Monday, February 4, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: "Just as I Am" by Billy Graham

"The Lord liveth, and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation." 2 Samuel 22:47

"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy have begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." 1 Peter 1:3

Billy Graham is probably the most important Preacher of the past 100 years.  Dr. Graham's ministry saved more souls, and had more earthly influence, than any concurrent ministry.  Just as I Am is a joyous recounting of the first fifty years of Dr. Graham's ministry.

With a ministry as blessed as Dr. Graham's, it is impossible to convey everything in a seven paragraph review.  Dr. Graham grew up on a farm in Depression-era North Carolina. While Dr. Graham grew up in a strong family, he had plenty of exposure to Earthly pleasures during his teenage years (17). While Dr. Graham is known as a godly and humble man today, he did not lack for knowledge or opportunities as a young man.

The book goes on to discuss Dr Graham's salvation and early ministry. Discussions of statistics cannot convey how every person who attended or came forward at one of Dr. Graham's crusades was an individual. Ministering to tens (sometimes hundreds) of thousands of people as individuals is a massive logistical undertaking; one of the biggest challenges was plugging thousands of new believers into local churches. Consistent, worldwide Church outreach on the scale of Dr. Graham's was unprecedented in Christian history (and they did it BEFORE the internet!). By remaining meek and poor in spirit, the Lord consistently worked out details.

Prayerful humility before the Lord is a major theme of the book. Billy Graham never takes credit for the success of his ministry, he understands that he was just the conduit through which God acted. The Lord gave Billy Graham a big mission, Billy Graham was obedient, and the Lord was faithful. As Graham writes:
With each new crusade experience, I was increasingly driven to the conclusion that it was not a fluke. Instead, it was the Lord letting us in on a special moving of the Holy Spirit in America [and later worldwide]. (174)

To me, the most interesting aspect of Dr. Graham's was the work that the Lord had him do in Communist countries. Beginning with a crusade in Hungary in 1977, Dr. Graham worked extensively behind the Iron Curtain during the decade before the Berlin Wall fell.  He even met with members of the politburo in Moscow (506).  Another fascinating encounter were his two meetings with Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang (625), which was actually the city where his wife went to high school (71).  These are just a few examples.

Dr. Graham was an early and unshakeable supporter of civil rights.  He refused to speak to segregated audiences, which was a big deal in pre-Jim Crow South (650).  He was also good friends with Martin Luther King Jr (314).  Dr. Graham promoted racial healing at a time when doing so was a genuine risk.  Dr. Graham's courage on racial matters deserves praise and recognition.

At its core, however, any discussion about Billy Graham is about the Gospel: God Loves You and He gave His only Son to help you, but it's up to You to accept His gift.  That's the message Billy Graham carried to over 185 countries.  That message remains as relevant as always.  But it's up to each of us, as individuals, to heed the call:

You can learn more about the current efforts of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association here.

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