Don’t Pretend

Remember playing the child’s game “Let’s Pretend.”  Each participant would “pretend” to be somebody or something else.  Sadly, it is a game also played by adults.

Some visitors were enjoying the public zoo in the third largest province in China.  They were shocked to discover that the zoo’s lion was actually a dog posing as a lion.  A mother and her young son were observing the “African lion,” but then it starting barking.  The mother said, “The zoo is absolutely cheating us…I paid good money for the tickets and I feel defrauded.”

The zoo keepers admitted that the so-called lion was actually a Tibetan mastiff, which is a large dog with a furry brown coat.  Upon further study it was revealed that other zoo animals had been misrepresented.  Another dog was passed off as a wolf and a white fox was in a leopard’s den.  Two giant sea cucumbers were posing as two snakes in the reptile house.

The explanation was that the lion was away at a breeding facility.  The dog used to represent the lion actually belonged to an employee and was put there for “safety reasons.”  The zoo spokesman said, “We’re doing our best in tough economic times.”

Pretending – trying to fool the public.  The Bible calls it hypocrisy.

Recently two Israelis were indicted in the most successful counterfeit money operation on record. Some of the most authentic $100 bills ever made had been flooding the markets for the last 15 years.  The FBI found the people responsible, which included 13 suspects, $2.5 million in bills, and an elaborate printing press.  The money really looked good and authentic, but it was fake.

Pretending – trying to make something look like something it is not.  The Bible calls it hypocrisy.

I read about a minister in Michigan, whose wife Trudy did not like to go to church.  Trudy saw a lady at Kohl’s that looked just like her.  She asked the lady if she would like to make a hundred bucks a week to impersonate her in church.  The woman accepted her offer.

Trudy’s impostor played the role successfully.  She greeted people, listened to the sermon, took copious notes.  Even her husband Nevin did not know.  She fooled people for over two years and earned almost $10,000!  She was discovered when one day Nevin invited her to the pulpit area for a spontaneous rendition of an old hymn they sang earlier in their ministry.  She was caught.

I guess Trudy will be going back to church.  I feel sorry for her husband (glad he wasn’t a Methodist) because she said, “It was worth every penny.”

Pretending –posing to be someone that she’s not.  The Bible calls it hypocrisy.

A hypocrite is one who wears a mask.  It conceals true identity.  Actually the mask can be taken off and another mask placed on the face so that the person can try to pretend to be multiple people.

Check your money – check your animals – check your wife – check yourself.  Jesus clearly condemns hypocritical pretending.  He describes hypocrites by saying, “They shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public.”  Mark 12:40

Don’t Pretend!

What’s the Score?

We live in a very competitive world.  So much of this competitive spirit plays out in high school, college and professional sports.  If we are not careful, a competitive spirit can override the command of Jesus to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matthew 19:19)

Football has really been big in Mississippi this year.  For a while Mississippi State and Ole Miss were ranked in the top four of all the college football polls.  Nobody ever dreamed of that.

Let me share with you where the real football was played in Mississippi.  In October the Brandon Bulldogs were playing the Northwest Rankin Cougars.  During the first half of the game the Cougars lost their only quarterback to an injury.

Rather than just make it an easy victory, the Bulldogs decided to send one of their two quarterbacks, Mason Mathieu, over to the Cougars in order to level the playing field.  The Bulldogs still won the game, but Mathieu commented, “It was great playing with them.  They’re a great group of guys.”  He did pass for two touchdowns!

But the Brandon Bulldogs won twice – they won not only on the scoreboard, but in the game of life that teaches the importance of people.  Their concern for other people was not negated by an over emphasis on competition.

Back in October the Trinidad and Tobago women’s national soccer team arrived in the U.S. for the World Cup qualifying match.  The T&T coach, Randy Waldrum, realized that his squad did not have enough money for breakfast, or much else.  He simply posted that need on Twitter for some help from the “home folks” in Trinidad and Tobago.

The rival Haitian national team saw the tweet.  The Haitian national team had its own financial woes, but it donated all the $1,316 it had collected through fundraising.  Wow!  The Haitian coach Shek Borkowski said, “My players saw the difficulties faced by T&T.  They wanted to help, so I did what they asked.”

