Where Is Your Ebenezer?

The more that we receive in life, the more prone we are to forget to be thankful for our blessings.  It is easy to forget – it takes intentionality to remember.  Our distinctly American holiday tradition of Thanksgiving is about remembering and being thankful.  How well do you remember?

Moses reminded the people of Israel, “The Lord your God has brought you into the land He promised your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  And when He has given you great cities full of good things – cities you didn’t build, wells you didn’t dig, and vineyards and olive trees you didn’t plant – and when you have eaten until you can hold no more, then beware lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the land of slavery.  When you are full, don’t forget” (Deut. 6:10-13).

Rebecca Sharrock is one of only 80 people worldwide who has a condition called Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM).  She can remember every moment of her life in extraordinary detail.  She can even remember lying on a sheepskin in the front seat of a car when she was 12 days old.  She was staring up at the steering wheel and wondering what it was.  She is a Harry Potter fan and has memorized all of J.K. Rowling’s Potter books.  She can reel off word-for-word large passages when asked to recite one of the chapters of her books.  Wow – what a capacity to remember! 

Rebecca has that rare condition that helps her remember.  What do you and I do to help us remember?

I’ve seen some people who tie a string around their finger to help them remember something.  I’ve witnessed people set their alarm on their smartphones so they will remember a certain appointment.  When I need to remember to carry something home with me from the office, I place it in front of the door so I have to step over it. 

The New England Patriots have a unique way of remembering their victory in the 2017 Super Bowl.  They were trailing the Atlanta Falcons 28-3 in the 4th quarter.  Everybody had thought the game was over.  The Patriots made a furious comeback and wound up beating the Falcons.

The Patriots designed a unique championship ring to help them remember.  Each player received a ring with 283 little diamonds in it representing the 28-3 deficit they overcame.  I really don’t think they will need any help remembering that come-back to win the Super Bowl, but the ring is a good reminder.  I wonder if this year they might intentionally fall behind 58-3 so they can get more diamonds on the ring next year!!

Intentionally create some way of remembering.  I heard about one little girl who had to apologize in a letter for forgetting her aunt’s birthday.  She was very creative at helping jog her aunt’s memory when she wrote, “Dear Aunty, I’m sorry I forgot your birthday.  It would serve me right if you forget mine next Friday.”

Hosea 13:4-6 records God saying to the Israelites, “I have been with you ever since I brought you out from Egypt.  You have no God but me.  There is no other savior.  I took care of you in the wilderness in that dry and thirsty land.  But when you had eaten and were satisfied, you became proud and forgot me.”

We often sing the hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”  The second verse has “Here I raise my Ebenezer.”  I expect very few people know what an Ebenezer is.  It is based on 1 Samuel 7, and it is actually a stone that is raised to help us remember how God has helped us in times past.  “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’” 

Raise your Ebenezer this Thanksgiving!  Remember not to forget!

What Do You See?

Our focus in life determines our fulfillment and joy in life.  We can spend our time and energy looking at the bad things or good things in life.  What we are looking for determines what we see.

I remember reading about an old legend of three men.  Each of them had two sacks, one tied in front and one tied in the back.  All three were questioned by a visitor.  

The first man explained his sacks this way – the sack on his back held all the good things that family and friends had done for hm.  That way they were hidden from view.  The front sack had all the bad things that had happened to him.  He said he enjoyed stopping and opening the front sack and remembering the bad stuff.  That man had little progress in life because he was always looking at and looking for the bad stuff.

The second man gave his explanation for the sacks.  He kept all the good things in his life and good things he had done in the front sack.  He said that he liked to look at them quite often.  He would take them out and show them to other people.  It was an encouragement to him to focus on the things that people had done for him.  But he kept all his mistakes and failures and bad stuff in the sack on his back.  He said they were heavy and slowed him down, but he couldn’t seem to put them down.

The third man explained his sacks.  He said in the front sack he kept all the positive thoughts he had about people and the blessings he had experienced, and all the good things people had done for him.  The weight was no problem – it was a blessing.  That sack was like the sails of a ship – it kept him going forward. 

