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?

Smartshoes

The word smart is used a lot today in technology.  Some new smartphones were just developed by Apple.  Competitors are claiming that their phones are smarter.

There are now smartshoes that will hit the market this month.  It might be the newest thing in technology.  An Indian company, Ducere Technologies, has developed this wireless-enabled shoe called the Lechal.

These new smartshoes will help get you to where you want to be.  It is based on Bluetooth technology that syncs with a smartphone app.  These smartshoes then use Google Maps to vibrate and “tell users when and where to turn to reach their destination.” The shoes not only vibrate to tell you how to get where you need to be, but also record distance traveled and calories burned.

These were originally developed as a useful tool for the blind.  The word lechal literally means “take me along” in Hindi.  Of course it didn’t take long for people to see a tremendous market for people who are sighted.

We all need direction.  The GPS system was developed to give directions, but it is not always accurate.  Sometimes a GPS can be wrong.  Elizabeth Dernbach was working at her coffee shop on the harbor in Alaska.  She looked out one day and saw a car in the water.  It was sinking.  She persuaded someone to dive in, smash the window, and help the driver escape.

The man in the sinking car was using his GPS to get to his destination.  He was driving his car off the ferry.  The GPS led him to make a right turn.  Unfortunately that turn led him into the water!

Where do you get your directions?  Do we listen to what other people say?  Do we try to read some book on an issue?  Do we listen to television?  Do we use our “common sense”?  Do we rely on our conscience?  We all need help when it comes to receiving directions.  We need to be sure that what we are following is correct.

There is a grave epitaph in Indiana which reads:

“Stranger when you pass me by, as you are now, so once was I.                                  As I am so you will be. So prepare for death and follow me.”

A passerby read these words and underneath responded:

“To follow you I’ll not consent, until I know which way you went.                                       Was it assent or descent?”

Each of us needs to follow rather than make our own decisions about what to do.  It is imperative that we pick someone and something that is always right.  The best smartshoes are to turn to the Bible and to put our feet in the footprints of Jesus, who said, “Follow Me.”

There is a beautiful picture of a father who is walking across a field of freshly fallen snow.  He is leaving footprints behind.  His son is carefully putting his foot in each of the footprints in the snow left by his father.  That is a good picture.  Now that boy has on some really smartshoes.  He is following his father.

The best smartshoes are when we follow our Heavenly Father.  His smartshoes are for the blind and for people who have 20/20 vision.

God’s smartshoes will get you where He wants you to be!

 

Do We Have To Consider Changing?

Organizations have two choices – they can keep doing business as they have always done it, (and will probably soon be out of business), or they can constantly examine new ways to make positive changes that will be beneficial in the short term and long term.

Forty-one years ago I moved to Montgomery and the favorite eating place for my kids was Howard Johnson’s.  At that time Howard Johnson’s did more business than Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King combined.  Howard Johnson’s didn’t change – when is the last time that you ate at a Howard Johnson’s?  You probably have had a “Big Boy” or some “finger licking good” chicken lately.

We all can learn from Wal-Mart.  It is the largest producing company in our country.  But it is not satisfied.  They have a new man in charge – Doug McMillon.  He has immediately started changing the culture of being satisfied with minimal growth to an attitude of how can we improve.

In the past Wal-Mart said that bigger stores were better and prices were “always low.”  The new move is to go from those 200,000-square-foot superstores to convenience-type stores at about 10,000 to 40,000 square feet.  They will be moving from the “everyday low prices” model to using a “dynamic pricing” system so the prices can change on fluctuating data and competitive offerings.  He also is focused on  improving the online business.

Experts will tell you that the longer a person is in an organization the more reluctant that person is to initiate change.  McMillon is a “lifer.”  His family moved to the home of Wal-Mart, Bentonville, Arkansas, when he was sixteen.  He started to work at Wal-Mart unpacking boxes in a distribution center.  He has gone from there to become the top executive.

