Promise Keepers

Ben Moser graduated from high school last month.  He was an outstanding student.  He was very popular as he was the high school quarterback.  Ben made a promise when he was in the fourth grade to his friend Mary Lapkowicz.  He promised he would take her to his senior prom.  Now Mary has Down syndrome.  Moser had always looked after Mary.  He included her in games and social functions.

Mary had to transfer schools in the sixth grade.  The two fell out of touch and didn’t see or talk to each other for several years.  But last month Moser remembered his promise.  He was able to contact Mary and ask her to be his date for the senior prom.  Mary got a flower, a lot of balloons, and all her friends were there.  Some people were surprised at Ben’s selection for a date – but only those who didn’t know him well.

Ben could have had a date with any girl in school but he had made a promise to Mary – and he kept his promise.  When quizzed about it he simply said, “I promised her.  I kept my promise.  It was the right thing to do.  You should always do what’s right.  It is as simple as that.”

God is always faithful in His promises.  He never breaks a promise.  You can stand – put your whole weight – on His promises.  The Gospel hymn affirms “Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, by the living Word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God.”

Samuel reminds us that the promises of the Lord are always true.  (II Samuel 22:31)  David echoes this reality of how God’s promises are true in Psalm 18:30.  The greatest promise God made was in the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.  Through Jesus God promised that we all might all have life and have it abundantly.  God’s promises are not just for this life, but for eternal life.  John says, “This is a promise which He himself made to us – eternal life.” (I John 2:25)  James makes it clear that God makes a promise that through Him we can “be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which He has promised to those who love Him.” (James 2:5)

God always keeps His promises – the real question is whether or not we keep the promises we make to Him. (Tweet this)  How many times have we been in a tough situation and made promises to God that if He would get us out of that situation, we would do certain things.  Do we keep those promises?

We make a promise when we are baptized and joined the church.  The promise is to confess our faith in Jesus Christ and to be faithful disciples.  In the United Methodist Church we make that explicit by promising to be a part of the church through our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.  Those are promises.

Each of us who was ever married has made a promise to our spouse.  It was not a conditional promise, but an unconditional promise.  That promise specifies that we take our spouse “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish.”  That is a huge promise!

One of the great ministries of my lifetime is Promise Keepers.  Thousands of men gathered to focus on keeping promises.  At Frazer we carried a caravan of buses to Indianapolis and to Atlanta to participate.

It is simple – keep your promise.  Be a Promise Keeper!

Funeral Focus

Funerals are a reality in our culture today.  This isn’t really any different from years past.  Everyone will die.  All cultures have some form of expression and focus to acknowledge the death of a person.  The Christian focus is on a celebration of life to come.

The attendance at funerals is always interesting to see.  I am oftentimes surprised, both positively and negatively at the number of people who attend.  Will Rogers once said that the biggest factor determining the number of people who attend your funeral will be the weather.

An interesting thing just occurred last month in a rural part of China.  The Chinese government is forbidding strippers from performing at funerals in the country.  They have called the burlesque send-offs “uncivilized.”  Evidently family members hire strippers to attract large crowds to funerals.  They think a large attendance at the funeral is a way of guaranteeing good fortune for the deceased in the afterlife.

Part of this new crackdown by arresting strippers and their employers is a result of the “Culture Ministry.”  The Culture Ministry said, “This type of illegal operation disrupts the order of the cultural market.”  They should also have said something about social morals.

Britain has also recently had an interesting twist to funerals.  In order to get more people to come, you can hire weeping professional grievers for wakes and funerals.  You order them from “Rent-A-Mourner.”  The cost is $68 per head.  The rented mourner will read up on the deceased’s life story “so they converse with other mourners with confidence.”  That is sad.  Yogi Berra always had a lot of interesting things to say.  One of his best was, “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours.”

Some funerals in today’s culture are interesting.  They are often eloquent eulogies and high tributes to the poor soul in the casket, or urn.  Upon hearing the eloquent things said about the deceased, some attendees wonder if they are at the right funeral.