He explained that the sack on his back was empty.  He said he cut a big hole in the bottom of the sack.  He put all the bad things he thought about himself and what others had said about him, and all his mistakes and failures in it.  They went in one end and out the other, so he was not carrying any weight in his back sack.

Most of us fit into one of those three men’s situations.  You can hide the good things and continually look at the bad things, and you will be weighted down.  Like the second man, you can look at the good things, but if you still keep the bad things, the weight becomes burdensome and destructive.

Or we can be like the third man who is constantly looking at and thankful for all the good things he has received and what people have done for him.  We all have bad things happen, but that’s the sack where you put the hole in it so when you put it in the sack it falls out the bottom.  The third man’s journey is full of life, joy, happiness and fulfillment.

Read Luke 15:11-31 about a boy whose focus was on the material things he would get in his inheritance.  It was all he could think about.  He took the inheritance and wasted it.  Sitting in a pigpen, his focus changed from what he didn’t have to what he could have back home.  He got up from the pigpen, and as he approached his farmhouse, his father came running down the road to greet him.  He welcomed his son home with open arms.

The good news of life is that our Heavenly Father is always looking for us to discover real joy, happiness and fulfillment, and He welcomes us with open arms and claims us, not as a slave who has come home, but as a son whom He loves.

Charles Dickens said, “Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.”

From “Here I Stand” To “There We Go!”

One of the highlights of my year was going to Wittenberg, Germany on November 1, 2017, with Lynn and Ken and Faye Love, for the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing the 95 theses to the Castle Church door.  This act initiated the Protestant Reformation.  He was just a young monk, 33 years old, but he had the boldness to call the Church to accountability.  He ignited a small flame that grew rapidly and still burns brightly today through the witness of every Protestant church. 

Wittenberg Church JE & Lynn

(John Ed and Lynn at the Wittenberg Church Door)

Martin Luther had no idea that he would create such a revolution.  The use of the Gutenberg printing press was gearing up around 1517.  It was the first time in history all notes didn’t have to be handwritten.  They could be mass-printed.  Within a few days, his document of 95 grievances against the Church began to have massive distribution.  The technology of that day aided much in the spread of the Reformation.

Martin Luther came under sharp criticism from all the religious and political authorities.  At one point he was called before the Church council in the city of Worms where he was given the opportunity to take back his criticisms of the Church.  He knew that his refusal to do so might cost him his life.  Yet he refused.  He answered strongly and clearly that he was doing what God called him to do and he would not take back his concerns.  His famous words were, “Here I stand.  I can do no other.  So help me God.”

The Wittenberg Church only holds about 475 people.  The Billion Soul Network organized this gathering, and the church building was filled with people representative of the major denominations of the world and pastors of some of the largest churches in the world.  It was a moving experience to hear a marvelous choir from David Sobrepena’s World of Hope Church in Manila sing the Hallelujah Chorus and lead us all in singing Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”  The rafters shook!

Wittenberg Church inside

(Gathering of global pastors inside the Wittenberg Church on November 1, 2017)

Our emphasis was to commemorate the Reformation, but not spend all our time looking back.  We needed to look forward and see the modern application of the 95 theses for the Church today.  Different people wrote essays on each of those theses.  I had the opportunity to write on the Priesthood of All Believers as part of the newly published Great Commission Study Bible.

The spirit of our entire three-day conference in Berlin was to focus on The Great Commission and how to “finish the task.”  Dr. Bill Bright set a goal of starting 5 million churches and winning 1 billion new believers by 2020.  We are making great progress, but we must finish the task!

One great area of concern and focus is the unreached people groups of the world.  There are millions of people who have no Bible and for the most part have never heard the name of Jesus.  That number of unreached people groups has been reduced from about 10,000 to about 3,000.

Our conference set a goal to place a Bible, a believer, and a body of Christ in every unreached people group by the year 2030.  Wycliffe Bible Translators introduced modern technology that will make the translation of the Bible into all languages quicker and more efficient.

