How To Win Over Sin

People stand in line to be nailed to a cross and crucified. That’s right. They think it will relieve them of their sins.

This occurs in Pampanga province of the Philippines during Holy Week. Actually each person only remains on the cross for a few minutes. There are so many requests to be a part of this ceremony that a person has to wait at least two years for a turn. It has been stated on national television, “Those who participate have their sins for the past year forgiven.”

I have been to the Philippines and witnessed similar ways in which people have ceremonies to beat their bodies to try to drive the sin out. Many people are severely injured. They think that their suffering will help their sins leave them.

The good news is that we don’t have to hang on a cross or have our bodies beaten. It is not some self flagellation, or punishment to our bodies, or offering some kind of animal or monetary sacrifice. It has already been done for us by Jesus Christ. The cross is the answer to the forgiveness of our sins. A great hymn says:

“Jesus paid it all,

All to Him I owe;

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow.”

I also had a chance to go to Macao, which is a Portuguese providence on the border of China. It is known for its sinful vices. It is called the sin city of the world.

The interesting thing is that the highest point in Macao is a massive cathedral that has been destroyed, except for one wall. On the top of that high wall is a huge bronze cross. The highest point in Macao is the cross! While below there is so much that symbolizes sin – the answer to sin is still in that cross pointing to heaven.

John Bowring saw this cross in Macao and wrote the following great hymn that we sing:

“In the cross of Christ I glory,

Tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time;

All the light of sacred story

Gathers round its head sublime.”

When Jesus lifted his voice from the cross and said, “It is finished,” it was not a statement that God’s plan had been defeated. Jesus knew that death was near and he also wanted to affirm that the last obstacle has now been hurdled and the last enemy destroyed. “It is finished,” announced that God had opened the doors of Heaven for everyone who would receive the forgiveness offered by His Son.

“I must needs go home by the way of the cross,
There’s no other way but this;
I shall ne’er get sight of the Gates of Light,
If the way of the cross I miss.”

Jesus died for every person. We can’t earn the love and grace that He has shown to us. We can receive it. When we receive the gift of forgiveness offered in the cross on Good Friday, we celebrate with all the company of Heaven on Easter singing “He’s Alive.”

You can experience a win over sin today!

Who Won March Madness?

What determines who won March Madness? Was it the most points scored? Was it the most money made by coaches and schools? Was it the TV ratings for a network? Was it the clever commercials? Was it Warren Buffet? Or could winning really be something else?

If it was the most points scored in the final game, UConn won the March Madness. If it is the most money made, the coaches and schools won, but the players lost. The four coaches in the Final Four are making an average of $3.1 million from their schools and will together make over $1 million dollars in bonuses covered by their contracts. It is estimated that each school who played in the “big dance” received a $1.5 million benefit. The NCAA could be a big winner as sports in college is an $11 billion business, twice as big as the NBA, larger than Major League Baseball, and unparallel to the NFL!

The TV ratings were “off the charts.” A network has to pay millions of dollars to get the rights to telecast the games. Warren Buffet was a genius when he offered a billion dollars to anyone who could submit a perfect bracket. I prided myself of knowing something about basketball and joined 12 million other people in filling out a bracket. I was already planning how to spend $1 billion!

I had to quickly change my financial planning after the fourth game of the first round. Ninety-five percent joined me after the first day. Before the first round was completed, everybody’s bracket had been busted – even President Obama. Buffet got a lot of free advertising.

I propose that the real winner was not UConn, or the coaches, or the NCAA, or the network, or Warren Buffet. All of these concepts of winning are very temporary. They will be forgotten pretty quickly. Real winning is what happens in the long run – the real big win – eternity!

I propose that Baylor won March Madness. That is right – the Baylor Bears. Nobody expected them to even be in the tournament. But they are the real winner. Jim Denison cites the following facts about Baylor from FOX Sports Southwest report entitled: “Baylor’s ‘extraordinary’ season has left lives changed.

It begins with the Bears’ loss to Kansas February 4, 2014, their seventh defeat in eight games. Head coach Scott Drew stopped one of the team chaplains after the game and said, “We may not win another game this year, and I may be a horrible coach, but if any of these guys leave without knowing Christ, that will be the real loss.”

