About the Guest
A tiny spark can ignite a great blaze. Today we'll revisit a conversation between Dennis Rainey and Dr. Bill Bright, the now deceased founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. Through Dr. Bright's first baby steps of obedience many years ago, Campus Crusade was launched. Now the ministry proclaims the gospel in 196 countries and boasts more than 25,000 full-time staff members and 50,000 trained volunteers.
Today we’ll revisit a conversation between Dennis Rainey and Dr. Bill Bright.
Dennis: I’ve given this interview to I suppose, maybe, thousands of men and many women, too; but I’ve given it to men because I think it’s really healthy for businessmen, and business leaders, and young men to hear of how an older man is finishing well.
Bob: Dr. Bright served as a mentor for you, in a lot of ways, as you joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ when you got out of college and really spent your entire ministry working under his leadership.
Bob: As he developed his pulmonary disease, and it became evident that he was walking through the valley toward death, he mentored you in the last months of his life about how to finish well.
Dennis: [Laughter] He was giving me assignments from his deathbed.
It’s funny to laugh about that, but he was going to heaven. He said: “Don’t mourn for me. I’ll be breathing celestial air. Comfort my bride of more than 50 years and my sons, but I’m going to be in a better place.”
The cool thing about the interview, Bob, is—over the years that I got to know him—I knew where his life messages were. So, you and I went to Orlando armed—just doing nothing more than tossing him softball questions—and listening to him answer those questions and really share with us how we need to live life.
We wanted to rerun this broadcast for our listeners and just go directly to that interview. It begins with you asking him about finishing the course and about facing death.
Bob: You talked about being on your way to the grave.
You know, there are some who are surprised that we're even having this conversation today [Laughter] because there was a time, just a few years ago, I remember hearing you and Brant Gustafson, together, talking about being ready for heaven. Of course, Brant is there; you're here. How have you processed all of that over the last several years?
Bill: Well, just before Easter, a year ago, I came home from California to die—I said to Vonette. I was choking, and fainting, and all the first signs of what they told me would happen—at Mayo's, and the Jewish Institute in Denver, and my local doctor: "What you have is horrible." He tried to get my attention. When I received word I was dying, I said, "Praise the Lord," because, you know, you can't lose, as a believer. It's win-win. If you die, you go to heaven; if you stay here, you keep on serving Him. So, I had begun to praise the Lord.
He thought I'd lost my sanity. [Laughter] He said—then, he really began to rebuke me.
He said, "You have a horrible disease. You're going to die the most horrible kind of death." He's a heart specialist and been my doctor for 30 years—and he felt he could tell me that. Most doctors wouldn't. He said: "It's worse than cancer. It's worse than heart trouble. You're just going to choke to death."
So, I was choking; and I came home to die. When I got off the plane, a couple—Jack and Pearl Galpin had befriended this Russian doctor. They insisted that she come and examine me. Now, here's a PhD—a research scientist—had no job or medical license in the U.S. She had no place to live except the home of the Galpins, who had befriended her. She came to live in our home—treated me three times a day. I’m awed at how good I feel.
I’ve lost half of my lungs. I can’t walk across the room without oxygen. I’m on oxygen 24 hours a day. But even with oxygen, if I’m not careful, I could be in trouble, even today.
Dennis: You know—there's a story I want to just tell real quickly because I want our listeners to know this. There's a real sense in which God used a Russian doctor in your life to keep you alive. That really can be, I think, tied back to something you did, years ago, with your retirement savings.
You and Vonette actually gave away your retirement to start an outreach in Moscow when the Iron Curtain dropped. You gave away your retirement. Now, here, at the end of your life, what does God use to bless you back—
Bill: Isn’t that awesome?
Dennis: —a Russian whose country had benefitted from your sacrificial act of giving. I think, you know, that's the kind of thing that God, in heaven, I think, must have a big grin about.
Bill: I didn’t do it for credit. I didn’t make a big issue of it, and I wouldn’t have brought it up if you hadn’t; but you cannot out-give God.
Dennis: You, undoubtedly have envisioned where you're going.
Bill: Oh, heaven is awesome.
Dennis: To your best extent—obviously, you've never been there—but you've read about it. You know the One who resides there. You've been walking with the One who resides there. Share what you expect.
Bill: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has prepared for those who love Him.” Heaven is going to be so indescribably beautiful—it's not going to be—it is. I remember, as a lad, my precious, saintly mother would often say, "I can hardly wait to go to heaven."
Now, she loved her husband, my father. She loved seven children. She was the pillar of the community. If anybody needed any help, they would always come to my mother. She was truly a saint, but I didn't understand what she was saying until I became a believer. Now, I look forward, with her, with great anticipation, to heaven. Everything we experience here on earth—all the most elegant and opulent kinds of experiences—cannot compare with what awaits those who believe.
Here's my logic: the God who spoke—and astronomers say, at least, 100 billion / 200 billion galaxies were flowing into space—and He holds it all together with the word of His command. The same God became a man—the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth—died on the cross for our sins, was raised from the dead, and now lives within us. He said, "I'm going to go to prepare a place for you; and then, I'll come back and get you."
