I have just experienced a devastating personal loss. I have been crying a lot and I am in mourning. I am overcome with a towering sense of sadness.
Some have tried to tell me that I shouldn’t feel loss. It has become politically incorrect in the church to mourn the loss of loved ones. Recently, a famous preacher said this at a funeral: “if you really have faith, you will not feel any sadness at all.”
However, Acts 8: 2 says, “And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.” That is what devout men do…they grieve over loss.
Jesus mourned at Lazarus’ grave: “And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”-John 11:34-36.
These verses overflow with meaning for those who lose loved ones. Here was the creator of faith weeping. How can it be unbelief if Jesus mourned?
Moreover, He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead so why weep? The Jews who were watching understood why. He wept because He loved Lazarus. That is why I am weeping…I loved my friend Dusty Kemp.
You never heard of Dusty Kemp? Well then, I am about to enrich your life. Dusty abruptly went to heaven on Sunday night December 11th. A week before that, I stood in his pulpit and called him the best kept secret in America. It is high time for that secret to get out.
When he taught the Bible, it came alive. He parked his soul in the Gospels and never ceased to amaze the seeker and satisfy the hungry. You always got light and a fresh angle to the Word of God.
Repeatedly, the question crashed in my soul: How could such a mighty man die? The Holy Spirit took me to these verses: 2 Kings 13: 14 “Elisha had become sick with the illness of which he would die.” Verse 21: “So it was, as they were burying a man, that suddenly they spied a band of raiders; and they put the man in the tomb of Elisha; and when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.”
What can kill a man whose bones raise the dead die? The answer is a broken heart. Elisha was banned from prophesying for almost 40 years. The counsel of God that burned within him used him up because it was rejected.
Dusty preached against the grain in a religious culture that valued size and fame. He did it to his own hurt. It shortened his life.
Dusty was a contradiction that increased his pain. He loved people and didn’t want to lose anyone. He also loved truth. At great personal cost, he would do what was right.
He would constantly analyze things to death to be sure he was doing the right thing. This also shortened his life. I was a constant source of frustration to me. I begged him more times than I can count to stop doing this.
He was not a professional pastor. He winged it with a singular desperation to do what he believed was right.
He sacrificed himself in his humor. He could laugh at himself better than anyone I ever knew.
He tried to seem tough but he was the quintessential softie. Here is the last text we shared: Me: “I am in your office barking orders so your staff feels at home.” Dusty: “Awesome! Thank you. Fire someone.” You see there it is…he is talking big about something he could never do without great inner anguish.
He was hard on himself but forgiving to others. If there was a question about who was right he would find a way to take the blame.
Did Dusty Kemp accomplish a lot with his life? He would say no. But he accomplished more that we could ever imagine. You may not see it at first because our mega church values only reward those who build empires.
Here’s the thing…the goal is not to engrave your name on monuments, grand buildings or sprawling campuses. You are supposed to engrave your name on the hearts of people. A man of God’s legacy is in the souls who were transformed, the minds that reverberate with your teachings and the stories that people share about you. By this measure my friend Dusty was a spectacular success. Untold numbers of people all over creation carry his legacy.
That is why New Life Church will continue to thrive. Mary Kemp will be graced with special power. The church’s wonderful ministries will continue to excel. I can’t wait to be a part of it.
Dusty Kemp was not just my friend he was a great man, a wonderful intellect, a great soul of matchless courage, one of the great men of the earth—and yet we have no right to bow down to his memory simply because he was great. Great orators, great soldiers, great lawyers, often use their gifts for selfish reasons. We should pay a tribute of love and respect to Dusty Kemp because he used his matchless power for the good of man and for the Glory of Christ.