Based on the famous words “Here I stand,” Dr. Leonard Sweet gave a strategy for continuing the Reformation in our time – and beyond.  Luther’s “Here I stand” was necessary and represented that he was in a given place (Here); he was acting as a single individual (I); and he was going to stand firm on that faith regardless of the consequences (stand). 

In the future, we need to acknowledge “Here I stand,” but boldly act and move forward with “There we go.”  Our task is not just here, but to go where people have not been reached for Jesus Christ (There).  We must work together in a collaborative effort in order to finish the task (we).  Instead of standing, we must go to all people (go). 

Luther proclaimed 500 years ago, “Here I stand.”  Today will you proclaim and practice with me, “There we go!”

 

A Coach’s Influence

I love coaches.  I don’t know of any profession that has the opportunity to impact young people’s lives in a positive manner any more than coaches.  I know I’m biased because I love sports, but coaches have had such an impact on my life.  I’ve heard, “If somebody gets a foot in the door with young people – it will have cleats on it.”

I have been influenced in high school and college by wonderful coaches.  I’ve met many great coaches in the junior high, high school and college arena.  I’ve had the opportunity to speak at 4 different coaches conferences this year.

A few years ago I was speaking at a coaches conference and met coach Chan Gailey.  I was with him recently when he came to speak at the Montgomery Quarterback Club.  He is a great example of what an influence a coach can have.  I had an opportunity to visit with him and then write an article about him for the Montgomery Advertiser.

Coach Gailey was a 3-year high school All-State selection as quarterback at Americus, Georgia.  He played quarterback and was a 3-year letterman at the University of Florida.  He was a very successful college coach at the Air Force Academy, Georgia Tech, and Troy University.  He led the Trojans to a 12-1 record and the Division II National Championship in 1984!

His success continued in the NFL.  He was head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills.  He is the only Cowboys coach to make the playoffs every season with his team!  He also served on the staffs of Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins.

Coach Gailey is a strong Christian.  When asked about the greatest influence in his life outside of football, he immediately responded, “From my mother, father, and most of all Jesus Christ.”  He said, “I stand before you today, not as a coach who professes Christianity, but as a Christian who happens to coach for a living.  And there’s a big difference in those two!”  Read Col. 3:23-24 and Psalm 1:1-3.

Several players from that National Championship Troy team were present for his Quarterback Club speech.  They have a great admiration for Coach Gailey and give him lots of credit for their success in life today.  He was noted for his impeccable character and integrity.  He always coached players as if they were his own sons.  He believed in playing winning football, but more importantly helping young men become all that God created them to be.

One of those players was Mike Turk, the current head football coach at Huntingdon College.  For about 10 years, I spoke to the Jeff Davis high school football team every week.  Mike was a player.  He was small, but a great quarterback.  Everybody told Mike he was too small to play college football, but he doesn’t listen well!

When Mike graduated from high school, he did not play football his first year, but he missed it so much, he went to Troy as a walk-on.  Under Coach Gailey’s influence, he earned a scholarship, became a starter, became an All American, and led the Trojans to the National Championship!  I love to hear the stories about that season.

Several of the players shared with me that they are Christians today because of the influence of Coach Gailey!  One player said that Coach Gailey had the gift of being a strong disciplinarian, yet was respected by every player.  He said, “When he walked in the room, you could hear a pin drop.”  He also said that while playing for Coach Gailey at Troy, he never heard any cussing or any conversation inconsistent with living the Christian life.  What a witness!

You may not be a coach, but you have an opportunity to make a huge influence in the lives of a lot of people.  I challenge you to do in your sphere of influence what Coach Chan Gailey has done in his sphere.  If we all do that, the population of Heaven will be different, and life will be better for everyone!

It’s Your Choice

Life is made up of choices.  Choices can be a challenge because it is easy to get fooled.  In football, the best defense can disguise its scheme and coverage on a given play that can easily fool the quarterback into making a terrible mistake.  What appears to be one thing turns out to be something else.  Isn’t that a picture of life?

