Halleeeeeeeeelujah!

Ministry in India – Part I

God opened a huge door for our ministry in September 2014, in India through the Billion Soul Initiative.  I was a part of a four person teaching team in New Delhi.  We worked with a great ministry known as Operation Agape.  This is a network of hundreds of ministry groups throughout India.

Dr. Alex Abraham is a medical doctor – a neurosurgeon.  He devotes most of his time in giving leadership to Operation Agape.  At his invitation some 800+ pastors came to Delhi for teaching and inspiration.  We met in a room that seated 600.  About 200 sat on the floor or stood.

The Indian pastors were ready to begin at 8:30 in the morning and would stay until 5:30 in the afternoon.  There was a brief tea break and short time for lunch (I didn’t eat much lunch).  These men and women took copious notes and there was never a problem with them going to sleep during the teachings.

Of 600 unreached people groups in the world, 300 of them are in India.  Operation Agape has done extensive research in identifying these groups and providing a strategy to reach them.  It is exciting to hear Dr. Abraham report that now 290 of the unreached people groups of India have been adopted by some group and are experiencing some aspects of ministry!

One young man was a painter in Bombay.  He came to faith in Christ and felt led to an unreached people group in Odisha.  In the past 10 years he has seen 4,000 people come to Christ and he and his group have planted 150 churches in that area.  They are actually doing ministry in 19 unreached people groups!

Another young man was attracted to the Christian faith because of the persecution of some people he knew who were Christians.  He made a faith commitment and went to Pergi.  He has now planted 20 churches and has added 35,000 believers in the last 8 years.

A very interesting man is Madan Val.  He is only about 4 feet tall.  He said he was short and had no education. He went to Punjav.  He has seen 3,000 people become believers and has planted 18 churches.

Pastor Patel is serving in Chattisgarh.  He has giving leadership to starting 3,000 churches and baptizing 50,000 people.  One young minister was from Garasiapyle.  Through his ministry the last 7 years 15,000 people have been baptized.  The goal is by to have 1,100 churches and 100,000 people by 2020.

Several of these pastors had been arrested and persecuted.  Their hardships only made them more committed in their ministries and God has blessed them tremendously.

They have a practice of saying “hallelujah.”  It is like a football yell.  We hear football fans say “Rolllllll Tide” or “Warrrrrr Eagle.”  They do the same thing with “Halleeeeelujah”.  I must say that the pastors were as energetic with the hallelujahs as I have seen Auburn/Alabama fans with Roll Tide and War Eagle.  I love football in our state – but one team always has to lose.  The hallelujah pastors never lose.  They are involved in a game in which they know that God is going to win ultimately in this life and for eternity.

These are just the stories of a few of the 800 pastors.  They are not intimidated by living out tremendous vision.  They understand that God can do anything.  They trust Him and move forward.  It is a estimated that there are now some 25,000 new Christians every day in India!  The expectations are that soon India will pass China as the country having the most professing Christians in the world!

Halleeeeeeeeeeelujah!

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

I was preaching recently in a Campmeeting in central Mississippi.  One of the most faithful people in attendance was also one of the most outstanding high school basketball coaches in the State of Mississippi.  His name is Billy Rhodes.  He recently started his 45th year of coaching!

I asked Coach Rhodes how many games he had won.  He didn’t know.  A couple of years ago his team went 35-1 and won the State Championship.  He probably won 20+ games a year for most of his career.  I asked him about his success as a coach and he said, “Success is not what happens during the game as much as the preparation that the coaches and team have made before the game.”

Coach Rhodes gave me a cap.  I love what is printed on the front of it.  It says, “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.”

In life many times we think we want to accomplish something, but we do not want to prepare properly for it.  We think it just might happen – it usually doesn’t.  Results are directly related to preparation.  Poor preparation almost guarantees disappointment.  Proper preparation prevents a poor performance!

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.”  My wife Lynn has a motto for her business, “Excellence is never an accident.”

There is a beautiful story about a farmer who was interviewing a prospect to hire.  He asked the young man what his best asset was.  The young man said, “I can sleep when the wind blows.”  The farmer wasn’t sure what he meant by that, but he hired the young man.

