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The Rushmore Report – Should Christians Care about Earth Day?

This Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day. This is the day set apart for citizens of the world to honor their planet, while committing to new ways to preserve her resources. For the environmentalist, Earth Day is his national holiday. But what about the Christian? How important should the environment be to a follower of Christ?

Billy Graham was posed this very question a few years ago. Following, we offer his response – unedited.

“In reality, many churches and mission groups are speaking out about these issues. A number of denominations, for example, have passed resolutions urging their members to be more active in environmental issues.

“Why should we be concerned about the environment? It isn’t just because of the dangers we face from pollution, climate change, or other environmental problems – although these are serious. For Christians, the issue is much deeper. We know that God created the world, and it belongs to him, not us. Because of this, we are only stewards or trustees of God’s creation, and we aren’t to abuse or neglect it. The Bible says, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it’ (Psalm 24:1).

“When we fail to see the world as God’s creation, we will end up abusing it. Selfishness and greed take over, and we end up not caring about the environment or the problems we’re creating for future generations. It’s not surprising that some of the world’s worst environmental damage was done by the old atheistic regimes of Eastern Europe.

“I hope you won’t lose your concern for these issues, for they are important. But don’t lose sight of something that is even more important: your relationship with God. Is Christ first in your life, and are you seeking to follow him every day?”

About the Author

Billy Graham wrote this letter in response to a reader, on Earth Day several years ago.

The Rushmore Report – At Billy Graham’s Funeral, Daughter Anne Graham Lotz Calls Church to ‘Wake Up’

Under a large white tent evoking her father’s “Canvas Cathedral” revival nearly seven decades ago, Anne Graham Lotz urged the Church, the world, and herself to “wake up!” as she joined her siblings and some 2,000 others at the funeral of her iconic evangelist father, Billy Graham, in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday.

“I believe, from heaven’s perspective, that my father’s death is as significant as his life. And his life was very significant. But I think when he died, that was something very strategic from heaven’s point of view,” Lotz said about her father’s passing.

The world-renowned evangelist is credited with inspiring more than three million people to commit their lives to Christ in a ministry that spanned 185 of the world’s 195 countries, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Like a modern-day Moses, Lotz said her father brought liberation to people through the Gospel and she sincerely believes her father’s death on February 21 at the age of 99 “is a shot across the bow from heaven.”

“My father also is a great liberator. He brought millions of people out of bondage to sin and it gets us to the edge of heaven, edge of the Promised Land, and then God has called him home. And could it be that God is going to bring Joshua to lead us into the Promised Land to lead us to heaven?” Lotz mused.

“And do you know what the New Testament name is for Joshua? It’s Jesus. And I believe this is a shot across the bow from heaven. And I believe God is saying, ‘Wake up Church! Wake up world! Wake up Anne! Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming,” she said, pledging to preach God’s Word for the rest of her life.

Donald J. Wilton, of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina, who was Graham’s longtime pastor, recalled Graham’s deep belief in the Bible he loved and how “it governed how he lived, and it governed how he died.”

Graham’s son, the Rev. Franklin Graham, who serves as president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said in the main address that his father believed every word of the Bible even though he never understood all of it.

He praised his father for the love he had for his late mother and noted that “the Billy Graham that the world saw on television, the Billy Graham that the world saw in the big stadium was the same Billy Graham that we saw at home. There weren’t two Billy Grahams.”

About the Author

Leonardo Blair writes for The Christian Post.

The Rushmore Report – Billy Graham Speaks from the Grave

Editor’s note: Before his death, Billy Graham wrote this response as his final My Answer column. 

I hope I will be remembered as someone who was faithful – faithful to God, faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and faithful as an evangelist, husband, father, and friend.

I’m sure I’ve failed in many ways, but I take comfort in Christ’s promise of forgiveness, and I take comfort also in God’s ability to take even our most imperfect efforts and use them for His glory.

By the time you read this, I will be in heaven, and as I write this I’m looking forward with great anticipation to the day when I will be in God’s presence forever.

