Billy Graham Had a Rule so Should You.

A couple of years ago Vice President Mike Pence mentioned that he follows the “Billy Graham Rule.” This created confusion outside the church and fresh debate inside the church as to how men and women should relate in the workplace.

If you are not familiar with the Billy Graham Rule it came from Reverend Graham’s observation that so many evangelists who had fallen into immorality while separated from their families by travel. Billy said “We pledged among ourselves to avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion. From that day on, I did not travel, meet, or eat alone with a woman other than my wife.”

For those of you who disagree with this rule let me say that I hear you in many ways it has gotten weird. I remember a couple of years back talking to a seventeen-year-old boy. He told me he is following the Billy Graham rule. I told him does he plan on getting married ever. He said yes. I then told him there is a good chance he will need to revisit that rule.

This has become a much-debated topic in evangelical circles. Many do not like this rule because it is seen as misogynistic and limiting of women in the workplace. The argument goes that if women are excluded from dinners and meetings they will be excluded in boardrooms. While I am not nieve enough to believe this never happens I don’t think it’s systemic in churches or organizations.

I believe that the battle is lost at Happy Hour, not at the hotel.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

What seems to be far more systemic in culture and churches is divorce. Does disobedience to the Graham rule mean you will have a divorce? Not at all, but in twenty-plus years of marriage counseling infidelity never starts in the hotel room. The two most prevalent causes of infidelity are extensive time with the same person of the opposite sex and alcohol. In saying that I am not saying spending time with the opposite sex is sinful nor is alcohol inherently sinful. Yet there is rarely a story of a spouse breaking their marriage vows that didn’t involve the excess of time and alcohol. We need guardrails. All of us.

For those who think this is a right-wing white evangelical issue. It’s not. Its wisdom. Here is a quote from an Atlantic interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates who is black and an atheist.

I’ve been with my spouse for almost 15 years. In those years, I’ve never been with anyone but the mother of my son. But that’s not because I am an especially good and true person. In fact, I am wholly in possession of an unimaginably filthy and mongrel mind. But I am also a dude who believes in guard-rails, as a buddy of mine once put it. I don’t believe in getting “in the moment” and then exercising will-power. I believe in avoiding “the moment.” I believe in being absolutely clear with myself about why I am having a second drink, and why I am not; why I am going to a party, and why I am not. I believe that the battle is lost at Happy Hour, not at the hotel. I am not a “good man.” But I am prepared to be an honorable one.

I share Coates’ concern. I want to be honorable. The way we function in an honorable way is within boundaries we create with our spouse. We need to create boundaries that serve to protect our marriages from going over the cliff. Pastor and author Andy Stanley says it this way

We need personal guardrails so we don’t stray into areas of life that can harm us or the people we love. If there’s one area in which personal guardrails are most needed but also most resisted, it’s in our relationships.

I don’t think one blanket rule is the best way to create guardrails but its a good starting point.

How Do We Create Healthy Guardrails?

Understand what the Bible teaches about the total depravity of mankind. – The Bible if you have read it is full of stories that reinforce the theological understanding that everything has been marred by sin and tainted by the fall. Ta-Nehisi Coates said this about himself “I believe that the battle is lost at Happy Hour, not at the hotel. I am not a “good man.”If you don’t see yourself as a sinner who needs a savior but rather as basically good you will overestimate your willpower your tolerance and your faithfulness. If Coats as an atheist can see this? Why can’t we?

Talk with your spouse about what guardrails need to be in place to honor God and each other in your marriage. Go with whoever has the most sensitive conscience on this topic.

If you need to make an exception to your per-determined guardrails communicate. My wife and I have a few guardrails we have set but when I am going to meet with a woman I always let her know before and discuss with her after.

Understand you are not Billy Graham. People who are powerful and famous have to be far more careful than someone who works from home. Fame, influence and travel all make guardrails so much more necessary. For most of you reading this those are not realities for you so even though you need guardrails you probably don’t need the same ones as Pence and Graham.

Our desire as Christians should be to primary to honor God in all we do, secondarily to love our spouse and kids well, and lastly to love our neighbor as ourselves. Setting clear guardrails helps us do all three.

Death of the 50% myth of marriage.

