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How Far to Bethany?

Luke 2:4-6 (KJV)
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

Luke 24:50-53 (KJV)
50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: 53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.


It all started at Bethlehem; it all ended at Bethany.

Both places witnessed miracles, angels, crowds of believers.  Bethlehem was the beginning; Bethany was the ending.  Bethlehem was the first hope; Bethany was the final glory.  Two geographical locations in close proximity to each other.

My question is:  How far is it really from Bethlehem to Bethany?

We could ask the surveyors, the road builders.

But it would be better to ask the one who walked the road in question.


He had a strong message:  Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 6:25-29 (KJV) 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

His message was strong, but he was a man who matched his message.  In fact, the carpenter’s son from Nazareth was the Creator of the Universe.

Behold what manner of man is this
Who stills the raging sea
He heals the sick, the lame, the halt
And makes the blind to see
He opens all the prison doors
And sets the captives free
Behold what manner of man is this
What manner of man is He?

He’s the Lord of Glory
He is the great I Am
The Alpha and Omega
The beginning and the end
His name is Wonderful
The Prince of Peace is He
He’s the everlasting Father
Throughout eternity.

Yes, we know his identity, but do we know his nature?  What is the benefit of knowing his identity unless we also know what he is like?

Ephesians 3:20 (KJV)
20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

The nature of the one who walked the road from Bethlehem to Bethany was this…  He exceeds himself.  He breaks his own records.  He goes beyond the good to do the best!

The exceeding greatness of God.

Look at the way he does things.

Look at the way he creates:

Amos 4:13 (KJV)
13 For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is his name.

Look at the way he delivers:

Exodus 14:21-31 (KJV)
21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
24 And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,
25 And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians.
26 And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.
27 And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
28 And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.
29 But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.
31 And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.

Look at the way he loves:

Romans 5:6-8 (KJV)
6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Look at the way he saves:

 Hebrews 7:25 (KJV)
25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

He could have stopped short of any of these awesome miracles, and still we would have marveled and said that he has done well.


But, the question still remains, How far to Bethany? How far from a great beginning to a grand finale? How far from an honorable mention to the grand prize? How far from an also-ran to the championship?

I submit to you that Bethany is beyond the Good.  To do well is good.  To go beyond is great!

What does it take to be a champion?

A common thread amongst them is Grace - a silent knowing - they set their sights on where they want to go and never look back. Setting Goals, they Strive to surpass Personal Bests. With a Positive Attitude, Commitment, Faith, Perseverance, a bit of Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, Overcoming Limitations, Commitment, Attention to Detail. Unwavering in their Quest for Success, they are Relentless and Consistent. 

“What makes a champion?  It is not the trophy.  It is not the talent. Not the salary, the most points, the fastest time, or the most records. It is not even being the best of the best. All of these things are just the benefits of what makes a true champion. You see, the real winners in life are those who have the courage to see the impossible. They are the people who overcome and persevere through all adversity. They learn from their mistakes, and no matter what, they never give up on their dreams. A true champion has VISION…”


Those of you who know the Bible story of Samson know that he was the strong man of Israel. But, his strength did not come from his own commitment. It came from the faith of his mother and father; Manoah and his wife. Samson had a hand-me-down anointing.  It was mom and dad’s religion, mom and dad’s church.

If you are in that situation today, I want you to remember something:  The blessings you have today are a result of that commitment mom and dad made to God.  The stable homelife, the love that bond you together, it is a result of their commitment.  

Samson had:  An inherited commitment

        A unappreciated anointing

        An unkept treasure.

Samson had:

        Privilege without commitment

        Power without conviction

        Strength without suffering

Samson compromised his power.  In the lap of Delilah, he became spiritually blinded to the source of his strength.  He actually thought that he—himself—was the one who was responsible for his own abilities, strengths and achievements.

But, there is a very telling scripture that describes the condition of Samson after he lost his hair.

Judges 16:18-21 (KJV) 18 And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath shewed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand.
19 And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him.
20 And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him.
21 But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.

Samson finally got to his own Bethany, but his Bethany was beyond his dungeon!

Bethany is always farther than you anticipated, farther than you wanted to go, farther than the flesh appreciates.

Something has to die on the road from Bethlehem to Bethany.

In my personal life:

I am very reluctant to talk about my personal life, mainly because I do not feel as though I have made any great sacrifice or accomplished any great thing.  I have been blessed to have wonderful parents, a great spiritual heritage, and opportunities given to me that I don’t feel I ever earned.

(In fact, I will share a story with you.  A few years ago, a man who was somewhat disgruntled with me (another preacher who knew me from childhood) told me that the only reason I married Sandy Kinzie was so I could have her father’s big church.  It was like a slap in the face.  A year or two later, he apologized to me.  I certainly hope that what he said was not true, but I carried that baggage around for a while.)

Two things were outstanding to me as I began my personal journey from Bethlehem.

First, my call to the ministry was when I was praying alone in my father’s church in Jackson, Michigan.  All of a sudden, I saw a vision of Calvary.  I saw the suffering of Jesus as he hung on the cross in such vivid tones that it burned itself into my consciousness forever.  I wanted to tell the world about this great man, the mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.

Second, after my wife and I had committed ourselves to the traveling evangelist ministry, we had one place to go:  Van Wert, Ohio.  We were to go there for two weeks.  After that, I would probably have to go back to my job at J. C. Penney’s at Miracle Mile.  At the end of two weeks, Brother George Thompson asked me to go another week.  Then, he asked me to go another week.  Then he asked me to go for a fifth week!  By the end of the fifth week, a number of other places opened up and I knew we could make it. 

The lesson is not the beginning.  It is not even the ending.  The lesson is the ordeal in between Bethlehem and Bethany.

Bethany is beyond the sacrifice…maybe the sacrifice of your most prized possession!

Matthew 13:45-46 (KJV) 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

“That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly.” Thomas Paine

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”  Thomas Paine 

How far is it to Bethany?

Matthew 5:38-42 (KJV)
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

In geographical measures, Bethany is somewhere between one and two miles from Bethlehem.  If you only go one mile, you will never get there. 

At the end of the first mile, Jesus was

        A great teacher

        A miracle worker

        A leader of men

If  the mission of Jesus would have been fulfilled by being an also-ran, one mile would have been enough.  If he came to seek, but not save, one mile would have been enough.  If he came to touch, but not transform, one mile would have been enough.

He was all of those things at the end of the first mile.

But, at the end of the second mile, he started a revolution!

        The second mile made him the Savior

        The second mile made him the victor over death, hell and the grave

        The second mile made him the ransom for mankind

You cannot get to your Bethany of Ascension unless you are willing to go to Gethsemane of consecration and Calvary of crucifixion.

What about the First Apostolic Church?

Some are willing to have a nice building, a nice school, a nice day care.

Some are willing to have a place for weddings, baby dedications and funerals.

Some are willing to just be nice people, good citizens, have reasonably happy lives.

You can have all of these things at the end of the first mile.

But, I submit to you this morning that being nice is not what the gospel is all about!


You don’t have to drive a van to be saved, but someone you pick up on the van may have a chance to be saved!

You don’t have to teach a Sunday School class to be saved, but some child who doesn’t have much of a homelife  may point to you as the reason they are saved!

You don’t have to be an on-fire prayer warrior, a fasting, Bible-reading, burden-carrying Saint of God to be saved; but the people who are looking to you for a role model or an example may rise or fall on what they see in you!

I am making an appeal to you today.

Are you willing to do more?

A new year is coming up.  Do you want your life to count for more than it has ever counted?

It is not the challenge of the also-rans.

It is the challenge of the champions.

Philippians 4:10-13 (KJV)
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

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