Day 7: John 19-21 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from John 19 – 21 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend” ( John 19:12).

Pilate has a choice to make. Release Jesus because he finds no fault in him, or crucify Jesus to settle the crowd. It seems like an obvious choice. Do you do the right thing, or do you do the wrong thing because in the end it benefits you the most (or at least spares you some hassle)? Pilate chose the path of least resistance. That is the way of this world. Jesus was showing us a different way. Doing the right thing, even at great cost and personal sacrifice. Jesus calls his followers to be like him (and not like Pilate).

Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? (John 21:15).

In the Greek language several words are used for love, two are used in this passage.  Jesus asks Peter the first two times, “Peter do you love me? (agape – Strongest form of love).” Peter responds, “Lord, you know I love you” (phileo – like a brother). The third time Jesus asks, “Peter, do you love me (phileo – like a brother).” This is when Peter breaks down and recognizes the weakness in his own Character and says, “Lord, you know I love you” (phileo -like a brother).

Likewise, Jesus’ statements to Peter come to life when you understand the Greek a little better. The first statement is “take my lambs to pasture” (a long term experience). The second, “feed my sheep” (a short term experience). The third statement “take my sheep to pasture” (a long term experience).

This is a beautiful picture of Jesus restoring Peter. You will remember that when Peter denied Christ three times (see John 18:17, 25-27) with the rejection seeming more sever each time.  Here Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him, each time the command “feed my sheep” growing in responsibility.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

FATHER, Thank you that you are a restoring God. Thank you that you restored Peter even though he denied you. I am asking you to today to bring back to faith and repentance those who I know need restoration. I pray also what we would be bold witnesses for the gospel when and where we are given the opportunity. I lift up those who are hurting, those who are wandering, those who are healing, those who are in pain, those who have forgotten you, I pray for those in my care as a pastor. Give me boldness to speak your truth in love, to carry out the ministry of reconciliation and to encourage them in the faith. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 6: John 16-18 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from John 16 – 18 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Thought 1: There were two opposing wills at work in the events leading up to and surrounding the crucifixion. The leaders willed that Jesus would die so they could hold on to their kingdom and keep the status quo (11:50). Jesus willingly went with those who had assembled to take him captive (18:11).  He willingly laid His life down so that He could pick it back up again in resurrection (John 10:18). As we look back and we read these events unfolding, we hear Jesus tell us that while the world schemes to overcome him, that the disciples should not worry, for he has overcome the world (16:33).  

I’m fond of saying that the worst day in all of history was also the greatest day. Sometimes we look at our lives and wonder if God really cares. See the care that Jesus extends to his disciples on the worst week of their life. They will feel left, abandoned, distraught, and seemingly hopeless. Yet, Jesus knowing what He will endure, challenges them to be prepared. What is about to unfold will look like losing, but will really be winning. It will taste sour, but will heal like good medicine. It will be painful, but will produce life (16:20-22).

We will encounter trouble in this life. There will be moments where we feel like we are losing. We will face persecution, loss, perhaps even suffer unjustly at the hands of others and all the while it will be painful, it will hurt, it will make us wonder if God is really there for us. Like the disciples we might feel abandoned and for a moment our world will be spin. But for those in Christ, we must know that we are not abandoned, we are not losing, we are not without hope… He has overcome. Our joy will be greater on the other side of all this trouble.  Even in the death of a believer, there is greater joy on the other side (John 6:40).

Thought 2:  The gospel must spread. Jesus prays in John 17, not just for his immediate disciples, but for those who will believe through the witness of the disciples (17:20). That includes me in two ways. One because I have received the gospel. But, secondly because I am entrusted to share the gospel with others so that they may also believe. We get to take part in making God known to the nations.  We get to bring the gospel light to places of darkness. And we don’t go alone!  Jesus is the one who continues to make His name known!

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

LORD, Thank you for the gift of faith and belief. I am grateful for those you have put in my life that have been faithful to share your word with me. I pray that you would use me in the lives of others. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thank you that He guides me. I pray the entirety of John 17 with you. Thank you for leaving the John 17 prayer in your word so that I might know how you have prayed for me and others who have believed on you. I lift up those who are facing trouble and tribulation around the world because of their faith in you. I ask that they would be encouraged today and strengthened by you. I lift up those I know in my own circles today, friends and family facing hardships, those who are sick and in need of healing, those who are facing their last moments, those I get the privilege of shepherding, those who I will invite to believe on you, and those who have wandered for far too long . I ask that we all would have our greatest joy in you. Strengthen us this day by your Word and your Spirit. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 5: John 13-15 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from John 13-15 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “(John 14:15-17)

Judas couldn’t have had a better pastor and he betrayed Jesus. The reality of a Judas in the ranks of the disciples should challenge us to examine our own hearts. If He could “follow” Jesus and still not fully believe it is possible for us to be near church but not fully committed to Christ. The realness of Judas should cause us to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10).

