Today, February, 21, 2018, a Sinner-Made-Saint-by-the-Cross-of-Christ crossed over from this life to the next. His formal name? William Franklin Graham. To his family, friends, and countless admirers? Billy.
The internet is ablaze today with glowing tributes to Billy Graham, age 99, America’s Pastor. Yet sadly, I realize that my children and grandchildren, and many others under the age of 30, know very little about this evangelist for the cause of Christ from North Carolina.
You can read all the details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Graham
Today, I simply want to add my ‘thank you’ to Billy Graham. As I see it, without him, I’m just not sure which way my life might have gone if I hadn’t been exposed to the Gospel message as preached from his pulpit.
You see, back when I was younger, Jesus of Nazareth started messing with my life. Here I was a typical Midwestern kid, growing up in a little town called Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. And like its name, life in the 1950’s and early 1960’s in Mt. Pleasant was…well…pleasant. I had a great mom and dad who loved me and an older brother who tolerated me. I had a Boston Terrier named Buster for my best friend, a parakeet named Sugar Poot for entertainment, and a handful of neighborhood friends who kept our parents praying.
I can’t tell you the exact day and hour when I first met Jesus of Nazareth. Or should I say when Jesus first introduced Himself to me? My grandmother Olive, would tell me stories about this kind and compassionate Jesus when I stayed overnight at her home. And I would also hear about Him, and other assorted biblical characters, at church on Sunday mornings. The Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa was a warm inviting place. I’d love to ponder on the purpose of those assorted sizes of salmon-colored organ pipes mounted on the wall behind pastor as he went on and on about this or that. I could never figure out how the lady playing the organ off to the side could make music come out of those massive pipes, but much like believing in Jesus, I couldn’t explain it…but I believed it to be true.
One of my earliest memories that I associate with my call from Jesus was when the neighborhood kids would occasionally gather in one of our bedrooms on late summer evenings to hash over all the exciting things we’d accomplished during the day. We’d laugh about some of our exploits, such as seeing who could toss a mud ball the highest on the siding of Tommy Trout’s house, or how deep our hole was getting in Scott McKenzie’s back yard as we were digging for dinosaur bones.
From time to time, the subject of Jesus, going to church, and end times would come up amongst us neighborhood kids. The Cuban missile crisis of 1962 had scared us half to death and I recall several conversations with school mates about how we were going to respond when the evil Russians started dropping nuclear bombs on the Heartland. In the late 1950’s, President Eisenhower had approved an interstate highway system to help Americans stay mobile in case of war, and now President Kennedy was talking to all of us from the Oval Office about how the Russians were building nukes in our backyard, on a little island run by a Communist thug named Castro.
I recall telling my neighborhood friends, in those late-night huddles, all I knew about the kind and compassionate Jesus my grandmother had told me about. I recall feeling a strange, warm presence inside me as I shared my simple trust in this man from Nazareth who had promised to take care of me and my family whatever happened. I also shared other interesting tidbits about Jesus I had learned from watching Billy Graham on television. My parents loved Billy Graham and truthfully, I can’t tell you the number of times I gave my heart to Him whenever Billy asked the crowd to get up out of their seats and come make a decision for Christ.
So, as I look back now, some 50+ years later, I realize that my story, my call of Jesus on my life, was birthed at an early age. And if my parents had not insisted, time and time again, on watching Billy Graham on TV, who knows which way my life would have gone.
Was Billy Graham my savior? No. But through the work of the Holy Spirit, God used Billy in a very powerful way, presenting the saving power of Jesus Christ to a young man who needed to hear that truth.
Billy, on this day of your graduation from this life to the throne room of God, I add my ‘thank you’ to the millions coming in around the world. Thank you for asking me to get up out of my seat for the cause of Christ.
Enjoy this tribute to Billy from Randy Stonehill: