The Simple Message of Billy Graham

“Communism has decided against God, against Christ, against the Bible, and against all religion. … Communism is a religion that is inspired, directed and motivated by the Devil himself who has declared war against Almighty God.”
– Billy Graham

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
Proverbs 2:6 | NIV

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
Psalm 119:105 | NIV

Billy Graham’s Simple Message
Billy Graham is America’s most famous Evangelist. He preached a positive, personal relationship with God. His message transcended all class and ethnic divisions.

Graham’s mission is a simple message of profound spirituality and social compassion. He is free of the dark scandals, financial or sexual, that cast a shadow on the reputation of so many other preachers. His sincerity is transparent and convincing, and cannot be denied. Graham is an icon essential to a country that is founded on faith.
I remember as a young boy listening to Billy Graham. I wanted to get “right with God”- a phrase I didn’t always understand, but tried to live up to by being a good person. I wanted to learn more about Billy Graham, so I wrote about him.

Graham grew up with an All- American dream to play baseball. Instead, he became the most celebrated religious figure of the 20th century. Confident to presidents and prime ministers, and friends to royalty and Hollywood stars. A voice of truth to millions who heard and received his message. A comforting voice to a nation in its most painful hours. A man who accredits others with his achievements and God with his success. He will likely have no equal in our lifetime. He is Billy Graham.

Early Life

In 1918, the world was still fighting what was to be declared, “The war to end all wars.” In Russia, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was born and in a tiny village in South Africa, Nelson Mandela. In America, just four days before the armistice that ended World War I, a country boy was born on a dairy farm just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. His name was William Franklin Graham.

Life in 1920’s America was simple in comparison to today. Truth, morality, hard work, strong families, respect for God and love of country were respected and honored virtues. Billy Graham grew up dreaming of one-day playing major league baseball. He fantasized over the Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. His everyday life mirrored the idyllic images of Norman Rockwell’s America.

God and religion in America had become cultural icons and were given the highest respect. The Ten Commandments were posted in many school classrooms. Few embraced the idea of a personal relationship with God. The ember of faith was stirring across the continent and in Billy’s hometown of Charlotte fire was about to strike.

One afternoon in the fall of 1934, a group of men gathered at the Graham farm to pray for spiritual awakening. They prayed that God might raise up someone in Charlotte that would go out and preach the Gospel unto the ends of the earth.

They had no idea that someone they were praying for was right there that day. A series of revival meetings brought the evangelist Mordecai Ham to Charlotte that fall. Graham went to a Revival meeting. He saw a simple preacher with nothing more than an open Bible and the man began to explain scripture by scripture. Graham had never heard such preaching. He returned night after night.

In the first week, Graham felt a stirring in his heart to make a commitment to Christ. It was a simple declaration to bring Christ into his heart. With a sense of purpose that in some way his life was supposed to be devoted to Christ. Graham became determined to get an education for the task. To help pay for college, he and his friends became salesmen for Fuller Brushes the summer after high school.

After a short stint at Bob Jones University, Graham transferred to the Florida Bible Institute. He was there only a year when he fell in love and proposed to a young woman. A few months later she broke it off. The girl told Billy she was going to marry someone who would do something important in their life. Graham was devastated, but it deepened his spiritual commitment.

One clear night in the spring of 1938 Billy Graham took a long walk alone. When he returned, he told God, he would be what God wanted him to be, and he would go where God told him to go. Billy now felt the call to be an Evangelist. He also felt unprepared for the task. His first attempts at preaching were less than memorable.

Graham would often retreat to the swamps outside of the campus, practicing his sermons to the Cypress stumps as though they were a vast congregation. In 1940 he enrolled at Wheaton College outside of Chicago, where he would meet the girl who would become Ruth Graham, his wife. Billy and Ruth were married on August 13, 1943. Seven days later they took up residence as the pastors of a tiny church in the small town of Western Springs near Chicago, IL.

Through a friendship with a minister named Torrey Johnson, Graham was invited to take over a weekly radio program called “Songs in the Night.” The resulting attention brought the young Graham before a wider public, and offers to speak across the country began to grow.

By now America and the world were deeply embroiled in World War II. Graham accepted a U.S. Army commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. Graham was preparing to leave for Chaplaincy training when he was struck with a case of the mumps. It left him severely ill and convinced the army that despite his eventual recovery, he should be allowed to resign his commission.

The young preacher was again free to do what he felt called to do. Graham joined forces with several other young men of similar vision, and he helped to organize “Youth for Christ.”

They organized Evangelistic rallies across America. Graham went to Los Angeles with a new sense of conviction about himself and his message. The meetings began innocently enough under a couple of circus tents put up near downtown Los Angeles. For the first couple of weeks, they drew no special attention.

