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Monday, August 29, 2016


He “Was” Just After Numbers

We often judge another by what we are ourselves. We assign our motives as their motives. We assign the reason they do something with the reason why we would do the very same thing. In other words it is often ourselves we indict with our accusations.
People sometimes accused Dr. Jack Hyles, Dr. Lee Roberson, Dr. Curtis Hutson, and others of being after numbers, or should I say they have judged their motives. Brother Hyles used to say, “Typically those who have no numbers criticize those who have numbers and try to figure out what’s wrong with them. People that never had a big church love to talk about the evils of a big church. People who have never pastored more than a handful of people want to explain why pastoring a handful is better than pastoring a multitude.”
Here is the truth. Yes, Dr. Hyles and his contemporaries were after numbers. Our critics made us afraid of numbers then our critics went out and outnumbered us. Numbers were important to them and there are reasons why.

  • Every number is a person.
  • Every person is soul.
  • Every soul matters.

There you have it, simple and easy to explain. Now you know the truth. He and his contemporaries were after numbers because the souls of men mattered. Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost and those who are lost number in the multitudes. He spoke of those multitudes to His disciples. He spoke to those multitudes while with His disciples. He trained His disciples to reach the multitudes. He commanded them to go after the multitudes when He was gone. Sounds to me like Jesus was after numbers.
Let’s face it; if souls matter, then numbers matter as well. How can numbers not matter if the souls of man do? Anyone who criticized Dr. Hyles for going after numbers was criticizing someone who was after souls. What they are trying to insinuate is that his motive was not right, but since they could not get into his heart, they certainly have no right to judge his motive. Let’s talk more about why numbers mattered to him.
Numbers matter. You see, when some people talk about numbers they do so from the perspective of their definition of the word numbers. Numbers is such a generic term. Numbers of what? Numbers of french fries, numbers of marbles, numbers of crayons, numbers of compliments, or what number are you talking about? Numbers of souls is the number that interested him, just as it was Christ and just as it should be the number that interests all of us. The critics seem to forget that it’s eternal souls of people we are discussing when we talk about these numbers. Dr. Hyles was not merely after a number, he was after a number of lost people.
Numbers matter. When some people talk about numbers they equate numbers to something else. Numbers equals income. Numbers equal pride. Numbers equal wealth. Numbers equal power. For most people, numbers equate to something and that is what shades their opinion of numbers. For him, numbers equalled obedience. Whatever it equals to you is a judgment of you, not him. We confuse another’s equation with what really is going on in our own heart. He believed that he was commanded to reach multitudes. Wouldn’t you agree? If not, why not? So to him, numbers were a matter of obedience.
Numbers matter. When some people talk about numbers, they consider what they assume is the desired result. Numbers equals more money. Numbers equals more fame. Numbers equal more success. Numbers equal more popularity. But that’s not the result Dr. Hyles saw when he thought of numbers. No, to him numbers equalled people kept out of hell. His father was a number no one cared about, and that drove him to care about numbers. He was a poor little boy who was insignificant to most, but a Sunday school teacher cared about numbers enough to tell him that Jesus loved him. The results of numbers to him was one very simple thing; the more numbers reached, the more people going to Heaven.
Numbers matter. When some people talk about numbers, they think of opportunities that come as a result of numbers. Numbers mean a chance to write a bestselling book. Numbers mean having the chance to speak to thousands. Numbers mean having the opportunity to be interviewed on television. To Dr. Hyles, numbers meant the opportunity to influence others to get more numbers. He was after numbers so that he could influence others to go after numbers so that more people could go to Heaven.
Yes, numbers mattered to him, but not for the reasons his critics would have you believe. No, he had other reasons for going after numbers.

  • Numbers gave him an opportunity to love more people.
  • Numbers gave him the opportunity to serve more people.
  • Numbers gave him the opportunity to influence the lives of more.
  • Numbers gave him the opportunity to help more people realize they were special to God.
  • Numbers gave him more lives to try and salvage.

Yes, numbers mattered.

