I have always felt it a bit strange to celebrate the anniversary of one’s death and/or birthday of someone who has passed and whom is now in Heaven with God. But we are literally celebrating the life of someone so I guess it is appropriate no matter how odd it might seem.
God has brought forth many humble men and women to share His message, spread His Word, and to help remind all of us of His never-ending love for us. Amongst these great people are Moses, a leader who never felt he was capable. Abraham, a man whose faith was so extraordinarily tested, Jacob, who led God’s people back to Him, and Mother Teresa, who’s unselfish love and dedication provided for millions of the unfortunate and suffering.
Today, I wish to mention another in that very line of truly exalted figures. A man I will simply call God’s servant. I think he would like such a simple description or name bestowed upon him.
Four years ago this coming Monday (2/21/2018), God brought this servant home to Heaven. A servant that helped lead His people back to Him, helped His people truly understand and embrace His incredible love, mercy, and grace, and helped His people maneuver a world continually challenged with the tools of Satan’s trade; hate, lust, division, apathy, greed, and the thirst for power and control. There could not have been a better time for God to have brought us this servant, but of course God knew this all along, as He knows all, even before it happens. So, on an ordinary day in November, (7th) 1918, God brought forth the extraordinary William Franklin Graham, the servant of God that many of us simply called “Billy.”
He graced our lives for, just a few months short of, 100 years. He touched so many hearts and lives and brought many wandering souls back to Christ. Many many many lives were both touched, and most importantly, saved by this humble man, so today I wish to look back and remember one of God’s great messengers.
There is little I can say that properly and sufficiently honors this great man of God. Billy Graham was truly a guiding light in an ever-growing dark world. My small effort to honor him and his legacy, is that I have been to his library in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I follow the messages from his son Franklin and his daughters Virginia, Ruth, and Anne.
Nothing I can write will pay proper tribute to Reverend Graham, but instead I will post a message written by Marshall Shelley, of Christianity Today, just after Billy received his heavenly reward from God, as he joined Him in Heaven. Christianity Today was actually founded by Reverend Graham in 1956. You can find the numerous and most brilliantly written, thought provoking and affirming tributes to Billy Graham on their web site. You can find those tributes at: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/billy-graham/
Here is that post:
Billy Graham was perhaps the most significant religious figure of the 20th century, and the organizations and the movement he helped spawn continue to shape the 21st.
During his life, Graham preached in person to more than 100 million people and to millions more via television, satellite, and film. Nearly 3 million have responded to his invitation to "accept Jesus into your heart" at the end of his sermons. He proclaimed the gospel to more persons than any other preacher in history. In the process, Graham became "America's Pastor," participating in presidential inaugurations and speaking during national crises such as the memorial services following the Oklahoma City bombing and the 9/11 attacks.
"He became the friend and confidante of popes and presidents, queens and dictators, and yet, even in his 80s, he possesses the boyish charm and unprepossessing demeanor to communicate with the masses," said Columbia University historian Randall Balmer.
Billy Graham was born in 1918 in Charlotte, North Carolina, attended (briefly) Bob Jones College, graduating from Florida Bible Institute near Tampa, and Wheaton College in Illinois. He was ordained a minister in the Southern Baptist Church (1939) and pastored a small church in suburban Chicago and preached on a weekly radio program. In 1946 he became the first full-time staff member of Youth for Christ and launched his evangelistic campaigns. For four years (1948–1952) he also served as president of Northwestern Schools in Minneapolis. His 1949 evangelistic tent meetings in Los Angeles brought him to national attention, and his 1957 New York meetings, which filled Madison Square Garden for four months, established him as a major presence on the American religious scene.
Graham appeared regularly on the lists of "most admired" people. Between 1950 and 1990 Graham won a spot on the Gallup Organization's "Most Admired" list more often than any other American. Ladies Home Journal once ranked him second only to God in the category of "achievements in religion." He received both the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1983) and the Congressional Gold Medal (1996).
Sherwood Wirt, who for 17 years edited the Graham organization's Decision magazine, described one Scottish minister who made this observation about Graham: "My first impression of the man at close quarters was not of his good looks but of his goodness; not of his extraordinary range of commitments, but of his own 'committedness' to his Lord and Master. To be with him even for a short time is to get a sense of a single-minded man; it shames one and shakes one as no amount of ability and cleverness can do."
Graham was a model of integrity. Despite scandals and missteps that toppled other leaders and ministers, including Graham's friend Richard Nixon and a succession of televangelists, in six decades of ministry, no one ever leveled a serious accusation of misconduct against him.
That's not to say he wasn't seriously criticized. Some liberals and intellectuals called his message "simplistic." Some fundamentalists considered him "compromised" for cooperating with mainline groups and the National Council of Churches.
His moderate anti-segregationist stance during the Civil Rights era drew fire from both sides: white segregationists were furious when he invited the "agitator" Martin Luther King Jr. to pray at the 1957 New York City crusade; civil rights activists accused him of cowardice for not joining them on protest marches and getting arrested for the cause.
