“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”
November 7th may resemble another day to honor The Saints in the Roman Catholic Communion, and this is good. Our brethren need not be forgotten. But, for a many a Catholic, and for even Christians as a whole, some neglect the meaning of today, not to their displeasure or ignorance. That, on this date, one hundred years ago, on November 7, 1918, a man of complete renown, who would bring in a unity Catholics and Protestants, while also ministering in crowded venues, sold out seating, and lines of hungry souls miles long, would be born to this nation. He would not be considered much as a youth, merely rising through the various tent meetings and causing a stir among Evangelicals primarily. Although, he would eventually storm the spiritual gates and introduce himself through preaching The Holy Gospel, for which men of the cloth in all sequences would raise their eyes to him, looking on him (Acts 10:4). Perhaps we even state that God looked on him, and so the favor was imparted to him (Matthew 3:17). This man was a preacher at heart, a pastor in the soul, and an evangelist by calling. He loved his wife, Ruth, with an everlasting love, akin to his messages on God as a Person, an Entity, choosing us before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4). He would provide support to fellow Christians, whom he would have speak in locations where his massive Crusades were held in honor of Christ Jesus, by which he echoed of times’ past where prophets brought to the masses a delivery from Heaven (Romans 10:15). He so did the same. And, when priests of whatever nature, and those disposed to their respective denominations came to hear him, he heralded of The Sheepfold, prospective believers to their individual rites, their churches, their congregations. He fed the world with a generation of new neophytes to an always burgeoning Faith (Isaiah 40:11).
The Reverend Billy Graham, America’s Pastor, God’s Ambassador, as he is often referred to, was the son of a dairy farmer, who learned early of the grueling hours of a worker, a laborer, as he grew on his Charlotte, NC homestead. He understood the value of hard work, having to milk the cows every morning before school, right at the break of dawn. And what a dawn that would come through as God would choose him to be an angelic voice with power to drive back the demons of this age, and to instruct the manner of men to all ages of Who Jesus was and His plan of salvation. For Catholics during the twentieth century, Billy Graham was a friend of The Church. His zeal for The Gospel linked together with the Papal Chairs, that whatever was being professed, agreed with Rome, and those shepherding appreciated Graham’s sermons. To a surprise of some, bishops would often encourage their clergy to attend his events, to listen to The Word of God be sown (Matthew 13:18-23), and to see the reaping of a harvest whited for the picking (Joel 3:13). Even at Belmont Abbey College, the sole Catholic college in the Carolinas, Billy Graham was awarded an honorary degree, and the monks of the Abbey gave hospitality toward him. This was the first of its kind for the ecumenical movement, a brave and brazen act of charity between the two dominant sectors of religion in the United States. A showing of a One Church union in motion (Ephesians 4:5).
The special character of Billy was expressed through more than mere words from a pulpit, but more so relied on his vision. It was inspired by The Holy Ghost, and he never once thanked himself for this (1 Thessalonians 1:5). His infectious humility proved that God dwelled with him (Matthew 1:23), and that he wasn’t for the infamy of his own evangelism. He often said that if God’s hand were ever taken from his head, he would fail. God was the glory and the praise and the efficacy (Matthew 6:13). When the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte broke ground, he did not appraise it by his standards, but even the architecture reflected the pertinent cost of every human life: The Cross. We cannot abandon the symbolism and the mainstay of Our Christian Faith, which was Jesus’ Crucifixion (1 Corinthians 15:3). So related was this to his ministry, that whenever he taught behind the podium to eager spirits awaiting judgment, he incurred the teaching points with “The Bible says.” It was forever not about him, a reduction that was likened to St. John the Baptist (John 3:30). Even while on the campus of Belmont Abbey, he reportedly said, “I am not worthy to unlatch the shoes of St. Francis.” St. Francis of Assisi, who was undoubtedly the Saintly Father of public preaching, was a prefiguration of what was to arrive in Rev. Graham.
It may be difficult to assume that a Protestant can be compared to Catholic nobles who have spanned the course of this planet, treading upon every land, remote or nearby, to effectively share hope found in Jesus Christ. There lies resentment, animosity, and sometimes ambivalence toward what the other Christian sect does or has done. It is a point of contention for some. But, let us call to remembrance the underlying truth which is God’s Word, breathed out by every individual word (1 Timothy 3:16), and thus consummated in Christ (John 1:1; 1 John 1:1), Who became flesh for our benefit (John 1:14), but did not despise becoming as God (Philippians 2:6), suffering (Matthew 17:12), living (Mark 12:27), and dying for us (Luke 24:7), then rising for our restoration (John 20:9), so did and ascended (Acts 1:1-2), thus to eventually return (1 Thessalonians 3:13), translating us to The Kingdom (Colossians 1:13), whereby we shall judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3) and live on high (Job 16:19), unto eternity’s end (Revelation 21:4), for which there is no end (Luke 1:33), and there is no darkness (1 John 1:5), in Whom there remains none either (Judith 9:14). The whole matter, as Solomon said, is this (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Reverend Graham’s likeness to Catholic theology, where he mentioned that when he passed he would be praying from Heaven, for example, is what gave a general consensus for future interdenominational relations. His long penmanship with St. John Paul II, where the two corresponded in letters for a number of years, his visits to St. Peter’s, his fiery promotion of both Catholics and Protestant churches, peoples, and accomplishments, these were affirmative. He had no conspiracy for those in Italy, or those in Avignon, or those in South America. He didn’t despair with the hospitals, educational systems, and the like that were Catholic based and influenced. Indeed, the congeniality among it all, the cohesive bond, was that The Son of God was in it all, through all, and around all (1 Corinthians 12:6), as according to The Scriptures (John 5:39), for which he did not veer (2 Timothy 3:15).
This is but a brief overture of the recollection of what William Graham fulfilled in his ninety-nine years of life that he lived. Passing on to The Bosom of Abraham (Luke 16:22) on February 21st, 2018, he left an indelible mark (Catechism of the Catholic Church (1272-1274) on The People of God (Hebrews 4:9). From presidents, to colleagues, to every walk of life, he consented to lecture for the sake of God’s Gospel, for the sake of man to be saved, for the sake of a personal relationship with God The Father, God The Son, and God The Holy Spirit. For that, we must recognize and applaud. For the lack of anti-Catholic rhetoric, for there was none. Ever. And, for the burden he received for even being noticed with Catholics, the steam of indignation by anti-Catholics touted that he was an apostate and false prophet. We reject their heresies and know that God appointed Graham’s voice and leadership throughout the multiple centuries for which Gospelling was desired and required, and through the Iron Curtain, the Fall of the Berlin Wall, 9/11, and types of tragedy that were wanton for address, he served this country well. To his sons and daughters, who have honored their names, and for the continual perpetuation of Christlikeness by virtue of his countless books, radio broadcasts, television appearances, and recorded homiletics, we are thankful in this month of Thanksgiving.
Billy Graham, pray for us!
“Thanksgiving is recognition of a debt that cannot be paid. We express thanks, whether or not we are able otherwise to reimburse the giver”- Billy Graham
The Salvation Poem, courtesy of The Billy Graham Library
Jesus, You died upon a cross
And rose again to save the lost
Forgive me now of all my sin
Come be my Savior, Lord, and Friend
Change my life and make it new
And help me, Lord
To live for You