Remember Me

Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

Luke 23:42 NKJV

Have you ever wondered why the thief on the cross simply asks Jesus to remember him? To us, it may seem a strange thing to say, especially given the dire circumstances the thief was in. Yes, he had just told the other thief that the two of them deserved their punishment, and yet even as he acknowledged Jesus as Lord and coming King, the thief didn’t ask for mercy, didn’t ask for a reprieve, didn’t ask for a different sentence. He asked Jesus to remember him.

What does it mean to be remembered? Today, we usually think of remembering as a function of our brains. We remember someone we’ve met by calling them to mind, and we remember (or don’t!) our passwords or loved ones’ birthdays. We go to funerals and remember the departed fondly…or not, as the case may be. Nonetheless, when we remember, it is mostly thought and sometimes feeling. Is that all that the thief wanted, for Jesus to think about him now and then?

In the Bible, God’s remembering is different from ours. When God remembers someone, things happen! While Noah and his family were shut up in the ark, God remembered them and set them on a safe place until the waters receded. When Abraham was old, God remembered him and blessed Sarah with a child. When Rachel and later Hannah cried out to God to give them children, God remembered them and opened their wombs. When Israel was in bondage in Egypt, God remembered them and sent Moses to lead them out of their slavery. God remembers people, and His thoughts have power and blessing!

So when the thief asks the Lord to remember him when He comes into His kingdom, the thief is asking for a blessing he knows he does not deserve. He is asking the Son of God to think of him like God the Father thought of people in ancient days when He gave them freedom and life.

And the thief gets the reply that only God could give: “Amen (Truly or So let it be), today you will be with Me in paradise.” In other words, “Yes, I will remember you, and I will free you from the chains and punishment of your sins.”

Think about that simple prayer, “Remember me.” Maybe that’s the prayer you need today, for the Son of God to remember you the way the Father remembered and blessed and redeemed so many before. Let us ask Jesus to remember us that way, and surely He will.

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I stand at the door and knock

ask-godRevelation 3:20
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

If you’ve ever worked in retail, you may have come across them: Bible tracts tucked onto a shelf of merchandise. When I ran a gift and home furnishings shop, I came across at least one every other month, sometimes several in just one day. They are the result of what you might call “stealth evangelists”–people who just want to get the gospel out there any way they can, even if they are just planting a seed by leaving a tract where someone will find it. I will be honest: I’m not a fan of that method of evangelism. Stealth evangelism is about as effective as hollering “Hallelujah” in the middle of a crowd. Do that, and you may get some stares, maybe even an “Amen,” but generally most people will just keep doing whatever they are doing because it plainly wasn’t addressed to them.

And that’s kind of the point of evangelism, isn’t it? We are commissioned to preach the gospel TO people and not just AT them. We are called to make disciples by teaching and baptizing, and that involves an ACTIVE connection with people, not a PASSIVE one. I don’t suppose my opinion on the matter will stop the stealthy tracts from showing up in stores, and if even one of those tracts makes a difference in someone’s life, then there will be great rejoicing in heaven.

But I did find a “tract” one day about 10 years ago that has resonated with me ever since. On a shelf between a couple of sculptures, I found a small blue Post-it note with yellow writing on it. It was hard to read, but I could read it clearly in good light. It said this:

“Ask God to search your heart and show you how to serve Him!”

This is less evangelism than challenging the believer to do more for the kingdom of God. In fact, it’s surprisingly apt for today’s western church that is so full of pew-sitters rather than people serving the kingdom. It reminds me of today’s passage from Revelation.

Some people read that passage and assume that it’s about people responding to Jesus’ call, but that’s not what it is. In the preceding verses, Jesus has been reprimanding the church in Laodicea for being lukewarm in their love for God. They think they need nothing more than what they already have, and yet Jesus calls them to be zealous and repent. Then He says He is standing at the door–the door to their lives, the door they have shut to keep out anything that doesn’t fall in line with their selfish way of thinking and living–and He is knocking, waiting for them to open the door and let Him back in. In the gospels, whenever Jesus dined with someone, it was a sure sign of His blessing falling on someone–Zacchaeus, or Mary and Martha, or the woman who anointed Him–and so it could be again. He is knocking…

So the challenge of that tiny “tract” that I found was simply to ask God into my life to guide me, to show me how I can serve Him every day. That Post-it note asked me to open the door and leave it open for Jesus, so He is always a part of whatever I do in life. When we ask Jesus in, then there is no need for Him to stand at the door and knock.

