Keith Elder Eulogy

Keith Elder Message

Genesis 15:5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.” 

How do you describe things that are larger than life? 

How do you describe the ocean the first time you stand and listen to its roar and watch its endless tide?

How do you describe the Rocky mountains when you take your first look at those towering peaks and seemingly never-ending ridges?

How do you describe the universe as you stand beneath the starry canopy and your eyes only can see the eternal void interrupted by trillions of stars and galaxies?

You don’t describe it, you admire it! You stand in awe of it, you wait in amazement because you cannot describe it! I feel the same way when I try to describe Keith Elder!

To many of us, when we first met him, he was larger than life; not only in size, but in spirit and experience.

As Mark Muirhead noted on my Facebook page he was; Big Heart, Big Stature, Big Handshake, Big Voice, Big Prayers, Big Dreams, Big Achievements and Bigger Rewards.

I would like to add; Big Friend, Big Husband, Big Father, Big Grand Dad, Big Brother, and Big Neighbor!

While his absence leaves a void in us, his legacy leaves us with big responsibilities to carry on the vision, the love, the prayers, the caring and the dreams, that he championed for us!

He left us with an example of how to preach the Gospel! He showed us that the message was better delivered with  a hug, a tug on the shoulder, an open door, a forgiving heart, a tear in the eye and welcoming meal.

I don’t know that I ever had the privilege to hear him preach, but his message was always clear and precise and life changing: to him people matter, vision matters, and legacy matters.

He taught us how to live, how to dream and how to leave behind what really matters.

For many of us he was our greatest coach cheering us on! He’s left the field, but the game continues on!  He left us his legacy and we honor it today!

Elder’s life has yielded so much good fruit of lives being changed. May his legacy continue to yield that same fruit!

Revelation 14:13 “And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”

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Drama Has No Destiny!

Drama has no Destiny!

I heard this quote recently that made me think about drama. “Too many driven by drama rather than destiny!” Samuel Rodriguez

Drama is like a rip current in the ocean. It will drag you away from the shores of your life and toward an ocean that has no borders. If you try to fight the drama it will sap your strength and eventually weaken you to your death. The only way to get away from a rip current is to swim parallel to the shore until you get free of it and then swim back to the shore. Rip currents are not wide just wild. If you keep your head and never lose sight of the shore you can eventually swim back to the shore. The same is true about drama. If you are not careful the drama will cause you to lose the focus of your destiny. All of a sudden you look up and realize you are fighting something that does not matter. Now you have no strength left to return to your destiny. Defeat and death then become your partners.

Drive has to have a destiny! Control the urge to fight and flitter away your future! To me a simple plan keeps me in focus to the things that need to be driving me.

Matthew 6:33 Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness….

What does the Kingdom and the King want out of me?

Where does the Kingdom and the King get the best benefit out of my life?

What is it that is keeping me from doing the right things for the Kingdom and the King?

I have found that in the process of living I can become so engrossed in the work of the Kingdom that I forget the King! Sometimes I have even found myself fighting for the Kingdom in ways that are not pleasing to the King. Righteousness must be practiced at all times for the Kingdom to be administrated as the King desires. We destroy the Kingdom when we become self-righteous and focus on the wrongs of others rather than the king.

The church or organizations we belong to is not the Kingdom. The leaders or the pastors of our churches are not the King. They are not the enemy either! The enemy is you! When you focus on anything other than the King and His Kingdom then you become an enemy. Be free to follow the King and determine to live in the Kingdom of Righteousness. The drama will go away and you will find the shores that bring peace.

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Ministry Promotions and Elections should be determined my The Lord and not our Politics.

Ministry Promotions and Elections should be determined my The Lord and not our Politics.

Psalm 75:1 We give thanks to you, O God;
we give thanks, for your name is *near.
We* recount your wondrous deeds.
[2] “At *the set time that I appoint
I will judge *with equity.
[3] When the earth *totters, and all its inhabitants,
it is I who keep steady its *pillars. Selah
[4] I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’
and to the wicked, *‘Do not lift up your horn;
[5] do not lift up your horn on high,
or speak with haughty neck.’”
[6] For not from the east or from the west
and not from the wilderness comes *lifting up,
[7] but it is *God who executes judgment,
*putting down one and lifting up another.
[8] *For in the hand of the LORD there is *a cup
with foaming wine, *well mixed,
and he pours out from it,
and all the wicked of the earth
shall *drain it down to the dregs.
[9] But I will declare it forever;
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
[10] *All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,
*but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.

