Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers’ Day 2010

2 Timothy 2:1-13 “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.
It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”

Prisca and Aquilla (Romans 16:3-5). One of my claims to fame is that I am Bonnie Grove’s husband. Her debut novel won the Best Contemporary novel at the Word Guild awards this past week. When you read the back cover copy you see the words “…blah blah blah Grove, and her pastor husband, Steve blah blah blah…” That’s what I am talking about. I got mentioned on the cover of a real book – how much better can it get? I know it is not all about me, that it is really all about Bonnie – but in her ministry there are people who pray and support her. In every celebrity’s life there are all the unfamous who do all the background stuff. Sometimes they get mentioned, sometimes not. We like to focus on the celebrities, the famous ones. I can talk of Joseph and David and even Gideon who was famous partially because he wasn’t famous. He was the last of the last, yet God used him. There are whole stories behind those other names, the behind the scenes regular people.  For example, who are Prisca and Aquilla? We find them mentioned in the closing of Paul’s letter to the Romans. There are two things we note in Paul’s comments. The first is that they risked their necks for Paul. What? Isn’t that a story you’d want to know? Here we know all about Paul. Paul goes to the Gentiles. Paul almost dies a zillion times. Paul is almost shipwrecked. Paul is beaten. Paul this and Paul that, yet here is an unknown couple that sounds like they saved Paul’s life. If they didn’t do what they did, we may not have heard about Paul past Acts 16! How many of his letters would not have been written if these two unknowns hadn’t put their life in harm’s way on Paul’s behalf? God likes to use the unknowns. He likes to use you and I.

The message I want you to go away with today is that regardless of who you are, if you show up God can use you. Showing up means you are willing to do the work. There are two guys sitting on a park bench eating their bag lunches. One of  them has a special phone that is supposed to connect straight from God. You can’t dial out on it, only receive. He is talking to the other guy about God and waiting for His call – the call that will change his life; the call that will give him his ministry, his purpose in life, that might even make him famous. Down the path a little old lady stumbles and the bag of groceries she was carrying scatters all across the ground. The guy without the phone jumps up and helps her up and picks up the groceries while the other guy keeps rambling on about reception issues and how far away heaven must be. The second guy comes back, but just as he does he sees a little boy down the other way looking around like he is lost and starting to cry. He runs over and calms him down and starts asking him about his parents. Shortly the frantic mother of the lost boy comes running over from across a green area and the situation is resolved. The second guy returns to the bench to hear the man with the phone wondering about the data plans available on the phone. A homeless man shuffles by looking for handouts, and receives the bag lunch from the second man while the first just scowls and shoves the rest of his half eaten sandwich in his mouth. Then it happens. The phone rings, and it is ever so melodious. It is as if the angels are playing the ring tone themselves, and the guy with the phone almost panics as he chokes down his mouth full of food. He composes himself, nods and winks at his buddy saying, “This is it! This is the call I have been waiting for!” He answers the phone with a confident , “Hello”, but his face shows great disappointment when he turns to his friend, the one who has been running around and helping people with their needs, he turns to his friend, extends the phone and says, “It’s for you.” You see, the guy with the phone didn’t really show up. Showing up isn’t about sitting on an easy chair waiting for the call, the finger of God to come down and point to a ministry and a loud voice bellows, “Do this!” Showing up is being faithful to the things right around you. He was not engaged in life with his faith, with the people around him. The second guy was full of life and good works and love – that is the man God calls.
And so God is looking for men, for people, to stand in the gap. He is looking for the one who will be faithful to the calling of a life of ministry. He is calling you to show up today.
Outstanding among the great world heroes of ancient times were the Scottish torch runners. Long before the invention of the internet or telephone or telegraph, if a message had to be sent throughout the land, it was entrusted to the strongest and swiftest young man, chosen by each town to be their torch runner.
In one secluded highland town, there was a man famed as among the greatest of this valiant band, and widely known for both his speed and faithfulness. His name was Duncan, known throughout the land as “Duncan the Swift.” He stood constantly ready for the arrival of the runner from the next town. He would listen carefully to the message, seize the lighted torch, and sprint to his appointed town, there to relay the message first to that town’s torch runner and then to all the people. Only then would he return home.
Duncan’s young son, Douglas, was deeply moved by his father’s constant readiness for action and his reputation as “Duncan the Swift.”
When Douglas turned twelve he was allowed, if ready when the torch came, to run with his father to the next town. He could not keep pace, but would follow, and when the torch and message had been duly delivered, father and son would walk home together. Within two years, Douglas could run all the way with his father.
One day, when they had worked hard in the fields harvesting grain, Duncan was greatly fatigued. But at nightfall, the flaming torch was delivered with a crucial warning that enemy forces from the north were to attack that very night. Duncan heard the message, grabbed the torch, and sped off into the darkness.
His son, Douglas was nowhere in sight, but arrived just as the message was being relayed to the people. Learning that his father had already left, he took the road to follow him without any hesitation. In less than half the distance, he caught up with his dad, and immediately noticed that his dad’s running was labored. Suddenly Duncan’s legs gave out, and he fell to the ground. Quickly he turned to his son. “Do you have the message?”
“Yes, Sir!”
 “Then go!” And he handed him the torch.
Without delay, Douglas seized the torch and sped off into the darkness, reached the next town and delivered the message, first to their torch runner, then to the people. Returning swiftly, he found his father able to stand and to walk home with his hand on his son’s shoulder. Then Duncan told his son with pride, “One day you will be known as ‘Douglas the Swift.’”
In time Douglas became one of the fastest of all the torch runners of Scotland, known widely indeed as “Douglas the Swift.”
But there was another torch runner, whose name no one remembers, in a town on the northernmost Scottish coast. His job was to carry the message out to a little village on a peninsula stretching far out into the North Sea. In another harvest season, this runner was extremely weary. He listened to the message warning of an enemy attack, seized the torch, and took the trail. But as he ran, his feet became heavier and heavier.
Out of sight of the townspeople, he chose a shortcut leading to a nearby third town, to which the runner from out on the point should have carried the torch. Bypassing the town on the point, he gave the message to the runner and to the people, and then returned home. All the highland villages had been warned, except for that tiny town on the northern point.
That night, the enemy attacked with mighty warships at that very point. The people were unprepared. Many died. The town was taken. The attackers established a beachhead. Great damage was done—all because of the failure of one man, forever nameless, the torch runner who took the short cut.

Do you know that God has chosen you and me to be His torch runners, to take His wonderful message to the whole world? This message is the Good News of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He commands all who have received Him as our Savior to go into the entire world to deliver the Good News that everyone who believes in Him will have everlasting life. We each have a path to run. We each have a shortcut before us, tempting us to do it the easy way.
Are you willing to become one of His torch runners? Are you ready to run with perseverance and stay on the right path? Make that commitment to Jesus today. Tell Him you are in it for the long haul, that whether famous or unknown, blessing or calamity befalls you, your voice is for Jesus and His mission.

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