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Bronze serpents

He [Hezekiah] removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan. – 2 Kings 18:4

As the Israelites were leaving Egypt and the Lord led them around in difficult places, most of the people clamored against Moses and the Lord God. The Lord punished them for their rebellion with poisonous snakes, and then He relented and made a way out: Moses was to make a bronze serpent and anyone who looked up to the serpent would be saved from the snakes. (Numbers 21:4-9) That serpent on that pole was only meant to be a temporary solution to a one-time event, and it was only there in the first place because of Israel’s rebellion, but as we read in the story of Hezekiah, FIVE HUNDRED YEARS LATER the people were still worshipping that inert idol! Instead of worshipping the Lord God who had done the greater thing—you know, the whole freedom from slavery in Egypt thing—the people had taken the simple thing God had made as a one-time solution to their temporary rebellion, and they turned it into a permanent idol.

Today, too many people worship the messengers rather than the One who sends the messengers. They come to churches across the world to hear one speaker rather than to hear the One speak. They focus on a particular style of preaching or teaching, looking at the bronze serpent so raised up, worshipping the idol that briefly led them away from their rebellion. They forget about the Savior who brings so much more if they will continue to gaze at Him rather than at the famous preacher.

As we saw in Hezekiah’s day, true revival starts by tearing down ALL of the idols, even the ones sent by God! Revival means we need to break all the images people have created—the false prophets, the prosperity, the famous teachers, the great writers—and turn people back to the One who is the true source. Jesus never said people can come to the Father through well-known churches, teachers, books, or programs. He said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). As we cry out for revival, let this one word be our message: JESUS. Raise HIM up, and revival will break out!

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First Works

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.”
– Revelation 2:4-5

The Ephesian church had a semblance of piety and righteousness, but they did not love God. If they did, then they would have been back doing the first works. What would that be? Jesus told us that our first love needs to be God Himself, and then we are to love others, because all the law and the prophets depend (literally, “hang from”) those first loves (Matt 22:37-40). If we love God and others first, then the works we do will be determined by those loves, and we will seek God’s will first, and love what He loves, do what He would do, live how Jesus lived. Out of our first love, we would do Jesus’s first works: speak conviction into the world, bring souls to God, lift up the downtrodden, heal the sick, comfort those who mourn. Pursuing holiness and living a righteous life would be second nature because our first nature would be to love God.

If the world today understood what love truly is–self-sacrificing, God-seeking, outward-focused, truth-speaking, long-suffering love–then revival would break out like a wildfire. Today, all of us who live in that first love stand as prophets in our land, speaking “edification and exhortation and comfort to men” (1 Cor 14:3). We speak in love against the worldly notions of love, crying out for all to return to their true first love so that they may live. Our first work is to do the work of the Lord, who out of His own first, singular love, sent His only Son to save us all. Can we do any less?

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Swallowed Up By Life

For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. – II Corinthians 5:4

Mortality is a heavy burden to bear when we know that something much greater awaits us. But can you imagine how much greater the burden is for those who do not know Christ? How lost must they be who have no hope of a heavenly body–what Paul calls “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (v.1)–and so struggle daily with just getting by! They think they have life, but they are hard-pressed to see it. We who live in Christ might say the unsaved have only a semblance of life, that they are indeed winding down to the end of their “mortal coil,” that the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” weigh them down unnecessarily, so that they have every right to wonder whether to be or not to be. (Thank you, Shakespeare, for the poetry.)

But Paul assures believers that this mortality is about to be swallowed up not by death but by life! The hope in Christ is not just getting by, and we know that when we love God and are called by Him according to His purposes, then even outrageous fortune works to our good.

Revival in Christ is life, and it means that even this troubling mortality under which we groan day after day shall be swallowed up by glorious life. And we have the Holy Spirit to seal that promise until the day it is accomplished. Let us therefore proclaim that life, rejoice in it, share it. Let us call out to those shuffling through their daily mortality, and share with them the great message of glorious and someday trouble-free IMMORTALITY in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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