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Greg Laurie Interview on Billy Graham: The Man I Knew

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
April 5, 2021 3:00 am

Greg Laurie Interview on Billy Graham: The Man I Knew

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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April 5, 2021 3:00 am

Coming up today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie relays some fascinating insights based on his brand new book, Billy Graham: The Man I Knew.

“People need to know about this man who was called by God to be the greatest evangelist in history.”

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A New Beginning is the daily half-hour program hosted by Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California. For over 30 years, Pastor Greg and Harvest Ministries have endeavored to know God and make Him known through media and large-scale evangelism. This podcast is supported by the generosity of our Harvest Partners.

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The following message from Pastor Greg Laurie is made possible by some special friends of this ministry. Pastor Greg? I wanted to say a special word of thanks to the Harvest Partners who make this ministry possible. Next time you're online, check out Pastor Greg's personal blog.

Go to harvest.org. Billy said to me many times, I'm just a country preacher, but God elevated him. And I remember he just looked at the crowd and said, God loves you. And when he spoke, those kids listened.

You could have heard a pin drop. Coming up today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie relates some fascinating insights based on his brand new book, Billy Graham, The Man I Knew. People need to know about this man who was called by God to be the greatest evangelist in history. This is the day when the lost are found. This is the day for a new beginning. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. Again you hear when the angels are singing.

This is the day, the day when life begins. Well, Pastor Greg, I hold in my hands your brand new book called Billy Graham, The Man I Knew. Loved the book.

One of your best, by the way. Oh, thanks. And I'm going to flip all the way back to the back of the book, the second paragraph of the chapter you call Acknowledgements. And I find this fascinating. Here's what you write. You say, my collaborator, Marshall Terrell, and I have consulted a veritable library of Graham books, articles, periodicals, YouTube videos, and thousands of documents on the internet, including the 1,004-page file the FBI kept on Billy.

Research reached as far back as the Civil War. Yeah. Oh, my goodness. This book contains dimensions of Billy's life and background, which have never been explored anywhere before. That part I found absolutely fascinating, the fact that you have – I mean, you knew Billy. It says so in the title, Billy Graham, The Man I Knew. Yes. But you have dug so deeply into giving us such a rich biography on the man that you call the single greatest evangelist who ever lived.

That's right. Well, I want people to understand his place in history. He's truly a historical figure along the lines of our great presidents and people that impacted our country and even people that impacted our world. And so we wanted to go back to Billy's roots, his father, his grandfather, his great-grandfather. So we tell the story with a wide overview, but then we go in deeply into his life.

And what I wanted to do, Dave, was show the human side of Billy. You know, sometimes a person can fade into history and people never really had any interaction with him, and they almost become one-dimensional, like President Lincoln on the $5 bill. But he was a real flesh-and-blood guy, Abraham Lincoln, and so was Billy Graham. And it was my privilege to spend a lot of time with him, a lot of time just hanging out with him, a lot of time asking him questions, a lot of time listening to him preach.

And I got to know him, dare I say, as a friend. And he was just such a great man to observe. You know, the private Billy was even more impressive than the public Billy. And the public Billy was very impressive. I mean, I can't think of a greater preacher I've ever seen. But privately, he was very humble, very gracious, and always was interested in whoever he was speaking to.

They might be a famous person, like a president, and they might be somebody you've never heard of before. Billy took an interest in people in general and had a wonderful way about him. And every time I was with him, I almost had to pinch myself.

I mean, I was with him a lot, so it wasn't like every time I was with him I had butterflies in my stomach or something like that. But I never stopped realizing, this is Billy Graham I'm hanging out with here and talking to. And it was great to access him and hear things from him and share things with him and be of some small help to him in the final years of his ministry. As Billy was ending his ministry, I was starting my Crusade ministry. And he asked me to assist him with illustrations and building bridges to younger audiences.

