Wednesday, February 21, 2018
America's Preacher Is Praying for Us in Heaven, and We Know Billy Graham Will Always Be with Us
THE REAL AND SAD NEWS TODAY IS THAT THE REVEREND BILLY GRAHAM HAS DIED. Fox News broke the story on Wednesday morning : "The Reverend Billy Graham, the Christian evangelist whose worldwide crusades and role as advisor to decades of US Presidents made him one of the best known religious figures of his time, died Wednesday at age 99 at his home in Montreat, NC, Todd Shearer of DeMoss Associates told Fox News. Graham, who had been in ill health for a number of years, was regularly listed in polls as one of the 'Ten Most Admired Men in the World.' Shearer told Fox News that Graham died from 'natural causes.' His Christian crusades took him from the frenzy of Manhattan to isolated African villages and according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website, he preached to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history. The BGEA put his audience at nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories, with 'hundreds of millions more' viewing him on television, video, film and webcasts. 'My one purpose in life,' he said, 'is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ.' " Billy Graham -- William Franklin Graham Jr. -- was born November 7, 1918 and raised on a dairy farm in Charlotte, NC. Fox told his story : "At 15, he made his personal commitment to Christ at a revival meeting in Charlotte. After attending Bob Jones College and the Florida Bible Institute, Graham was ordained a Southern Baptist clergyman in 1939. In 1943, he graduated from Wheaton College, where he met fellow student Ruth McCue Bell, daughter of a medical missionary, who had spent the first 17 years of her life in China. They married in August 1943 and had five children, 19 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. Ruth Graham died in June 2007 after 64 years of marriage. Graham vaulted to national prominence with his 1948 Los Angeles crusade, scheduled for three weeks and extended to eight. Subsequent crusades in various cities around the globe also lasted far longer than scheduled -- in New York, he ran nightly for four months at Madison Square Garden in 1957. In 1950, Graham founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, until it relocated to Charlotte in 2003. Through the BGEA, he conducted his weekly 'Hour of Decision' radio program and published 'Decision' Magazine as well as producing television programs for Christian networks. In addition, Graham wrote 29 books, including his autobiography 'Just As I Am.' His last book, 'Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well' was published in October, 2011. In the 1960s, he ardently opposed segregation, refusing to speak to segregated audiences. 'The ground at the foot of the cross is level,' he once said, 'and it touches my heart when I see whites standing shoulder to shoulder with blacks at the cross.' Graham also was noted for consulting and praying with every US President from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama, who in April, 2010, visited Graham at his mountaintop cabin in North Carolina. The White House later said Obama was 'extraordinarily gratified' that Graham took the time to meet with him. Graham presided over the graveside services for President Lyndon Johnson in 1973 and spoke at the funeral of President Richard Nixon in 1994. On September 14, 2001 he led a national prayer service at Washington National Cathedral after the 9/11 attacks. He and his wife were both awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1966. He remained active well into his 70s but in recent years had been slowed by Parkinson's Disease and other medical problems. His last crusade was in 2004. His elder son, Franklin, has long been expected to succeed his father as head of his ministry. • Last October, the Christian Post interviewed evangelist Franklin Graham, who revealed that his father, world-renowned North Carolina preacher Billy Graham, has one Bible verse displayed in large letters all around his house, and he calls it his "life verse. Still today, my father Billy Graham has a Bible verse pinned up on the wall in his bedroom, printed in VERY large letters. In fact, it's in the dining room, his bathroom, and several other spots around the house! Back before his 95th birthday, he was working on a sermon based on this key Scripture. It was his passion to memorize it, to saturate his heart and mind with it. He made it his life verse." The verse is Galatians 6:14 : "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Graham called it "a great verse for us to live by." • A January, 2013, post on the Billy Graham Library website noted that in 1995 the evangelist identified John 3:16 as his favorite Bible verse : "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Billy Graham said at the time that it's the one verse he always preaches on his evangelistic crusades. "It has only 25 words in the English translation of it, but it is the Gospel in a nutshell. Someone has called it a miniature Bible," he said. He has also urged Christians to make an effort to understand the Bible, which he said is more important than any other book. When offering advice on how to begin exploring the Bible, he said in 2016 that first-time readers can start with the Gospel of John : "I suggest you begin with the Bible's center or focal point, which is Jesus Christ. All the Old Testament points forward to Him, and all the New Testament tells us about Him. He came down from Heaven to forgive us and make us part of his family forever -- and through the Bible we discover this great truth," Graham wrote, adding a reference to John 20:31 that states the Holy Book was "written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." • Billy Graham's