While serving in a District office position several years ago I was approached with a question that made me think. The question was this, “How would you feel if you were voted out of office?” To be honest it took be back that it was even a subject of concern. My response was not meant to be cavalier but serious. I responded, “No one can vote me out. The body would simply be voting someone else in office.” I was elected to serve a two year term and each term a vote was to be taken on the office I held not the man who held the office.

Maybe I am missing something but I think too many times elected people fail to realize the position always belongs to the organization and not any one individual or group. The body has the right and responsibility to elect whom they feel should serve the organization. It seems like some have mistakenly thought when elected, that they were given the position until they changed their mind and heart about holding it. When elected to serve the body we should serve with humility and grace. Never are we to hold an office but to let the office hold us. We should serve the body with our heart and hold the position with an open hand and not a clenched fist.

Will it sting if ever we are not returned to a post? Of course it will! The flesh will always reject a challenge. But after a few days we will get back on track. The call on our life is not to a place, position or power but to Christ. Our call is to yield to the leadership and Lordship of Christ. There is no difference in Christs eyes to the positions we hold. He is looking to see if we are holding Him or something else.

So when a body of believers vote on those to serve in various places we should cast a ballot for that person whom we feel God is directing us. We should never vote against anybody we should vote for somebody. The body is responsible to elect the best qualified individual to serve the organization. That qualification is made by the Holy Spirit with everything else being secondary. We should not be divisive in our elections but prayerful and sincere. We should never cast a ballot lightly for people’s family and future will be affected. We should never feel pressured by friendships, alliances or threats when we cast our ballots.

The question should be asked, “Whom is The Lord placing His hand on and the Holy Spirit directing for me to cast my vote?

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born *I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet *to the nations.”

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Judas Steers

Judas steer

Why’d they leave that one cow? Ain’t it good for meat? I asked my grandfather.

That there’s a Judas, a Judas steer, he answered.

He explained that a Judas steer (or just “Judas”) is a special member of a herd. The herd usually has one cow or steer that is “trained” or calm enough to lead the rest of the cows into the slaughterhouse without help of human “encouragement.” I can imagine that if I were a cow, I wouldn’t go readily into a building reeking of death. However, if I saw a trusted member of my herd going in first, I might be more easily persuaded. After all of the herd had been led into the slaughterhouse, they would extract the Judas steer and return it to the farm for future use. It is most obviously named after Judas Iscariot, the apostle of Jesus Christ that betrayed the “Son of God” with a simple kiss, revealing Jesus’ identity to the awaiting Roman guards who would arrest him and later crucify him. These cows could easily see the inside of a slaughterhouse up to a dozen times before being killed themselves, unaware which trip in which they would lead their fellow cows to their death would be its last.

The “Judas steer” was the one who helped the cowboys lead the other animals to their destruction in the stockyards. The terms dates from the 1800s cattle drives.

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I hate to say it because it is disparaging of people, but sometimes crowds are like cattle. They don’t like discomfort or something that causes them to be anxious. Cattle will normally resist the unfamiliar unless there is another cow that they trust leading the way. Cowboys driving a herd to the stockyards will always look for the Judas cow. The reason is that that one cow’s leadership is enough to get the cattle to follow.

The truth is as men of God we must not follow others to our destruction. We cannot afford to allow others to lead us into places we are uncomfortable. There are several Judas steers around us today. Most of them have no idea they are influencing others to make the wrong choices. They may be young and not realize they are being used by others. It can be people who have motives of moving up in life. That in itself is not an impure motive. We always have to put principals, truth and integrity above our desires.

It is hard to pull away from the pack. It is never pleasant to disagree and descent from leadership. Even good people become poor leaders. We can love people but loathe their leadership. No one because they are in leadership deserves blind loyalty. The responsibility of leaders is to give clear, concise and credible leadership. Never allow yourself to feel that you must follow them or their followers to be a Christian. If leaders make you feel that way then they are not godly leaders. You are not an enemy if you disagree and make new paths. But you will be destroyed if you follow the wrong people following the wrong leaders!