  • Numbers let him reach more alcoholics like his daddy.
  • Numbers allowed him to reach more abused women like his mother.
  • Numbers allowed him to minister to the families of little afflicted children like his own sister.
  • Numbers allowed him to care about poor little boys and girls like him and his siblings.
  • Numbers let him care for the down-and-outer like his family had been.

Yes, he was accused of being all about the numbers. I truly hope that I have convinced you that the accusation was very accurate. For my goal here is not to convince you he wasn’t after numbers, because he was. My goal here is to explain why.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


How Can One Take a Strong Stand with Weak Standards?

In a question and answer session, a young man stood and asked Dr. Jack Hyles a question. It was obvious the young man was trying to contradict what he thought Dr. Hyles believed. He said, “Dr. Hyles, you have very high standards. How do you respond to what the Bible says about man looking on the outward appearance, but God looking on the heart Don’t you think you put too much emphasis on standards and not enough on the heart?” Smugly the young man sat down, thinking he had gotten one over on Dr. Hyles.
Dr. Hyles smiled that winsome grin that we all loved, and he said, “Young man, our motives are determined by our hearts. But, the motive of one's heart establishes one’s standard. The purer the motive, the higher the standard. My standards are higher when my motives are pure. You cannot tell me that you have pure motives if you have low standards.
If you serve a meal on dirty dishes than your standard is a reflection of your careless motive. It means you do not care much about my health. If the doctor has a motive of being a good doctor then he will be more careful about the cleanliness of his surroundings. The purer the motive, the higher the standard.”
He said, “Young man, the very fact that man looks on the outward appearance means that they are seeing a reflection of what God sees. God sees the motive of our heart, but man sees the outworking of that motive. The standard that man sees in our lives reflects the heart that God sees. Since man cannot see our hearts, it's important for us to set the standard high.”
Dr. Hyles believed that standards erode when good intentions reign supreme in our theology. When we decide that standards are legalistic and deem that good motives are all that matter, we move into something far worse than legalism, that being lethargy. If we have a good motive then it would only be logical that higher standards would follow.
If the makers of toilet paper have the motive of making a good product, they would set a higher standard for their paper. Is that legalistic or is it the byproduct of good motives? The purer the motive the more extreme the standards would seem to be. Yes, it is possible that the purpose for the standard can get lost, but would it not be wise to consider why the standard was set before we merely discard it or accuse those who set it as being legalists? One with standards may have a far purer motive than those who criticize the standard. It is easy for the next generation to criticize their predecessors for their standards without taking time to study the way they arrived at them.
The word standard begins with the word stand. We are commanded in Scripture above all else to stand. "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day..." There is your motive. Next comes the standards. "...and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Say what you will, but in order to stand there must be standards and those are the standards given to withstand in the evil day. Standards always follow a stand. A position without a standard is temporary. All of us would agree that we are to stand, yet many would call those who institute standards as legalists. Let me illustrate.
Let's assume that the owner of the toilet paper company takes a stand and sets standards for his workers as well as his factory. Those standards are meant to accomplish his goal of making a superior product NOT to make the people superior.
However, a particular man who works in that factory may have high standards in his life NOT because he wants to make great toilet paper but because he want to have a great family life and turn out great kids. His motive is different, but his standards are still high. He takes a stand in his home and thus, he sets high standards. The standards won't be the same as the owner of the toilet paper factory, but he will have a set of standards.

The standards of my ministry reflect the motives of my heart. The fact that others do not live those same standards in their home reveals their motives are not the same as mine in my ministry. When they become purer in their motives, they will raise their standards. Lower standards reveal a lesser commitment within one's heart. Higher standards do not make you a better Christian.
Becoming a better Christian will, however, raise your standards. Dr. Hyles never believed the standards created great Christians. He did believe that when one grew spiritually it would be evidenced in the standards they exhibited.
An institution that wants to turn out a better product will raise its standards. You will not find higher standards than in our military academies. They set very high standards because they have a very important motive. They are training the officers for our military. We applaud these military academies for their high standard because we understand their reason. Sadly, we criticize Christian institutions for doing the very same thing. It is not legalism to have standards. It is lethargy that keeps us from having them. Christians have become lethargic in their hearts, thus lowering their standards.
There is something very interesting about which Dr. Hyles often warned us. He said, “Show me an aggressive soul winning church that is really after souls, and I will show you a church that has higher standards.” It is true. I have watched a generation abandon personal soul winning and, as a result, abandon their standards. The further we move from soul winning, the further we move from standards. As our motive deteriorates, so do our standards.

