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!

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?