We have many ways to pay tribute to those who have made a difference in life. Two brilliant lights reached into the night skies in memory of those who died in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. We honored them with light. But our friend, Ken, was and is a light. So it’s right to remember him and honor him. And while I know he would fuss and say I could find a much better example, it’s also right for us who remain to remember and learn.
Tribute To A Light
Jesus said, I am the Light of the world. But He also said His followers are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). The word Christian means little Christ. We are to be like Him. Jesus even told us how to be lights in the world. It’s about how we live our lives. In Matthew 5:16, we read:
Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
That’s the kind of life Ken tried to live. And that effort, though imperfect in all of us, is worth noting and honoring.
Tribute To A Teacher
Ken was a gifted Bible teacher. Honesty and integrity gave weight to his teaching gift. A reliable Bible teacher is one who does what they teach. Once again, that doesn’t mean our teachers or pastors are perfect people. But they are people who are striving to implement in their own lives what they see in the Word. And in Matthew 5:19, Jesus also had something to say about that:
Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
I think heaven would cast Ken in the ‘great’ category based on Jesus’ teaching. Ken was a faithful teacher – a doer of the Word. And that, in part, is why his light shown brightly to those of us who knew him well. The words of his teaching were matched by the actions we could see. That is the integrity required of every believer. Once again, none of us gets it right all the time. But we should all strive – together – to be more and more like Christ. And just to be thorough, that is a task of the Holy Spirit in our lives – conforming us into the very image of Christ.
Ken and I shared a love for John’s Gospel. But it seemed fitting to me to draw from Matthew because it is often called the teacher’s Gospel. Jesus’ earthly ministry opens (Matthew 5) with the Sermon on the Mount. The Gospel is centered around 5 great discourses of Jesus. And it closes with Jesus’ teaching command:
Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…(author’s emphasis)
Tribute To A Friend
Ken took his opportunities to minister. But he also kept the ministry door open for those who could and should minister to him. He knew that ministry is always a two-way street. It was my privilege to serve him as a minister in his local church. The privilege came in watching his faith grow and in our many conversations about the Word. Ministering to Ken ministered to me!
When I began the work with Rivers of the World (now Mission: Hope), he kept up with all that was going on. Sometimes he would call or send an email and tell me to ‘interview’ myself about some mission effort. After I sent Ken my own ‘interview’ he would apply his editing skills and make me sound better than I really am. And that allowed an even greater number of people to know what the Lord was doing in our ministry. But that was just one way he supported this ministry. And his latest effort is the Ken Bonner Memorial Scholarship Fund at EquipUs (click link to read about that).
As we began this calendar year, Ken was still waging his own battle with cancer. And we got the news that our grandson (Caleb) had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. We kept praying for Ken and also prayed for Caleb. And I don’t remember making a call or a visit to check on Ken that he didn’t ask about Caleb.
But there’s more. Just before we left on our most recent mission venture, we took a trip to see Ken at the hospital in Huntsville. It was a good visit. As we prepared to leave, I told Ken I’d like for all of us to have prayer together. His response was emphatic and immediate:
You can’t pray for me until you let me pray for you!
So, right there from his hospital bed Ken was the first to lead in prayer. He prayed for our ministry and for our upcoming mission. God answered that prayer. And then we prayed for Ken. I’ve called this a tribute to a friend and it looks like I wrote it. The truth is, Ken “wrote” it with many words and deeds like this one from his hospital room. I wasn’t the only one he prayed for!
About That Light
I said earlier that Ken was and is a light. His faith is now sight. He has seen the Lord and is now like Him. Ken is experiencing the fullest measure of the abundant life Jesus came to give every lost sinner who will turn to Him for forgiveness. Ken’s light now burns brighter than it ever has. And every believer can look forward to the day we join him around the throne of God, giving Him glory forever and ever.