Later in February, Kenny Chery, Baylor’s starting point guard, sat down in a hotel to talk to shooting guard Brady Heslip and assistant coach Tim Maloney. The two helped him give his life to Jesus. “I felt like I was a new person,” Chery said afterwards. “I felt like everything I’ve done bad in the past is gone. I’m starting new. I’ve accepted God into my life. The next morning I woke up, thanked God for waking me up, and I just had a whole new outlook.”

Taurean Prince plays forward on the team. On February 14, he told a chaplain he was miserable and didn’t want to live according to his plan anymore. The two prayed together, and then Prince invited Jesus into his life.

On February 25, 2014, Taurean Prince and Kenny Chery and three other players were baptized. Baylor lost in the Sweet Sixteen, but Coach Drew calls this his most important season ever. “Winning the game of life is a lot more rewarding than a 40-minute basketball game that’s so temporary,” he says. “To have an opportunity to help be a part of an impact on a young person’s life is the best feeling.”

The Baptist Baylor Bears (wish they were Methodist) cut down the most important nets and turned March Madness into March Gladness!

Go Team

The Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl.  I posted a blog about how young and inexperienced they were.  I also wrote about the importance of teamwork.  I also highlighted the fact that there were no “super stars” – they just played together.

A member of that Seattle Seahawks team is Tavaris Jackson.  He was acquired by the Seahawks to play quarterback along with Russell Wilson.  They wanted two good quarterbacks in case one was injured.  They got a jewel in TJ!

Tavaris is from Montgomery.  He played at Lanier High School and Alabama State University.  I was talking with him a couple of weeks ago and asked him if the stuff we read about the Seattle Seahawks and their teamwork, etc. was true.  His comment was “John Ed it is even more true than you have communicated.  It is all about teamwork.  We talked about and practiced teamwork every day.”  Tavaris often says “Teamwork makes the dream work.”

Teams work best when nobody wants to receive the credit.  Teams work best when everybody does his or her assigned responsibility.  Check out the MVP in the Super Bowl.  It was a total surprise.  It was a “nobody” who was fulfilling his function on the team and became a “somebody.”

In I Corinthians 12 Paul uses the analogy of the body to say how a church or a team should function.  He talks about the eyes and the ears.  He emphasizes that no one part of the body can say it is more important than the other part.  He notes that the eye can’t hear and the ear can’t see, but when the eye sees and the ear hears, and the rest of the body parts fulfill their function, you have a healthy coordinated individual.

I remember reading about a sea captain and a chief engineer who argued about who was most important to the ship.  To settle the argument they decided to swap places.

The chief engineer went up to the bridge to guide the ship and the captain went into the engine room to keep it running.  After a couple of hours the captain suddenly appeared on the deck covered with oil and soot. 

He yelled, “Chief you will have to come down here, I can’t make her go.”  The chief replied, “Of course you can’t – we’re aground.”

Each of us has a function to perform.  When God gives us an assignment, no one assignment is more important than the other.  It is important to fulfill our responsibility.

Some of the most effective tools Satan has are divisiveness, pride, personal ambition, selfishness – and the list goes on.  With these tools in effect he can beat any team, church, business, or charity.  And he can deploy those tools in deceptive and unexpected ways.

We often hear, “There is no ‘I’ in team.”  Mike Henig has a hand printed note on his office door which reads, “There is no ‘I’ in Jesus – but there is ‘us.’”

Go team!!!

Ground Breaking

As a minister here in the city of Montgomery for 40 years I have been invited many, many times to offer a prayer at a ribbon cutting or a groundbreaking for some business. I have always enjoyed that aspect of ministry.

Mayor Emory Folmar, long time mayor of Montgomery, would jokingly say that he spent more time with me than any other citizen as we went more than 100 times to perform these civic duties. I would give an opening prayer and then Emory would have very suitable words about the company involved. One day he told a group of people, “If John Ed would learn how to make my speech I wouldn’t have to go to so many of these functions.” I spoke, before thinking, and said, “Well if Mayor Folmar would learn how to pray, I wouldn’t need to go to so many of these!”

