when teaching something that he knew might be difficult to receive was, “I did not write this stuff. I am only telling you what it says!” God honours above all things His Name and HIs Word according to the Psalms, and He blesses the man who trembles at His word, who reveres His word. A word for preachers and teachers; have you forgotten to tremble before the word of the Lord and are you seeking to earnestly and correctly divide the word of truth for your listeners? A word too for those of you who don’t preach; are you carrying something in your heart each day from the bible ,seeking to live it out? That will help give your day direction and make you aware when opportunities to live out what you have read come along.
2 – Jim was someone open to the Hoy Spirit. So often it is the case that some preachers and teachers are open to the Word, while others are open to the Spirit. In my experience I am not sure I have ever met anyone who honoured both in equal measure better than Jim Graham. I recall a time when he prayed for me personally, Things were going well in the church, in fact we were the fastest growing congregation in the Church of Scotland. However things were not going well with me. I had worked myself to a place of exhaustion and was not at rest in the Father’s love. For years I had carried about a feeling of not being good enough or successful enough. Over these years I used to have a recurring dream of looking into the picture gallery of heaven. I would see portraits of those who had achieved great things for God. I would wake up distressed, longing that there was a place in God’s picture gallery for me. Jim, not knowing about this recurring dream started to pray for me. He stopped after a moment and said, “Kenny, I don’t understand this but God is saying there is a place in his picture gallery for you.” I was stunned and started to cry gently. I said, “Jim, are you just making that up?” He became quite serious at that point and said, “Kenny, I don’t make this stuff up. This is what God wants you to know.” That moment became the start of a journey which a month or two later led me to find rest in the Father’s love, a love that is not there because of my achievements but because, I, Kenny am simply loved.
A question to us all based on that personal experience: Are you open to hunches given by the Holy Spirit. Follow through that hunch today to say something, to do something that inexplicably you find laid on your heart, so long as it passes the tests of being encouraging, strengthening and comforting. By the way if you are particularly passionate about truth, something being true is not the go-ahead to say it in an unacceptable way. Ask also will it help and is it kind? That may not alter the truth but it may alter the way you which you say it. Jim simply shone with the kindness of God.
3 – Jim had a ministry in encouraging the church. It is easy to see the faults in any congregation. That usually takes no prophetic ability or insight of the Spirit. In fact as Jack deere said once at CLAN gathering, always seeing what is wrong with a person or a church, does not mean you have a prophetic ministry, but it may mean you have a psychological disorder that requires treatment! It takes the Spirit of God and a loving heart to see what is good and to encourage it. Jim was great at that. He made me personally feel as though he had been waiting all my life to meet me, which he made everyone he met feel. But he also talked about good things about the church. In these days there is a lot of cynicism about the church, which seem to come as a mix of bright new ideas but a rather scathing and sarcastic and judgmental tone towards the church as it is at the moment. Those whom God significantly uses harness more than the frustration of disaffected people. People like John Wimber and Jim Graham had a love for the church, not blind to the faults of any situation but very keen to encourage the good.
4 – I add this one thought today, which I cannot believe I left out first time round: Jim was just so full of the love and compassion of Christ. He was simply one of the most loving people I have met in the course of my life. One can champion the Word or the Spirit or both, but without this we are nothing.
Paul had the temerity to say on one occasion, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” These words are applicable to my memories of Jim. I hope that the brief thoughts I have share about someone you may never have met will give you fodder for thought and for life this day.”