So I love doing that. In fact, I found more pleasure in prepping a message for Billy Graham than I found in prepping one for myself. And when Billy actually used some of the material I gave him, it was just like one of the greatest moments of my life. Oh yeah, I'll bet. Well, near the start of the book, you describe when Billy himself came to the Lord through the preaching of a country evangelist named Mordecai Ham.

Yes. What a great name, Mordecai Ham. And you mentioned that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association still has the decision card that Billy completed that night he made a commitment. That's a real piece of history.

Yeah, it really is. They not only have that decision card, but they have a whole building called the Billy Graham Library. And if anyone is ever in North Carolina, in Charlotte, you really should go visit it. You know, presidents have their libraries, but this is amazing because it's like an interactive place to go to. There's incredible exhibits. They take you through his life from his childhood growing up on the dairy farm along with his brother Melvin. They have Billy in this tent, revival days, and then on through all of the things that he did around the world.

And it presents the gospel as you walk through. And there's places where you can see the Bible he used, his briefcase, and yes, that decision card of when a very young Billy Frank walked forward at the invitation of evangelist Mordecai Ham, who had set up his tent there in Charlotte, North Carolina. And who could have ever thought that that lanky farm boy would go on to be not only the greatest evangelist of his lifetime, but in my opinion, the greatest evangelist in history. And you know, Billy said to me many times and in interviews as well, I'm just a country preacher.

Understand, that was not false humility. That was Billy just telling the truth. He was just a country preacher, but God elevated him.

I remember that he used the illustration, if you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he didn't get there by himself. And Billy was the first to acknowledge that God placed him in the place that he was in. And God gave him special gifts that were unique. And he had this ability to connect with people. And it was throughout his entire life in ministry. From the early, passionate, fiery Billy preaching for the youth for Christ, and then it is crusade in the tent there in Los Angeles that launched him into a global ministry.

To the older Billy, elder statesman Billy, and finally the lion in winter, if you will, the grandfatherly Billy. And he always connected with this audience. I can think of times I was with him. I was with him in Atlanta, Georgia, and he did a crusade there. In fact, he introduced me to Jimmy Carter, former president at that point. And that's kind of an interesting thing to be introduced to Jimmy Carter by Billy Graham, but that's exactly what happened.

But Billy was quite a bit older at that point. And they started doing these youth nights where they were using contemporary Christian bands, which was sort of a departure from the tradition of the Graham Crusade. And some of the team members weren't all that thrilled about it. I thought it was a great move. And he had packed, you know, events, thousands of young people.

What I found fascinating is these great bands would play like DC Talk or an artist like Michael W. Smith. But when Billy walked out there, and by the way, dressed in his suit, not changing the way he dressed, not trying to be Mr. Cool, he was the coolest of Cool because he was him. He was an authentic Billy Graham, and he walked out there. He got the greatest applause of the night. And when he spoke, those kids listened.

You could have heard a pin drop. So he had this ability to connect from the beginning to the middle to the end of his ministry. I remember seeing him in New York at his final crusade and flushing meadows there. And I remember he just looked at the crowd and said, God loves you. And then he would turn to another part of the crowd and say, God loves you. And it wasn't as intricate as his early messages. But in its simplicity, maybe it was even more powerful because he lived what he preached. There weren't two Billy Grahams. He was the same in private that he was in public, and he was the godliest man I've ever met. Yeah, yeah. Well, I know our listeners are going to want to get a copy of this brand new book, again called Billy Graham, the Man I Knew.

And it's available right now at harvest.org. You know, Pastor Greg, I really enjoyed reading about Billy's early days preaching and how sometimes it didn't go all that well. And you've said you had a few times when you first started that didn't exactly make the highlight real. What would you say to a young person listening who feels called to preach and teach, but, you know, they're wondering if they have what it takes? Well, I would say I think of the words of the Lord to Moses, who had something of a speech impediment and tried to get out of being called to represent him. And the Lord said, I'll be with you. And I think, you know, you just have to take steps of faith and be willing to leave your comfort zone to let God use you.

