Let Me First Say Goodbye

Recent events in my own life have brought me to a new understanding of several passages of Scripture. Perhaps not on a cognitive level, but certainly on an experiential level.

First, reader, I share with some trepidation that my parents have chosen out of their convictions to “disfellowship” myself and my wife. Without going into detail about all that… it is this event specifically that has given me some new insights. I can’t help but share them, because I think these insights are crucial for the Christian to be able to move on from where they are… wherever they are.

The first is from Luke 14:25-26 – “Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”” In this passage Jesus makes very clear that he must be held in regard above all other relationships. Our longing for him must exceed that of any other. What I have learned is that God has given both myself and my parents an opportunity to practice this truth. See, my parents love the Lord, in their own way. They are convicted that their way is the right way, and that my way (without going into what the actually theological differences are) is a way that leads to destruction. Out of their conviction, they have chosen to disfellowship their own son because of their love for God and a desire to follow him to the best of their own abilities. While I deeply, deeply, regret their decision, I must respect it. As for myself, my convictions remain true as well. I cannot change what I believe to simply match theirs any more than a mathematician could believe that 2+2 isn’t really 4 just because his mother says so. But this, in similar fashion, gives me an opportunity to show my love for the Lord above all others.

The second is from 2 Kings 19:19ff - So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away. Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!” Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.” So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant.”

Following God is thrilling. In my experience, God opens doors that we didn’t even know were there, but we have to have our eyes opened and our ears attuned, listening for the call and the direction of God. Elisha, open to hear God… to understand what it was that Elijah had done when he threw is cloak over his own shoulders… wow! To respond in such a way that says, “I’ll leave everything behind and follow.” However, before Elisha could do that, he had to say goodbye to his parents. We don’t have a record of that conversation, but it should would be interesting to hear how that went for Mr. and Mrs. Elisha’s-Parents.

The point is, I suppose, that Elisha was ready to sacrifice it all for the thrill of following after the call of God. That is not to say that Elisha was hell-bound had he chosen to remain in the field, with is parents, working the farm. It is to say … well, here’s something I’ve come to believe.

Giving 10 percent of ourselves to God is a good baseline. God required the Jews, by law, to tithe. Many churches today ask their adherents to tithe. Statistically, few actually do. But when you read Scripture and you look at men and women who changed the world… they weren’t 10 percenters. They were 100 percenters. They were all in. They were men who left their nets, their farms, their families and moved in God’s direction leaving all behind. These were the people who destroyed enemies, won battles, moved rivers, walked on water, healed the sick and fed the masses.

I pray that God would give us all … more and more as we see the day of his coming approaching … an opportunity to leave behind the faith of our parents and find it unsatisfactory. I don’t mean that it won’t get us to heaven. I mean that God is still actively calling 100 percenters. I pray that you have a chance to hear that call. To know what it means with so many others to leave everything behind for the sake of moving with God in the direction of changing the world… bringing about his Kingdom on the earth. The truth is, people who live according to their parents faith may very well find their way to heaven when they die. On the other hand, what do we miss out on in the here and how, when we’re so busy listening to our parents faith, we shut out the call of God in our lives today?

I pray that we may not miss out on one more opportunity to hear God calling us to something more.

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15 Responses to “Let Me First Say Goodbye”

  1. Bob Howard Says:

    sorry see you bringning in the world so now i will say goodbye

  2. DALE RICHMAN Says:

    Let’s go for it.

  3. @ Bob. Seems so strange to be saying goodbye when we’ve so rarely said “hello.”

  4. Judy Rampey Says:

    While reading this my heart was breaking, I find it very sad for everyone involved. While I to believe we need to follow God in everything we do, I believe he also wants us to be at peace with our families if at all possible. How heart breaking that you cannot find peace with yours. Sad for the children that will miss out on a relationship with their grandparents, sad that time will be lost that can never be recaptured. I cannot believe that this is what God wants. I love you & your family, you will definately be in my prayers.

  5. Ben Kormanik Says:

    Luke 12: 50-53 Jesus speaking to his disciples
    “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

    I have seen this in my own family to an extent. God does at times ask us to choose. Choose between what’s comfortable and what he’s calling us too. Like Abraham who chose to sacrifice Issac, that choice seems harsh and cruel sometimes. It offends our senses. He is a jealous God. One who wants to hold first place in our Heart. After all he earned it. We were bought with a price. I pray that you will be restored to unity after a season. You have made the right choice. Seek first the kingdom of God and his Righteousness and all these things will be added unto you. Love you Lee. Would love to talk.

  6. Lee, I work with a Christian church now, as you know, many who grew up in the non-instrumental church, are now worshiping in instrumental churches. You are not alone. I doubt you feel that way, but, just as a matter of emphasis. You are not alone. God bless you and your family.

  7. Royce Fitzgerald Says:

    This is in deed a sad time for you and your family… as well as those who know your family well. Severed relationships are no easy challenge but those episodes in life make us grow and think about important matters. I don’t know what you all have been going through and I don’t know what you mean by “goodbye” in this case, but hopefully this is a prelude to something great in the future for your entire family, and not an end to important relationships. May God be with you and yours.

  8. Brad Fogo Says:

    On Judgement Day I want to be able to say that I have sought to please my Lord and Savior above all else. Many times that requires us to be unpleasing, even to the ones we love the most. Thank you for having the courage to choose Jesus over the world. Praying for you, my friend.

