Message May be Viewed at You tube in three parts
15 Seconds Part 1 ,
15 Seconds Part 2 ,
15 Seconds Part 3
Delivered by Michael Guthrie, Joshua's dad at his memorial on May 22, 2010
15 seconds. That is what the N.T.S.B. accident reports says was the duration of my precious sonís last flight. 15 seconds is a short period time, hardly enough time to correct any problem much less one involving the complexity of a airplane raising from the ground on take off. 15 seconds is not much time to contemplate life, to repent of sin, or to prepare to meet Jesus. But 15 seconds is what Joshua had on his final flight.
Everyone believes that they have time and that death is always on its way to gather someone else to itself. Everyone believes in the illusion that we always have tomorrow. And so we go about our business. We plan, we procrastinate, we accumulated, we withhold, we do lots of stuff, some good, some is really not so good, and a lot of stuff that makes not difference at all. We live with the mind set that a more convenient time will come to us tomorrow for action, for change, for decision. And so we give ourselves one more day to enjoy our sin, one more day to put off forgiveness, one more day before we decide to lay our broken life at the feet of Jesus. But the truth is that one day everyone comes to their own 15 second moment. Everyone comes to point were the ticking of the clock stops and eternity begins.
2 Corinthians 6:2 declares , "For he says, " In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." I Peter 1:24 says, "For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall," What you and I have is just this moment because no one knows when the last 15 seconds will begin to tick.
Yet the reality of our daily grind is that most people tend to be stuck in the mire and muck of their the past and are unable to see a better future. Thus they wake up each day overcome with regret for what they have or havenít done in the past but at the same time take no positive step towards real hope. They think that they are living in the present, they are seizing the day, but they do so only to satisfy their own pleasure. Tomorrow they hope something else will thrill them, please them, or entertain them. But a life lived only for oneís self is small and no matter the accumulation of pleasures or prestige it is unsatisfying and empty. But far worse, a life lived for yourself is one you chose to confine behind the bars of human mortality. It is a life unaware that at some moment the last 15 seconds will begin to run down and dust will blow away in winds of time.
Some people live their lives that way, maybe your one of them. Other people make a far different choice, maybe your one of themĖor you would like to be. These are people like Josh who heard Jesus say, in Matthew 16:25 "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. Everyone has a choice they must make. And even to choose not to make a choice, is in fact a choice. It is a choice to listen only to oneís own self and let the voices and values of the world guide your life. Or to make a choice to open oneís mind and heart to another voice, the God who speaks through his word, the Bible and through his Holy Spirit to the inner most place of lives.
Joshís decision was thoughtful and deliberate. It was a not a decision free of struggle or conflict, but it was the choice that shaped each day of his life and pointed him toward his future. His choice was not simply to listen to what God said and shake his head in agreement, but rather to act upon it and to live it out in day to day life. And as he did, God did what he delights to do in the lives of people, he filled Joshua with outrageous dreams as to how he could participate in greatest adventure and privilege given to humanity, that of sharing the Good News of forgiveness, hope and future to the world.
It was God who turned Joshua into an outrageous dreamer always thinking of means and schemes to help people and bring the opportunity to follow Christ. Whether it was the Gospel bus that was going to make a summer road trip cross county or an inexpensive water purifier to spare impoverished children from dying needlessly. Josh had become an outrageous dreamer. He would bring the fire of his huge dreams to me and would try to douse them with realism and I confess, pessimism. Thirty years of working with people knocks a lot of the stardust from your eyes. Josh would lay out his dreams and I would bring out my calculator and begin to do the math. My equation was fickled people + unstable resources = uncertain results. Josh would then throw my calculations into chaos with his equation, Godís plan + Godís people = Godís results. Josh never accepted my equation, his dreams and his confidence that God had placed these dream inside his heart was unshakeable. God shaped and refined his dreams, but in truth they continued to grow bigger and more outrageous.
When Joshuaís illness struck him from 2004-2006 we had the opportunity to spend a lot of time together in the car traveling and waiting for appointments. It was in that suffering that we became incredible friends sharing sorrow, grief, and eventually joy. It was also in that time that we had wonderful conversations about the stuff that really matters both in life and in death.
On one our road trips to John Hopkins we had a 5 Ĺ hour discussion about the passage I want to share with you. I share it because at one of the darkness moments of our lives it helped us both to hold on to Godís outrageous dreams as we came to see ourselves in the story. Mark 9:14-22
The story is desperate. A father without hope; a son without dreams unable to speak or to hear; a malicious spirit driving the boy to self destruction, a group of Christian followers willing but powerless to help, and a panel of experts in the crowd arguing over whose fault the failure must be.
How the boy got into that situation really doesnít matter. The reality was he was going to be dead soon if some intervention didnít take place. And in all honesty coming to Jesus seems like an after thought to the father. But when you run out of all your options why not give Jesus chance? So hey Jesus, "If you can do anything, go ahead." Jesus challenged the skepticim, "If I can." "If" is a conditional word. Itís a word that holds back. "If" is a word that always gives something less than everything. "If" is small word that stands in the way of big help for big problems. Thus it was Jesusí challenge of the "if" that lead the father to take that one tiny baby step that keeps the story going, "I want to believe, but I am having a rough time with this, help me." Jesus doesnít tell the father to fake something he doesnít have, instead he takes that tiny step and grows to another and another.
Real life change is messy, painful, often filled with setbacks, and sometimes takes us to very brink of death. Destructive spirits, like destructive habits want one more chance, one more drink, one more huff, one more spin around the track. You might expect that with Jesus standing right there that the destructive spirit would just surrender, but it doesnít. Evil is real, it is powerful, and it wants to fill hell with its captives. As a result, that destructive spirit show no respect to Jesus, but takes the boy so close to the edge of death that everyone thinks he is dead. It looks like a failure, just another person who turned to God for help and got nothing in return. Another, "I tried religion and it didnít work for me," or "the church is full of hypocrites so why bother." Maybe the dad should have held on to his "if" because things certainly didnít look like they were going to work out. If the father was hopeless before now he has now moved to devastation.
Itís then, after the best efforts of the disciples, after the experts wrote their opinions on the psychology of destruction, after the boys body finally stop thrashing around and lay motionless, it is then that Jesus reaches out his hand and takes hold of the boy. As the collective crowd gasps for air, Jesus lifts the boy to his feet. The destructive spirit is gone and a fatherís dreams for his son and a sonís dreams for real life finally come to life.
Later in the debriefing one the disciples raises their hand and says, "Excuse me Jesus, did we forget something cause the helping people thing didnít work out so good." Jesus replies, "This kind can come out only by prayer." Some people have taken Jesus words to mean the disciples just didnít pray hard enough, long enough or use the right words. But effort was not the issue here, the issue is all about surrender. When all is said and done, it is not your effort or someone else ffort that is going break the chains that bind your life or releases the outrageous dreams God has for you. What will break the chains and release the dreams is getting to a place in your life that you are lying so still at the feet of Jesus that both you and the people around you see that you are dead to answers the world offers. You choose to become a reject. A reject of the worldís solutions to the problems we face or the dreams we need. As a result instead of applying more effort to change yourself or someone else you surrender to the power, the healing, and the transformation, and vision that only Jesus can give you.
As Josh and I talked about this story we came to see ourselves as all the characters of the story. I have been the frustrated father longing for someone to help my child wanting to cling to hope but filled with doubt. I have been the helpful and faithful follower of Jesus trying fix somebody up in my own wisdom and power without realizing you canít fix what Jesus hasnít touched. I have been the expert in the crowd cleverly pointing out why people fail but not lifting a finger to help anyone. And I have been child with the destructive spirit clueless that my habits, my companions, my attitudes, and my pet sins are destroying me even as the whole world sees what I cannot.
There are times in your life when the words of the Bible become your story. Thatís how Josh and I came to see this story in the uncertain and terrifying days of Joshuaís illness. I had no power, no wisdom, no solution to offer to my son in his illness. Joshuaís outrageous dreams for the future were seized by something that neither he nor anyone else could control. We were frustrated and exhausted by tests, scans, opinions, and prognosis. Only one person could make the difference in our circumstanceĖJesus Christ. We had given God our best efforts, but unlike Josh I had not given God my surrender. That meant to lay my son and myself at the feet of Jesus and let him choose what the next chapter in our life would look like.
God would chose to write over four more years into the life we shared with Joshua. His outrageous dreams grew with a passion that was uncontainable. I recall telling him on a trip after his healing from God had given that he needed to slow down and take better care of himself. His answer stopped me in my tracks, "Dad, I should be dead now, so howís a deadman supposed to live?"
15 seconds. Iíve watched the hands on clock tick down at the bedsides of the dying. No one ever knows when the last 15 seconds will come, but be certain it will.
Joshua loved the take off roll of the airplane. The thrill of applying full throttle and anticipating that brief moment when gravity was defeated and he took flight. I imagine him breaking free of gravity and entering into the presence of the God he trusted and served. He only had 15 seconds, but the truth is he didnít need it. His decision had been made a long time before April 18, 2010. He chose long before to allow Jesus to touch him and give him the life that is really life. He allowed Jesus to forgive his past and plant in him outrageous dreams for the future that include Godís plan for the world. And the largest part of that dream was to bring as many of you on the journey as he could.
Todayís gathering is not about Josh who is safely gathered into the arms of the Lord he love and served, itís about you. Its what he wanted.
Josh pulled some outrageous pranks in his life. Among the best was the story of "fast eddy," a happy go lucky squirrel that Josh invited one day into a backpack so that he might take a tour of the Geneva College cafeteria at the height of lunch hour. A"fast eddy" darted from place to place the screams of joy filled the cafeteria along with the belly laughs of the pranksters. Until graduation it was unclear as to how "fast eddy" had navigated the complicated journey into cafeteria nor how someone was able to snap so many great pictures of the episode. On graduation day, knowing Josh always told a good story one of the Geneva administrators invited Josh to share a story about life at Geneva or if he preferred to receive a full pardon for something he wanted to confess. Josh chose to seek a full pardon. As his parents and grandparents looked on he confessed that "fast eddy" was not just a "squirrel" but a friend that he had invited to lunch in the cafeteria. My mother shook her head in disbelief, my wife said "O Josh," and I said, "Thatís my boy." It was outrageous.
I want to invite you today to receive something outrageous from God. God does not want to pull an outrageous prank on you. Instead God wants to do something outrageous in your life. Maybe it is outrageous forgiveness and pardon from the failures of your life. Maybe it is an outrageous touch of his grace that breaks destructive habits. Maybe it is a outrageous dream of how God can use you in his plans for a lost world. Maybe it is outrageous healing for your brokenness. Maybe it is outrageous comfort for your grief. Maybe God he his going to gather you together with some other people in this very room for a new outrageous dream that you will share together. God was already speaking to you before you ever came here today. People around the world are praying for you now as you sit into this place today. Will you respond to Jesus and let him touch your life?
The worship team is going to lead us in a song of commitment. You have a response card that you are invited to fill out and drop off in the front of the sanctuary as we sing or later you can drop it off to the ushers as you leave for the fellowship afterward. If you want to you can come to this platform, knee down for a moment and ask God to do something outrageous for you. You can also ask him right where you are. The point is not that you do it our way, but to let him to something in you, with you and for you.
Closing Benediction. (Ephesians 1:14-21)
14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledgeóóthat you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
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