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November 7th, 2013
06:08 PM ET

Billy Graham turns 95 at star-studded birthday

By Phil Gast, CNN

(CNN) - The Rev. Billy Graham took people to church, perhaps for the last time, as hundreds joined the iconic evangelist Thursday evening for his 95th birthday.

A guest list that included former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Rev. Rick Warren and businessmen Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump came to pay tribute to a man beloved for his humility and faithfulness.

Because the frail Graham no longer has the strength to speak behind a lectern, his enduring message of salvation through Jesus Christ came in the form of "The Cross," a 30-minute DVD that made its debut at the celebration.

"He is my spiritual hero," said entertainer Ricky Skaggs shortly before the celebration began at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. "He exemplifies brokenness and humility."

Graham, in a wheelchair, entered the room to a standing ovation. Although he did not give a formal speech, he later made impromptu remarks from his table, thanking family and friends.

"The Cross" was filmed in part this year at Graham's remote mountaintop home in Montreat, east of Asheville.

His hearing and eyesight have dimmed, but Graham has remained true to his familiar themes.

"Our country is in great need of a spiritual awakening. There have been times that I have wept as I have gone from city to city and I have seen how far people have wandered from God," the pastor said in what is expected to be his final video production. "Of all the things I have seen and heard, there is only one message that can change people's lives and hearts."

That message, as billions around the world have heard for more than six decades, is salvation and the need to live a new life because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

Graham has provided counsel to generations of U.S. presidents beginning with Harry S. Truman. Staging revivals that he called "crusades" around the world, the founder of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has reached untold millions of people in person.

In the video, Graham said when he was young he did not foresee speaking to large audiences.

"As I look back over my life, it is full of surprises. I never thought I would become friends with people in different countries all over the world," he said.

Singers Lecrae and Lacey Sturm also are featured in the video, which can be watched online and will be played in churches across the country. It is part of the "My Hope America with Billy Graham" series. The production included recorded sermons and footage of a younger Graham.

Skaggs, singer Michael W. Smith and TV host Kathie Lee Gifford were among those leading the singing of "Happy Birthday" to Graham. About 850 well-wishers were on hand at the resort inn.

Palin told Graham that his Christian message is needed for a "great awakening" the nation and world need.

Graham is a member of the Rev. Don Wilton's church, Spartanburg  First Baptist in South Carolina, and he still watches Wilton's sermons on TV.

"He'll look at me and say, 'Don, let's talk about that second point you had on Sunday,'" said Wilton, who drives up at least once a week to Graham's home.

"My favorite part is when he puts his hands on me and prays with me," Wilton told CNN affiliate WYFF in Greenville, South Carolina.

Graham, a Charlotte native, began his missionary work in 1944 when he started speaking at rallies for the Youth for Christ/Campus Life ministry. Five years later, Graham was holding a "crusade" in tents in downtown Los Angeles.

Cliff Barrows was with Graham in the early years and for decades has served as music and program director.

Barrows, 90, turned to his boss on Thursday evening, paying an emotional tribute.

"I praise God for the journey we have had together. Thank you with all my heart for the privilege. Happy birthday."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Billy Graham • Christianity • evangelicals • Leaders • Protestant • Sarah Palin

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soundoff (713 Responses)
  1. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    The cross and things even worse have been the way many people of God and faith, and many people who have gotten in the way of God and faith, have come to an end. None of those people have ever been anything other than victims of hate. The people who believe in atoning sacrifice also believe in a God that is said to have said that it does not want sacrifice: "I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent." (Jesus quoting Hosea). If you must believe, try to lose the contradictions- and your obscene atonement theology.

    November 8, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  2. JJ

    Did Billy put Mormonism back on the cult list now that Romney is no longer useful? If so, I never got the memo.

    November 8, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  3. snowboarder

    i will never understand why people follow this shyster.

    November 8, 2013 at 8:55 am |
  4. Kay

    The rants and hatefulness against this great man and all Christians comes from the clueless. You truly don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about. In spite of it, God does still love you.

    November 8, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • lol??

      Through the lens of His Son. Otherwise they're just plain ol' children of wrath.

