Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Last Mile of the Way

This is a repost of an article written three years ago. I used it as an illustration in a sermon Sunday night. I am posting it again in Brother Kelly's honor. I want to thank him for his faith - "by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh" (Heb. 11:4)

When Woodrow Wilson Kelly passed away this past week at the age of 96, my heart was saddened. He was my friend. He trusted me. He was good to my family. He was faithful to worship.

At the funeral one song chosen was "The Last Mile of the Way." As the song was played in A cappella format I couldn't help but think about Brother Kelly's last mile. I can still close my eyes and see him coming slowly up the aisle on his walker as all the members stood during the last verse of the invitation song. This past Sunday morning I thought I saw him again. I looked for him but he was not there. But the image of his willingness to follow Christ hasn't left my mind.

Only a small number of people have been blessed to witness the walk of a penitent sinner from a preacher's perspective. It is one of the most beautiful sights this side of eternity. There have been a few confessions made on the front pew during my lifetime that were so pure and perfect that I believe they rang the bells of heaven. Brother Kelly was one who wanted to do the will of God so much that he saw a need to approach the throne of grace with regularity.

As he aged, and his mental faculties began to waiver, I am sure many questioned his plea. But I don't care about that. When I see a tenth of the humility in the nay-sayers that W.W. Kelly displayed I will listen. He was a man who had lived his early life outside of Christ. His obedience in his mind was long overdue. I am confident that he would have obeyed even if it meant death. He was willing to give heart, soul, mind, strength, and every earthly possession to God.

The last mile of the way for brother Kelly was a mile of resolution and victory. He was not a perfect man, but his final example made him one of my heroes. Following Jesus is about heart. When hearts are open anything is possible. It is even possible for a man once taken in by the world and its pleasures to give up the temporal things at all costs. I imagine that by the end of his life Brother Kelly walked the aisle of repentance for a full mile...the last mile of the way.

"But as for me, I will walk in my integrity;
Redeem me and be merciful to me. My foot stands in an even place;
In the congregations I will bless the LORD." ~ Psalm 26:11-12

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Carrying Out Our Will

While studying for a sermon I came across an astounding statement about King Saul in 1 Samuel 22:19 - "Also Nob, the city of the priests, he struck with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and nursing infants, oxen and donkeys and sheep—with the edge of the sword."

Ahimelech was a priest at Nob, who unwittingly aided David in his attempt to flee Saul's wrath. David was not totally honest about his business in Nob, and so Ahimelech helped him. But Saul did not care about Ahimelech's innocence. His anger was hot against David and anyone who would be associated with him. So Saul used Doeg, one of his servants, to kill 85 priests at Nob, including Ahimelech. Then he set to the slaughter of the rest of the city.

What is stifling about 1 Samuel 22:19 is the completeness of Saul's judgment. Compare this to what God had commanded Saul to do to Amalek in 1 Samuel 15. Saul refused that utter destruction at God's command - yet when Saul was determined to exercise his own will, he had no problem carrying out the same kind of terror.

I wonder if we are like Saul sometimes. Do we struggle at doing what God says when we have a better idea, and then at the same time execute similar plans when we feel our actions are justified? How miserably inconsistent!

Although no person can question any of the Creator's decisions, we can certainly see that God had good reason to remove the kingdom from Saul. Beyond the fact that Saul was disobedient, he was one who considered his actions valid based upon his feelings. No man can be a great leader who allows his own will or emotions to dominate his decision making.

To truly be God's people, let's all be determined to pray for this help daily - "Less of self, and more of Thee!"

"I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments." ~ 1 Samuel 15:11

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Does Your Arguing Prove?

On March 13, 1904, a statue of Jesus was placed on the border of Argentina and Chile. Known as "Christ of the Andes" - the monument stood for peace between the two countries. But the confrontational, self-preserving nature of man soon reared its ugly head. The Chileans began to protest that they had been slighted because the statue had its back turned to Chile. Thankfully, one Chilean newspaper saved the day. One of its columnists wrote an editorial that not only satisfied his countrymen, but made them laugh. It read - "The people of Argentina need more watching over than the Chileans."

Isn't it ironic, that even a statue of Jesus turned into a seed of contention between two countries? It reminds us that whenever we bring our own will into religion, we are destined to fail. Job made an excellent point in Job 6:25 when he said, "How forceful are right words! But what does your arguing prove?" The truth itself is more than enough to convict the soul. When we add any spirit of disagreement to the truth, it seems less desirable and is quickly rejected.

A major barrier to evangelism is often the attitude by which the gospel is communicated. By grace, God has been patient with us and given us the opportunity to understand the Bible. Once we do understand it, we can be so excited by what we have learned that sometimes we have a hard time allowing others enough time to learn the truth as well.

Remember these important steps in reaching out to others with God's word:

1. Have enough compassion for the souls of others that you will be willing to communicate what you have learned.
2. Keep from arguing with others about the Bible. Start talking in areas that you have in common and let the Bible guide you together.
3. Always be willing to change your views, if they conflict with the teachings of Scripture.

Remember, God erected His own symbol of love, peace, and reconciliation. The cross of Christ remains as a reminder that all men can be united with their Creator and with one another. But how we view that symbol, and how we communicate it to others, is up to us.

