Pastor's Weekly Newsletter

Each Friday, Dr. Daniel Hagmaier posts his weekly newsletter. Catch up on what's happening and plan ahead.

II TIMOTHY 1:5-7 | LUCY, LARRY, MEGHAN, RILEY – A FAITH FIRST LIVED IN YOU

LUCY, LARRY, MEGHAN, RILEY

A FAITH FIRST LIVED IN YOU

II TIMOTHY 1:5-7

JULY 23, 2017

 

 

 

JESUS WENT LOOKING FOR PETER, ANDREW, JAMES, AND JOHN, AND FINDING THEM TENDING THEIR NETS, CALLED THEM AWAY TO BECOME “FISHERS OF MEN.”

 

PHILIP AND NATHANIEL CAME LOOKING FOR JESUS, AND FINDING HIM, PROCLAIMED HIM “A PROPHET LIKE NO OTHER,” AND IMMEDIATELY BEGAN TO FOLLOW HIM.

 

JESUS CALLED MATTHEW AND ZACCHAEUS AWAY FROM THEIR CHOSEN PROFESSION OF TAX COLLECTING, AND THE ILLICITNESS ASSOCIATED WITH IT IN THOSE DAYS, AND EACH TURNED OVER A NEW LEAF, AND FOLLOWED HIM.

 

BEFRIENDING LAZARUS AND HIS SISTERS, MARTHA AND MARY, THEY CAME TO BELIEVE IN HIM AS ANY OF US BELIEVE IN OUR FRIENDS, AND NEVER LEFT HIS SIDE AGAIN.

 

AND THEN THERE WERE THE INVITATIONS JESUS PROFFERED TO THOSE HE MET, FOR A BETTER LIFE, A RICHER LIFE, A MORE MEANINGFUL LIFE:

 

TO THE RICH YOUNG RULER, TO THE WOMAN AT THE WELL, TO MARY MAGDALENE, TO THOSE HE HEALED; EVEN IN MASSE AT TIMES, LIKE WHEN HE FED 5000 OF THEM WITH LOAVES AND FISH.

 

JESUS CAME TO PEOPLE, AND PEOPLE CAME TO JESUS, IN ALL SORTS OF WAYS, AS THEY ALWAYS HAVE, AND STILL DO.

 

HE WAS TWENTY-SOMETHING.  IT WAS HIS VERY FIRST DAY IN VIETNAM.  HE WAS BEING FLOWN IN ON A C-130 WITH A BUNCH OF OTHER SOLDIERS.

 

THEY HAD BEEN TOLD, BECAUSE OF ENEMY FIRE IN THE AREA, THE PLANE WOULD NOT ACTUALLY STOP, BUT SLOWLY TAXI DOWN THE RUNWAY, WHILE EVERYONE RAN OUT THE BACK.

 

RIGHT THEN AND THERE, HE PROMISED GOD, THAT IF GOD WOULD ALLOW HIM TO LIVE THROUGH THE DAY, HE WOULD DEDICATE HIS LIFE TO GOD.

 

AS THE PLANE LANDED, THE HUGE DOOR AT THE BACK OPENED, AND THE SOLDIERS BEGAN TO RUN.  THEY WERE INDEED TAKING ENEMY FIRE, SOME OF THOSE AROUND HIM WERE WOUNDED, OTHERS KILLED.

 

HE SURVIVED – NOT JUST THAT FIRST DAY, BUT THROUGHOUT HIS TOUR OF DUTY; RETURNING TO THE STATES, AND EVENTUALLY, KEEPING HIS PROMISE;

 

BY BECOMING A PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, AND PART-TIME INSTRUCTOR IN NEW TESTAMENT, AT COLUMBIA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, WHERE I GRADUATED.

 

IT IS WHAT PEOPLE CALL A “FOX HOLE CONVERSION” WHERE SOLDIERS UNDER DURESS, AMIDST FIGHTING;

 

AND EVEN OTHERS, AMIDST WHATEVER STRUGGLES THEY ARE FACING, MAKE PROMISES TO GOD TO BE FAITHFUL FOLLOWERS FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.

 

PEOPLE COME TO FAITH, TO BELIEVING IN THINGS, TO BEING A CHRISTIAN, IN ALL SORTS OF WAYS.

