AN ACCOUNT OF DELIVERANCE,
The Rusty Woomer Story
Researched and written by Bill Stringfellow Publishing
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
Many years ago the Spanish Duke of Osuna visited a convict galley in Barcelona harbor with the intention of pardoning those prisoners who might be deserving of clemency. Boarding the vessel, he had the prisoners mustered on topside and asked each man what he had done to lose his liberty. One after another the men began to blame others for their imprisonment. One insisted he had been framed; another swore he had been apprehended in place of the real culprit; still another claimed that the witnesses at his trial had lied. Not one admitted he had done anything wrong, except one man who frankly confessed, “My lord, I stole a purse. I was caught, tried, justly convicted, and here I am.”
Concealing his surprise, the duke went on, listening to the other men’s alibis. When he was through, he turned to the man who had admitted his crime and in words of biting irony said, “Sir, you are far too wicked to remain in the company of these “innocent” men. I cannot pardon them, for they have done no wrong. But you admit you have done wrong. You I can pardon. Captain, release this man.”
Mercy and grace sometimes is found in the most unlikely places.
The most important principle and moral lesson of this account is not the duke pardoning the prisoner, but the man admitting his crime while in the midst of all those other “innocent” peers. Ronald Raymond Woomer, whose nickname is “Rusty” was a man who also admitted his crime. His story, while also true, is one of human tragedy, failure, loss, sin, and rebellion. But it is also a powerful story of the victory possible through the power of faith in Jesus Christ. Faith, Repentance, forgiveness and transformation are the highlights of Rusty’s story.
Mercy and grace may surely be found in the most unlikely places.
-Joseph Emilio Lahud
ARE YOU READY? For one of the most gripping true stories we have come across in a long time?
Ronald Raymond (Rusty) Woomer was born in 1954 in a very remote town in West Virginia. His parents divorced when he was an infant, then met by chance on the street four years later, decided to marry again, only to divorce later.
Rusty was the oldest of five children, and he loved the mountains and woods around the family shack. He was a small, blond boy who chased squirrels, ate ripe tomatoes from his mom’s garden, and watched hawks wheel in soaring circles in the sky.
But if Rusty felt free in the woods, at home his life was fettered by fear, hunger, and poverty. In later years he would describe his shame and embarrassment at having only a couple of shirts and pairs of pants to wear to school.
Even worse, he said, was his dad’s drinking. Alcohol released all the anger and despair simmering inside the man, and he took it out on his wife and children. When Rusty ran away from home to escape, his dad would find him and bring him back, bruised and afraid.
Still, there were good things in Rusty’s life. Fishing with his mother was one of his greatest pleasures. He knew she loved him. And there was the little country church a few miles from their house. In the winter Rusty would sit in a worn pew and look out the windows at long icicles hanging like fragile daggers from the eaves. Inside, an ancient potbellied stove warmed the little building. The preacher’s voice was so soft, so kind, so different from his dad’s screaming rages. Here Rusty felt welcome, insulated from the cold world of his everyday life.
As Rusty Woomer grew older, his few happy days grew even fewer. School bored and frustrated him, like anything that confined him or took away his freedom. The fights with his dad grew more violent. Sometimes rusty would sleep in gas station rest rooms or under bridges to keep from going home.
Drugs provided an escape. He had little trouble getting marijuana. Before long he was shooting liquefied amphetamines into his veins. He hung around with older boys who had already quit school; and when he was in the ninth grade, he quit as well. He also left home.
By the time he was 16, Rusty had lost his childhood cuteness. A straight and limp-haired, pale kid with habitually shifting eyes, he looked like a juvenile delinquent, and he was. He was sent to the Boys Forestry Camp in Welch, West Virginia. By 19, he was sent to the Huttonsille Correctional Center, a state prison, for stealing 14 cases of beer. Rusty Woomer had lost his name and become a number.
When he was released 3 years later, he spent his newfound freedom in a constant cycle of drugs, drink, and stealing to get money for more drugs and drink. He married, but after a brief high, his marriage crashed.
Rusty was convicted of statutory rape after he picked up a 15 year old girl in a bar, and jailed for 1 year in a Kentucky prison. After his release, he went back to West Virginia, where his drug use escalated. He made his own mix of amphetamines and would go without sleep for 5 days at a time. To come down off these highs, he drank whiskey, vodka and beer. In the meantime he popped Quaaludes, Valium, and PCP. Even though he was dimly aware that he was breaking his mother’s heart, he didn’t care.
He hung around with men 10 and 15 years older than himself, realizing even in his drugged haze that he was looking for a father figure. He found it in an ex-con named Eugene Skaar, who owned a grocery store where Rusty shopped. Neighbors said Skaar would come and go at odd hours of the night. Friends said he was infatuated with guns. Police said he was a sexual offender. He also had been convicted for possessing and selling altered U.S. coins. Sometimes Rusty would introduce Skaar as his dad. He bragged about how well Skaar could hold his drugs and alcohol, and was flattered when the man let him in on a plan that could net them both a lot of cash. All Rusty had to do was to go with Skaar to South Carolina and help him steal a coin collection. Armed with guns, Quaaludes, Valium, whiskey, and marijuana, the two men arrived in the rural South Carolina town of Cottageville on February 22, 1979. Skaar found the coins, but Rusty shot the collector, John Turner.
Next Skaar picked out a house at random a few miles northeast, and there, Rusty shot and killed the occupants, Arnie Richardson and Earldean Wright, and wounded Richardson’s daughter. They stole more guns and money before moving on.
Still drinking and popping pills, the two continued toward the coast. They stopped at Pawley’s Island, where they robbed a convenience store and kidnapped the two clerks, Della Louise Sellers and Wanda Summers. They took the two women to a remote wooded area and raped them. Then Rusty shot them. Dell Louise Sellers died; Wanda Summers lived, but lost the lower half of her face to a gunshot blast. Rusty and Skaar finished their night at a Myrtle Beach motel as the police closed in. Just after midnight, Skaar shot himself rather than surrender; the police took a drugged-out Rusty into custody. The next day, shaking and still high, he confessed to the murders.
About this same time, the Lord was leading a newly converted business man, Bob McAlister, into the prison ministry through the influence of a few friends. His first contact with prisoners was when he went see one man in the old Central Correctional Institution in downtown Columbia, South Carolina. It was a horrible experience seeing these men in the long, dark row of stinking cells. Yet, he kept going back. After visiting this one man on death row for months and giving him Bible studies, other inmates began to ask if Bob could visit them, too.