I recently went to one of the most interesting that I have ever attended. It was the groundbreaking for the new Reinhardt Lexus – Toyota building on the Eastern Bypass. Mr. Jim Reinhardt is one of the finest Christian men I have met. His children, who are now running the Lexus and Toyota dealerships, are following in his footsteps. I’ve driven their cars for several years.

In his opening statement Mayor Strange, who has been in the car business, paid the ultimate compliment to Jim Reinhardt when he said he always exemplified impeccable integrity and a Christian spirit and attitude. The Chamber of Commerce then called on Mike Reinhardt, who is also an active member at Frazer, to tell about the cost of the expansion, the number of square feet, the number of employees, etc. It was an excellent opportunity to really toot the horn for Reinhardt Lexus – Toyota.

But Mike just made a couple of quick statements and then said that the real focus of the groundbreaking was to honor how God had blessed his family and the business and the whole purpose was to give God the glory. Wow! In fact he said he had invited ministry partners to be present and he would rather for them to speak about their ministry.

Mike called on me to pray and share. The Reinhardts have been strong supporters of our ministry. He then called on Mike Conn to tell of his ministry to military persons in Montgomery. He called on Bryan Kelly to share about his ministry on the west side of Montgomery.

Mike then called on Patrick Quinn to share and to offer a prayer. The closing prayer was given by Tim Thompson, who offered a prayer of dedication of that new facility to be built to continue its focus on high business principles of integrity and providing ministry to people.

Marshall Construction is building this huge facility. The Reinhardts became connected to the Marshalls through a special ministry called Carpenters for Christ. A few years ago Mr. Jim Reinhardt went for 10 days with a group of us to trace the journeys of Paul. We flew back into Atlanta from Rome, Italy. We arrived in late afternoon. We had a bus to pick us up there and bring us back to Montgomery. We arrived here about 9:00 on Saturday night.

You can imagine how tired everyone was with jet lag and with ten days of an intense schedule. When we pulled into the parking lot at Frazer most of us were thinking about how quickly we could get home and go to bed. Not Jim Reinhardt. Some family members were waiting for him in the parking lot. They were preparing to drive all night to Indiana so that they could all participate in a Carpenters for Christ ministry in building a church!

The other group recognized was B B & T Bank. Their representative was Guy Davis, local President and outstanding United Methodist layman, whose remarks reflected the purpose of the event.

It was joy to a part of a business event that focused more on ministry than on business. Of all the civic activities where I prayed in the last 40 years, this was one of the most meaningful! Read John 6:27.

Hall of Fame Induction

Many of you may not know that John Ed Mathison was inducted into the Alabama Tennis Hall of Fame last Saturday in Birmingham, Alabama. Paul Winn introduced John Ed. Paul is from Montgomery, and is an excellent tennis player and businessman, who for the past 14 years has been chairman of the Blue-Gray Collegiate Tennis Tournament which has become one of the most prestigious college tournaments in the country.

I am attaching a copy of Paul’s introductory speech. I wanted to share this with you.

Linda Poole

Executive Assistant to Dr. John Ed Mathison

 

 

John Ed Mathison
Hall of Fame

March 22, 2014

 

First of all, I would like to thank John Ed for the undeserved, but much appreciated opportunity to introduce him today. Thanks John Ed.

Now, some of you may be asking, “How good was John Ed?”

 

I’ll tell you a story. In Montgomery we have this event called the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It’s the state’s oldest tennis event – 66 years old. Unlike today, the tournament has not always been about teams, like Alabama and Auburn, playing each other. For the first 35 years the Blue Gray was an individual tournament, featuring great college players – most of who aspired to become touring pros. Players like Tony Trabert, Stan Smith, Donald Dell, Barry McKay, Kevin Curren, Vic Seixas and Pat DuPre, just to name a few. By the way, none of those players ever won the Blue Gray – it has always been very difficult to get your name inscribed on the Bushman Cup.

 

Occasionally, one of these players would drop out at the last minute and leave a wildcard spot. That happened one year in the 70’s, and that spot was given to this new minister in Montgomery that had a reputation of being a good player – some fellow named John Ed Mathison.

