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Billy Graham and daughter challenge U.N. to consider Jesus

NEW YORK CITY (BP)–Southern Baptist evangelist Billy Graham and his daughter Anne Graham Lotz spoke hours apart to different audiences of the United Nations, but both challenged their hearers to consider the claims of Jesus Christ.

Both occasions were sponsored by the North American Mission Board’s ministry to the U.N. community.

At a dinner Dec. 15, Graham told 200 U.N. diplomats that as the world celebrates the dawn of the year 2000, a number of problems have not been solved because they require spiritual solutions.

“I salute all of you for your dedication and the work you do in the U.N. … You serve in a great humanitarian organization, but the greatest problems that face us are spiritual in nature,” he said. Graham named three with the first being human evil.

“Where does evil come from?,” Graham queried. “Murder, rape, wars all over the world. We can’t get along with other people. We’re self destructive and violent. Few people know better than you how much evil is in the world. And, we all know the depth of evil within our own hearts.”

“The Bible says the problem is within us. We need to have our souls restored. Out of the heart, the Bible says, come evil thoughts,” he said.

Commending the U.N. for its work with refugees and the impoverished around the world, Graham cited human suffering as the second unsolved world problem. “Troubles bear down on all of us. I’ve never met a person who didn’t have something to be concerned about. Why we suffer is a spiritual question which can only be understood spiritually,” he said.

Death, Graham told the diplomats from nearly 80 countries including Vietnam, North and South Korea, Libya and Albania, is the third problem the world has not solved. “Death is the forbidden subject in our generation. Our culture denies it. Some people live as if they are never going to die.”

Graham made several references to his own mortality and declining health, the effects of which were evident as he made his way to and from the podium but virtually disappeared as he preached. “I’m writing a book on heaven, and I hope I can get it finished, because I’ll be spending billions of years there with Jesus,” he said.

Graham told of preaching the funeral of former U.S. President Richard Nixon before five U.S. presidents and a worldwide audience. The evangelist said he pointed to Nixon’s casket and said, “Every one of you will be there one of these days. Are you ready?” Looking at the U.N. diplomats, he said, “I ask myself that question, and I ask you: are you ready? In the midst of all you are doing around the world to alleviate suffering and bring about peace, I pray you will not starve your own soul.”

He then shared briefly how he accepted Jesus Christ as a high school student. “At that time I didn’t know much about God and religion. But all that I have done in my life I owe to Jesus Christ, for he has given me compassion for others — no matter what their race or religion.”

While introducing Graham, NAMB president Bob Reccord held up that morning’s edition of “USA Today” newspaper, which carried a photo and story about the world-renown evangelist who has been named one of the ten most admired men in America 35 years in a row. Reccord told Baptist Press he was “thankful to Dr. Graham for making the gospel message so clear that a child or an international diplomat could respond to the claims of Christ.”

“I’m also thankful Southern Baptists care enough to reach out to world leaders whom God has brought to New York City to tell them about Christ,” Reccord said. “And, I am thankful that was accomplished through one of our own, Dr. Billy Graham.”

Paige Patterson, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, agreed. “Dr. Graham has a remarkable ability to share inoffensively and wooingly the clear gospel message with people who may have come here with suspicion.” Patterson, who along with two dozen SBC leaders from across the country, hosted a table of diplomats and their spouses in order to establish personal relationships with them, also praised organizers of the event.

“The North American Mission Board and Ken Welborn, who directs this ministry to the United Nations, should be heartily commended for a creative, compassionate and evangelistic approach to the U.N.,” Patterson said.

Welborn, a NAMB missionary, said most of the diplomats indicated on registration cards they would like an audio tape of Graham’s message, a copy of the Bible in their own language or a visit from him. “Normally, if I want to initiate an appointment with an ambassador or his staff, there’s a lot of red tape to go through. But with these cards, they’ve invited me to their office. We cut through a whole lot of red tape tonight.”

The following day, Welborn told Baptist Press the evening had already had eternal ramifications. “We gave every person attending the dinner a copy of Dr. Graham’s book, Peace With God. One ambassador’s wife told us she went home and read the entire book last night and accepted Christ as her personal Lord and Savior,” Welborn said. “Praise God for that decision and for the many seeds that were planted.”

Seeds were also planted the following day when Welborn planned and presided at a luncheon for nearly 700 U.N. employees and the guest speaker was Anne Graham Lotz.

“She did a tremendous job,” Welborn said. “She used Genesis 1:1 to talk about God and his role in the universe. The audience was riveted to what she said. She gave a very clear gospel testimony and invited the audience, many of whom were Hindu, Buddhist, or agnostic atheists, to know in their heart their eternal destiny.”

The prior evening, Graham concluded his remarks to the ambassadors with a similar invitation illustrated by a story about Albert Einstein.

“Einstein was on a train coming to New York City but couldn’t find his ticket,” Graham explained. “As the brilliant scientist frantically searched for his ticket, the train’s conductor recognized him and assured Einstein it would not be necessary for him to find his ticket. Continuing to search, however, Einstein told the conductor, ‘This is not an issue of trust, but of direction. Without that ticket, I have no idea where I am going.'”

Graham asked his audience if they were like Einstein, not knowing where they are going. He concluded by asking, “In the future, when you hear my name, would you give thought to your own final destination?”

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