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Life Issues

Ken Died Last Week.  

 

Ken was a top guy. A real quality gentleman. I wish you could have met him. I'm sure you would be impressed like I was. In fact, let me tell you a little about Ken.

 

I first met Ken about 29 years ago. His wife, Ruth, was a valued member of the Church where I was the Pastor at that time. She was a fine Christian lady. Ken would occasionally come to Church with Ruth but made no claim to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

 

Nothing was too much trouble for Ken. If the Church conducted a working bee, Ken would be there. If we had a dinner or supper at the Church, guess who would be first at the kitchen sink to wash and/or dry dishes? You guessed it in one - Ken. He was thoughtful and generous with his time and energy. He neither needed or sought applause or acknowledgement for what he did for others. He was a true servant of others.

 

I don't recall the exact day or date that I called to their home on what became the week that changed their lives. I talked with Ruth for a while and then she went off to do something else leaving Ken and I to chat.

 

In the couple of years that I had known Ken I had never had the opportunity of asking him about his understanding of the Christian faith. It was obvious over the time I had known him that he certainly wasn't "anti-Christian". That afternoon in Ken's lounge room I felt an inner prompting to raise this issue with him. I had a sense that the growing relationship between us had reached a stage whereby I had earned the right to ask him about his understanding of God and the message of the gospel. I believed that Ken had a genuine respect for me and I certainly reciprocated that sentiment.

 

The conversation went something like this:

 

"Ken, it occurred to me recently that, in the time that we have known each other, I have never asked you about how you understand God and your relationship to Him. You certainly seem sympathetic to Christian teaching. You seem to be very supportive of Ruth's commitment to be a follower of Jesus. From where I stand you also seem to have adopted Christian values and attitudes. Mate, is it OK for me to ask you if you have ever made that same commitment to Jesus as Ruth?"

 

Now, before I tell you Ken's response to my question, there is something else you need to know. Over the preceding weeks leading up to this conversation, I had been preaching through the Acts of the Apostles. I was up to chapter 10 and had been preparing my sermon for the next Sunday on the story of Cornelius, a Roman soldier. Cornelius is described variously - devout, God-fearing, generous, well-respected. But he did not have a personal relationship with God.

 

With that in mind, let me tell you what happened next in Ken's lounge room that afternoon. Ken was not at all offended or resistant to my question. In fact, he saw it as an expression of my care for him. He talked about his involvement with our Church family and how much he appreciated the friendships of the folk on those occasions where he visited. But he honestly acknowledged that he had never surrendered his life to the Lordship of Jesus and, therefore, he did not have that relationship with God as taught in the Bible. He made no appeal to what others might describe as his "good works" as a substitute for a commitment to Jesus.

 

As he talked, the strangest thing happened. My mind was suddenly blank except for one word that filled my mental screen. "CORNELIUS". I was listening to a modern-day Cornelius. I mentally re-joined the conversation just as Ken finished his response to my original question. "

 

Ken, you are Cornelius!"

 

"Excuse me?"

 

"I have been preparing my sermon for next Sunday and it is based on a Roman Centurion who was a good man but was still lacking something in his life". I explained. I think Ruth returned just about then but, for whatever reason, our conversation came to a timely close. I had a sense that nothing more needed to be said at that time.

 

So that you have a context for what I am about to tell you, let me say that when we celebrated the Lord's Supper in our Church services, we always made provision for people to request specific prayer. As part of that service, we invited those who would like to receive prayer and the laying on of hands to come to the front where members of our prayer team would receive them and pray for them. People who came forward might do so in their desire for healing or wisdom for some decision that had to be made or to surrender their lives to Jesus.

 

Well, having finished my sermon on Cornelius, we moved the emphasis to the Communion Table and I invited those who would like to come forward for prayer to do so. Only one person came forward on that morning. Yes, again you got it in one. Ken.

 

As Ken stepped forward, the whole church caught and held its collective breath. We were all part of such a sacred moment. Just about everybody knew Ken. Just about everybody knew that something special - something heavenly - was about to happen. I can still see the scene with such clarity after all these years. Ken stood in front of me with his hands folded in front of him. The silence was deafening. I stepped in front of Ken. Our eyes met. His were moist. So were mine.

 

When I spoke, I asked what, in retrospect, seems to be a rather blunt question; "Ken, what are you doing here?" He looked me right in the eyes and said simply; "It's time". I knew what he meant and so did he. I also heard the Church breathe out as a wave of joy and anticipation swept across the congregation. In front of that company of committed people, Ken and I knelt together and he surrendered his life to the authority of Jesus.

 

Outwardly, nothing much seemed to have changed. But the chamge on the inside was enormous. Ken was in Church every Sunday with Ruth thereafter. Ruth's smile seemed to stretch from one end of the room to the other. Ken was still Cornelius but now he knew the presence of the Living God, the forgiveness of sin and a Spirit-empowered life.

 

Over the subsequent years life was not easy for Ken. Sadly, Ruth was afflicted with Alzheimer's disease and she died a few years back. Now he, too, has been released into the presence of the Lord he met that Sunday morning so long ago. Although our paths have crossed only occasionally since that divine moment, I have never forgotten the look on his face, the joy in his heart and the life he lived until last week.

 

Thanks Ken.

 

And thank you, Lord, for the sheer privilege of being a small part of what you did in that man's life.

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