Then one night the arriving Graham was faced with a cadre of reporters. One of the reporters told Graham that he had been chosen by William Randolph Hearst, a rich man who owned newspapers across the United States, for favorable press.
The next day in every one of the newspapers Hearst owned carried a frontline story about Graham and his evangelic message that was happening in Los Angeles. The three weeks Los Angeles meetings extended to eight weeks. By the time they were over some 350,000 people had heard Billy Graham’s fiery message from sin.

Suddenly, across America old-time religion was front-page news. Graham had gone to Los Angeles as a little-known evangelist from the Midwest and left as a national sensation. Life and Time magazines carried stories about him and his tale of redemption and religion. Graham was an overnight phenomenon.

When Graham first started out there was a somewhat soft, accommodating theology that characterized a lot of Protestant churches in America. Graham came along with a very strong and Bible-based message, an old-fashioned gospel of come to Jesus, change your life, and get right with God. It had an electric effect at the time right after World War II.

Graham doesn’t discuss issues of sociology, politics or how to keep healthy. His proclamation is the Word of God. Graham believes that God’s word is powerful. Using a simple outline of four or five points and by quoting scripture under each of those points, that the scripture itself did the job. Graham understood the Word of God to be alive.

Graham didn’t see the Bible as a mere book of history or stories, but an actual living gospel that dives into the hearts of the people listening to him, regardless of his congregation. Whether he was speaking to a tribe in Africa or a large crowd in the middle of America, the Word of God has its own built-in power to move the crowd. Over the several decades of his career, his message never changed because the message of the gospel never changed.

“There is a special genius of Billy Graham when he preaches. Maybe it’s an act of the Holy Spirit that takes what he is saying and sends out vibrations, so people respond,” said conservative leader William F. Buckley.

Graham was able to communicate a simple, uncomplicated message to the masses. He used the media to do it. He used it brilliantly throughout his entire career and reached millions and millions of people.

Graham knew that evangelism had been given a bad name earlier in the century. He was determined not to dishonor himself or the gospel message that he was so fervently preaching. Graham drew him around him a group of men he felt he could entrust this mission.

That would become known as the Billy Graham Team. Some of them he had known since childhood. Their mutual commitment to each other and their spiritual mission would forge loyalty that would keep these men together for the rest of their lives.
But Billy sensed that friendship was not enough. So, one Sunday afternoon in Modesto, California, he asked each of them to go to their rooms and make a list of all the pitfalls they knew had befallen ministers in the past. They would then compare the lists and pray to escape the same temptations.

“This was thoroughness. This was professionalism of the highest order, not to risk what he was attempting to achieve in any way,” said journalist David Frost.

Throughout the 50’s and 60’s Billy Graham was impacting American religious culture in profound ways, not the least of which was the breaking down of long-held walls separating and fracturing much of the Christian world. Graham was bringing together disparate parts of the Christian community and uniting them for the purpose of evangelism. Even the historically sacrosanct wall of Protestants and Catholics was being crossed.

“At each step, he understood the importance of positioning himself in a certain way so that he could reach the greatest of people,” says Randall Balmer of Columbia University.
“One of the things that Graham represents is the notion of spiritual revivalism as a positive sort of affirming force, as opposed to a dark, negative force. That’s one of the things that American revivalism is all about,” says Walter Issacson, CNN Chairman

“It can be, and I think probably should be, said Billy Graham, that he stands with a handful of American religious leaders from the Great Awakening forward who helped define the country. He did that in a particularly tumultuous time in our history- the last of half of the 20th century,” said Dan Rather of CBS News.

American was facing a social upheaval. The pain of racial discord and turmoil that engulfed the ‘60s was tearing at the fabric of the nation. Many activists wondered, where was Billy Graham?

The social-action-type Christians were severely disappointed, and still are, that he was not more active in endorsing and helping the Martin Luther King movement,” said Richard Ostling, journalist of the Associated Press.

“It was very early in my ministry that I was segregation was wrong,” says Graham. “I always felt it was wrong to start with, but I mean wrong in public meetings. I went down and pulled down the ropes separating blacks and whites,” recalls Graham.
From the beginning, Billy Graham had felt his call was not just to America but to the world. In 1954, that result would face its first test in London. By the end of three months in England, he had converted thousands. By the end of his time in England, he spent the next six months touring Europe. By the end of the century, Billy Graham would take his message to the far corners of the earth.

The same message he had preached to the cypress stumps as a Bible student in Florida he would take to the nations of the world. Graham’s growing influence and prestige brought him to the attention of the famous and influential, from Hollywood celebrities, to corporate moguls, and significantly, to those who occupied the house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. Over the years Graham’s friendship with eleven American presidents earned him the title of Pastor to the Presidents.

