Billy Graham: The Strange Story of How he Got There
Billy Graham: The Strange Story of How he Got There –
P.S. World Vision (a Christian NGO) are in the Philippines providing blankets and food for the hurricane relief. The situation is very serious….no food, no clean water, no meds. If you would like to contribute, click on this link.
The Rev. Billy Graham turned 95 last week, and in frail health the evangelist attended a birthday celebration, where he preached his last ever sermon. When I was a kid in Australia, I heard Billy preach over my Dad’s radio, and I can remember him railing at communism, as well as inviting people to come forward to receive Jesus. Moved in some mysterious way, people would come forward hundreds at a time.
My Dad talked to his four sons about being born again, and by the age of 26 each of us had. When I was teaching at Oral Roberts University, and Oral’s son died tragically, Billy sent him a sympathy telegram which was read to the student body. It included the words “through the telescope of your tears”. I wish I could recall the rest of the telegram. I met Billy Graham’s sister when I worked at Los Alamos in the seventies – her husband was another scientist who worked there in the lab – and four of us drove up into the Jemez to see the golden aspens after church one Sunday.
I uncovered some fascinating information about the life of Billy Graham:
• He grew up on the family dairy farm near Charlotte, North Carolina, the oldest of four children, with two younger sisters and a younger brother. In 1933, when Prohibition in the United States ended, Graham’s father forced him and his sister Katherine to drink beer until they got sick, which created such an aversion that both avoided alcohol and drugs for the rest of their lives.
• Graham was turned down for membership in a local youth group because he was “too worldly”. According to his autobiography, Graham was converted in 1934 at age 16 during a series of revival meetings in Charlotte led by Mordecai Ham.
• Unlike many evangelists, he had little formal theological training. It was during his time at Wheaton College that Graham decided to accept the Bible as the infallible word of God.
• Graham scheduled a series of revival meetings in Los Angeles in 1949, for which he erected circus tents in a parking lot. He attracted national media coverage, especially in the conservative Hearst chain, although Hearst and Graham never met. The crusade event ran for eight weeks – five weeks longer than planned. Graham became a national figure with heavy coverage from the wire services and national magazines.
• Graham is a registered member of the Democratic Party. “Evangelists cannot be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle in order to preach to all people, right and left. I haven’t been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will be in the future”. [IDP comment: good advice for the present USA where strident emails seem to forget that there are good Christian folks on both sides of the political spectrum].
• Graham was a spiritual adviser to several Presidents; he was particularly close to Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.
• During the civil rights movement, he began to support integrated seating for his revivals and crusades; in 1957 he invited Martin Luther King, Jr. to preach jointly at a revival in New York City. Graham bailed King out of jail in the 1960’s when he was arrested in demonstrations.
• Graham conducted more than 400 crusades in 185 countries and territories on six continents. In Moscow, in 1992, one-quarter of the 155,000 people in Graham’s audience went forward at his call to receive Jesus and be born again.
So what does it really mean to be born again? As the coangel Michelle explained to Kara “It’s like one of those twelve-sided onyx stones that come from Mexico. If a person is open to God and willing to believe in and follow Jesus, the onyx stone flips onto another side. You start to see things differently. You are more aware of the resources of God, and more confident in accessing those resources as you go through life.
The onyx flip represents a spiritual and psychological change, and you are reoriented toward God. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven belongs to children like Kara, precisely because they are more transparent, more humble, and more open to the things of God. The opposite is to be mentally closed to the things of God, through pride or disinterest……the onyx does not flip”.
The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers……
Rabbi, we know that you are come from God as a Teacher; for no one can do these wonderworks, and produce the proofs that you do, unless God is with him. Jesus answered him, I assure you that unless a person is born again (anew, from above), he cannot ever experience the kingdom of God. (John, chapter 3).
God’s second call whispers to me, “You have my love, you don’t have to pay for it. And you didn’t earn it and can’t deserve it. You only have to be open to it and receive it. You only have to say yes to My love – a love beyond anything you can intellectualize or imagine”. (Brennan Manning in the Ragamuffin Gospel, chapter 9).
Gail Sheehy’s second journey began at thirty-five when she was covering a story in Northern Ireland. She was standing next to a young man when a bullet blew off his face. On that Bloody Sunday in Londonderry, she felt herself confronted with death and with what she called “the arithmetic of life”. She suddenly realized, “No one is with me. No one keeps me safe. There is no one who won’t ever leave me alone”. Bloody Sunday threw Gail Sheehy off balance and flung at her a barrage of painful questions about her ultimate purpose and values. (Brennan Manning in the Ragamuffin Gospel, chapter 9). BUT YES THERE IS SOMEONE!
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Thanks for the story on Rev. Graham. I recorded his last message and plan to watch it this weekend. His life and anointing are amazing to me. He uses very simple messages, but the effects are so profound.
Your statement about Billy Graham: “His messages are simple, yet the effects are profound” reminds me of many (but not all) of Jesus’ sayings. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for writing about Billy Graham. I have always been a fan of his and have loved his messages. He is one minister that I have never heard an unkind word about him. He truly is a Man of God. Thanks for sharing about his life.
Yes, Billy Graham’s reputation remained high. Partly because he avoided the more divisive biblical aspects such as healing and speaking in tongues, I suppose. His main theme was to come forward, admit one’s sin, and commit one’s life to following Jesus. And this touched many empty hearts. Thanks Mary Ann for sharing.