I heard about a group of distinguished people who had excelled in their careers.  They came back to their university and visited their old professor.  It wasn’t long before the conversation centered on stresses of work and life.  Some of them were complaining.  The professor offered his guests some coffee.  He went in to the kitchen and returned with a pot of coffee and a large assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, and crystal.  Some of the cups were plain looking, some looked expensive, some looked exquisite.  He told them to help themselves to the coffee.

Each of the returning alumni chose their cup and poured their coffee.  The professor then said, “You noticed all the nice looking, expensive cups were taken up first, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones.  While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that may be the source of your problems and stress.  What you really wanted was coffee, not the cup.  But you consciously went for the best cups.  Then you began eyeing each others’ cups and became jealous and disappointed because they had a better cup than you.”

The wise professor said, “Life is the coffee; the jobs, money, position and power are the cups.  The cups are just vessels to hold and contain life, and the type of cup we choose should not define or change the quality of life we live.  If you concentrate only on the cup, you fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided for you.”

God brews the coffee.  You choose the cup.  Life is about the coffee – not the cup.

Choose a Godly attitude for living each day.  Your attitude and actions can help others choose a Godly attitude for themselves.

I read about a woman who moved into a small town.  She was having a lot of trouble adjusting.  She was particularly disturbed by what she considered poor service at the local drug store.  She complained to a neighbor about the poor service in hopes he would pass on the complaint to the owner of the drug store. 

The next time the lady went to the drug store, the pharmacist greeted her with a big smile and told her how happy he was to see her again.  He said he hoped she liked the little town and to please let him know if he could do anything to help her and her husband get settled.  He then filled the order promptly and efficiently. 

The lady was astounded.  She reported the miraculous change to her neighbor.  She said, “I suppose you told the pharmacist how poor I thought the service was.”  The neighbor surprised her by saying, “No.  In fact – I hope you don’t mind, but I told him you were amazed at how he had built up this small town drug store and you thought it was the best run drug store you had ever seen.”

People respond better to a compliment than to criticism – to possibilities than to problems – to opportunities than to obstacles.  Jesus told Martha, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42). 

Choose wisely.  Choose the coffee and not the cup.  Choose the positive attitude and not the negative.

Joshua said, “Choose this day whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Remember – all choices have consequences!

Be a Barnabas!

My dad used to tell the story about the time when the devil announced he was going out of business and would sell all of the tools of his trade.  On the day of the sale, he had all of his tools on display.  They were dangerous and bad looking.  On display were greed, envy, jealousy, hatred, sensuality, deceit, pride.  There was a price tag on each one.

Away from these terrible looking tools of his trade, there was a very ominous, much-worn tool.  The price tag on it was much higher than the rest of them.

When someone asked the devil about that tool, he said, “That’s discouragement.”  When asked why it was priced so high, he said, “Because it’s more useful to me than the others.  I can pry open and get inside a person’s consciousness with it when I could never get near that person with any of the other tools.  Once I get inside a person’s mind with discouragement, I can wreak havoc and pain, and very few people know it comes from me.”

The amazing thing is that the devil’s price for discouragement was so high that it was never sold.  He is still using that tool today!

Discouragement is one of the devil’s most effective tools.  Every person faces it.  The prescription for discouragement is encouragement.  That means to put courage into a person.  Everybody needs encouragement.  It is the best medicine many people could receive.

I read about an interesting survey on the “attention span” for adults.  The average adult attention span will last for about 6 compliments, 5 encouragements, or 1 criticism.  We all have a healthy appetite to receive encouragement, but nobody likes criticism for dinner!

One of my favorite Bible characters is Barnabas.  His name means “Son of Encouragement.”  Paul may have been thinking of Barnabas when he wrote 1 Thessalonians 5:11, exhorting us to “encourage and build each other up.”  Three verses later, Paul says to “encourage the timid.” 

There is a beautiful parable about a group of frogs that were traveling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit.  The other frogs looked at the situation, saw how deep the pit was, and told the unfortunate frogs that they would never get out.  It was a discouraging situation.

The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump out of the pit.  The other frogs kept telling them there was no hope for them.  One of the trapped frogs listened to what the others were saying and finally gave up.  He fell down and died. 