 

FROM BIBLICAL TIMES TO TODAY, THIS IS STILL TRUE.  SOME ARE “FOX HOLE CONVERTS.”

 

SOME FIND THEIR WAY TO FAITH ALONG THE DAMASCUS ROAD, AS WE CALL IT, LIKE THE APOSTLE PAUL; A STRAIGHT-UP CONVERSION, FROM LEADING ONE KIND OF LIFE, BEING ONE KIND OF PERSON;

 

ONLY TO HAVE A SUPERNATURAL ENCOUNTER WITH GOD; AND FINDING THEMSELVES ON THE OTHER SIDE OF IT: A CHANGED PERSON.

 

SAUL – A PERSECUTOR OF THE CHURCH, BECOMES PAUL, IT’S GREATEST APOLOGIST.

 

LOTS OF BELIEVERS HAVE HAD SIMILAR CONVERSION EXPERIENCES; AN ON-THE-SPOT TRANSFORMATION; A CHANGE, PRECIPITATED BY GOD’S AMAZING GRACE: “I ONCE WAS LOST, BUT NOW I’M FOUND; WAS BLIND, BUT NOW I SEE.”

 

THEY CAN PINPOINT THE EXACT MOMENT: “THE HOUR, THEY FIRST BELIEVED.”

 

OTHERS, PERHAPS YOU’VE SEEN THE BUMPER STICKER, “NOT ALL WHO WANDER ARE LOST,” WHICH IS TRUE FOR MANY;

 

BUT SOME, WHO WANDER, DO LOSE THEIR WAY.  THE PRODIGAL SON COMES TO MIND, BUT HE’S NOT THE ONLY ONE; THERE HAVE BEEN PLENTY OF OTHER PRODIGALS ALONG THE WAY.

 

THEY ARE THOSE FROM WHOM WE MOST OFTEN HEAR TESTIMONIALS; THEY SPEAK OF HOW LIFE GOT AWAY FROM THEM, FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER:

 

ADDICTION, A TRAUMATIC EVENT, A LIFE WASTED AWAY, OR ONE IN WHICH THEY JUST GOT LAZY.

 

AT SOME POINT, A POINT OF GREAT DESPERATION, AT ROCK BOTTOM, WHEN THERE WAS NOWHERE ELSE TO TURN, THEY WILL TELL YOU, SOMETHING CAME OVER THEM;

 

A FEELING, A SENSE, A REALIZATION, A COMING TO THEMSELVES: THAT THEY WERE THROWING AWAY GOD’S GOOD GIFT OF LIFE;

 

SO, THEY TURNED BACK; THEY CAME HOME; TO FAMILY, TO FAITH, TO GOD.

 

THEY MAKE THE FIRST MOVE, OR SO IT SEEMS, BUT ONE WONDERS, AS THEY TOO, WONDER, IF GOD’S SPIRIT MIGHT NOT HAVE BEEN STIRRING IN THEM.

 

OTHERS, IN SIMILAR CIRCUMSTANCES, DESCRIBING SIMILAR LIVES, WILL OFTEN TALK ABOUT HOW IT IS THEY FELT THAT GOD JUST WOULDN’T LET THEM BE.

 

IT IS WHAT ENGLISH POET, FRANCIS THOMPSON CALLED, “THE HOUND OF HEAVEN.”  THE GOD WHO KEEPS COMING AFTER US; WHO WON’T TURN LOOSE; WHO HOUNDS US AT EVERY TURN, UNTIL WE RETURN.

 

IT IS THE STUFF OF JESUS’ SOMEWHAT MILDER IMAGE IN HIS PARABLE OF THE LOST SHEEP;

 

HOW THE SHEPHERD LEAVES THE 99 SHEEP BEHIND, TO GO IN SEARCH OF THE ONE, NEVER GIVING UP UNTIL HE FINDS IT, RETURNING IT TO THE FOLD.

 

SURPRISINGLY, OVER THE YEARS, I’VE HEARD MANY A MINISTER DESCRIBE GOD IN THIS WAY – THE GOD WHO HOUNDED THEM INTO MINISTRY, PURSUING THEM RELENTLESSLY, WHEN THEY FIRST, SECOND, AND SOMETIMES, MANY TIMES OVER, REFUSED TO HEED GOD’S CALL TO MINISTRY.