 

John Ed was pitted against one of the seeded players, this young college guy from Michigan that was staying at Red Blount’s house. Red Blount was one of Alabama’s most successful businessmen, a former Postmaster General of the United States, and a big tennis enthusiast. Now, this young college player had bragged to Red how he intended to use the Blue Gray to launch his professional career. He planned on turning pro in just two weeks. So, Red took time from work to watch his house guest make quick work of this Mathison fellow.

 

Well, needless to say, it didn’t quite work out as planned. John Ed dispatched him in straight sets.

 

After the match, Red Blount (who could be as his named implied – rather blunt), said, “Son, if I were planning on becoming a professional tennis player, but I couldn’t come to Montgomery and beat a 36 year old Methodist minister — I believe I would find another line of work.”

 

Well, the truth is John Ed was capable of making a lot of aspiring tennis pros rethink their career – THAT’s how good he was!

 

In fact, he was so good that in that same year, John Ed went on to win the Southern 35 clay courts in Atlanta, AND the Southern 35 hard courts in Macon.

 

Later, he made it to the finals of the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Unfortunately, his opponent in the finals was the third ranked player in the nation — no problem – John Ed beat him. –THAT’s how good he was!

 

John Ed didn’t just beat on the old guys. He also had notable wins over great players in the Open division. Players like Pat DuPre, who would make the semi -finals of Wimbledon just a couple of years after losing to John Ed. He was THAT good.

 

John Ed was unquestionably one of the most dominant players in the South. There is little doubt in my mind that John Ed would have won his share of Gold Balls except for one little problem — he had to work on Sundays and all the National events had their finals on that day.

 

I’d say that’s a pretty good showing for someone who did not start playing tennis until he was a senior in high school. John Ed was urged to play tennis by Bill Calhoun, the Opelika Director of Parks and Rec. Bill was trying to get some great athletes to play tennis. John Ed fit the bill because he was an All-State basketball player for Opelika – an honor he achieved for three straight years in high school. Yes, John Ed was THAT good.

 

After high school, John Ed attended a junior college in Georgia where he played both basketball and tennis. Of course, he excelled in both. In tennis, with the proper training, coaching and competition, John Ed got good real fast. So good that he won back-to-back junior college tennis championships for the state of Georgia.

 

After junior college, John Ed transferred to Huntingdon in Montgomery for his final two years. There, he again excelled in both basketball and tennis. In basketball, John Ed set scoring records that held for many years. This is remarkable since he only had two years to set records, while other great players, before and after, had the advantage of a four year career. Yes, John Ed was THAT good.

 

In tennis, he played number one singles for the Hawks, and he never lost a match — he was undefeated for his entire two years at Huntingdon. That’s how good he was.

 

Of course, John Ed’s athletic accomplishments were not limited to basketball and tennis. Many athletes across the state probably didn’t even know he played those sports. They only knew him as the guy who won seven state racquetball championships.

 

In fact, if someone invented a new sport today, that required great athleticism, and told me I had one week to prepare and I could pick anyone to play it — I would pick this guy sitting right there – John Ed Mathison– because he WAS THAT GOOD!

 

In tennis, John Ed dominated his peers like no other. He was ranked number one in almost every age group throughout his career. He won 11 state championships in different age groups.

 

It was not another player that finally stopped him, but legs that just flat wore out from years of competing. I don’t know who is dominating the 70s right now, but whoever it is better be thankful for bad hips.

 

Now, I realize that being a great player is only one of the requirements for being inducted into this prestigious Hall of Fame. One must also be of good character, and demonstrate a willingness to give back to his community.

 

Here is the irony; John Ed’s many athletic accomplishments seem inconsequential when compared to his achievement outside the sports arena. When it comes to character and caring, John Ed represents the best of all us. In 1978, he was named the YMCA “Man of the Year”. In 2006, he was named Montgomery’s “Citizen of the Year”, the highest honor the City can bestow.

 

His recognition is not only local. In 1994, he was named “National Clergyman of the Year”, joining the likes of Billy Graham who have received this honor.

 

Under his leadership, Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church grew from 400 members to more than 8,000. Frazer was recognized as one of the fastest growing churches in America. In 2006, Frazer was awarded as being among the top 25 most influential churches in America, of any denomination. I’d say that is pretty good.