Billy Graham at the apex of his international stature faced the closing years of the century. His sense of calling remained the same. His sense of where that calling was taking him was new. In the late 1980’s, Responding to fledging opportunities to hold meetings in Eastern Europe, and later in the Soviet Union, Billy Graham withstood criticism from many, who accused him of compromising his faith for political expediency.

Those first meetings may have only been a crack in the wall holding back freedom behind the Iron Curtain. But it would allow the first gleams of light to energize the efforts of others. Within a decade, the Soviet wall would collapse.

Over the years, Graham has certainly had his critics. Yet the consistency of his character and integrity of his life have turned more than one enemy into a lifelong friend. Graham has preached his message of good news of faith in Jesus Christ to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history- over 210 million people in more than 185 countries and territories have heard him face-to-face.

Millions more have been touched by his voice on radio and television motion pictures. He had authored 23 books, many of them best sellers. The list of honors and awards is endless.

 

 

A Light in the Dark: How Zig Ziglar Saved My Life

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12

Why my life has changed so radically in the past month?

These posts have taken a radical new direction in the past month. I started talking about my spiritual transformation. I had to answer the question, “What do you do when your personal world caves in?”

In these posts I talk about bereavement, faith, devastating illness, and resiliency in the face of crushing disappointments. These things can invade our lives so suddenly and immediately.

These posts are the intimate account of how I am learning to live again. I have found answers that I was looking for. Maybe in my story, there are answers for you. If not, or if this is too much, I understand. Just let me know, I understand.

What follows is a recipe that has given me an abundant life full of real joy and happiness.

West Lafayette, Indiana- June 18, 2017

“See You at the Top” saved my life. My wife and I went to a used book sale given by our local library. I got a torn up, dog-eared copy of “See You at the Top” (SYT) by Zig Ziglar.

After reading the first ten pages I was hooked. SYT is the best book I have ever read on self-improvement. After reading it, I underlined and outlined it. I went online and downloaded the audio course and listened to it twice in two days. I noticed a mark improvement in my attitude after reading SYT the first time. In the past six weeks I have read SYT 12 times.

SYT is an event that shook my world and changed the course of my life. SYT instilled hope in my heart. Zig’s book has unlocked invaluable secrets that have guided me on the road to success. I know that success in anything doesn’t happen overnight. Success takes patience, time, guidance and a bit of luck.

Listening to Zig’s positive thinking books and motivational messages have taught me to be my best. The results speak for themselves. I have accomplished more in the last month than I did in the last year. Zig’s “Born to Win” training program has been instrumental in helping to turn my life around.

Zig uses a “cognitive behavioral approach” to change attitudes and behaviors. Zig is straight-talking, easy to understand, entertaining and his work is based on Christian values and sound psychological principles. Zig offers a realistic and positive approach to the problems in my life. The material is broken up into several subjects so that Zig can drive home his points to get maximum learning.

Declaration of Dependence

The most dramatic change is that I recommitted my life to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I started by declaring my complete dependence on Jesus Christ. This declaration has completely changed my personal, family and business life.

The posts are not about converting anyone. I am not a Bible scholar or even a good Bible student, but I do want to share my story. I am not a preaching or moralizing. I am talking about something that has worked for me, nothing else. I am not a religious fanatic, but I am enthusiastic about God.

I am a simple man writing about how my faith and Zig Ziglar helped put my life back together again. My Christian faith is an important part of my life. Using Zig’s “Strategies for Success” training program and applying his message of hope and positive thinking followed by positive action has been a life-changing experience. The program has been very meaningful and has changed my life for the better.

My belief in Jesus Christ has freed me to truly “Be all I can be.” I think the best is yet to come!

A Thank You

I want to thank my lovely bride Muna. She has exhibited the patience of Job as she has tolerated me, an exhausting endeavor! Muna is my rock. My love for her is the foundation on which our life is built. Muna does everything with compassion and grace including loving me.

Muna always gives me her full attention and energy. Her love and support is what I needed the most in my life. She is the gift from God that I cherish the most. My love, I thank God every day you are my wife because you are my life.

Why I Write

I knew from the time I was a little boy, five or six maybe, that I wanted to grow up to be a writer. I was always a constant scribbler and avid reader. I stepped away from this idea for nearly thirty years. From the age of seventeen until I was thirty-seven I was in the Army. Late my life I rediscovered writing

  1. Learning to Write

Learning to write well begins with learning to write exciting and engaging sentences. Exciting sentences are written to paint a picture with words for the reader to enjoy. I struggle to select words and write detailed descriptions in simple, short sentences. Trying to find the perfect words to express my thoughts is a challenge, but one I enjoy. A great story is a series of picture captured in words. It allows the reader to meet new characters, go new places and experience new things.

The best thing about being a writer, is that I am in control of the world I create. I am the ruler of a tiny universe, where the words I write allow the reader to visit new place and experience new things.