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Questions

Questions

If it is not missional and has no real mission then why? If it is scattered and without focus then why? If it has no clarity and clear instruction then why? If the people in charge are unkind, double-tongued and irresponsible then why? If where you are being led has no paths, no goals and no signage then why? Why would one trust in someone or some organization that all the variables and parts don’t add up?

What is it that you are following? What is it about the leadership that keeps you from asking the right questions? What is it that makes you think that doing the wrong thing will eventually become the right thing? What has to happen before you will be open with your concerns?

When will it be enough? When will you draw a line and determine that you will not cross it? When will you find your voice and articulate your thoughts? When did you lose your principals and courage? When will you return to you and what you believe in?

Who have you become in the process ? Who is it that you trusted and have a problem trusting today? Who have you moved away from that you thought had changed only to realize it was you that had changed not them? Who will you be when the end of your life has been reached? Who will care that you were here for the years you walked this earth?

Where will you be after these questions? Where will you find the truth? Where did you leave the path? Where would God take you if you were trusting Him? Where will you find the courage to answer the questions and turn around?

Where will we be if somewhere we don’t answer the why, what, when and who’s of our lives?

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Available for Ministry

I have been in the ministry for thirty eight years. I feel like I have been somewhat successful in my ministry to the Church. I have served as volunteer, Sunday School teacher, youth leader, Royal Ranger leader, evangelist, pastor, church planter, sectional youth representative, community ministerial president, chairman of Teen Challenge of Alabama, chairman of Alabama Prison Ministries, Crisis Center Counselor, Alabama State Youth Director, Presbyter at large, National Speed the Light director, National Aim Director, Light for the Lost field Representative, Convoy of Hope Church representative, and on and on. I have led camps, conventions, revivals, churches, committees and boards. I have built buildings and organized ministries. I have rubbed shoulders with leaders in the highest offices of our fellowship and worked alongside some men who were great but chose to serve in difficult and hard places. I have had a good run at this thing and I am not done by any means.

But when I listen to some of the things purported by some of the qualifications of ministers I would have never been able to get off first base. If God has placed in you a passion to minister then do it where you are and move forward. Learn and grow into the work. Don’t be stymied by the opinions of others. Ministry is not rocket science it is service to The Lord and His people. I guess I have never been in awe of the fine oratory of some among us. I never have felt because others spoke well, knew more and had more talent than I, that I was disqualified to minister and serve.

The best advise I could ever give a person with a desire to be in the ministry is just get in where you are and with what you have. Every person has something that God can use to help others. I am not excusing laziness in study and preparation. I am not saying that if you have the opportunity to stretch your mind and skills that you should not do so. I am saying that ministry is available at any level and to any person who will commit themselves to God through serving others.

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Fight the Good Fight, Finish the Job and Keep the Faith

Fight the Good Fight, Finish the Job and Keep the Faith

2 Timothy 4:[7] I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

The Apostle was coming to the end of his time on the earth. He had some reminiscing of his life and it was put in a nutshell in 2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Not much more can be expected of a life well lived. Today we have the ability to live deeper, longer and higher than Paul in that we have modern technology, tools and travel at our disposal. But side by side most of us would fall far short of the success of Paul.

When God sets before us a work to do I hope when our time is served we fought the good fight, finished the job and kept the faith that was given to us.

1. Fighting the Good Fight!

To do the work of God you will always have to fight. It is a struggle to do the right thing. The biggest issue will be to fight the good fight and not just any fight. I have been amazed through the years at the men who fought everything that challenged them but it was the wrong fight. Sometimes that is because we are fighting with ourselves as to who we are and what we are suppose to do. There are just too many fights some people get themselves into to ever win the good fight. You can never win the good fight if you are fighting the wrong fight. It is not people we should be fighting. It is not issues we should be fighting. It is not even evil that we should be fighting. We are fighting for the purpose of Christ to be established in the world we are living in. We are fighting to know what it is Christ wants done. We can’t be fighting ourselves and others and ever fight the good fight. The fight is to work the works of Christ while we can and where we can and however we can.