Because Bob had known the corrections commissioner when Bob had been a reporter, he was able to get through the usual barriers so he could regularly visit death row. Before long he was there every Friday night. He knew he had found his calling. It was when he was on death row, visiting men who had been convicted of the most heinous crimes that for the first time in his life, he felt wholly alive, and being used by God. God was giving him the power to love those powerless, condemned men with the love of Christ. He began Bible studies with sincerely interested prisoners.
One Friday night in October, 1985 after Bob had visited a few of his “regulars” on death row, he was getting ready to leave the prison. It had been a long day and night, and his wife, Carol, was waiting for him at home. Before he left, he was drawn to stop at one more cell. By now, Bob was accustomed to some horrible sights, but he had never seen anything like this.
The inmate was sitting on the floor of his cell, looking like a pale, dirty shrimp. The concrete floor was strewn with papers, half-eaten sandwiches, toilet paper, old copies of Playboy and Penthouse magazines. The sell stank. The man stank, too. His long, dirty blond hair and beard matted and greasy. His face was chalk-colored, like a rubber mask, like a dead person. And all over the cell, and all over the man, crawled dozens of cockroaches. He didn’t even move as they swarmed over his shoulders, his hair and his legs. Bob had met this inmate before and had exchanged a few words with him. His name was Rusty Woomer.
When Bob saw the terrible condition this inmate was in, he spoke to him—called his name, but there was no response. It seemed like the man was trying to talk, but something would not let him.
Bob was a relatively new Christian and didn’t think in terms of demonic possession or even the physical presence of evil. But that night he had the bone-chilling reality of what he was facing. He knew that Satan had a hold on him. So Bob did something he had never done before, he called on the name of Jesus to cast out the devil and death in that cell.
Then he said, “Rusty, just say the name ‘Jesus’. Call on Jesus.” Nothing happened for several moments. Then the man’s lips moved slowly. “Jesus”, he whispered, “Jesus. Jesus”.
Bob gripped the bars of the cell so hard his hand hurt. “Rusty,” he called out again, “look around you, son. Look at what you are living in.” To his amazement the man slowly sat up straighter, his eyes actually focusing on the floor and walls of his cell. They widened as he saw the roaches. “Your cell is filthy, and so are you,” Bob said gently. “The roaches have taken over, and you’re spiritually a dead man. Son, Jesus can give you something better. Don’t you want to pray to give your life to Him instead?”
Rusty nodded, his eyes glistening, then streaming with tears—the first tears he had wept in 15 years—as his heart cracked open. He bowed his head like he remembered doing in his childhood. Then the amazing thing happened.
“Jesus,” Rusty prayed, “I’ve hurt a lot of people. Ain’t no way that I deserve You to hear me. But I’m tired and I’m sick and I’m lonely. Please forgive me, Jesus, for everything I’ve done. I don’t know much about You, but I’m willing to learn, and I thank You for listenin’ to me.”
As Bob left that correctional institute that evening, something else stunning happened. He hurried through the night to his car as he felt a sense of terror he had never before experienced. Once again he prayed in the name of Jesus, and whatever the feeling was, it left him!
On Monday, Bob could not wait any longer. Had Friday been a dream? Had he imagined Rusty Woomer’s transformation, the sense of struggle not with flesh and blood, but with powers unseen? After work he drove to the prison, and made his way to death row. The guards let him in, good-naturedly joking, “We’re gonna have to get you a cell of your own if you’re gonna spend so much time here.”
Bob laughed with them, but once he was cleared to enter, he almost sprinted down the long row to Rusty’s cell. Once there he stopped short, breathing hard. He couldn’t believe his eyes! The walls were clean, bare, and glistering from the scrubbing they had received. The smell of disinfectant still hung in the air. The garbage was gone, the bed was made, and the roaches were history! Rusty stood erect, smiling and enjoying his surprise.
“How do you like it?” he asked. “I spent all weekend cleaning out my cell ‘cause I figured that’s what Jesus wanted me to do.”
“Rusty,” said Bob, his heart swelling, “it may have taken you all weekend to clean your cell, but it took Jesus only an instant to clean your life.”
And from that began a relationship that would last through Rusty Woomer’s life on earth—and change Bob McAlister’s life forever.
Rusty had no hesitation whatsoever about accepting his own responsibility and accountability for his crimes. In fact, he was often tortured by the pain he had caused others. As he learned more about faith he knew that Christ’s blood was sufficient to cleanse even the vilest sinner, but he could not undo the death and pain he had caused. He wrote letters to the families of his victims, asking their forgiveness; and was not surprised when he did not receive it.
Though he was only 5 years younger than Bob, Rusty called his “Paps”, and Bob’s wife, Carol, was “Moms”. Rusty loved to listen to Bob read the Scriptures out loud. In his concrete world, the fresh breeze of Psalm 104 sent his heart soaring, especially the part that says, “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.” Rusty would lie on his narrow bed dreaming of the hawks circling in the skies of his childhood, thinking of the clouds, the wind, and the springs flowing through the West Virginia valleys. If I’d only known the Lord then, he mused. If I only could have lived to serve Him on the outside. If I only hadn’t caused such hurt to innocent people.
When Bob saw Rusty’s agony, he could only take him deeper and deeper into the Scriptures, assuring him of God’s forgiveness, and encouraging him to make peace the best he could with anyone he had not yet forgiven. Rusty thought about the man he had hated for so many years—and he asked God to enable him to forgive his dad.
With Bob’s background in radio programming and writing, Governor Carroll Campbell approached him in 1986 about taking a position as one of his senior aides. Bob’s company, Coulter-McAlister Inc., was doing well, but Bob was challenged. He took the job.
Governor Campbell knew about Bob’s involvement on death row when he hired him. Still, with the political and public attention on crime, Bob was fearful that this aspect of his private life might someday hurt the Governor politically. So, one day he brought it up. Governor Campbell assured him, “McAlister, if I couldn’t understand that you’re doing what you feel God wants you to do, then I don’t deserve to be sitting in this chair.” Bob knew that not every politician would be so gracious.
Then in 1988, after George Bush’s election, White House Chief of Staff, John Sununu offered Bob a job. The president needed a top-notch speech-writer on his White House team. Was Bob interested?
