About 81 years ago a young North Carolina teen made a decision to follow Christ, and we are all the better for it. We don’t even realize how much better we are for it, just as we don’t fully realize how much better we are for the decision of faith Abraham made or the decisions of faith those around us have made. Yet, with every heart, mind, and soul that calls Jesus Lord, we all receive a share of the blessing. Yes, our God, who rejoices with the angels all the way in the heavens over the salvation of one soul, does not hold back His joy from this world. You may not get some electric heavenly shock as someone chooses this day to follow Christ (wouldn’t it be cool if you did though?), but don’t think for one moment that your life will not be affected by it. Those in the Body of Christ will be all the more lovely and stronger for it and those outside of the body will be given just a bit more hope for their eternity because of it and the darkness will tremble just a bit more because of it.
About 19 years ago I made Jesus my Lord and my Love and therefore, my life would never again be the same. He would continue to take my breath away with His faithfulness and grace, He would daily share His mercies, and He would stay close in the darkness of nights and the light of days. Some time after that decision on the beach of Fort Caswell, I would join thousands in a stadium in Charlotte, NC to hear that now very grown, no longer 16 year old boy proclaim the Word of God in the pouring rain. He was speaking my “new love” language. I hung on every word. It was cold, it was wet, it was packed but even in my very baby days of Grace, I knew I was given just a small but gorgeous piece of heaven that night. Life would go on, I’d stumble and struggle with much through the end of middle school and into high school, but I knew Him through it all – life might have had some sour but He brought the Sweet!
Everyone’s life-story has had the thread of grace run through them; some of them…a lot of them in the past 80 years…even woven together with a certain, specific thread that connects them to a now very grown, no longer 16 year old boy who proclaimed the Word of God. Yesterday, Mr. Billy Graham turned 97. I have a a few friends who know my love and respect for this man and his late wife, Ms. Ruth. One friend in particular “suggested” I should send him an online birthday card. Well, there wasn’t a right time yesterday; so, I am a day late. I still haven’t all the words in me that I wish to pour forth for this man of faith. I don’t know that I could create a good Hallmark card for a man who has proclaimed Christ Jesus for a lifetime in the midst of love and support and hate and persecution. What is it the writer of Hebrews said? “Of whom the world is not worthy.” Yes and Amen!
Though I can’t find original poetic words to send via paper or web, I will tell you how God and I have been celebrating. REVIVAL! No tent in sight, no charismatic speaker or planned worship set on sight, but right here, in my 1500 sq. foot home, and in my ___pound frame ;), Jesus and I have partied in honor of a life of faithfulness! I may have done my walk in my basement while lifting hands and tearing up as the Gaither’s sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” I may have overcome sorrow and disappointment yesterday as Fernando Ortega “(Gave) Me Jesus.”. I may have written all these amateur words while rocking to Selah singing “Power, power, wonder working power in the precious blood of the Lamb!”
I share my birthday month with this man of faith. Later this month I’ll turn 33, and I’ve already been looking at the measuring tape of my life. How many years might I have left to proclaim Christ in boldness and faith? Well, that’s not for me to know, so today and everyday I will just choose to do it because, though I don’t how many days, I know that today and every day I will. That’s what a life of faith does for us – it spurs us on, it encourages us, it keeps making The Bride beautiful and strong because it is “rooted in God’s Word, worked out in prayer…lived in obedience, trusting in God’s faithfulness. It is a life testifying of the faithfulness of the Almighty God.”* I have conversed with God over dreams and passions many times, but today I come to Him with just this – my life. Whatever and wherever and with whomever, may my life testify of the faithfulness of the Almighty! May my life be a part of preparing the Bride for her Groom. And may I be so graced to join the myriads of other faithful witnesses, when that time comes for me, that I may cheer on my people and your people and God’s people yet to be.
Mr. Billy Graham, I sit here typing this, knowing that it isn’t enough to honor a Brother in Christ, a man of faithfulness to the Love of our lives. Still, I want to say, “Thank you.” Thank you for making that decision over 80 years ago in the home state you and I share. Thank you for not stopping in your walk of faithfulness no matter the road blocks in your way. Thank you for exhibiting a love and grace for people that makes my heart soft in His hands, asking Him to mold mine the same way. Thank you for responding out of a heart and mind of humility, letting Christ shine – for His rays have reached many, including me. Thank you for not hanging on to preferences to the detriment of people’s souls. Thank you for standing in sickness and in health, in shine and in rain to proclaim The Greatest News ever given. Thank you, as you sit in an earthly silence day in and day out now, awaiting Jesus’ to walk you home, for keeping things loud in the heavenlies as you converse with God on our behalf. Happy Birthday, Dr. Graham, Mr. Bill – I am honored to call you brother. You have carried the torch well. I pray I will carry it in such a way and pass it on to those who will do it just the same…and more so! I honor you today, and every day, because you honor our Savior. In honoring you, I honor the One Who reigns in your life and in mine. May He be glorified everyday in us and throughout eternity by and though His faithful boys and girls!
*Words spoken of Ms. Ruth B. Graham.
And now, just in case you want to celebrate with us…