putting skin on the sermon: shine the light


We camped out in Matthew 5.14-16 during yesterday morning’s sermon. However, before saying anything about it further here, I want to say “thank you” to my immensely helpful and bright assistant yesterday, Danielle Marshall. Your consistent eagerness to serve others with the true love and joy of the Lord never ceases to encourage and inspire me. It is easy to see the Lord in you, and so I thank him for all the good that he works in this world through you.

Jesus told his followers (us, you understand): “You are the light of the world.” While this is what he says, it’s equally important to grasp what he did not say. He didn’t say: “Aim to become the light of the world.” He didn’t say: “Someday you might be something like a hint of light to the world.” And he didn’t say: “Now what I’m about to say applies only to a few of you, so most of you can just let this one go: you are the light of the world.”

No, he declared: “You are the light of the world.”

His words point us in the right direction: outward, not inward. His words remind us of our great responsibility: our calling is to be what he says we are in fact. His words are energizing words of encouragement, for it is often difficult, can be dangerous, and is sometimes deadly to be light in the midst of darkness. We must not deny our Lord, but believe him when he tells us we are this world’s light, for in telling such he is emphatically telling us that what we think, say, and do makes a real difference in this world, even when our experience seems to tell us otherwise.

So, what to do with that? Here are three practical things you can do – along with some things to avoid doing! – toward your fulfillment of your reason for being, this world’s light …

1. Every day, pray early in the day for God to open doors of opportunity for you to give Christian witness. Then, work at developing an eye for recognizing opportunities. While it’s much easier to simply complain about or condemn and curse the darkness, choose the high road and set the light of God in the highest and best places you can to shine in all the darkness you encounter. Be willing to take God’s light into places where little or no light has been for some time. Open yourself up to the possibilities of God working things through you that you have never done before. He is able to do far more than what we can ask or imagine, and so, live out that belief in him.

2. Naturally, you can create a list of good things you can do that will “shine the light” and then go on to work that list. Perhaps that’s obvious. However, what might not be as obvious is the most critical thing about such a list: that you recall why you’re doing such. Make such a list to help you develop your eyes for opportunity and your habits. Don’t make such a list and then allow the list itself, or the attention you might receive from doing such things, to become your point of focus or reason for doing. The latter, in particular, would be precisely the sort of thing Jesus warned against (cf. Matthew 6.1-18). What you’re after is something like a “holy forgetfulness” where you remember God in what you’re doing and forget about yourself.

After all, such a list is only a means to the end, not the end itself. Nor are you the end; God is the end. Your relationship with the Lord is not about checking items off on a checklist or doing things so people will think highly of you. Your task is to allow God to develop your mindfulness and habits of behavior so that you come naturally think and do the sort of things you have on your list … without the list. Your desire should be to do such things while melting into the background of the doing of them so that people recall the good done and praise not you, but God, for what is done.

Now, go make your list and think of it as your exercise guide or manual of discipline.

3. Many recall “the mind of Christ” passage in Philippians 2.1-11. Many of them will also recall that what follows that magnificent passage is the marvelous statement for believers to “be blameless and pure, innocent children of God surrounded by people who are crooked and corrupt. Among these people you shine like stars in the world because you hold on to the word of life.” (Phil. 2.15-16a) However, I suspect few recall what bridges those two texts: “Do everything without grumbling and arguing …” (Phil. 2.14) In fact, Paul says we take on and live by the attitude of Christ, doing things without grumbling and arguing “so that” we will “be blameless and pure,” and thus, enabled to “shine like stars” in this dark world.

You see, to grumble and/or argue is to hide God’s light from this dark world. Surely there are precious few things that extinguish Christian witness more quickly and effectively than for those yet to believe to overhear Christians grumbling and/or arguing about anything. Take note: a huge part of letting our light shine involves keeping our emotions in check and our mouths closed. And so, work at this. If you find yourself drawn to drama, work at this doubly hard. If you grumbling has become just a matter of course for you, make a maximum effort to repent of such, praying to God instead each time you’re tempted to grumble to others. If you think you are immune to these ways, ask those who know you best to speak candidly to you with love. And refuse to allow your time in prayer become a habitual gripe session with God. Too many disciples have become distracted through the course of life and taken this road. As a consequence, they have only put a cloak of Christianity around their relatively untouched and unchanged heart. Don’t go there. Remember who Jesus says you are – the light of the world – and so first, deliberately allow the light from the Lord illuminate the darkest parts of you.

You, Christ-follower, are the light of the world. Do not shirk your responsibility and hide your light in any way. Do not become deaf to the encouragement. Do not veer off the path and set your own direction. Shine brightly today. Let him shine brightly through you. To the glory and praise of God.

putting skin on the sermon: walk in the light


Sunset-2013-11-11Yesterday morning’s sermon worked out of John 12.35-36. In that passage, Jesus paints a mental picture for the crowd:

“The light is with you for only a little while. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness don’t know where they are going. As long as you have the light, believe in the light so that you might become people whose lives are determined by the light.”

The image is of someone walking with purpose, and perhaps with a bit of hustle, trying to get to their destination, before nightfall (“walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you”). Their way may not be familiar to them and could even hold any number of problems that could leave them vulnerable. Such a person has one objective in mind: to avoid the delay and the possible dangers that would come from getting lost (“those who walk in the darkness don’t know where they are going”). Consequently, every decision they make, every step they take along the way, they make on the amount of light they still have at the moment. They are “people whose lives are determined by the light.”

Jesus claimed to be the light in our life:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me won’t walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8.12)

There is no time for delay in choosing to believe him and walk with him, in his light. Time is not our friend and neither is darkness. He urges us to “… believe in the light so that” so that we will “become people whose lives are determined” by him. If we do so, he will bring us safely to where we belong: home with him.

So how can we walk daily, and all day long, with such clear purpose and determination? Here are three things that can assist you in your journey.

1. Start each day well in your heart. That is, start with Christ your Lord clearly in focus. Get your mind right and the rest will follow. One way to do this is to make a portion of Scripture a point of reflection and meditation as soon as you get up in the morning. Here’s an exercise to get you started with that habit: take a few minutes to watch the day dawn, moving from darkness to light, meditating on Ephesians 5.8-9 as you do so. Do this every day for a week. This passage reads:

“You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so live your life as children of light. Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth.”

2. Take a few moments throughout the course of each day to deliberately recall the true Lord to whom you belong. Think of such as something like a soft reset or reboot of your operating system, your spirit.

“All of you are children of light and children of the day. We don’t belong to night or darkness.” (1 Thessalonians 5.5)

Remember some of the horizontal blessings you enjoy because of your walk with the Lord and thank him for such.

“… if we live in the light in the same way as he is in the light, we have fellowship with each other …” (1 John 1.7a)

Pray a brief prayer of thanksgiving as well for the ultimate vertical blessing we have because of our Savior:

“…  and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin.” (1 John 1.7b)

3. End the thoughts of each day well. Consider your last conscious thoughts of the day as your way of preparing and supplying your mind for it’s effort and rest while you sleep. You might do this by going for an evening walk with someone. Try deliberately walking toward the setting sun and discussing John 12.35 as you go. Remember it?

“Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness don’t know where they are going.”

putting skin on the sermon: do this in remembrance of me


Last Monday I started a new series of regular posts here entitled Putting Skin on the Sermon. These posts are meant to (1) remind you of the gist of my preceding Sunday morning sermon and (2) to offer you some random thoughts as to how to apply some aspect of the sermon to your daily life in the future.

My sermon yesterday morning was from Luke’s account of the Last Supper (Luke 22.14-20), what becomes the institution that we commonly know as the Lord’s Supper or communion. In this sermon we focused on Jesus’ direct statement to his disciples to “do this in remembrance of me” (vs. 19b).

1. We remember Christ is with us as we share in the supper. Take the fact and awareness of his constant presence with you after communion. Strive each day to develop increasing mental sensitivity to Christ’s ceaseless presence with you. As one put it several centuries ago: “practice the presence of God.” That is, remember him right now.

