Seventy (70) years ago in 1947, Billy Graham’s first Crusade was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan from September 13 – September 21, 1947. Six thousand people came to hear Mr. Graham preach – five hundred of those inquired about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Only God knew that this first Crusade would be the beginning of Billy Graham’s lifetime of evangelism ministry to the world.
Sixty (60) years ago on May 15, 1957, New York City Crusade meetings began in Madison Square Garden and continued for an unprecedented 16 weeks. During those 16 weeks, approximately 2.4 million attended the meetings and some 60,000 made decisions to follow Christ. But, that Crusade just doesn’t happen overnight. It took much prayer and deep commitment to serve God with love, grace and mercy to all who attended the services.
Four days later on May 19, 1957, The New York Times Newspaper reported the text of Billy Graham’s opening sermon in Madison Square Garden. It was the main story of the day. The Sermon was entitled “The Christian Answer to the World Dilemma.” .
During this Crusade, George Beverly Shea sang one of my favorite songs every night for six weeks: “How Great Thou Art.” The lyrics to How Great Thou Art were written by Carl Boberg in Sweden in 1885. The song is traced to England and George Beverly Shea, who recently passed on to glory at the age of 102, can sing it like no other person as far as I am concerned. In many of the Billy Graham Crusades, probably in almost all, George would stand and sing “How Great Thou Art.”
Frequently, especially every stormy season, when the dark clouds gather and lightening streaks across the sky and the sound of thunder follows, I think of this song and often stop to listen to the approaching storm with tears flowing down my face knowing God is very much alive, eternally established and seated on His throne watching over me. This is amplified in my spirit when I hear the deep rumble of thunder in the distance, getting louder as the storm approaches. Then it begins to gently rain and sometimes it begins to fall as if the heavens are alive and I love the sound of fresh, life giving water being poured out upon the ground.
Today, my friends, we are dry and need spiritual rain to soften the hard ground in our hearts. Life giving spiritual rain is needed to create new life that will spring up in dry souls (like dead grass renewed by rain) and new life with strong spiritual roots in our spirit (like plants drinking up water) that will burst forth with new healthy spiritual growth and beauty.
I believe all the beauty of abundant green grass, thriving elegant plants and trees and delightful, magnificently graceful flowers with artistic splendor have been given by God to make us mindful of His excellence and majesty and to give us an understanding of how much our soul and spirit require and depend upon the presence of the Holy Spirit in our life.
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.
And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!
I remember as a young man listening to the radio as Reverend Graham would deliver his message, my spirit would be stirred within me. The hair seemed to stand up on the back of my neck as I listened to George sing and Billy preach with authority as if God was standing right beside him, speaking the words flowing out of Reverend Graham’s mouth. I sensed the power of God as he preached the Cross, the powerful bodily Resurrection of Christ on the 3rd day and His coming again in glory to receive those who have been born-again to be with Him in heaven.
My heart is always touched when I hear that great old hymn “How Great Thou Art.” Nature, if one keenly observes and listens, eloquently gives us one of the best sermons about God, His existence and His majesty.
I truly believe God desires to send a revival that this generation has never seen if we will humble our flesh, turn from our sinful ways, stop our criticism and seek His face. If we will, and this is my prayer, I believe a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit will begin to be mighty poured upon those who faithfully, continually and passionately ask God for spiritual rain for softening of hearts and renewed fervor for prayer and worship.
Love you all, Sam