Jesus offers another glimpse of the coming Holy Spirit!  As we draw closer and closer to the cross, the message turns more and more towards the Trinity and especially now in these chapters towards the role of the Holy Spirit who has come to us as a “Helper.”

The only power we have to keep Christ’s commandments comes from the Holy Spirit alive in us! How arrogant we are to assume that we are fully capable of fulfilling the commands of Christ on our own. We are like Peter making bold claims about our allegiances when we walk in peace, but running away like a coward when the pressure is on.  The power to obey and follow comes from abiding and walking with Christ on a consistent and daily basis. Continually submitting areas of our life to Christ, not in our strength, but in the power that comes from the Holy Spirit of God.

Here is how I am praying through this Passage today:

LORD, I thank you that you care for me. I ask you to examine my heart and life today. I know that there is nothing that you have called me to do that I can do on my own. I must depend on you. I ask you to prune from my life the things that would distract me from your purpose for my life. Please direct the steps ahead of me. I pray today for those who are wandering, those struggling with acceptance and belonging, those who are seeking you but find the cares of this world difficult to resist, those who know they need to let go of addictions, those who know they are prone to distraction. I lift up the sick, the hurting, those in the process of healing, those who carry sorrow, and worry.  I lift up the people I am charged to lead. I pray today that we would all find ourselves abiding in you. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 4: John 10-12 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from John 10-12 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

“I have come [as] a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.  “And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him–the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. (John 12:46-48, NKJV)

John’s message continuing to be pounded out. Jesus will be lifted up. Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus is being rejected by people who should be the first to welcome Him, etc.

Then a few other things jump out at me from the text today.

1. Between the reading for yesterday and the reading today a new and subtle theme is emerging.  Through both the man born blind and the death of Lazarus we see places where the darkness seems to be winning. When questioned about it Jesus comments that these events are for God’s glory. The light shines the brightest after the darkness. Blindness wasn’t the end for that man. Death wasn’t the end for Lazarus. In the midst of suffering and injustice it is important for us to remind ourselves that these current conditions are not the final, but rather shadows before the sunrise. We’ll see this again with the dark hours at the cross and the morning of the resurrection.

2. Jesus continues to make a distinction between those who believe in him and those who reject him.  He used the analogy of a shepherd and explained that the pharisees didn’t follow because they weren’t his sheep. Following Jesus demands that you actually follow him. My fear is that there are many today who are religious like the Pharisees who do not follow Jesus in the only real way that counts.  They offer lip service and can tell you where the lines are, but don’t seek to lovingly trust and obey Jesus themselves.

3. I think sometimes we can imagine that if we just present the truth in a better way that more people will believe, but we have to remember that near the end of chapter 12 Jesus illustrates that the same light brings belief in some and hardens hearts in others. Charles Spurgeon summarized this thought well when he said, “The same sun with melts wax hardens clay. And the same gospel which melts  some persons to repentance hardens others in their sins.”

Here is how I am praying through these chapters today:

Lord, Thank you that you are the Good Shepherd. Thank you for Shepherding me. I look to you today for wisdom and leadership. Guide my steps, direct my path, let my heart continue to long to follow after you all the days of my life. Keep me from straying. Thank you that even when we face the dark shadows of life that you are there, you are in control and you love me. I pray for those who are sick and hurting, those who have wandered, those who are estranged in their family relationships, those who grew up in church and are far from you, those like me who are under-shepherds charged with leading your flock, those who don’t know you, those who have yet to hear, those who have hardened their hearts, would we all be touched by your word today and drawn to follow you in faith and repentance. In Jesus Name, Amen.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 3: John 7-9 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from John 7-9 follow the link providedhere to read the ESV online.

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” – John 8:24

There are several themes that pop out in today’s reading. We are reminded that Jesus has come to reveal God, expose hearts and ultimately bring healing to the nations.  Have you noticed the repetitive themes? Jesus is the light. He is living water. Jesus is from Heaven. Jesus will be lifted up. Jesus came to his own, but was rejected. Those who receive him are given the right to become children of God.