And nobody starts out perfectly. And Billy had his hardships and challenges and difficulties. One time he got up to speak and pretty much took every sermon he had ever come up with and give them all in one time, and it was over within like nine minutes. And it reminds me of one of the times I spoke in front of Billy, they asked me to be on his board of directors. And I was there at a table, and there sat Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows and other legends of the Graham team, and they asked me to do a little devotion.

And all I remember is going into an altered state of consciousness. I mean, here I've stood in stadiums and preached to thousands of people, but I've never been more intimidated than I was speaking in front of Billy Graham himself. And he was very affirming and very encouraging, but he was Billy Graham.

And when I was starting out, I made a lot of mistakes. One thing I've talked about, people who've listened to our radio program know, is I was speaking one of the first times out of Ephesians 6. And I was speaking from the King James Version. So I was talking about the fiery darts of the wicked one. To beware of them, and instead of saying the fiery darts of the wicked one, I said the diary farts of the wicked one.

Kind of hard to recover from that. Everyone laughed and didn't remember anything else they said that night. And a lot of people say they were there to hear it, and I don't think they were all there.

But anyway, that one has kind of lived in time. Another time I was speaking, and I gave an entire message, and it was at the end, it was an evangelistic message, and I said, let's pee. I mean, to say let's pray, I said let's pee. I just prayed really fast, I can't believe I just said that so badly, you know. And it's not like radio where we can edit it, it was sad. So look, when you're starting out serving the Lord, if you're a preacher or just sharing your faith, you're going to make mistakes, but that's okay.

You know, just give it your best shot, and learn from your mistakes, and press on. And that's what Billy did, and in fact he became a brilliant orator, the master communicator. But he never lost touch with who he was, a farm boy from North Carolina. And God raised him up to be the greatest evangelist, not only of his lifetime, but in my opinion, the greatest evangelist in human history. So that's why I wanted to write a book about him, and it's called Billy Graham, The Man That I Knew.

By the way, that title came from Franklin Graham. I've written other books on people you may have heard of, like Steve McQueen and Johnny Cash. I wrote a book called Steve McQueen, The Salvation of an American Icon. I wrote another book called Johnny Cash, The Redemption of an American Icon. So it was my intention to call this book Billy Graham, The Making of an American Icon. Franklin said to me, Daddy would not want to be called an icon.

I said, really? He says, no, you shouldn't call it that. You should instead call it Billy Graham, The Man That I Knew. And I said, that's a good title.

So we had already done the cover art, and it was on its way, and we redesigned it, and were able to change it to this title. And he was a man I knew, and I got to know him well, and he never disappointed me. And that's quite a thing to say, but it actually is true.

Yeah, yeah, and it's good to hear that too. And his character really does come out in the book. If you would, take a moment to describe the time you got a call late one night from Dennis Aghajanian. And he was doing his imitation of Billy.

Right. Well, Dennis and I have been friends for years. Dennis is a musician, amazing guitar player, and a friend of Franklin Graham, and worked with the Billy Graham team for years as well. So I was back in North Carolina at a Billy Graham board meeting, and so we had dinner that night. And I said to Billy, Billy, if there's anything I can do for you, preparing sermons or whatever, let me know what you need, and I'll work on it. Billy said, okay, thank you. Then I went back to my room that night, and I got a call.

It's late, like 10 o'clock. So that was Dennis. He would always call and say, how did it go tonight? How was Billy doing? So he called, and he did an amazing Billy Graham imitation.

And so Dennis calls, and he says, hello, Greg, this is Billy Graham. And I was thinking about what you said to me tonight. I know it's not Billy, so I'm like actually watching TV, and I'm flipping the channels, you know, like you do.

I'm flipping the channels. And he said, right, right. And I think, and whatever he was saying, I'm saying, uh-huh, uh-huh, yeah, whatever, Billy. You know, just, because I know it's Dennis, I'm waiting for him to say, Greg, it's Dennis.