Yes he was. But when Bob and Carol prayed and talked about it, they couldn’t imagine packing up and moving to Washington. The frantic and costly lifestyle did not appeal to them at all, and their daughter, Denise, was in the midst of her senior year of high school. Also, and maybe more so, it would mean leaving the men on death row. Rusty. Going to Washington would mean leaving Rusty. George Bush could find plenty of others to help him, but Rusty Woomer could not. So, in the end, Bob and Carol stayed in Columbia, South Carolina.
By early 1989, Rusty had been on death row for 10 years, and his appeals had run out. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand his conviction and death sentence, and his execution date was set for June 16th. Three days before the scheduled execution he was taken from his cell at the Correctional Institute and move to South Carolina’s new Capital Punishment Facility, what everyone called “The Death House”.
Rusty’s few possessions were put into storage. He was photographed and fingerprinted in a final check to make sure officials were executing the right man. When he made his funeral arrangements, he asked to be buried next to his mother. While the execution team ran through daily training drills, and the electricians tested and retested the new wiring, Rusty spent those final days with Bob McAlister.
Bob asked him if he could interview him on videotape. Bob hoped that the weight of a man’s perspective days before he was to die would be riveting. He said to himself, Maybe I can make this into something to show the kids in school—a warning. He asked Rusty, “What would you say to kids about drugs?”
Rusty replied, “What about drugs? Well, ‘Just say no’ isn’t enough, ‘cause the human side of us isn’t strong enough to do that. We need the power of God that comes through Jesus to say no to evil and to do what is right. That’s the bottom line. And we don’t get very long in our lives to make sure about spending eternity with God and His Son.”
“Rusty, what will be your thoughts when they strap you in that chair?”
“The human side of me is scared to sit down and be electrocuted. They tell me that I won’t feel nothin’. But I’ve stuck my finger in the light socket and it hurt plenty. So even if it hurts for a millionth-of-a- second, that’s frightening. But I’m gonna be holdin’ Jesus’ hand. Long as He’s my partner, what can I say? After all, there’s no way I’m gonna lose. If they execute me, the next thing I’ll know is that I’ll be resurrected and taken to heaven. If they don’t, I’ll be the same. He’s made it impossible for me not to praise and love Him and tell people about what He’s done.”
Rusty also used the video to gently chide a friend. “You’re out on the streets,” he told her. “But I’m the one that’s free. I’m behind bars, but I can lie down at night and sleep. You can’t.”
Bob thought, How many people are like that? Free on the outside, but tossing on their beds, unable to sleep, prisoners of a guilty conscience.
Rusty appealed to the Governor for clemency, but Carroll Campbell’s office issued a statement simply saying that the Governor would “not intervene in the workings of the judicial process”.
Bob McAlister was in an agonizing position. After all, as the Governor’s Director of Communications, he was usually the one who presided over such press statements. In this particular instance, however, he had removed himself from the process. He had worked shoulder to shoulder with Carroll Campbell for years; and loved and respected the man. Now his friend and boss was refusing to exercise his power to spare the life of Bob’s friend and “son” in prison. But to Bob’s relief, the South Caroling press handled his situation with sensitivity and grace. He had already taken two weeks of vacation-leave to be with Rusty during the final days and to spare the Governor any potential embarrassment. The media seemed to respect the way Bob was handling his position with integrity, and they seemed to respect the Governor for respecting Bob.
On the night before the scheduled execution, Rusty received an unexpected visitor. South Carolina’s top prison official, Corrections Commissioner Parker Evatt; a United Methodist firmly opposed to capital punishment but required by his job to uphold and enforce it. “If I’m going to kill somebody, I’ve got to know what I’m killing,” Evatt told reporters bluntly. “I couldn’t do this if I didn’t meet him first.”
So Parker Evatt met with Rusty. The two men shared a final Communion service together, along with Bob McAlister, Zeb Osborne, head of a local Christian prison ministry who had become one of Bob’s closest friends, J. Michael Brown, the prison Chaplain, and Frankie San, a Christian man who had devoted his entire life to ministry in the prison. The circle of men prayed together, swallowing grape juice portioned out in small plastic cups.
After the others left, Bob stayed with Rusty. About 2 in the morning Rusty asked Bob to read the Bible. Bob opened to John 14 and began reading, “Let not your heart be troubled…” By that point, Bob was totally broken. His friend would be dead in 23 hours. Then about half way through the chapter, he heard a snore. Then another. Rusty was fast asleep! His peace and tranquility were so certain that he was able to go right to sleep for the last time. Bob tucked a blanket around him and whispered “Good night”. Then, at 3 in the morning he walked to his car and drove to a Denny’s to have a breakfast. It was the first meal he had in days. Rusty’s peace had given him peace. When Bob came back to the prison the next morning, he and Rusty worked on what Rusty would say as his final statement. Please don’t rush through this, because what he says is tremendous:
“So many things are on my heart that I cannot find the words for. But I want to say some things the best way I know how to some people. I have written letters to the families of my victims asking them for forgiveness. I understand if they can’t forgive me. I have lived with my actions all these years. I would die one hundred times over if it would put one breath of life back into them. I have prayed for the families over and over again, and my last prayer before I die tonight will be for them. I want to tell Governor Carroll Campbell that I love him too. I appreciate him and I am sorry that I put such a load on him by asking for him to spare my life. No man should have to bare that kind of load.”
“I want to tell everybody that I am fine. I have never known peace like I have known in my final days on earth. I know some people say I got ‘jailhouse religion’ and they are right. I turned to Jesus in prison when I had no place else to turn. Words cannot express what He did for me, but He knows and that’s all that counts.”
But Rusty never had to make that particular statement. As he and Bob sat in the death cell 13 hours before the execution, the phone rang. It was Rusty’s attorney, Gaston Fairey. The Supreme Court had granted a stay of execution.
Rusty asked a few questions then hung up the phone. Bob stared at him as Rusty stared back. Reprieve! Bob glanced at his watch, then jotted the time on Rusty’s laboriously typed final statement, “12:17 p.m., 6/16/89”. Bob wrote: “Praise be to God”.
Now get this: when Bob finally got home and fell exhausted into bed, he took off his watch and noticed that it had stopped at 12:17 p.m. The watch never worked again!