A few weeks later a heavy wind and rain storm came up during the night.  The farmer quickly got his light and went out to the big barn to see if all was in order.  He was pleased to find that the barn doors and shutters were tightly closed and barred, the cows were bedded down in clean straw, the straw pile had been secured with a canvas firmly tied down over the top, the windmill was shut off and the lever down.

The farmer then looked in the bunk house and saw that the young man was sound asleep.  He then realized what the young man meant when he said his best asset was “I can sleep when the wind blows.”

Marcus Mariota has won 23 games at Oregon in two years as quarterback.  He is one of the leading contenders for this year’s Heisman Trophy.  He is described as “the best prepared football player in the country.”  When he arrived at Oregon as a freshman, he already knew the entire Oregon playbook! His performance mirrors his preparation.

I remember some classes in high school and college where the teacher would surprise us with a “pop test.”  You never knew when the test would be given.  If you were not prepared you were extremely anxious and fearful.  I learned that if I was prepared, I made a good grade and enjoyed the class.

One of the questions posed in the day of Jesus was, “When will the Kingdom of God be established?”  There is a lot of talk today about when Jesus will come again.  Many people make a lot of money by writing books suggesting a date for His return.

Jesus said it wasn’t important to know the date – just be ready.  (Luke 12:40)  Be prepared.  I don’t know when He is coming again, but I do know that today we are one day closer to it than we were yesterday!

A good boy scout says, “Be prepared.”  The Good Book says, “Be ready.” A good coach says, “Proper preparation prevents poor performance.”

The preparation period is now!

R.S.V.P.

What happens to us in life is not nearly as important as how we respond to what happens.  Circumstances don’t dictate who we are – our response to the circumstances dictates who we are.  Let me share a few examples.

Megachurch pastor Ed Dobson was diagnosed with the degenerative disease ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).  He could have become bitter and a grumbler.  Instead he focused on being grateful for what he could do.  He writes:

“Lord, thank you for waking me up this morning.  Lord, thank you that I can turn over in my bed.  Lord, thank you that I can still get out of bed.  Lord, thank you that I can walk to the bathroom…Lord, thank you that I can still brush my teeth…Lord, thank you that I can still eat breakfast.  Lord, thank you that I can still dress myself.  Lord, thank you that I can still drive my car.  Lord, thank you that I can still walk.  Lord, thank you that I can still talk.”  What a response!

We have recently been reading about Dr. Kent Brantley who went as a medical missionary to Liberia.  He worked with patients there.  He said:

“One thing I have learned is that following God often leads us to unexpected places.  When Ebola spread into Liberia, my usual hospital work turned more and more toward treating the increasing number of Ebola patients.  I held the hands of countless individuals as this terrible disease took their lives away from them.  I witnessed the horror firsthand, and I can still remember every face and name.

When I started feeling ill on that Wednesday morning, I immediately isolated myself until the test confirmed my diagnosis three days later.  When the result was positive, I remember a deep sense of peace that was beyond all understanding.  God was reminding me of what He had taught me years ago, that He will give me everything I need to be faithful to Him.

Now it is two week later, and I am in a totally different setting.  My focus, however, remains to same – to follow God.  As you continue to pray for Nancy and me, yes, please pray for our recovery.  More importantly, pray that we would be faithful to God’s call on our lives in these new circumstances.”  What a response!

Thomas Samford was legal counsel for Auburn University for over 30 years.  He was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  He told his pastor, Walter Albritton that he had about a year to live.  Thomas never thought of himself as a victim, but welcomed how his faith might respond to it.  He actually lived a dozen more years.

Walter writes how on Wednesday mornings a group of men would meet at 6:30.  He says he will never forget Thomas saying, “I thank God for my cancer.  My cancer led me to know God.  Except for my cancer, I would have missed meeting the Master.  I am not fighting cancer,” he would tell us.  “I am simply asking for grace and strength to teach His Word until He is ready for me to come home.  Whatever time and energy He gives me, I will use to please Him.” And he did!  What a response!