And he goes on, and then Dennis says, and I was thinking about what you said tonight, and I'd like your help. And then I thought for a moment, wait, I didn't tell Dennis I said that to Billy. Then it done to me, this is Billy Graham.

And I'm blowing him off, right. Oh, I said, oh, excuse me, Billy, yes, how can I help you? And I realized that I was like ignoring Billy Graham, which is kind of a crazy thing.

But that's exactly what I was doing. You know, another funny thing that happened, you know, Franklin is quite the prankster. So I had a photo of Billy that I had printed out, and I got him one of those cool like silver metallic pens, because I wanted him to sign it. So I took it back when I was going to see him, and Billy very graciously signed it. And I rolled it up in one of those tubes, you know. And I had it in my hotel room. And as it turns out, the maid picked up the tube thinking it was trash and threw it in the dumpster.

I just about had a heart attack. I went and found the dumpster, clawed my way through it, found it, put it back in my room. So then Franklin says, come on up to Daddy's room. You know, so I go up there and there's Billy and Franklin. And then Franklin says, Daddy, you know that picture you signed of yourself and gave to Greg?

And Billy says, yes. Franklin says, Greg threw it away. And I said, no, I didn't throw it away. The maid threw it away. No, Daddy, he threw it away. Billy's kind of smiling, and I thought to myself, they're in this together.

They're working together, right. I realized, so I just took the, and I said, look, I didn't throw it away. I went and found it, and I explained it, and we all had a laugh. But, you know, he was just a great guy to be around. And he took his message very seriously, but he never took himself too seriously.

And it was always just a joy to be with him, and there were so many memorable conversations and moments that are with me forever. And I wanted to put him down in this book so other people could hear these stories, because this humanizes him. And what I mean by that is there's been many books written about Billy, and rightly so.

But sometimes they're maybe a little more academically oriented, or they're giving you a complete history. I did not feel the need to write that book. It's been written. This is a personal book.

I'm talking about my interaction with him, what I saw. And I am an evangelist, and Billy was the master evangelist, so it's an evangelist writing about an evangelist. There's a lot of insights here for everyone, but I think this would be a really helpful book for anyone who loves to preach. If you're a pastor, if you're an evangelist, there's a lot of takeaway truths I learned from Billy, and I share in this book that will help you to be a better communicator of the gospel.

Yeah, that's right. And the book Billy Graham, The Man I Knew is available right now at our website, Harvest.org. You mentioned Franklin a moment ago, Billy's son, longtime friend of yours. And Franklin is a pilot, a private pilot. And I understand he took you up in his small plane one time.

Yeah. Do you remember anything special about that flight? Yeah, you don't forget a flight like that. It was a very small plane, and Franklin said, you want to go fly with me?

I said, okay. So I got on the plane, just two seats, he's flying it, I'm shotgun. We take off, and immediately he begins a rapid descent. I mean, my stomach came up.

I'm terrified. Down, up, he pulls it up, and we go down again, and he's flying like a crazy man. And I'm like, I would have given anything to get off of that plane. So then he says to me, you want to fly over Daddy's house?

And I said, oh, okay. So we come swooping over the home of Billy Graham, and he let Billy know that he was coming. So Billy and Ruth are down on their front lawn, and we got down close enough where we could actually see them and make them out. And they're standing next to each other, waving at us in the air, and I thought I would give anything to be down there with them instead of up in this cockpit with this crazy man. But we landed, and then the next time Franklin said, do you want to fly with me? I was like, maybe another time.

He's actually a very good pilot, but he was just having some fun at my expense. Well, you've actually been to Billy and Ruth Graham's home several times, haven't you? Many times, yes.

It's in Montreat, North Carolina, which is right outside of Asheville. And I always felt like going to his home was better than going to the White House. I've been to the White House quite a few times. I've had the privilege of standing in the Oval Office twice, praying for the president on both of those occasions.

