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!

Apologies for Miscommunication

During the World Cup Soccer this summer Delta Air Lines made a terrible mistake in communication.  They had to apologize for a tweet that went out to over 600,000 people!

Delta’s tweet was the equivalent of a referee’s red card.  Following the U.S 2-1 victory over Ghana, the tweet showed the Statue of Liberty to represent the U.S. and used a giraffe to symbolize Ghana.

Giraffes aren’t native to Ghana, the West African country with more than 25 million people.  Delta apologized and said that the tweet “was both inaccurate and inappropriate.” Even though Delta does not fly to Ghana, it was a terrible mistake in communication.

Delta has put in place a program to review its means of communication.  They want “to ensure that future images and posts reflect both our values and our global focus.”

This July 2014 Facebook has publically apologized for running a psychology experiment on thousands of people without their consent or knowledge.  Sheryl Sandberg, the No. 2 executive, said the company communicated “poorly” about the experiment, which tested whether Facebook could manipulate users’ emotions.

Facebook really gets a communication out quickly to a lot of people.  They have discovered that bad communication goes sometimes more rapidly than good communication.

Protestors have said, “We are not experimental rats in a laboratory.  What gives them the right to run experiments without our knowledge?”

Sandberg has done a lot of apologizing.  She said, “This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that is what it was – it was poorly communicated, and for that communication, we apologize.”

Communication is so important.  Look at the millions of dollars lost in companies because of poor communication.  Look at sports teams that lose contests because of poor communication.  Look at families that suffer because of poor communication.  Look what happens to churches – the list goes on and on.

When God wanted to communicate who He was and how He related to mankind, He sent the perfect communication – His Son Jesus.  He didn’t send an idea or a message, He sent a Person.  John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  John 1:1

What Jesus said and did embodied God’s message to each of us.  His Word was perfect communication.  We might not hear the message, or we might reject the message, but the communication is always perfect.  God will never have to apologize for miscommunication!

I am glad God didn’t tweet or use Facebook – He sent His Son.

How To Handle Mistakes

In life mistakes are made.  How do we handle them?  Here are two great examples.

At the recent Miss Florida pageant Elizabeth Fechtel, a twenty-year-old University of Florida student from Leesburg was crowned Miss Florida.  What an honor!

A few days later the Miss Florida Organization discovered a tabulation error in the judging. (Florida seems to have trouble counting votes!)  Executive Director Mary Sullivan said the tabulation error was noticed during a routine recount.  A mark on one judge’s ballot was inadvertently overlooked.  The ballots were tabulated again by an independent auditor and confirmed the mistake.

The Miss Florida crown was taken from Elizabeth and given to Victoria Cowen of Panama City.  The response by Elizabeth is inspiring.  She wrote, “I am saddened to say there was an error in tabulation…I am a firm believer that God has a plan and a purpose…Victoria Cowen will be a great titleholder and I hope you all show her the recognition she deserves.”

“There is one idea I want to emphasis:  I was Miss Florida for a glimpse, but more importantly, I have been Elizabeth Fechtel since day one.  A title does not define me.  It opens doors, but it does not dictate who I am and where I am going…I recognize the mistake in the balloting is less important than my choice on how to handle the recovery process.  My choice is to charge forward and make a lasting impact on my community and country, as Elizabeth Fechtel.”

She concluded with a Bible verse, “…we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hardpressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Wow – what a reaction!  What a way to handle a mistake.  What an example of faith.  What an attitude to face all of the ups and downs of life.

In an earlier century a young girl contracted eye disease.  Her parents took her to what they thought was a doctor, but it was a man posing as a physician.  He treated her with the wrong medicine and it blinded her for life.

The young girl was Fanny Crosby.  Instead of being filled with bitter resentment she decided to let her life be full of praise and gratitude.  She said, “It may have been a mistake on the doctor’s part, but not on God’s part.”

