Culture has changed, but God’s word hasn’t, evangelist Franklin Graham told an Oklahoma crowd – Oklahoman.com

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Keeping his message simple and relatively free of politics, one of America's most well-known evangelists spoke to a large gathering of Oklahomans Saturday on the south lawn of the state Capitol.

In a 35-minute sermon, the Rev. Franklin Graham told Oklahomans that adultery, lying and abortion — which he called murder — are sin in God's eyes, even if modern culture doesn't see it that way.   

Graham is the son of the late internationally renowned evangelist Billy Graham. Event organizers said he drew an estimated crowd of about 4,500 for the Oklahoma City stop of his "Route 66: God Loves You" tour.

As a preacher, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the international Christian relief and evangelism organization Samaritan's Purse, Franklin Graham had been known to draw crowds even before the death of his father in 2018.   

Evangelist Franklin Graham shares a message of faith during his

Saturday proved to be no exception.

Carrying lawn chairs and blankets, enthusiastic attendees flocked to the grassy area south of the capitol building for the 7 p.m. start of the faith gathering. Christian musician Dennis Agajanian entertained the crowd during a pre-event musical interlude that included a rousing audience sing-a-long of "God Bless America." The contemporary Christian band the Newsboys, led by lead singer Michael Tait, performed several songs of praise. The group was joined by Latin Grammy winner Marcus Witt, who sang some lyrics in Spanish, and later sang a song or two alone. 

Graham walked onto the stage to a standing ovation as the Newsboys finished their song "We Believe."

"The Bible is God's word from cover to cover. I don't understand it all but I still believe," he said, drawing cheers from the racially diverse crowd. 

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Much like his famed father, Graham kept his message simple, basing it on a familiar passage of scripture from the Gospels. He spoke about a woman with a past filled with sinful actions showing up uninvited to a religious leader's home in an attempt to see Jesus. The religious leader didn't greet Jesus with the customary hospitality of the time, not seeing that his own arrogance and pride was sinful. As chronicled in the Gospels, the woman, by contrast, washed Jesus' feet with her tears, drying them with her hair before lavishing Jesus' feet with expensive perfume from an alabaster box.

A trio of Oklahomans sing along with the Newsboys who performed during evangelist Franklin Graham's

Before closing his sermon, Graham talked about living in a world forever changed because of the global COVID pandemic.

"And we're still in it but we can't stop living," he said, drawing applause and cheers from the crowd.

The preacher urged attendees to live their lives with the knowledge God and his word remain the same, even though the culture around them has changed.

Graham, one of the more high profile supporters of President Donald Trump, has been known to wade into controversial waters on any number of subjects, earning him praise from many in the evangelical arena but but also criticism from others. 

He has said his commitment to speaking God's truth is what prompts his candor.

Saturday, he generally stuck to an earlier assertion that his message on the current tour is about faith and nothing else, including politics.

He did touch on several lightning rod issues to emphasize his point that the faithful should adhere to God's word, and not the whims and trends of the secular culture. Many in the crowd seemed to agree with his viewpoints, rewarding the preacher with applause and cheers at several points.

The faithful clap and cheer during a song at evangelist Franklin Graham's

He said people watch the news — "the real news and the fake news," where they may hear lies. His words, which caused some people in the crowd to laugh, seemed to be a reference to some Americans' general distrust of the media.

But Graham said there's no monopoly on spreading falsehoods.

"Politicians are doing so much lying," he said.

The evangelist said lying and adultery are still considered sin in God's eyes; in fact, any sexual relationship outside of marriage, which he described as between a man and a woman, is sinful to God. His words touched on another issue Graham has consistently spoken against; same-sex marriage. 

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Abortion, which has been a religious and political hot button issue for decades, also showed up in the preacher's message. He said murder in the form of abortion is considered sin to the Lord, no matter what culture or the law says.

Graham urged the crowd to follow the humble example of the biblical woman with the alabaster box and confess their sins and their need for a savior. Many people in the crowd stood when the evangelist asked those individuals to stand who sought forgiveness from Jesus Christ and wanted to accept him into their hearts.

"Remember God loves you and guess what? You're forgiven," he said.

Michael Tait, lead singer with the contemporary Christian band the Newsboys, reaches out to the audience during evangelist Franklin Graham's

Several people in the crowd said they enjoyed the evangelist's straightforward message.

Connie Smith of Oklahoma City said she brought young people in the Word of God My Brother's Keeper program to heard Graham speak. 

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"I love Franklin Graham's message because it was simple and straight to the point," she said. "I do youth ministry and I brought my youth group out. The simpler it is, the easier it is for kids to receive Christ."

Kyle Ouverson, of Luther, said he and his family, including son Oxley, 5, enjoyed the event. He said his family attends Sunnymeade Baptist Church, an independent Baptist church in Oklahoma City.

"We loved it and we were very excited to come here," Ouverson said of Saturday's faith gathering.

"My son has been asking questions about salvation and we were just so happy to hear everything he (Graham) was talking about and hear the message of the Gospel."

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