That's a great honor. But I was more excited to go to the home of Billy Graham. It's a log home. Ruth found all kinds of old wood from barns and other things to use to build it. It had her decorating touch throughout it. It was a humble home.

Some of the furniture was a bit threadbare. It was a lived-in home. It was a real place. And they had a fireplace with a mantle, and carved in wood were the words, A mighty fortress is our God, in German. And it was a massive fireplace.

And I would just sit there in front of that fireplace, and there's books laying around, and you open it up, and one is autographed by Golda Meir, and here's another book autographed by Muhammad Ali. These are people Billy interacted with, some of whom came to his home there in Montreat. Many presidents came to visit him there. President Obama, toward the end of his term as president, went to visit Billy at Montreat. And Billy just built friendships and bridges to these people, and shared the gospel with them.

But, you know, even to sit down and have a meal. Ruth would go into the kitchen, and she had a sign hanging over her sink that said, Divine Service Done Here Three Times a Day. They had a doormat when you walked up to the front door that said, Not You Again! Which that was Ruth's humor. She was very funny, very quick to laugh. She was in every way Billy's equal.

I enjoyed being with her as much as I enjoyed being with him. You know, I was always a little bit, honestly, intimidated by Billy. I tried to be myself around him, but he was Billy Graham. Wherewith Ruth, I felt very comfortable, and I would joke more, and she had such great insights, and so many wonderful things to say. Once sitting in their home in Montreat, I was just starting my evangelistic ministry, and I said, Oh, Ruth, these doors are opening up, you know, to preach the gospel in stadiums, and I think I need to really brush up more of my apologetics now, and she said, Greg, you just preached the gospel. That's what Bill always did. She called him Bill on that occasion. And I remembered that, not like I don't need to know my apologetics, but she reminded me of what my real mission was, and by the way, she was a great cook, and the food was fantastic, and it was just so much fun being with them in that environment with their animals.

They had a few German shepherds, and you know, I just savored every moment of it, and those are some of the greatest moments of my life, actually. Well, today, here on a special edition of A New Beginning, we're talking with Pastor Greg about his new book, Billy Graham, The Man I Knew, available at Harvest.org. You know, Pastor Greg, I was thinking the other day about what day-to-day life must be like for a major A-list movie star. You know, they just can't go to the grocery store or walk through the mall.

You know, it would turn into a crowd control problem. Well, Billy Graham was as recognizable as any movie star and more well-respected. Could he do everyday things? You know, could he drive through McDonald's? Well, he would, and he really would be out and about.

He didn't have a security team around him. He was just Billy, maybe of one friend with him. But, you know, he was recognized wherever he went.

I mean, his profile could have been on Mount Rushmore, such a familiar face, sort of chiseled, you know, incredible. And so, I was with him once at the Red Lobster, having lunch, and so he had a ball cap on, I guess, thinking that would disguise him. And the funny thing is, there was an atheist convention going on at the same time as Billy was holding his crusade in this town, and there were people coming up to him that were attending an atheist convention.

I know, because they had the little ID tag still to be in the convention, but they were thrilled to meet Billy, and he was so gracious to every one of them. Well, anyway, so he had this hat, and he lost it. And then he said to me, Greg, could you get me another hat?

I said, absolutely. So I went down to the local mall like I was on a mission from God, I'm getting a hat for Billy Graham. Now, Billy basically wore ball caps, and so I think I found this store, I think it was called Lids, maybe, but it was, I walked in, it was, oh my goodness, there were too many hats.

There was so many hats to choose from. And then I didn't take the time to find out his hat size. And so I looked and looked, I even prayed, God, help me find the right hat for Billy Graham, my goodness, and I finally chose one. I don't even remember what size it was or what it looked like, and I went back to the hotel and gave it to him, he thanked me and wore it. Then the next day, I opened the paper, and there's a photograph of Billy wearing the hat. I said, I got him that hat, that's the hat I got him. And then I think he misplaced that shortly afterwards.