50% of marriages end in divorce. Raise your hand if you have never heard that statistic. As far as statistics go it is by far one the most touted, most popular and accepted by everyone as gospel truth. I found an article in the WSJ debunking this stat as a myth. The article was refreshing because it was good news and intriguing because it challenged my assumptions that divorce was increasing. I figured we were in the 60% range headed for the 70%’s. Here’s what the article had to say.

About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th
anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65
percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in
the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends
continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce,
according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan
economist (who also contributes to The Upshot). Via the New York Times

That’s good news! There were some logical reasons for drop in the divorce rate as noted in the article.

4 Things to keep your marriage strong


In this era of tabloids and blogs it seems that every celebrity out there changes spouses with the regularity that is recommended to you by your auto mechanic in regards to your mini-vans oil. It’s refreshing to say the least when you hear of celebrities bucking the trend. My wife was reading through a magazine of her’s and came to this short article that although the advice may be a bit basic, I found it encouraging because it was someone who is famous focusing on what really matters.

Here are a few pointers that Harry had that makes his marriage strong that I think are instructive for us all.

15 Years of marriage!


Today I celebrate 15 years of marriage to my beautiful wife Sandra. When you have been married to someone for 15 years you really begin to know them.  I am grateful to say that I am more in love with Sandra today 15 years from the day we said “I do.” We have trust, love and forgiveness that only is a result of our trust in a Savior that both loves us and forgives us far more than we deserve. There are so many things about my wife I love an appreciate but if I could boil them all down to one thing it would be that she loves me. Every girl I had met before her liked the thought of me more than actually loving me for me. I love that Sandra loves me for me. When I fall short, when I fail and when I succeed she rejoices and cries with me.

I could not ask for a better partner in life, ministry and the Gospel. She is my proofreader, my stupid thought squasher, my cheerleader, my comforter, my refuge in tough times. She is my lover, my friend and I grow in my love for her as I have the privilege to daily lay my life down for her.

Sandra if there is one idol I struggle with more than anything it would be you and our kids. I continue to ask God for the grace to love you and our kids in a way that is found in Him. That He would be my treasure and as He is everything to us that our love for each other would only grow sweeter.

Baby you mean the world to me!

The Supremacy of Christ in marriage and family

Here is a message I preached a few weeks back. It was from our series on Colossians. In the message I adress the supremacy of Christ in our marriage and in our families. Here are my notes and at the bottom of post is the link to the audio of my message.

We are a product of our families for better or worse. –

One of the more frightening thing for me as a parent is when I see my kids react to things the very same way I do, to see my kids sit how I sit, laugh at the parts of moives I laugh at. It’s very sobering as a parent and can be sobering as a child as I say the very same things to my kids my dad said to me.

Family is a powerful thing. Love how in the end of Charlie and the Chocolate factory When Willy Wonka asks Charlie what makes him feel better when he said. Charlie says “my family” This

Every problem is a relational problem –  Paul was addressing families coming out of a pagan culture – He understood that we are shaped by our family more than anything else – Paul is trying to help us see what a family looks like where Christ is supreme.

Colossians 3: 18-21

18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

The members of your family more than any other earthly relationship see who is most supreme in your life.

  • The Goal of family and marriage
  • What the supremacy of Christ looks like in our homes
  • How Christ can be supreme in our families

The Goal of marriage and family

Ephesians 5:31,32

32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

The Goal of Marriage. – 

“You cannot say too often that marriage is a model of Christ and the church.” I think she is right, and there are at least three reasons: 1) This lifts marriage out of the sordid sitcom images and gives it the magnificent meaning God meant it to have; 2) this gives marriage a solid basis in grace, since Christ obtained and sustains his bride by grace alone; and 3) this shows that the husband’s headship and the wife’s submission are crucial and crucified. That is, they are woven into the very meaning of marriage as a display of Christ and the church, but they are both defined by Christ’s self-denying work on the cross so that their pride and slavishness are canceled.” (John Piper)

Marriage is not mainly about prospering economically; it is mainly about displaying the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church. Knowing Christ is more important than making a living. Treasuring Christ is more important than bearing children.  (John Piper)

Marriage is hard. – We make marriage far to often about what it isn’t – We think that it’s about getting my needs met, that I won’t be alone, Marriage is primarily about dying to self and laying down your rights for each other.

The Goal of family: To display to the world the power of a Christ Centered community.

We mistakenly think our families need to be perfect.

