Dr. J. L. Williams was an evangelist and teacher who traveled around the world in apostolic ministry as God led and enabled him. In addition to preaching and teaching the Bible, he mentored key partners to be more strategic and impactful for the Gospel in their countries and cultures. He was relationally focused rather than program or project focused in ministry relationships and partnerships. J. L. went home to be with the Lord on December 28, 2016.
It was a great joy to be in Kathmandu, Nepal, with Will Graham, grandson of Billy Graham and son of Franklin Graham. I have known Will since he was a small boy growing up in Boone, NC. Since this was his first Crusade in Nepal, I went there to give him my support and network him with our many national pastors and leaders. You can view more photos and their descriptions from my trip by clicking on the links below.
Another Lenten Season, Good Friday and Easter have passed. I trust that yours was as full and fruitful as mine was in Asia – where I celebrated “Easter On The Edge.” So before Holy Week fades too far into the past, I wanted to write a few reflections that I hope you will find timely and encouraging…
It is obviously impossible to understand the DNA of Christianity without a clear understanding of Easter. The events of Holy Week are the very heart and soul of our faith. Remove the events of Easter week from our faith and nothing is left but a hollow religious shell. If there was no crucifixion, burial and resurrection, than we are no better off than the animist, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim. Like them, our faith is nothing more than religious superstition, spiritual mythology and wishful thinking!
Without an empty cross and empty tomb, we have little more than pious religious tradition to commemorate that is not based on truth. What Paul summarized in the First Century is just as true for the Twenty-First Century: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins.” Worse yet, “We are to be pitied more than all men” (I Cor. 15:17-19).
But our faith is firmly rooted in facts – historical facts. Our traditions are based on truth – not mythology. As any honest historian will acknowledge, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are among the most documented and trustworthy facts of human history. That’s why history is nothing short of His-Story! His birth divided history into B.C. and A.D. His death divided humanity into two groups – those who are eternally redeemed and those who are eternally lost. The cross was the divine wedge that forces every member of the human race to take their stand with one of the two thieves crucified on each side of Christ. Either we revile and disbelieve like the one, or we repent and believe like the other. One died and went to Paradise. The other died and went to hell. No other eternal destinations are available – like it or not. And most humans don’t like it! That’s why we spend our lives trying to convince ourselves that there is another way to God of our own making. Good works. Good deeds. Good intentions. But that’s works righteousness that is never good enough. It’s spiritual fantasy that flies in the face of the clear revelation of God’s Word that reveals that there is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ (Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12).
And just as Christ’s birth divided history and His death divided humanity – His resurrection defines hope. In Christ we have an endless hope. Outside of Christ we face a hopeless end. Without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we are “…without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). But because of Christ we have been given a “good hope” (II Thess. 2:10)…a “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13)…a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Pet.1:3).
It is because of these central truths of our faith that I have always sought to celebrate “Easter on the Edge” every year at some crucial place in the world. Just as Easter is the very DNA of our faith, it has always been an essential part of the DNA of NDI as a ministry. There have been few times in the last 40 years of our ministry’s history that I have not sought to be out on some “cutting edge” for the Kingdom of God during Easter week. It was the significance of Passover that motivated Jesus to move from the “safe zone” of Galilee to the “danger zone” of Jerusalem. It was His passionate love for a lost and dying world that caused Him to “…resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk. 9:51). Jerusalem and the cross were the geographical and spiritual focus of His entire life.
Across the 4 decades of our history as a ministry, God has also directed us to crucial places to share the Good News of Easter. And many of them were hostile – just like Jerusalem was on that first Easter over two thousand years ago. For many years our Easter thrust was on the beaches of the Carolinas where we sought to share the Gospel with tens of thousands of high school and college students on Spring Break. Obviously, Jesus and the resurrection was the last thing on their minds! With passionate youthful gusto, they were looking for “sun, sand, surf, suds and sex” – not the Savior! But we took them the love of Christ through bold music evangelism, personal testimony and tracts. Those were some of the most challenging outreaches we ever had. They taught me to preach in the face of hostility and heckling – often ducking beer cans that were thrown my way! But thousands of lives were changed. Many left the Grand Strands with hope rather than a hang-over.
In later years after the musical ministries of NDI were refocused from local ministry to global missions, we continued to strategically use Easter as a special time of mission and evangelism. Sometimes it was in Haiti…Israel…Africa…Asia. But we always sought to maximize Holy Week to advance the Kingdom in the power of the Holy Spirit. This Easter was no exception. As many of you know, I have just returned from 3 intense weeks of travel and ministry in Nepal and India. Let me summarize my ministry itinerary for you – which will be followed by pictures…
I spent the days before Palm Sunday in ministry in Kathmandu, Nepal, with Will Graham, grandson of Dr. Billy Graham and son of Franklin Graham – whom I have known since he was a little boy. It was his first trip to Nepal and first Crusade there. So because of our 20 years of regular ministry in Nepal, I wanted to use our partnerships and contacts to support Will in every way possible. We had a blessed time together and there were scores who made decisions for Christ.
On the Saturday before Palm Sunday I preached a seminar on the defining event before Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem – the “Raising and Release of Lazarus.” Then on Palm Sunday, I preached on being a “Donkey for Jesus” at Holy Palace Hospital in West Bengal, India, with our partners, Dr. Suresh and Mary Rai.
This was followed by a mini-conference for Bhutanese Refugees in East Nepal with NDI partner, pastor John Monger, who had been persecuted, beaten and imprisoned after his conversion because of his faith in Christ.
Then I flew to Chennai, South India, for co-ministry with our long-time partner, Bishop Ezra Sargunam. There I preached Maundy Thursday services on “Jesus washing His disciples feet” in the ECI Church that we had the joy of building back in 1997 in honor of Patt’s father and mother, Dr. Robert and Carol Joynt.
On Good Friday I preached on the “7 Last Words” in 3 different ECI Churches in Chennai – which was a logistic challenge due to the intense traffic in that city of over 7 million people! These services were a special blessing since each of the 3 churches were built by NDI partners.
ECI Tondiarpet Church, which was built in honor of my parents, Clarence and Edith Williams, who went to India before I was even born! We also have a “Happy Home” there for scores of needy children. There I preached on the First Word: “Father, forgive them, for they do know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34); and Second Word: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk. 23:43).
ECI Jyothinagar Church, which was built in memory of Rev. Max Allman, who pastured many years in Burlington. There I preached on the Third Word: “Woman, this is your son…son, this is your mother” (Jn. 19:26-27); and the Fourth Word: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me” (Matt. 27:46).
ECI Ernavoor Church, also called “The Church of the New Direction” since we built it some 10 years in celebration of our 30th Anniversary as a ministry. There I preached on the Fifth Word: “I thirst” (Jn. 19:28); the Sixth Word: “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30) and finally the Seventh Word: “Father, into your hands I commend My spirit” (Lk. 23:46). After this service we baptized 30 new Christians – what a way to celebrate Good Friday!
I got up on Saturday morning at 4:00 AM to catch a 6:00 AM flight to Port Blair, Andaman Islands. There I taught a one-day Family Life Conference at the ECI Andaman Faith Cathedral. This was my first time to be back there in 5 years since we did Tsunami Relief there in 2004.
On Easter Sunday I preached an early Sunrise Service at 4:30 AM, on the first resurrection sermon preached by the angels to the woman who had come to the tomb: “Come…see…go…tell” (Matt. 28:6-7). This was followed by other Easter Services and visits to young ECI Churches needing buildings.
On Easter Sunday Night I preached on the other resurrection appearances of the Lord Jesus on that first Easter afternoon and evening when He dealt with the disciple’s defeat and failure in the areas of their…
Confusion by opening their minds to understand all the Scriptures about Him (Lk. 24:27, 44); Fear by giving them His peace (Jn. 20:19) Doubt by showing them the scars on his hands, feet & side (Jn. 20:25-27) Weakness by breathing on them the gift of His Holy Spirit (Jn. 20:22) Failure giving them His fresh commission to go (Jn. 20:21) Authority by giving them His power to forgive sins in His Name (Jn. 20:23)
On Easter Monday I flew back to Chennai. The next day I flew to Coimbatore to be with partners, Murli and Usha Menon, to help them get ready for the dedication of their new Bible College facility and first Children’s Home for girls saved from female infanticide.
After these events, I flew back home to America and Burlington – tired in body but exhilarated in spirit that the Lord Jesus had once again given me the opportunity to be out on the “cutting edge” with Him through His Spirit. So may God bless you for your prayers and partnership that once again enabled me to celebrate “Easter on the Edge” for His Kingdom and glory!
Be watching for a series of pictures I will be sending out in the next week or so through which you will visually experience what your prayers and finances helped make possible on this past trip to Asia.
In His Resurrection Love & Power,
PS: If you did not get a copy of my latest book, The Passionate Christ, I would love to send you a copy if you will write me. It is an indepth study of 350 pages of God’s passionate love for you through the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Please click on the picture of the book to be redirected to our website for complete ordering information.