I think he lost hats quite frequently. And I don't really know if they did that much good, because people seem to recognize him no matter what. You mention in the book that this is an evangelist's view of the life of the greatest evangelist in history. And there are great takeaways for all of us in learning about Billy's life.

But what are a couple of the takeaways for you as an evangelist? Yeah, well, I observed Billy very carefully. You know, when he was on the platform, I would be sitting up there and I could watch him. And I watched him as he gave the invitation and thousands of people would come forward to accept Christ. And I asked him after, Billy, what are you personally experiencing physically when you give an invitation? And his response was, I feel like power is going out on me.

And I understand that, because I've stood on stages in stadiums and arenas and seen many people come forward. And you're in a definite time of spiritual warfare. The devil really attacks those who are called to present the gospel. And I think one of Billy's secrets was he didn't take himself too seriously. He took his message very seriously. But he was really a genuinely humble guy.

I think of one occasion, I was with him in Portland, Oregon, and he had preached that night at the Crusade and it was a powerful night. Johnny Cash had actually played that night as well. And so we're leaving the stadium and there are people lined up on each side being held back by these ropes and some security and people just, Billy, Billy! And it was like Moses was walking through. And I was walking next to him and then we got in the car and we're driving out. And so his longtime friend and associate, T.W. Wilson, is at the wheel. I'm riding shotgun. In the back seat is Billy and his son, Franklin. So I thought I want to compliment Billy. So I turned around and said, Billy, that was a great message tonight. And he looked at me with those steely blue eyes and he said, well, it's just gospel. I turned back around and I thought, well, I know it's just gospel.

That's clear. And then I thought of something else, something he had said in particular, and I turned back around and said, Billy, I love that point when you said Christ can resensitize your conscience. And he looked at me and said, well, he can. I thought, okay, whatever. So I turned back around. I'm not seeing anything else. But I was learning something. And what I was learning was, you know, some people have just, oh, wasn't that great tonight?

And how did I do? And none of that. He didn't even want to talk about it. It was done.

All the accolades, all the adulation, he was moving on and it was behind him. And then we went back to his hotel and somebody had given us these cold barbecue sandwiches, barbecue beef sandwiches to eat. They were hot when they were given to us, but cold by the time the crusade was over. So we went up to his room to eat these cold sandwiches. And Billy disappears and comes back out in his pajamas and his dress shoes.

I guess he forgot his slippers. So I'm sitting there in his room, Billy in his pajamas, TW is telling some jokes, we're laughing, we're having a good time. And I was learning. See, I was learning that, you know, when you have these moments where you're used by God and people come to faith, that's great. But, you know, now you gotta get back to normal life.

And that's something I actually put into practice in our own crusades. It's like afterwards I don't want some big party and go out with a bunch of people. I just go back to normalcy.

Like I'm gonna go back and maybe hang out with my grandkids or do something normal-ish. Because it's kind of an altered state of reality to be on a stage in front of a lot of people and have the Lord work through you in that way. And you want to remember to continue to give God the glory.

It's not you, it's him. And I think that's something Billy understood from the beginning to the end of his ministry. He would often say, I'm just a country preacher. And I would say, well, Billy, you're the greatest country preacher I've ever heard. But he really was in his heart, just still that young farm boy from Charlotte, North Carolina that used to milk cows and didn't enjoy it all that much.

But, you know, God called him. And so he maintained his humility and he came through all of this with his integrity intact. And isn't that something we need to hear in this time when we're hearing of stories of people who are in Christian leadership failing morally in other areas? It's good to know that we have a guy that, he lived the life, he was the same guy in private that he was in public. So this is a book that will give you insights into Billy. It'll show you the funny side of Billy. It'll show you things that maybe you've not seen in other books and it was my honor to write it and it's called Billy Graham, the man that I knew. Yeah, let me read something from the book. You write this, the two most important moments in a person's life are when they're born and when they realize what they are born for.