      November 8, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • richunix

      Kay,

      We have many CLUES to follow like about your deity’s YAHWEH and His wife Ashwer along with Ball and El ( All named in your Bible). These are Canaanite Gods of old, transformed by in the Jewish belief continued in the Christian ideology. These claims have been substantiated by archeological evidence of upper Israel and lower Lebanon.

      Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      November 8, 2013 at 9:00 am |
      • lol??

        Theories magically morph into scientific facts if they get a big enuff vote from the mob in power at the time of ballot casting. Subject to revision, of course.

        November 8, 2013 at 9:16 am |
        • G to the T

          And you assume your own faith was immune?

          November 8, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Sara

      Your "great man" fought tooth and nail to keep my marriage from being legal, an act that has real life implications for healthcare, employment, estate law, court legal protections and immigration, the very ability to be with someone you love. So your "great man" represents a good deal of evil for many, many of us who have been directly hurt by his acts.

      November 8, 2013 at 9:06 am |
      • Kay

        My prayer list keeps getting longer. Have a wonderful day.

        November 8, 2013 at 9:17 am |
        • Sara

          Whatever keeps you off the street and out of trouble.

          November 8, 2013 at 9:18 am |
      • lol??

        Churches and gubmints are not in charge of joining. Better get it right.

        November 8, 2013 at 9:18 am |
      • lol??

        Gen 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

        The numerical designation of this passage makes it easy to remember. 12 apostles, triune God

        November 8, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • sybaris

      which god?

      November 8, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  5. Honey Badger Don't Care

    Honey Badger Don't Care
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    When is this bigoted a hole going to kick?

    Just asking a simple question.

    November 8, 2013 at 8:48 am |
  6. Nilsa Barreto

    Rev. Billy Graham. I love you so dearly! I was raised watching you on television and it was a holy time to sit there with family and not say a word as we listened to God's message through you. I have also seen you as the "Samuel" of our time. I pray that I can be as faithful to God as you have always been. Your life has demonstrated such humbleness and wisdom that can only come from Jesus, our Lord and God, our Saviour. Happy Birthday to a true man of God that has brought the presence of God in our midst even into the 21st Century. I love you dearly and respectfully. Blessings to your physical and spiritual health.

    November 8, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  7. Just a Christian

    I want to wish a happy 95 birthday to Rev. Graham. I respect Rev. Graham since he is a sinner just as I am who has simply decided to live for Christ. I am happy to have given my life to Chirst at a young age. I hold a doctorate degree ( proof to some that, in spite of being a Christian, I might not be that stupid ), but I still strongly believe in God's love for me and I teach my children to follow God and to live for Christ. I love science and so do my children. For those of you who do not believe in God, I strongly disagree with your views but respect your choice and understand that some of you are in that stage in life. God can reveal himself to you at his own timing. The belief in God and science can co-exist. Being an Atheist and respecting Rev. Graham's life's work is also possible. May God bless you all.

    November 8, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • ?

      Now don't forget to send a donation, god and the hustlers always need more money.

      November 8, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • richunix

      Why are you a sinner, did you do a criminal act?

      November 8, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  8. Reality # 2

    And Graham gets $400,000 a year for mouthing said statements. His son, Graham, gets $800,000 a year asthe Christian con continues to pay well.

    November 8, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Jill

      The bible speaks about Money more than any other subject. You should read about it. There is nothing wrong with money. God has truely blessed this man and his family. God said blessed is a man who provides for his family and his children and his childrens children. You can take up your issues with God as He is the one your issue is really with not Billy Graham....Blessed is that man......God has his hand on his life.

      November 8, 2013 at 8:54 am |
      • Reality # 2

        Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

        • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

        • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

        • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

        • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

        • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

        • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

        • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

        • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

        Added details available upon written request.

        November 8, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  9. Vennetta

    Good morning all. To God Be The Glory from which all blessing flow. I am so grateful at 54 that through the years. Have been greatly touch by the Rev, Billy Graham. It has been a really great blessing. God bless Rev. Billy Graham and precious family a true man of God own calling. I love him and the Lord our God continue to richly bless him and his family for many years to come in the precious name of Jesus always and forever. And would like to share my son birthday is November 7th his name is Timothy and just turn 33 on 11-7-2013 and he is a minister praise God. God bless you all who read this always. Ms. Vennetta~

    November 8, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • ?