I’m convinced that heaven is far more glorious than anything we can possibly imagine right now, and I look forward not only to its wonder and peace, but also to the joy of being reunited with those who have gone there before me, especially my dear wife, Ruth. The Bible says, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

But I won’t be in heaven because I’ve preached to large crowds or because I’ve tried to live a good life. I’ll be in heaven for one reason: Many years ago I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to make our forgiveness possible and rose again from the dead to give us eternal life. Do you know you will go to heaven when you die? You can, by committing your life to Jesus Christ today.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

The Rushmore Report – How Billy Graham Changed My Life

Billy Graham was, with C.S. Lewis, one of the 20th century’s most influential figures in evangelicalism. I never had the honor of meeting Lewis, but I did know Billy, who died last week at 99. He changed my life.

I first met him on my grandmother’s porch in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1985. In her 80s, she was frail but sharp. They sat together and Billy held her hand while talking about the Bible. Later she described it as one of the most peaceful days of her life.

Soon after, I had my own personal encounter with Billy. As I wrote in Decision Points, he asked me to go for a walk with him around Walker’s Point. I was captivated by him. He had a powerful presence, full of kindness and grace, and a keen mind. He asked about my life in Texas. I talked to him about Laura and our little girls.

Then I mentioned something I’d been thinking about for awhile – that reading the Bible might help make me a better person. He told me about one of the Bible’s most fundamental lessons: one should strive to be better, but we’re all sinners who earn God’s love not through our good deeds, but through His grace. It was a profound concept, one I did not fully grasp that day. But Billy had planted a seed. His thoughtful explanation made the soil less hard, the brambles less thick.

Shortly after we got back to Texas, a package from Billy arrived. It was a copy of the Living Bible. He had inscribed it and included a reference to Philippians 1:6: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

God’s work within me began in earnest with Billy’s outreach. His care and his teachings were the real beginning of my faith walk – and the start of the end of my drinking. I couldn’t have given up alcohol on my own. But in 1986, at 40, I finally found the strength to quit. That strength came from love I had felt from my earliest days and from faith I didn’t fully discover until my later years.

I was also fortunate to witness Billy’s remarkable capacity to minister to everyone he met. When I was governor of Texas, I sat behind Billy at one of his crusades in San Antonio. His powerful message of God’s love moved people to tears and motivated hundreds to come forward to commit themselves to Christ. I remember thinking about all the crusades Billy had led over the years around the world, and his capacity to open up hearts to Jesus. This good man was truly a shepherd of the Lord.

Perhaps his most meaningful service came on September 14, 2001. After the 9/11 attacks, I asked Billy to lead the ecumenical service at Washington National Cathedral. It was no easy task. America was on bended knee – frightened, angry, uncertain. As only Billy Graham could, he helped us feel God’s arms wrapped around our mourning country.

“We come together today,” he began, “to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious or political background may be. The Bible says that he is ‘the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.'” God comforted a nation that day through a very special servant.

In a difficult moment, Billy reminded me – and all of us – where we can find strength. And he helped us start to heal by offering three lessons: the mystery and reality of evil, our need for each other, and hope for the present and future. “As a Christian,” Graham said at the 9/11 service, “I have hope, not just for this life, but for heaven and the life to come.”

A final story: One night while dad was away on a trip during his presidency, mother and I had dinner at the White House. Eventually we got to talking about religion and who gets to go to heaven. I made the point that the New Testament says clearly that to get to heaven, one must believe in Christ. Mother asked about the devout who don’t believe in Jesus but do God’s work by serving others. She then took advantage of one of the benefits of being first lady. She picked up the phone and asked the White House operator to call Reverend Graham.

It wasn’t long before his reassuring Southern voice was on the line. He told us, as I recall, “Barbara and George, I believe what is written in the New Testament. But don’t play God. He decides who goes to heaven, not you.” Any doctrinal certitude gave way to a calm trust that God had this figured out better than I did.

Those of us who were blessed to know Billy Graham benefited from his deep convictions and personal example, his wisdom and humility, his grace and purity of heart. We knew that his life was a gift from the Almighty. And I rejoice that he is now in the company of God, whom he loved so much and served so well.

About the Author

George W. Bush served as the 43rd President of the United States.

