Amid family members, longtime friends and hundreds of invited guests, Billy Graham celebrated his 95th birthday in familiar fashion—sharing the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Gathered at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, near his North Carolina home, more than 800 well-wishers joined Mr. Graham to watch the airing of his new telecast, The Cross.
The video, part of the My Hope With Billy Graham evangelistic campaign, aired Nov. 7 on hundreds of stations to millions of viewers across the U.S. and Canada.
The broadcast featured Mr. Graham delivering a clear presentation of the Gospel from his home in Montreat, as well as video clips from his Crusade sermons through the years and moving testimonies from Christian artists Lecrae Moore and Lacey Sturm.
The birthday gathering was attended by his beloved family, faithful colleagues and friends from around the world, N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Fox Media President Rupert Murdoch, Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, entrepreneur Donald Trump, musicians Michael W. Smith and Ricky Skaggs, and NBC Today host Kathy Lee Gifford. Several leading pastors from across the U.S., who stood with Mr. Graham in this unprecedented evangelism effort, also attended.
After the showing, nearly 100 guests indicated decisions to follow Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Gov. McCrory, who helped dedicate the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, fondly remembered the sincerity of Mr. Graham when he conducted a Crusade in Charlotte in 1996.
“Dr. Graham and I were riding out to the platform before about 70,000 people at the Panthers’ new stadium when some incredibly loud cheers broke out,” McCrory said. “Dr. Graham turned to me and said, ‘I am embarrassed. It’s not about me.’ He’s one of the most humble men you will ever meet.
“During several conversations I’ve had with him, he’s never asked me about my politics. He asked, ‘How’s your soul? Can I pray with you? What a great day this is for our country, and for our state of North Carolina.”
Gov. Palin recalled the influence Mr. Graham’s ministry had upon her family when they tuned into a Crusade in the early ’70s. “My mother heard about how to have a personal relationship with Christ. She made that decision to follow Christ, and it rocked her world and changed her life. She then led her family to Christ, including me.”
Palin continued: “We need Billy Graham’s message now more than ever … and thanks to today’s technology, this message will be heard across the nation.”
A number of Mr. Graham’s long-time ministry associates were able to join him for the celebration, including Cliff Barrows, who with the late George Beverly Shea labored alongside Mr. Graham for more than six decades.
“I want to thank you for all you’ve meant to me through the years,” Mr. Graham told Barrows. “You’ve traveled with me every step of the way.”
Barrows replied, “Happy birthday, Bill. I thank God for every remembrance of you.”
Franklin Graham told the audience The Cross could possibly be his father’s last public message.
“It’s been a burden on his heart to preach one more time,” Franklin said. “He thought he could do it in a stadium, but he realized he didn’t have the strength, so he shot this video. He did it from his living room in Montreat.”
More than 2.5 million households tuned into the half-hour telecast on Fox News Channel and on numerous local stations and cable outlets across the U.S. and Canada. “God is using the greatest news channel in America to get the greatest news in the world out—that God loves sinners and sent His Son Jesus Christ to save them,” Franklin said.
Mr. Graham’s broadcast message, at 95, was the same as when he first began to preach in 1939: Salvation is found in no one else other than Jesus Christ:
“The Bible says that we are all sinners, that we have broken God’s law and His commandments,” he said. “We have turned our back on Him and His thoughts for us and directions for our lives, and that is sin in His sight. And that’s a very dangerous thing for the country, for us as individuals, and for our families.”
The cross directly confronts the evil which dominates so much of the world … “The cross is where Jesus Christ took upon Himself the sins of the world. The cross was a symbol of death … We deserve hell, and we deserve judgment and all that it means, yet Jesus willingly took it for our sakes.
Mr. Graham did not shy away from the fact that some will be offended by his message.
It is the truth,” he said. “And with all my heart I want to leave you with the truth.”
Mr. Graham has been especially burdened by the moral decline of America and the world, which is what led him to write The Reason for My Hope—Salvation, which is the entire message that he worked on beginning in 2012 and 2013, releasing it just days before his 95th birthday. The thrust of this message became the centerpiece of his Gospel message seen across the nation when he said:
“Our country is in great need of a spiritual awakening. There have been times when I’ve wept as I’ve gone from city to city and I’ve seen how far people have wandered from God. There is only one message in any generation and in all times, and that is Jesus. Jesus came to save us and there is no other message of hope in the world that offers eternal hope.” ©2013 BGEA
Jim Dailey is executive editor of Decision magazine.