The Reverand Billy Graham is gone. Yet, he remains forever with us, his booming North Carolina voice ringing in our ears and his message of the love and forgiveness of God fills our hearts

Each of us has a chain of transformative personalities sprinkled along our timeline of life. For me, and millions of others, Billy Graham is one of the most influential and transformative people of the last century.

He wasn’t always America’s Pastor. He studied anthropology and at the age of 16, he was knocked off course at a tent revival. His, and our, trajectory was forever changed.

My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.  – Billy Graham

The news of his passing crushed me, turning me to tears, even sobs. Because the change of his trajectory, eventually impacted my own and that of countless millions, even America itself.

His life impact and evangelistic ministry cannot be overstated. His life and influence on America spanned 12 Presidents. It is estimated that perhaps 2 billion people knew of him. His sermons penetrated every continent and 185 nation’s over nearly a century.

Kings, Queens, Presidents and hundreds of millions of everyday people, including me, a young teen, living in the late 1960s, amidst social and political upheaval, were drawn to Graham’s gospel message and his strong but humble manner.

Millions found Christ and the power of forgiveness through the ministry of Billy Graham. Personally, Christ changed my life and one of His instruments of continuous feeding of my faith was the Rev. Billy Graham. Through times of sin, doubt, trouble, and failure, Graham was a constant reminder that I am a child of God through Jesus Christ. His sermons kept coming up on the television screen prompting me to understand the difference between the world’s success and spirituality.

Suppose you could gain everything in the whole world, and lost your soul. Was it worth it?  -Billy Graham

Most of us know Billy from his crusades and his irresistible, plain-spoken manner of explaining to us what life is all about. “The simplicity of the gospel that is in Christ Jesus,” was his sole message, delivered to us in a complicated world filled with social and political confusion. Billy’s was the call back to the core principles of life, God, faith, humility and the recognition that our existence on earth was transitory.

As a cultural and theological icon, Graham continued the traditions of 19th and 20th-century evangelism that recognized the importance, centrality, and power of the Judeo-Christian values, and the application of true faith to contemporary life.

He was a revivalist, old school, calling all of humanity to the love of God, recognition of sin, the priority of repentance, forgiveness, heaven, and hell and the truth of redemption.

There was also a solemnity to Graham’s gospel messages. He kept chipping around the edges of social disorder. National problems were personal problems and personal problems were spiritual at their heart. It was almost as if he were telling us, pleading with us, to see the connections between ourselves, our society, our problems and the truth of scripture.

World events are moving very rapidly now. I pick up the Bible in one hand, and I pick up the newspaper in the other. And I read almost the same words in the newspaper as I read in the Bible. It’s being fulfilled every day round about us.  – Billy Graham

He was removed from the modern gospel of materialism we hear from flashy preachers today. He did not preach the gospel of prosperity, he preached the gospel of repentance, forgiveness, the love of God, and the death, burial, resurrection and the coming again of Christ to this world.

Billy Graham’s message to the world was that sin had entered in and found a foothold in every person’s soul and the sin that grips us finds its way into the world, its governments, institutions, society, art, and culture.

He was not a purveyor of the wealth and health movement, the name it-claim it, mega-church, superstar brand of Christianity with ego-centric preachers who peddle more than they preach.

I must say this…there were no vulgar tweets, offensive Facebook images or front page racy photos on the National Enquirer.

The message of Billy Graham was not about the centrality of man and the power of self-awareness, personal esteem, wealth and accomplishment. The gospel, according to Graham, calls all men to the same place…the foot of the blood-stained cross. It was not the recognition of self and its glorification Graham advocated, but the death of self.

God proved his love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.  – Billy Graham

Importantly, there was no scandal, no cursing, no middle fingers, no tabloid stories. There were no public statements about meetings with seedy people, compromised situations or career-ending catastrophe’s. In his life Billy Graham was not an example of human perfection, he was an example of how one person, a sinner among sinners, could live when empowered by true belief.

There is no doubt that Rev. Graham is one of the most effective American contemporary preachers of all time. Not many can deny the effectiveness of his crusade altar calls, with Graham, hand on chin, deeply in prayer calling men, women, boys, girls, rich, poor, black, white, foreigners and nationals to repentance and a born-again experience through Jesus Christ.

Even in his stadium-filling events, Graham exuded humility, a commitment to his own calling, and a pristine sense of his place and purpose in life. Few will label Billy courageous, I will. Graham’s was infectiously courageous, his persona laced with the strength and force of humility. His power, I believe, and you may laugh at me if you please, came from God, for he had come to the end of self.

When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God.  – Billy Graham

News of his passing today has stirred up a strange mixture of emotions within me. There is joy because Billy has finished his course and laid up for him in heaven is a crown of righteousness. There is a sense of distress because he is gone and the nation is a without a key spiritual rudder, America’s Pastor.

The message Billy left us and the one I will cherish is “God loves you and He wants to forgive you.”

Download the iVoteAmerica Quotes from Billy Graham