The Rushmore Report – What Kathie Lee Gifford Told Megyn Kelly Off Camera

During an interview on Megyn Kelly Today last week, NBC Today Show anchor Kathie Lee Gifford was on to honor the memory of the late Billy Graham. While there, Kelly revealed what the two women have been talking about off camera for months. It’s a conversation you can’t have on the air these days.

Kelly revealed that Gifford has been talking to her about God behind the cameras.

“Billy was really one of a kind,” Kelly told Gifford in reference to Mr. Graham. “When I look back at what he preached after 9/11 saying, ‘The lesson here is our need for one another,'” I am amazed.

Kelly highlighted the message of sin and redemption Graham left with former president Bill Clinton in the middle of his Monica Lewinsky scandal. The host admitted that she also holds Gifford in high regard because she likens her to the world renowned minister who peacefully passed away in his North Carolina home at the age of 99.

Kelly said to Gifford, “You and I have been having an ongoing conversation about faith and a connection with God.”

She continued, “Who else is there today that has that kind of message? That uplifting, joyful, faithful, help me get reconnected, don’t shame me, don’t guilt me, someone who’s nonpartisan, someone who’s full of love, someone who’s not covered in scandal, not trying to rip anybody off.”

Gifford took the opportunity to continue Graham’s legacy right there and then while on Kelly’s program. The Emmy Award winner spoke openly of the free gift of salvation as Kelly looked on in admiration.

“Every one of us should ask, ‘Do I have a malignancy on my soul? Where’s the doctor?'” Gifford answered her own question: “The good doctor is in. And He conquered death for all time for every one of us. And it’s free. It’s probably the only thing in this whole world that is completely free.”

Gifford shared her personal connection with the famed evangelist. While attending a movie produced by the Graham organization, she reflects, “God met me right where I lived. I wanted to be an actress. So where does God meet me? In a movie theater.”

At Graham’s 95th birthday celebration, Gifford said she got to tell Graham “thank you” in person one last time.

As for sharing her faith with Megyn Kelly, the conversation will continue.

About the Author

Jeannie Law writes for The Christian Post.

The Rushmore Report: Billy Graham’s Christmas Message – From 1966

In an article first published in Guidepost in 1966, famed evangelist Billy Graham wrote about three symbols that represent the true meaning of the Christmas season. His words are still worth sharing – over 50 years later. As you and your family prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior in just four days, you might consider going over these powerful thoughts together.

The first symbol is the cradle. Cradled in Bethlehem that night were the hopes and dreams of a dying world. Graham wrote, “Those chubby little hands that clasped the straw in his manger crib were soon to open blind eyes, unstop deaf ears, and still the troubled seas. That cooing voice was soon to teach men of the Way and to raise the dead. Those tiny feet were to take Him to the sick and needy and were to be pierced on Calvary’s cross.” Graham described the cradle as the link that bound a lost world to a loving God.

The second symbol is the cross. Approaching the cross, Jesus essentially said, “To this end I was born, and for this cause I came into the world.” To Christians the joy of Christmas is not limited to His birth. It was His death and resurrection that gave meaning to his birth. It is in the cross that the world can find a solution to its pressing problems.

Third, there is the crown. Jesus was crowned with a crown of thorns and enthroned on a cruel cross, yet His assassins did something unwittingly. They placed a superscription over His cross in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, which read, “This is the king.”

Graham concluded, “Yes, Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords, and He is coming back some day. He will come not as a babe in Bethlehem’s manger. The next time He comes it will be in a blaze of glory and He will be crowned Lord of all.”

Cradle – cross – crown. Let them speak to you. Let the power of Him who came to us at Christmas grip you, and He will surely change your life.

The Rushmore Report: The Remarkable Mr. Graham

Evangelist Billy Graham turned 98 Monday. The preacher’s long life started on a dairy farm near Charlotte, North Carolina on November 7, 1918. The Great War in Europe ended on November 11, 1918. He liked to joke that it took the world only four days to hear that he had arrived. Graham’s 98th birthday seems a good time to pause and think about the incredible impact of his life and enduring work.

