Anne Graham Lotz
by Laurie Beyer
"Anne, you're not as outgoing, not as well-read, not as gifted as others in your family. You don't even make small talk very well." Could this possibly have been the inner thoughts of Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham?
Yes, that's exactly the way Anne described herself before God called her into ministry. Her response to Him was, "God, I only have a little strength. I'm inadequate. I can't do it." The Lord, however, didn't accept her excuses. She says that He seemed to respond, "Anne, you are weak, but I am strong. You are inadequate, but I am sufficient. You can't, but I can. Make yourself available to Me for service."
Today, Anne's father, Billy, calls her "the best preacher in the family," but she is also a wife, a mother, an author, and a Bible teacher - speaking around the world. Most importantly, though, she is a woman of the Word. Anne wants everyone she meets to know Jesus, and her goal in ministry is to bring revival to the hearts of people by drawing them into a personal relationship with God through His Word.
Anne is thankful to God for the wonderful family heritage she's been given, but she hopes that people can get beyond her famous name and simply see her as someone living a life devoted to God. There was a time in Anne's life when even she had to move away from the spotlight of her family's fame. Although she recalls committing her life to Christ as a young child, she realized as a teenager that she would not gain favor in God's eyes just because of who her parents or grandparents were. Anne knew she would ultimately stand alone before God to give an account of her life.
At the time, Anne also struggled with insecurities about people's perceptions and expectations of her. "People had preconceived ideas of what Billy Graham's daughter should be like - what she should look like, how she should talk, and even who her friends should be. I was trying to please everyone and feeling like a constant failure. Someone pointed out that I was looking at God through a prism, and that my relationship with God was being colored by the opinions of other people. I only needed to listen to the Lord."
Anne clearly remembers making a decision to stop seeking people's approval. "God alone would be the one I lived to please. That decision set me free for the rest of my life." In fact, even today when teaching before a large gathering, she says she's really only speaking for an audience of One.
Anne, 51, and her husband, Dan, have been married for 33 years. They live in North Carolina and have three grown children: Jonathan, Morrow and Rachel-Ruth. Although she grew up with a knowledge of the importance of God's Word and prayer in her life, because she'd seen these modeled in her parents, she admits to struggling to make it meaningful in her own life in her early years of mothering. She had seen the power and victory in her mother's life that came with the discipline of being in the Word, but felt inadequate and undisciplined herself. Ultimately, through her ministry in Bible Study Fellowship, God not only gave Anne the desire of her heart, but also cultivated a gift for teaching - a gift she was unaware she had. She had simply wanted to be a better mother and wife, but God had plans for Anne that would impact the world.
Today Anne is in great demand as a speaker worldwide. Before speaking, she admits, she still sometimes experiences a flash of nausea and trembling, but quickly becomes caught up in what God has put on her heart to share. She shares and serves the Lord through an organization she established called AnGeL Ministries. Anne Graham Lotz recently shared in an interview with Just Between Us about her desire for others to know God and grow in Him through His Word.
What do you believe is the best way to grow in your relationship with God?
I truly believe the best and only way to know God and grow in Him is through the Scriptures, prayer and faithful obedience. Simply put, prayer involves talking to God and Bible study is God talking to you. I've grown in my knowledge of my husband over the past 33 years through living with him, talking to him, listening to him and experiencing life together. It's the same with God. You're developing a relationship and you have to give it time. You have to listen to what He has to say. Through reading His Word you let Him speak to you in a personal way and then you pray it back.
As God speaks to you, you respond by applying His truths in your life and in doing that, you see what He can do. This is knowing Him. And in knowing Him you grow to love Him, and in loving Him you desire to serve Him and honor Him and so on.
Was there a defining experience in your life that resulted in the love you have today for God's Word?
From the time I was a child, knowing God's Word was a priority in my life. I read the Bible through cover to cover when I was quite young. When I got married that didn't change, but my circumstances did. I was in a little house, in a little town and my husband was gone all day, and I was bored. My mother had told me, "Anne, don't waste your wilderness times." Well, this was a wilderness time, but also a time of preparation. I started studying the Bible on my own, but my approach at that point was to sit down with the Bible and four or five good commentaries. I would read a passage of Scripture and see what the commentaries had to say about it.