2. The church is Christ’s body. As you share in the supper each first day of the week, ask yourself: “How can I let Christ live through me this week to bless the rest of his body, this body of believers with whom I am assembled?” In short, remember him right here.

3. As we commune with Christ and his followers, we do so on a worldwide scale. That is, our union in communion spans the globe. Seek each day to attune your mind to this perspective. As you listen to news of world events, consider how fellow family members in Christ might be affected by such. Then let such thoughtfulness prompt you to pray for them. In other words, remember him everywhere.

4. Instead of focusing solely on Christ’s death on the cross and/or his resurrection during the sharing of communion, deliberately recall a different aspect of Christ’s words or work. After all, his words were “remember me.” When he says “remember me” he does not mean “remember only one or two matters about me.” And as you recall, think specific. For example, as you share in communion one week, focus on Christ’s power and compassion as seen in his miracles. Ponder on how his power and compassion continues to flow through you in your connection with, and service to, other believers. Another week, remember some of his conversations and dealings with his disciples. Then, meditate on how your conversations and choice of words with other Christians makes a great deal of difference to them, since you, like them, are a representative of Christ. Etc. Think of it this way: remember him in every way.

5. Christ’s attention to detail and tenderness toward all is obvious in his institution and sharing of the supper with his disciples. And so, just as Christ shared words of faith and encouragement to his disciples as he shared the supper, share a brief word of such with those to whom you pass the communion elements to each Sunday. Remembering his encouraging ways, determine to give brief, deliberate words of faith and encouragement to two followers of Christ every day of the week. Such could take the form of a simple, face-to-face word of affirmation or appreciation. Or perhaps a text message, Facebook post, or e-mail. Deliberately plant seeds of faith and encouragement as our Lord did in the supper. In sum, remember him in the best of ways.

putting skin on the sermon: pray this way


Today marks the start of a new series of regular posts here. Starting today, and always on Mondays, I’ll post (1) a brief summation of the gist of my sermon from the previous morning and (2) some random thoughts as to how to apply some aspect of the sermon to daily life.

My sermon yesterday morning was from Luke’s account of Jesus’ answer to the request of one of his disciples to teach them how to pray (Luke 11.1-13). After a look at the “what” of this basic, foundational prayer (the prayer’s five statements – vs.2b-4), we thought about “why” we regularly need to pray such.

For the sake of application, we summed that up with a paraphrase of the prayer with some of the “why” in mind. That paraphrase read: “Father, help me live holy before you. Override my self-seeking agenda. Give me what I need to live another day here for you. Show mercy to me the way I’m merciful to all who wrong me. When I’m distracted and lured from you, don’t leave me that way: arrest my attention and lead me home.”

Now, what can you do with that? Here are seven ways you can put some skin on this sermon:

1. Memorize this prayer our Lord told us to pray in Luke 11.2-4. Use the rendering of your choice, of course, but let me suggest the CEB for its simplicity and clarity here. Learn it so well that you come to say it just as easily and as naturally as you might already be able to quote the KJV’s rendering of The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6.9-13.

2. Identify any and all excuses you make for not praying. Write them down. Then set out to kill these excuses. Mercilessly.

3. Make a very simple, but specific plan each week as to when, where, and what you’ll pray. That is, create the skeleton on which you will put some skin.

4. Find and designate a specific place where you’ll often go to pray. Maybe it will be a chair on your back porch. It could be when and where you go to exercise or walk. Perhaps the driver’s seat of your car or a certain room in your apartment would work. The place matters not so much as the fact you have a specific place. After going there regularly for awhile to pray you’ll likely find your mind has become trained to almost naturally kick into, or more easily gravitate toward, prayer.

5. Select one of the five statements of the basic prayer in Luke 11.2b-4 and mull it over, reflecting on it throughout the course of a weekday. Let your heart and head chew on it throughout the day the way you’d chew on a piece of gum. The next day, select a different statement and do the same with it. Throughout each day discuss them with someone or, at the end of each day, jot down some of your ponderings in a journal.

