Saturday, April 20, 2019

"I’ll Rise Again!"

In the early 1980s I was blessed to hear Dallas Holm in concert in Virginia. The two songs that moved me most were "I Saw the Lord" and "I’ll Rise Again." The lyrics of each song have strengthened my soul over the years. Even this morning, Holy Saturday, "I’ll Rise Again" is lifting my spirit, giving me undeniable hope.

Presence Matters Most!

That is... Presence. Unity. Souls. Love. 

Pastor Kerry Willis 

Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday -- "They Took Him Down"

One of my all-time favorite faith traditions year-after-year as a local pastor was the Good Friday service. And most often the most moving portion of those services came towards the Benediction when I would have someone read, or I personally would read, these words below written for a 1980’s Easter Musical titled "The Witness." The reading is based on the death of Jesus after His horrifying Crucifixion. Hear them now:

"They took Him down, His poor, dead body. They took Him down, His poor, pale body, drained of life, ashen and stained with its own life’s blood. 

His healing hands, now pierced and still. Serving hands that broke five loaves to feed five-thousand. Holy hands, often folded in fervent prayer. Poor, gentle hands, now pierced and still. 

His poor, torn feet, now bloodied and cold. Feet that walked weary miles to bring good news to broken hearts. Feet once washed in penitent’s tears. Poor, torn feet, now bloodied and cold. 

His kingly head made for a crown, now crowned with thorns. His poor, kingly head, crowned with thorns. 

His gentle chest, now pierced with spear thrust. Quiet, still, His poor, loving chest.

His piercing eyes, now dark and blind. Eyes of compassion, warming the soul. Fiery eyes, burning at sin. Tender eyes, beckoning sinners. His piecing eyes, not dark and blind.

His matchless voice, fountain of the Father’s thoughts. Stopped, stopped, to speak no more. 

Silence, now...

Where once had flowed wisdom and comfort, Spirit and life, His matchless voice, stilled to speak no more. 

They took Him down, His poor, dead body, and prepared Him for His burial."

P.S, Remember, That was Good Friday. Awesome Sunday is coming! 

Presence Matters Most!

That is... Presence. Unity. Souls. Love.

Pastor Kerry Willis  

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Leaning In: Holy Week 

As I write this post, I am sitting in the dimly lit sanctuary of the dress rehearsal at Seashore Nazarene’s Living Last Supper. 

(You can’t make this stuff up. As I was writing the first paragraph above, the pastor called me forward to pray a blessing over the cast and those who will experience the Gospel come alive this week in this local church. Wow! That was powerful for me. I closed with these words: "Lord more than practicing lines tonight, let us practice Your Presence! Amen!")

Now, back to my previous thoughts...

I am leaning into Holy Week for all I am worth. This will be the first Holy Week in 25 years that I will not be leading a Good Friday Service and multiple Resurrection Sunday Worship Celebrations. So yes, it’s tender for me personally but still meaningful. Perhaps even more meaningful than ever before, because there are no "religious" distractions and I am facing the passion of this week more vulnerable than ever. 

In my fifteen discipleship journeys to the Holy Land, my heart has surely deepened in the devotion of this sacred season. Visiting the places where my salvation was purchased has only caused me to be a greater debtor to the deep price Jesus paid to pardon and sanctify me.

Do we really realize that the Son of God sacrificed His own life to save ours? Are we aware of the awesome, even awful price Father God was willing to pay to offer us a right relationship with Him, again? How can we truly show our personal appreciation for the indescribable Gift of Love that our Lord extends to us? What can we give back to Him? We can only give one thing, one life, our life. Let’s do. Let’s devote our very breath back to the One Called Wonderful -- the One called The Resurrection and The Life -- Jesus the Nazarene! It’s Holy Week. Let’s lean into the Holy One! 

Presence Matters Most!

That is... Presence. Unity. Souls. Love. 

Pastor Kerry Willis 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

"Mercy, O, Your Mercy" 

This song of "Mercy, O Your Mercy" is what my soul is saturating in right now during this Holy Week of remembrance 2019:

Presence Matters Most!

That is... Presence. Unity. Souls. Love.

Pastor Kerry Willis 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Holy Week Article -- "Yet?"

This is an article I wrote for Holiness Today Magazine a few years ago. It’s also a message theme I preach from time-to-time as thebLord leads. 

During this Holy Week remembrance, I pray it will be a practical message for your own sacred soul. 

Desperate Faith Asks "Have You Reached Yet, Yet?"

I sacredly knocked on the front door of the Free Grace Church parsonage. Sister Christine opened the door and said, "Brother Kerry, Danny will be so glad to see you." To her, his name was Danny, because he was her husband, but to me his name was Pastor LeRoy.

At the time of this emotional visit, I was married, the daddy of two children, and studying for fulltime ministry. However, Pastor LeRoy had been my childhood hero-pastor when he served as the local shepherd of the Free Grace Flock in the 1970s. He was the kind of pastor I prayed I would be someday. Now, Pastor LeRoy was in the sunset of his life, and after 25 years serving other places, Pastor LeRoy had wondrously returned for a second pastorate at my childhood church. It would be his final pastorate.

Having returned to my island home on vacation from Nazarene Bible College, I stopped by the parsonage to pray for my childhood, hero-pastor who was in the final stages of cancer. As I followed Sister Christine to the back, corner bedroom, I had all intentions of encouraging Pastor LeRoy, but when I saw him lying there, all I could do was cry. Finally, after catching my breath, I blurted out, "Pastor LeRoy, I came to pray for you, but I don’t think I can." As he reached his trembling hand towards me, he smiled with the countenance of Christ and replied gently but confidently through joyful tears, "Brother Kerry, no need to worry. I don’t need you to pray because I have already prayed the perfect prayer." (I will share Pastor LeRoy’s "perfect prayer" at the end.)

Obviously, entering the final stage of cancer is grounds for what I call, Desperate Faith. Also, the final stage of cancer is grounds for Desperate Faith to find its footing. Hebrews 11:6 helps us to find the footing for Desperate Faith: So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him (NLT).

In Hebrews 11:6, we discover that we must have a basic faith, a faith that believes God exists. The verse also implies we must go beyond basic faith to a devoted and Desperate Faith, in that, we must not only believe God exists, but that He also rewards those who sincerely seek Him. Yes, basic faith believes that God’s real. However, devoted and Desperate Faith goes beyond basic faith and believes that God rewards. Basic faith believes God lives, while devoted and Desperate Faith rises higher to believe God loves. Basic faith can be just a general opinion of God, while devoted and Desperate Faith speaks more to the specific level of our trust in God. So the question is: Do I only basically believe that God lives, that God’s real? Or do I also desperately believe that God loves, that God rewards?

I love the week that leads up to Resurrection Sunday – The Passion Week of our Lord. Not long ago I was saturating in the afterglow of Passion Week and reflecting on the suffering of Jesus that preceded His glorious exit from the tomb. As I reflected, one question had my mind in a maze: What one moment of Passion Week was the pivotal point when Jesus relinquished His all to pardon and sanctify you and me? Suddenly, the answer was very obvious. The pivotal point peaked in the place of pressing, Gethsemane. Yes, as Jesus agonized in fervent prayer beneath the olive branches, real Christianity suddenly crystallized. Yes, I believe immediately after The Son of God spoke one, single-syllable, three-letter word to the Father -- the word "YET" --pardon and sanctification went into full motion. I picture the Holy Hosts of Heaven, with tear-filled eyes, leaning over and gazing at the agonizing, praying Jesus as they anxiously asked one another, "Has the Son of God reached YET, YET?"

I love when I am studying the New Testament when all of a sudden The Precious Holy Spirit brings to my mind an example of the particular New Testament truth I am focused on from the Old Testament. As I have studied Mark 14:36 and picture God’s Son reaching "YET" in the olive grove on the night of His betrayal, all of a sudden The Precious Holy Spirit brings to mind The Three Hebrew Children in Daniel 3:18. Again I picture the Holy Hosts of Heaven, with tear-filled eyes, leaning over and gazing at the agonizing, praying Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they anxiously ask one another, "Have they reached YET, YET?"

In verses Daniel 3:17-18, we see The Three seemingly-soon-to-be-charcoaled Hebrew Children reaching "YET". Listen to what they said to King Nebuchadnezzar: If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. (YET) But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up (NLT). Without a doubt, the tried-and-true, trusting trio had reached "YET!" Their faith finally moved from basic to desperate. The Three Hebrew Children moved from asking the Father to rescue them to totally trusting His perfect will for their lives? They went beyond believing God was great to believing God was good.  

Question: Have you reached YET, YET? If you have, you already know the words to the perfect prayer that Pastor LeRoy had already prayed in those final stages of cancer. Yes, he said to me, as I sobbed silently, "Brother Kerry, no need to worry. I don’t need you to pray because I have already prayed the perfect prayer." Pastor LeRoy had reached "YET!" In the dim light of that back, corner bedroom, I anxiously asked, "Brother LeRoy, will you please share the perfect prayer with me?" Then, with feeble tones of devoted and Desperate Faith, my childhood hero-pastor said, "Brother Kerry, you have heard the prayer before." It was the same prayer Jesus prayed after reaching "YET" in Gethsemane: "Not my will, but Thine be done!"   

In Gethsemane, as soon as our Savior reached the pivotal point and relinquished His all to pardon and sanctify you and me, yes, as soon as he reached "YET" that’s when the perfect prayer, yes, seven words to the Father flowed from the deepest places of His being: "Not my will, but Thine be done!" The Son of God’s desperate praying gave way to desperate trusting!

If we have reached "YET, YET," we undeniably know it, because we are beginning to breathe that same perfect prayer. Yes, once say "YET," all our desperate praying for immediate, visible, and personal rescue gives way to desperately trusting God’s ultimate, invisible, and perfect will for our lives. Do we "YET" desperately believe that God lives and God loves? Do we devotedly declare that God’s real and God rewards? Is our faith devoted and Desperate Faith?

During days of desperation, it’s paramount to remember one encouraging reality proven again and again in the pages of God’s Word and across the generations of lives lived by God’s faithful people: Desperate Faith honors God and God honors Desperate Faith!

Do you suppose that the hymn writer who penned, He Never Has Failed Me Yet, really meant God has never failed me, because I have reached "YET?"

Presence Matters Most!

That is... Presence. Unity. Souls. Love.

Pastor Kerry Willis 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

"The Coloring Song" 

About 20 years ago, I heard the Christian group, Petra, sing "The Coloring Song!" It’s on my mind today, Palm Sunday, as Holy Week remembrances begin passionately again.

Presence Matters Most!

That is... Presence. Unity. Love. Souls.

Pastor Kerry Willis 

Saturday, April 13, 2019

25th Keepers of the Light Men’s Retreat Illustrated

I was blessed to attend and speak at the 25th Annual Keepers of the Light Men’s Retreat along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Approximately 115 attended. 

Our first year, 1995, 19 men came together. Little did we know we were on the small end of something big. 

As men of faith in community together with God’s Presence at work with and within us has proven to be so very powerful and undeniably transforming.

Here are some images of our sacred time on Ocracoke Island.

Presence Matters Most!

That is... Presence. Unity. Souls. Love.

Pastor Kerry Willis