 

He has written seven books and is a nationally sought-after speaker. For many years, John Ed has served as platform speaker for the National Conference of Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

 

He has been very important in my life. He insisted on spending some time talking to me and Connie before he married us. He gave us some useful advice; advice we still try to follow today. After more than 30 years of a very happy marriage, I’d say his sage advice was pretty good. Of course, Connie likes to tell people, “we had 30 wonderful years, and then we met.”

 

To sum it all up, there are several men and women of great character in this Hall – I know many of them, AND there are many great players in this Hall – I’ve played against many of them. But, I am not sure you can find a better combination of those qualities than John Ed Mathison – because he IS THAT GOOD!

 

It is with pride that I introduce my friend – Dr. John Ed Mathison.

 

How Old Are You?

Too often we tend to determine a person’s effectiveness by the number of years they have lived. In early life people are not old enough – in later life people are too old.

One night Lynn and I were hosting a group of young couples in our home. During the course of the conversation a beautiful young lady commented that she knew that I was scheduled to be preaching in her hometown of Eufaula in the near future. She told me that her grandmother always worshiped with us by television. I inquired about her name and address and told her I would love to go by and visit her grandmother.

While I was in Eufaula her dad offered to take me to visit his mother. I had a charming visit with a wonderful woman. She was in her 90’s, but seemingly more alert than I!

Then an interesting thing occurred. She said, “John Ed I am sorry you missed meeting my Sunday School teacher. She was just here visiting me, but had to leave.” She then told me that her Sunday School teacher was 100-years-old and that she had to leave because she had a computer class at the Community College at 1:00 that afternoon!!

Wow – a 100-years-old and taking a computer class and teaching Sunday School. I understand that today that Sunday School teacher has moved to Florida to be near her family, but at 105 is still very active.

Recently I read about Viola Katie Krahn who lived in Laguna Woods, California. She was 101-years-old and still competed in swimming and diving competition. At age 101, she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame!

She admits that at 101 years of age, she is not quite as good at diving as she use to be. She was proud of the fact that she recently won her age group category in diving – she then said that she was the only one in her age group who showed up to dive! She said that now she just goes out to the end of the board and pushes off!

I remember my Dad, at age 90, coming to preach at Frazer. He announced to the congregation that he knew I would have to retire in a couple of years, so he wanted to go ahead and put in his application to replace me!

Someone once said, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” It is a great way to look at age.

Age is more of an attitude than it is a number of years. The number of years we have lived is not nearly as important as what we are doing with those years. The older we get, the more effective we ought to be in all aspects of what we do. We have more experience and ought to be smarter.

Every person needs to finish strong. At the end of his life Paul was able to say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”

How old are you?

A High School Visit

I graduated from Opelika High School in 1956. My Dad was the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Opelika for 15 years. My formative teenage, college, and seminary years were spent in Opelika.

I had heard so much about the new high school and the sports facilities at Opelika. I played football, basketball and tennis there. I was driving back from Atlanta recently and called the head football coach Brian Blackmon and he arranged to give my son Si and me a tour. Wow! Opelika has just completed an indoor practice facility for football. It fits in beautifully with the nice stadium which seats about 9,000 people. They also have a new basketball arena.

The new indoor football facility is state-of-the-art. During halftime the Opelika football team can come into a large area with a huge screen and important plays can be projected and individual players can see exactly where they did something well or made a mistake. It also has a state-of-the-art weight room and locker room. Most college teams would be envious of the facilities.

The most impressive thing about Opelika High School is not all of the new facilities, but the passion which the coaching staff has for teaching more than just football. They outlined the process that they use to teach strong character. They spend time every day focusing on character building. You can’t participate in sports if you do not follow the character building disciplines that are expected of athletes in Opelika.

But then I learned something very interesting. That attitude permeates the entire high school. The first fifteen minutes of each day are dedicated to character education! Every student is exposed to a curriculum about character. On each Friday there is a test that each student must take.

I inquired about who initiated the curriculum and the emphasis school-wide. Guess who? The Head Football Coach Brian Blackmon. Now that is doing more than just coaching football – it is coaching young men and women to be good citizens, parents, neighbors, etc. Go to my website

www.johnedmathison.org and read the blog I posted on December 10, 2012, about Coach Blackmon.