Families are not supposed to be perfect. It is in families that kids are supposed to see long-suffering, forgiveness and grace in action. Families will never be perfect because they are made up of fallen people living in close proximity to one another, which without a constant dependance and whole hearted trust in Christ is a recipe for disaster.

Public holiness stands or falls with private holiness. Aside from God Himself, no one sees our true character more clearly than our wife and children. It is in the home that our spiritual life thrives or fails, they said.   Joel Beeke

It is in families that your kids and the world should see Christ and the Church modeled.

What the supremacy of Christ looks like in our homes

There is no where in our lives that our Christlikeness will be tested as it will with our family.


Women – Respect and not Manipulate
(This starts early – Women are born into this world with an advantage, men never really catch up. – my daughter can ask for something I say no she then smiles and says please and I find it infinitely harder to say no, all the while I am thinking where does she get this stuff?) Women generally don’t struggle with loving their family.  Where women often struggle it’s finding their identity in their kids and in their family. This causes them to do is to manipulate people and events so that in the end their family comes out looking good. Jesus doesn’t want you family to look good he wants you to trust him. He wants you to trust him no matter what.  He wants you to trust him no matter what the outworking of that looks like. In Proverbs 3:5 it says to trust the Lord with all your heart.

Men – Love and not get angry

Fathers this takes trust. – Anger is a result of misplaced trust it’s a result of you putting your hope and finding Joy in something other than Christ only to have that thing threatened. And when it’s threatened you respond in anger every time. Fathers respond in anger when they are filled with fear. Out of fear we react in anger to try and control situation. Anger is an emotion that as John Piper says “Consumes all other emotions.”


Children – Obey and not rebel – As a child each of has to honor our parent all our lives we are called as young children to obey our parents. – You are going to feel like your parents are wrong a lot – you will be wrong a lot and not realize you were wrong until you have your own kids. It doesn’t say obey your parents if they are right. It says obey. To obey your parents even when they are wrong or you feel they are wrong takes trust. It takes the same heart attitude that Christ had. In Luke 22:42 “Is there anyway this cup can pass from me?” Never the less not my will but yours be done.”

How christ can can be supreme in our families

Ephesians 5:25
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Laying down our lives  – Leadership in a marriage is not about rights or power it’s about responsibility and sacrifice.

Families have problems when people are more concerned with their rights than they are will laying down their life for the gospel.

The beauty of the gospel is that it isn’t about male chauvinism or feminism it’s about The father laying down his life to serve his family, to love his wife to provide for his kids. Wives trusting Jesus enough that you respond to your husband not by taking advantage of him but by following his lead and laying down his life for your family.

“The husband is the head of the wife just in so far as he is to her what Christ is to the Church – read on – and give his life for her (Eph. V, 25). This headship, then, is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is – in her own mere nature – lease lovable. For the Church has not beauty but what the Bride-groom gives her; he does not find, but makes her, lovely.”

CS Lewis

(One of the most moving examples of this is when Jean Valjean in Les Meriables steals from a priest who shows him kindness)

We are more concerned – with protecting our lives than laying them down. Jesus addressed this in Matthew 10:39 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

When we see someone lay down their life it’s powerful it’s moving. Because it goes against our sinful sense of self preservation.

In the last verse it changes from parents to Fathers. – I love and esteem women. I believe this shift in the text was purposeful. I believe that the spiritual temperature is primarily the responsibility of Fathers. Women have a role no doubt but the primary person responsible for the spiritual well being of children is fathers.

Finding our Joy in God. – One of the things we want to do as parents is produce children who are not discouraged.

(Make sure your discipline is not impulsive, erratic, or inconsistent)

ROMANS 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

If you want to keep your kids from becoming discouraged you must find your Joy in God. Men as fathers and as husbands we must find our joy in God.

WHAT YOU ARE MATTERS MORE!!! How will your kids find their hope in God if you hope in money? How will your kids find their Joy in God if you find your joy in sports?

As the spiritual leader in your home you define the places where joy is found. You kids will be discouraged from time to time that’s not what this scripture is talking about. It’s talking about long term discouragement. Our kids will become discouraged, lukewarm and passionless when they put their hope and courage in something other than Jesus.

You kids are watching they see what the true source of your joy is, if you want to anger and discourage your kids make your source something other than what you say it is.

He is our source he is our life he is our Joy.

Your children will one day be what you are so don’t try harder, don’t be good – Be redeemed be converted be filled with joy in God alone. 


Here is audio of my message.