The Apostle John is beginning to really press forward the question, “what will you do with Jesus?” Will we receive Him or will we reject Him? We have a decision to make about who Jesus is: Is he God in the flesh as John indicates (1:1, 1:14, 8:48-59) or someone  else? That decision determines everything.

Jesus says that whoever commits sin is a slave to sin (8:34). We might think we are free but our illusion of freedom is only that of being able to choose which sin we want to be our master. The only true and lasting freedom, freedom to do what we were created for, comes from following Jesus (8:36).

What moved me to worship today is the brief promise of the Holy Spirit (7:37-39). He is the Spirit alive in me that gives me the only real power I have ever had to overcome temptation and begin to reject sin in my life. I was reminded once again that God has not just delivered me from darkness but sustains me to walk in the light.

Here is how I am brought to prayer today:

Lord, I pray that we never miss you in our midst. Give us insight into who you are and what you have come to do. Looking ahead I trust in the promise that you have gone to prepare a place for me and that I know you are the Way. Thank you for Living Water and the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. I lift up those who are sick, taking care of the sick, those who are aimless, the wandering and the wondering, those who are joyful and those who are facing sadness and loss, those who are in my care and those I care about I ask that we all would find our joy in abiding in you today. In Jesus Name. Amen.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 2: John 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from John 4-6 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

What really jumped out at me today was how often individuals are credited with bringing others to Jesus.  Yesterday we saw that Andrew brought Peter to Jesus (1:41) and Phillip told Nathaniel about Jesus (1:45). Today we read how the Samaritan woman brought her village to Jesus (4:28-30) and Andrew brought the boy with a lunch to Jesus (6:8-9).

In John 4 I was reminded of how Jesus saw the people of Samaria. The disciples went to town and bought lunch and left, but later the whole town came out to meet Jesus based on the testimony of this woman. I was reminded about how sometimes we can be blind to those who really need Jesus.

I was interested in metaphors that Jesus continues to use for Himself. He is the Living Water, He is the Bread of Life. I see another illustration early in Jesus’ ministry to what we call the Lord’s Supper. We saw Jesus stretch his hand to heal the man at the pool and the nobleman’s son.

I was reminded that some people look to Jesus for the wrong thing (6:26) and that some people can read the word of God and miss Jesus (5:39). I see Jesus reinforcing His message that he came to save.

So here is how I am praying through this passage today:

Lord, I am thankful for the individuals that you used to bring me to you. I pray that you would use me to bring others to you today. I recognize and confess that I don’t have any saving power in myself, you are the one who saves, heals, helps, and the one in whom we should hope. Speak to me through your word, don’t let me be blind to how you are working in the world, but show me so that I might be a part. Help me to see people as you see them and not look past them for just my own needs (like lunch). Today I lift up the hurting, the broken, the ill, those who are estranged from their families, those who are facing crisis and I ask that they would find all that they need in you. Thank you for drawing individuals to faith in you. I thank you for drawing me. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 1: John 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

The gospel writer John lays out the mission and message of Jesus in these first few chapters.  Jesus has come to be a light shining in the darkness (John 1:4-5,9, 3:19-21). He is God in the flesh (John 1:1-3, 14). He is Heaven reaching down to men (1:18, 3:13). Jesus has come to reveal God to men.

The wedding feast in chapter two seems to always jump out at me. It’s the first miracle/ Sign Jesus offers of his divinity. You can’t help but wonder,what does Jesus have to do with wine?  What does Jesus have to do with weddings?  Why here, why now?

I think it is interesting that Jesus begins and ends His earthly ministry with wine. The first is to celebrate in a covenant marriage feast where they did not have enough to go around. The last to help usher in a different kind of covenant.  One where his blood would become the atonement for our sins and there would be plenty to go around (Matthew 26:27-29).

Similarly I think the wedding here is a hint of a greater wedding feast to come (Revelation 19:7-9). I do not think that it is an accident that John begins his Gospel with a wedding feast and ends the book of Revelation with a wedding feast. (God used the Apostle to write both the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation). I know that when we speak of Jesus’ hour not yet coming that often it’s in regards to his crucifixion.   However, I think there is a glimpse of something greater in John chapter two.  He is a groom and his bride is not quiet ready, his hour has not yet come. (I owe this thought to Timothy Keller)

Here is how my heart is provoked to pray through this passage today.