It is interesting to me that McMillon immediately required every executive to read a book, “The Everything Store,” which is the book about Amazon.com and its founder Jeff Bezos.  Surprisingly, Bezos imitated Wal-Mart a few years ago in bringing Amazon to its success.  McMillon was ready for Wal-Mart to learn from the people who learned from Wal-Mart!  Sometimes a competitive spirit blinds us to opportunities to learn from a competitor.

It is also interesting that different emphases will be placed in different markets.  While in the US the new look will be smaller, Wal-Mart will actually place a bigger emphasis on big stores and “everyday low prices” in countries like Brazil and China.  Every place is different.  Figure out the best way to do business in that place.

McMillon requires his top people to visit stores and ask employees and customers simple questions.  From that they make changes.

One of the biggest changes came when they noticed complaints about the Wal-Mart store in Troy, Alabama.  They said a customer named Sherry had talked about shoddy customer service and a dirty store in Troy.  That kind of news spreads fast.  The store manager was replaced and the store changed its DNA to being extremely clean and shopper friendly.  This year they are running 2.4% higher than the “dirty store” which had a negative 3.3%!

I have been excited in this leadership ministry because I have been invited to so many churches that are doing really well, but want to do better.  It is tough to work with a church that is declining and reluctant to change.  I have been able to consult with and work with leaders in many churches to “go to the next level.”

Any organization – church, business, non-profit organization, sports team – cannot continue doing things the way they have always done them.  Scott Mushkin of Wolfe Research has analyzed the new Wal-Mart philosophy and says “Doug McMillon is there to bring Wal-Mart into the 21st century.”  Many organizations (especially churches) need to get into at least the 20th century – but it takes a lot of vision and planning to function in the 21st century!

Wal-Mart can teach us all about change!

A God-Sized Vision

Ministry in India – Part III

During the past two weeks I have written brief articles about my involvement in teaching and training pastors in India as a part of the initiative to start 5 million churches and win 1 billion people to Christ by 2020.  This was the vision of Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade.  He invited a group people to help carry out this vision.  I have been privileged to participate in the planning and execution of the plan to bring about this God-size vision.

Several people have asked questions after reading about India.  India was part of the responsibility for which I volunteered.  The general plan is to go into an area and train pastors over a two year period.  They will meet twice a year for two and a half days and take ten core courses each session.  At the end of the four sessions they will have taken forty courses and will receive a certificate.

In preparation for this plan many leaders around the world were invited to write lessons on specific topics.  It was determined that there were five areas where training was necessary.  These five areas are:  Leadership Development, Global Missions, Church Multiplication, Evangelism & Discipleship, and Visionary Networking.  There are core courses in each of these areas, plus electives.  Each course is 90 minutes long and broken into 6-minute segments.

These courses are now being translated into all of the languages where pastors will participate.  This is a tremendous expense, but will pay eternal dividends.

The two hubs in northern and southern India were launched in September.  I was there to participate.  The last couple of weeks I have written about the 800 pastors who came to New Delhi.  We also had 1,150 pastors come to Chennai.  I will be going back to India each six months for three more sessions together.  The plan is to have the same teachers teach the same students over the two year period.

The courses are excellent.  They have been taught by people like Howard Hendrix, Leonard Sweet, Adrian Rogers, David Mohan, etc.  You can go to the website www.globalchurchlearningcenter.com and see the courses offered and the people who wrote them.  The subscription to all of the courses is a one-time $500 commitment.  The pastors who take the courses will be offered them free.  Since I wrote one of the courses, you can access all of the courses by using my initials “JEM” as the promo code and you can receive all of the courses for $95.  These could provide excellent materials for Sunday School teachers, small groups, pastors, etc.

Being a part of this Billion Soul Initiative is exciting.  We have six years until the year 2020 to make the vision a reality.  I am going to be committing a portion of my time to that.