In spite of the reprieve, both men knew that Rusty’s execution was just a matter of time. But the stay gave Rusty a new urgency to share his faith, to seek to live for Jesus only. “I want to live,” he told Bob fervently. “And even if my sentence was somehow commuted to life in prison, Jesus is here just the same as He is on the outside. I can serve Him here.” But the reprieve also gave Rusty the final piece of freedom missing from his personal puzzle.
That summer of 1989 a letter made its way through the prison security checks to Rusty’s cell. He eagerly picked up the plain envelope, then trembled when he saw the return address. It was from Lee Hewitt, the younger brother of Della Sellers, the woman whose murder Rusty would die for. It went this way: “For years I hated you with all my heart. I could have blown your brains out for what you did to my sister. I only regretted you were in prison where I couldn’t get to you.”
“But I’ve spent time in jail myself—56 different times over the years. I felt like a failure. But then I became a Christian. And the more I learned about being a Christian, the more I knew I had to forgive you. I didn’t want to. But it got to where I couldn’t even pray the Lord’s prayer—‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’. It made me so mad because now I had to forgive you. Now the ball was in my court. I’ve prayed about it, and God has done a miracle in my heart. I forgive you. We are brothers in Christ. I love you.”
Rusty looked up, blinded by his tears and the radiance of God’s goodness to him. Forgiven! Not only by Christ, but by the man he had offended most here on earth. It seemed the greatest blessing he could have ever hoped for. Rusty wrote back to Lee, tears dotting the penciled pages of his letter. Watching, Bob was humbled by the enormity of Lee’s obedience to Christ, and overwhelmed by the absolute joy Lee’s gift of forgiveness sealed in Rusty’s heart.
During the years of Rusty’s stay of execution, all the condemned inmates had been moved to the new death row facility and away from the stinking cells of the old correctional facility. Then men found their overall physical condition much improved.
Rusty’s family never visited, but when other men’s wives and families came, they almost always stopped to talk with him. One little girl, Patrice, was his favorite. In fact, her mother, Wanda, claimed that Rusty was the reason Patrice was even alive. Several years earlier, during a visit to death row, Wanda had fully confided to Rusty that she was pregnant, out of wedlock, and that the father of the child refused to acknowledge that the baby was his. She made an appointment to have an abortion.
“Don’t do it,” Rusty pleaded. “Life is precious. I don’t have no money, but I’ll do whatever I can to support the child. If you need a name for the baby, it can have my own name. I’ll be the dad, just let it live.”
So, now, Patrice was a beautiful little toddler with big, dark eyes and a special smile just for Rusty. Bob thought, The man who took lives has saved a life. That’s the difference Jesus makes.
Rusty had no money, but he was rich in one thing: time. Until his time ran out, of course. So he spent hours reading the Scriptures, visualizing the glories of God in nature and the love of God for him. He still had those words ringing in his mind:
“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.”
After the new year, 1990, the Supreme Court came to Rusty’s case again. And again they decided not to hear his appeal. And again the legal machinery of South Carolina ground, spitting out an execution date for Rusty Woomer: Friday, April 27th, 1990, 1:00 a.m.
On Good Friday, April 13th, 1990, Rusty was lying in his bed thinking about Jesus: he had been executed. He had gone through it all—arrest, trial, sentencing, death penalty. Except, He was innocent. Jesus went to His death for me already, Rusty thought. And He will be with me when I die.
Two days later, the Christian world was observing Easter Sunday. “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.” What an amazing thought, Rusty pondered. A promise to me. Later that afternoon an unexpected gift arrived; a bright basket filled with candies, chocolates, and cookies. Rusty actually sat for 15 minutes, picking up each piece, looking it over, and then putting it gently back in the basket. “Paps,” he said to Bob, who had brought in the gift, “I ain’t never had an Easter basket in my whole life”.
The most vital thing about the basket was that it came from Lee and Barbara Hewitt. Lee had set Rusty free with his letter of forgiveness the previous summer. Now he wanted to visit, but he and his wife had not been able to get into the prison. So they asked Bob to take their gift basket in to Rusty. But before the week was over, Bob got special permission to bring the Hewitt’s and Rusty together in a prison conference room. That was a monumental meeting.
At first, it was a little awkward as they sat down across from each other at the table. Bob sat in a corner, chewing a blue pen and taking notes so he could remember later what everyone had said. Lee slid a Good News “God loves you” Bible across the table to Rusty. “It’s hard to know what to say,” Lee began, “except I wish we could have met you long ago.”
Rusty slid a small devotional book across the table to Lee and listened while Lee told about giving his life to Christ after being in and out of prisons.
Then Rusty told about his years on death row, how he had been spiritually dead even though his body was alive, and how Jesus had changed his life. “You know,” Rusty said slowly, “when I accepted the Lord, I thought everything would change right then, and that there would be no more hurt. Then when Mama died, I blamed God, and asked Him why I done all these things. Then my brother died and my uncle died. But Bob here kept me from giving up. When I realized I was going to see Mama in the resurrection, I just said, ‘When we all get back down on the new earth, I’m goin’ to go fishin’ with Mama again.’”
Then Rusty turned to Lee, his voice thick with tears, but his blue eyes shining. “Your forgiving me has done more for me than anybody’s ever done. I know I done these things. That day [of the murders] is like two minutes to me—just there and gone—but even with God’s and people’s forgiveness, I’ve never gotten the hurt out of my heart. I prayed and prayed. When I got that letter from you, I can’t explain how I felt. Is my faith strong enough to do what you’re doin’? I’d like to think I could, but I’m not sure.” “I can do nothing without Jesus,” Lee said. “I have to draw from Him. I see Him hanging on the cross, saying, ‘Father, forgive them.’”
“It’s amazing, ain’t it?” said Rusty. “I believe with all my heart in the Bible. Sometimes I’d like to see an ocean partin’. But God’s already given me miracles I’d never dreamed of.”
“What God can do, people can’t comprehend,” Lee nodded. “I don’t have hurt or anger. I wouldn’t want to walk around like that for nothin’. I have no anger because God took and done away with it and threw it into the sea of forgetfulness. He loves you, and He don’t want to remember. The only time He knows about it is when we bring it up. There are no words to describe hate. It’s an ugly feeling. If you don’t forgive, you don’t deserve Jesus as your Lord. It took almost 4 years—now I hope the rest of my life can change. This is the way it’s gonna be, no matter if my family talks to me or not.” (Lee’s family had publicly castigated him and cut him off for forgiving Rusty. But he had chosen to obey God rather than please his family.)