A good Jewish friend shared with me recently about his father’s attending a funeral of a friend.  The presiding Rabbi told of so many extremely good qualities (greatly exaggerated) of his deceased friend that he told those sitting around him that he needed to be excused.  When asked why, he said, “I want to peep in the casket to see if that’s my friend.  I might be at the wrong funeral.”

Abraham Lincoln once listened to all the good things said at the funeral of one of his generals. Lincoln observed, “If he had known he’d get a funeral like this, he’d have died much sooner.”

The important focus about a funeral is not how good the deceased looks, or the quality of the music, or the cost of the casket, or the flower arrangements, or the eloquence of the eulogy.  The focus is not about how many people are coming, but where the deceased is going!

Jesus said, “”I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25) Paul sounded the victory for the Christians, “O death, where is your is your sting?  O grave, where is your victory? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Focus – Christians never see each other for the last time.

Imposters

I love doctors.  Whenever I go to a church to speak I always like to know where the nearest doctors are.  At my age, that is an important thing to know!

I am glad I have good doctors.  I surely don’t want somebody posing as a doctor who really doesn’t know and practice medicine.

A Florida teenager recently went into the St. Mary’s Medical Center in Palm Beach wearing a lab coat and a stethoscope.  He was just pretending to be a doctor.  He actually was there for a month before he was discovered!

One day a patient just made the comment that he saw a very young-looking doctor in the exam room.  A real doctor, Dr. Sebastian Kent, confronted the young man and asked him who he was and he said “Dr. Robinson.”  When he started asking a few questions he knew that he was an imposter.

Dr. Kent said, “I thought I was really getting old, because these young doctors look younger every year.”  It doesn’t matter to me how young or how old you are, I want to know that when you have a stethoscope and lab coat that you are the real deal.

It is amazing how easily fooled we can all be.  About six months ago a Harvard researcher wanted to see if he could publish something that had no relevance to truth, but would appear sophisticated.  He used a random text generator to write about a phony study.  It really was just gibberish.  He presented it for publication.  Would you believe that it was accepted by 17 medical journals!  He entitled the study “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.”  17 medical journals!

A few years ago Ferdinand Waldo Demara, Jr., was arrested – for the twelfth time.  He was known as “The Great Imposter.”  He actually was a school dropout, with no credentials or qualifications.  He had posed and worked as a university vice-president, psychology professor, a Trappist monk, assistant warden for a Texas prison, an auditor for a bank, flew commercial airlines for two months, and as a surgeon in the Canadian Navy.

He was a clever imposter.  Once in Georgia the police were preparing to arrest him.  He showed up with a badge and false identification papers from Texas.  He had an authentic arrest warrant for himself and requested that the Georgia officers let him accompany them to arrest Ferdinand.  That gives new meaning to the phrase “Where’s Waldo?”

Sports’ has its imposters.  Last year Ridgeway High in Memphis was eliminated from the State playoffs when they discovered that a senior forward was actually a 22-year-old man who had had a woman pose as his mother and submit a fake transcript to the school.

Don’t be fooled in life.  There are imposters in all facets of life.  Satan is the biggest imposter.  Look out for “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”  Timothy warns that “evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse.” (II Timothy 3:13)

There is no place for imposters in the Christian community.

 

Lifelong Learning

Learning is a lifetime process.  Whenever we cease to learn, we begin to die.

In May 2015, Anthony Brutto graduated from West Virginia University.  He is 94-years-old.  He started college in 1939, when tuition was just $50.

After going to college for three years, he was drafted and served in the Army Air Corps as a mechanic.  Brutto wanted to get his education, so he returned to college, but had to drop out when his wife became ill.  He worked as a machinist for most of his life before recently deciding to go back and get his diploma.  He said, “It was always important to me to graduate.”

Anthony said that he never quit learning, but he wanted a degree that showed that he could still learn.  He was asked about a master’s degree, but he indicated that he was 94-years-old and wanted to take a break and do some learning on his own.

Priscilla Sitienei is a 90-year-old Kenyan who never had a chance to go to school as a child.  At 90-years-old she decided she needed to learn to read.  She has just enrolled in a local elementary school where she is studying math, English, physical education and drama along with several of her great-great-grandchildren.  Priscilla said, “I want to inspire children to get an education.  Too many older kids are not in school.  They tell me they are too old.  I tell them, that I go to school and so should you.”  Learning is a lifelong process.

Contrast Anthony Brutto and Priscilla Sitienei with Tanishq Abraham.  In May 2015, Tanishq graduated from American River College in Sacramento, California, along with 1,800 other students.  The amazing thing is that Tanishq is only 11-years-old!

Tanishq said, “It feels good to graduate.”   He earned three associate’s degrees in math and physical science, general science, and foreign language studies.  That is not bad for an 11-year-old!

He was home-schooled by his mother.  He graduated from high school at age 10.  He had already been taking classes at American River College since he was 7-years-old.

That is a pretty good range of graduates, Anthony and Priscilla in their 90’s and Tanishq Abraham at 11.  I expect all of us would fit somewhere in between.  The important thing is they all were learning at their given age.

One of the challenges for graduating in 2015 is that this year’s graduating class from college in the most indebted in history.  Students graduating this year owe a total of $56 billion in student loans.  About 71 percent of all college graduates took out loans.  The average loan was $35, 051 each.  Compare this to twenty years ago when only 58 percent of students took out loans and owed less than $20,000 at graduation.

This indicates that students better make a good application of their learning.  Education is not just facts that we learn, but how we apply them in specific situations.  The smartest people are not always those who have the most degrees, but those who apply what they learn.  Paul told Timothy “Study to show yourself approved a workman who is not ashamed…” (II Timothy 2:15)

Keep learning!

Time Management

A man walked into Ben Franklin’s bookstore and inquired about a certain book.  The clerk said, “The book is $1, Sir.”  The customer continued haggling over the price, but the clerk assured him that that was the correct price.  The customer insisted on talking with Ben Franklin directly.

Ben Franklin stopped his work and walked out into the store.  The man said, “What is the price of this book?”  Franklin answered, “$1.25.”  The man was confused and said, “Well it was only $1 a few minutes ago.  Tell me again what is the price of this book?”  Ben Franklin said, “It is $1.50.”  The customer said he didn’t understand why the price of the book kept going up.  Ben Franklin said, “The reason the price is higher is that you keep haggling over the price and you are wasting my time and time is the most valuable thing I have.”  Bear Bryant said, “If you hang around people who waste time – they will waste your time.”

Time is extremely valuable.  It doesn’t matter by what increment we measure time, each increment is valuable.  Someone has suggested that we can understand the value of time in different increments by the following exercise.

  • To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.
  • To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gives birth to a premature baby.
  • To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask people who are waiting for an important announcement.
  • To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask the person who missed the plane.
  • To realize the value of ONE SECOND, as the person who avoided an accident.
  • To realize the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who finished second at the Talladega 500 or won a silver medal at the Olympics.

Because of its immense value some of us try to save time.  We use that term quite often about different ways to save time.  That is helpful, if we know what we are going to do with the time we save.

There is a story of a Chinese student who was riding with an American driver who was determined to beat an approaching train at the crossing.  The American driver said, “Unless we beat that train we will be delayed by 3 minutes.”  Very foolishly the driver was able to beat the train to the crossing and barely missed a crash by a few seconds.  Observing that foolish stunt that the American driver pulled, the Chinese student asked the driver, “Now what are we going to do with the 3 minutes we just saved?”

Use your time wisely.  Will Rogers said that we can spend half of our lives trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.

Be careful not to be fooled by looking at the amount of time something takes to determine how many meaningful things happened in that length of time.  This can be especially true in sports.

Look at your average baseball or football game.  An average three-hour baseball game contains only 17 minutes and 58 seconds of action such as pitches, balls in play, running, and throws.  Out of the three hours, there are only 17 minutes and 58 seconds of real action.  That is better than the average football game, which is determined to have only 11 minutes of action time.

Manage wisely one of the most valuable things you have – your time.

 

March – May 2015 Recap

Dear Friends,

You form the base of people who support this ministry financially and prayerfully.  I want to share with you how your resources have been used during the last three months – March, April, and May.  Here is a brief recap.

  • Preached in 9 different churches in 4 states including Methodists, Baptists, and Assembly of God.  Each church is unique.  I preached at the largest attended Methodist Church in our Annual Conference – Frazer and at my brother George’s church in Auburn on two different Sundays.  I preached in the Hardaway Baptist Church for the 170th anniversary.  The church only has worship once a year for homecoming, but they over 150 people present.  I preached in one church that was celebrating the reworking of its stain glass windows, and I preached at a homecoming at my Dad’s former church in Panama City.
  • Spent two weeks in India training pastors.  India Christianity cannot be described by additions to the church, but by multiplication!  I spent a week in Delhi and a week in Chennai.  There were hundreds of pastors present, many of whom have started multiple churches and won hundreds of people to Christ since I last was with them last September.  I again preached in Chennai at a church that had over 43,000 people present on Sunday in seven different worship services.
  • Officiated at five weddings.
  • Officiated at four funerals.
  • Had unique experiences to speak at the Troy Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting Awards Banquet and at the National Day of Prayer Mayor’s Conference for the Mayors of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and the Gulf Coast, and a Men’s Rally in Andalusia.
  • Consulted with two churches and served as a coach for two pastors.
  • Prepared and published 13 devotional blogs for newspapers and email lists.
  • Recorded and aired 60 radio devotionals and also posted them on Facebook.
  • Spoke at 11 different business events.
  • Participated in conference calls with pastors and lay leaders who are developing a strategy for the United Methodist General Conference which meets in 2016.
  • Consulted with 3 different non-profit ministries.
  • Spent 4 days in New York City with 3 grandsons who have turned 13 in the past year.  This may have been the most exhausting days trying to keep up with them, but also the most enjoyable, productive, and meaningful days.

I have some great opportunities coming up this summer.  Please thank God for the opportunities that He is providing, and pray that our ministry will be responsive and faithful in meeting these opportunities.

Thank you so much for your support.

For the Cause of causes,

John Ed Mathison

What Time Is It?

Someone has put together the following scenario.  What if you had an account at a bank that would credit your account each morning with $86,400?  It would not carry over a balance to the next day because it deletes whatever part of the balance you didn’t use that day.  I expect we all would try to draw out every cent before the sun set.

There is such a bank – it is called TIME.  Each morning it gives you 86,400 seconds.  Each night it writes off everything that you did not invest for a good purpose.  It never carries a balance.  It allows no overdraft.  Each day it opens a new account for you.

You can’t borrow from yesterday’s account.  You can’t put aside a little of that time for tomorrow’s account.  You have to live on today’s deposits.  That makes it awfully important to invest wisely how we spend every second.

We invest in a lot of scientific research on keeping time accurately.  It was just released in April 2015, that we have a new atomic clock that is so accurate that it will not gain or lose one second in the next 15 billion years!  Now that is accurate!  No worry about correct time.  The important thing is how well do we use our time, even if we might today be keeping it inaccurately.

I am not good with technology.  Every six months we have to change our clocks involving Daylight Savings Time.  I never can remember how to change the clock in my car.  My brother George has the same challenge.  He told me not to worry about it because he said, “John Ed, at least, your clock in your car will be accurate six months out of the year.”

How we use each second is oftentimes the difference in doing something significant, or missing out.  Sometimes it is the difference in finishing first or second.  Alabama is famous in the NASCAR world for the running of the Talladega 500.  That is big in our state.  Do you realize how close those races are?  They drive those cars for 500 miles, and the difference in first and second place is less than one second.

In 2011, the margin of victory for Jimmie Johnson at Talladega was .002 seconds.  Now a second is very short.  This is not a tenth of a second, nor a hundredth of a second, but one thousandth of a second.  That is a close margin.

In 2010, Kevin Harvick finished first by a margin of .011.  That is less than a tenth of a second.  In 2002, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won in .060.

Time is valuable.  You have as much time today as anybody else.  Don’t waste it or use it unwisely today.  Time is a real treasure you have. Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  Today is a gift.  That is why it is called “the Present.”

Some phrases we use are “killing time” – “spending time” – “passing time.”  I think the best phrase could be “investing time.”  Ephesians 5:15 says, “Be careful how you live, not as unwise people but as wise making the most of time.”

What time is it?  It’s time to be wise with our time!

Things That Never Happened Before

Haven’t most things happened that could happen in sports – especially in sports like professional golf, professional basketball, and professional baseball?  Those sports have been around a long time and a lot of things have happened – any room for something new?  Last Saturday and Sunday, May 16 and 17, something new happened in each sport.

I was very interested in the pro golf Players Championship on Sunday because of the charge that Rickie Fowler was making.  A couple of young golfers in the Frazer family know him and have played against him in college or on the professional tour, and have said great things about him.  He is a class young man.  He is a fine Christian.  He won the Players Championship in a 3-way playoff.

Actually he was so far behind in the final round that his mother, sister and college coach left for the airport to catch a plane.  Rickie caught fire on the 14th hole and started an eagle and birdie barrage like pro golf has never seen.

Rickie Fowler went five under par on the final four holes of the Players Championship.  It was the lowest score for a winner over the last four holes of an event since the PGA Tour began tracking hole-by-hole scores.  That had never happened before in professional golf.  They did send a car and an escort to the airport and his mother, sister and coach got back in time to see him win the playoff hole.

On Sunday the Los Angeles Clippers were playing the Houston Rockets in Game 4 of their series.  The Rockets decided to intentionally foul the Clipper’s center DeAndre Jordan.  It was reminiscent of the “hack a Shaq” strategies against Shaquille O’Neal a few years ago.

DeAndre Jordan was fouled so much that he shot 28 free throw attempts in the first half.    No pro basketball player has ever shot that many free throws in one half.  Jordan only hit 10 or the 28 foul shots, but the strategy didn’t ultimately work as the Rockets lost 128-95.  But something new happened that has never happened before.

On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Pirates were playing the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Cardinals had runners on second and third bases with no outs.  The Cardinals’ Yadier Molina hit a line drive.  It was caught by Pittsburgh second baseman Neil Walker.  He threw to the third baseman Jung Ho Kang to double off the runner at third.  Kang then threw back to Walker who stepped on second to retire the runner there who had failed to tag up.  It was scored 4-5-4.  In all of baseball history there had never been a second to third to second triple play.

As a sports fan it amazed me that three things in three different sports that had never happened before could occur on the same weekend.  The odds of that happening are unbelievable.

Has God done everything He is going to do today?  Are there new things that have never happened before that God wants to do?  Is there something in your life – your church – your family that has never happened before?  If new things happen in baseball, golf, and basketball – think about what God might be planning to do that would be far more unbelievable (if we believe) than in sports.

The psalmist David talks about a “new song.” (Psalm 40:3) Paul talks about the possibilities of “a new person in Christ.” (II Corinthians 5:17) The Bible is filled with examples of God’s doing new things.

You fill in the possibilities.  God’s possibilities for new things in our lives today are far greater than birdies, triple plays, or foul shots.  God can redefine what is possible!

Dead or Alive?

Are you dead or alive?  Is it hard for people to tell?

Janina Kolkiewicz is a 91-year-old Polish woman.  In January 2015 she had a near-death experience.  She woke up one day in a body bag placed in cold storage at the morgue.  She had been there for 11 hours.

The family had discovered her lifeless body and a doctor actually pronounced her dead.  Some of the people working at the morgue noticed that the body bag started moving.  That would be an interesting experience – especially if you are working alone!  After observing it for a little while one person opened the body bag and discovered that Janina was very much alive.

She was complaining about being cold.  The first thing she wanted was a hot bowl of soup.  People thought she was dead but at 91-years-old, she was still alive.

A lot of people have some challenges with the IRS.  Most folks are trying to find some way not to file tax returns, but a 94-year-old World War II veteran, Siegfried Meinstein, has been trying to file a return. The IRS won’t let him because they insist that he is dead.

Siegfried is very much alive.  Only the government is declaring him “deceased.”  He actually received three letters from the IRS insisting that he is “deceased.”  Now that could be a bit unsettling.  Siegfried’s son told him that he ought not let the IRS upset him.  He made a very philosophical statement when he said, “Eventually they’ll be right.”

His son is correct.  Every person will one day be deceased.  The Bureau of Statistics in Alabama still says that one-out-of-one will die.  Nobody will escape it.  The comedian Woody Allen once said that he didn’t mind the thought of dying – he just didn’t want to be there when it happened.  He will be.

I heard a cute story about a first grade class that had been photographed.  The teacher was trying to persuade each child to buy a copy of the group picture.  The teacher said, “Just think how nice it will be to look at when you are all grown up and say ‘There is Jennifer. She is a lawyer.  There is Michael. He is a doctor.’”  About that time a small voice at the back of the room rang out and said, “And there is the teacher. She is dead.”

But death doesn’t have the last word.  That is reserved for God who gave us life to begin with.  Billy Graham said, “One day you will hear that Billy Graham has died.  Don’t believe it.  On that day I will be more alive than I ever will be!”

Jesus promises, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.”

While we don’t like to talk about death, it is a reality that each of us will one day face.  I just want to make sure that I live life fully before death comes.  I don’t want to wind up in a cold morgue in a body bag while I am still alive.  I don’t want to have to try to prove to the IRS that I am alive – I just want to keep paying my taxes and using the rest of my money for something that really counts!

When I die I want to know that I will continue to live.  Jesus has that answer!

Answered Prayers

In 2014, 35-year-old Asia Ford, a Kentucky mother with three children, began experiencing serious health problems because she was overweight.  She knew she needed to do something so she started losing weight.  She lost 217 pounds!

She decided it was time for her to run a 10K race.  She entered.  As she was coming down the final stretch she began crying because she was afraid she was about to pass out.  At that time Louisville Police Lt. Aubrey Gregory came up beside her and started encouraging her.  He kept telling her that she could do it.  It changed her whole attitude.

Asia completed the race.  She said, “I asked ‘God, please let me take a few more steps.  Right when I said that, God brought this man.  He gave me the encouragement to do it.”

Isn’t it great that in a time of need God puts somebody in our path as an answer to prayer?   The problem is a lot of people are in need and praying for help, and God has somebody picked out, but that person doesn’t respond.

One of the rapidly growing sports today is women’s fast pitch softball.  I like it because the players don’t waste time between pitches.  It is a fast game.

Last year Florida Southern College, an excellent Methodist school, was playing Eckerd College.  Florida Southern was leading, but then the batter for Eckerd hit a game-winning homerun.  As the batter started rounding the bases, she all of a sudden started crying and limping badly.  Would you believe that her opponents came out and gave her a hand in completing the trip around the bases?

The pitcher for Florida Southern, Chelsea Oglevie, said, “It wasn’t until she got to the middle of first and second base that I realized she was sobbing.  We helped her. All I knew is we were doing the right thing.”

What if more people did the right thing?  In the heat of competition, Chelsea helped out the opponent who had just hit her pitch for the game-winning homerun.  I don’t know softball rules, so I don’t know what would have happened if the batter had simply fallen between first and second and could not have completed the bases.  Chelsea didn’t even ask that question – “she just did the right thing.”

When World War I came a young traveling preacher named Oswald volunteered to go as a Chaplain to the troops.  He offered a daily teaching for them.  In 1917, he died after an emergency appendectomy.  He was only 41-years-old.

His bride, Gertrude, could take dictation at over 150 words per minute.  She listened to his devotional thoughts, and each day wrote down all of his teachings.  After he died, she started typing out all those notes that she had taken.  She put them into a little book which today is one of the most famous devotional books.  That young preacher was Oswald Chambers, and his wife Gertrude put together “My Utmost for His Highest.”

Gertrude was there to perform a great service to her husband Oswald.  Sometimes you don’t even have to ask for someone to help you – God just puts somebody in that place.

God always puts somebody in place as an answer to a prayer need.  You might be that answer!