 

THESE AND OTHER WAYS ARE HOW MANY PEOPLE COME TO FAITH IN GOD.

 

MOST OF THE WAYS I’VE BEEN DESCRIBING WE WOULD CATEGORIZE AS “BORN AGAIN” EXPERIENCES;

 

AND RIGHTFULLY SO, FOR MANY PEOPLE, IT IS TRULY A DYING TO ONE LIFE, ONE WAY OF BEING; DEAD AND GONE; AND BEING RAISED UP, RESURRECTED, IF YOU WILL; BORN AGAIN, INTO A NEW LIFE, A NEW FAITH, A NEW WAY OF LIVING AND BEING.

 

HOWEVER, FOR MANY US, FOR PROBABLY MOST OF US HERE THIS MORNING, OUR COMING TO FAITH IN GOD, TO BELIEVING, TO BEING A CHRISTIAN, HAS BEEN SOMETHING LESS THAN SPECTACULAR; PROBABLY, FAR LESS EXCITING, AND MORE PROCESS THAN EVENT.

 

WE, LIKELY, MANY OF US, CANNOT POINT TO A TIME AND PLACE, AN EVENT, “AN HOUR WE FIRST BELIEVED.”

 

INSTEAD, FOR MANY OF US, WE CAN’T REMEMBER A TIME WHEN WE DIDN’T BELIEVE; WHEN WE WEREN’T A CHRISTIAN.

 

WE ARE, IN A TERM, A “TIMOTHY-TYPE” CHRISTIAN; JUST LIKE WE READ ABOUT A MOMENT AGO, IN OUR PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING.

 

THE AUTHOR OF II TIMOTHY, PRESUMABLY PAUL, WRITES TO HIS YOUNG PROTÉGÉ, TIMOTHY, REMEMBERING, THAT BEFORE TIMOTHY HAD COME TO BE AN APOSTLE;

 

EVEN BEFORE HE KNEW ANYTHING OF FAITH; EVEN BEFORE HE WAS OF AN AGE OF DISCERNMENT; THE PROCESS OF HIS FAITH HAD ALREADY BEGUN.

 

HOW IS IT, PAUL SAYS THIS?
“I AM REMINDED OF YOUR SINCERE FAITH THAT LIVED FIRST IN YOUR GRANDMOTHER LOIS; AND IN YOUR MOTHER EUNICE; AND NOW, I AM SURE, LIVES IN YOU.”

 

THERE IT IS: THAT’S HOW MANY OF US, MOST OF US, LIKELY, CAME TO FAITH.

 

OURS IS A HAND-ME-DOWN FAITH; PASSED ON FROM ONE GENERATION TO THE NEXT.

 

THERE’S NOTHING “SECOND-HAND” OR “SLIGHTLY WORN” ABOUT OUR “HAND-ME-DOWN FAITH;” RATHER, IT IS LIKE A PRECIOUS HEIRLOOM, PASSED ON TO THE NEXT GENERATION.

 

AND WHY, THIS MORNING, ON OUR GRANDDAUGHTER’S 3RD BIRTHDAY, I HAVE TAKEN A POINT OF PERSONAL PRIVILEGE, AND ENTITLED MY SERMON:

 

LUCY, LARRY, MEGHAN, RILEY – A FAITH LIVED IN YOU.

 

THIS IS, AS YOU MIGHT GUESS, MY MOTHER, ME, OUR OLDEST DAUGHTER, AND HER DAUGHTER, OUR FIRST GRANDCHILD.

 

TRUTH IS, THIS IS BUT ONE LINEAGE OF FAITH IN OUR FAMILY TREE, AND IT’S WRONG NOT TO INCLUDE THE OTHERS:

 

KAREN, FOR SURE; BUT ALSO, LES – MY FATHER; ROGER AND JUNE – KAREN’S PARENTS; AND OUR OTHER CHILDREN, BRETT AND ASHLEY; OUR SON-IN-LAW, DAVID; AND HIS PARENTS, JERRY AND LINDA.

