Archive for June, 2022

Give Your Best in All Things – Part Eight

“Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain. And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beats the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (I Cor. 9: 24 – 27) 

William Mervin Mills, also known as Tamakoce Te’Hila, was an Oglala Lakota native on the Pine Ridge Reservation. His is perhaps the most underrated performance in the history of Olympic sports. As a  Native American he experienced rejection on and off the reservation. He was given little attention as he entered the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. His rejections were many, but he remembered his dad said, “It takes a dream to heal a broken soul.”  He wrote down his dream to heal his broken soul: “Gold medal, Olympic 10,000-meter run.”

The sun hung low in the late afternoon sky. It’s October 14, 1964, National Olympic Stadium, Tokyo. The runners toe the line for the 10,000-meter race. No American had ever won this race.

Mills was lightly considered in the games by virtue of the several world class athletes entered in the 10,000 meters race. This race belongs to Ron Clarke, an Australian who holds a world record in this event. An announcer puts it plainly about Billy’s chances: “Billy Mills of the United States is in there — a man no one expects to win this particular event.”

As the race progressed he was shuffled around and given unsettling elbows as he maneuvered for position. Working his way into fourth position his teammates were amazed and proud, finishing fourth would be remarkable, they thought. They became amazed at what they beheld. With this long race nearing an end, underdog Mills sprinted unbelievably fast to move to the front and win the Gold Medal in what is considered one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history.

“It takes a dream,” do you have one? That is, what do you envision as to what the Lord wants to use you to achieve. Remember, God doesn’t expect you to be the best at anything.  He expects you to be your best at everything.

It is a dream to be your best at even the most menial task. In all things:
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” (Philippians 3: 12)

Don’t allow yourself to develop an “I have attained” mentality, but maintain an “I press on” outlook.

An infant is a human being, but not yet fully developed. Set your dream and press on to become the mature Christian Jesus created you with the capacity to be. 

Some Christians know, and even rejoice that Jesus has laid hold of them, but fail to realize there is a reason for which Jesus has also laid hold of them.

Find and fulfill your dream and that will heal even the most broken spirit.

Resolve, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) Dream it! Make it a lifelong process of pressing.

Determination Is Often Mind Over Matter – Part Seven

“Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain. And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beats the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”  I Corinthians 9: 24 – 27

Switzerland’s Gabriela Andersen-Schiess competed in the first Olympic marathon for women. Having such an event was questionable at the time. It was considered to be too great of a distance for women to run. The inaugural women’s Olympic marathon was held at the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Games. It was a challenge for all of the female competitors. She, like others, was tempted to quit, but that was not an option. However, her refusal to quit the race despite the exhausting conditions and suffering from dehydration led to an iconic Olympic. Wobbly and weaving her torso was bent to the left. Disillusion caused her to lose her goal for a time. She struggled through the last 500 meters of the race, suffering the grotesque effects of heat exhaustion. Her face slack, her body twisted, she lurched around the coliseum track, moving away from officials who offered to help her, she finished the race.

Later she said at times you have to keep your mind on the objective, not your body. All of us have such times when our focus is threatened and we have to refocus and rededicate ourselves to our objective.  

Since that eventful day she has acknowledged that her life has been filled with moments like this, that it has always had adventures and misadventures, accidents and close calls. She speaks for most people.

Her tenacity in finishing the race was acknowledged to be focus. To live for Jesus requires the same focus. Her focus on her goal overruled her bodily agony.

Pleasing the Lord should be our focus. We must constantly be “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12: 2)

Like Jesus we must be focused on the joy set before us. The joy is being an overcoming victor in our spiritual competition.

Our mind must be filled with God’s Word and our will focused on it. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4: 8)

Here is the winning result of a focused life: “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)

Striving for the Mastery – Part Six

“Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  

I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beats the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”  (I Corinthians 9: 24 – 27)

In 1992 Derek Redmond was at the height of his running career. He was a 400-meter record holder about to compete in the Barcelona semi-finals. He even had his dad in the stands to cheer him on.  Derek was running smoothly and confidently when he hit the back straight during the race. Suddenly he felt a burst of pain. His hamstring had torn and he fell to the track. He wilted to the track. Once he  got back on his feet, he started galloping and then slowed to a hobble as officials on the track sought to get him medical treatment. 

When the medical crew arrived with a stretcher, Derek told them, “I am not getting on that stretcher. I’m going to finish my race.” He lifted himself to his feet, ever so slowly and carefully, and he started hobbling down the track.

His father, Jim Redmond had never coached his son, but instilled in him the kind of self-belief he used to great advantage as a 15-year-old immigrant to Great Britain. That same sense of purpose spurred Jim to leave his seat in the top deck of the stands and make his way down onto the stadium floor and the track without being deterred by some of the track officials.

Derek said, “Soon as I realized it was my dad, I shouted at him, ‘Get me back to Lane 5, I have to finish,’” Redmond said. “My dad says, ‘We’ll finish together,’ and right away he got me back to a walk again. I owe him a lot.” With tears in the eyes of both men, the Redmonds finished the race.

Such support is characteristic of the kind of spirit and support often given and received by most people.  Who hasn’t needed such help in finishing a task?

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (I Thessalonians 5: 11)

We are instructed to “serve one another humbly in love.”(Galatians 5: 13)

Scripture implies God keeps a record of our deeds and rewards them.

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6: 10)

When growing weary of serving and helping others remember each occasion is an opportunity to please the Lord. May this reality motivate and energize you. Again the Bible contains this exhortation, “grow not weary in well doing.” He won’t forget. 

Scripture uses a colorful metaphor to illustrate aid given saying “I beseech you,” parakalo, primarily means “to come alongside.” This is a positive offer of encouraging help. It is physically illustrated by the response to an injured teammate in athletics. Suppose a leg or ankle is injured. A teammate comes alongside, puts his shoulder under the injured friend’s arm and supports him. The word “beseech” speaks of tenderness. Give it and don’t grow weary in doing so.

Judas Iscariot

Matthew 10:1-4

Jesus Christ chose some very unlikely individuals to follow Him. The question of why He chose Judas Iscariot lingers unanswered. A question that troubles me even more is why Jesus chose to save any of us? Why did He chose me?

The answer can only be found in His love for us.

He did not choose Judas to betray Him, but His choosing of Judas gave to Judas occasion to betray Him.

Obviously Jesus loved him and the apostles trusted him. They made Judas, not Matthew the accountant, their treasurer.

Judas must have had many outstanding qualities. He was the only apostle chosen who was not from Galilee. He was from Jude. This may have caused him some awkwardness. The others had the common bond of being indigenous to Galilee, the same region as Christ. Instead of making him feel inferior it should have made him feel special.

Little is known about his background. There may be a clue to his inclinations in that he is listed with Simon the Zealot. The name Iscariot was likely an adaptation of the Aramaic word for “dagger-man.” “Ish” means “man of.” “Sacarii” was the word for “dagger.”

There were two primary revolutionary groups in the time of Christ. One was the Zealots. Simon was a member of this group. The other, the Sicarii. They were a group of devotees who refused to submit to the Romans. Under the leadership of Menahem this group seized Masada with its cash of weapons. The Sicarii slipped into the Temple and helped lead the revolt that led to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman general Titus.

A remnant of this group was the core group that held Masada against the Romans for three years before committing suicide.

Consider that mentality as a member of your social club!

The question as to why Jesus chose Judas has four basic answers.

One, he had no choice. Though it is true someone had to betray him Judas did not have to be that one. He chose to be. He acted of his own free will.

Second, Judas betrayed Jesus because of his great greed for money. He was indeed a man of greed. When Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with the expensive ointment Judas protested (John 12:4,6). He insisted it would have been better to be sold and the money given the poor. Jesus reminded us that we have the poor with us always. The moment at hand was a fleeting opportunity to do something special.

It should be noted Judas wasn’t the only apostle who questioned the economic practicality of using the ointment in this way. All the apostles did: “But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste?’ For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor'” (Matthew 26: 8, 9).

Judas obviously wasn’t a black-cloaked villain some represent him as being. At this stage he and the other apostles were thinking alike.

It wasn’t until years later that John realized Judas had been a thief all along. Evidently they did an audit after the resurrection. Then it was revealed: “This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it” (John 12:6).

All along Judas had been betraying Jesus as well as his fellow apostles. In little acts of pilfering Satan was grooming him for his grand dastardly deed.

In selling Jesus for thirty pieces of silver Judas was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 11: 11 – 14. Even the amount was foretold.

Greed may have had a part but it was not the primary motive. The Sanhedrin had already determined to kill Jesus. They would gladly have paid more than thirty pieces of silver if Judas had held out. He could have named his price. If pure greed had been the only motive he would have held out.

The third reason is a romantic one popularized by author Thomas De Quincey. He postulated Judas was a misguided patriot who loved Jesus. He had seen Jesus perform miracles and believed Jesus was a bit shy. He thought Jesus wanted to ignite a revolution but needed pushing. Therefore, he reasoned that if he had pressure put on Jesus He would assert Himself.

De Quincey held that Judas only committed suicide because he was heart broken that his plan to help Jesus failed. This is a feeble attempt to make a hero of Judas.

The fourth possibility lies in the complex personality of Judas. Judas like all of us had an old sin nature. For three years he had the good fortune of traveling with and listening to Jesus. He had every opportunity to make the right choices.

Even at the last minute in the upper room Jesus made a last overture to Judas. There Jesus gave Judas the “sop.” It was a symbol of honor.

What the other apostles thought of Judas is revealed in the upper room also. When Jesus said one of them would betray Him they all asked, “Is it I?” No one asked, “Is it Judas?” They respected him and had no suspicion regarding him.

They all knew they had no intention of doing it but that they were capable of it. That is the very reason Judas did it. He was capable of doing it. He was also capable of not doing it. He chose to do it. His dark nature emerged and he exercised his will to betray Christ for thirty pieces of silver knowing it would result in his death. Judas made a choice.

Judas asked, “Rabbi, is it I?” (Matthew 26: 25). Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

Then Judas knew he was known. What a moment!

Imagine during that evening meal Judas sat there contemplating his treachery with Jesus humbly washing his feet.

First, “And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him” (John 13:2). The idea, the concept was engendered by Satan. At this stage it was just a thought. Judas willfully responded to that thought. When he did – – –

“Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve” (Luke 22:3). Satan can gain no such entry without the person willfully allowing it. What happened happened in Judas. We never know what is going on inside a person. It is expedient that we deal with our inner feelings and desires in a Christ honoring way.

Only two people knew the heart of Judas. Judas was one, Christ the other.

Christ said, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12).

Further revelation let Judas know Jesus knew his heart. “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?'” (John 6:70).

Judas left the upper room and went to consummate his deal with those plotting Christ’s death. He led them to Gethsamene where he knew Christ to have often retreated.

In the Garden of Gethsamene is a cave. This aspect of the scene has long been overlooked. Archaeologist have only recently unearthed this cave.

There are two words for coming out of. One means to come out from within an enclosure. This cave was in the garden and Christ was within it. He came out from within the cave to be greeted by Judas and his new allies.

Judas stepped forward and kissed Him. Tradition says Jesus and His cousin John looked so much alike that many could not tell them apart. Judas wanted to prevent any such possibility.

It is as though there is a hiss in that kiss.

In that era servants kissed the feet of their masters. Students kissed the hand of their Rabbi. Equals kissed on the cheek. He who should have kissed Jesus on the feet as well as hand kissed Him instead on the cheek.

Note the response of Jesus: “‘Friend, why have you come?'” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him” (Matthew 26:50).

The betrayal by Judas was complete. He had completely betrayed — himself.

Judas was filled with remorse, that is, regret. He tried to return the thirty pieces of silver for which he had sold not Christ, but himself. When it was refused he acted out of remorse. Unfortunately what Judas felt was remorse not repentance. Christ would have even forgiven him.

Peter denied Christ. That too was a terrible sin. Peter’s remorse led to repentance. As a result he was forgiven. We need to respond to our sin as Peter did not Judas.

The Scripture says Judas hanged himself. “Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5).

Further depiction of what happened seems to conflict with this account.

“Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out” (Acts 1:18).

Some critics of Scripture say he is represented as hanging himself in one text and as falling down and bursting open. He did both. He hanged himself over a cliff and the rope or limb broke and he fell to his death.

Did Judas come to repentance? He did realize he had betrayed “innocent blood.” He knew Christ to be sinless. The great enigma regarding his eternal destiny is summed up in the expression “he went to his own place.”

I am persuaded it was not the place Christ said He was going to prepare for those who love Him.

Peter said of Judas, “he was numbered with us” (Acts 1:17).

That is the disgrace of the modern church. There are those on church rolls who are “numbered with us” yet their behavior is not becoming of a follower of Christ. They disgrace the church as Judas did the role of apostle.

As an apostle Judas staked out his claim but never worked it.

Former British Prime Minister, Disraeli, once described some elder statesmen as “extinct volcanoes.” May it never be true of us.

“The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24).

Judas should inspire each of us to engage in introspection and purge our life of the seed of betrayal.

We should each be motivated by him to aspire to be all that Christ believes we have the potential of being.

Striving for the Mastery – Part Five

“Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  

I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beats the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”  (I Corinthians 9: 24 – 27)

If an athlete didn’t follow the rules in striving for mastery, he became disqualified. If he did strive for mastery and became a winner, there was a reward. Why would one go through nine months of agony?  Why would one be willing to box in such a fight?  Because of the award awaiting.

They didn’t give medals. They gave leaf crowns. In verse 25 it is described as a “perishable crown.” That was only part of the award.

The Olympic Games honored Zeus, also known as Jupiter. The wreath was made of olive branches, a tree preferred by Zeus. At the Isthmian Games, which honored the Greek sea god Poseidon, the wreath was made from the god’s sacred tree the spruce.

Before the contests the wreath was placed at the feet of the statue honoring the god of the games. At Olympia it was Zeus. At the Isthmian Games it was Poseidon. This was referred to as “the joy lying before them.” A similar term was used of Christ enduring the cross because of the “joy lying before Him.”

The victorious competitor was then taken back to his home town for a celebration. If the city was walled, as most were, a hole was cut in the city wall in the profile of the athlete. After he entered through it, once again it was sealed. 

A parade followed in which the athlete rode through the city in a chariot. The people threw flowers in his path. Women splashed perfume on him.

The parade led to the center of the city where he was greeted by the equivalent of the mayor. There the city poet read an ode to him about himself. Next, the mayor presented him with a citation which in part gave him a life-time exemption from income tax. Now you know why they were willing to compete!

If they did all that for an corruptible crown, how much more we should be willing to strive for an incorruptible crown! That is a term referring to a heavenly home with our Lord.

The reward awaiting all faithful citizens of the kingdom who go through agony in obedience to the Master is a heavenly home. That makes it all worthwhile.

In the Book of the Revelation is given another depiction of the honor given a winner. It has a spiritual application.

“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:21)

That is the ultimate reward awaiting the person who will spiritually “compete for the prize,” that is, “strive for mastery.”