Being blind she pursued the opportunity to write and sing hymns of praise.  She embraced the “mistake” as a blessing.  She wrote more than 8,000 hymns – favorites like “Blessed Assurance,” “To God Be the Glory,” and “I Am Thine, O Lord.”  What a way to handle a mistake.

Two great women who teach us how to handle mistakes.  In my book Fanny Crosby “saw” what people with 20/20 vision could never see.  In my book Elizabeth Fechtel did not lose the Miss Florida title – she gained the Miss Number One Human Being title!

Time To Get It Right!!!

Should we say “Under God” in our Pledge and should our coins bear the motto “In God We Trust”?  Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow entered three law suits saying that God should be removed from the Pledge and the coins.  He says the phrase alienates non-religious people in the U. S.

An initial ruling in 2002 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Newdow.  Recently the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed its decision and said that the phrase “under God” can remain in the Pledge of Allegiance because the phrase is religious but does not represent a prayer.  A similar ruling was issued about “In God We Trust” being our motto on our currency because it said the use of “God” is ceremonial and patriotic, but not religious.

I am glad the Court reversed itself, but I regret it was done for the reasons stated.  God has never been just a patriotic or ceremonial term.

Amos wrote, “For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: ‘Seek Me and live’.”  (Amos 5:4) David wrote, “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.”  (Psalm 127:1)  The Bible got it right!

The first pilgrims made it clear that the colonies were being established “to the glory of God.”  The framers of our first Constitution recognized the role of God in our independence.  Benjamin Franklin said, “The longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth:   that God governs in the affairs of men.  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”  Thomas Jefferson said, “The liberties of a nation are secure only when there is a firm conviction in the minds of her people that these liberties are the gift of God.”

The Preamble to the Constitution of each of the fifty states contains some reference to God. 40 states specifically call Him God, while the other 10 refer to Supreme Ruler, Creator, Supreme Being, etc.  Our forefathers got it right!

The debate to remove God was gaining momentum at the turn of this century.  A lot of that quickly changed when 9/11 occurred.  Congressmen and government leaders on 9/12/01 quit debating about the use of God in public settings and joined hands on the Capitol steps and started praying and singing “God Bless America.”  Baseball stadiums dropped the traditional 7th inning “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” and replaced it with “God Bless America.”  It is amazing to me that we even debate this issue.  We are here because of the goodness and grace of God.  We will survive and prosper only as we accept God’s grace and goodness and live appropriately.

When Francis Scott Key penned our National Anthem, he ended that first verse with a question, “O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”  That is a legitimate question to ask today.

Most people don’t know that there are other verses to the National Anthem.  Many think the next verse is “play ball.”

The last verse ends with these words – “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: ‘In God We Trust’.”  Then he ends that verse, not with a question, but a statement.  When we know what our motto is – “In God We Trust” – the future is not a question.  That verse ends with the affirmation “And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

Francis Scott Key got it right!  The Bible got it right!  Our fore fathers got it right!  Isn’t it time that we get it right?

“Open Mic”

Several people requested that I share more about the Coaches’ Conference.  One aspect of a conference is to have an “open mic” session when anyone can stand up with a mic and share anything about coaching, family, their relationship to God, etc.  I think this is the most inspiring and informing benefit of a conference.  An old proverb says “Give people a fact or an idea and you can enlighten their minds:  tell them a story and you touch their souls.”

One coach shared a letter he had just received from an athlete.  He said he had never received a letter from a former athlete.  The young boy had always been in trouble.  The coach took an interest in him, loved him, disciplined him, and told him he believed in him.  The young boy was an excellent athlete.  Years later he writes a letter to the coach thanking him for the difference he had made in his life.  The coach didn’t really realize what he had done for the boy.

Most of the things we teach in life are not in teaching sessions.  Most learning takes place when people just see how we act and react in different situations.  This boy thanked the coach for turning his life around.  He is now engaged in a successful vocation.  He told the coach that he would probably have been dead, or on drugs, or in prison like so many of his friends.  That coach made a difference!

It reminds me that many of us need to take a moment and write a letter or make a phone call to a coach or a teacher that has made a difference in our lives.  When is the last time that you thanked someone for making a difference in your life?

I was so impressed with Chanda Rigby, the new women’s basketball coach at Troy University.  She has a reputation for turning programs around.

At an “open mic” she shared how she got into basketball.  Her dad was a big sports enthusiast and she had two brothers.  One of her brothers was extremely fast and the other was extremely big and strong.  The father would often be with his kids and refer to one of her brothers and say “this is going to be my running back.”  He would refer to the other brother and say “this is going to be my linebacker.”

Chanda had heard him say that several times.  One day as a little girl, after he had referred to his two sons, she asked the question, “Dad, what am I going to be?”  Her dad thought for a moment and said, “You are going to be my basketball player.”

That is how Chanda got into basketball.  It is important to remember what we say to people.  Her daddy spoke empowering words into her life and what a difference that has made.

She had recently coached one of the top Junior College basketball teams in the nation.  When she came to Troy, she asked about the girls being recruited.  She then posed this question, “Can this girl play in a Division I Final Four?”  When her staff indicated that a recruit couldn’t play at that level, Chanda said, “We don’t need to be recruiting her.”  She has set a high standard. She recently signed one of the nation’s top recruits.   I predict that she will soon have Troy in the Final Four!

What story could you tell in a “open mic” session?

Do What Coaches Do!

I love coaches.  They make a difference!  If I had not been a minister, I would probably have been a coach.  Some of the biggest influences in my life were my coaches in junior high, high school, and college.

I have had the opportunity to speak at the Coaches’ Family Conference a couple of times at Black Mountain, North Carolina.  I also had a chance to speak at the worship service for the meeting of the American College Football Coaches’ Association in Nashville, where over 7,000 coaches attend.

The first weekend of June I spoke at a Coaches’ Family Conference for coaches and their families.  It was held at the Blue Lake Camp just south of Andalusia, Alabama.  It was a difference-maker!

Let me tell you about Jimmy Reeves, the coach who put that weekend together.  A Coaches’ Conference at Black Mountain, North Carolina had transformed his life, and he wanted to share it with many coaches in Alabama and West Florida who might not be able to go to Black Mountain.  Here is his story:

“At the age of 38 years old, I suddenly found myself alone and divorced after an eleven year marriage that produced 2 beautiful daughters. I was fortunate to win custody of my girls, ages 6 and 8, but had no idea how I was going to take care of them. I had a great job as head football coach, baseball coach and AD at a 4A high school but my relationship with the Lord had declined as my success as a coach increased. The life that I had dreamed of had turned into a mess.

That summer, John Gibbons invited me to the FCA Coach’s camp in Black Mountain N.C. I was reluctant, to say the least, about attending a “spiritual” camp but I loaded up my girls and headed north. During the camp, God began to open my eyes to what my purpose as a father and a coach really was.

I was amazed to find that there were men who had the same occupation as me that actually put God and family as their main priority in life. Through new relationships with these Christian families, my family began to grow in the Lord. We returned to Black Mountain Coach’s camp for 12 straight years.

There is no doubt in my mind that God used Black Mountain to save my life. My daughters are grown now and I can’t help but wonder if my marriage would have survived if I had been given the opportunity to attend an FCA Coach’s camp that emphasizes relationships with God and family.

Consequently, the Blue Lake Family Camp in Andalusia, Alabama has emerged. We just completed our 4th camp and lives are being changed just like mine was. I thank God every day for not giving up on me and for an invitation to an FCA camp that saved my family.”       Coaches make a difference.  You can participate.  Consider giving a scholarship to some coach and his/her family to attend a Coaches’ Family Camp.  Pray for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes who has such a powerful influence in the lives of coaches.  Contact an FCA staff member from your area and tell them that you are praying for them.  Pray for Coach Les Steckel who is the President of the National FCA organization.  Pray for Dal Shealy who heads up the specialized ministry for college coaches.  Pray for Grant Teaff who is the Executive Director of American College Football Coaches Association.

Do what coaches do – make a difference!