      Now don't forget to send a donation, god and his hustlers always need more money.

      November 8, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • JDD

      Congratulations to your boy!

      peace to you.

      November 8, 2013 at 10:35 am |
  10. Sanity

    Mr. Graham is not surprised one bit about you – Mr. Dose of Reality, neither is God. He explained that the cross is an offense to some. It appears it is to you. In the end you will get your Dose of Reality. That is not what God wants, He sent His Son to redeem us all. We are ALL sinners and in need of a Savior. To think otherwise is arrogance and denial. Colossians 2:8 "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human and elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ."

    November 8, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • Reality # 2

      (from Professor JD Crossan's book, "Who is Jesus" co-authored with Richard Watts)

      "Moreover, an atonement theology that says God sacrifices his own son in place of humans who needed to be punished for their sins might make some Christians love Jesus, but it is an obscene picture of God. It is almost heavenly child abuse, and may infect our imagination at more earthly levels as well. I do not want to express my faith through a theology that pictures God demanding blood sacrifices in order to be reconciled to us."

      "Traditionally, Christians have said, 'See how Christ's passion was foretold by the prophets." Actually, it was the other way around. The Hebrew prophets did not predict the events of Jesus' last week; rather, many of those Christian stories were created to fit the ancient prophecies in order to show that Jesus, despite his execution, was still and always held in the hands of God."

      "In terms of divine consistency, I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time, including Jesus, brings dead people back to life."

      November 8, 2013 at 8:33 am |
      • aelric75

        I'm not familiar with Crossan, but such views are not unique to him. The idea that sacrificial atonement would mean that God was abusive reflects no understanding of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. St. Paul states that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself." Because justice will not permit sin to go unpunished, God became man, and He Himself suffered for the sins of humanity. This was not cruelty, but grace.

        November 8, 2013 at 9:21 am |
        • Reality # 2

          More "grace" from your god????

          Number of god's creations who died horrible deaths from the following diseases:

          1. 300,000,000 approx.
          Smallpox

          2. 200,000,000 ?
          Measles

          3. 100,000,000 approx.
          Black Death

          4. 80,000,000–250,000,000
          Malaria

          5. 50,000,000–100,000,000
          Spanish Flu

          6. 40,000,000–100,000,000
          Plague of Justinian

          7. 40,000,000–100,000,000
          Tuberculosis

          8. 30,000,000[13]
          AIDS pandemic

          9. 12,000,000 ?
          Third Pandemic of Bubonic Plague

          10. 5,000,000
          Antonine Plague

          11. 4,000,000
          Asian Flu

          12. 250,000 or more annually Seasonal influenza

          November 8, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  11. Stanley

    Only God knows the number of lives that have been transformed by this awesome servant of God.

    Thank you for your resolve, forti.tude and steadfast faith in preaching the Gospel.

    We wish you many more years of health!

    November 8, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • truthprevails1

      How are you so certain what your imaginary friend god knows? Are you its spokesperson and if so why isn't it capable of speaking for itself-could it be that it is all in your imagination????

      November 8, 2013 at 8:35 am |
      • JDD

        "Imaginary" is your own assumption. Listening – with an open mind, and away form your peers who will ridicule you for even giving a half-hour to this activity – to persons like Mr. Graham who claim that God is real and does speak to us is one way to challenge it.

        Those persons who have historically defended Christianity: Saul of Tarsus, Augustine, G. K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, John Cardinal Newman, John Paul II, are hardly intellectual lightweights, and may surprise you.

        November 8, 2013 at 11:41 am |
        • G to the T

          Intelligence and education are not (contrary to what many seem to think) contrary to religious belief. Indeed, intelligent people are even better at rationalizing things they've done for non-rational reasons and intellectualizing their belief.

          But if the premise is unsound, logic will fail you every time. I wish you the best but arguments from authority rarely impress.

          November 8, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  12. Mark

    Billy Graham has always been above reproach. I'm sure over the years there have been many to tempt him and try to take him down, but as we all look back over his very long and successful ministry, he has been in God's favor and honored God by spreading the message. So many on this comments site that pour out accusations, spread doubt, mistrust and use fowl words in a sad attempt to make him look bad and/or make themselves look good. No one ever stood tall and recognized on someone elses back. Gos's accomplishment through Rev. Graham is just amazing. He has my respect and admiration for following Christ all of his life and I know he will live eternally with Jesus one day.