Coach Kenny Prescott was extremely proud of the facilities and the accomplishments of the football program. He proudly said that he had been a part of the coaching staff for 14 years. He was “the old man” on the staff. He spoke with enthusiasm about the results of the development of the young men and women in the athletic program.

In a sports dominated world, we need to remember why we have sports – to help young people develop their God-given athletic abilities, and to teach them how to be real winners in life – not just on the athletic field. The real test of a good coach is not how many wins he/she has on the field, but how many wins are evident in the lives of the young people that coach touched. Wouldn’t it be great if all of our education was based on that kind of criteria?

It reminded me that we need to thank coaches and teachers who are making a difference in the lives of our youth. I have had the opportunity to speak to a lot of coaches’ events through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I will be speaking at a conference this summer for coaches and their families. I want to thank them, encourage them, and challenge them to the awesome opportunity before them.

Thank a coach, a teacher, or an administrator today who made a difference in your life.

My alma mater has great facilities – but it has a greater vision of what teaching, coaching, education, and life are really about!

Real Investments

Dennis Swanberg is one of the most effective comedians, impressionists, and preachers that I know. He had a 30-minute television program that we played on Frazer Christian Television called “The Swan.” He just finished a book, Shade Trees. It is about “real investments.” I had an opportunity to write an endorsement for the book. It should be out in April 2014.

Dennis Swanberg finished high school and nobody in his family had ever gone to college. He wanted to go. He had a football scholarship to Lamar University. He went for a couple of days and saw how it might be and he decided he wanted to go back home. He did.

There was a chaplain for his high school football program named Marshall Edwards. He told Dennis that he needed to go to school. He carried him to Baylor University. It wasn’t far from home. He helped him financially and gave him encouragement to get him into school. Dennis stayed at Baylor and played baseball and went on to seminary.

Marshall Edwards was responsible for the fact that Dennis went to college and seminary. He had invested in his life. People had invested in Marshall’s life.

As a high school senior Marshall was a brilliant student. He had an appointment to West Point and also a scholarship at Harvard. He elected to take neither of those offers. He wanted to do something in terms of ministry and went to Baylor. His father told him that he wouldn’t pay for anything if he went to Baylor.

Marshall chose to go to Baylor. He worked in the dining hall and had a couple of other odd jobs. Somebody sent checks to Baylor each month for Marshall. He didn’t know who it was. Throughout his college career there were checks that were received that helped him get through school.

He later was in the company of a lady named Mary Leila Ellington. She was Marshall’s senior high English teacher. He found out that she was the one that had sent the checks. Mary Leila made $5,000 a year. She had never married. She told Marshall, “You are my son. You are my investment for the future.”

Miss Ellington invested in Marshall, and Marshall invested in Dennis, and now Dennis is investing in the lives of other people. Each of us is where we are because somebody invested in us.

When Dennis graduated from seminary he went to work as a youth minister with Marshall Edwards. Another guy on that staff was Jay Wolf, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama. Marshall’s investment in Jay, and consequently Jay’s investment in the lives of so many people today is just another branch of that tree of influence.

In thinking about my life there were some folks that invested in me when I was in junior high and high school. There were teachers and coaches and Sunday School teachers and Boy Scout leaders. They invested in me. Most of them were in volunteer positions and didn’t get paid anything. I have never fully appreciated the investment they made in me, but everyday that I live I am growing more conscious of it. I also want to be sure that I am investing in other people.

Who has made an investment in your life? Take the time to write down names. In whose life are you investing? How long will that list of names be?

Life that leaves a long legacy always beats a life that is lauded as a legend!

January – February 2014 Recap

The first two months of 2014 offered more opportunities than any other two months in the history of this ministry. It required an awful lot of travel, but also offered the opportunity of some of the most significant and productive ministry. I really had the opportunity to be in a multitude of different venues.

Here is a brief synopsis.

January 8 – Officiated at the funeral of my good friend Wiley Poundstone. Wiley and I had breakfast together many Thursday mornings at the Farmers’ Market. He was largely responsible for starting the Poundstone Sunday School Class at First Baptist Church – a class that had over 100 men in average attendance.

