Cleveland

“He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart.” (Psalm 15:2)

The First Presbyterian Church in Cleveland, Ms. Has a special place in my memory both far and near. My father Dr. Robert W Kirkpatrick ordained Pastor Harmon at the First Presbyterian Church in Cleveland. It was a rancorous process and the search committee was placing strong challenges to Pastor Harmon’s theology. I wasn’t there so I don’t know but at some point my father stood up and told the people to stop badgering the Pastor. The outset of that was that my father used the text of this devotional, “He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart.” (Psalm 15:2) We cannot argue over trivial matters and deny the man who has the truth written on the tablet of his heart is to be driven away from the will of God. Pastor Harmon was ordained and served the Church until 1997 or 98.

In 1988 my father went home to rest with the Lord and Dr. Harmon preformed the funeral service. On February 22, the Church family came together and celebrated the life of my father and his ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I learned a valuable lesson that day from the reflections of Dr. Sid Harmon and I have carried it with me, not as well as I should, from those days since. “Stand in the Truth.”

In November of 2007 my mother went home to be with the Lord in Perry Georgia. Now this may be shocking to some but my brother Bob placed her body in the back of his pick-up truck and took her to Cleveland, Mississippi so she would not miss her funeral service. Of course I knew my mother for all of my life, or so I thought. Again Dr. Sid Harmon conducted the service and I learned something very powerful from his meditation. My mother kept an extensive prayer list and a record of how God had answered each one. Her prayer list wasn’t empty on the day that she passed but near all boxes were checked that God had given an answer to her request. God answers our prayers and we should keep a list in order to remember what He has done and to give Him the praise and glory. Dr. Harmon an honored titled to my mom as a great prayer warrior and if you needed prayer she was to one to seek. This is how we can tap into the power of God, communicate with Him in prayer. I learned that day from my mother to “Stand in Prayer.”

Then in February of 2009 my brother Hal Kirk went home and again the family gathered at the First Presbyterian Church of Cleveland. Once again Dr. Sid Harmon was called to the task of officiating the service and the family and friends gathered to celebrate his life. I have known Hal since I was a teenager when my father preformed the wedding ceremony of Hal and my sister Mary. I got to be an usher at the service and I also met a very great friend, Hal. Over the years I would venture out to Mississippi and visit and it was always a welcoming family, not as in-laws but as family. And over the years I realized that Hal was the definition of Benevolent Grace. If anyone had a need they didn’t have to ask as Hal would always be ready to provide. Through the words of Dr. Harmon’s meditations on brother Hal I learned the truth of showing mercy to every one of God’s Children. We all should “Stand in Mercy,” because we all need God’s mercy.

This year Hal’s wife my sister Mary went home to be with her Lord. And once again we all gathered at the First Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Ms. On February, 11th Dr. Harmon, who is now retired, led the service and gave his meditations over the memory of Sister Mary. My sister was not a pushy person but if she gave you an assignment she expected it to be done. This was her expectation as she was for many years a children’s teacher. Not just in the public schools but more in the Sunday school of the Church. Dr. Harmon mentioned that if a book landed on his desk he knew that he would need to be ready to give a report to Mary, as this is what she expected.

Of course the passing of family is a sad event to us but in each one I was not driven to tears at the event until the service for my sister. And it was not the passing of my sister but the response of the town at her service. I don’t really know the seating capacity of the Church in Cleveland, I would guess 400. But I do know this there was standing room only in that Sanctuary. They we not just old folks like my brothers but young folks and middle aged folk. I learned as the day passed that the majority of the people who attended were her former students and their lives were positively affected by her work in the Lord’s ministry.

Sometimes we think that we are not making a difference in the lives of others. We may even think that we are wasting our time in our efforts. But this is never true. And I learned and confirmed this at the service for Sister Mary. As I looked at all the people that had come to know the Lord Jesus a lot better through the faithful teaching of my sister. I learned that day that whatever our call the Lord has placed upon us, it is necessary and we must remain dedicated to His service because He knows the end from the beginning. “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” (Isaiah 46:10) I learned to “Stand in the Training” of the Lord.

I have throughout my life grown in the paternal family of God and the eternal family of God. I have learned mostly the hard way the lessons my family have taught. Jesus said the truth shall make you free. “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32) We all were or are slaves to the bondage of sin in our lives. Jesus paid the wage of that sin so that we who follow Him are freed from that debt. It is our responsibility to “Stand in the Truth.” We are not to just know the truth but to live in that truth for the world to see. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

I have learned that prayer is the fundamental key to all the blessings of the promises of God. We are powerless to live a life with God if do not desire to fellowship with Him in intimate prayer. If we love God, then why would we not desire to communicate completely with Him? We desired that with our first love and we do so with our present love. With all the loves we have in our life the foremost is and should be with the power of our life, the giver of our life, and our Lord and Savior. We can only stand if we “Stand in Prayer.” “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22)

Two of the greatest commands that Jesus gave is this. “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29:31) God is love and His mercy endures forever. That alone is the best news man can receive, as if God was anything less there would be no hope in our lives. My father to this day prays for my mercy from the Father. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father praying for each one of us continually. If we “Stand in Mercy” we shall receive His mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

Standing in the truth of God’s Word, standing in the power of His answered prayer, and showing His mercy to those whom we find offensive is the strong reason that we should train up our children, the children that they may know the truth, that they may know that they can talk to their Creator, and that they can receive God’s enduring mercy. It is our greatest responsibility for their very lives depend on what we teach them today. Do we want the village teaching our children, do we want the government, and do we want strangers? It is our responsibility to train our children and to have that training reinforced in the Sunday school by teachers of God’s Word. Solomon tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:16) We must “Stand in Training.”

We were not called to be spectators but to be followers of Jesus. We are disciples of Jesus, students of His Word. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24) It is not a Sunday morning commitment or a Wednesday commitment. It is a daily walk with Him. If we are to go where He is leading us, then we must follow. Jesus told the Church at Laodicea these frightening words of rebuke. “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” (Revelation 3:16)

I believe that many come to Church to punch the ticket and they will be sorely surprised on that day when they hear, “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23)

A few weeks ago the Pastor spoke of Gideon’s 300 hundred. I say yes Lord, and yes Pastor I want to be in the number. (Judges 7:6) I will humble myself and lap the water of life with my eyes wide open so that I can watch and pray that I enter not into temptation. “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41) I will serve my God first where ever He leads me, whatever He asks of me, and at whatever the cost. I will stand in His truth, I will pray to Him without ceasing, I will love my neighbor and show His mercy, and I will train up the children that they will know the way as Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, August 23, 2016

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