On Sunday, Dr. Billy Graham turns 92.
He has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
I guess all of us of a certain age have a "Billy Graham" story to tell.
I was first aware of him when he was a young preacher conducting evangelistic meetings in Detroit, Michigan in the late 40s and early 50s. I was totally mesmerized by the crowds, the tent, the music and the evangelist. And I'm sure I "went forward" at the close of the services at least 10 times during those early years! But God used those times to bring me to Christ (for real!) as a teenager in 1956. And in 1957, I was in Madison Square Garden to hear Dr. Billy Graham preach to the thousands who'd gathered in New York City for that historic crusade.
It was also in those years that Dr. Graham sponsored the launching of the Detroit branch of Youth for Christ. It became one of the greatest forces in my life and in the lives of thousands of teenagers and young adults in our city. Once a month, Saturday night--YFC--we never missed! And Dr. Graham was often the speaker.
And he encouraged us to carry our Bibles and be a witness for Christ in our high school. And we did! They were red leather-Scofield edition Bibles! You couldn't miss them on top of our books. I still have one as a favorite keepsake from those years.
Through the years, Dr. Graham has been my generation's national pastor.
The one man we could count on to speak Christ to Presidents and world leaders--every President and every world leader. The one man who stood up against the critics who labeled him "neo-evangelical" and criticized him for sitting on a platform with an atheist or even worse, a "modernist." No scandal, no change in the message, no backing down during the tough times.
He's still standing strong for Christ.
Happy Birthday, Dr. Graham!
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