Lord, I thank you that when we don’t have enough, that you are more than enough. I thank you that weddings reflect your joy for your people and that marriage reflects your love for your people. I look forward with joy and anticipation for the day when all things will be fulfilled in Christ. I am grateful that you drank the cup of wrath that I might drink the cup of life. Thank you for communion and how it reminds me of your love poured out for me. Thank you that when I was a stranger and could not understand you that you came to me and drew me close to you. I pray for your kingdom to come and I ask that the sick, the lost, those suffering loss, the one’s in pain, the discouraged, those in need of direction, those who are facing crisis, those who experience joy, those who I am charged to shepherd would be suited and ready in that final hour. In Jesus Name. Amen.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Read the New Testament in 90 Days

Have you ever read through the entire New Testament? The Bible has really shaped who we are as a society and especially shaped my life as a Christian. I enjoy reading through the whole Bible each year, but this year I want to invite you to spend 90 days reading through the New Testament with me! That’s right I am issuing a 90 day reading challenge! 

Several years ago I organized a simple effort to read the New Testament in 90 days and I thought it was worth picking it up again this years.  We will be reading about three chapters of Scripture a day and I’ll try and share a few of my thoughts as a blog post each day. I’ll be limiting my posts to 300 500 words or less to ensure that each day’s posting is brief. For those of you taking the challenge, I encourage you to briefly write your thoughts as well. Feel free to jump in, comment about the scripture passage here, ask questions, etc. 

The challenge will begging January 1st, 2020. 

Here is the new-in-90-sheet I organized back in 2011 and I will be using again this year. I’ve listed the days here without a date so that some of you can start later, or hop back on the bus easily if you miss a day. I’ll try and link back to the list below once I’ve shared my thoughts so you can see where we are in the process.

  • Day 1 – John 1 – 3
  • Day 2 – John 4 – 6
  • Day 3 – John 7 – 9
  • Day 4 – John 10 – 12
  • Day 5 – John 13 – 15
  • Day 6 – John 16 – 18
  • Day 7 – John 19 – 21
  • Day 8 – Matthew 1 – 4
  • Day 9 – Matthew 5 -7
  • Day 10 – Matthew 8 – 10
  • Day 11 – Matthew 11 – 12
  • Day 12 – Matthew 13 – 15
  • Day 13 – Matthew 16 – 18
  • Day 14 – Matthew 19 – 21
  • Day 15 – Matthew 22 – 24
  • Day 16 – Matthew 25 – 27
  • Day 17 – Matthew 28
  • Day 18 – Mark 1 – 3
  • Day 19 – Mark 4 – 6
  • Day 20 – Mark 7 – 9
  • Day 21 – Mark 10 – 12
  • Day 22 – Mark 13 – 15
  • Day 23 – Mark 16
  • Day 24 – Luke 1 – 3
  • Day 25 – Luke 4 – 6
  • Day 26 – Luke 7 – 9
  • Day 27 – Luke 10 – 12
  • Day 28 – Luke 13 – 15
  • Day 29 – Luke 16 – 18
  • Day 30 – Luke 19 – 21
  • Day 31 – Luke 22 – 24
  • Day 32 – Acts 1 – 3
  • Day 33 – Acts 4 – 6
  • Day 34 – Acts 7 – 9
  • Day 35 – Acts 10 – 12
  • Day 36 – Acts 13 – 15
  • Day 37 – Acts 16 – 19
  • Day 38 – Acts 20 – 22
  • Day 39 – Acts 23 – 25
  • Day 40 – Acts 26 – 28
  • Day 41 – Romans 1 – 3
  • Day 42 – Romans 4 – 6
  • Day 43 – Romans 7 – 9
  • Day 44 – Romans 10 – 12
  • Day 45 – Romans 13 – 15
  • Day 46 – Romans 16
  • Day 47 – I Corinthians 1 – 3
  • Day 48 – I Corinthians 4 – 6
  • Day 49 – I Corinthians 7 – 9
  • Day 50 – I Corinthians 10 – 12
  • Day 51 – I Corinthians 13 -15
  • Day 52 – I Corinthians 16
  • Day 53 – 2 Corinthians 1 – 3
  • Day 54 – 2 Corinthians 4 – 6
  • Day 55 – 2 Corinthians 7 – 9
  • Day 56 – 2 Corinthians 10 – 12
  • Day 57 – 2 Corinthians 13
  • Day 58 – Galatians 1 – 3
  • Day 59 – Galatians 4 – 6
  • Day 60 – Ephesians 1 – 3
  • Day 61 – Ephesians 4 – 6
  • Day 62 – Philippians
  • Day 63 – Colossians
  • Day 64 – 1 Thessalonians 1 – 3
  • Day 65 – 1 Thessalonians 4 – 5
  • Day 66 – 2 Thessalonians
  • Day 67 –  1 Timothy 1 – 3
  • Day 68 – 1 Timothy 4 – 6
  • Day 69 – 2 Timothy
  • Day 70 – Titus
  • Day 71 – Philemon
  • Day 72 – Hebrews 1 – 2
  • Day 73 – Hebrews 3 – 5
  • Day 74 – Hebrews 6 – 8
  • Day 75 – Hebrews 9 – 10
  • Day 76 – Hebrews 11 – 13
  • Day 77 – James
  • Day 78 – 1 Peter 1-3
  • Day 79 – 1 Peter 4-5
  • Day 80 – 2 Peter
  • Day 81 – 1 John 1 – 3
  • Day 82 – 1 John 4 – 5
  • Day 83 – 2 John, 3 John, Jude
  • Day 84 – Revelation 1 – 3
  • Day 85 – Revelation 4 – 6
  • Day 86 – Revelation 7 – 9
  • Day 87 – Revelation 10 – 12
  • Day 88 – Revelation 13 – 15
  • Day 89 – Revelation 16 – 18
  • Day 90 – Revelation 19 – 22

