April 2012 – Dr. Bill Ury grew up in Taiwan, the son of United Methodist missionaries. However, he did not become a Christian until he was in college. He is professor of systematic and historical theology at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi.
Dr. Ury also hosts Hour of Holiness, a 30-minute radio program heard Sunday mornings at 9:30 (CT) on American Family Radio. The message of purity of heart is proclaimed through a close look at Scripture and with a view to applying all the truth to all of the human heart.
AFA Journal recently talked to Dr. Ury about his faith journey, Hour of Holiness and Easter. With Dr. Allan Coppedge, Dr. Ury has authored two books, Trinitarian Personhood and In His Image. Learn more about his ministry at www.wbs.edu or 601-366-3880.
AFA Journal: Recall one of the most compelling experiences from your years as a missionary kid.
Bill Ury: I remember a day early in my youth as a missionary kid when I came across a gathering of Buddhists near our home. They were trying to "unseat" the demon that was supposedly harassing the family.Four men, each grabbing a leg of a chair, danced wildly in an attempt to oust the spirit. It didn't work.
Next, a boy not much older than I was at the time was pushed toward the door of the house and after dancing frantically for a few minutes began slashing his own back with the razor-sharp edges of a sword that had been placed in his belt. I knew then that every person is afraid of the unseen and the unknown. And every one of us needs a mediator. The Jesus my parents proclaimed was the only means whereby evil is destroyed. And He accomplished that for us out of His selfless love.
AFAJ: How was it that you didn't accept Christ until college?
BU: That question has haunted me for 40 years. I was raised in a home where the name of Jesus was used in praise and prayer every day. I actually thought that His first name was "precious" for a long time.
Something in me reacted to what my parents were giving their lives for. It must have been pure selfishness, which is the root of all sin and rebellion. I saw no worth in missions. I hated the mission field. But I was able to ride along on the intimacy my parents had with Jesus. I used Him when it was convenient.
AFAJ: How did you come to faith in Him?
BU: My parents "forced" me to go to Asbury College, a small Christian college in Kentucky. I was furious, but they knew what I needed. That first semester, in the middle of a community of young people who were truly born again, I realized my abject self-centeredness and gave my heart to Jesus completely. Nothing has been wasted since that moment of redemption.
AFAJ: How did you sense a calling to ministry and to teaching?
BU: The context of my upbringing mixed with the worldview that Asbury offered to me allowed really only one option for me – a life of sacrificial service for Jesus. But I fought the call to ministry for four long years in college. One day in chapel I asked Jesus if He would cleanse me from my self-will.
Nothing spectacular happened. But as I moved into a regular class day, I sensed that everything I had planned for my life was now totally in His hands and that, for me, it was a life of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in every way possible. I thought that it would be life as a pastor or missionary, but one of my disciplers encouraged me to go to seminary and then to graduate school. The Lord used those experiences to further articulate a call to seminary teaching and training.
AFAJ: As a young man, you were an athlete; what's your best sport?
BU: I tried to find my identity in sports in high school. I played every sport that was offered. I remember one day going to rugby before school, playing soccer after school and staying in the evening for karate practice.
I ran track and played basketball. I even was on a volleyball team for a year. I lettered in every sport I could play. In college I did the same with soccer and track for all four years. But it was only after I met my Savior that any of that effort and team work began to make any real sense.
AFAJ: Tell us about your family.
BU: My wonderful wife Diane is from Lapeer, Michigan. I chased her and asked her to follow Christ with me at Asbury College. We have been married 27 years. We have four amazing children. JoAnna and her husband Matt minister the love of Christ in the business world in Raleigh, North Carolina. Maighdlin, our second daughter, lives, works and disciples others in Charlotte, North Carolina. Our third daughter, Meredith, has followed our Asbury College tradition. She plays soccer for Asbury. Our only son, Seth, is a high school junior.
AFAJ: How was Hour of Holiness birthed?
BU: It was Dr. Don Wildmon's vision to offer Wesley Biblical Seminary a place in the weekly schedule that initiated our relationship that has lasted for over 15 years.
AFAJ: How did you come to be host?
BU: Our seminary president at the time, Dr. Harold Spann, gave me the opportunity. The Hour of Holiness continues to be one of the richest avenues of ministry I have known.
AFAJ: Share a story of its impact on a listener.
BU: Nearly every week I get a letter or e-mail from someone around the country, from coast to coast. One day I got a phone call from a truck driver who had heard me talking about the beauty of the Spirit-filled life.He said he just wanted to call and tell me that he had been convicted, stopped his truck and asked the Spirit of God to fill him with holy love. He told me that sometime he wanted to come to Jackson to take me to lunch. Moments like that make all the study, prayer and work worth it.
Dr. Ury's favorite Easter passages
Colossians 1:1-4 underscores that once Jesus took on our flesh and died and rose again in the flesh, He ever lives as both God and Man. It is that miracle which is the foundation of our salvation. At the right hand of God is the True Man and True God, the Eternal Son. All of our human needs are understood and 'included' in the very heart of God by this glorious grace.
John 20:19-26 reminds us that only the Resurrection brings true peace to the human heart. The real presence of Christ, and nothing else, is what makes us Christians. But He never intends us to merely receive the offer of Himself. He immediately turns to those who believe in Him and states, "Just as the Father has sent Me, so send I you."
John 16:7 tells us the cross is about divine provision. The triune God offers us pardon and freedom from the guilt of sin through the atonement. But unless the resurrected Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to us to complete the work which Jesus intends, we will never fully understand the purposes of God. We must never divide the work of the Son and the Spirit. Jesus rose again to produce a holy people.