The real winner in the women’s national soccer competition was Haiti, not in the number of goals scored, but in a benevolent gesture that will last a lifetime for those participating.

Whether it is competition at a high school football game or at a World Cup qualifying match, some people learned that winning is more than simply beating someone on the field.  It is also helping a rival team through a tough time.  Solomon writes, “The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life; a wise person wins friends.”  (Proverbs 11:30)

I am very competitive.  This whole idea really convicts me.  At a time in our year when competition dominates the headlines, and some football teams get left out of the play-offs and bowl selection, may we remember Jesus words about how we treat other people is more important than if we score more points than they do.  Christmas is about the greatest win ever when God gave the winning Gift of His Son!

What’s the score in your game of life?

Finish!

It was the most combined yards on one play in a college football game.  I am not sure it is a record, but it probably is – 178 yards.  That’s right 178 combined yards on one play.

It came on Saturday, November 22, when Utah was playing Oregon.  The Utes wide receiver Kaelin Clay made a tremendous run of 79 yards.  He started celebrating a little early and dropped the ball on the one-yard-line.

While Kaelin and his teammates were celebrating in the end zone, an Oregon Duck player, Joe Walker, picked the ball up and ran 99 yards in the opposite direction for the score.  He actually had most of his team escorting him to the end zone.

178 combined yards on one play.  What a picture.  One team is in one end zone celebrating what they thought was a touchdown, but their player failed to finish the run.  The opposing team is in the other end zone celebrating the alert play of capitalizing on somebody’s mistake who celebrated too early and didn’t finish.

Life is about finishing.  It is about completing the task.  It is about going the distance.  99 yards in football doesn’t count if you don’t cross the goal line.

I have seen a lot of races where people start celebrating before they cross the finish line.  Someone recently showed me a video clip of several cases where cyclists, runners, speed skaters, race car drivers, and other athletes started celebrating thinking that they were going to win.  All of a sudden somebody passes them and claims first place.

A lot of sports teams play good for 99% of the game, but they fail to finish.  Look what one second cost Alabama in 2013, and just a snap cost Auburn in 2014.  Both had great teams and great opportunities, but failing to finish cost both teams.

When Paul came to the end of his life, he writes, “I fought a good fight.  I have kept the faith.  I have finished the course.”  (II Timothy 4:7)  Paul finished.

Paul had a lot of opportunities to give up and quit.  He was beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, imprisoned, hungry, rejected, misunderstood – just read the long litany of things that happened to him in II Corinthians 11:23-33.  But none of these things deterred him from finishing his task.

C. S. Lewis once wrote that one of Satan’s greatest strategies is to get Christians to become preoccupied with their hardships and their failures – then Satan will stroll on to victory.  Don’t let anything stop you from finishing strong!

The great old Methodist Preacher Sam Jones once said, “I am never going to stop.  I am never going to quit.  I am going to keep serving and growing until I hear the pearly gates click behind me.”

Do you have some things you need to finish before 2014 ends?  Any unfinished business, dreams, plans, service projects, giving opportunities, ministry commitments?  Finish!

Reverse Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be a tough day to celebrate with integrity because we are a people who have so much.  The more we have, the more difficult it is to express adequately our thanks for what we do have.  The general tendency is not to really appreciate what we have, but complain about what we don’t have.

Somewhere I heard the term “reverse Thanksgiving.”  It is a time when we give thanks in a reverse perspective.  Instead of thanking God for the things we do have, why not thank Him for the things that we don’t have.  That idea intrigued me so I thought I would focus this Thanksgiving season thanking God for some things I don’t have.  I will share a few.  Your list would be different, but could be meaningful.

I am thankful I don’t have a bad job that I hate to go to each day.  I hear some people talk about how much they hate to get up in the morning and go to work.  They look forward to Friday afternoon when they get a bit of a respite before they have to start again on Monday morning.  I love getting up every day and going to work.  I am engaged in a meaningful ministry that is making a difference in Kingdom things.  I am thankful that I don’t have a bad job.

I am thankful that I don’t have poor health.  God blessed me with some wonderful parents who passed on some good genes to me.  I have never been sick very much in my life.  I am thankful that I don’t have poor health.

I am thankful that I don’t have a propensity for gaining weight.  I have always exercised a lot, and nobody enjoys eating more than I.  My good friend Bobby Jack Armstrong had throat cancer and could not eat.  He asked me and a couple of friends to go out to eat with him.  I told him I felt guilty about that but he said, “John Ed I can’t eat but I like to see somebody eat, and I have never seen anybody that enjoyed eating more than you!”  I could make Bobby happy in that respect.

I am thankful that I don’t have a wife who is negative, nagging, unreasonable, or uninvolved in the Christian faith.  I am blessed to be married to a wonderful woman who is thoughtful, industrious, and always ready to help someone in need.

I am thankful I don’t have a family that is “out in the far country.”  I have a lot of friends who spend sleepless nights worrying about extended members of their family.  While I haven’t done the best job of Godly influence, I am a part of a family that is striving to respond to God’s call for their lives.

I am thankful that I don’t have bad, negative friends.  All my life God has blessed me by putting people in my path who have made a profound influence on my life.  I know I didn’t always select them, but I have been abundantly blessed by them.

I am thankful I never served a church that I wanted to leave.  Serving at Capitol Heights, South Brookley, Trinity in Phenix City, and Frazer, has been a real blessing to me.

I am thankful I am not trying to find something to do to occupy my time during retirement.  I am glad I didn’t retire.  I am involved now in a ministry that could be the most fruitful of all my years of ministry.

I am thankful most of all that I am not a member of Satan’s team.  I am blessed to be on God’s team through the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ and for His call upon my life with a purpose that’s so big and exciting that I can’t wait to get up every day.

Having a “Reverse Thanksgiving” has been a good exercise for me.  It is not the only and might not be the best way to celebrate Thanksgiving, but it does give me a fresh perspective.

Have a great reverse Thanksgiving!

Who’s To Blame?

When something negative happens, – we have one of two choices – we can either try to find somebody to blame or we can see how the situation might be used for something constructive.

William Freis lives in Nebraska and has sued Walmart because he felt Walmart was responsible for his wife’s death.  As she was shopping one day the cashier put two 42-ounce cans of La Choy and a 2-pound bag of rice in a plastic bag.  While Lynette was carrying the bag, it ripped and the falling La Choy made a cut on her toe.  He claims it became infected and ultimately resulted in her death 11 months later.  He blames her death on Walmart.

We all remember the blackout during the 2013 Super Bowl in the New Orleans Superdome.  This caused a 34-minute delay in the game.  Some people are blaming that outage on the fact that the Superdome is cursed because it was built on the site of a 19th century cemetery.  I am not sure who San Francisco is blaming for their losing the game!

Some Japanese persons are blaming their fate on the lines in their hands.  They are having plastic surgery to change the lines that are supposedly governing their life.  Plastic surgeon Takaaki Matsuoka charges $1,000 for the 10 minute operation.  He says that most male patients want to change the lines associated with money and business while women want to change their love lines.  He claims that if a woman missed her chance to get married, “we can add another line for marriage.”

Ruben Pavon was caught on a surveillance camera removing a grill and a DVD player from a store named “Finders Keepers.”  He claims that he did not realize he was supposed to pay for the items.  He said that he thought the name of the store, “Finders Keepers,” meant that it was there for the taking.  He is claiming that he is not guilty of shop lifting.  The store owner, Laura Barker, says that if she could find a store that was giving away merchandise, “I’d be there on a regular basis myself.”

William Ilg protested that he was liable for $28,000 he spent one night in a club.  He claimed that the staff at the “Hustler Club” got him so drunk that he was “no longer capable of conducting transactions.”  A New York judge has thrown out his case ruling that the club had no duty “to protect the plaintiff from the results of his intoxication.”

While we might be amused at the above instances sited in the news in recent days, it is a good time to look at our own lives and see if we are placing blame or taking responsibility.

The blame game goes all the way back to the first man and woman, Adam and Eve who disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden.  When God came to confront them, Adam tried to blame Eve and Eve tried to blame the snake. (Genesis 3)

The most positive way to deal with a mistake is to assume responsibility and ask how you might do something creative in that situation.  Fixing the blame doesn’t fix the problem!

Who’s to blame is the wrong question!

What Is Truth?

In today’s society it is becoming more and more difficult to know who is really telling the truth and who can we trust.  This has been so evident during this season of political elections.  You can watch political ads for two candidates running for the same office, and they communicate almost opposite facts.  Which one is right?

The U. S. Supreme Court didn’t help when its decision in 2010 Citizens United helped corporations and unions to influence elections anonymously.  Super PAC’s can give secret cash making it harder to discern truth from fiction.

Recently 1,000 Americans were interviewed in a poll about the trust level of people serving as judges.  Would you believe that Judge Judy, a TV judge, received a higher trust level than any other jurists including the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court!

We have learned so much about all the things that the NSA has done.  Recently Russia’s secret service ordered dozens of electric typewriters because recent revelations about our National Security Agency’s online surveillance program made them doubt the trustworthiness of computer communications.  Are we going back to typewriters?  Going back to truth would be more important than going back to typewriters!

This past year at the G-20 summit the Russians handed out gift bags to world leaders.  It has been discovered that the gift bags contained bugged memory sticks and power cables.  This is the real battle of the spy vs. spy.  Russian said that U.S. was trying to “divert attention” form its own spying.

Recently the al Qaida branch in Iraq and Syria set up a complaints department for “anyone who might have a complaint against any element of the Islamic state.”  They did this because they said they were promising “accountability.”  Do you trust that?

It is easy to get caught up in a culture that doesn’t place a high priority on truth and trust.  I have decided to spend more time going back to the one who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  His truth does not carry with it fiction or a spin.

He also said that we can trust Him.  He doesn’t promise us the absence of tough times and hard knocks, but He does promise us His presence and power to overcome them.  He doesn’t promise us prosperity in financial terms – but He does promise us more of His grace and forgiveness than we can ever receive.  He doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want them answered, but He does answer every prayer with His divine will with our best interest in mind.  There is a contemporary song that says. “When you can’t trace God’s hand, you can trust His heart.”

The greatest question mark of all is death.  People are saying weird things about what happens at death. The real truth is that only Jesus has conquered death and come back to life.  He is telling the truth when He says, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me even though he die shall live.”

We might make some mistakes trusting the wrong advertisements, or politicians, or well-meaning friends – but we cannot afford to make a mistake on trusting the One who said, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.”  Our trust in Him is for this life and for eternity.

That’s the truth.

 

Givers or Takers

People who give are the people who benefit the most in life.  While our dominant attitude appears to be that we need to get what we can get, the key to real life is to give in order to live.

Marie Bell is a kindergarten teacher in Dallas, Texas.  She gives a lot as an educator, but she recently gave a more precious gift.  One day one of her young students, Sean, was late for school.  Upon inquiring she learned that his father had to be rushed to the hospital for a kidney transplant that later had to be abandoned.  Sean was extremely upset.  His father, Marshall Smith was terribly disappointed.

Marie decided to offer one of her kidneys to Marshall, which she did.  In an interview she said, “I wanted Marshall to have a second chance and to see his little boy grow up.”  Marshall’s response was “I didn’t think that God made people like her anymore.”

Does God make people like her anymore?  I have a wonderful friend named Christi Millo who goes to Frazer.  In her Sunday School class one day she learned that one of the fellow members had to have a kidney transplant, but no match could be found.  It was a life or death matter for the class member.

Christi talked with her husband and got his permission to be evaluated to see if she might be a potential donor.  She was.  She gave her kidney to save the life of a fellow Sunday School class member.

Talk about the importance of Sunday School – that is really where people care for each other.  I am glad God is still making people like Christi and Marie.

I love Marines.  I had a chance to visit for a week at an educators’ workshop at Paris Island.  Marines are a special breed of people.

Recently a young Marine Sgt. Jacob Chadwick was diagnosed with kidney failure.  A fellow Marine, 2nd Lt. Patrick Wayland, 24, died in a tragic accident.  Patrick’s parents decided his kidney should go to another Marine.  A Navy doctor quickly found Chadwick by entering “marine need a kidney” on Google.  The death of one Marine saved the life of another.  That really gives new meaning to a phrase the Marines use “I’ve got your back.”  It speaks profoundly about the bond that Marines have for each other.

Most of us may never have the occasion or the opportunity to give an organ.  I hope each of us has signed up for the Organ Donor Bank.  I have.  But there are numerous other ways that we can give.

This is the season of the year when United Way gives us an opportunity to give.  We can help with a financial contribution to bring relief to many people in our area.  While most of us don’t have the talents to meet the needs of hurting people in our area, our financial gift can put people in their path who are trained to help them professionally.

I attended the March of Dimes Citizen of the Year celebration recently.  We were told that nine years ago Chappy’s Restaurant was invited to cater a “breakfast for babies.”  They agreed to do it, then donated all of the food and service.  It raised a lot of money.

Jeff Baranco is the son of one of the owners of Chappy’s.  He and his wife Dawn had a premature baby six years ago.  Special medical technology and equipment were available as the result of much of the money that had been raised by breakfast for babies.  A special mattress, referred to as a “giraffe mattress,” was used by Jeff’s daughter.  Because of the advanced medical equipment, that young baby, Peyton is 6-years- old and doing well today!

Giving always comes back. Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get.  We make a life by what we give.”

Life could be divided into two teams – givers or takers. Which team are we on?

Ministry Recap September – October 2014

During the past two months our ministry has been blessed with some of our greatest opportunities.  God is continually surprising us with the doors that He is opening.  Here is a brief recap.

September 1-11 – I spent these 11 days in New Delhi, India and Chennai, India.  I wrote three blogs about the ministry and training over 2,000 pastors, preaching at a Missions’ Conference, and preaching at two of the twelve worship services in Chennai, in a church that had over 42,000 people present that Sunday.  They average between 4,000 and 7,000 people at each of the twelve services.  They are in the process of moving to the outskirts of the city and have bought land to build a 55,000 seat sanctuary!  The training of the pastors was very meaningful and exciting.  Many of these pastors will go out and start several churches and baptize hundreds of people.  The pastors come twice a year for four sessions.  I will be going back in March and then again in September.  There are websites that contain the actual teachings that we are doing, the strategy, etc.

September 13-16 – I went to Danville, Virginia to preach and train leaders at the Trinity United Methodist Church.  Charles Wickham is the pastor.  I was there four years ago.  I was excited to see many of the things they have incorporated and the tremendous growth that has taken place.

September 19 – I recorded radio messages which are heard each morning on WLWI.  We  have added a radio station in Wetumpka.  These messages also appear on my  Facebook page in audio form each day.

September 21- I preached at Mt. Gillard Missionary Baptist Church here in Montgomery.   Coach Payne, one of the football coaches at Alabama State University, is a leader  there.  The Alabama-West Florida Conference business office has a wonderful lady  Belinda Carnegie who handles all of the insurance, etc. for the pastors in our  Conference.  She is a leader there.   Her husband is the pastor.

September 24 – Had an opportunity to be a part of the Troy University Golf Outing to raise money for various ministries at Troy.  Dr. Jack Hawkins gives great support to this.  We raised a lot of money.  I also prayed that Dr. Hawkins wouldn’t hit anybody with some of his stray golf shots!

September 26-28 – I traveled to Lexington, SC to the Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church.   Jeff Kirsey has been there about 23 years.  There were 80 people attending when he  arrived.  Today they run several thousand each Sunday.  I had the opportunity to meet  with their staff on Saturday.  The worship services on Saturday night and three on  Sunday morning were extremely meaningful.  They are in the process of a huge building  project.

September 30-October 2 – Went to Dallas, Texas to speak at the Christian Men’s Network Summit.  A part of this was to launch a great initiative that deals with child abuse and the problem of fatherlessness.  There were men there from around the world who have great men’s ministries.  Paul Cole is the president of this group and gives great leadership.  As sometimes happens, weather delayed my Thursday evening flight.  I finally got out of Dallas at midnight and arrived in Atlanta at 2:30.  I was able to rent a car and drive on to Montgomery as I had a commitment to speak at 8:00 on Friday morning.  I was just ahead of all of the Ebola scare in Dallas.

October 4-5 – I went to Stuttgart, AR.  David Bush is the pastor.  That church has been one of the biggest supporters of our ministry and has given me a lot of opportunities in the last six years.  Stuttgart is the Duck Hunting Capitol of the World and also the Rice Capitol of the World.  The church there has many tremendous leaders.

October 6 – I went to Little Rock, AR to speak at a wonderful occasion honoring the retired ministers and their spouses from Louisiana.  David Bush raises the money to pay for this meaningful event.

October 10-13 – I traveled to Monroe, LA to the First United Methodist Church.  Rev. Lynn Malone is the senior pastor.  On Saturday morning I met with all of his church leaders.  I preached 3 times on Sunday morning.  I had an opportunity to meet with the staff on Monday.  First Methodist Church is one of the leading churches in Louisiana and I have always heard it referred to as the “flagship church” of the Annual Conference.  Just as I was finishing with the staff on Monday afternoon, a tornado came through.  It took down trees all around us.  I was getting ready to drive back to Montgomery.  I waited for about 2 hours because the storm was going to Montgomery.  I trailed it by about an hour and a half.  It was pouring rain all the way.

October 16 – I went down to Ramer with Doctors Grady Price, Tim Trulove, and Buddy Foy  for the “Good Ole Boys” fish fry.  They invite a couple of hundred men to come  together and fellowship.  They give me an opportunity to say a few words and to thank  God for our country and for our friends.  There is probably more catfish consumed per  person that night than any other place in the South!

As you can see it has been a busy, but very productive time.  I had the opportunity to meet with several different pastors on a one-on-one basis.  I do some coaching by telephone each month with some pastors.  The writing of the weekly blog and the audio devotions don’t come easy for me – they take a lot of preparation.

I am looking forward in November to being with Rev. Tony Hughes up in Chilton County, speaking at a leadership banquet at First United Methodist Prattville, preaching at my brother George’s church in Auburn on November 9, going to Panama City for a church consultation, preaching in Atlanta, speaking to the Montgomery YMCA staff, participating in a missions event at New Water located at Lake Martin, participating in planning for the Billion Soul Initiative and teaching for 3 days at First Baptist Church Tyler, Texas, and preaching at Hutchinson Missionary Baptist Church here in Montgomery.

Thank you so much for your support.

John Ed Mathison

Ready to Roar?

How do you approach death?  The answer to that question has a lot to do with how we approach life and enjoy it.  Death is inevitable.  Statistics show that the death rate is still 100%.  It may come at an expected or unexpected time – but it does come. Here are some varied approaches to death.

An entrepreneur in China has installed headstones in his new graveyard with the names of people still alive – without their consent.  It’s working.  His plots in the cemetery are briskly selling for up to $16,000 a piece.    He says, “The more affluent Chinese people become in this life, the more they are concerned with their final resting place on their journey into the next one.”  That’s strange.

The Lehigh Valley Pennsylvanian IronPigs, the Phillies’ Triple A affiliate, hosted a Celebration of Life Night, which was described as a “once-in-a lifetime giveaway” in which one fan received a full funeral package, valued at nearly $10,000.  This was based on an essay describing his or her ideal funeral service and why he or she “would eventually be deserving.”  That’s really strange.

Prosecutors in Jackson, Michigan recently had to consider what to do with a woman who is a big NASCAR fan.  She was arrested because they found that she had been keeping the body of a dead friend around for 18 months so that she could watch NASCAR races with him!  That’s really, really strange.

In Cincinnati, Ohio, Lauren Hill is dying with brain cancer.  She is a basketball player.  She has recently learned that she has an inoperable, incurable type of brain cancer.  It is called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG).  The doctors have given her a very limited time to live.

Her first college basketball game at Mount St. Joseph was moved from November 15, 2014 at Hiram College to Xavier’s Cintas Center this coming Sunday because of Lauren’s life expectancy and the fact that the Cintas Center seats 10,000 people.  It was sold out in just a couple of hours!  Sunday, Nov. 2, 10,000 people will see her play her first, and maybe only, college basketball game.