6. Compose a prayer of your own. Write it down, using the basic prayer (vs. 2b-4) as your guide. You’ll likely find you’ll choose your words of prayer much more carefully when you write them down.

7. Brainstorm your own list of ways you could apply this basic prayer in vs. 2b-4 to your everyday actions and habits. Answer this question: “Since Jesus told me to pray this way, I will ____.”

Remember: God’s word is for our life, and our living is for our great God!

a sermon to my granddaughter


I’m a father of two and a grandfather of four. The most recent birth of a grandchild was this past Wed., June 6 when Kinley Lynn Wheeler was born to my daughter and son-in-law, Brant & Amber Wheeler (that was the reason for the tremor in the earth you felt). No, my feet still haven’t touched the ground yet.

Now upon the birth of each child and grandchild, it’s been my privilege and habit to preach the following Sunday morning sermon from some Scripture that came to mind during the preceding week’s glorious gifting from God. Consequently, at MoSt Church this past Sunday morning (June 10, 2012), I preached a sermon entitled A Sermon to my Granddaughter. I very rarely manuscript sermons, but I did write out in advance the majority of the heart of this one, choosing my wording with a bit of extra special care. The words of that manuscript, the words of the lion’s share of this past Sunday morning’s sermon, appear below.

Before we get to the sermon text, let me help set it up with three notes. First, no small percentage of MoSt Church‘s attendees on any given Sunday morning are grandparents or great-grandparents. We have no shortage of gray hair. Not surprisingly, a common question I’ve fielded through the years goes something like this: “How can I, as a grandparent, maximize my influence for Christ in the life of my grandchildren?” This sermon was, by example, a portion of my typical answer: “Start telling them and backing it up with your life as soon as they enter this world!”

Second, I preached this sermon with all of the children and grandchildren present very much in mind. I wanted them to overhear some of the things a Christ-following grandparent would say to them by enabling them to overhear what I want all of my grandchildren hearing and seeing as they grow up.

And third, I nickname the females in our family, but not the males. The nickname I’ve landed on for my granddaughter is “Starshine.” Understand that little Kinley has a head full of dark hair and it was my wife’s long and lovely brunette hair that I noticed first when I first saw my future wife and “Starshine” was my wife’s CB handle back in the day.

Now, the sermon …

… we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. … He received honor and glory from God the Father when a voice came to him from the magnificent glory, saying, “This is my dearly loved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.” … we have a most reliable prophetic word, and you would do well to pay attention to it, just as you would to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1.16-19)

I, Jesus … [am] the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star. The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who is thirsty come! Let the one who wishes receive life-giving water as a gift. (Revelation 22.16-17)

My Little Starshine,

There’s so much I want to tell you. I can’t tell you all of it now, but I can start. And I want to begin telling it to you this way, in a sermon, because I want you to spend your whole life deeply listening to and engaging sermons with all of your heart and ways. And as you hear what I say, understand it’s all coming from someone who is still has so very, very much to learn.

You have exactly one life in which to do everything you’ll ever do, so live accordingly.

That doesn’t mean live life for yourself. Quite the opposite. It doesn’t mean indulge yourself in whatever you please or whatever feels good to you in the moment. No, not at all.

It means to live your life deliberately and to live it for the one who gave it to you.

It means to:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22.37-39)

Worship God. Develop an unquenchable thirst and unceasing hunger for God. Crave knowing him. Revel in rejoicing in him, praising him, and thanking him.

Stand in awe of God. Neither assume nor presume too much of him. He is wholly other. Ever remember your place before him, small like a grain of sand before a mountain, and ever personal, present and perfect. He is love. Live your life caught up higher and higher into the clouds of the wonder of him.

And so, see your whole life as worship of him. You were given life to serve God, and serving him is your life. This is worship. This is life. Let no one lead you to think otherwise.

Memorize and meditate on what God has revealed to us. Take the book of God, the Bible, and eat it. Make it your daily food.

Count success in your life not by your number of accomplishments, but by your accommodating yourself to the will of God.

Pray. Talk to God and never stop. Listen. Listen to God and follow up with your life.

