Reflections About “Billy,” America’s Pastor

billygrahamI had only been married for four months in 1976 when Billy Graham came to the Pontiac Silverdome for a crusade, something those events were called back then. That huge stadium holding 80,000 people, was the home at the time of the typically hapless Detroit Lions, who God knew could certainly use all the prayer and religion they could get, even vicariously. Apparently it didn’t help.

Nonetheless, I was excited to attend this historic event near where I lived at the time. I was also there to serve as one of the counselors for those who would come during Billy’s famous altar call/invitations. It was an incredible, hard-to-believe scene, even for a 26-year-old newlywed, seeing the stadium quickly filled with people beforehand. More amazing was the rapt attention given to every component of the evening and then the thousands who flocked to the field in response to his invitation to receive Christ.

I remember thinking, How is this happening? Why would so many come and then respond as they have? My only answer at the time and still is now is that God was there and these were holy moments ordained for that time and through a man everyone called ‘Billy.'”  I truly think we were standing on holy ground.

Will such a personal and accompanying phenomena occur again?  Maybe. Nothing is too difficult for God. But I doubt it. Our culture has changed. People respond, connect and communicate in very new ways today. God is still at work but through other means.

But the man bold enough to be used in this way and sadly, to be criticized perhaps most by other Christians much of the time, is now gone. He actually quit preaching over a decade ago, his health failing, but He has now had a face to face encounter with the one, Jesus, who He proclaimed so valiantly!  Wouldn’t that have been something to see? Will Heaven have instant replay or On Demand?

Somehow, I have to believe Dr. Graham has already heard those famous Biblical words, Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

I do find myself wondering what his long-time critics, ones who questioned his leadership, theology, acquaintances and teaching style among other things for decades from pulpits, college chapels and popular periodicals, are saying today. I will be saddened, even angry to hear more of what has been for the most part pompous rhetoric void of its own evangelistic fervor, strategies or commitments in sharing the Gospel, even if Billy’s vehicle and organization might have been at times flawed.

But think about it.

What Christian has known and impacted more U.S. Presidents than Billy Graham? Lyndon Johnson, likely not on Billy’s side of a lot of issues, requested that Billy officiate at his funeral at his Western White House. He did.

What person, including most U.S. Presidents, has had more meaningful, deep, eternity-focused relationships with world leaders than Billy Graham?

Who in the last 150 years has had a helping hand in more personal decisions for Christ than Billy Graham?

Many of those who were criticizing Dr. Graham in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s or later have themselves passed on. I hope that their heavenly re-connection with Billy will put aside the past and joyfully become a rich discussion and thankfulness for God’s faithfulness to them all. Those who remain I trust have mellowed.

You see I don’t think Billy Graham ever wavered from the unchangeable truths of the Gospel. But more importantly He never wavered from his love of an unchangeable God and Savior who he knew always was far smarter than him.

Perhaps one of Billy’s famous quotes says it best:  Knowing we will be with Christ forever far outweighs our burdens today! Keep your eyes on eternity.!”  And he is doing that today.

Advertisements

One Thought About Guns To Add To The Con(flict)versation?

 


gunAnother shooting in Florida has brought the usual round of easy answers about how to avoid these tragedies once and for all. And while many of the arguments are grounded in passion, grief and a sincere sense that things are out of control most of them miss guidance that can be found in more complex perspectives.

Some believe that all the tragedies would be averted if we just returned prayer and the pledge to our schools. And while those things might be helpful their absence in many schools did not cause the shootings. There were extensive problems in schools decades ago even when practices like those were in place. Others suggest greater police presence and that may be needed. Worth some more consideration.

But similarly, the calls for severe gun control, requests that clearly impede our Constitutional freedoms, are not an easy or only answer either. Guns will be acquired whether they are legal or illegal. Guns are not what kill people. People kill people for all sorts of horrible reasons.

But let me use an oft – referred to illustration in this vein that might help us consider some common ground on gun control. Consider cars. People driving cars kills tens of thousand of people each year. The results are tragic. But I hear no one suggesting that we ban most cars or severely limit the kinds of cars we can drive.

However, what if I suggested that because there is freedom in this country to have a car I want to own and drive a NASCAR level auto through town.? Imagine what I could do on I-465 getting around Indianapolis with 600HP or more!

However, there are rules (wise ones, by the way) that prohibit owners from having a car with that kind of power. I could argue, “But what if there were an emergency and I needed to rush a family member to the hospital? Wouldn’t it be better to have a faster car?”

And the obvious answer would be “no.” I can still have a car, I can even buy pretty fast ones, but a NASCAR level car isn’t going to be legal on our streets. Will a ban on NASCAR automobiles stop all the killing on our roads? Hardly. But we would be saying that there is a limit and we’ll put more restrictions on too much power for the average person. We can avoid some deaths that way and that is both a doable and wise choice. It’s one we’ve made for years.

In fact we’re not even banning high-powered cars from all usage. No one should be asking for NASCAR to completely shut down. But the limit would make sense. Only those capable of using those cars in an appropriate setting would be allowed to have them.

In the same way, we could find some middle ground concerning guns, limiting some of those higher powered, too much power, guns from getting into the wrong hands, the hands of people who are incapable of using them wisely. That seems to make sense and I think would calm some of the criticism concerning some people not willing to make any limits on guns. Let’s hope the conversation and some wise, corresponding actions are a result.

Think about it. I’m open to hearing what you think, too.