It would be easy just to let someone else do it.  It takes about 33 hours to get from Montgomery to Chennai.  It is a large expense that our ministry never anticipated, but I and my Board feel that this is one of the best expenditures of finances that will reap eternal dividends.

There is no paid staff for this Billion Soul Initiative.  Everyone is a volunteer.  Each volunteer pays his own expenses and expenses associated with the teaching event.

I am so appreciative to people who pray and support this financially.  I don’t know of a better expenditure of your time to pray for this Initiative and I don’t know of any place that money could be used more effectively than in this endeavor.

After spending 10 days in India and witnessing the rapid, passionate growth of pastors there, I am more convinced than ever that starting 5 million churches and winning 1 billion people to Christ by 2020 is a reachable goal.  I know Dr. Bill Bright is in heaven smiling, but more importantly I know that God is happy to see this large contingent of people who are serious about carrying out His Great Commission.

God loves and blesses God-sized visions!

WOW – Worship

India Ministrry – Part II

40 years ago David Mohan started a church in Chennai, India.  That church has continued to grow until today it is one of the leading churches in the world.  Each Sunday he has 14 worship services beginning at 5:00 am.  In September, I preached at the 10:30 to 12:00 worship service and the 4:30 to 6:30 afternoon worship.  They average between 4,000 to 7,000 people at each worship service!

The best way to describe worship is WOW!  The sanctuary seats 5,200 people.  Every seat was taken with people sitting on the floor and many standing around the walls.  A fire marshal in the U.S. would have been extremely busy at New Life in Chennai.

The first overflow auditorium that seats 1,200 people was full.  The second overflow room seats about 900, and it was full.  They have screens set up outside for people who can’t get into any of those three venues.  They had over 42,000 people attend worship that day!

Worship isn’t convenient for the people.  The church has only one and a half acres.  There are no parking places.  People come by public transportation.  As I left the 10:30 worship service, outside the building it looked like a college football game.  There were buses lined up to give transportation for people who had been attending church.  There was another huge set of buses that were bringing people to the next worship service.

In traveling from the hotel to the church at 10:15 on Sunday morning, we suddenly encountered a traffic jam.  I asked the driver if there was a wreck up ahead.  He comment was, “No, the church is about a quarter of a mile away and the traffic jam occurs at the ending of each worship service and the beginning of the next worship service.”  They have a lot of policemen directing the traffic and allowing the people to get to public transportation.

I also preached at the 4:30 worship service.  It started raining pretty hard about 4:00. Since many of the people travel on motor scooters, I figured that the rain would deter a lot of people from coming to worship.  I was wrong again.  Rain didn’t seem to affect the attendance.

New Life has sent out 150 missionaries from the local church in recent years.  They came back for a missions’ conference in September.  I had the opportunity to speak to the missionaries on Saturday, then speak at their missions’ rally on Saturday night. The New Life Church took pledges to support their missions.  The witness of the missionaries were so compelling I felt it a privilege to make a financial pledge for their mission work!

The missionaries taught me something about prayer.  It wasn’t just something that they casually do.  The first prayer request was from a missionary who said his two nieces had been kidnapped by terrorists.  They had been given three days to pay a ransom or the girls would be killed.  The missionary asked for prayer.  Wow!  There was intense prayer.  The other requests centered around fellow missionaries who were in prison, some who had been beaten, etc.  They actually had a special time to pray for all of the churches around the world that are being persecuted.

On Monday we began the Pastors’ Conference.  There were 1,140 pastors who came for training.  Like the pastors in northern India, they listened intently, took copious notes, and were eager to learn.  I’m scheduled to go back to teach 3 more times in the next 2 years.

It took me about 33 hours to go from Montgomery to Chennai.  You lose a lot of sleep and don’t eat much, but my life was refreshed by Christians who really know what it means to live out Christian commitment and to be faithful to carry out the Great Commission.

WOW!!

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The preparation period is now!

R.S.V.P.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Football Fan – Faith Fan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s game time!