I always loved the Bible. I lived it, read it and obeyed it. What I realized I desired, though, was for God to speak to me through His Word. I really didn't know how to study God's Word. I knew about His promises, but didn't realize at the time that there were promises that could leap up off the page, get emblazoned on my heart, or even that He actually speaks. It was in finding the same desire for studying the Word among a small group of friends that I connected with Bible Study Fellowship. The material was broken down for day-by-day personal study, which would be followed by a large group lecture and reading notes. I thought that this was the answer to my needs - what I'd been looking for. I could sit down and study the Scriptures on my own with this program. So I filled out the application, not realizing that the person who submitted it was the designated teacher. I tried to get someone else in the group to agree to teach a class, but no one would. At that point I wanted it so badly that I figured even if it took me teaching the group to get it started, then I would do it. So that's what I did. God was gracious. There were hundreds of women who signed up. They didn't know that I couldn't teach. I'd never taught Sunday School or anything in my life. I'd been told that everyone has spiritual gifts, but I remember thinking "that's not true, because I know I'm the exception. I don't have any gifts." If someone had asked if I had the gift of teaching, I would have said no, because it was totally contrary to my personality. Surely, God wouldn't call me outside of my personality - yet He did! He not only called me straight out of my personality, but He called me to do something I didn't have a clue that I had a gift for. And He not only called me, but He equipped me without exception, and in the process I learned to study God's Word and grew in my love and knowledge of Him.
It's so evident that your desire is for women to get into the Word personally, yet many women feel ill-equipped to study it for themselves. What do you say to those who rely solely on someone else's teaching or on study materials?
If that's the only way they approach Bible study it's like spoon-feeding a baby. Obviously there's a time and place for that. When babies are babies that's the way a mother should feed them, but if they're still being spoon-fed at 10 or 20 years old then something is wrong. They're probably handicapped in some way. A healthy child outgrows the need for spoon-feeding. If you've known Christ for five or ten years and you're still being spoon-fed, then you need to assess your spiritual health. Why continue to be a baby when you can grow up and out of that stage? Not only could you be studying for yourself at that point, but you could and should actually be teaching others and encouraging them with the Scriptures.
How would you respond to women who say they can't find time to set aside for studying God's Word?
I would say that I've never found time for it either. I have to make time. It's all a matter of what you want. One of the things I love to do is to go to the beach. If it's a beautiful weekend day my husband and I find the time to go to the beach. I just arrange my schedule around it. I don't think the obstacle to spending time in God's Word is a lack of time. We're all busy. I believe the problem is that we don't make it a priority because we don't grasp the necessity of it. It's necessary! You wouldn't think of going through day after day without eating. You also have to be fed spiritually. Bible reading and prayer are as necessary to your spiritual health as food and water are to your physical health.
Do you see a difference between studying God's Word and knowing God?
I think we often approach Bible study with a desire to increase our knowledge of the Word and grow in information - like inputting into a computer. We know that we need to know the Bible, but if our motivation is simply to increase our intellectual knowledge, I think we're off base. We need to study the Word in order to grow in our personal relationship with God. If we're only becoming more knowledgeable about Scripture, like someone who's studying to get a degree, we're missing a huge blessing. In the New Testament letters to the churches, people didn't read one verse at a time and dissect it. They read the letter as a whole so that they might have an understanding of how to live the Christian life and really know Christ. In our Bible study we somehow need to get out of the mentality of starting with John, then going on to Galatians and so on as if it's a graduated program. We should certainly study the Scriptures to know it, apply it and live by it, but more than that, we should study so that through that act we might know God and develop the personal relationship that we were created for.
What do you see as the benefit of putting God first?
You put God first because He's God, not because of what you'll get out of it. That's the sum total of the Christian life and the ultimate human experience - to know God. As Paul said in Philippians 3:10, we should "want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death." There's a closeness, a sweetness and an intimacy that develops even in the face of suffering, but we can't know the positive side of it without knowing Him. We have no option but to put God first. When we receive Christ, we receive not only the Savior, but also the Lord. If we give Him less than Lordship in our lives, that shows enormous indifference toward who He is.
The children of Israel had this dramatic salvation from bondage and slavery. They were brought through the Red Sea and plagues and witnessed many miracles, but then went nowhere with God. They refused to cross the Jordan and enter Jericho, and in so doing, refused to put God first. They put their fear, comfort, convenience and agendas ahead of what God said. Certainly they were still blessed to some degree with clothing and food, a cloud by day and light by night, but it didn't come close to experiencing what God had in mind for them. They missed the fullness of His blessing and His purpose for their lives. Do we want to settle for less than God has for us? For me, I want everything He has for me. Sure, in the promised land there is still one battle after another, but with the Holy Spirit we also get to experience the exhilaration of one victory after another when we let Him have complete control, and the opportunity of discovering what God can do in and through us.