Dr. Hyles did not believe that standards always reflected the heart, but he did believe that one's heart would be reflected in their standards.

Friday, August 19, 2016


In Defense of Defending Friends 

Someone once asked Dr. Hyles, “What should I do when a friend is accused?”

Dr. Hyles’ response was, “Defend your friend.”

They went on to ask, “What about if I feel that the accusation is true?”

Dr. Hyles said, “Defend your friend.”

This person went on to ask, How can I defend my friend if I think they may be wrong?”

Dr. Hyles replied, “I always assume the innocence of a friend. I assume my friend did nothing wrong until it is proven otherwise.”

“So how do you handle it in the interim?” They asked.

Dr. Hyles said, “By letting my friend know that I am assuming their innocence, and that I do not believe that he would do anything such as this. I will ask why he thinks someone is saying these things. Inevitably,” he said, “they will either tell me the truth or ask me to help them arrive at a solution.”
When someone is accused they want a person in their corner who doesn’t believe the worst. A friend assumes innocence and then asks questions based upon the assumption of innocence. If the law assumes innocence until guilt is proved then why shouldn't Christians? As long as I knew him, Dr. Hyles continually handled situations in this manner. He always gave the benefit of the doubt.
Recently I was accused of handing a situation in a manner of which I was totally innocent. I was accused of taking a church to court, which of course I did not do. Some attacked me, but not one personally spoke to me about it. Some assumed it to be true. Someone very near and dear to my heart called and rebuked me, assuming my guilt. They did not ask if what they heard was true. They assumed it was.
Later I discovered that there was a misunderstanding created by a third party about which I knew nothing. Unfortunately, some had already assumed my guilt without ever asking me. People posted untruths on the Internet and said there was proof, but I knew nothing about it. They assumed the worst of me. They did not look at the over four decades of faithful service and assume my innocence. Instead, they deemed me guilty. Friends who defended me were attacked because there was so-called “proof.” I knew nothing about it, so my friends knew nothing about it.
Finally, on a public forum, someone told me that I had been misrepresented. I was able to correct it immediately. But, why did it take so long for someone to assume my innocence and ask me a question so the misunderstanding could be resolved? I don't understand. Well, I guess I do understand. We love to believe the worst about people, even people who we claim to love and respect.
A simple question of "Is this true?" could prevent a lot of needless speculation and hurt. When you say to someone "Why are you doing this?" there is NO open door for a sane conversation about what you think happened. Perception may not be reality and many can be hurt by pontificating perception.
Here is a step-by-step process that will help you avoid a lot of conflict. These are the principles taught to me by Dr. Hyles.