Letters to My Students (A Review)

Image result for letters to my students"What a breath of fresh air! I really wish I had this book starting out! It’s simple and compelling! Dr. Allen provides an excellent guide for young pastors and pastoral students. The first years of ministry can be rough and very difficult to navigate, “Letters to My Students: On Preaching,” provides clarity and hope for biblical preaching in the next generation.

Letters to My Students: On Preaching,” is comprised of twenty chapters neatly divided into three major sections. These sections address the topics of preparing to be a preacher, preparing to preach, and growing in preaching. The easy to read chapters are filled with biblical insight, practical application and prove to be a valuable resource for young ministers. I certainly profited from them.

The book’s format provides a great opportunity to read and digest a small chapter each day (this is certainly how I enjoyed it). It also lends itself to reading and discussing a chapter with those you are mentoring or who are mentoring you (that is one way I plan to use it). “Letters to My Students: On Preaching,” is a true gift to the church. I hope there are many more volumes to come!

For the sake of full disclosure: I attended a college bible study led by Jason (As we called him back then). That was around 20 years ago. I’m confident that I was able to read and review this book without bias.

Remembering 9-11 and Honoring Those who Serve our Communities Today

When you are in elementary school, they teach you that in an emergency you can call 911 and help will come. It’s a great bit of information to have and most of us just tucked it away and took for granted that a phone call would bring help if we were ever in trouble.

Seldom at that age did we think about how bad it would be to call 911 and who would actually come. We didn’t pause to think that behind the lights and sirens that there would be real women and men.

We didn’t think about it, because we were just kids. We rested in the promise of rescue when we found ourselves in trouble.  We didn’t think about the life of those who would run to our rescue.  We didn’t imagine how their day must go when they have a plan, but everything changes. We didn’t pause to think about what they do, the training they’ve been through, the equipment they keep up. We didn’t think about the fires they had put out, the dealers they took off the street, the justice that was served, the lives saved, all because they were there. We selfishly thought the peace we enjoyed was just the way that the world was. We didn’t consider that perhaps God used men and women to secure our peace by keeping evil in check. We just rested in the fact that if evil ever came for us, someone would come to our rescue.

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Then one Tuesday morning in September the world began to fall apart. It’s a moment that marked our nation. I was in our church office preparing for a staff meeting. Our Senior pastor came in and said he heard on the radio that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. We turned on the only TV we could find. As a staff we watched as a second plane hit the towers causing us to realize that this wasn’t an accident, but this was indeed an act of terrorism.

We held on watching and praying as we witnessed fire crews and police officers running into the building to save lives. Then we heard about the pentagon and flight 93 that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. And we watched praying for people who we knew were in New York. Then we saw the towers fall, it was like having the wind knocked out of us, but rather than gasping for breath, we were grasping for hope in the midst of tragedy.

Yet, in our darkest hour, we saw our heroes in the ashes. We found our hope. Over the next few days we would find out more about what had happened. We heard about how practical strangers banded together on flight 93 to put their plane down in a field and frustrate the plans of the hijackers.