message is timeless, powerful, and relevant. The phrase, “the Bible says,” echoes throughout his sermons, and the truth he preached for years transcends all barriers of denominational differences, age, nationality, and culture. It has stood the test of time and generations, pointing millions to Christ. Here are some of Billy Graham's words, often challenging, always comforting : “The will of God will not take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.” // “God never takes away something from your life without replacing it with something better.” // “I've read the last page of the Bible, it's all going to turn out all right.” // “My home is in Heaven. I'm just traveling through this world.” // “God proved his love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’” // “There is nothing wrong with men possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches possess men.” // “We are the Bibles the world is reading; we are the creeds the world is needing; we are the sermons the world is heeding.” // “I have never known anyone to accept Christ’s redemption and later regret it.” // “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” // “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” // “Take one day at a time. Today, after all, is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” // “We say to our children, 'Act like grown-ups,' but Jesus said to the grown-ups, 'Be like children.' " // "Keep your eyes on eternity!” // “World events are moving very rapidly now. I pick up the Bible in one hand, and I pick up the newspaper in the other. And I read almost the same words in the newspaper as I read in the Bible. It’s being fulfilled every day round about us.” // “Tears shed for self are tears of weakness, but tears shed for others are a sign of strength.” // “Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion -- it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” // “The framers of our Constitution meant we were to have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.” // “When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God." // "The message I preach hasn't changed. Circumstances have changed. Problems have changed, but deep inside man has not changed, and the gospel hasn't changed." // "The only hope for enduring peace is Jesus Christ." // "God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with." // “The moment we take our last breath on earth, we take our first in heaven.” // “Someone asked me recently if I didn’t think God was unfair, allowing me to have Parkinson’s and other medical problems when I have tried to serve him faithfully. I replied that I did not see it that way at all. Suffering is part of the human condition, and it comes to us all. The key is how we react to it, either turning away from God in anger and bitterness or growing closer to him in trust and confidence.” // “Believers, look up – take courage. The angels are nearer than you think.” // "Quit beating yourself up. We all live under grace and do the best we can.” • In Reverend Graham’s last message in the 2013 video-recorded My Hope America, he shares his heart for Ameica today, and this simple, yet powerful prayer, a final reminder, that if we’re willing to come to Christ, he has the power to change our lives and future forever : “Our country's in great need of a spiritual awakening. There have been times that I've wept as I've gone from city to city and I've seen how far people have wandered from God. I want to tell people about the meaning of the cross. Not the cross that hangs on the wall or around someone’s neck, but the real cross of Christ...With all my heart I want to leave you with the truth, that he loves you, and is willing to forgive you of all your sins. Sin is a disease of the human heart….There is no other way of salvation except through the cross of Christ. Today, I’m asking you to put your trust in Christ. 'Dear Heavenly Father, I know that I’m a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins, and rose from the dead. I turn from my sin, I repent of my sins, I invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow you as my Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.' " • • • DEAR READERS, my great grandmother was a preacher, an evangelist. She preached publicly. It was her calling. She preached to large assemblies and to small groups who asked for her words. She prayed with anyone who wanted or needed prayer -- that is, all of us. She healed people, but she always said she healed nobody, but simply sat and prayed with those whose faith needed encouragement, because, as she always said, it is God who heals. And, although I was only 16 when she died at the age of 93, I will never forget her. She, like Billy Graham, carried the Bible with her everyday and everywhere. She quoted it the way most of us rattle off lyrics to popular songs. She lived by it. Even when she was almost blind, she would sit in her chair and 'read' by finding the verses she wanted with her magnifying glass and then reciting them. And, her favorite Bible verse must have been this one because she ended every prayer with it, said grace before meals by ending with it, and when she preached or talked to people who came to her home to be comforted, she always ended with it. 2 Corinthians 13:11-14 -- "Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints salute you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen." • And, in all humility, let me add my favorite Bible verse, in the absolute assurance that the Reverend Billy Graham is now at peace in the Lord. Psalm 121 : "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved : he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper : the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil : he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore."