Starting Together Finishing Together

Derek Redmond
Young British Runner
Shattered his country’s 400 meter record at nineteen
Sport’s injury forced him to withdraw from the 1988 Olympics
Five separate surgeries to correct the problem

1992 Summer Olympics, Barcelona
65,000 fans streamed into the stadium
Derek’s father was a faithful witness to every one of his son’s world competitions.
Wearing a T-Shirt, “Have you hugged your foot today?”

Race began
Derek broke through the pack and took the lead.
Headed down the back stretch.
Heard a pop.
It was his right hamstring.
Pulled up lame, looking as if he had been shot.
Began to hop on the other leg.
Fell to the track.

“The jinx has struck again!”

Medical personnel ran toward him as he sprawled on the ground, holding his right hamstring.

Stir in the stands.
Seeing his son in trouble,
Jim desperately worked his way down toward the track.
No credentials.
Not supposed to be on the track.

Tears poured down Derek’s face.
All he could think of was, “I don’t want a DNF!”
Derek could not stand the thought of having a DNF written beside his name at the Olympics
“I’m not getting on that stretcher”
“I’m going to finish my race.”
Started hopping
One painful step at a time.
Derek limped onward.

Fans rose to their feet.
Began to cheer.
Louder and louder.
Building into a thunderous roar.

Jim reached the bottom of the stands.
Vaulted the railing
Dodged the security guard
Ran to his son
“That’s my son out there”
“I’m going to help him.”

Reached his son.
“I’m here son.”
“We will finish this together.”

Derek put his arms around his father’s shoulders and sobbed.

TOGETHER, arm in arm,
Father and son
Struggled toward the finish line
65,000 people cheering, clapping, and crying.

Within a few feet of the finish line Jim released the grip he had on his son, so that Derek could cross the finish line by himself.

“I’m the proudest father alive.”
“I’m prouder of him than I would have been if he had won the gold medal.”

Together, they kept a promise they had made—
To finish the race…no matter what!
Jim Redmond’s words:
“Whatever happens he had to finish.”
“And I was there to help him.”
“I intended to go over the line with him.”
“We started his career TOGETHER.”
“I think we should finish it TOGETHER!”

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 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 is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

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Stay Away From Stupid

The world has always been focused about forming the church and Christians into their faulty, fallen fallacy. We are used to that. There is nothing new about being encouraged to conform to the prevailing culture of society. We’ve always had to be counter-culture with the world. For decades we have struggled but things seem to be sliding quickly closer and closer to home. Now, things have turned. Not only are we called upon to be counter-culture with society but with the church world.

I recently was with a couple of young people talking about the most recent books they had been reading. I was unpleasantly surprised. I walked away deeply concerned. I’m sure they thought through reading they were fulfilling Paul’s encouragement to Timothy in II Timothy 2:15. Or, at least, I hope that was their motivation. There is a big difference between studying the Word and the word of others. One is approved by God, enabling us to be a worker in God’s kingdom without shame, rightly dividing His Word. The other is detested by God, produces a person muddled, misinformed, mistaken, and mixed up; un-rightly and dangerously dividing the Word of God. Scares me just typing it! Later, I thought—and I know it isn’t rocket science—there is an enormous metamorphosis between being studious and stupid.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in being cutting-edge and up-to-snuff. I really do! Finding modern ways to express the old path; that is cutting-edge and culturally relevant biblically. I want to be liberal enough to use new ways and conservative enough to stick with God’s solid, specific path.

Changing apostolic doctrine to fit the times is just plain stupid. It’s dangerous and not merely on the edge; it’s totally over it. I nearly freaked out an entire primary school one time when I used the word “stupid.” They had been taught using the word was paramount to cursing. Perhaps so! Changing God’s Word to facilitate prevailing thinking may very well bring a curse. Let me try to improve my wording. Changing apostolic doctrine to fit the times is unwise, senseless, ill-advised, and thoughtless. How’s that?

I am deeply disturbed and profoundly perplexed when I meet young and old alike that cannot explain why they believe our foundational, fundamental doctrine. They know what they believe but have no idea why they believe it. The danger in that is one day we could produce a generation that does not believe. What a tragedy! But the reverse is so inspiring and encouraging: “And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the paths to dwell in” (Isaiah 58:12).

Here are four ways that make that possible. I’m sure there any many more.

  • Speak it. Speak the Word of God in your life continually.
  • Study it. Be committed to studying God’s Word and receiving it.
  • Do it. Be willing to do what the Word of God says.
  • Love it. Love God’s Word. Depend on it; not merely the philosophies of me.

Follow those four points and you will stay away from stupid!

Abandoning the Water Fountain for Empty Cisterns

I am floored at the highs and lows of my daily life; personal, spiritual, social, and even work. Most days I walk out of this office and look back thinking I could work here forever and thanking God for the profound opportunity to walk these sacred halls. Other days, quite frankly, I last until noon, and think, “I’ve got to get out of here.” I rush off to Mom at home, come back an hour or so later, and hit life again.Thank God those days are seldom, few, and far-between. I’m sure family, friends, and staff are equally relieved.

Some days I feel like I’m caught up to the third heaven basking in the presence and power of the Lord. But, unfortunately there are other days I feel completely void of the presence and power and come up spiritually empty and desert-level dry.

Sometimes I love to be in the company of other people enjoying a good laugh or giving a listening ear. But, there are other times I feel so lonely in the midst of a room full of people. Occasionally I just like to come into this office and turn on Michael W. Smith drubbing quietly away at the ivory keys and type away on this computer pounding loudly something that makes sense of it all. Of course, I often tell my wife that one of the key principles of life today is, “Sweetheart, it doesn’t have to make sense.”

The weeping prophet may have understood a little of all of this and so much deeper and dryer when he wrote, “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

Admittedly if you wake up grumpy in the morning the wimpy, weepy words of the prophet Jeremiah won’t snap you into a better state of mind. For that matter Ecclesiastes won’t help much either. Jeremiah, Solomon—and come to think of it, many others—just state it like it is; take it, leave it, or experience it. The correct choice is to leave it for better things.

Sometimes I feel like that, Jeremiah. A broken cistern. Empty. Thirsty. Sometimes I feel like that Jude; a cloud without water. Paul painfully drives it home when he mentions “vessels of dishonor.” I hate to admit it, Peter, but sometimes I feel like wells without water. I come up short. And perhaps it’s because, at least for a moment, I have forsaken Him, the fountain of living water. He promises to provide a spring of living water rising into everlasting life. He promises to fill my thirsty soul. My response and actions signify I have “forsaken” Him. I’ve left. Departed. Abandoned. Neglected. Let go. Left alone. Loosed. Ouch. Did I mention, ouch?

All the time He is there; my source of living water. Flowing. Alive. Springing. Spraying. Soaking. You get the word picture, right? I picture jumping out of life’s gloom and doom and jumping into the water fountain. I envision getting sprayed with His love; soaked in His goodness; alive in His presence. While in West Africa we would go long periods of time without water. When the torrential rains blew in my kids and their father would run outside and just get drenched; sopping, and soaked to the skin. On my more distinguished and dignified days, even a crystal glass filled with water from the fountain suffices or is agood start.

I want those full, soaked days. Forget those dry days when I come up empty. I don’t want to be broken.Crushed. Destroyed. Shattered. Wrecked. Ruptured. Quenched. I don’t want to come up short not able to hold water. You’ve heard that phrase, “It just won’t hold water.” Unable. Incomprehensive. Unsustainable. Unnourished. It’s amazing that the very container designed to hold water turns out to be empty. It was designed to be full but is destined to be empty. God makes the fresh stream. Man makes the cistern.

The problem with a broken cistern, reservoir, or empty well is catastrophic (especially if you happen to be in the shower when the well runs dry). If it doesn’t rain you have no water. Even when it does rain the cistern accumulates silt, pollution, corruption, contamination, and rancid stagnation. All of that can be defined with one word; “YUK!” Defilement and debris are not healthy items on any diet. There are times when our lives need to be poured out, cleaned up, and filled up again. Jesus promised that out of us could flow or would flow “rivers of living water” (John 7:37).

I hate myself when I abandon the spring of fresh, flowing water, and exchange it for a muddy, dirty cistern that can’t hold water today, tomorrow, or ever. I don’t want to turn my back on the one true God and switch to worthless, futile substitutes. I want to return to the “fountain of life” (Psalms 36:9). Cisterns always leave us empty. Well water is limited. When it’s gone; it’s gone. I know that last statement is profound, eh? When we cut ourselves off from the supply of living water we begin to dig our own cisterns. We manufacture our own things.

Jesus has the solution for an empty life. He said He would provide “water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). Like the Samaritan woman my response is, “Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw” (John 4:14-15). I’m thirsty. I think I’ll go for a drink! It’s time to run to the fountain of life and forsake the empty, broken cistern.

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I Wanted it so Badly

I wanted it so badly. I daydreamed about it. I plotted. I pleaded. I hoped. I envied. I needed it; desperately. Other preachers had one. Why shouldn’t I? I rationalized. My study habits would increase. I would be better prepared. I would simply be better. Better everything. That is; if! That is if I had an iPad. An iPod; my miniature iPad was simply not enough. I waited. I watched. I wondered. Days passed. Months flew. Years accrued. No iPad. Did I mention I wanted it so badly? I had a missionary friend with i-everything. He got an iPhone, an iPad, and even a Mac in a matter of days. Scoundrel! People just gave these precious items to him. I know I should have rejoiced with him. I tried. But, I wanted it so badly!

How much are you willing to pay for something you want really bad? How badly do you want it? I’ve often thought, here in North America, you can afford just about anything you want. That is, if you want it badly enough.

A seventeen year-old boy in China wanted an iPhone and iPad 2 really bad. He was recruited through an online chat room to sell one of his kidneys. It was a small organ and a small sacrifice to get what he truly wanted. He received around $3,500.00 while the buyers received $35,000.00 for the deal. The boy received a mere ten percent. The surgeon, organ brokers, and hospital contractor have all been arrested. Today, the boy is suffering from kidney failure. Unbelievable. This boy was willing to give a kidney, put his life in danger, in order to get a couple of technological trinkets. Silly? Certainly. But you have to understand. He wanted it so badly!

I well remember life on the AIM program. We had a grand total of $12.79 come in the first month after being married. I’d do it all over again. The sacrifice was worth it as men and women were trained, were sent out, churches were started, and literally thousands were baptized in Jesus name and received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The absence of the spirit of sacrifice will only cause the dismantling of the global missions cause. Calvary demanded sacrifice. It always has. It always will. The early church was built upon it. The forming of the United Pentecostal Church International solidified it. This has not and cannot change. From the beginning it has always been about taking the whole gospel to the whole world. So, that brings it down to the real question: how much are you willing to pay to ransom a soul?

I’m going to repeat that a mere second, a line, and the beginning of a paragraph later: how much are you willing to pay to ransom a soul? I know “ransom” has such a malicious connotation in this world plagued with terrorism on every continent. But, it is a Bible word, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). This is something that is good and acceptable to “God our Saviour.” He wants “all men to be saved.” He wanted it so bad that He “gave himself a ransom for all.” Paul testified this was the reason he was in the ministry. The bottom-line of why I’m a preacher is to give myself “a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:3-7).

I suppose there are other words that maybe would soften the word picture conjured in our minds when we think of “ransom.” But, that doesn’t change the reality or the gravity of the matter. “Ransom” means “payment” and comes from the Latin word “redemption” which means “buying back.” God has placed us in the “ransom” business. Together, with God, we deliver, rescue, liberate, get back, recover, regain, retrieve, release, and salvage. We march right into the enemy’s camp and we forcefully take back what rightfully belongs to God.

There are other things that rightfully belong to God and require careful stewardship and management. Our blessings are the resources we have to advance God’s kingdom; at home and around the world. The early church possessed things instead of being possessed by things.

It all comes back to the same question. With over seven billion people in our world, and being privileged to be a recipient of this life-changing and life-saving apostolic message, how much are you willing to pay to ransom a lost soul? Winning a lost soul; I want it so badly!

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