Yes. Over and over we see evidence of what Billy was born for. Do you help us discover what we're born for in this new book?

Right, yes, of course, because, you know, God has a plan for each of our lives. Now Billy wanted to be a professional baseball player. That's what he aspired to. He was a dairy farmer. If he would have followed the trajectory that his life would have taken, he would have gone on perhaps to inherit the dairy.

The grandmother's dairy, you know, so he would have had a successful, happy life on the farm there in Charlotte, North Carolina. But after he accepted Christ at the revival meetings of evangelist Mordecai Ham, a calling came on Billy's life and he was resistant to it at first. He didn't aspire to be a preacher.

He was a fun-loving, normal young man who, as I said, wanted to go play baseball. But God put a call on his life. And God puts a call on everybody's life. We're not all called to be preachers. Certainly we're not all called to impact the world like Billy Graham did, but we are all called to preach the gospel. And we are all called to impact our world. You know, when we hear the great commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel, we can personalize it and just simply say we need to go into all of our world and preach the gospel. So in this book that I've written on the life of Billy called Billy Graham the Man That I Knew, I show how the Lord directed him, how the Lord called him, and I describe in detail the amazing changes that happened in his life.

And he wanted to go one way and the Lord led him another way and how God was in control of his life from beginning to end and how the Lord will do that for you as well. I'm hoping that this book will introduce Billy to a whole new generation, especially of young people that don't really know Billy. They weren't raising Billy on television all the time.

They never went in person to a Billy Graham crusade. So I'm doing my best to bring this story in an understandable, relatable way to you. I show his humor, I show his humanness, I show some of his vulnerabilities, and you'll only love and appreciate him more after you've read it because he was the same guy in private that he was in public. There were not two Billy Grahams. He was the real deal.

And that's why I decided to write a book about Billy Graham because people need to know about this man who was called by God to be the greatest evangelist in history. Well, Billy passed away in 2018. The news wasn't unexpected, given his age, but nevertheless, it was news we all felt. It hurt to hear that. Do you remember where you were when you heard that Billy had gone home?

Yes, I was actually in Israel, and I was on a little tour with some fellow pastors. In fact, Sissy Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of Billy, was with us on that trip, and she heard the news differently than everyone else. We all lost a hero, someone we looked up to. She lost her grandfather, and she was very close to him.

And we were all very sad. Now, Billy was 99 years old, so he lived a very long life, but yet, you know, it was the end of an era, and so there was great sadness and losing him because I just feel like we need another Billy Graham right now in our world, you know, a man who's a pastor to presidents regardless of what side of the political aisle they're on, a man who can speak to us during cultural moments. I mean, Billy was there after 9-11 speaking to the nation, really being a chaplain to America, and he played such a valuable role in, of course, the great evangelist. But, so yeah, I remember the day very distinctly, and then I attended his memorial service that was held a bit later back at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. They put a tent up in tribute to the fact that he started his ministry in a tent.

It just turned out that that was one of the coldest days ever in North Carolina, and the wind whipped through that tent, the president came, he had the presidential limo called the Beast Idling right there. He didn't get up and say a word, he was just there paying his tribute to Billy Graham. The vice president was there, many other people you've all heard of, and just about every pastor I've ever met. In fact, as I walked around and looked at the diversity of people that were there, people from every denominational background, every kind of theological background, I thought, wow, this is what Heaven's gonna look like if we like it or not.

You know, we're gonna be there because we believed in Jesus, and we believed he died on the cross for our sins and rose again from the dead, but these are people that would not normally hang around each other. But even in his funeral service, it was a reminder of the bridges he built to so many people in the Christian world, and so many came from around the world to pay tribute to the great evangelist. And in fact, when his library was dedicated, President Jimmy Carter, President George H.W.