Most evident are the numerical records. Graham probably spoke to more people face-to-face than any other person in history, 215 million at last count. Additional hundreds of millions encountered him via electronic and print media. In 1956, he founded Christianity Today, which soon ranked as the most widely read Christian periodical in the world. Graham organized international conferences in Europe that helped galvanize the global evangelical movement. He nabbed a spot on Gallup’s list of “Most Admired Men in the World” 59 times, nearly twice as often as runner-up Ronald Reagan.

Graham’s most obvious legacy is the three million men and women who registered commitments for Christ at his crusades. Beyond that figure stand the numberless souls who made decisions in the quiet spaces of their lives.

Yet these data tell only part of the story. Graham’s legacy has taken forms that are hard to measure but important to remember. We see them especially in the realms of evangelical beliefs, everyday life, American politics, and Christian hope.

Beliefs, Changing, and Unchanged

Many of Graham’s beliefs stayed exactly the same decade after decade – and if they sound like the heartbeat of evangelicalism, that is partly because he made them so. They included the Bible’s authority, God’s sovereignty, humans’ sin, Christ’s saving death, resurrection, and return, the necessity of new birth, spiritual and moral growth, mission to others, and a final destiny.

But if those claims remained fixed, others changed, and the changes form a large part of the preacher’s legacy.

First of all, Graham moved from biblical inerrancy and literalism to a more dynamic sense of biblical infallibility. The Bible was authoritative not because it was historically or scientifically accurate in every detail, but because it did what it promised to do: infallibly bring people to faith in Christ. Graham believed in the Bible’s factual accuracy, but that was not the main point. The Bible held authority because it worked.

The second change focused on the new birth. In the early days Graham called for something like a “ready-set-go” conversion experience. Stand up, walk to the front, sign a decision card, join a church, and then witness to your new-found faith. But over time Graham saw that people could show their commitment in other ways. He allowed that many people, including his wife, Ruth, never experienced a single moment of decision. But their faith was in Jesus.

Graham’s notion of the spiritual and moral results that should be the fruit of new birth also evolved. His primary emphasis always fell on individual conversion. But he also came to see the need for intentionally working for social reform, sometimes through legislation. Converted hearts did not automatically produce converted hands.

Evangelicalism with a Necktie

Graham helped teach evangelicals the importance of a practical approach to Christianity. We see it especially in “My Answer,” a daily Q & A column that appeared in newspapers across the country. Most answers came with a heavy dose of conventional evangelical theology, but the theology included common-sense guidelines based on biblical precepts.

Graham served as a badge of credibility for evangelicals. He helped teach them how to take a seat at the table in the public square. One of the most astute historians of American religion, Samuel S. Hill, once said, tongue-in-cheek, “Billy taught evangelicals when to wear a necktie.”

Decade after decade, Graham embodied a pole-star of decency. Biographer William Martin said it best: Graham represented Americans’ “best selves.” Topping the list was the preacher’s commitment to marital fidelity, without compromise of any sort. That included acts that might raise suspicions, such as traveling or dining alone with a woman outside the family. He was equally committed to financial transparency, again, without fudging. And absolute honesty. When reporters asked about the number of converts he had won, Graham responded, “I have no idea. I can count inquirers, but only God knows who the converts are.” And finally, a reticence about criticizing others. Graham targeted broad trends he found destructive, but rarely specific individuals or denominations or religious institutions.

Three Conversions

We can’t say that Graham changed U.S. political history as Lyndon Johnson or Martin Luther King, Jr., did. But he did change Americans’ lives in important ways. On most things political, he pointed in a progressive direction.

On the landmark issue of civil rights, for example, Graham showed uneven but unmistakable progress. The youthful Graham – reared in the South – accepted segregation. But in the late 1940s, his conscience awakened. In the early 1950s, he took a succession of bold stands, despite withering attacks. In the early 1960s, unsettled by Black Power and disorder in the streets, he backed off. Temperamentally, he always preferred orderly process. But by the mid-1970s, he would embrace – or re-embrace – the goals, if not always the tactics, of the civil rights movement.

In 1982, in the patriarchal cathedral in Moscow, Graham said that he had undergone three conversions in his life: to Christ, to racial justice, and to nuclear disarmament. It was a long journey. Once a strident Cold War hawk, the mature Graham carried the torch for demilitarization on both sides of the Iron Curtain. He preached that civilization was on the brink of destroying itself. This move took enormous courage in an age when most Americans, not to mention most evangelicals, remained fearful of Soviet intentions.

