That Time Billy Graham Told Me to Never Drop Names


Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.

Jesus, we belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 

Acts 14:8–13 (NIV)

In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.


The gods have come down to us in human form!

There is a word for this phenomenon with which we are very familiar. Does anybody want to take a guess at the word?


The gods have come down to us in human form!

Celebrity happens when an image bearer of God is turned into an idol and worshipped in the place of God. How and why does this happen? It happens because human persons, at the very core of their being, are worshippers. We are made by God to worship God. And by this, of course, I don’t mean singing in church but being a receptor of divine life, a reflector of divine love, and a beacon of divine glory. This is what it most deeply means to be made in the image of God. This happens in, through, and from the place in us the Bible calls the inmost being. At the core of our life is our inmost being. Hear the psalmist on this point:

“For you created my inmost being. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (see Psalm 139).

This is the core and central part of a human being which holds the capacity to perceive and know God, and enter into the union who is God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and through God to enter into union with other people.

The big problem is our inmost being was hopelessly corrupted in the fall from grace we see depicted in the third chapter of Genesis. As a result, we have inherited the brokenness of sin and death, multiplied, and accumulated it. We are fallen worshippers and we have proven ourselves willing and capable of worshipping anything and everything under the sun, including the sun in the quest to try and restore light, life, love, and longevity to ourselves. 

This is why these essentially pagan people wanted to worship Paul and Barnabas. Based on the powers witnessed in them, the people were deifying Paul and Barnabas as Greek gods; the personifications of Zeus and Hermes. They were establishing a precursor to the modern-day cult of celebrity worship. This is the essence and ecosystem of celebrity. 

Anytime anyone who is considered a celebrity, minor or major, comes around, we will bend over backward to honor them, to try and position ourselves in proximity to them. And we will find a way to “bear witness” concerning our experience with them. We will drop their name at the drop of a hat. It reminds me of that time Billy Graham told me to never drop names. (lol). Why? Because we perceive by nearness to the celebrity we participate in their status or fame or perceived greatness. This is why celebrities must keep their distance and expect us to keep ours. (Notice where Taylor Swift sits at the next home game for the Kansas City Chiefs. Notice how a certain player’s performance will be attributed to her presence.) 

The image of a celebrity becomes an idol which is fashioned by human hands for worship. This is why command number one is “no other gods,” command number two is “no images or idols,” and command number three is “do not misuse the name of God.”

The gods have come down to us in human form!

The reason this whole scene was so compelling to these Greeks is because it was actually pretty close to the truth. 

The God came down to us in human form. His name is Jesus. “He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. The third day he arose from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”

The amazing thing is how Jesus refused to be made a celebrity. In fact, he was the anti-celebrity. 

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isa. 53:2–6)

There is a word for this phenomenon with which we are not as familiar. Does anybody want to guess the word?



Lord Jesus, I am your witness. 

I receive your righteousness and release my sinfulness.
I receive your wholeness and release my brokenness.
I receive your fullness and release my emptiness.
I receive your peace and release my anxiety.
I receive your joy and release my despair.
I receive your healing and release my sickness. 
I receive your love and release my selfishness. 

Come, Holy Spirit, transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen.


Have you ever met or been close to a celebrity? Did you find yourself eager to share (i.e., witness to) the experience with others? I know I have. It’s not wrong. It just shows us who we are at the core—worshippers. Are you getting more in touch with your inmost being as you follow Jesus closer? This is the secret place from which everything that really matters happens. 


Today we will sing “Near to the Heart of God.” It is hymn 357 in our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise.

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

3 Responses

  1. Growing up poor, my idols became the new and improved “things” offered. Amazon became my celebrity focus. Now that Jesus is my idol, I’ll fast from Amazon, but I must be careful as I’m drawn to more ebooks or audio tapes than I need.
    Note: I’m listening to an interesting audiobook, “Why Does God Allow Evil” by Clay Jones.
    Yes, I was looking to purchase the new and improve.
    Now, I’m new and improved.
    Glory be to God.
    What was it about the crippled that Paul could see he “had faith to be healed?”
    My answer.
    The Holy Spirit in Paul knew, so Paul immediately acted upon the Spirit’s prompting.
    May I be so attuned to Christ in me that He works through me without me allowing doubt to get in the way.

    Stying 💪’n Christ
    Ephesians 6:10
    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.

  2. No! Maybe I’m not normal, and I’ve certainly got other weaknesses, but I can honestly say that the temptation towards celebrity worship is definitely not one of them. I couldn’t care less about shows on tv about the lifestyles and homes of the rich and famous, Entertainment Tonight, or sports shows where folks sit around discussing various teams and players pre-game. As to Christian celebrities such as the Reformers, Christian Composers and Martyrs, again, I’m inspired by some of their lifetime achievements done in the power of the Lord, but I realize that it’s not them that deserve the glory, but God alone. These type folks are the ones that I believe the writer of Hebrews was referring to when he wrote: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” These are the Saints, the sanctified ones.

  3. Let’s decelebritize Christianity!

    Modern Christianity has celebritized people and minimized Jesus. On church bulletins and signs and on conference brochures and schedules, the names and pictures of preachers and Christian conference speakers crowd out the name of Jesus. Try this: Go to a church, conference, or ministry web page and count the total number of times a preachers’, speakers’, founders’, and staff members’ name is mentioned. Then count the number of times the name of Jesus is mentioned.

    When Christians talk about church services or conferences that they’ve attended they frequently refer to preachers’ and speakers’ names, but almost never mention the name of Jesus. Look at Christians’ social media. They tend to promote preachers, speakers, and Christian writers much more than they promote and proclaim the risen Jesus.

    If we really believe that the name of Jesus is above every other name, shouldn’t His name be mentioned and celebrated far more than any preacher’s, writer’s, or speaker’s name? Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! If Christianity is about Jesus, we need to let His name crowd the name of every celebritized Christian out of our hearts, our churches, and our conferences. In the name of Jesus . . .

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