Rusty nodded, “Trust in God is the only way I’ve kept sane in this place,” he told Lee. “If they took me over to the chair right now, I could do it. What you have done has made God’s word complete to me.”
And Bob thought, Both of these men have learned that God’s will is the ultimate reality.
By now their time was up and the guards mentioned that Lee and Barbara and Bob had to leave. Before they did, however, Rusty and Lee held hands and prayed together in the name of the Lord Jesus who had changed their lives, forgiven them, and made them brothers in Him.
They knew they would not see each other again this side of heaven.
Tuesday, April 24th, at 1:00 a.m. the officers came to get Rusty, giving him time to say goodbye to the other inmates on the row. Once again he was taken to the cell in the Capital Punishment Facility. Once again he was fingerprinted and processed, and his possessions packed away. And once again the death watch began.
South Carolina’s Capital Punishment Facility is a small, clinical structure cordoned off into a maze of rooms, each with a strategic function in the execution process. The inmate is brought from death row and kept in one of four narrow, blue barred cells, each about 6’x10’, with nothing but a cot and a stainless steel wash basin and toilet. Each cell has a narrow, vertical window, 4” wide and 4’ high. More bars separate the cell area from a central hall and a guard center.
At the center of the small building is the electric chair itself, which sits facing a small connected room with 2 rows of chairs. Here the witnesses view the condemned man’s final moments.
As the sun rose on the dawn of Tuesday, April 24th, Rusty found that even in the grim house of death God had not neglected to give him a reminder of His grace. In the triple spiral of razor wire coiled over the fence adjacent to Rusty’s cell was a bird’s nest. If it had been inches to the right or to the left, Rusty would not have been able to see it. But there it was, right directly in the center of his view from his narrow window. And has he watched throughout the morning, he saw a mother bird swooping in and out of that razor-nest, threading her way between the deadly wires with precision, tending her eggs.
When Bob arrived Rusty took hold of his shoulders and pointed him toward the nest. Then the two men smiled at each other. No matter how horrible the next few days would be, God would provide for them. And in that simple bundle of grass and twigs He had sent a sign.
“When Noah was riding out on the flood waters, God sent him a bird with an olive branch as a sign of hope,” Bob told Rusty. “When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove. And now here’s this crazy bird with her eggs, right outside your death house window! God’s sign of a new life.”
Later, when the birds had flown, Warden George Martin got the birds nest as a memento for Bob McAlister. Today it sits in the den in Bob’s home. Through the rest of that day and the next, Bob and Rusty read the Bible, prayed, and talked about the hills of West Virginia and the fishing holes on the new earth. Also, a phone line has been installed, so Rusty was free to talk with anyone he could reach.
Then came that day:
Thursday, April 26th, 1991.
(His last sunrise.)
Rusty watched the mother bird tend her nest. She was warm-gray with a black mask, and the officers guarding Rusty were frustrated—they hadn’t been able to figure out what she was. This morning one guard had come in with a bird book. Rusty could feel their urgency. Got to find out what kind of bird this is before Rusty dies.
Then came his last lunch. This time a year ago the Supreme Court had come through for Rusty. But no calls from the Court today. The Governor’s office announced his refusal to intervene.
Then came his last interview. Rusty had a Christ-peppered talk with a reporter from the Charlotte Observer.
Then came that last visit. At 4:00 p.m. Rusty’s family came to say goodbye. Rusty demonstrated the forgiveness he had long ago given his dad. His dad’s face looked like mountain granite as they stood in a circle for a final farewell.
“I wish ya’ll would stop living so far apart,” Rusty told his family. “And I wish ya’ll would fight less and hug more.” Then he commanded them, “Bow your heads. We’re gonna pray.”
“Our precious Lord, I’m not crying ‘cause I feel bad, but ‘cause I’m happy. The next thing I’ll experience’ll be when the resurrecting angels carry me up to meet You. I’m gonna be with You forever, and You’ve done everything for me far beyond what I ever deserve. I ask you to watch over my family and take the hurt and sadness from their hearts. I pray that all this hurt and sufferin’ will be gone, and I just praise You with all my heart.” With that, Rusty lifted his head and broke the silence by gently patting his dad’s bulging stomach. “You need to lose some of that, Pappy!” he joked. And then they left.
And then came that traditional last meal. Rusty could order anything he wanted—his first non-prison-prepared meal in more than a decade. He ordered a pizza with everything but anchovies. He couldn’t eat, but he had gotten it to make sure the guards would. But they weren’t hungry either. But as the evening ticked by, Rusty drank several cups of coffee. “Normally this would keep me up,” Rusty quipped, “tonight I guess it doesn’t matter”.
Even with death hanging heavily over his head, Rusty was still able to have a little humor. He returned a phone call from a girl who called earlier—Patti, the friend of a friend. “Oh, Patti’s out tonight,” her roommate told Rusty, obviously unaware of his situation. “She’ll be back about 1 a.m. Can you call back then?”
“No,” Rusty drawled, grinning at Bob, “I’m afraid that’ll be a little too late for me”.
As the sun’s rays angled lower and lower, the light on the bird’s nest fading, Rusty watched in silence. A golden sense of peace washed over Bob. Rusty felt it, too. “You know, Paps,” he said finally, “I feel real happy. I just want to go to sleep in Jesus now. I don’t want to stay here; things are just too bad down here. I just feel real peaceful, and I know I’ll see Mama when He comes to resurrect me.”
At 11:00 p.m. the execution team arrived, checking their equipment one final time. At 11:45 officers came to get Rusty and took him to the preparation room. He was allowed to have a final shower and put on clean prison clothes. Bob sat on the floor at Rusty’s feet while a prison barber shaved his head and right leg in preparation for the conducting gel that would help make a strong connection for the electric charge. The preparation room was filled with about a dozen officers and several correction officials.
“Papa,” Rusty said, “read me the Bible one last time.” And as the razor buzzed, Bob turned to Revelation 21: “And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain…” A shining clump of Rusty’s blond hair fell onto Bob’s open Bible.
Bob looked up. And when he saw Rusty’s half-shaven head and his face filled with a heavenly expression—his eyes not fixed on the dark efficiency of the death house, but on the new earth of Revelation—at that moment, Bob’s emotion got away from him. It was the only time he had lost his composure in front of Rusty. He handed the Bible to Chaplain Brown, who read the rest of the chapter. To Bob it was an awesome thing; his friend would definitely experience the promises of Revelation 21.