When the culture wars arrived in the late 1970s, Graham resisted. He agreed with some of the Christian Right’s positions, but he also said its leaders didn’t talk enough about poverty and hunger. Besides, the pulpit should not become a soapbox. Graham insisted that there was a difference between partisan politics, which served the interests of the Democratic or the Republican Parties, and moral politics, which served the interests of the nation and of the world.

Graham’s mistakes in the political realm remind evangelicals that they dare not place anyone on a pedestal. He fell into dogged support for particular presidents, especially Nixon. Graham defended the president’s stand on the Vietnam War and on Watergate long after most Americans had given up on both causes. The press called him the “White House Chaplain.”

One of Graham’s most grievous blunders took place in 1972, when he made scandalous remarks about Jews and the media in the privacy of Nixon’s office. When his words surfaced 30 years later, he was mortified. Graham apologized repeatedly and profusely, in print and face-to-face with Jewish leaders. But the episode tarnished his legacy.

A Second Chance

Without question, Graham’s most important legacy lay in his preaching about Christian hope. Over the years, millions of letters flowed into his Minneapolis office. Often calling him just Billy, writers described lives twisted by sin, marriages on the rocks, kids gone astray, fears of death, and loneliness. No matter how badly you have messed up your life, he urged, Christ offers forgiveness and a new start.

Though Graham regularly preached about Christ’s Second Coming (albeit with few specific details), his main contribution to Christian hope lay exactly there, in the promise of a second chance, not only for individuals but also for the nation and the world of nations.

Successors?

The historian Margaret Bendroth perceptively predicts that successors won’t look like Graham. They will not be white, let alone white American. They will appeal to multiethnic audiences. Yet like Graham, they will project chastity, integrity, sincerity, ambition, humility, and, above all, hope. And they will not pin their ministries on doctrinal arguments. The tempestuous issues that tend to divide Christians will take second, third, or even tenth place behind a call for a life changing experience with God in Christ, one that transforms the rest of their lives.

This much we can say for sure: Whoever Graham’s successors may be, heralded or unheralded, they will owe an enduring debt to a farm boy from North Carolina.

About the Author

Grant Wacker is author of America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation (2014).

 

Billy Graham – How It All Began

He is the most recognized evangelical leader of the past century. He appeared on the list of the most admired Americans a record 55 years. He preached to 2.2 billion people, with 3.2 million registered decisions for Christ resulting from his crusades and evangelistic efforts. His name is William Franklin Graham, Jr. Nearing his 97th birthday, he has just released his final book, Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, and Our Life Beyond.

It all began in 1949. The Los Angeles Crusade, scheduled for three weeks, started on September 25, and was extended for eight weeks, during which time Graham spoke to 350,000 people. An amazing 3,000 came to Christ, making this the most significant crusade since the days of Billy Sunday. Rev. Graham instantly became a household name across America.

One of the 3,000 converts was Stuart Hamblin, famed singer, song-writer, and actor. This caught the eye of William Randolph Hearst, who sent a telegram to all of his newspapers, bringing immediate national attention to Graham and his crusade. Soon, Billy Graham graced the cover of Time, and evangelicalism became a force in American culture.

Looking back, 66 years later, hundreds of books have been written about Billy Graham and his unprecedented ministry. Some credit his looks, southern charm, voice, or charisma. Some say it was the media that launched Graham into the national conscience. So what was it that ignited the miracle of Billy Graham in Los Angeles in 1949? The answer is found in the most important number – not the 350,000 who came or even the 3,000 who were converted – but 1,000. That is the number of prayer partners who quietly sought the face of God for months leading up to the crusade. For all these years, Billy Graham himself has maintained that it was the prayer of the saints that moved the hand of God.

It all began in 1949. The greatest evangelist the world would ever know preached the Los Angeles Crusade every night for an incredible eight weeks. 3.2 million converts later, the movement continues. And what happened in 1949 can happen today. God is not waiting for the next Billy Graham . . . he is waiting for his followers to become as serious about prayer as they were 66 years ago.