Bush were there in person, as was President Clinton. So that alone shows you how he reached people on both sides of the aisle, and he was loved and appreciated by these presidents that valued his counsel because Billy kept it confidential, and he would rarely reveal something about a president. I asked him lots of questions. What was it like when you were with this person?

What did they say? He kept it confidential. He did tell me one amazing story, though, about President John F. Kennedy. I asked him if he had any regrets in life, and he said, yes, I do, and he told me the story of how he was at the prayer breakfast there in Washington, D.C., and the president will always be in attendance, and President Kennedy was there. Billy spoke, and after it was over with, the president said, Billy, I would like you to ride with me back to the White House. I have something I want to talk to you about. Well, Billy was very sick, and he said, Mr. President, I'm afraid I'm going to have to decline.

I don't want to get you sick, but maybe I could talk to you as soon as I'm over this sickness, and President Kennedy agreed, and then only days after that, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. And Billy always regretted that, because he wondered, what did the president want to talk to me about? But he would keep these conversations in confidence, and I think that's why people trusted him so much and wanted to share their heart with him, knowing that he would give them good counsel. And I do write about his relationships with presidents, and it's fascinating. His relationship with President Johnson is really surprising. They had a very close friendship. They were both Southerners, you know, so they connected on that level. He was very close to President Reagan as well, not as close to President Carter, but it continued with the Bush family, George H.W.

Bush. He really played a role in George W. Bush coming to Christ, and then fast-forwarding, he was very close to Bill Clinton and Hillary as well, and they admired him. In fact, Bill and Hillary came to his final crusade, and some people get very upset because they're so partisan these days, and how dare you be with those people?

What are you talking about? You know, Jesus spent time with all kinds of people. He was called critically, I might add, the friend of sinners. Billy built bridges to people, and he always shared the gospel, and he always emulated Christ, and I think we can learn from his example. So I write about that and a lot more in this new book I've written called Billy Graham, the Man I Knew.

Yeah, and you can get a copy from us by going to harvest.org. You know, Pastor Greg, you've thought a lot about his life as you've written this book. If he could be here with us right now, you know, for just a few minutes, what would you ask him?

Wow, that's a good question. Well, I remember when I asked him when I had the opportunity, I was in his home in Montreat, North Carolina, and I said, Billy, if an older Billy could speak to a younger Billy, what would he say? And really without missing a beat, Billy said, I would tell myself to preach more on the cross of Christ and the blood of Christ because that's where the power is.

And that was something he lived by throughout his entire life. As far as what I would ask Billy today, well, of course, if he was with us back from the other side, I would want to know a lot about the afterlife. So, Billy, what's heaven like?

And, you know, what happened up there? But I think I would just tell him how much I appreciated him. I did tell him that. When I spoke with him for the last time, I told him I loved him. He told me he loved me.

I don't say that to people lightly, by the way. And so this, I had those opportunities to have final conversations with him. But I'd probably just say, you know, you're gonna be loved beyond the time you were on this earth, and your legacy will live on. And I want to just say to you, thank you for being a good example, not only a great preacher, but thank you for being a good example and a good model of what it means to be a real Christian. Yeah, yeah, that's so good. And that spirit is reflected throughout the book.

It's a fascinating read. And we hope you'll get your own copy of this new book, Billy Graham, The Man I Knew. We're making it available to thank you for your investment in the work of this ministry.

God is touching lives and changing lives through this outreach and the teaching and preaching of the gospel. So to get your copy of Billy Graham, The Man I Knew, from Pastor Greg Laurie, write us at A New Beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, California, 92514. Or call 1-800-821-3300. That's 1-800-821-3300.

Or go online to Harvest.org. Well, next time, join us for some powerful insight as Pastor Greg helps us focus our perspective on eternity. Join us here on A New Beginning with Pastor Greg Laurie. This is the day, the day when life begins. The preceding message from Greg Laurie was made possible by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God. Sign up for Pastor Greg's free daily email devotions at harvest.org.
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