We heard about the two F-16 pilots who scrambled out of our Nation’s capital without ammunition, ready to ram the rouge flight 93 if necessary. One of the pilots had strapped in her plane knowing that her dad was possibly the pilot of the flight they would be ordered to ground.

There was a young hero working as a equities trader, who had been a volunteer firefighter back home, who got everyone from his department down safely. Then he went back in to help more people make it down… the last anyone saw of him was in the smoke and ash as he had tied a cloth around his mouth, going back in for more.

We are told that within one minute of when the first plane hit that firefighters and police crews were dispatched to the trade center. There was one hero who was supposed to be off that day but he saw the first plane go into the tower so he scrapped his plans stopped by the station to get his gear and ran into the towers to help save lives.

Many brave men and women died as they ran in and the towers fell. Over the days and weeks following many who did survive were slated with the daunting task of pulling survivors and bodies from the debris. We lost 3000 souls that day.

We banded together as a nation. Together we mourned and swore we would come up from the ashes stronger and in many ways I believe we have.

To our First-Responders and Heroes:

I’m sure there are days and moments where you feel like a hero because by Gods grace you saw the results of your labor. You know you saved lives. On other days it seems like you have only seen the worst side of humanity, and it feels like you are losing not because of your efforts but because the odds are so overwhelming. 

How do you keep going?

I want to share a few verses with you: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – 1 cor. 13:12-13

I think what helps is remembering that we don’t and won’t see perfectly this side of Heaven, but one day we will see. The three virtues that we are told that remain are faith, hope, and love. They each help us move forward in a fallen world.

Faith isn’t wishful thinking, as some would have you believe. Faith is a rock solid trust that God is who He says He is and He will do what He said He will do. Faith is looking at a lost and fallen world, seeing the worst of humanity and realizing that God is still in control. It’s recognizing that the final word hasn’t been spoken yet and that justice will come to everyone!

Hope isn’t a desperate wish, but here it is an optimistic longing. It’s like waiting to unwrap the presents at Christmas. They are already bought and under the tree and little Tommy says, “I hope Christmas get’s here soon.” There is no question, Christmas is coming, what little Tommy wants is for it to get here sooner rather than later. When we see the ugly in the world, we are reminded that this world is broken and a new world is coming. Hope says bring it quickly!

Finally there is Love. Love isn’t a sappy emotion, at it’s core love is giving selflessly for for others. Jesus demonstrated his love for us by voluntarily dying in our place for our sins. Then God who is just, and calls every sin into account, is still just by punishing Jesus for every evil we have done. You could be free from the sins you had committed and the wrath that they incurred, not because they didn’t matter, but because Jesus paid the price you could not pay. Love takes the worst and gives the best.

I thank God for you!

I’ll never forget the day my son told me, “look out daddy, I see the police.” I was shocked! What had happened? Why did he think I should be afraid? Was it because I might get a speeding ticket? I rebuked him. I said, “No, son thank God you see the police!” My son ever so smart at responding said, “what if he gives you a ticket?” To which I responded, “what if he didn’t give out tickets? What if he just let people speed by? What if I lose respect for a speed limit that is slower than my car will go? What if I hit a boy your age because I was speeding through a school zone and didn’t see him? No son, thank God for the policeman.

Son, thank God for the paramedic! What would happen if there were no one to call when you are hurt?

Son, thank God for the legal system. Thank God that if you get accused of a crime that you get a day in court in front of a jury of your peers.

Thank God for the fire fighters who do so much more than put out fires, but serve our community in countless ways.

Thank God for the military who protect us and secure the freedoms we claim in our nation.

You see son, we can go to sleep tonight because God has called brave men women to be our heroes so if ever the need arises we can call and they will come.

One day, something will happen and you will reach for that phone to call 911 and you will never doubt that help is on the way. You don’t for a second pause and hope that the paramedics, the firefighters, the officers, etc. will come. So son, don’t look at a hero and say, watch out like it is a bad thing. We should watch out for our heroes and honor them.

We watched on as our nation faced its own crisis on 9-11 and our first-responders were there. Heroes in uniform and heroes in plain clothes. We never really lost hope because even when the world was falling down around us we witnessed our heroes answer that call selflessly serving others covered in ash, running back in to a burning building to save even more lives. It is fitting that we pause today to remember the events of 9-11 and to honor the men and women in our community who answer our call for heroes still today! 

(This was part of a speech I shared with a crowd of heroes a few years back.)