Billy Graham’s 96th Birthday

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Billy and Franklin Graham, Cleveland Stadium Ohio June,1994

I’m writing this on Billy Graham’s 96th birthday – November 7, 2014. His son, Franklin Graham, reports that he is in good spirits, eating well and his mind is still sharp.

He notes that although his father’s hearing and vision are failing he still enjoys daily devotions and reading the Bible with his staff.

Last year’s birthday celebration included 800 guests. Celebrations this year will be smaller and quieter – family members and a few friends. And his preaching will continue only via his books and audio- and video-recordings.

Also, on this birthday another “My Hope” telecast will be broadcast nationally. In the film Billy Graham says, “I know I’m going to heaven. I’m looking forward to it with great anticipation.” Also this presentation will air him preaching one of his sermons never before released.

Although Billy Graham has been a public figure for six decades the respect of the national press is still said to be very high. And the Christian community’s gratitude for his gospel witness remains strong.

During six decades of ministry it was not only his clear, resonant proclamation of the gospel that never faltered, keeping the Good News unsullied before even the cynical element of the public; it was also his high ethical standards that marked and undergirded every aspect of his ministry from the start.

The one shadow on his record has to do with his friendship with American presidents, especially his close relationship with the embattled President Nixon. More information on this has recently been released from the Nixon Library in San Clemente, California. Long ago, Rev. Graham offered apologies for offenses caused by political and other comments made in these relationships.

And the ethical standards followed for his ministries were sterling.

I remember that at the outset of his nationwide ministry some businessmen agreed to underwrite his salary so that no monies raised at the campaigns or through other avenues of Billy Graham ministries would come to him.

And whenever he stayed in a hotel during a campaign an aide checked the room thoroughly before he entered to be sure no compromising situation could develop. In addition, he never rode an elevator alone. Extraordinary care was taken to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, so as to not damage his ability to proclaim the Gospel.

Billy Graham, the Baptist evangelist, and Ruth, his Presbyterian wife, made a striking couple. In their commitment to proclaiming the gospel of redemption, a redemption purchased by the Cross of Christ, they were one. Denominational tags tended to fade at the cross.

Ruth spent long periods raising the children and keeping the home intact while he was in other parts of the world preaching the gospel. Once asked about this she said she would rather have Billy for one month of the year than any other man for 12. Ruth preceded her husband in death in 2007.

How did Billy Graham become the convinced and convincing preacher he was? It was not a straight road. He started modestly. He had mentors who were faithful to him, such as V. Raymond Edman, fourth president of Wheaton College.

But he settled a major issue not long before the Los Angeles big tent meeting in 1949. It was that Los Angeles engagement that caught the attention of the nation, launching him into a lifetime of preaching to massed gatherings around the world. What was that major issue?

It was about the trustworthiness of the Bible. His friend, Charles Templeton, was a brilliant and engaging preacher. But Templeton began a slow turn from the faith saying the Bible was full of errors and could not be trusted. He pressed this opinion on Billy Graham with intensity.

In the face of this pressure, the Los Angeles meeting was approaching and Graham had to go one way or the other. He was in conflict. He made a decision to trust the Bible’s authority and to preach it without fear or apology.

People thronged to the big tent as meetings got under way. (I seem to remember the tent could hold 12,000 people) Many well-known people responded to Graham’s invitations and received Christ by faith. Lives were changed in radical ways. Billy Graham’s gospel influence continues right up to the present. The rest is history.

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Photo credit: Paul Walsh (via flickr.com)

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2 thoughts on “Billy Graham’s 96th Birthday

  1. As soon as I saw this weeks subject I realized how little I knew about Billy Graham’s life .Yet he’s such a famous evangelist.

    William ‘Billy’ Graham was born a few years before my mother was born into a Welsh Baptist family. Whether or not Billy Graham was born into a Baptist family I don’t know but I understand he later became a Baptist..

    As a UK subject I know of his Revival meetings of course.He came to these shores to preach more than once..In the mid 80s he preached in many English football stadiums during his Mission England tour ,including – Anfield home of Liverpool FC, Wembley our national stadium ,Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane and many others. W

    Mission England even had it’s own hymnal called ‘Mission Praise’..During the tour I remember he was critized for ‘cosying up to Roman Catholics.’As a commited ecumenicist in favour of following Christ’s command to Christian unity,I see this ecumenical spirit as one of Billy Graham’s virtues.

    I’ve read many books by Christians of yesteryear.For instance two books ,hymns ,a New Testament commentary and many sermons of John Wesley .But I’ve never read a Billy Graham sermon nor even a single written word of Billy Graham,a serious omission. I think I ought to start by reading his famous sermon of 2013 ‘My Hope America’ which was talked about on the news here last year.I believe it was broadcast all over America.