Plant yourself in the community of faith, Christ’s church, and stay there, bearing shade and fruit as God enables you. Life among God’s people, his church, is your laboratory for living out eternal life. Among his people is where he put you, and so, is where you belong. In his church is where you’ll be equipped and sharpened for use by God to be fully his.

Walk with God. Pray for and summon up the courage to actually live out whatever you understand of God. Whether anyone else does or not.

Make faith, not fear, your foundation in life. And as you walk thru your life, walk by faith in God and not by sight. Never stop moving, and inch ever closer to making your good intentions reality.

Keep walking with God, come what may. Troubles will come your way. Some will go and some may stay. No matter the size of the trouble, keep walking with God. He’s the one who will see you through it.

Let Jesus be your hero and model your life after him. Make your life about living well, not about living well off. That is, live your life holy and pure, wholly pleasing to God.

Soak your attitude and spirit in the holiness of God’s Spirit, for this is the soil out of which all of your actions grow. Guard your heart and your mind so that nothing or no one can trick you or deceive you into behavior that isn’t pure.

Never stop seeking and accepting God’s forgiveness. Don’t dwell on your mistakes, failures, and sins, but run with them to God for your forgiveness.

See every person you encounter as one made in God’s image. Treat them as you would treat Jesus Christ or as Christ would deal with them.

Come to know the power of your words to others, and so, choose them wisely and spend them economically.

Become a very good listener with true care for others, for the world is very short of, and in great need of, such people.

Establish and devote yourself to healthy habits that will keep you healthy in body and spirit. Those habits will shield you from many a distraction and temptation, wrong turn and sin. And so, die daily to yourself that you may live daily to Him.

Or to put it all of this in just as few a words as possible, I cannot improve upon the words of the Spirit-filled and Spirit-inspired apostle Paul …

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5.6b)

I love you. Far beyond words. But not nearly so much as our Lord does. And so, love him so.

Your Da-Do

sermon follow-up: welcome his word

“… with humility, set aside all moral filth and the growth of wickedness, and welcome the word planted deep inside you, the very word that is able to save you.” (James 1:21 CEB)

What are the true necessities of life?

  • Food?
  • Clothing?
  • Shelter?

No, not at all. You’d be better off homeless, naked, and starving than to try to live without what God has to say to you.

Some live naked all of their life. Many live homeless all of their days. Nearly everyone could go a day without eating. But you would be a fool to live a single day without God’s word as your guide.

You must have air to live. How many breaths do you take a day, not even choosing to take a single one? The wind blows how and where it wills and God’s Spirit moves the same, but do you choose to not breathe the breath of heaven?

Scripture conveys God’s speech to you and what is more important than hearing and obeying God? Your growth in the life of God will be proportionate to the time and effort you put into welcoming the word of God into your will and ways. Yes, it can be put that simple.

But there are Christians who don’t welcome God’s life into their will and their ways and rest assured they:

  • have become blind for they are unable to see their own deepest need,
  • have grown lazy, wanting the benefits of relationship but without effort,
  • are souls who have forgotten their Savior and Lord.

However, Christians who welcome God’s word understand:

  • there are no shortcuts in the walk with God,
  • God’s word leads a person to God himself,
  • there is no substitute for hearing God speak to you and seeing him lived out through you.

This door of welcome opens with an attitude and atmosphere of “humility.” Welcoming the word with humility involves constantly reminding yourself of your place in relation to his word: you stand under it, not over it or beside it. You are the host of God’s word, and how you perceive and relate to his word is how you relate to and serve him.

The room of your heart is readied as you sweep aside “all moral filth” and any “growth of wickedness” you see unfitting for this word’s presence. Your good intentions are not right welcome enough; your life must make adjustments. The only way to grasp the essence of Scripture is to live what you learn from it and live it so as to learn it.

“Whoever desires to understand and take delight in the words of Christ must strive to conform his whole life to Him.” (Thomas a Kempis)

Believers who welcome God’s word into their life seek to be comfortable with his word and for his word to be comfortable with them. They ready themselves for this word’s arrival and eagerly look forward to it and this is how they do it:

  • They throw open the doors of their heart and habits and so say, “Make yourself at home; my home is your home.”
  • They are attentive and observant of the word, ready to serve the word they’ve welcomed. They say, “Here, let me get that for you” as the word brings need to light.
  • They welcome the word because they long for presence with God and know that by listening to him and living for him they are saying to the God who speaks to them, “I’m so glad we can spend time together.”

So let me ask you plainly: how are you doing at actively welcoming God’s word into your life? Perhaps you need more time together. C.H. Spurgeon once said:

“There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write ‘damnation’ with your fingers.”

Change that! And here are some ways to do that:

  • Get up a little earlier and start the day reading and praying over the word.
  • Daily memorize a sentence or phrase you can meditate on throughout the day.
  • Check out some of the many Bible reading schedules available online.
  • Try listening to Scripture during your commute, jog, walk with the dog, or exercise.
  • Download a Bible reading app (such as YouVersion or AcroBible) for your smartphone and use it when you’re in “downtime” (like standing in a checkout line at the store).
  • Share a verse each day with others via whatever social networking site you’re into (Facebook, Google+, etc.).
  • Make it a personal project to copy by hand (no typing allowed) a complete book of the Bible (such as James).
  • Over a period of time, commit to perfect memory a select segment or paragraph of the word (such as Philippians 4:8-9 or 2 Peter 1:3-11). Even if you eventually forget how to quote it perfectly, you’ll be astounded how much of it comes to mind and at important times.
  • Deliberately mention something you’ve encountered with the word that day with someone else that same day.
  • Saturate yourself so with his word that you sometimes catch yourself falling asleep in bed thinking about his word and praying to its Author.

Yes, “welcome the word planted deep inside you” for this is “the very word that is able to save you.”

sermon follow-up: remember

Much of the world is remembering 9/11. Unquestionably that event, and particularly what we have chosen to remember about it, colors our thinking and perception of things. No doubt we’ve all learned some things from that day ten years ago and all of the days that have followed it. Those lessons may or may not be the right lessons to have learned, but we all surely claim to have learned something from 9/11 and that learning has affected our living ever since.

I want to hold up before you a memory, a living memory. I want to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned, and am still learning, as the events of 9/11 have interfaced with him whom I follow, our Lord Jesus Christ. For by far the dominant memory that is to shape our thinking as Christ-followers is not the destruction of two towers, but the raising up of the Christ on a cross. Not the rejuvenation of a site of destruction, but the resurrection of the Son of God from the grave. If we are remember anything or anyone at all as Christians, we’re to remember Jesus Christ.

Think about what I’m saying; the Lord will give you understanding about everything. Remember Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead and descended from David. This is my good news. (2 Timothy 2:7-8 CEB)

As I remember Jesus Christ – the Christ of Scripture, not of emotion or tradition – these are some of the things that come to mind as I simultaneously my Lord and 9/11.

I remember Jesus Christ saw his Father as his source of strength. He said, “I honor my Father.” (John 8:49). This is what his life was all about: honoring the one from whom his strength flowed. The Father was his sustenance and the source of all nourishment to be shared, and is still shared, with us. “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” (John 6:32). Now not everyone sees life, or their life in particular, this way. Most appear to see God and his strength as one among many sources of strength available to them. Some leave God out of the equation altogether. But as worshipers of the true and living God, we’re called to see things differently than the masses. “Some people trust in chariots, others in horses; but we praise the LORD’s name.” (Psalm 20:7)

I remember Jesus Christ lived his life completely free of resentment, slander, and violence. It might be impossible for us to do so completely, but it is our supreme task in life to imitate Jesus Christ as closely as possible. When we’re tempted to lean toward resentment, slander, or violence as ways to handle, or even as solutions to, life’s complexities, we as Christians see those things for what they are – temptations from hell – and so we take our stand against those temptations. This is what our Savior did and he is our Lord. I remember he said, “Don’t you think I’m able to ask my Father for more than twelve legions of angels right now?” (Matthew 26:53). And he could have … but he didn’t. When the suggestion of taking up arms was proposed to him, I remember how he looked the person making the suggestion – ironically, a very close disciple of his – right in the eye and flatly said, “Enough of that!” (Luke 22:38) Yes, when I remember 9/11 and view it through the lens of Jesus Christ, I can come to no other conclusion than this one: resentment, slander, and violence have no place in the lives of disciples of Christ.

I remember Jesus Christ wept with those who wept. I remember “Jesus wept” with, and for, those who grieved the death of a loved one, one also loved deeply by Jesus himself (John 11:35). I remember how on one occasion, as if with exasperation and a groan in spirit, he looked “into heaven and sighed deeply.” (Mark 7:34). We know that sort of sigh. We’ve sighed it ourselves when we’ve looked toward heaven and thought, “It’s just shouldn’t be this way. How long, O Lord, how long?” We weep with those who weep. Not merely for “the Americans” who lost their lives one day in the Twin Towers, but quite deliberately for the hundreds from fifty-five other nations who lost their lives as well that same day in the same place. We weep not only for the thousands of American troops who have lost their lives in the wars spawned from the events surrounding 9/11, and the tens of thousands more who have been maimed for life or their lives ruptured and their families fractured forever, but weep also for the hundreds of thousands more who, civilians and enemies alike, have been suffered the same, or worse, and are remembered by many as only so much “collateral damage” or a “victory.” No, when true Christians weep, they weep not for our nation alone, but for the world, and with our Lord who weeps no other way.

I remember Jesus Christ praised good in whoever he saw it. It mattered not their ethnic. It mattered not their language. It mattered not their nationality. It mattered not their religion, past or present. I remember how he looked at one, not of Israel, and declared for all to hear, “I haven’t found faith like this in Israel!” (Luke 7:9) If we praise only those who are like us, how are we better than the pagans? We must mimic our Master and do likewise. We must not dole out our praise of good to only those who are most like us. We must swim against the strong, continual current of partiality and hate that envelopes the lives of so many and, instead, live lives of impartiality and love.

I remember Jesus Christ loved all, including his enemies. I shudder to say this. I’m fearful to say it, but say it I feel I must. Some of my most horrific memories surrounding 9/11 and since don’t involve people leaping from a hundred stories up lest they burn to death. They aren’t about workers sifting through and breathing the ashes of those incinerated in the flames to try and find one yet alive. They don’t revolve around encounters with those who are still struggling daily with nightmares in their sleep from terrors they experienced on the battlefield years ago. Rather, they center on hate-filled words and vengeful anger from the lips of my brothers and sisters in Christ – yes, even from some of you – about “those people.” They turn on e-mail forwards which spouted horrendous declarations not at all like the Spirit of Christ, but all in the name of the red, white, and blue. Lord Jesus, forgive us! Would that I could banish these memories from my mind forever! Perhaps someday I’ll be able to do so, but may I sooner die than forget how my Lord’s own battered, bruised, and bleeding lips spoke from the stake, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34) Lord, make me and mine like you.

I remember Jesus Christ laid down his life for everyone. I remember how he didn’t just talk about love, but that he walked all his days exemplifying God’s love. His life was pure witness to his true words and his death undeniably sealed the testimony. I remember how he said, “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) And he did. And his “friends” were all … including his betrayer, Judas. And so I recall how that if anyone will hear God’s call through my life, it will surely only be when my life matches my Lord’s words and ways. It will only be when I lay down my own life as he did with his. I ask you as I ask myself: how else will the Prince of Peace who spoke and lived the gospel of peace, work peace through you and me unless we too are deliberate, diligent peacemakers, laying down our lives daily for all to the end that his peace would come? This I remember.

But most of all I remember Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, that he rules from heaven now, and that he will return. I remember the greatest of the good news of Jesus Christ. “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36) And indelibly stamped on my memory are his words, “I will return.” (John 14:3) Yes, this I remember; him, I remember.

My brothers and sisters. Friends and family. Neighbors and guests. Strangers and aliens. Citizens and foreigners. Church. Remember. Remember vividly. Remember demonstrably. “Remember Jesus Christ …