Now, this God—who created all this unbelievably beautiful, wonderful universe, you know—is going to do a special creative job in preparing heaven. Heaven is going to be the golden—golden gem of the universe. Whatever our minds can conceive of will fall infinitely short of what heaven is like.
Bob: Were you disappointed when you started getting better?
Bill: Well, I must tell you, I was excited about going to heaven. You know, when you heard the interview with Brant Gustafson and me, we were on a race. We both were looking forward to going, and we weren't sure—we were saying, "I'll beat you there."
Dennis: Yes, well, he beat you; didn't he?
Bill: Yes, he did—and dear, dear Brant—he was a marvelous, wonderful friend.
Dennis: Yes, I love him, too.
Bill: A beloved brother.
But here I am doing, in a sense, the most creative thing I've ever done. In the last 18 months, I've put almost 100 hours of the best of my 100 books and booklets on blue screen technology—video--where I can use it for interactive training of millions of people, through the years, long after I'm with the Lord.
Andrew Murray has been dead 150 years—is still influencing millions of Christians. Oswald Chambers has been dead over 100 years—is still influencing even the President of the United States. So, here we are, I'm building up a library of books and videos. I've been able to do that more since I learned I'm dying than any other period in my life. So, when I look back over what's happened in the last 18 months, I would have to say I'm glad the Lord let me stay here; but I don't want to stay one second longer than He wants me here.
Dennis: Bill, you described heaven as a place you long to go for. Your face lit up. [Laughter] I want you to do something you may have never been asked to do—how would you describe hell?
Bill: Oh, oh, oh! I've just written a book, Heaven or Hell: The Ultimate Choice. Hell is an awesome, horrible, indescribably cruel, terrible place. The average Christian does not realize that his loved ones, neighbors, and friends are going to hell; and because he doesn't realize there is a hell that is so horrible—there are no human words to describe it—its agony for all eternity.
Now, you say, "Would a loving God send people to hell?" No. God has put a cross at the entrance of hell. The only way anybody can go to hell is to reject God's love and God's forgiveness. So, God is not being unfair; but He is a just God. He's a holy God—a righteous God. If we insist on violating His laws and disobeying Him, we are choosing to follow the kingdom of darkness, Satan.
I am sobered by this. Hell is a terrible place. Heaven is an incredibly beautiful place. As we read in Colossians 1:13 and 14, God has liberated us out of the darkness and gloom of Satan's kingdom and brought us into the kingdom of His dear Son, who bought our freedom with His blood and forgave us all our sins.
To everyone who is listening to me, take serious what I'm saying and what Dennis and Bob are saying: “There are only two kingdoms in this world—Christ's kingdom and Satan's kingdom. You and your loved ones are a member of either one of those. You can't be members of both.” If you are playing footsies with the ways of the world and being enamored with the things of the world, you are being deceived by the enemy of your soul.
God prepared hell for Satan and his angels—not for you and me—but if we insist on following Satan, we will go to hell, where he is. I just want to stand on the street corners and say: "Stop! Stop! Listen to me. Listen to me. You're on your way to heaven or hell, and there aren't any alternatives. You're a member of one of two kingdoms. There aren't any other kingdoms." We need to proclaim that.
Dennis: And to that person, Bill, right now, who is listening—who is going: "I don't want to go there. I don't want to go to a place of spiritual torment—of emotional grief and of judgment—I want out of that kingdom. I want to make sure I'm in God's kingdom—a place of peace, a place of beauty, a place of knowing God, seeing Him, and experiencing His love, face to face." What should that person do right now?
Bill: I'd like to ask everyone who has that desire to pray with me. I'd like to lead them in prayer.
Dennis: That's good.
Bill: Just, phrase by phrase, you quote after me. Now, Jesus promised us—before we pray: "If you hear My voice and open the door, I'll come in." If He is speaking to you, through this program or any other program, don't you hesitate for a moment. You may never have another opportunity like this because God's grace does not always continue.
There's a time when He says, "I will withdraw My blessing from you." Now, I ask you, if you really want Jesus in your heart, pray this prayer with me, phrase by phrase. Pray it aloud if you're in a position where you can do so; if not, silently: "Lord Jesus, I know You are the Son of God. I know You died on the cross for my sins. Come into my life. Forgive my sins. Change my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be."
Now, if you prayed that prayer, according to God’s Word, if you really meant it—and I’m sure, if you prayed it, you meant it—turn to the Epistle of John—First John, Chapter 5, verses 14 and 15: “If we ask anything according to God’s will, He hears and answers.”
We know it’s His will that you become a believer—you receive Christ—and we know, that if you truly invited Jesus in, He is there.
Now, thank Him that He’s there. Be sure that you understand, now, that you’re a follower of Jesus—you don’t play games with Him. You follow Him, obey Him, read His Word, find a good church where you will grow and mature in an understanding of the Bible and faith in Christ. Make your life count for God, and begin to share your new faith in Christ with others.