  1. A Place to Write

Choosing a place to write is a complicated thing. I have written in basements, bedrooms, hotel rooms, apartments and coffee houses all over America. Maybe criteria for a writing place should be simple. A corner or a place where no one will notice a man scribbling or typing or reading. A place where a man can stare into a blank space and not be noticed. A place that gives you an anonymity of a sort where a man can become a writer.

I found such a place in my home. A corner bedroom that has been converted into an office. There was nothing special about it the first time I went into the room. It had been my step son’s bedroom when he was a boy. In this place I am very far away, at least for an hour or two each day.

  1. A Promise

In that old bedroom I found something. It really wasn’t anything I thought would be there. It wasn’t a book and it wasn’t even an idea. What I found in that room was the knowledge I needed to survive as a writer. I found something a strategy for survival as a writer. In the days that followed I froze, sweated and dealt with my issues.

I made a promise to myself to work on my first novel.

  1. Trial and Error

A great story keeps your imagination racing, your eyes glued to the page and your finger turning the pages. When the story ends, if you loved it, you know were in the hands of a master and feel a sense of loss when the story ends.

A great story has interesting and believable characters, a strong plot and natural-sounding dialogue with lots of action to keep the story moving. To do all this requires practice and patience. No one is born a great writer. It takes years to of practice to become an outstanding athlete, musician and dancer. It take a long time to become a great writer.

You can learn any craft by trial and error or by instruction. Trial and error, undoubtedly, is the more time-consuming, and frustrating method. The frustration often becomes so intense that you become discouraged or just give up. Writers, perhaps more than any, other attempt to master their craft through agonizing trial-and-error method. Yet getting specialized instruction and putting in the necessary hours of practice is exactly the way a writer should learn to write.

Some insist that creativity can’t be taught. Writers can be taught and must be learned if writers want to become successful.

  1. A Page a Day

After sitting my writing space in that old bedroom I did a very strange thing. I started writing a novel. I had no idea what I was doing or why. I promised myself I would write a page to three page a day. At first they were awful pages. They were the pages of a young writer trying to find his way in the dark. I fell in love with writing in that room. As I wrote, I learned how to survive and how to thrive as a writer.

I have attended conferences, classes and seminars on writing. In all the courses I’ve taken I was never told how to survive as a writer. I learned that writing was the school of hard knocks and tough experiences. There are lots of books on how to published and make a bestseller and how to sell books. But to survive in a society that does not recognize as a viable way of life is very tricky. Most people will not do it. If you are looking for a safe way to write, this advice is not for you.

These posts are the writer. These posts are for the person who has no choice in the matter and who makes the decision to be a writer or die. It is that serious. I knew once I wanted to be a writer there was nothing I could do about it, these posts are for other aspiring writers who feel the same way.

America has no patience for artists. America is a can do country with a Puritan work ethic. Artists are outside that charge.

If you are still reading this post, this is a good thing. My experience is my story and my story alone. All writers have a different story. You may hit it early, later or never at all. I have been up and I have been down, but through it all I have always had one goal…to keep writing.

  1. A Declaration

Let me begin by telling what these posts are not. It is not a guide on how to get published, though I will cover some aspects of that. These are not how to write posts, though I will share what works for me. These posts are for the writer in you struggling to get out.

This is a guide on how to survive once you have made the decision to be a writer. This is a decade of experience I bring to the table. I have survived as a writer. There is only one simple declaration needed, “I am writer for better or worse. There is nothing I can do about it. I am a writer.”

Ok. Now. I will tell you how to survive.

  1. A Writer

Do not expect support. It’s not going to happen. Your parents, your spouse, mother, brother, parents, counselor will not tell your decision to become a writer is a good one. Because being a writer in this society does not fit it. It never has. America does not support the arts. America supports people that work regular jobs and come home and do it all over again. America does not support someone who sits down to…what..write?

When I made the decision to become a writer, almost no one supported me. They encouraged me to get a “safe” job to “provide” for my family. Being a writer is like becoming a Priest. It’s a calling, not a conscious decision. It is something I realized in my soul. Once I knew I must become a writer I was powerless. It was a moment of truth. I could not ignore the impulse to write, I could not try to paper over it and go back to a “safe” predictable life. Once I had decided to become a writer, I had come into the light. I knew being a writer was what I was going to do for the rest of my life.

  1. A Writer Writes

When I started to write, I started very simply. I just wanted to write two pages a day of my first novel. When I told my parents I wanted to be a writer, they suggested I try to get a real job. But, this is my job. I AM A WRITER! They rolled their eyes.

I knew I was a writer. A writer is someone who writes as Hemingway put it. That’s it. It is not predicated on published works.

I started simply. I stated a simple sentence that armed me for whatever would come at me: I am going to be a writer whether I am successful at it or not. It is just what I am.

Good. Now everything will be alright.