At 12:40 a.m. George Martin arrived. Not in his official role as Warden—that would come later. His stomach tense, George sat down beside Rusty on the cot, patting him on the shoulder. “Are you doing all right?” he asked.
Rusty smiled at him. “Yep. Like I told you before, I have been taken care of, and I’m gonna be all right. But what about you?” George hadn’t expected a man who’d die in 20 minutes would have others on his mind. “I’m okay,” he said.
Rusty’s bald head, glistening as the light reflected off the conducting gel, made an eerie image as he talked with the Warden. It was a hideous sight, and Bob thought about his own weaknesses during the past weeks, compared to Rusty’s strength. How he would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, sobbing. And how his wife would just snuggle up close to him and hold him without saying a word. But somehow his fears and trembling vanished when he was with Rusty. God has so equipped Rusty for his task that Bob and everyone else drew strength from him. The worst times were away from Rusty, not with him. Rusty had never broken down during those last days. His sense of the imminent reality of waking up to see his Lord seemed to obliterate almost everything else. Bob couldn’t help but think, If that reality were as vivid for all of us, Christians would be transformed—and the world as well.
The only thing that really hurt Rusty was seeing the pain and anguish of his friends. Now, here he was, right up to the last, ministering to others. “I know this has been about as tough on you as it has been on me,” Rusty was telling Warden Martin earnestly. “But don’t let it ruin you. These guys in this prison need you here too bad for you to leave them because of this.” George Martin smiled at Rusty, “All right, son,” he said and left the room.
15 minutes later he returned, this time with the death warrant in his hand, the paper that signified the will of the state in carrying out the sentence of death on Ronald Raymond Woomer. “Rusty, it’s time to go,” George Martin said.
Rusty replied, “Let’s go”.
The officers escorted him to the execution chamber, just 30 paces away, shuffling because they were so tightly bunched. Rusty was shackled with steel arm restraints. A line of officers stood stiffly as he passed out of the guard area. Bob, following along, saw tears in some of their eyes.
Earlier, Bob and Rusty had agreed not to say good-bye. Though they had always ended their visits together with a brotherly hug, this time it would seem to final. So Bob put his hand on his friends shoulder, looked into his eyes, and said, “Look to Jesus, Rusty.”
Throughout their friendship, Bob had always felt Rusty needed him, and he had given everything he had. But now, he realized, there was nothing more he could give. Rusty had already moved beyond Bob’s reach. Now it was all between Rusty and Jesus.
The group of officers, Rusty, Warden Martin, Chaplain Mike Brown, and Bob entered the death chamber. The official witnesses sat in two short rows facing the electric chair. In the room adjacent to the death chamber, 3 executioners waited beside buttons recessed into the wall. The electric current would alternate between the 3 buttons so no one would know which had actually activated the current.
The Warden took the microphone nestled in an alcove in the wall that held 3 telephones; open lines to the offices of the Deputy Commissioner, the Attorney General, and the Governor.
They strapped Rusty into the chair, buckling the thick leather restraining straps over his chest, legs, and arms. “Do you have a final statement?” Warden Martin asked, walking toward him with the microphone.
Rusty had not prepared a formal statement this time. Since his first trip to the Death House, he had read about how Jesus told His followers not to worry about what they would say, for the Holy Spirit would give them the utterance they needed. He thought for a moment, then spoke simply, “I’m sorry for what I done. I claim Jesus Christ as my Savior. My only wish is that everyone in the world could feel the love I have felt from Him.”
The electrician fitted Rusty’s head into a leather beanie connected to the main, thick electrode, descending from the ceiling like an ugly, gray icicle. Another electrode was strapped to his leg. They placed a leather strap under Rusty’s nose that pulled his head back into the cap. Then they fastened the copper head-piece over Rusty’s head and dropped the leather death hood over this face.
Rusty would hear the Warden’s voice making the final phone call to the Deputy Commissioner to see if the Governor or Supreme Court had intervened. It would sound very far away. He would hear an officer escorting Bob out—a few foot-steps, and a door closing. He would sense the executioners nervously waiting for the Warden’s orders to hit the triggers that would activate the killing current. The seconds ticked by. It was dark under the hood, the deepest darkness Rusty probably ever experienced.
Then the jolt of 2,000 volts!
Rusty was dead.
After reading the original story of Rusty Woomer, and then trying to relate it all to you, two strong thoughts persistently come to me. One is a New Testament verse, and the other a song. The verse is John 14:27, and in it Jesus says: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you…”
The song is that well-known one where just one sentence says it all: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.”
The most gripping, thought-producing, mind-plaguing aspect of the story of Rusty—the part that can’t help but both inspire and challenge you—lies in those two words: “Peace” and “Assurance”.
Warden George Martin determined that carrying out the state’s sentence would be done in the most professional and dignified way possible. He told Rusty that he would do everything in his power to try to help him get through it with as little difficulty as one could expect. “Don’t worry ‘bout me,” Rusty told the Warner, “I’m not gonna cause you any trouble.”
But George Martin was deeply troubled. He had never hidden his distaste for the death penalty from his staff or the inmates or official within the Corrections Administration, but at this point it was a matter of carrying out the official duty. The execution of another human being was an excruciating process for everyone involved, especially one as well liked as Rusty. Martin arranged for personal counseling to be available for any officers or staff members who felt they needed it. After Rusty’s death, quite a few did.
What was it that drew these hardened prison guards and officers toward Rusty? What was it about Rusty that made these men cry and spend sleepless nights just before and after the execution? It wasn’t Rusty’s personality, and it wasn’t that he was innocent. It was Ronald Raymond Woomer’s complete change of character. He had come into the prison a justly convicted murderer. He was filthy, un-kept, and totally under the control of Satan. If anyone ever qualified for execution it was him. He was, in every sense of the word, worthless.
Yet, these guards and prison officials saw the drastic change in him day after day after day. They observed his continual improvement. There was an undeniable difference in the man who was hauled into incarceration, kicking and cursing, and the man who humbly walked in to the execution chamber to his death.
Rusty Woomer had such a peace within himself that his life inspired everyone around him. He had such an assurance of a right relationship with the Son of God that he was a challenge to everyone who came in contact with him or who observed him. He was living proof that Christ can and does change people. Even though he was a prisoner in a concrete floor cell, he was admired by all who knew him. He was a witness to the life-enhancing power of God and His Son in one of the most difficult arenas of life. he had real peace and true assurance.