1. When someone is accused to you immediately assume their innocence. When my friend, Dr. Hyles, many years ago was accused by Evangelist Robert Sumner, I immediately assumed Brother Hyles’ innocence. It is a shame that those who are supposed to know the Scriptures do not respond scripturally. Matthew chapter 18 makes it clear the progression of events in order to arrive at a scriptural conclusion.
I, along with two other men of God, confronted Robert Sumner in his office. We asked for those witnesses and for proof against Brother Hyles. None was offered, but in extreme bitterness he raised his voice to me and said, “I will shut down Pastors’ School and your Soul Winning Clinic when I’m through.”
Many times over the years I have people deal with me in a manner which was not scriptural. Not one incident was handled scripturally. When an elder or layman is not allowed to “respond” treachery awaits, as an injustice on one is an injustice on all. It is always scriptural to assume innocence.
2. There should be two or three witnesses before you entertain the accusation. Uh, this is scriptural. It is amazing how we do not care about that. By the way, a witness is not someone who heard something second or third hand. First of all, no one should ever be accused without two or three witnesses. Even the accused is allowed to answer. Strange, but in the Old Testament the party put on trial were the “accusers” not the “accused.” It is best to assume innocence. Someone's good name can be ruined in a matter of seconds when the accused does not have his day in court. There are always THREE sides to every story. Yours, theirs, and the truth!
3. If someone provides some proof, continue to assume their innocence until the person is proven to be guilty. Assume that there must be extenuating circumstances. Assume there could be something wrong with the information. Let the person be innocent until proven guilty. While working for Dr. Hyles, dozens of accusations arose where we later discovered there was vendata at play. Brother Hyles was wise enough to patiently look into situations without jumping to so-called logical decisions. Logical decision-making may not be Biblical decision-making.
4. If the accusation appears serious, say something to them. Something like, “I respect and admire you. I know you have always tried to do the right thing. Someone has said that you have taken an action that they feel is unscriptural. I want you to know that I am defending you to these people. Is there anything that I can do to help you?” The dialogue is then open. It is far better to assume this position than to be on the attack and defeat the opportunity to defend.
5. Do not talk about this to anyone else. I cannot tell you how many people last year talked about something of which I was totally unaware, but did not talk to me. There were preacher friends of mine who said they had seen proof, yet who did not take the time to tell or ask me about it. By assuming my innocence this could have been corrected sooner. I am old enough in my ministry to move on, but some who are much younger could be deeply damaged by not assuming innocence. I am accustomed to betrayal, but some cannot handle it or respond properly. Give everyone an opportunity by not talking to anyone else, except the person involved.
6. Do not assume that those who were talking talk about it publicly have good motives. How can you tell whether someone is accusing with the right motive? Let me give you a hint. If they talked about it publicly, their motives are suspect. That is simple enough. If they are out and out accusing, then they do not have good motives. I have had friends throughout these many years who read or heard accusations and never called me.
7. Mind your own business and let the situation run its course. Do not assume that you need to stick your nose into a questionable situation. One preacher said to one of my friends who recently defended me with an issue that hit the Internet, “Keep your nose out of it, it is a church issue.” That is astounding, because what was his nose doing listening to church members in the first place? Do yourself a favor and always keep your nose out of it.
8. Do not attack a friend. You might learn something from a recent situation in my ministry. Be a friend to your friends. I now know who my friends are. My friends are the ones who contact me assuming my innocence. They are those who want to know the truth. By the way, in this recent situation, the minute I found out that I had been misrepresented by a third party, I contacted the friends who defended me to inform them. Not one of them regretted defending me. In fact they said, “Dr. Gray, I defended you because I believe in you and I knew there had to be something more to this situation.” Obviously there was, and because they assumed the best about me they showed their friendship.
9. Fight the tendency to believe the worst. Why are we so quick to accept the worst about others? Why do we want to believe accusations against others? Why do we not defend our friends? If there was anything about Dr. Hyles that was consistent above all else, it was his friendship. He paid a price for defending his friends which is one reason why he had so many friends defend him when he was falsely accused. I never went to Dr. Hyles and said, “Dr. Hyles, I need to know if the accusations against you are true.” I went to him and said, “You are my friend and you have been my friend through the worst of times. I am your friend and I believe in you.”
10. Never forget the one who sticketh closer than a brother. By the way, there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. That is the friend who not only does not assume the worst about us, but, when the worst is true, still cares about us enough not to want to hurt us. Had every accusation against Dr. Hyles been true, I would like to think that he would have had a friend in Bob Gray, Sr. who would not have forsaken him. I question the kind of friendship that forsakes a friend when there is an accusation even if it is true. What kind of friend is that?

Satan often comes before God and accuses me. Sad to say, sometimes the accusations are true. However, never once does my Heavenly Father accept those accusations against me because He has all already made me righteous in Christ. He has already proven His faithfulness. Oh that we would be more evenhanded in the way we deal with accusations against those we claim as friends.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Vote Your Conscience

It is interesting to hear this particular phrase being reborn in this election campaign. As a boy growing up that was a phrase most often spoken when it came to election times. In fact, what it really meant was keep your opinion to yourself and vote what you think is right. It is interesting to think about it, but I cannot remember ever hearing my parents tell me for whom they voted. People just did not do it. It was a private matter. 