January 8 & 9 – Spoke at the Memphis Theological Seminary and taught in a seminar, along with Bishop Gary Mueller from Arkansas. David Bush was teaching this course. Memphis is one of the approved seminaries for United Methodist students to attend.

January 11 – Spoke at a celebration event for African Methodist Episcopal Church pastors and leaders. The A.M.E. Bishop is James Davis. His name is James. My name is John. So they advertised the event as James and John – the Sons of Thunder. The Murdoch Chapel was one of the basic sponsors of this event.

January 12 – Taught a Sunday School Class at First United Methodist Church in Montgomery. Rocky and Amelia Barnes are members of that class.

January 13 & 14 – Went to Atlanta, Georgia. About 110 pastors and lay people gathered to look at forming a Wesley Covenant Network which would serve as support and encouragement for pastors and lay persons across our denomination.

January 15 – I spend one day a month as a coach to a few pastors across the country. We do this by telephone. They send me a list of about 5 or 6 questions they would like to discuss. I figure if I can be helpful to some very key pastors, it can have long-range effects.

January 16-19 – I traveled to West Monroe, Louisiana to speak at the E. Stanley Jones Ashram for Northern Louisiana. An ashram has an evangelist and also has a Bible teacher. Dr. Billy Abraham from Perkins School of Theology was Bible teacher. He and I served together in the Confessing Movement. I also preached at the Central United Methodist Church in West Monroe on Sunday morning.

January 19-23 – I left Sunday afternoon for Orlando, Florida, for the Synergy IV Billion Soul Conference. We had about 1,700 pastors, representing some 60 countries, at this meeting. We were able to finalize some of the work of the hubs designed to train pastors to start 5 million churches and win 1 billion people to Christ. There were three days of outstanding times of worship and seminars for these pastors. It was an inspiring and learning time for me. As I had mentioned I am committed to go this fall to teach 4 sessions in Delhi, India and 4 sessions in Chennai, India in 2014 and 2015. I am also going to Bogota, Columbia this spring.

January 24-26 – I went to the First United Methodist Church in Dalton, Georgia. I had a chance to meet with leaders of the church for about five hours on Saturday and talk about how a church goes to the next level. I also met with some other key leaders in the District. I preached at all of their worship services on Sunday morning.

January 27-29 – I left early Monday morning to go back to Orlando to speak at a Creativity Conference sponsored by Leadership Nexus and Disney. We spent one day with some of the Disney staff persons and then we spent one full day on the grounds at Disney. We had pastors and church leaders from across the country. It is exciting to be a part of a group of people who want to become more creative – and where can you find a more creative group of people than at Disney!

January 30-February 2 – I drove from Orlando down to Marco Island to participate in the President’s Weekend for Oakland City University. I preached on Friday and Saturday. This is the University for the General Baptist denomination. I have had an opportunity to speak at several General Baptist Pastors’ Schools. I enjoyed being with my good friend Dennis Swanberg, who is quite an entertainer, comedian, impressionist, etc. Dennis had a program on Frazer Christian Television called “The Swan.”

February 8 – I spoke at the Leadership Conference at Troy University celebrating African-American history. They had about 500 people registered. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s daughter was a speaker, along with an outstanding lawyer/judge who also is a minister and is seen on television as one of the courtroom judges. Dr. John Kline teaches leadership at Troy. His students speak so highly of him. Another of the speakers was our Probate Judge Steven Reed.

February 9 – I preached at the worship service at Vaughn Forest Church here in Montgomery. Vaughn Forest is without a pastor. Please pray for that church as they move forward with the selection and call of a pastor. I will be preaching there again on March 9.

February 12 – This was again the day of the month that I spent in coaching pastors by telephone.

February 15 – I did several devotionals for the Upward Basketball program at Frazer. The Upward program draws so many people who are unchurched. Joe Overton had the vision for starting that program. Craig McKissick and his staff do a super job. It is one of the largest Upward Basketball programs in our country. It came at a time when we were watching the Sochi Olympics. I was thinking – Frazer has Upward Basketball, Sonshine Soccer, Upward Flag Football – I wonder how Upward Curling would go in Montgomery.

February 18 – Si and I went to Atlanta to attend a basketball game between Georgia Tech and Duke with Phillip and Julie Cook. The Cook’s are strong encouragers and supporters of our ministry. Phillip is also a trustee at Shingleroof Camp Meeting where I have preached every third year for the past 18 years. In 2015, my brother George and I will be the preachers for that weeklong camp meeting.

February 20 – I attended and had the invocation for the Blue-Gray Tennis Banquet. This tournament draws some of the best college tennis teams in the US. It is something that Montgomery is proud of.

February 22-25 – I went to Eufaula, Alabama and I preached a revival at the First Baptist Church. Dr. Ken Bush is the senior minister. He has been there over 30 years. You have to be pretty secure as pastor of a large Baptist church to invite a Methodist to preach. This was actually about the fifth time that I have preached those revival services. I love it because my Dad went there for nine consecutive years to preach on the Sunday that Southern Baptist designate as Older Adult Sunday.

February 27 – I went to Destin, Florida to speak at the annual meeting of the Southeastern United Methodist Foundation Directors. Terri Turner is Executive Director of the Alabama-West Florida United Methodist Foundation, Inc.

I will remind you that I do have a two-minute audio devotional thought on Facebook each day. I also post a blog each week. Let me suggest you invite someone to sign up for the blog and to connect to the daily devotional on Facebook.

Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement and support.

For the Cause of causes,

John Ed

Hank Was Right

What was the number one song on the Country charts in January, 1953? It was a song written and recorded by a Montgomery boy – Hank Williams. The song was “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.”

Hank Williams experienced the truth in that song. While it was the number one song in America, January 1953, he died on January 1, 1953. His funeral was January 3, 1953.

Hank Williams was only 29. He recorded 35 singles and had 11 of them ranked number 1. He hosted a 15 minute program on WSFA Radio. He never was able to read or notate music to any significant degree. Everybody said that was too young to die. It is really never too young to die.

He was a great singer and song writer. But it doesn’t matter how talented or famous you are, the Bible says, “each person is destined to die once.” (Hebrews 9:27) He had achieved fame, but he couldn’t avoid death. The chorus to his song says:

                    “No matter how I struggle and strive

                    I’ll never get out of this world alive.”

His funeral was held at the City Auditorium and attracted one of the largest crowds ever assembled in Montgomery. There is an interesting video of the funeral at the Hank Williams Museum.

I had a good friend, Tommy Ragsdale. When he was about 10-years-old he was a big Hank Williams fan. Hank gave a concert at Cramton Bowl. Tommy wanted to attend but his parents would not let him go to the concert because it was sponsored by Hadacol and Hadacol contained a large percentage of alcohol. You will remember that Hadacol was one of the very popular “medicines” of the 50’s. They said that they named it Hadacol because they “had-a-call” it something. Tommy’s older brother, who was a classical music student, agreed to take him to hear Hank.

Occasionally people say to me, “John Ed, if I die.” I quickly respond, “it is not if – it is when.” We really like to make death a hypothetical question that might be a possibility. It one day will be a reality. I checked the Alabama Bureau of Statistics and the death rate is still one out of one!

Death is not something to be feared when our faith is in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul even looked forward to dying because he knew that he would experience something much better. Death is not the end – it is only the beginning. What the caterpillar calls “the end” – the butterfly calls “the beginning.”

Winston Churchill made all the arrangements for his own funeral. He included some of the great hymns and impressive liturgy for the Saint Paul’s Cathedral celebration. He planned something special after the benediction. He had a bugler positioned high in the dome of the church to play “Taps.” This was the universal signal that the day was over. People thought the funeral was over. But another bugler started playing “Reveille” which was the signal for a new day. It was goodnight down here – it was good morning up there!

The Bible is clear that God offers to us the promise of eternal life. William Wilberforce was instrumental in freeing the slaves in the British Empire. His great contributions were dramatized in the movie “Amazing Grace.” On the tomb of William Wilberforce in Westminster Abbey in London are these words – “Tis death is dead, not he.”

All of us, like Hank Williams, will one day die. None of us will get out of this world alive. Getting out of this world alive won’t happen – living forever with Jesus can happen.