But Rusty Woomer didn’t corner the market on peace and assurance. And that leads to a vital question: Do you have that same peace Christ Jesus wants His followers to have?
Do you have that inner assurance that your relationship to God and His only begotten Son is everything it should be; and that assurance is carrying you through your everyday activities with the confidence that soon you’ll be lifted into the clouds by you guardian angel and not only up and away from this planet of sin, but into the waiting arms of you Savior?
No matter where you are, no matter what your job is, no matter what your family or friends are like, no matter what your life has been in the past, you CAN be here on earth physically, but in Heaven spiritually, and even mentally. You CAN have peace of mind and assurance of eternal life very soon.
Do you read such passages as II Timothy 1:12 and say, “Thank You, Lord. This is my belief”? have you accepted these words as truly your own: “For I know in Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day (the judgment day)”? Does the sincere, comforting smile come across your face, and you whisper words of deepest appreciation when you read: “There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous Judge shall give me at that day…” (II Tim. 4:8)?
Is Titus 2:13 your true theme in life? Are you “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the Great God and our Savior Jesus Christ”?
There is something in life that really makes you—literally forces you—to look in the mirror and truly see yourself exactly and precisely as you are, and that is the stunning fact that you might very well die, and die soon. We are not talking about incidents like that of Rusty Woomer and his imminent execution, but sudden life-threatening illnesses or accidents. Knowing that there is a real great possibility that you won’t have but a few months or even a year or so to live can create sincere soul-searching as never before in your life.
When these things happen to genuine Christians, the reactions are diametrically opposite those non-believers have. Those who have accepted Christ as not only Savior but Lord don’t have something solid and tangible to fall back on, but some One. But the pitiful humans who don’t have a personal relationship with God and His Son have absolutely nothing to help carry them through those horrendous days.
You know all this, don’t? You know all the Bible texts about placing you faith and trust in Christ…YET, maybe you still don’t have that genuine confidence in God and His Word as you know you should. What causes a small minority of professed Christians to have an unquestionable and obvious assurance just like Paul and can honestly say, “I’m persuaded…” while the majority can’t? Maybe a down-to-earth illustration will give you the answer. A farmer needed a reliable farm hand, but none of the applicants seemed just right. Then a quiet and easy going young man created quite a curiosity in the farmer’s mind by stating his qualifications as “I can sleep at night”. He got the job and did a fine job. Then a terrible storm came. The farmer went out into the shed where the lad was and, sure enough, he was fast asleep.
When the farmer failed to rouse the farm hand, he rushed out to the barn only to find all the livestock safe and sound, the equipment placed properly, and everything tied down and securely protected.
Then the farmer smiled and said, “No wonder he said he could sleep at night. He’s done everything he could to make sure no harm would come to the animals or the equipment.”
Paul had pure confidence in the Lord keeping His promises to him, and he was 100% sure that He would give him eternal life when He returned to this earth to claim His own. The reason for such assurance is that Paul had turned his life over to Christ completely and entirely. He had no reservations about his surrender. He kept nothing back. He never dragged his feet or questioned the Lord’s leading in any aspect of life. Remember when he humbly but truthfully said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course…”? What was it that he said next? It was: “I have kept the faith”. Then he went on to say that the Lord had crown of righteousness laid up for him.
His trust in Jesus was 100% because he was 100% obedient. And if you want complete confidence in God, then obey Him completely, too. You will have peace.
There’s no way humanly possible to have full confidence in the Lord when you are doing something, or things, that you know you shouldn’t. The knowledge that you aren’t obeying His Word and doing His will exactly, precisely and willingly places a barrier between you and the Lord; and you know He can’t and won’t bless you fully and entirely. And when you are aware of sin in your life (even the smallest disobedience), and you continue to do it, trying to rationalize it as being an insignificant, little deviation, way down in the deepest recesses of your mind it troubles you. Maybe passages of Scripture like Isaiah 59:2 will plague you mind: “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that he will not hear.”
It is an amazing psychological phenomena that when you aren’t completely obedient to the Lord you do not believe He is completely blessing you. You lose confidence in yourself. And, as a result, you also lose confidence in the Lord.
Nothing seems to prevent the peace Christ promises becoming a reality in the professed Christians life more than the gnawing, haunting knowledge that, even though most folks would consider it a minor, trivial, or petty, there is still that un-yielded, un-surrendered, un-abandoned transgression. There isn’t that 100% conformity.
The child of God is a magnet that should draw others to God. Unfortunately, in the process of living in this planet in rebellion, far too many worldly activities and interests attach themselves to those magnets. And if they aren’t rejected and discarded, they will become a permanent part of the life, sapping off the confidence and destroying the peace.
Do you want that blessed assurance and the peace that passes understanding, than pray for the Lord to reveal to you what is needed to be changed and destroyed. Ask Him for the strength and courage to overcome. Do everything in your power to help Him answer your prayers.
Isn’t it time you discarded those sins and transgressions you keep refusing to give up? Is anything of the world’s attractions worth not only losing eternal life in the near future and peace of mind and assurance right now? When you decide to go all the way in obedience to the Lord, then watch your confidence in Him grow, and the assurance of a right relationship with Him increase. You can do it and you must!
God bless you lots and lots and lots and lots, - Bill Stringfellow
*This article was reprinted in its entirety,
as originally published by Bill Stringfellow publishing.
The message of the Gospel is a declaration of love. It is a story of the love of the Creator for His children. The love of God is declared in this: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Jn. 3:16) Because of disobedience, sin entered an otherwise perfect creation: “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31) In considering man, our Heavenly Father declared to His only begotten Son: “Let us make man is our image, after our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26) The “image” of the Creator of this universe contains no wickedness, no sin. His “likeness” includes: perfect love, power, righteousness, wisdom, truth, mercy, honor, faithfulness, justice, tenderness, meekness, humility, joy, and peace.
It was not in God’s plan for mankind to be under the bondage of sin: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23) In God’s perfect wisdom, He gave His children His moral law, which defines the boundaries within which to remain free from sin. Jesus Christ came into this world, suffered and died, to redeem us not in our sins, but from our sins. “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” (Eze. 18:20) The law in itself cannot give life; it only condemns those who are transgressing it: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20) But what is sin?
The only definition of sin found in the whole cannon of the scriptures is: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 Jn. 3:4)
Satan was the instigator of sin and rebellion even while in heaven: “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.” (Eze. 28:11-19) When cast down to earth, he tempted our first parents to transgress God’s explicit commandment, and, by their disobedience, sin and death entered upon this world. Because of this, it was revealed to fallen man that Christ was to come in the future, in the perfect time; and by offering Himself as our sin sacrifice we would receive pardon for breaking God’s law—His commandments.
In the account of Noah, “a preacher of righteousness,” we are given insight that mankind had become very corrupt, and so sinful, that a loving God out of mercy decides to destroy all living creatures: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 56:5) Man and animals were to be destroyed. This warning was given to Noah 120 years before it was to take place (Gen. 6:3). However, the account describes that only eight souls were saved. Out of all the multitude of people upon the earth at that time, only eight feared God and obeyed His warning to repent, enter the ark and be saved.
Christ gives us a warning: “Enter ye in at the straight gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13,14). When is the last time you heard a sermon preached from a pulpit with an earnest, urgent plea to repent and obey God’s instructions given to His children through His word? Religious leaders even claim that God’s commandments have been changed! Can mere man change the law of God? “These people honoreth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men… full well ye reject the commandments of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mark 7:6,7,9).
Sin is the “spiritual” disease of the created universe. The only “medicine” by which healing could take place for the human race was that of providing a substitute to make atonement for mankind from his transgression, caused by the breaking of God’s commandments—His law. But this could not happen without the shedding of blood: “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood: and without blood is no remission.” (Heb. 9:22) Therefore, the Son of the living God gave Himself as an offering for the remission of our sins: “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Heb. 9:12)
It was God’s very own Son that died as our substitute. Christ took upon Himself the penalty for the transgression of God’s law (our sins) that it would not be imputed upon us, but instead, He received the punishment due to us sinners: “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin… He shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities [sins]. Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He hath poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Is. 53:10-12)
The only possible way for our sins to be forgiven is through faith in God’s precious only begotten Son. This is a free gift. We cannot earn salvation, or perform some “work” to claim it. The power which overcomes sin and the world is this: “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 Jn. 5:5) “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8, 9)
Speaking of the new covenant of which Christ is the mediator, God, speaking through the apostle Paul declares: “Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us: for after that He hath said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them, saith the Lord, I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them. And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Heb. 10:16, 17) (For more biblical information and further study on this subject contact the author and request the free study titled: “The New Covenant and The Law”).
What laws is God promising to put in our hearts and in our minds? His moral law, otherwise known as, the Ten Commandments (See Ex. 20:1-17). These precepts are His righteousness: “My tongue shall speak of Thy word: for all Thy commandments [Law] are righteousness.” (Ps. 119:172) The apostle James calls them “the royal law” and “the perfect law of liberty.” (Jas. 2:8; 1:25) This “liberty” is the liberty from sin! “All unrighteousness is sin.” (1 Jn. 5:17) Jesus Christ counseled us in this way: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt. 6:33) He also declares: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (Jn. 14:15)
The world is in enmity against God. Even this great nation which was founded upon faith in God, written in its constitution, has enacted laws by which even prayer to Him has been removed from our schools. Children are murdering their parents and each other. We have made it a business to murder the unborn. Theft, greed, lust, covetousness to worldly possessions, and idolatry to an image portrayed through movie and music stars, are the order of the day. Many religious leaders teach that God’s law is not for us “Christians” today, for “we are free, saved by grace.” The grace of God (the forgiveness from our sins through faith in Christ) is twisted and perverted to make God’s children believe that we may break His commandments, the very reason which resulted in the death of our Saviour! Rather than teach to love God and to fear Him through faith in Christ and obedience to His commandments, most churches of this world today teach that we are not required to obey God; that we can ignore His word, as they promise to lead their followers to the gates of paradise. This is the syncretistic theology which is preached today to a perishing race—all in the name of religion. “Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city”. (Revelation 22:14)
Is the condition of this world a result of obedience to God, or disobedience? In contrast, our Heavenly Father tenderly counsels us in this way: “My son, forget not My law; but let thine heart keep My commandments; for length of days and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.” (Prov. 3:1, 2) “Like a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear [love] Him. For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.” (Ps. 103:13, 14)
Jesus Christ, looking forward in time to the condition of men’s hearts prophesied to His disciples: “And because iniquity [lawlessness, “sin”] shall abound, the love of many shall wax [become] cold.” (Mt. 24:12) Because of the continued breaking of God’s law (He was not speaking of traffic laws) the disregard for His law contained in His Ten Commandments, man’s love for Him was going to become cold! What a tragedy! “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments.” (1 Jn. 5:2)
Some time ago, a nun working in a prison was requested by several inmates to obtain for them Mother’s Day cards. The nun hastily contacted a large greeting card distributor and received a generous supply of the requested cards just in time. To her delight, most of the cards she obtained were quickly used up. In her efficiency, she concluded that next time she would be more prepared—Father’s Day was coming up. She made the necessary arrangements and had her arsenal of Father’s Day cards. She was ready. About two weeks before the day, the warden made the announcement that Father’s Day cards were available to whoever desired them—free of charge. Father’s Day came and went. Guess how many inmates came forth and requested a card? Not a single one. In that whole prison the men rejected to honor their fathers. This directly reflects the apostate condition of the relationship with their earthly fathers.
This is the apostasy that we are teaching today. By disregarding God’s law, we are rejecting Him. Can we dishonor God, and at the same time receive His favor? We claim the benefits of the new covenant, but reject its requirements of obedience. Without God’s word, men are left in utter darkness. Satan has deceived many who have left the protection given through faith in Christ and obedience to God’s law, and are held captive in bondage to sin. The law cannot save! It is only as a mirror which reflects the sin in our lives. The law points us to Christ—in whom is the remission from our sins. Once in Christ, He directs our hearts back to the law, for outside of Him there can be no obedience to His Father’s law; there is only sin and death. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Mt. 5:17, 18)
Dear friend, has heaven and earth passed away? Has all been fulfilled?
It is my earnest prayer that the story you have just read has touched you and stirred your heart to ask yourself some questions:
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
—Joseph Emilio Lahud
January 15, 2009
Additional study materials available
*These studies are available in
the Polish language, other languages will be available as translations are completed.