    November 8, 2013 at 8:15 am |
  13. Honey Badger Don't Care

    Tis the season folks. Cant wait for the war on Xmas to start.

    HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!!!

    November 8, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • lol??

      Psychopathic badgers don't care. They just copycat. Polecats, sheeesh.

      November 8, 2013 at 8:18 am |
  14. Tutuvabene

    You can blast the man because he is "worth" $25 million but what does he, (or maybe his son Franklin) use the money for? If the photo in his home is any indication, he doesn't live in the lap of luxury and I don't think he rides in a chauffered Rolls Royce.

    November 8, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • Sara

      One thing people tend to forget is that you rarely have any idea how much a person gives to charity until their will is read. Someone who saves and invests and then donates it all on death is never counted in surveys that allege to measure such giving.

      November 8, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  15. richunix

    Happy Birthday Mr. Graham, may you have many more.

    November 8, 2013 at 7:52 am |
  16. BobPitt

    I wonder what will happen when he dies and wil be nothing after that, no God no Pearly gates.. LOL

    November 8, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • lol??

      Lucid dreamer??

      November 8, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • sammid

      Wonder how YOU will feel when YOU die and find that everything he said about God and hell was true!
      But of course, then it will be too late.....
      Take some time to research what he's been preaching. Find the truth of God before it's too late!
      Just remember, it's an invitation to Heaven. No one is trying to force you NOT to go to hell...

      November 8, 2013 at 8:29 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        And what are YOU going to do when Odin won't let you into Valhalla becuase you died in bed instead of on the field of battle?
        Or when Ma'at measures you heart against a shu feather and it the scales are imbalanced?
        Or when you face Joseph Smith and are denied entry to the Celestial Kingdom becuase you don't know the handshakes and passwords?
        Or when you're reincarnated as a dung beetle because you failed to give cows their proper respect?
        Perhaps you'll be left on shores of the River Styx becuase your family didn't give you any coins for Charon.
        You won't be laughing when the demon Vizaresa takes you to Chinvat bridge...

        So many afterlives and each one with different rules for getting in....
        I

        November 8, 2013 at 8:40 am |
        • Sara

          I'm looking for a skeleton key.

          November 8, 2013 at 8:45 am |
        • lol??

          Well, be careful.

          Pro 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

          November 8, 2013 at 8:54 am |
        • JDD

          Indeed, Doc. There are many theologies out there.

          It is an intellectual misstep to then conclude that they are all false, because there are so many.

          I have found Christianity to be convincing. The others not. Nor atheism.

          November 8, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  17. Jack M

    I seem to remember a Bible passage about it being easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven. Is Billy Graham a man of God or a man of money?

    November 8, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • truthprevails1

      With a net worth of $25 million, I would say he's a man of mony. (http://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/billy-graham-net-worth/)

      November 8, 2013 at 7:43 am |
      • truthprevails1

        mony=money

        November 8, 2013 at 7:43 am |
      • Sara

        $25 million seems pretty low considering how much money must go through his system. I know plastic surgeons and medium sized business folks worth more than that.

        November 8, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • ThisIsNot4U2

      I think they're one in the same ;-))))

      November 8, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Bob

      So he is a successful writer. How much of the money from the book sales should he be allowed to keep in order for you to be happy? If he kept one million? Or maybe just $20,000? Is there a number that would be ok?

      November 8, 2013 at 8:15 am |
      • tony

        Successful is OK. Writing more lies to get there isn't. Keeping and not sharing if you say you follow Jesus, isn't either.

        November 8, 2013 at 9:19 am |
        • JDD

          Please share you evidence that Mr. Graham doesn't share his money.

          November 8, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • JDD

      I seem to remember something about wealthy men making sure to use their wealth well and clean up any unjust business practices. Maybe it was the Tax Collector Zacchaeus in Luke 19:8, offering half his possessions to the poor. I read then that Jesus affirms his decision and doesn't demand the rest of his money as well.