2. I have Finished the Job!

It is not enough to start something and leave it unfinished. Your responsibility is to see the task finished. Christ on the Cross when He was about to die said, “it is finished!” Not His life, but the work He had come to accomplish. Death was not taking him until He finished. No sir, He had set His face steadfastly, firmly, stubbornly to finish His work. It drove Him to walk, work and witness until he had established His Kingdom in the earth. His part was finished but He handed off to us, the Church our part to finish. Paul said, “I fill up that which remains of the work of Christ!” He had to finish his part and so do you and I! Our task is to finish the task. We are to take the commission of Christ seriously. We are to obey the commission even to our detriment. We are to take the message of the Kingdom to every end of this world. [18] And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

“Matthrew 28: [19] Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

We cannot come to the end of our time as individuals or as the collective Church and not have finished the task. We dare not waste the sacrifice of Christ on the selfishness of self-centeredness. We dare not waste the blood of the Martyrs, the plodding of the pioneers, the suffering if the missionaries on the laziness of those who snooze on the job. I certainly hope that when our shift is done we have finished more than we left unfinished.

3. Kept the Faith

This is not something mystical like wishing and speaking wealth and things into your life. It is not the comical way people profess their walk as people of faith. Proven by the homes they live in, the cars they drive and the clothes they wear. Sir, you are no more than a clown in the rodeo of life. One day one of the raging bulls of this world is going to gore you and leave you busted.

To keep the faith is to keep the truths and standards of the revealed Word of God. Men of God have been handed and delivered the truths of the Kingdom. These are eternal truths that change lives but the truths do not change. Here we have a key to the success and significance our lives have when we have run our race. Have we been true to the truth? Have we lowered the standards that God has raised? If you have changed the truth and lowered the standard Christ has given His Church you are a traitor to His work. Non of us have the right to change the truth or lower the standards of His Word. Culture, fads, leaders, organizations must heed the truth and honor His standards. When we work from the other side and make the truth and standards fit other people and ideas then we void the power of the truth and the strength of the standards.

The honor of a man of God when his work is done is not what many think. You will have no eternal honor because of the positions you have held, titles you earned, friends you made, buildings you built or races you have won. The greatest honor to a man of God is that he fought the battle, He stayed the course and He upheld the standard and lived the Truth!

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40th Anniversary for David and Pat Raley June 16, 1973-2013

40th Anniversary for David and Pat Raley
June 16, 1973-2013

I heard a thought or sermon one time about the dash between the dates on a gravestone. That dash represented the greatest part of the deceased persons life. It is what they did in that dash that validates the birth and gives value to the life of the corpse. Well today Pat and I are not crawling up into any caskets. We have a whole lot more to do and life to live before the end. But the dash for us represents a whole lot of struggles, growth, fun and adventures. Today we are celebrating the validation of our marriage and the value of its love.

Let me rehearse a few of those events

1973 Wedding in Cullman, Alabama

In that ten years I worked at a steel mill, pulp wood Yard, hardware store, and a insurance company. Pat worked at sewing factories.

We lived in rental homes and struggled to pay our $55.00 a month rent.

We bought our first home, a trailer.

I committed myself to the call of ministry.

1983-1993

We were pastors of Grace Chapel. Assembly of God.
We were new parents of Jonathan (1985)
We became pastors of New Life Assembly
We bought two new homes and built a new home
Pat got her Associates degree and became a x-Ray technologist.

1993-2003
We were elected District Youth Directors of Alabama.
We lived in Montgomery, Alabama
We started Capital Christian Center
We built a Church building

2003-2013

We left to serve the national office of the Assemblies of God
We live in Springfield, Missouri
Pat got her Bachelors degree at Evangel University.
We have lived in two homes and one of those I built.
We helped start a new ministry with a friend and we are presently doing such.

We have traveled the world together, built homes together, raised a family together and dreamed together. Life has been an adventure and it has been a struggle. We have had our ups and we have had our downs. There were days that we did not have the money for what we needed and there were days that we had enough money to share. We have had some defeats and failures but we also have won and succeeded at some things. We made a few enemies along The way, for which I am sad, but wow have we made some friends. We were never poor because we did not have any wealth or money. We never considered that being without was because of who we were. Our minds were set to move forward and do the best we could with the little we had. We felt that if we gave it all we had the results would be better than letting life push down. We never thought about giving up, letting up, but moving up. We never felt like we had to have more than we could afford or be bigger than who we were. We have always been amazed at how good, kind and gracious people have been to us.

We have never been anywhere close to perfect. We started out as two teenagers who had nothing but each other. I mean really nobody gave us a a chance that we could or would succeed. We have failed on so many levels in so many ways. But we have succeeded in enough places to be here today after forty years of marriage, healed, happy, healthy, and hopeful for the future that is in front of us. If the dash in these last forty years means anything it means that nothing in our future can stop us from having a future. The Lord has shined His face upon us. He has put His hand on us to bless us. He has given us His favor and His loving kindness for life.