There was an era in this country where people quietly went to the polls and voted their conscience without fanfare, or without telling anyone for whom they voted. I never heard Dr. Jack Hyles tell who he voted for. I can remember one humorous statement that he made numerous times, “I won't tell you who I voted for, but I'll tell you who I didn't vote for.” We all knew what he meant, but he did not do the popular thing today of “endorsing” a candidate.

Now that brings up an interesting point. As I look back on the elections during my lifetime there were very few of them in which a candidate was someone my parents or even myself was wildly enthusiastic about. In fact I can remember only a handful of elections when it was the candidate I wanted to win that caused me to vote my conscience. 

More often it was the candidate I knew should not win. In fact, often I voted my conscience by doing my part to prevent a particular candidate from winning. In most elections I found serious fault with the candidate for whom I voted, so my vote was cast because I was concerned about the danger of the other candidate. I voted my conscience in trying to prevent that particular person from being elected.

I was far from enthusiastic about Mitt Romney and his centrist views or his Mormon religion, but I was far more concerned about positions of Barack Obama. John McCain left much to be desired in my opinion, but once again Barack Obama was a man that I felt was dangerous for our country. I could go back further and show you election after election when our vote was cast for a man not because he was exactly who we would have chosen, but because our conscience told us that we needed to prevent someone else from being elected.

That brings me to this election. I am not wildly enthusiastic about any candidate. It's another typical election in my lifetime. John Rice is not running, Curtis Hutson is not on the ballot and Jack Hyles is not our party's nominee. I cannot honestly say you that I am enthusiastic about our choices. However I can tell you that I will vote my conscience. I will not tell you for whom I am voting, but I will tell you against whom I am voting. 

My conscience tells me that I should use my vote to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming our next President. My conscience tells me that we must prevent her from winning the White House. My conscience tells me that we cannot put her liberal party into power again.

In this case my conscience is speaking from a negative standpoint. Isn't that what our consciences often do. They not only tell us what is right, but they warn us about what is wrong. They not only lead us to make the right decision, but they lead us to avoid that which is wrong. Often my conscience speaks to the negative as much as it does to the positive and sometimes even more so.

So, this November I will go to the ballot box and I will vote my conscience. It may not be a wildly enthusiastic vote of confidence, but it will be a wildly negative vote of conscience. Think about it my friend. I hear people say that they can not vote for a particular candidate in good conscience. Often what they are saying is that particular candidate had certain attitudes and beliefs that were not one hundred percent consistent with what they believe. 

The candidate for whom they were wildly enthusiastic, did not win the primary, so now they think, that in good conscience they cannot vote for the other candidate. Be careful. Don't limit your conscience to the person who is a hundred percent right. Exercise your conscience against the person who is far more dangerous and far more anti-God.

May God help us as Christians to return to some sensibility in this matter. May God bless us and help us to understand that voting our conscience may not always be for the candidate we would have preferred but sometimes must be based upon the candidate that we must try to prevent from being elected.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


A Convenient Cry of “Hypocrisy”

A preacher's son who himself is now a preacher began to change his ideological positions. In doing so he began to drift further from his preacher father. Suddenly he began to expose certain hypocrisies he saw in his father. He was critical of things that he felt his father had been inconsistent on.
I have learned that often times the cry of hypocrisy is often used as a tool of excuse. The truth is hypocrisy exists in all of us. We refuse to watch liquor ads on TV or eating restaurants that serve liquor, but we walk right past the liquor in the grocery store. There is not a one of us who lives a purely non-hypocritical life. I contend it's actually impossible. If you want to find inconsistencies in my life you will find them and I can certainly find them in yours as well. However, usually we find those inconsistencies and hypocrisies when we want to. And we want them when we feel like we need to justify our own position.
Rather than this preacher son choosing to do what he felt was right, he used stories about his father's inconsistencies to defend the changes he was making. That tells me one of two things. First, it tells me he is not real sure about his decision so he has to excuse it by condemning or attacking his father. Second, it tells me that he is a rebel and is looking for a reason to turn against his father. Either is wrong.
I have had men who worked with me and had no complaints leave me and began to criticize my inconsistencies and hypocrisies. That is not unusual. Be careful when you hear such an accusation. Usually it is self-serving. It is usually something that they were fine with that the time, but later discovered they needed to use as an excuse.
Be careful about accusing anyone of being a hypocrite. All of us are guilty of inconsistencies. All of us have been hypocritical at times. It is a sign of your weakness when you use that to excuse or justify your own actions or decisions.

