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The Rushmore Report – Billy Graham on New Year’s Resolutions

Known as “America’s Pastor,” Billy Graham remains the most significant Christian figure of the last 100 years. In December, 2011, already well into his 90s, Graham fielded a question about New Year’s resolutions. Following is that question and Dr. Graham’s response. As we enter a new year, his words are as timely and inspired today as they were when he wrote them seven years ago.

Question: I’ve about decided I’m not going to make any New Year’s resolutions this year. I’ve always done it, but I don’t think I’ve ever managed to keep a single one more than a few weeks. Why should I bother?

Answer: You’re right; it’s probably not worth bothering with resolutions if you start out assuming you’re going to fail, because that’s exactly what you’ll end up doing. But it doesn’t have to be this way, and I suggest you reconsider.

The start of a new year is a good time to stop and look at our lives, and that’s the first step in making any realistic resolutions. What needs to be improved in our lives? What needs to be eliminated or added? Most of all, what does God see when he looks at me, and what does he want me to do with his help? What is his will for the coming year, and for my life? The Bible says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Then make sure your resolutions are realistic. Many New Year’s resolutions aren’t “resolutions” at all; they’re only vague dreams or wishes. Don’t focus on self-centered goals; focus instead on what God wants to do in your life. Above all, make sure of your commitment to Christ, and if it means little to you, why not begin the new year by giving your life to him?

Finally, think through how you can achieve the goals you’ve set. Pray for God’s help; plan what steps you need to take; get others to encourage and help you. May 2012 become the best year you’ve ever had, as you build your life on the foundation of Christ and his word.

The Rushmore Report – A Timeless Christmas Message by Billy Graham

Read this timeless piece, originally penned by Billy Graham in 1969, on the reason for Christmas.

Christmas is a special time. It is a family celebration. Other holidays are different. Good Friday and Easter are usually celebrated in church. National days are honored with speeches, parades and the ceremonies of government. But Christmas is glorified in the home because it is the celebration of a birthday.

Yet there is irony in the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. He was born away from home, on a journey that symbolized the restless and the wandering nature of the world into which He came. He was born in the insecurity of a barn, a symbol of the fact that during His public ministry, He would have very little home life. He roamed the roads and towns of ancient Palestine. He died, taking the ordeal of the cross so that out of His suffering and His victorious resurrection mankind could find redemption.

Christmas means different things to different people. To some, Christmas is merely a means to make more money. People vie with each other in their preparation for the celebration of the occasion. Some of them do not believe in Christ; they may even hate Him. But Christmas has become big business. People are more concerned to hear about their profit from Christmas than to hear about the Prophet from Bethlehem. The clinking sound of money is sweeter to some than the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the angels to the shepherds.

Many people cannot hear Christmas carols today because their ears are attuned to different sounds. Some minds are riveted to Wall Street, and their eyes are focused on reports about the stock market going up or down.

Pleasure-seeking consumes the time and the thoughts of many people. Some try to find a merry Christmas in what they call entertainment and fun. Instead of imbibing the spirit of Christmas, they choose to imbibe spirits at Christmas. For many people the holiday is an opportunity to celebrate in the wrong way.

The Apostle Paul once said, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27). He meant that he conquered his appetites and kept his passions and desires under control. We, too, need to conquer our hatreds, our fears, our doubts, our anxieties. We need to conquer selfishness—even the desire for special Christmas gifts for ourselves.

We cannot have a merry Christmas or a happy new year when we have become slaves to the passions and vices that hound us. These things—materialism, money, artificial pleasure—are crowding Christ out of Christmas for multitudes. They are so busy with a thousand and one other things that they have no time to consider the message of the Baby of Bethlehem.

On that first Christmas, 2,000 years ago, the world experienced three phenomena:

First, the star. Many stars shone in the sky, but none like this one. This one shone with aura and brilliance! It was as though God had taken a lamp from the ceiling of Heaven and hung it in the dark sky over a troubled world.

Second, a new song in the air. A world that had lost its song learned to sing again. With the coming of God in the flesh, hope sprang up in the hearts of people. Led by angelic beings, we can now take up the refrain, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).

And third, good news—the Good News that at last a Savior had come to save men and women from sin: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus was the central theme of that first Christmas. The star, the song, the gifts, the kneeling, the joy, the hope, the excitement—all were because of Him.

God’s star promised peace to the world if we will believe and trust Him. But having rejected Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we have no peace in the world. Too often our synthetic stars bring only fear, anxiety and even more war.

In our world today are self-proclaimed saviors, people who claim to be God’s gift to the world. How different they are from Jesus, who “was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

The Scriptures say, “There is born to you this day … a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Heaven and Earth joined together! God and mankind reconciled. Hope for the hopeless, pardon for the guilty, forgiveness for the conscience-stricken, peace for those who knew no peace, Good News for those who have had nothing but bad news!