Jesus said, “In me you may have peace.  In the world you are going to have trials and sorrows, but be cheerful because I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

Here are 3 men who know the real meaning of R.S.V.P.

Football Fan – Faith Fan

Football season is here.  Wouldn’t it be great if we got as excited about our church and our faith as we did our football team?  I was convicted when I read Thom Rainer’s 11 comparisons of a college football fan and a church member.  It gave me a healthy, uncomfortable feeling.  Maybe it will do the same for you.

1. A college football fan loves to win.  The typical church member never wins            anyone to Christ.

2. A college football fan gets excited if a game goes into overtime.  A church member gets mad if the pastor preaches one minute past the allocated time.

3. A college football fan is loyal to his or her team no matter what.  A church member stops attending if things are not going well.

4. A college football fan is easily recognized by his or her sportswear, bumper stickers, and team flags.  Many church members cannot even be recognized as Christians by people with whom they associate.

5. A college football fan pays huge dollars for tickets, travel, and refreshments for games.  A church member may or may not give to his or her church.

6. A college football fan reads about his or her football team every day.  A church member rarely reads the Bible once in the course of a week.

7. A college football fan attends the game no matter how bad the weather is.  A church member stays home if there is a 20 percent chance of rain.

8. A college football fan invites others to watch the game every week.  A church member rarely invites someone to church.

9. A college football fan is known for his or her passion for the football team.  A church member is rarely known for his or her passion for the gospel.

10. A college football fan will adjust gladly to changes in kickoff time.  A church member gets mad if his or her service time is changed by just a few minutes.

11. A college football fan is loyal even if he or she never gets to meet the coach.  A church member gets mad if the pastor does not visit for every possible occasion.

The difference in the effect on people’s lives between football and church is not even describable.  Football can be fun – church makes a difference!  Coach John McKay, the famous coach of Southern Cal, said, “I’ve never felt that football built character.  That is done by parents and the church.  You give us a boy with character and we’ll give you back a man.  You give us a character – and we’ll give him right back to you!”

Football season is only a few months.  Church season is twelve months.  Winners in football can be forgotten in a few years.  Winners in the Christian faith continue winning forever and ever and ever!

It’s game time!

I Promise

Mike Kassalis is a 22-year-old cancer patient.  He is also a big baseball fan and especially likes the Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

On July 22, 2014, Mike Kassalis told Anthony that he wished he would hit a homerun for him.  That is a pretty big order.  Anthony has only averaged 15 homeruns a year in his career. Anthony promised Mike that he would hit a homerun for him that day.  Would you believe that on July 22, Anthony Rizzo hit two homeruns for Mike!  That is a promise kept!

Keeping promises is not one of the strong suits of people in this 21st century.  We casually tell people we will do things or make commitments, then find some rationalization for backing out on that promise.  Do politicians keep promises?  You can provide the illustrations to answer that.

In the play, The Skin of Our Teeth, written by Thornton Wilder, the character Mrs. Antrobus says to her husband, “I didn’t marry you because you were perfect….I married you because you gave me a promise.”

Then Mrs. Antrobus takes off her wedding ring and looks at it. She continues, “That promise made up for your faults and the promise I gave you made up for mine.  Two imperfect people got married, and it was the promise that made the marriage.”  Marriages are based on promises.

Do television commercials keep promises?  John Leonard lives in Lynnwood, Washington.  He has sued Pepsi after being told that an offer for a Harrier jet fighter in a commercial for the soft drink was just a joke.

The commercial shows a customer landing the jet in his front yard and suggests it can be had for seven million “Pepsi Points.”  Leonard figured it would cost him $700,000 to collect the points…so he came up with a way to raise the money and sent Pepsi a check.  Pepsi sent it back, saying the ad was a spoof.  It wasn’t a valid promise.  By the way – Harrier jets cost over $40 million each!

A lot of residents in Ohio recently thought they received a great promise from the IRS – some very good news – only to have their balloons deflated.  9,700 Ohio taxpayers received letters promising huge tax refunds – some up to $200 million.  The Ohio Department of Taxation blamed the letters on a software glitch.

I remember playing basketball with the Venture for Victory basketball team when we played several games against the Filipino Olympic team in Manila.  I will never forget hearing the Filipino people tell how General Douglas MacArthur had made the promise to the Filipino people that he would return and set them free.  That promise became his mantra for the next 2 ½ years.

On October 20, 1944, he returned to Philippines and led a great military victory.  People there always remembered that he kept that promise.  He will go down in history as the promise keeper!

While we human beings will have difficulty keeping promises I am glad we worship a God who always keeps His promises.  Solomon said in I Kings 8:56, “Not one word of all God’s good promises has failed.”  Paul reminds us in Romans 4:20 and 21, “We can always look to the promise of God, because He never wavers in His promises.  We can be fully assured that what He has promised, He does perform.”

Promises are made to be kept – not broken.

Wake Up!

When I am out of town sometimes my responsibility will be to speak at a breakfast type event early in the morning.  Recently I was on the east coast on Eastern Time and had to speak at an event at 7:00 a.m.  That is 6:00 a.m. my time.  I needed a wake-up call to get up about 4:30 my time.

One of the difficult things about traveling is learning how to operate the clocks in hotels that have an alarm that you set.  I am not very technological and have not done well in that area.

I called the front desk to ask for a wake-up call.  The person told me they had a new computer system which had software to allow me to plug in my own wake-up call on the phone.  I told him I would rather not do that.  His simple statement was, “anybody can do it.”  I told him he did not understand the “anybody” that he was speaking to.  He told me to give it a try.

I tried and put in the time.  I inadvertently put in 3:30 rather than 4:30.  I called the front desk to see if they could erase that wake-up time and allow me to reset it.  The man said they had never had anybody make that request.  He called his manager.

When the manager arrived on the phone, he said he wasn’t sure that the new computer software would allow erasing a wake-up call that had been entered.  He told me I would just need to leave it as it was.  I got up at 3:30 the next morning!  I now set an additional wake-up call on my iPhone.

We all need wake-up calls.  Paul was writing to the church at Rome.  In Romans 13:11, he was talking about life and the signs of the times and he said, “It is time for you to wake-up.”

A wake-up call is designed to bring us out of our sleep and make us alert for the responsibilities before us.

I have a friend who went to the doctor some time ago and he got a report that he didn’t expect.  His statement to me was “Boy, I got a wake-up call from the doctor about my health and I have got some things I must change.”

I have a friend who gained some extra weight.  He said he stepped on the scale the other day and said, “I got a wake-up call.”  More of us need to get that wake-up call.

A father went in with his little boy to listen to his prayers.  He was going to pray that little prayer that all of us learned as children that says, “Now I lay me down to sleep.  I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

The little boy got a little confused because his daddy was listening and he prayed, “If I should wake before I die.”  The little boy stopped and looked up and said, “Oh Daddy I messed up didn’t I?”  The daddy looked at him and said, “No son you didn’t mess up.  You said it right.  We all need to wake before we die.”

In what area of life is God saying to us that we need to wake-up?

The sad thing is that sometimes we can stay in a hotel and receive a wake-up call but sleep through it or not respond to it.  That is dangerous.  The purpose of the wake-up call is to bring us to our senses and make us alert to the responsibilities we have before us.

Wake-up!

Teams Win!

Teams win.  Teams have good players, but those players do best when they play together as a team.  We saw it recently in the NBA Finals.  We also saw it in this year’s Super Bowl.  (Read the blog I posted about Seattle on February 12, 2014.)

The Miami Heat had three of the biggest names in basketball.  They acquired some other super stars.  They had won two years in a row.  This year San Antonio was determined to win – and they were going to do it with team play.

It was amazing to see the number of passes that San Antonio made before they took a shot.  On some possessions the ball never touched the floor before a San Antonio player shot it.  Most of their high shooting percentage was the result of so much team work in passing that a team member was left unguarded.

Boris Diaw had one of the best quotes.  He said, “This series was a battle between one-on-one basketball against team basketball.  I am proud that team basketball won.”

Team play was also demonstrated in the World Cup Soccer competition.  Germany didn’t have the high paid – high profile players that other teams had.  But they won – and they did it with team play.

People working together create a winning atmosphere.  That is true in sports – in business – in church – in families – and in all organizations.

A choir sounds best when all members are on the same page singing the same musical score together.  Look at the songs in the Book of Revelation – not one of them was a solo.  The twenty-four elders sing and cast their crowns before His feet, the united voices of countless angels echo the message, every living creature in heaven and earth and under the earth and all that is in them is joined in one song.

The ones who are victorious over the beast are given harps and a voice to sing.  In every case multitudes of people or angels unite in the same song with absolute unity, with one voice.

To defeat a team, or a church, or a nation – sow the seeds of disunity.  That can be more detrimental than most any weapon in any person’s arsenal.

Look at what happened a few months ago in the Ukraine.  The masked, pro-Russian militants who took over government buildings in eastern Ukraine were utilizing a century-old Russian military strategy known as maskirovka.  This Russian strategy literally is translated as “disguise.”  It employs deception, misrepresentation, disinformation, etc. to sow confusion and frustration.

Russian militants are not the only ones using that strategy – you see it in our nation – in our churches – etc.

A team divided against itself can’t win.

June – July Recap

June and July have been very productive months.  I preached 27 times in a variety of settings.  Below is a recap of some of the major events in which I participated:

  •  Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference – Our ministry was given a display booth during the Conference.
  •  Spent 3 days speaking 4 times to a lot of coaches and their families at a conference.  I posted a couple of blogs about this.  I love working with coaches.
  •  Preached 3 days in Bonifay, Florida, at a Camp Meeting.
  •  Preached at the Church in the Pines at Lake Martin.  This was the 38th year that I have been privileged to preach there.
  •  Preached at the Auburn United Methodist Church – my brother George is the pastor there and it is one of the most exciting churches in our Conference.
  •  Preached at the 163rd Homecoming for the Ramer United Methodist Church.
  •  Preached for 8 days at the Shiloh Camp Meeting in Pelahatchie, Mississippi – Great experience!
  •  Posted blogs each week.
  •  Posted a daily 2-minute audio devotional on Facebook.
  •  Continued coaching a couple of pastors and worked with one church in Birmingham.
  •  I enjoy serving on the River Region Sports Commission.  This group has really brought a lot of sporting events to Montgomery.  You will be hearing more about the College Bowl Game in December.
  •  I enjoy participating with the PSIF which provides life insurance for all of our law enforcement people.
  •  Spoke at and participated in the S.T.E.P. Foundation fundraiser.
  •  Made recordings for daily radio devotionals on WLWI.

Thanks for your prayers, encouragement, and support for this ministry.  A huge responsibility will be coming up on the first two weeks in September as I go to teach and train pastors in India as a part of the vision to plant 5 million churches and win 1 billion people to Christ.  I didn’t know it would take so much time just to secure a visa for India.  I wound up making two trips to Atlanta involving qualifying for the Global Entry with the TSA and getting the visa.  I’m grateful that several folks helped with both of those.

Thanks for your support.

John Ed

An August Phenomenon?

Something phenomenal is happening in August! This phenomenon only happens once every 823 years!

Social media has advertised that in August 2014 you will experience five Fridays, five Saturdays, and five Sundays!  You will never get the opportunity to experience this phenomenon again (unless you are alive in 2847).

This phenomenon has gotten a lot of attention through social media.  It is a fascinating thing – except that it is not true.  There are other months of August where five Fridays, five Saturdays, and five Sundays do occur.  Check out 2003 and 2008.

Another aspect of this phenomenon is that the Chinese refer to it as “silver pockets full.”  The internet has attributed a lot of myths to this.  One involves mysticism that indicates certain things can be done if a pocket (some kind of container) is placed so that silver dollars can strangely appear to fill it.  Some people have given suggestions of other ways that you can get rich during this period.  Some chain letters indicate that you have to send the letter forward in order to receive money.  It also says that bad things can happen if you don’t send the letter on.

Let me suggest that you don’t send the letter forward since it is not correct.  Don’t waste your time putting out containers to receive special money.  Also don’t spend a lot of time looking up how often this has actually occurred.  Just assume that this August phenomenon gives a whole new meaning to “a long weekend” – and it doesn’t even involve a Monday!