      November 8, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  18. The message

    The Bible says, “He that hardeneth his heart, being often reproved, shall suddenly be cut off and not without remedy” [see Proverbs 29:1].

    You never know. To some of you who go out on the slick highways this afternoon, this may be the last sermon you will ever hear. In every crusade we have ever conducted anywhere, there have been people who have come to the meeting in good health and never came back because they were dead in the next few hours through an accident, or a heart attack, or something else.

    We never know when our moment is coming. Maybe God spoke to you this afternoon, and your heart is in danger of being hardened. Some of you are older people; some of you are younger people. The Bible says once you hear the Gospel and do nothing about it, you are in danger of being hardening your heart.

    But, last of all, there were some that made a decision [see Acts 17:34]. They received Christ and went their way rejoicing. I am going to ask you today to receive Him. I am not asking you this afternoon to join some special church. I’m asking you today to give your life to Christ.

    You may be a member of a choir. I don’t know who you are or what you are, but you want to give your life to Christ on this opening Sunday afternoon. I’m going to ask you to do a hard thing, because coming to Christ is not easy. So many people have made it too easy. Jesus went to the cross and died in your place. Certainly, you can come a few steps from where you are sitting and stand here, quietly and reverently, and with bowed head. And say, “I need God; I need Christ. I want to be forgiven of my sins. I want a new life, and I want to start a new direction today.”

    Rev. Graham

    November 8, 2013 at 7:18 am |
    • richunix

      Which version are you using I checked the Codex inaiticus and the LXX (Septuagint) and your version does not match the arliest knowns translation. It does hower match the KJV of 1605-1611, which contain known forgeries.

      From the Codex Sinaiticus circa 405 BCE

      κριϲϲων ανηρ ελεγχων · ανδροϲ
      ϲκληροτραχηλου
      εξαπινηϲ γαρ φλεγομενου αυτου ·
      ουκ εϲται ϊαϲιϲ

      November 8, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Reynolds

      Wonderful sermon!

      Wishing America's Pastor a Happy Birthday!
      🙂

      November 8, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • richunix

      Ok now I', really confused. This is from the Codex Sinaiticus (405 BCE) and is one of the earlist known Bible.

      Your ref Acts 17:34 which says:
      some men, however, having attached themselves to him, believed: among whom was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

      Org Konic Greek:

      τινεϲ δε
      ανδρεϲ κολληθε
      τεϲ αυτω επιϲτευ
      ϲαν εν οιϲ και διο
      νυϲιοϲ ο αρεοπα
      γιτηϲ και γυνη ο
      νοματι δαμαριϲ
      και ετεροι ϲυν αυ

      November 8, 2013 at 8:18 am |
      • lol??

        Writing Acts in BCE?? WOW, that's supernatural.

        November 8, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • snowboarder

      tldnr

      November 8, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • JDD

      A good reminder for this morning – thank you.

      November 8, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  19. Ace

    Worth $25 million, it's good to be the king.

    November 8, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • RB

      He didn't sell the gospel like other preachers do these days. He is one of the clean preachers.

      November 8, 2013 at 7:44 am |
  20. Peter Bishop

    Let the snide remarks continue as we read drivel from the so called "intelligent" as they deride Christians etc. Must be another "Religion" blog day at CNN

    November 8, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Oh I love when the persecuted come out to play. Grow up! If you have an issue with the extraordinary fallacious claims of christianity being questioned then the internet is not the place for you to be hanging out, try catching Fox news on TV-sounds like it is more your speed and intellect.

      November 8, 2013 at 8:00 am |
      • lol??

        Christianity Today has comments. Why not try there with your antichrist doctrines?? Don't get stuck in a ditch here.

        November 8, 2013 at 8:11 am |
        • truthprevails1

          It's hard no to be anti christ when that christ character is such an immoral ass (at least that is how you christians portray it and how your hold book does).
          Have you managed to locate the number for the asylum yet??? You need to do that and request they bring the huggy jacket when they pick you up.

          November 8, 2013 at 8:30 am |
      • lol??

        Socies are such bullies and great at makin' refugees. Try Christianity Today. Maybe they'd like a gud Greek debate.

        November 8, 2013 at 9:05 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.