"And that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity." ~ Ephesians 2:16

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Emmaus Poem

I wrote this tonight to illustrate the account from Luke 24 - when the resurrected Jesus appeared to the men traveling on the road to Emmaus.

A Lesson Learned on a Dusty Road

A dusty road, Emmaus bound,
Two men both searching through heart and mind,
Another Man the same path found,
Unknown to them, almost as blind.

“What is this news that makes you sad?”
Said stranger to the traveling friends.
“Have you not heard or are you mad?”-
The men replied, “Where have you been?”

“Jesus was the chosen one:
A prophet mighty in word and deed,
Some even said, God’s only Son.
We thought all Israel would be freed.

But evil rulers of our land,
Rejected him, beat him and took him away.
Drove nails into his outstretched hands,
Spear in His side before Sabbath day.

Three days have passed and now this news,
Some women came to tell today,
That when they visited his tomb,
The sealing stone was rolled away.

His body was not there, it seemed,
And angels shining like the sun,
Proclaimed a resurrection scene,
They said He promised this would come."

“Oh foolish men and hard of heart,”
Said stranger to the traveling two,
“This suffering death was just the part
That Christ had come to earth to do.”

Beginning at the Scriptures, then,
The stranger talked of Jesus’ fate,
Arriving home - the day now spent,
They gathered in the house and ate.

And as the bread for them He broke,
And thanked their God for grace to man,
They knew Him not by what he spoke,
But by the scars upon His hands.

He vanished quickly from their sight,
They marveled at what had occurred,
It was the Son of God Himself,
Who made their hearts burn at His word!

A dusty road, Emmaus bound,
Two men searching through heart and mind,
Another Man the same path found,
To preach salvation for all time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


It was a pay-day a few years ago, when I cashed my check, and gave my wife $100 dollars to do some shopping. While she went out, $90 of that money was stolen from her purse. She was very upset. The heartache for any person who is robbed goes far beyond the loss of the money or merchandise. First, there is the second-guessing and the thought of what might have been done to prevent the incident from happening. Then there is the feeling of rejection when one realizes another human being would do something to them to cause personal harm.

I remember the thievery that occurred during my son’s 4th birthday party when his grandmother’s purse was stolen and hundreds of dollars were lost. Also taken were old, sentimental pictures, the checkbook, and every important credit and personal identity card. When other people hurt us it leaves us with a feeling of pain and emptiness that is very hard to shake. We may lose our confidence in others and even the confidence we have in ourselves.

When Jesus came into the world, he too experienced moments of rejection and loss. His teaching was challenged. He was called a liar and a blasphemer. Sometimes people begged him to leave their country, even when he had done marvelous things (Mark 5:17). Ultimately, mankind crucified the Son of God. Did it hurt him? Immensely! Did he feel alone? Incredibly! And then deep from within his broken heart the words came gently, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

When others sin against us we can overcome the heartache through forgiveness. I have often heard people say that we shouldn’t forgive others unless they ask to be forgiven. If we take this approach we will not forgive many, peace will be absent from our lives, and we will not have the heart of Christ. It is easy to forgive those who ask to be forgiven. The greatest things we accomplish spiritually are the very hardest to do.

We are bound for the land of Canaan. So whatever happens to us here in this wilderness should not have dominion over us. We can be victorious when we let it go.

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” ~ Matt. 5:44

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Coney" Island

I have always wanted to visit New York. I hope to visit all 50 U.S. states at some point in my lifetime. One point of interest could be Coney Island, a peninsula in southernmost Brooklyn, with a famous beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Coney Island was a major resort and site of amusement parks that reached its peak during the first half of the 20th century.

The word "coney" derives from a Latin word which means "rabbit." Its background can take one all the way back to Proverbs 30, where it is listed as one of four little creatures which have great wisdom. One Bible version reads, "Coneys are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags" (Prov. 30:26). This animal which is feeble is praised because of its elusiveness. It cannot protect itself, so it cunningly makes its home in the rocks. When danger comes, it will flee to a place no enemy can penetrate. Because the coney has no power to save itself, it hides in the place where help can be found.

God is trying to tell us something very important through this quiet creature. We all need to visit "coney" island. We need to remember the source of our salvation. We cannot defeat Satan alone. We ALL need somewhere to hide. We need a power greater than ourselves. We need to go to a place where no evil can touch us.

In the middle part of the last century, the true Coney Island was a get-away from the terrors of world wars and changing times in our nation. But once our country began to prosper it was forgotten. This happy place endured years of neglect until it was finally refurbished. It occurs to me, that in our own pride we have forgotten our "coney" island also. We have neglected our "refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psa. 46:1). We have ceased to remember that "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (Rev. 7:10).

Coneys may be small and weak, but the Bible says they are "exceedingly wise" (Prov. 30:24). I cannot think of a more noble or practical idea, than for sinful and feeble men to flee to the God of strength, hope and deliverance.

I want to go to "coney" island. I want to build my house on the Rock. I want to place my feeble self in the saving arms of Jesus! Will you go with me?

"No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God." ~ 1 Samuel 2:2