The real question is: “What are we going to do with these weekends?”  Most people will never recognize the difference except that paychecks and bills due might be a bit different.  Most people will probably miss this phantom phenomenon.

Why not make August 2014 phenomenally unique?  Here are some suggestions:

1. On each of the five Fridays, do five deeds of kindness to five different people who can’t reciprocate. Be conscience all day of five contributions you can make to somebody else’s life.

2. On each of the five Saturdays, invite five new people to worship with you.  Invite five people who do not attend any church.  90% of people who come and join a church come because they are invited by a neighbor, co-worker, acquaintance, or family member. Pray five extra minutes for Sunday opportunities.

3. On each of the five Sundays spend five extra minutes of preparation for Bible study and worship, speak to five people you don’t normally speak to, and give 5% more financially than you normally give.

We could make this a “month to remember” – not because of the five Fridays, five Saturdays, and five Sundays, but because of the five special things we are going to do on each of those days. And since we know this situation won’t occur again for some time, these special emphases for these 15 unique days could become a lifestyle for us.  This could be a truly phenomenal August!

You may not live to have this opportunity again. Don’t pray that you will still be here the next time this phenomenon occurs – instead make this one special.

Experience a phenomenal August!

A Plan From An Unlikely Man

We just celebrated on July 20 its 45th anniversary!  Of all the events in American history, the event most Americans wish they could have seen (as reported by “USA Today”) was the lunar landing 45 years ago by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.  I just learned an interesting aspect of that event.

President John F. Kennedy “unexpectedly” announced in 1961 that the US would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.  That announcement was a shocker to his friends, but was indicative of the vision of what could happen.  Vision is what people are able to see that other people can’t see.

Scientists went to work on a plan to accomplish this.  Remember – a dream without a plan can become a nightmare!  Wernher von Braun proposed a 100-foot-tall rocket that could land on the lunar surface on its tail.  Other scientists suggested a spacecraft that would orbit the earth and then send some space vehicle to travel to the moon.

An interesting thing occurred.  An obscure NASA engineer named John Houbolt did something very unusual.  He skipped official channels (which some have suggested was a bold act of insubordination) and sent another option to Robert Seamans, Jr., the associate administrator for NASA.

Houbolt had to convince Seamans that he was “not dealing with a crank.”  He said that he felt confident that his idea would work.  He called for a lighter, less expensive lunar orbit rendezvous while a spacecraft would go most of the distance to the moon, then a smaller lunar module would detach and descend to the moon’s surface.  It would be occupied by a two-man crew.  After the two men finished their exploration, the module would carry them back to the orbiting spacecraft and then back to Earth.

In 1962, NASA selected Houbolt’s plan.  I remember that July 20, 1969, Sunday night when most everybody called off evening worship or got out early in order to see the lunar landing.  Houbolt was in the NASA Mission Control Center when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.  Houbolt’s idea worked!!

Houbolt said, “One of the crowning moments of that event was when Von Braun sat in front of me, and did the okay sign and said, ‘Thank you, John.’”  Houbolt thought that kind of recognition from Wernher von Braun was one of the biggest rewards he had ever received!

A lunar landing was considered impossible – but God redefined what was possible.  (Read more examples in my book “When God Redefines the Possible.”)  The plans for the vision were not drawn up by the expected experts; they came from a very unsuspecting young engineer.

What if John Houbolt had just said that he was too young and experienced and had not projected his idea?  What if he had not been bold enough to “circumvent the system” to get his idea before the proper people?  I wonder how many people told him that he was crazy when he first projected the idea.

Read about Andrew in John 1:35-42.  He was a nobody, but he boldly went to his brother Peter and told him about Jesus, and Peter became the great leader.  About the only spotlight that fell on Andrew was the reflected light from Peter’s accomplishments.

God uses insignificant people to do significant things.  Big doors swing on small hinges.  Impossible things become possible when the most unsuspecting person is willing to step out and project an idea.

Nobody is exempt from the possibility that anybody can become somebody!