The Ultimate Sacrifice

WTC survivor says movie is not just his story - The Virginian-Pilot
Will Jimeno and John McLoughlin

Core scripture: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Message: I cannot believe it has been twenty years.  Twenty years ago our country was rocked and changed forever.  I remember I was starting school to become a teacher.  It was early in the semester, and as I walked into the building for my 8:00 am class, I saw the TV.  People were crowded around the screen in the lobby, and nobody knew what had happened.  I honestly thought the plane had a malfunction at that point.  We watched the fire billowing from the tower.

I slipped into class, still wanting to be watching the TV, and a few minutes later there was a knock at the door.  A man came up and whispered to our professor.  The second tower had been hit.  The remainder of that day I was lost in a fog of confusion.  Then Bush’s speech came two nights later, and suddenly it became real for me.  In one of the most moving speeches I had ever seen, I remember Bush telling our nation’s military to be ready.

I wept bitterly.  My brother, Clay Daniels, was freshly graduated from West Point and was a prime candidate to be sent overseas.  My other brother, Curt, was a freshman at West Point.  Both brothers served proudly in the military, Clay for 10 years and Curt for 8, surviving numerous deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan—you name it.  The sacrifice that ALL the military made for our country was beyond admirable. 

And it wasn’t just the military.  Our first responders were also heroes.  The movie World Trade Center tells the courageous story of police officers who chose to run INTO the chaos.  Sergeant John McLoughlin organized a team including Will Jimeno and Dominick Pezzulo.  All three were crushed in the collapse of the South Tower, taking refuge at the last second in an elevator shaft.  Pinned amidst the rubble but very much alive, they were trapped.

The three officers tried making noise for rescuers to hear them, but it was not working.  They could not see each other well but encouraged each other to stay alive.  Sadly, a concrete slab fell on the torso of Pezzulo, killing him; however, he shot his firearm into the air to alert the rescuers where the men were trapped.  McLoughlin and Jimeno took turns sharing stories to keep each other alert, and finally, after hours of waiting in the rubble, they were rescued by Marines Dave Karnes and Jason Thomas. 

So much sacrifice.  So much courage.  I stop and wonder if I would be willing to do the same thing.  Maybe for my close friends and family, but a stranger?  What about someone you don’t necessarily care for?  Those guys are true heroes.  There is no way I could do what they did that day.  I am so thankful there are men and women out there who are willing to make that sacrifice; however, these sacrifices are nothing compared to what Christ did at Calvary. 

Ponder this for a moment … Christ didn’t just voluntarily put Himself through the most intense physical and emotional pain ever for those that were close to Him.  He did it for the worst of the worst.  Adolf Hitler.  Osama Bin Laden.  The Roman soldiers who mocked Him at the cross.  Would you do the same?  Think about it.  I would struggle in doing what He did for even those that are closest to me!  But He didn’t care.  He died for us all.  That, my friends, is true sacrifice.

How can we honor Him in our classroom?  After all He did for us, for EVERYONE, we can pay homage to Him through daily sacrifices we make that not only draw us closer to Him but show others who He is.  Christians sacrifice quite a bit when you think about it.  Care to take a quick survey?  Read through the list below and rank yourself in each category.

  1. Do you sacrifice time, spending time with the Lord daily in prayer and opening His Word?
  2. Do you interact with students while they are with you, checking on their progress and connecting to them, or are you stuck behind your desk grading and checking e-mail?
  3. Do you connect with students over lunch, voluntarily asking them to eat with you?  Maybe finding a needy kid that needs a mentor or just asking the class to watch a fun YouTube video? 
  4. Do you put grading aside when you go home, favoring time with your family? 
  5. Do you sacrifice time for the next lesson if your students need reteaching of the current lesson?  All too many times I press on.
  6. Do you interact with students as they enter your classroom, making them feel welcome? 
  7. Do you check in on students who are missing class and need extra attention?  I have one current student who has made it to class maybe five days, and I finally pulled her aside last Friday, finding out she has been struggling with mental health. 
  8. Do you check in on colleagues in need, asking how you can help them?  
  9. Do you sacrifice your reputation, politely redirecting negative conversation, gossip, or slander? 
  10. Do you honor the absent, allowing your words to only spill out encouragement and understanding when others are gone?  Or do you say negative things behind their back?

These are legitimate sacrifices!  I probably could have gone on, but stopping at ten seemed like a good idea.  I am almost overwhelming myself!  Yes, living the Christian life is a true sacrifice.  As we move on past the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001, let us focus and reflect on the truth behind the following scripture:

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Did you catch that?  God’s will is GOOD.  God’s will is PLEASING.  God’s will is PERFECT.  Discover that sweet spot today, allowing His sacrifice to inspire your own.

Challenge: Check out that list of sacrifices above.  Where are you at?  Journal about it or talk to other Christian warriors about it.  Make some goals for yourself.  Even have a Christian brother or sister hold you accountable to what sacrifice you are wanting to make and check in on each other. 

Song application: “My Sacrifice” by Creed is an older song played on contemporary radio stations in the early 2000’s.  Listen to this song and pretend it is a conversation between Jesus and you.

Hello my friend we meet again
It’s been a while where should we begin?
Feels like forever
Within my heart are memories
Of perfect love that you gave to me
Oh I remember

When you are with me, I’m free
I’m careless, I believe
Above all the others we’ll fly
This brings tears to my eyes
My sacrifice

Prayer points: Lift up the following areas to the Lord …

  • Pray that His sacrifice might be seen in the way you live your life.
  • Pray for others to be drawn to the unique Christian lifestyle we are living out in the classroom.
  • Praise God for the numerous heroes of 9/11 who bravely sacrificed their lives to save others.
  • Praise God for the ultimate sacrifice He sent down to us in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Bible study: Read about the sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22:1-19.  Discuss or journal about the following questions:

  • How would you react here if you were Abraham?
  • Do you trust in God’s provision as Abraham said he knew God would provide the animal to sacrifice in verse 8?
  • What do you think God’s reaction would have been if Abraham had not followed through on this?
  • How did Abraham’s trusting of the Lord influence future generations?
  • How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop?  (Just thought I would throw that in to make sure you were tracking with me here.)

Just for fun: Had to share this one.  Another gem from my wife’s preschool class.  She was lining up the little ones for a bathroom break, telling everyone to go potty.  A little boy raised his hand and adamantly declared, “But, Ms. Kristin, I already pottied in Iowa.”  Not sure, but I think the little dude has a point there … or not?  😊

Prayer: Father, help me live a life worthy of the ultimate sacrifice You sent down to us in your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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