Lauren’s approach to death is described when she says, “I asked God what He wanted me to do.  I didn’t know what He sent me here for.  I wanted to know what He sent me here for.  Whatever You sent me here for, God, I’m ready to do.”  She said, “What keeps me going is remembering why I’m here.”

Lauren knows how to live and knows how to die.  She says that she is committed to fulfilling the purpose for which God has placed her here in life.  While many would consider her life an impossibly sad story, Lauren doesn’t choose to look at it that way.  She sees it as an opportunity to serve God!

While taking a recent radiation treatment she listened to Katy Perry sing Roar.  Lauren constantly sings the part of the song that says,     “I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter,      dancing through the fire.  ‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar.”

I wish I could join 10,000 other people Sunday at the Cintas Center to see and hear Lauren roar.  Lauren insists that you don’t have to live long to live triumphantly.  She has lived more in 19 years than most people live in 90 years!

Lauren knows why God put her here, and that is why her life really counts.  Fulfilling God’s purpose is the secret to life and death.  That enables Lauren to Roar!  That’s really, really, really strong!

Ready to Roar?

A Dangerous Prayer

In May of 1999, Randy and Terry Johnson attended a worship service at the River Oak Church of God in Danville, Virginia.  Randy felt really challenged to make his life count for God’s work.  He was convicted in that service of worship and prayed, “God whatever You want me to do, I am willing to do it.”

That is a dangerous prayer.  Randy was a truck driver.  He didn’t have much education.  That afternoon he learned about the largest tornado in recorded history in Oklahoma City, OK.  He borrowed a truck and trailer and helped deliver supplies.  Little did he know how God was going to use that in his life.

Randy and Terry came home and decided to commit their lives to helping people in need.  They started a non-profit crisis response organization known as God’s Pit Crew.  I had an opportunity to visit God’s Pit Crew when I was preaching in Danville, Virginia recently.  Randy is a very humble man.  He describes himself as “an ordinary man who was just willing to be used by God.”

And God has really used him!  God’s Pit Crew today has over 300 volunteers.  The annual average of volunteerism is over 45,000 hours.  They have delivered and helped distribute tens of millions of pounds of relief supplies (water, hygiene items, cleaning supplies, diapers, etc.) into disaster areas.  They cut thousands of trees off peoples’ homes, gutted houses, patched roofs, totally rebuilt homes and churches, and always pray with people and give them a sense of hope in time of need.

Today they have 5 road tractors – 6 box trailers – one fully equipped tool tractor trailer – one lowboy trailer – 2 refrigerated trailers – 1 250K diesel powered generator – 3 gooseneck trailers and one mobile shower/laundry trailer.

God’s Pit Crew has responded to 71 disasters in 23 states in 5 countries.  It has built or rebuilt 21 homes, 5 churches, and one school.  In the last 3 years they have distributed over 20 million pounds of relief supplies to people in need.

Many organizations give them thousands of pounds of supplies that they distribute to 25 non-profit groups in Southern Virginia. I visited the 200,000 square foot warehouse.  It is an amazing thing to see these huge 18-wheelers unloading the food and supplies that have been donated.  Every truckload of supplies and food that comes into the distribution warehouse is prayed over.  These items are organized for distribution.  Every week God’s Pit Crew helps over 21,000 people in Southern Virginia through distribution programs to local non-profit organizations!

There are only six paid staff members and these became necessary because of the coordination efforts.  Of the money that comes into them only 1% goes to administration, 1% to fundraising, and 98% goes to the disaster relief programs of local distribution projects.

I was so impressed with the volunteers.  They pray together for their ministry. They feel they are there because God placed them there and it is an honor to serve Him.  They come from many different churches.  They see that they are a vital part of bringing hope to people who have experienced a disaster.

One man in church on a Sunday morning felt God’s call.  Most people reading this article have far more education and talents than Randy Johnson.  He will tell you that.  His life is a demonstration of what God can do with someone who is totally committed to doing God’s will.

One day God used a little boy to feed 5,000 people.  Today He is using God’s Pit Crew to feed thousands and make a difference.

Where does God want to use you?