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FREEDOM HAS A COST
At the dramatic conclusion of the musical, Camelot, the tragic figure of King Arthur calls a boy named Tom out of the bushes. Arthur dubs the boy a "Knight of the Round Table," but orders him not to fight in the battle. He is to "grow up and grow strong" in order to tell of the ideals and accomplishments of Camelot, so future generations would remember.
A similar scene takes place in the graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300 (recently released as a feature film). One of the Spartans has lost an eye, so Leonidas sends him back to tell the citizens to "Remember us!" as the dying heroes’ way of saying that "Freedom has a cost." Of course, Miller was kinder to Aristodemus than Herodotus was-—the Greek historian noting that Aristodemus was considered a "craven," a coward, until he redeemed himself at the Battle of Plataea.
Today is Memorial Day weekend. For some, it has little meaning other than a day off and the running of the Indianapolis 500. Yet, the origin of the day began with remembering the dead in the War of Northern Aggression-—the women of Pennsylvania who decorated Union graves in August of 1864, the women of Virginia who decorated Confederate graves in April of 1865, and the women of Columbus, MS who decorated the graves of both Union and Confederate dead-—prompting Horace Greeley’s editorial and the subsequent events which called for national observance of such memorials. This day reminds us of all our war dead, hence that freedom has a cost.
(From a sermon by Johnny Wilson, "Never Forget What’s Important")
In the recent Summer Games (2012), Kim Rhode won the gold medal in skeet shooting making her the first American to win 5 olympic medals in 5 consecutive olympic games. That’s a span of 20 years and not her only distinction. In the 2012 games, she hit 99 out of 100 skeet setting a new Olympic record and tying the world record for the event. Also, her first medal was in the 1996 Summer Games making her the youngest female gold medalist in Olympic shooting. How does one so distinguish themselves from the rest of the crowd?
In an interview with the New York Times, Rhode firmly answers the question of how. She shoots anywhere from 500 to 1,000 rounds every day of the week year around. To save you the math, this is 3,000,000 plus shots with a shotgun. That’s 600,000 rounds per medal. When you step back and look at that number, the medals and accomplishments really are not that surprising.
It would be interesting to know how much other Olympian medalists have invested in their training? How many calories have they burned? How much money have they spent? How many other things have they rejected so that it would not interfere with their training? Of course, there is the occasional rare, natural talent, but I imagine, in most cases, if these numbers were lined up, the favorites will have distinguished themselves well before the race ever began.
In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul indicates that life is a race and its a race that we are all entered in so we might as well compete. We can choose to sit the race out but it is to our own demise. Our entry fees are paid, the starter has fired the gun, and our finish will still be recorded. Only those that complete the race get to advance to the next event.
Run to win. Run to finish first. At the very least run it in such a noble, honorable, and faithful manner that you are allowed to finish. Compete so that even if you do not win all of life, you will not be ashamed of how well you finished. And remember, the race isn’t won on the track, its won in the training and preparation.
There are roughly 775,000 words in the Bible. If we read one word ever day for every round Kim Rhode practices, we would complete the Bible every few years. These days, a person that has read through it completely just once has already distinguished themselves from the pack. How much more dominant would we be if we had read through it 5 times or a dozen times?
Wade Hughes, Sr
An old lady spent much of her summer setting and swinging in the old swing hanging on her front porch. Her husband had been dead several years and she had withdrawn from all but the closest family. Her lonely time grew and grew??
One spring day, the old lady went out in the garage and dug the old roto-tiller out from under the rusty tub that covered the engine. Seems the old lady had found a big bag of seeds that was a vine that would bear bright red flowers. The old lady loved bright red things. She made a decision, get out of the swing and grow beautiful flowers to enjoy.
With great excitement,she pulled real hard on the rope, and with great effort she finally got the old roto-tiller to run.
There was a wall of concrete blocks between her and the neighbors driveway. The blocks were laid...a block and a space, or a gap...then another block and a space all the way down the driveway,....all the way to the garage.
With great effort the old lady plowed betwen the driveway and the wall. She blistered her hands, her back hurt, but the jarring roto-tiller finished the task.
With feelings of accomplishment and pride, she got down on her knees and planted all the seeds in several rows along the wall.
The rains came, the Lord blessed the little seeds and the sun shine warmed the ground. One day the little old lady saw the heads of the plant break forth, and the vines grew and grew ....until the vines completely covered the wall. The vines so grew that the wall could not be seen. She would set daily in the swing and watch the progress of the vine. This was great joy to the old lady.
Beautiful vines ....but no flowers, zero. da nada, nothing. Where are all my bright red flowers?? One day after much dissapointment and great thought the lady decided...I planted those vines for flowers, bright red flowers and there are none. I am going to cut those dumb empty vines down and burn them.
She went down the drive way into the garage and got the rusty old hoe, sharpened the edge and started chopping the vines down.
About the third vine was chopped down and she grinned ear to ear. The neighbor pulling into his drive way, skidded to a halt and jumped out of his car and ran over to her .
He said, "What on earth are you doing?? I know this is your property and that is your vine, and you can do as you chose. But, why are you cutting down this vine??"
The old lady explained to the kind neighbor, "I planted this not for the vine but for the bright red flowers, and there are none. After all my sweat and blisters and watering, not one flower. I am cutting this down because there are no red flowers and that is why I planted them!!!"
Without one word the neighbor took the feeble old lady by the hand and lead her to the other side of the wall. And on his side of the fence, there were over a million of the brightest red flowers you ever saw, between every block were many of the brillant blossoms.
>>When “Old Blue Eye’s” died in May 1998 at the age of 82 everyone agreed: There will never be another Sinatra. Sinatra had an amazing career; he even topped Elvis! He holds the record of 40 consecutive years with a song on the billboard charts. One of those chart topping songs was “I Did It My Way” a theme song for many Americans.
>> The opening verse says, “Now, the end is near, So I face the final curtain – My friends, I’ll say it clear State my case of which I’m certain. I’ve lived a life that’s full, And traveled each, and every highway – And more, much more than this I did it my way.”
>>When Sinatra died, he left family and friends, plus a world full of fans who grieved his loss. He also left behind millions of dollars in cash and assets: cars, houses, land and stocks. He left all of his platinum and gold records, his Grammys, and his Oscar. When Francis Albert Sinatra died, he left behind exactly what you and I will leave behind when our days on Earth are over. HE LEFT BEHIND EVERYTHING.
>> Just like all of us will someday do, Frank Sinatra left this world to stand face-to-face before Jesus Christ. When God asks him, “Frank, why should I let you into my Heaven?,” he won’t have the courage to sing, or even say the words “I did it my way.” When we stand before the Lord in heaven our self achievement and accomplishments,...
Muhammad Ali today is called the greatest. But it hasn’t always been that way. He became the greatest in the eyes of the world over the last 40 years. Muhammad Ali used to “float like a butterfly” and “sting like a bee”. He dazzled crowds with his amazing ability to dodge a punch while he used a very unconventional style, with hands held low, as he bobbed and weaved. Ali won the heavyweight title on February 25th, 1964 from Soney Liston. Ali was a 7-1 underdog and 43 of 46 major press writers picked him to lose. You see nobody really believed that he could be a champion. But he defeated Soney Liston to become the Heavy Weight Champion of the world. Well on his way to becoming the greatest, Ali lost his title and then won it back it perhaps the greatest Heavy Weight fight of all time, the “Rumble in the Jungle”, against then champion Gorge Foreman. Ali played what came to be known as the “rope a dope”. Ali covered up and let the heavy hitter, Gorge Foreman, tire himself out throwing punches, then when Forman was exhausted, Ali knocked him out. Now he became “Americas Champion” and some called him the greatest. Ali would again lose his title to Leon Spinks and then regain it after beating Leon Spinks in a unanimous decision. Now, he had become the only Heavy Weight to win the title three times and many called him the greatest. Ali would go on to lose two more fights to Trevor Burbick and Larry Holmes before retiring in 1981. Ali would have the spotlight once more in 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta Ali, with hands trembling from the Parkinson’s Disease he now suffers from, lit the cauldron to signify the start of the Summer Olympic Games. Many people shed tears as they watched “The Greatest” light the torch. Because of his accomplishments, the world calls Ali “The Greatest”. And while Ali’s story is inspiring and should stir the emotions of our heart, what the world calls great and what the Lord calls great are often two very different things. While Ali became great by winning the Heavy Weight title three times, God isn’t impressed by such accomplishments. While God desires good things in our life, he is immeasurably more concerned with our character than with our trophies. While he enables us to do great things, he desires that we would do his will, and God desires that we would understand what lasting accomplishment is. Faith…Hope…Love… The trophies will gather dust and our bodies wear out with just a little time, but the things of God endure forever!
Some time ago I read a fascinating story in National Geographic magazine. An explorer had made a tremendous accomplishment. He managed, for the first time in history, to record on videotape the birth of a panda cub in the wild. This was amazing, in part, because of how violent the mother panda bear can be when intruders are near their young. The newborn cub was no larger than a gerbil. He could fit in the palm of your hand. The most amazing thing happened after this cub was born. In order to protect the cub from the elements, and to give the cub an opportunity to grow sheltered from the dangers of the outside world, she spread her enormous body across this tiny cub
and did not move for twenty-eight days. She did not eat, sleep, or even defecate at all during this time. Her massive presence remained steadily hovering over this tiny being. It has since been discovered that this is a common practice when the panda bear is
protecting her young. So it is with God, as He omnipotent presence hovers over us as a shield from our circumstances in life.
You share Christ by imitating Christ. A story is told – by Fredrick Beuchner I believe – called “The Happy Hypocrite." It is a story about a man who was born with an awful facial deformity. He grew up alone and lonely. When reaching adulthood, he decided to move from his town to begin a new life. On his way he discovered a beautiful mask that fit his making him look handsome. At first the mask was uncomfortable and he was afraid that people would find out who he really was, but he continued to wear the mask everyday.
In his new hometown, he made many friends and fell in love. But one day a wicked woman from his old home came to his town and discovered this man’s true identity. In front of his friends and fiancé, she forced him to remove his mask. When he removed the mask, it revealed a handsome face. His face had conformed to the mask.
Becoming like Christ is analogous to this. Go ahead and put on Christ. At first it may feel unnatural or uncomfortable, and maybe you may think, “who am I trying to fool?” But everyday just keep putting on Christ and everyday you will grow to look more like him.
There’s an old Indian Fable I heard recently. A water bearer had two large water pots which he carried on either end of a pole slung across his shoulders. One of the pots had a crack in it, so every day as he carried water to his master’s house he arrived with one full pot and one only half full. This went on for two years. One pot was very proud of its accomplishments, while the imperfect pot was embarrassed at its failure. Its distress at being able only to accomplish half of what it had been made to do, resulted in its speaking one day to the water carrier.
"I am so ashamed," the pot said. "Why?" asked the carrier. "Because water leaks out all the way to your master’s house and because of my crack I’ve been only able to deliver half of the load." The water carrier looked kindly at the cracked pot and said, "As we return to my master’s house today, I want you to look at the beautiful flowers along the path."
The pot was a little cheered by the beauty he saw along the way. "Did you notice that the flowers were only on your side of the path?" the water ca...
True Confession and Repentance:
True confession is not the mere mental assent that we
have done wrong, for even a thief will admit he’s done
wrong in the bragging of his accomplishments. No,
confession means seeing and agreeing with God how our
sins have harmed us and others. It is pouring out our
shame and deep sorrow to the Lord over our misdeeds.
It is repenting of our evil ways, turning around and
doing what’s right and good, and it’s seeking
reconciliation with others and our God.
This is repentance the leads to life, whereas the
thief’s boasting leads only to further alienation
from God. As the Bible says, “Godly sorrow brings
repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no
regret, but worldly sorrow brings death”
In his men’s seminar, David Simmons, a former cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys, tells about his childhood home. His father, a military man, was extremely demanding, rarely saying a kind word, always pushing him with harsh criticism to do better. The father had decided that he would never permit his son to feel any satisfaction from his accomplishments, reminding him there were always new goals ahead.
When Dave was a little boy, his dad gave him a bicycle, unassembled, with the command that he put it together. After Dave struggled to the point of tears with the difficult instructions and many parts, his father said, "I knew you couldn’t do it." Then he assembled it for him.
When Dave played football in high school, his father was unrelenting in his criticisms. In the backyard of his home, after every game, his dad would go over every play and point out Dave’s errors. "Most boys got butterflies in the stomach before the game; I got them afterwards. Facing my father was more stressful than facing any opposing team."
By the time he entered college, Dave hated his father and his harsh discipline. He chose to play football at the University of Georgia because its campus was further from home than any school that offered him a scholarship. After college, he became the second round draft pick of the St. Louis cardinal’s professional football club. Joe Namath (who later signed with the New York Jets), was the club’s first round pick that year. "Excited, I telephoned my father to tell him the good news. He said, ’How does it feel to be second?’"
Despite the hateful feelings he had for his father, Dave began to build a bridge to his dad. Christ had come into his life during college years, and it was God’s love that made him turn to his father. During visits home he stimulated conversation with him and listened with interest to what his father had to say. He learned for the first time what his grandfather had been like-a tough lumberjack known for his quick temper. Once he destroyed a pickup truck with a sledgehammer because it wouldn’t start, and he often beat his son. This new awareness affected Dave dramatically. "Knowing about my father’s upbringing not only made me more sympathetic for him, but it helped me see that, under the circumstances, he might have done much worse. By the time he died, I can honestly say we were friends."
Unfinished Business, Charles Sell, Multnomah, 1989, pp. 171ff