Inconsistencies are found in everyone’s life and ministry. Living life is, in essence, a struggle for consistency. Bible principles are available to help keep us on track. Life as it is lived is an adventure for all of us. We learn as we travel and as we view those who have preceded us. Each of us, as we spend time in the Word of God, discover nuggets of truth that God gives as answers to life’s needs that arise to each generation. The Scripture tells us we are not ignorant of Satan’s devices. Each generation will have to fight the same battles of their fathers, which are disguised by the culture of the day. The trap set by Satan is not easily recognizable for he is a minister of light with subtle activities. So, the fight for consistency continues.
Each generation is blind to their own inconsistencies. The inconsistencies which are pointed out by the sons and daughters are blind spots. Soon the sons and daughters will develop their own blind spots as they travel down their path of ministry. There is a reason why the Scripture says “Greater works than these shall ye do.” We can do more if we know more. It is always later on in your ministry travels that you discover your own inconsistencies and correct them. So, be careful in your quick judgments of others’ so-called hypocrisy.
Being inconsistent is necessary to being consistent. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God is a statement which tells the tale on our relationship with God, not with man. When we compare ourselves with each other we can easily pick out someone who makes us look good in comparison. However, when we see ourselves in relation to our Saviour we see how short we come compared to Him. So, being inconsistent brings attention to the need to diligently work to be consistent. To use inconsistency as an excuse to be inconsistent is folly.
The pointing out of shortcomings of those who precede us is juvenile. When we spend our time searching for the faults and inconsistencies of those who precede us, we are wasting valuable time on a wasteful activity. The only reason anyone will do such things is to dull their own consciousness of activities they would have never allowed in prior days. Modesty is still modesty for every generation of God’s people regardless of the so-called inconsistencies of the previous generation.
The result is misdefining Scripture in order to justify our own inconsistencies. A young preacher quoted “I can do all things…” and even had a t-shirt made up to wear as he and his wife wore immodest clothing. When you point to your parents’ struggles to be consistent and see an opening to justify a worldly lifestyle is childish to say the least. You do what you want to do, but in order to not let it bother you it is necessary to point to inconsistencies of those who preceded. To ignore or mis-define clear commands of Scripture by noting your predecessors so-called hypocrisies is dangerous for you and yours.
Understand your parents struggled to stay consistent. Every generation has to fight their own battles with the world, the flesh, and the devil. You will not go through life without having to struggle as your parents struggled. Life is hard enough without bringing up the struggles of those who gave you your very existence as a reason to do what you want to do.
The word “honor” in the Bible concerning your parents means to put your weight down on the good. It means to prize. It means to build up. It means to focus on the good. When at home you are to obey and honor. After you marry you are no longer commanded to obey, but you are commanded to honor your parents. With this God says He will cause you to live a longer life.
Make sure you do not do, what you do not like in others. When young people would come in for counseling concerning their troubled relationship with their parents I would always give them the same advice. I would tell them to make a list of those things their parents did which they felt was wrong and make sure they NEVER do those things. We are so fickle when it comes to what we see in others and our need to correct them while never taking an honest inventory of ourselves.

A healthy relationship with your parents or predecessors is extremely vital to good spiritual health. A mind-set focused on the good of those who nurtured you and brought you along in life will be muddied if you spend your time taking note of their inconsistencies. You have enough to work on in your own life without letting a burr under your saddle cause you be bucked off. When this current world’s culture starts to take over your life and you start to play mental games of justification you will lose.