Yes, Jesus Christ can save us from despair. I have talked with many leaders, and one thing that most of them have in common is pessimism. The tensions, conflicts and seemingly insoluble problems of this world tend to make them cynical and doubtful.

Many cynics will blame God for the troubles of the world. We should blame ourselves. We have a spiritual disease, and that disease is called sin. Until sin is conquered, the world will not be a better place in which to live.

When people willfully reject the Prince of Peace, they pay a terrible price. A secular and materialistic society that has rejected the Prince of Peace yields to pessimism and despair. The blighting cynicism that has come as a result of our rejection of God is reflected in our literature, our art, our films, our television programs and even our pulpits.

Christmas should be a time of renewed hope—not hope in a particular political concept, but Christmas hope; Christian hope; hope in Jesus Christ; hope that, despite our tangled bungling, God will bring order out of chaos.

But Christmas is even more personal. The angel who said, “He will save His people from their sins,” was touching the very heart of your need.

People today would rather not talk about sin. They don’t want to face the reality of their spiritual disease. I heard of a man who found conversation about cancer distasteful. When the subject came up, he would walk away. He would not consent to periodic examination.

He would permit no X-rays. But one day, having experienced a loss of weight and appetite, he was persuaded to have a physical examination. The doctors found a cancer of massive proportions.

So it is with sin. Our reluctance to discuss it, our tendency to ignore it, our resentment of anyone’s talking about it, may be a revelation of our secret fear that we may be sin-filled.

Jesus Christ has a great deal to say about sin. He came on that first Christmas night to “save His people from their sins.” No doctor in the world can treat sin. No psychiatrist in the world can cure sin. They can work on symptoms, they can help the sinner to live with his sin, but they cannot get rid of the disease. Only Jesus Christ can heal the disease of sin.

This is what the cross and the resurrection are all about. And Christmas is not Christmas without the message of the death and resurrection of Christ. This is why He was born. This was the message of the first Christmas night: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” The Christmas message says that God’s grace is greater than our sin. It says that the sin question was answered at the cross. Christmas says that the cross went as deep as our needs. The cross was the cure—offered, paid for and administered by a loving God in His beloved Son.

I never come to Christmas without thinking of the thousands of people who are lonely, diseased and troubled at this time of year. Christmas is a reminder from God Himself that we are not alone. The Prophet Isaiah said that His name would be called Immanuel, which means God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). God revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus a reconciling love that rescues us from separation and loneliness.

At this Christmas season you can be assured that Jesus Christ is here. He is here to give us hope, to forgive our sins, to give us a new song, to impart faith and to heal our spiritual wounds, if only we will let Him.

The Christmas message has not changed after 2,000 years. Christmas still reminds us that God is with us.

In spite of all the pessimism and cynicism, in spite of all the headlines about murders, assassinations, riots, demonstrations and war, Jesus Christ is alive. He is alive to conquer despair, to impart hope, to forgive sins and to take away our loneliness. He is alive to reconcile us to God.

This Christmas, accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Give Him the gift that He wants—your heart, your soul, your life.

About the Author

Billy Graham was the most significant Christian figure of the 20th century.

The Rushmore Report – Will Graham Calls on Christians to Fight CA Fires

Will Graham, grandson of the late Billy Graham, has urged Christians to help victims of the California wildfires, saying that believers “should be the first ones to be responding because we represent the King of kings and Lord of lords.” He continued, “I think as Christians, we should be the first ones to respond to anybody in need – pray for them, help with physical needs, do whatever they need in the love of Jesus Christ.”

California is experiencing unprecedented fires, claiming close to 80 lives so far. And the fires are still not contained. A staggering 8,650 homes and 10,000 total structures have been burned to the ground.

Graham told the Christian Broadcasting Network that chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team have already been deployed near Sacramento to provide physical and spiritual assistance to those suffering due to the fires.

“We send chaplains to simply sit there and pray with people, cry with people, and hold people,” he said. “People have lost everything – they’re devastated, and they don’t even know where the next step begins. So we just go, sit there, and we start praying with them.”

Graham continued, “We will see some people come to know Christ, but I don’t think we’ve ever been there when somebody said, ‘No, don’t pray for me.'”

Samaritan’s Purse, the humanitarian organization led by Will’s father, Franklin Graham, will also be on the ground providing disaster relief.

What triggered the fires is yet unknown, but experts say the blaze continues to be fueled by strong winds, low humidity, and the dry terrain caused by a prolonged drought.

On Facebook, Franklin Graham has urged his seven million followers to pray for all those affected by the inferno: “Would you pray especially today for all those in the paths of these deadly fires and especially for the families whose loved ones were killed? Also we need to pray for protection and strength for the many firefighters who are battling these blazes 24/7.”

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 – 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.

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.