 

YOU SEE, RATHER THAN A LINEAGE OF FAITH, IT IS A FAMILY TREE, WITH MANY BRANCHES; BUT I CHOSE TO TRACE IT IN MY TITLE, IN KEEPING WITH PAUL’S WORDS TO YOUNG TIMOTHY.

 

A FAITH THAT LIVED OUT FIRST IN HIS GRANDMOTHER, LOIS; HIS MOTHER, EUNICE; AND NOW, IN TIMOTHY;

 

A GENERATIONAL FAITH; PASSED DOWN FROM ONE GENERATION TO THE NEXT.

 

AND, IF WE HAD TIME, AND I HOPE YOU WILL DO THIS IN YOUR OWN HEARTS AND MINDS THIS MORNING, PERHAPS, IN PRAYER; THAT YOU WILL TRACE THE NAMES THAT WOULD BE ON YOUR FAMILY TREE OF FAITH.

 

MANY OF US, MOST OF US, EVEN MANY OF THOSE WHO CONSIDER THEMSELVES TO BE “BORN AGAIN,” WOULD HAVE TO ADMIT THAT WE ARE THE RECIPIENTS OF A HAND-ME-DOWN FAITH.

 

THAT’S NOT TO SAY, OF COURSE, THAT OUR FAITH, OUR BELIEFS, HOW WE LIVE OUT OUR FAITH AND BELIEFS, IS IDENTICAL TO THAT WHICH WAS PASSED ON TO US.

 

THINGS CHANGE, TIMES CHANGE, BELIEF SYSTEMS CHANGE.

 

IN THE PARLANCE OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, ABOUT THE CHURCH ITSELF, AND US AS INDIVIDUALS, WE SAY: REFORMED AND ALWAYS REFORMING.

 

OUR FAITH EVOLVES; IT GROWS; IT CHANGES TO MEET THE TIMES.

 

WE DON’T ALWAYS DO FAITH AND LIFE LIKE THOSE BEFORE US DID IT, AND THAT’S OKAY.

 

WE LEARN, WE GROW, WE MAKE OUR OWN WAY, AND NOT JUST IN MATTERS OF FAITH, BUT IN MATTERS OF LIFE AS WELL.

 

WE ARE FOREVER TAKING IN WHAT WE’VE RECEIVED, THE GOOD AND THE BAD OF IT, THE HAPPY AND THE SAD OF IT; AND, IF WE ARE FORTUNATE ENOUGH, WE WEED OUT AS MUCH OF THE BAD OF IT, THE SAD OF IT, AS WE CAN;

 

KEEPING THAT WHICH IS GOOD, AND HELPFUL, AND WORKS FOR US.

 

LET ME STOP HERE, AND SAY, IF WHAT YOU MOSTLY RECEIVED FROM YOUR PREVIOUS GENERATIONS WAS HARMFUL, HURTFUL, NEGLECTFUL, EVEN ABUSIVE: YOU HAVE OUR DEEPEST SYMPATHIES AND PRAYERS.

 

AND IF, SADLY, YOU ARE FINDING YOURSELF REPEATING THE MISTAKES, THE ABUSE, THE NEGLECT AND NEGATIVITY IN WHICH YOU WERE RAISED;

 

BE THE GENERATION WHERE ALL THAT STOPS!

 

BE BRAVE, BE CONFIDENT, BE STRONG ENOUGH TO TURN YOUR BACK ON THAT WAY OF LIFE, THAT WAY OF BEING, THAT ABERRATION;

 

AND TURN TOWARD THE LIFE GOD DESIRES FOR YOU.  NURTURE WHAT IS GOOD, AND KIND, AND FAITHFUL, AND HELPFUL IN YOUR LIFE, AND PASS IT ON.

 

PAUL SAYS THIS VERY THING IN OUR PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING:

 

“FOR THIS REASON, I REMIND YOU TO REKINDLE THE GIFT OF GOD THAT IS WITHIN YOU THROUGH THE LAYING ON OF MY HANDS; FOR GOD DID NOT GIVE YOU A SPIRIT OF COWARDICE, BUT RATHER A SPIRIT OF POWER AND OF LOVE AND OF SELF-DISCIPLINE.”

 

PAUL IS ENCOURAGING TIMOTHY TO USE THE POWER, LOVE, AND SELF-DISCIPLINE GOD BESTOWED UPON HIM AT THE TIME OF HIS ORDINATION, FOR USE IN HIS MINISTRY.

 

BUT THE SAME IS TRUE OF OUR LIVES: AS BELIEVERS, WE HAVE BEEN ENDOWED WITH A SIMILAR STRENGTH, LOVE, AND SELF-DISCIPLINE, BY WHICH WE CAN CHOOSE TO BELIEVE, AND LIVE IN GOD, AND FOR GOD.

 

MY HOPE AND PRAYER THIS MORNING IS THAT WE ALL HAVE SOMEONE FOR WHOM WE CAN GIVE THANKS FOR PASSING ON THE GIFT OF FAITH;

 

AND THAT SOMEONE THINKS OF YOU IN THAT WAY; AS THE ONE WHO PASSED ON YOUR FAITH TO THEM.

 

AND BY FAITH, I MEAN THAT IN THE BROADEST SENSE OF THE TERM.  NOT JUST OUR FAITH IN GOD, NOT JUST OUR CHRISTIAN FAITH; BUT OUR BELIEFS; A SET OF VALUES; A SENSE OF MORALITY.

 

KNOWING, AND DOING, RIGHT FROM WRONG; OUR CORE VALUES, WHICH AS WE TALKED ABOUT LAST WEEK, INCLUDE VALUING GOD, VALUING OTHERS, AND VALUING OURSELVES.

 

IT IS OUR PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE; OUR MANTRA FOR LIVING; THE ESSENCE OF OURSELVES; OUR PERSONHOOD; THAT WE ARE SHARING WITH OTHERS;

PASSING DOWN TO OUR CHILDREN; INVESTING OURSELVES IN THEM; AND THEY, IN THEIRS.

 

WITH ANY LUCK; AND THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD; AS WELL AS GOD’S LOVE, MERCY, AND FORGIVENESS, AT TIMES;

 

WHAT WE’VE PASSED DOWN, HANDED OFF, TO THE NEXT GENERATION, IS SOMETHING WORTH KEEPING.

 

I ENCOURAGE US TO KEEP WHAT WE’VE BEEN GIVEN; DISCARD WHAT DOESN’T WORK FOR US; AND DEVELOP OUR OWN FAITH, SENSE OF BEING, AND LIVES.

 

WHEN OUR CHILDREN WERE JUST BABIES; AND WE WOULD BE UP WITH THEM IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT; WHEN WE RAN OUT OF LULLABIES TO SING; WE’D SING THEM HYMNS (PROBABLY THE ONLY WORDS WE COULD REMEMBER, CROSS-EYED WITH EXHAUSTION, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT!)

 

ONE OF MY GO-TOS, NOT SURPRISINGLY, IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE HYMNS:

 

BE STILL MY SOUL

 

BE STILL MY SOUL!  THE LORD IS ON THY SIDE;

BEAR PATIENTLY THE CROSS OF GRIEF AND PAIN;

LEAVE TO THY GOD TO ORDER AND PROVIDE;

IN EVERY CHANGE HE FAITHFUL WILL REMAIN.

 

BE STILL MY SOUL! THY BEST, THY HEAVENLY FRIEND;

THROUGH THORNY WAYS LEADS TO A JOYFUL END.

 

“I AM REMINDED OF YOUR SINCERE FAITH, A FAITH THAT LIVED FIRST IN YOUR GRANDMOTHER LOIS AND IN YOUR MOTHER EUNICE AND NOW, I AM SURE, LIVES IN YOU.”

 

LET THIS BE THE GREATEST GIFT WE GIVE OUR CHILDREN, AND THEIR CHILDREN, AND THEIRS – THE GIFT OF FAITH – IN THE BROADEST SENSE OF THE WORD – IN WHAT WE BELIEVE, YES;

 

BUT ALSO, WHO WE ARE; AND WHOSE WE ARE;

 

AND WHAT IT MEANS TO LIVE, AND LOVE, AND HAVE OUR BEING, IN ALMIGHTY GOD: FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT.  AMEN.

 

 

 

 

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