In 1982, when he visited the Soviet Union, agreeing to preach the gospel at the invitation of the government, he touched off a firestorm of criticism. Despite having met with The Siberian Seven, Pentecostal dissidents who were seeking political asylum, Graham was quoted as saying he "had not personally seen any evidence of religious persecution." Some called him a "traitor." But he insisted he would go anywhere to preach as long as there were no restrictions on his freedom to proclaim the gospel. He returned claiming he saw the hand of God working in the Soviet Union. He was fiercely attacked for being naïve and "a tool of the Soviet propaganda machine."
By 1990, however, after the fall of the Soviet Union, his prescience was vindicated when then-President George H.W. Bush said to the National Religious Broadcasters, "Eight years ago, one of the Lord's great ambassadors, Rev. Billy Graham, went to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and, upon returning, spoke of a movement there toward more religious freedom. And perhaps he saw it before many of us because it takes a man of God to sense the early movement of the hand of God."
Perhaps Graham's lasting legacy was his ability to present the gospel in the idiom of the culture. He did this brilliantly, making innovative use of emerging technologies—radio, television, magazines, books, a newspaper column, motion pictures, satellite broadcasts, Internet—to spread his message.
In the 1990s he reengineered the formula for his "crusades" (later called "missions" out of deference to Muslims and others offended by the connotation). His standard "youth night" was revolutionized into a "Concert for the Next Generation," with Christian rock, rap, and hip-hop artists headlining the event, followed by Graham preaching. This format drew record numbers of young people who cheered the bands and then, amazingly, listened carefully to the octogenarian evangelist.
In addition, he helped launch numerous influential organizations, including Youth for Christ (he was the first full-time staff member of this entrepreneurial and innovative organization), the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Christianity Today. The ripple effect of his shaping influence extends to such schools as Wheaton College in Illinois, Gordon-Conwell Divinity School in Massachusetts, Northwestern College in Minnesota, and Fuller Seminary in California. His encouragement and support helped develop the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, Greater Europe Mission, TransWorld Radio, World Vision, World Relief, and the National Association of Evangelicals.
He brought the global Christian community together through international conventions: a 1966 Congress on World Evangelism in Berlin, the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland, and three huge conferences in Amsterdam for itinerant evangelists in 1983, 1986, and 2000, which drew nearly 24,000 working evangelists from 200 countries.
In many ways, Billy Graham both formed and embodied the evangelical movement. Theologian J. I. Packer attributes the evangelical "convergence" to Graham. "Up to 1940, it was every institution for itself. There wasn't anything unitive about the situation. There were little outposts of resistance trying to keep their end up in face of the liberal juggernaut. Increasingly, from the 1950s onward, evangelicals came together behind Billy Graham and the things he stood for and was committed to. It continues that way to the present."
For many, however, William Franklin Graham won't be remembered for these accomplishments. He'll always be "Billy," as he preferred to be called. He titled his autobiography Just As I Am, a reflection of his humble spirit, taken from the hymn sung most often when he invited people to come forward and receive God's love.
And for millions, his humility before the Almighty encouraged them to approach with that same spirit.
I hope you enjoyed this message. I am also struck by numerous other content on the Christianity Today site. One thing that really stood out to me was the Statement of Faith. In closing, I share these statements with all of you – God bless you all and God Bless all of those touched by Billy Graham – God’s Servant!
STATEMENT OF FAITH
The sixty-six canonical books of the Bible as originally written were inspired of God, hence free from error. They constitute the only infallible guide in faith and practice.
There is one God, the Creator and Preserver of all things, infinite in being and perfection. He exists eternally in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who are of one substance and equal in power and glory.
God created Adam and Eve in his own image. By disobedience, they fell from their sinless state through the temptation by Satan. This fall plunged humanity into a state of sin and spiritual death, and brought upon the entire race the sentence of eternal death. From this condition we can be saved only by the grace of God, through faith, on the basis of the work of Christ, and by the agency of the Holy Spirit.
The eternally pre-existent Son became incarnate without human father, by being born of the Virgin Mary. Thus, in the Lord Jesus Christ, divine and human natures were united in one Person, both natures being whole, perfect, and distinct. To effect salvation, he lived a sinless life and died on the cross as the sinner's substitute, shedding his blood for the remission of sins. On the third day he rose from the dead in the body which had been laid in the tomb. He ascended to the right hand of the Father, where he performs the ministry of intercession. He shall come again, personally and visibly, to complete his saving work and to consummate the eternal plan of God.
The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Triune God. He applies to man the work of Christ. By justification and adoption we are given a right standing before God; by regeneration, sanctification, and glorification our nature is renewed.
When we have turned to God in penitent faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are accountable to God for living a life separated from sin and characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. It is our responsibility to contribute by word and deed to the universal spread of the Gospel.
At the end of the age, the bodies of the dead shall be raised. The righteous shall enter into full possession of eternal bliss in the presence of God, and the wicked shall be condemned to eternal death.