It's obvious that you have great admiration for your mother. What are some of the aspects of her life that have most influenced you?
My mother has a fabulous sense of humor. She just twinkles and sparkles with humor. She's not a stuffy person at all. She's so well-rounded - she's an intellectual, an artist, a pianist, a writer - she's an incredible, beautiful woman! I also admire the way my mother obeyed her call by staying home and raising us so that my daddy could leave home and do what he did. She felt that she was called to raise us and run the home in such a way that it was not a burden or distraction to my daddy. That way he could wholeheartedly answer the call of God in his life. In many ways he lived his life as a single person, while being enriched by the life of a family. My mother set him free to do that. She never complained. She was so supportive of what he did that that's why we grew up without resentment, and probably why we're in ministry today.
As I was growing up, I remember whenever I would go down to my mother's room at night, she would be on her knees in prayer beside her bed, often for an hour or more. I knew she was a woman of prayer. If I got up early in the morning the lights were on in her room, and I would find her at her desk reading her Bible. If she had a few minutes during the day she would be back at her desk studying and taking notes again. She didn't have to say anything. I knew she was a woman of the Word.
My mother also impressed upon me the importance of family prayer and Bible reading, and my husband and I continued that in our home. I never saw my mother lose her temper. That kind of control obviously came from the Lord in her life, and that was one of the things that I desired in my life and in my mothering. My mother is such a well rounded person and such a fitting partner for my daddy. There wouldn't be him without her, that's for sure. Of course there wouldn't be her without him either. Now my parents are facing the challenge together of growing old. They're doing it with grace, humility, gentleness and compassion, and in the process still teaching us by their example. And what an example their lives of service have been to us!
Were there any particular burdens or blessings in being part of a famous family as you were growing up?
The blessing, of course, is that I was raised not only in a Christ-centered home, but in a home where the Lord is loved, honored and served. I have a wonderful, warm, rich, Christian heritage and my childhood was happy. Yet, as I mentioned before I was raised primarily by my mother. I remember recently running into a woman who said that she knew that my daddy preached all over the world, but it never had occurred to her that he had to leave home to do it! Although he was gone for months at a time, he was adored. I believe he's been a Biblical father in that by living his life he has passed on the reality of his faith and taught us about God. It wasn't just the things that he said that impacted us, but the way he lived and stayed faithful to his call. To me, that's the best a father can do. I love, honor and respect him.
The burdens came in the fact that he was gone so much, and therefore my mother and grandparents really raised me. But, because he wasn't there I developed a relationship with God that I may not have had with a more normal relationship with my father. I may have looked to my earthly father to meet my needs, or depended on him to fill the voids in my life. I didn't have that, so I looked to God for those things. And God has been my Father in the most precious ways, which I wouldn't trade for anything. I thank God for the family that He gave me.
In closing, do you have a favorite attribute of God?
That's sort of like asking me my favorite book of the Bible. It's the one that I'm studying at the time. God and His attributes are like a diamond with all of its many facets - every facet is beautiful and they all make up the whole. How can you say that one is more precious than the others? The attribute that I might appreciate today is related to how He's working in my life right now, but next week it'll be another attribute and the next week a different one yet.
One thing I especially love about God though is the fact that He doesn't let go of us. He meets us where we are, although He doesn't settle for that. It's incredible that the great God of the Universe, the Creator, would come into my life and mold and make me into someone who could reflect Him to other people, and then one day reflect Him perfectly. The joy of my life, the aim of my life and the goal of my life is to know Him in all of His glorious facets.Anne Graham Lotz, founder of AnGeL Ministries, has passionately proclaimed God’s Word to people around the world for over thirty years. Her gripping narratives and heart-touching teaching have inspired listeners in arenas and prison cells, stadiums and Bible studies, sanctuaries and seminaries, the United Nations and Amsterdam 2000. The daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Billy Graham, Anne launched Just Give Me Jesus in the year 2000. Anne is an award-winning and best-selling author. Her ten books include her signature book Just Give Me Jesus and her August 2009 release The Magnificent Obsession. Anne and her husband, Dr. Dan Lotz, reside in North Carolina.
To learn more about AnGel Ministries, visit www.annegrahamlotz.com
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