  9. Brent McCrory Says:

    Wow Lee, a tough situation for sure. Thanks for sharing; praying for strength and wisdom and for love to win the day.

    grace & peace – Brent

  10. junedavenport Says:

    Lee, I am sad to see this is happening to you and your family. Sad that some of your beliefs are based on a man’s false premise (when you begin with a false premise, any conclusion you come to will still be false!), sad that you took a man’s view point instead of searching God’s Word for that Truth. No truth has been laying dormant for 2,000 years waiting for Lee Keele or anyone else to discover. Sad that your family felt like the only choice they had was to disfellowship your family because they had tried everything else. I’m sure that your parents and family have shed many tears, prayed over this decision and they did not make it lightly. I have prayed for you and your family for a while now and think about you often. Sad……very sad!

  11. Hi June. Good to hear from you. I think, for the benefit of our readers…. it would be good for you to share some thoughts. Please, share with us what you understand my beliefs to be… and what is the “false premise” with which I have begun. I think should you share, it would help engage some healthy and much needed dialogue. Love you! Also… you assume that my family has “tried everything else.” What is it that you assume that they have tried? You might be surprised.

  12. Mote Evans Says:

    Thanks for sharing, Lee. I am with you, and admire your leadership more than you know. It can be hard when people we care about look at our faith and give disapproval in return because we do not reach all the same conclusions. Here is one of my favorite quotes on the topic of who is in and who is out of the kingdom:

    If our faith be ever so imperfect and blended with error; yet if it bears the fruit of the spirit, if it works in love, if it purifies the heart, if it overcomes the world, it is the faith of a Christian. — Barton Stone

  13. Edith Stewart Says:

    Lee, Ginger and Family,
    I am praying for you and your family. May God guide during this difficult time.

    Edith Stewart

    East Peoria Church Of Christ

  14. Lee, Alissa and I have walked that same path this year with our parents. I’ve even wrestled with the exact same verses. It has been tough to explain how what is seen as rebellion and obstinance is really guidance and answer to prayer. Maybe that’s the point of these issues. We know we can’t get everything perfect, or Christ died for nothing. So maybe we are faced with these points of contention to show our devotion to God. After all, the easy way out would be to “go with the flow” despite the leading you’ve been given. But our parents don’t really understand that taking that route would be truly becoming unfaithful in our journey. One day it will be our turn to watch our children make the same decision. I pray they choose God over us.
    Much respect and blessings,
    Paul

  15. Dear brother Lee,
    It is been years since we have seen one another, yet the years have taken us down similar paths. I am right now going through some very tough times because, in my estimation, the Scriptures and God’s Spirit are leading me to some different conclusions than what we held near and dear twenty years ago.

    I never desired to go through all the changes that I saw many of my friends go through. One of the more prominent issues is of course that having to do with “instrumental music” verse “a cappella” music. After much discussion, study and prayer, I too have made the change of heart on this issue. My preference actually remains a cappella, but I have used the instrument as well now. I had to let go of my preference for non-insturmental so as not to be divisive towards my brothers that have been using the instruments. I would hope, and have actually witnessed, that my instrumental brothers have on occasion put the instrument away because I was present. I thought this was an incredible test of faith and love on their part.

    Through the years, I have come to believe that the instrument/non-insturment issue is a test of faith. But, not the test of faith that we were originally acquainted with. We, at first saw the instrument as a test of faith in that those who were a cappella were faithful, while those who chose to worship with the instrument were “unfaithful.” I have now come to believe that that is a shallow test of faith. The greater test of faith is that their should be for any of us on either side of the issue to have a willingness to accept one another in love.

    We will, even on our best days, fall short of the glory of God. It is not even reasonable to believe that we will obtain perfection outside of the blood, grace, mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. To demand perfection from those that are sincerely and earnestly seeking out God’s word and attempting to align their lives by that word, whether they end up agreeing on all aspects of that word, well, they are faithful.

    Interesting enough, it is the Scriptures themselves that testify to this principle. Peter reminds us saying, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, NIV). The instrument, it’s presence or it’s absence does not have that power. In our best efforts on our best days, we will on occasion still be wrong. Truth is, we were never going to get to heaven on our own goodness, righteousness or merit anyway. While this should not allow for sloppy theology, it does allow for us to be what we are, simply fallen creatures struggling to please our Heavenly Father and our Savior. The whole point of the gospel is that their is bad news (and you and I and our sin is it), and then there is good news, which can only be found in a Suffering Savior named Jesus. It is His blood that sets us free.

    In Matthew 5:48, there are these words, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” For years I tried to be “perfect” in getting every thing just right. And something awful happened to me and my faith as I struggled with all my human might to make everything right. I became more and more frustrated, realizing that I could really, never be perfect. Then one day God must have had enough of all my ranting and ravings and slaving to get everything just right. God must have, through his word and through his Spirit helped me to understand what it meant to “be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect.” It was not that hard after I began to think of it this way,… “How is God most perfect to me?” In other words, “What makes God so good, so wonderful to me?” And the answer is that he has shown me through Jesus Christ a few simple but profound things…things like, mercy (with holding his wrath from me), grace (granting me what I do not deserve), forgiveness (for even having a part in nailing his Son upon the cross; much less forgiveness for all my other sins). He has shown me love (when I have been so unloveable at times). This is how God is “perfect” to me.

    It’s not about if we have ever nuance of doctrine absolutely correct. Certainly, that is our goal. But, being human, we are sure to mess it up once in a while. And that is why, right smack dab in the middle of the law code, is the code for mercy, the code for grace, the code for forgiveness and the code for love. It is not that we get it right, it is, however, that Jesus did. And there, at that most important and significant point, you and your parents agree. And there is where you and I find peace, sometimes even in the deepest recesses of our own hearts, where we doubt even our own conclusions from time to time, our faith rest upon nothing more, or upon nothing less, than the blood of Jesus.

    Your friend and fellow minister of the gospel,
    Keith

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