David and Pat

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Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day

Today is Fathers Day. This is the day that we celebrate dad. There is no doubt that dad deserves the day of celebration. So many times when we commemorate dad in our church services it is centered around what a dad should be and not what he is. It seems to take on the feel of coaching him up rather than thanking him for his role. It is really a total different feel for the mothers on their day. On Mother’s Day we have nothing but praise and highest honors. If only the rest of humanity could even get somewhere close to what a mother is then we would be highly esteemed. Now lest you think I have a problem with the praise on mothers let me say, mothers are worthy of every accolade we could give them. But could we give a little love toward daddy? Could we take a day to reflect on the struggles, challenges and unique journeys of the man who is a daddy.

When you think about the struggles of a man it may take a while. While he is a man he is still a boy. One who likes to explore because of the curiously he innately has by simply being male. That curiosity helps him develop into a man. Yet it is that same curiosity that leads him down some not so good roads. That is why boys needs daddy’s to guide and guard until the boy becomes astute enough to do so for himself.

A man needs challenges and championships to stretch him to become better. He finds his character being built in the stretching forward and competition with others. Truth is men have to deal with losing more than winning. They carry the weight of not being good enough, smart enough or rich enough. If you are second you are really just the first loser in this life. Men somewhere should be applauded for competing even though they did not win. The competing is what makes the champion not the trophy. The challenge is not the competition but the lack of appreciation after the losses.

Men are guardians, protectors, leaders, nurturers, lovers, fighters, competitors, followers, and even pin cushions. Yes, I said pin cushions! They have everything pinned on them and after a while they get testy with all the sticks. Our whole culture beats him up. He has to fight to wear he pants today but fight even more with others trying to put a skirt on him. He has no desire to take the women’s rights away but he really would like for them to leave his alone. Men were made to lead and when he has a collar put on him for others to lead him it causes a lot of confusion in him. Men have in them innately to guard and protect. It is confusing when they have to live with the fear of society wanting him to step back. The journey of each man is one in which he does not just carry his weight but all the weight of his family, career, and society.

Thankful we are for man who do a great job caring for others while few care for them. Thankful we are for the dads who did not leave when it seemed everybody left him. Thankful we are for the dad when temptation was present turned and went the other way. Thankful we are for the dad who got up early to go to a job he may not of loved because he had others he loved. Thankful we are for the dads who continued to lead when the world says sit down.

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Takes Some Time, But Don’t Waste it.

Takes Some Time, But Don’t Waste it.

I am sitting in a Wal-Mart in Easton, Maryland. I am sipping on a Starbucks coffee and enjoying the rain. I am enjoying the lawn chairs that are for sale. As a road warrior I have long learned how to enjoy the journey and to find soft spots along the trail. Usually I am looking for those hole in the wall restaurants to dine. Quiet places to refresh and reload from the business of life. Waste of time? Oh no, valuable time needed to do the grueling work I do of traveling. This week I dined on Rock Fish off the Atlantic, last week Crawfish from the Gulf in Lousiana and a few days before that, fish baskets in San Francisco. The travel is tough but the food is fantastic.

All of us having been given only so much time here on earth. Think about this,

In a year we spend about
120 days sleeping.
45 days eating.
31 days watching tv.
14 days on vacation
13 days in church
2 days paying bills.

Now multiply that by the years you will live. What I am getting at is, are you spending your time in such a way that when you are passing from here to eternity you can be proud of where you spent it?

God gave you time and how you spend it will totally be up to you. Remember the time you got your first nice chunk of money? Someone might have said to you, “Don’t spend it all in one place or at one time!” Well that in your mind was impossible until later that day you had a bunch of busted toys, mangled receipts and empty billfold. Time like money goes faster than you think it can. But like money once time is gone you cannot make anymore. You lose the opportunity to hold that bride when she is gone. You lose that opportunity to go to a soccer game when he is grown. You lose the opportunity to listen to a parent when they are gone.

Busy? Sure, you are! But is your busy time the right time? Could you live with less and really have more? Will you keep losing moments for money!

Take all the time you need! No, I mean use all the time you have. Because you only have so many time chips to use and then it is time to cash it in.

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