Monday, November 11, 2013

Billy Graham -- The Man and the Message

Who doesn't love Billy Graham, the 95-year-old who has spent most of his life in ministry? His hair is snowy white now, his voice deep and a bit gravelly. He sits more than he stands, and he's been alone for over six years since Ruth, his dear wife of 64 years, preceded him to Heaven. But he still has a passion for seeing men and women, children and youth come to know Jesus.

We recently watched a 2-part video, (Part 1 and Part 2), produced by RBC Ministries, entitled The Calling of Billy Graham. Hosted by Wintley Phipps, who not only weaves a rich and compelling story but adds his musical mastery to the presentation as well, the program was filmed in Billy's native North Carolina, in Florida where he attended Bible school, and at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) headquarters and Billy's home in Montreat, NC. Like Jacob of the Old Testament, Billy Graham struggled with God and, when he fully yielded, he never looked back. These videos show us how God prepared him for his long life of ministry that has impacted the world.

It was September 25, 1949, when the Greater Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade was launched, Billy was 30. Over the eight weeks of the crusade, 350,000 people came to hear him preach. His earnest message, bathed in prayer, always ended with a call for people to invite Christ into their lives, and this has been the hallmark of his speaking. Over the 65 years of Billy Graham's preaching, he has spoken to over 215 million people in 185 countries and territories. According to BGEA hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film, and webcasts.

Over the years, Mr Graham has held fast to the truth of salvation found in Christ alone. Yet he has not been afraid to be innovative in getting that message out. I remember in my youth watching nearly every movie that came out from World Wide Pictures, who produce and distribute BGEA films. They confront social issues as well as spiritual ones through their film ministry, a principle Billy Graham also incorporates in all his messages.

It's not only Billy Graham's innovation and willingness to confront social and spiritual issues that God has honored these past 65 year; it is also his integrity and dependence upon prayer that God has blessed. He has lived a righteous life, and God has used him in ways he could never have dreamed.

This month, November 2013, in honor of his 95th birthday, Billy Graham chose to share his "final sermon." The medium was a video called The Cross.  And in this message, his passion for the Lord and for people to respond to the gospel message rings through as strongly as ever. (The other videos on this link are equally powerful.)

In The Cross, his team has taken great advantage of technology and creativity, using clips of past crusade messages, testimonies of celebrities who follow Jesus, and powerful visuals throughout the 29-minute video. In this, his last major public address, Billy Graham reminds us once again that Jesus is the way to God the Father, and His love and mercy are available to all who will turn to Him. It is his simple, unchanging message, and it will still be true long after Billy Graham is gone.

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