Dear ones—it’s a matter of life and death—what you, and your loved ones, and neighbors, and friends do with Christ. Remember, there are only two kingdoms—Christ’s and Satan’s—heaven or hell. All of us are going to one of those two places—following either Jesus or Satan.
God bless you. Don't miss out on this most important decision you’ll ever make in all of your life. I look back on 81 years. I was a happy pagan—going my own way—doing my own thing. I was the lord of my own estate—the master of my kingdom—but then, I met Jesus. I realized what a fool I was to go my own way and do my own thing, when God—this awesome Creator God of the universe—had a much infinitely better plan for me than anything I could have ever imagined.
Don’t miss out on His plan for you. He loves you. He died for you. He reaches out to embrace you. Now, don't turn Him away. Follow Him to your last breath, and He will never fail you. God bless you!
Bob: To listen back to Dr. Bright, it just seemed like, as we sat in his living room that day, he was—he was really focused on what were the central themes of his life. As he stepped closer to the end, his focus got clearer; didn’t it?
Dennis: It did. It was interesting, as he grew closer and closer to his death, I felt like he really did quote his favorite verse with an increasing frequency and intensity. Galatians 2:20 was his life verse: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
You could hear him talking about it in those last words—where he called people to receive the love of Christ, and submit to the Savior who loves you, and become a follower. Why would you want to be a fool and waste the rest of your life? I tell you—it’s good to go near someone who’s dying—who is focused like we’re talking about—who does have a life message that’s worth listening to.
Bob: And it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to run too quickly past this interview without acknowledging there may be listeners, who heard Dr. Bright talking about the importance of his own relationship with Christ, and to say: “God wants to have that kind of relationship with you, too.”
Dennis: That’s right. If you don’t know Christ—as you’ve heard Dr. Bright talk about and as we talk about, here, every day, on FamilyLife Today—you just say to Jesus Christ, “Lord Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross for my sins, for paying the price for what I couldn’t pay for, and for being raised from the dead on the third day, and for offering forgiveness of my sins.”
All you have to do is just receive that gift of eternal life, of forgiveness, and of the Savior—to come and reside inside of you—and become His slave, and yield to Him, and surrender to Him, and begin to follow Him, as Bill Bright did. You know, it’s one day at a time—one step at a time. No one does it perfectly; but there is no person on this planet who is worth following, other than Jesus Christ.
Bob: As I listened back to our conversation with Dr. Bright, I thought back to last month, when I watched the half-hour special that featured Dr. Billy Graham and his message to America—his presentation of the gospel—as he focused on the cross.
Here, with Christmas just a couple days away, Christmas isn’t significant if there isn’t a cross at the end of the life of Jesus. If Jesus was a great man, who was born in history, then, we might acknowledge His birthday like we acknowledge the birthdays of famous presidents or leaders; but we wouldn’t have the whole world come together to focus on this one most significant of all days. The only reason that we celebrate Christmas the way we do is because Jesus died the way He did and because He was resurrected from the dead.
I want to encourage our listeners: “If you’d like to know more about what it means to have a personal relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link you see there that says, ‘TWO WAYS TO LIVE.’” It spells out, clearly, the message of the gospel and why Christianity is different than every other major world religion.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “TWO WAYS TO LIVE.”
Then, we also have a link on our website to the My Hope America presentation—that featured Dr. Billy Graham—that was on TV a month ago. If you did not get a chance to watch it when it was on television, let me encourage you to watch it, online. Maybe, you and your family could watch it together on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You’ll find a link there to the My Hope America presentation by Dr. Billy Graham. It’s 30 minutes long; but it really does help focus on the significance of Christmas—which is found in the cross. Our website again: FamilyLifeToday.com.
Let me also mention: “If you’d like a CD copy of our interview with Dr. Bill Bright, that’s available from us, as well.” You’ll find it online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call, toll-free, 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, I know this is a particularly busy time of year for many families.
I hope you could take just a few minutes and consider making a year-end contribution to FamilyLife Today. Two reasons why—number one—because FamilyLife Today depends on your financial support. Our ministry in 2014 is really going to be determined by what happens, here, in the next few days, as we hear from listeners making year-end contributions.
In fact, about 30 percent of all the donations that we receive during the year come in during the month of December. So, this is a significant time for us. But the second reason why I hope you’ll consider making a year-end contribution is because every donation you make today is going to be matched, three to one.
That means—you make a donation of $25—and we have some friends of the ministry who have agreed they will match your donation with $75, for a total of $100-worth of benefit to FamilyLife Today. They’ve agreed to do that, up to a total of $800,000. So, let us hear from you today. Consider making a contribution.
Go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”, and make an online donation. Call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone; or you can mail a donation to us at FamilyLife Today, P O Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.
And be sure to join us back again tomorrow as we’ll continue our conversation, from a decade ago, with Dr. Bill Bright. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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