    I never understood those cynics who critized Billy Graham..Perhaps they were uncomfortable with his charismatic style ,perhaps considered more American than English. I celebrate the whole diversity of Christian styles of worship and preaching and evangelizing.For instance , though I can’t speak in tongues and all I understand about it is from the first pages of Acts,I know those to whom it is an important part of their faith and respect and love them.I don’t criticize something just because I don’t understand it.

    I know some criticize Billy Graham for his Nixon connection.I know more about Richard Nixon than Billy Graham and have watched film of Richard Nixon talking about him.I believe Richard Nixon admired him very much and heard Mr Nixon threaten & plan harm to those who were critical of Billy Graham.To do harm to another is unChristian and this was misguided loyalty on Nixon’s part and unworthy in a Quaker or Friend.

    I have heard Mr Nixon make low anti-Semitic comments on camera , which I could never understand in a Quaker.Especially since Jesus ,Peter ,John and Paul lived as Jews.

    Also when I think of President Nixon I think of the four children shot dead in Ohio at Kent State University – 2 girls and a 2 boys – Allison, Sandra,William and Jeffrey. I don’t think these children considered Vietnam a just war,even by St Auguatine of Hippos definition of a just war in his ‘City of God’ Thes unarmed students peacefully protested what they believed a sinful war..I think of their parents and families. Richard Nixon may be implicated in these teenagers’ deaths. .Billy Graham certainly wasn’t.

    I see Richard Nixon as a very complicated man , a troubled soul.I can only imagine Billy Graham’s friendship helped him and made him a better man.I think it would be a travesty to remember President Nixon as a wholly bad president.A pwerson deserves to be remembered for the good they did as well as the bad,I believe

    Though it would be fair to say Mr Nixon escalated America’s involvement in the Vietnam War,it must be remembered he was also the President to end US involvement in the war.

    .To his credit he had a loyal mutually supportive 53 year marriage to his Methodist wife Pat.They prayed together and attended Pat’s Metropolitan Methodist Memorial church together ,as well as attending Revd Billy Graham’s Baptist services. Few would see President Nixon as a contender for one of the best Presidents but Pat Nixon must surely be a contender for best First Lady.

    One good Christian thing President Nixon did was visit Communist China,the first President to do so, an act of peace which prevented conflict and possible war over Taiwan.His act brings to mind the Franciscan prayer ‘’ Lord, make me an instrument of Your peacc’’.

    Not only that,he initiated détente with Soviet Russia & set up anti missile treaties. In government he fought segregation,he fought drugs and launched initiatives to fight cancer as well as initiating other health reforms.He introduced environmentally green policies,.Does not the Bible call upon us to be good stewards of the earth God has given us? Mr Nixon supported the Equal Rights Amendment and increased the number of women in government.

    Mr Nixon became a tormented soul after his resignation.Historians have shone a bright light on his failings and wrongdoings.The Watergate scandal is what most think of when looking back at President Nixons career.Hopefully future historians will remember his positives also.I can only believe Billy Graham’s friendship was a good influence .

    I said I knew more of Richard Nixon’s life than Billy Graham’s.I’ve discussed Richard Nixon’s troubled life more than Billy Graham’s constant life of faith.But whenever I have heard criticisms of Billy Graham,his friendship with Richard Nixon is always brought up.I hope I’ve pointed to the possibility that Billy Graham’s friendship with that President was a good thing,bringing out Mr Nixon’s better qualities. I tend to think Billy Graham was a good influence upon the President of USA ,rather than that the President was a bad influence on Revd.Billy Graham.Good will out.

    ,Billy Graham was one of the first Western evangelists to visit Communist Russia and preach behind the Iron Curtain.Perhaps this inspired President Nixon’s détente with Russia and China.

    Billy Graham’s friendhip s with Richard Nixon brought him detractors.But they forget his deeper friendship with Martin Luther King .Billy Graham was a commited supporter of integration and supported King when he was arrested on a civil rights demonstration,bailing him.Maybe Billy Graham helped form President Nixon’s anti segregation beliefs.

    I admire Billy Graham for his lifelong dedication to evangelizing,for his long marriage & being a family man with a large family, for his support of Martin Luther King and his staunch support for integration. He gave a timely warning to those Americans blindly following the devils hateful path of racial exclusion,saying

    “we have been proud and thought we were better than any other race, any other people. Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to stumble into hell because of our pride.”

    I admire his lifelong temperance.I admire his constancy. ’.No retreat.No regrets’.I seem to remember he once said.

    I think how Billy Graham called his Revival meetings crusades , But he used the Gospel, not the sword. On one hand how many people around the world must have been brought to Christ’s Light by Billy Graham.On the other hand , Billy Graham’s friendship with one of the most fascinating and complicated Presidents of the United States, through one of the most troubled periods in American political history, can only have been a positive and moderating influence.

    I can think of no one I’d rather have had at Richard Nixon’s side as spiritual mentor,than a man of Billy Graham’s calibre. Without Billy Graham ,things could have been a lot worse.

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