The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could.  The other frogs continued to yell at him to stop the pain and suffering and just give up.  It made him jump even higher.  He finally made it out of the pit.  When his fellow frogs congratulated him, they asked him, “Why did you continue jumping?  Didn’t you hear us?”  The frog made no response.  They all soon realized that the frog was deaf.  All the time they were trying to discourage him, he thought they were encouraging him, so he never gave up!!

Everybody is looking for some form of encouragement.  Today, you can participate in shortening the attention span of others by criticism, or you can expand their attention span by encouragement.  God said to Moses in Deuteronomy 3:28, “Encourage Joshua for he will lead the people across the Jordan.”  When Paul and Barnabas came to Antioch, Jewish leaders sent them this message: “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, come and give it” (Acts 13:15).

Be a Barnabas today!

Painting, Poking and Speaking

There’s a poignant story by O. Henry called “The Last Leaf.”  It involves a woman living in a New York City apartment.  It’s wintertime, and she has pneumonia.  She has already convinced herself that she will die and has lost the will to live.

She is bedridden, but from her window, this woman can see a tree in the alley.  She told people that when the last leaf falls from the tree, she will die.  Every day she looks at the status of the leaves.  Day after day, she notices that the last leaf doesn’t fall off.  In fact it never falls off – and she lives!

After recovering her health, the woman examines the leaf more carefully and discovers that an old worn-out artist, her friend and neighbor, had gone outside in the winter storms and painted the leaf on the wall just outside her window.  The artist had given of himself – he had given her hope and the will to live.

Most people today need hope.  The world we live in is bombarded by the negativism of social media, and many people have lost hope.  You don’t have to be an artist to offer hope.  You have to be willing to give of your time, your talent, and yourself.  You can paint a leaf for someone today.

One evening in 19th Century London, a small country boy was visiting family in the big city for the first time.  After supper he sat on the front steps and watched as the streets became dark and deserted.  He then saw a man, a lamp lighter, making his way up the street.  At each corner, the lamp lighter would pause at each lamp post, and there, to the amazement of the boy, a round globe of light would burst through the darkness.  The lad watched in awe and wonder as the man continued down the street leaving a glow of light at every corner.

Very excitedly, the boy ran inside and exclaimed, “Mommy, Mommy!  There’s a man outside poking holes in the darkness!”

When enough people stand up and poke holes in the darkness, light appears.  Jesus said, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).  He also said, “Let your light shine” (Matthew 5:16).  Today you can poke a hole in somebody’s darkness!

Rich Nowakowski is a diehard Green Bay Packers fan.  He lives in Hartland, Wisconsin.  Rich was left with impaired speech following a 2012 stroke.  He had every reason to feel sorry for himself, but instead has elected to be an encourager to others.  His speech changed from impaired to inspired!

He lives across the street from a building construction project for an apartment complex.  Every day he sits on his porch and cheers on the construction workers.  He enthusiastically says to every construction worker who passes by, “Beautiful!” and “Good job!”  The construction workers love walking by Rich’s house.

They decided to show their appreciation of Rich.  They pooled all their money and surprised Rich and his wife, Patricia, with tickets to a Packers game.  They even bought some team gear for him.  While Rich made a difference in their lives, Patricia said, “What those guys did made the world for him.”

What if everybody in the world was interested in making somebody’s life better?  You might do it by painting leaves, or poking holes, or speaking encouragement to people who pass by.  It will make a difference in their lives and yours.

Don’t use the excuse, “Someday I will do that.”  Let me remind you that some day is not a day of the week.  (Tweet this)

Make a difference today by painting, poking, or speaking!!

 

Act Today – Get Started

What do you need to start today that one year from now you will be glad you started?  A lot of us have good intentions and good ideas, but we never get started on them.  I Peter 4:17 reminds us, “Knowing what is right to do and not doing it is sin.”

We have to get started.  I remember hearing about a young man who was talking about the possibility of peace in today’s world.  He believed it could happen.  A cynical person said he was just a dreamer and he was unimpressed by that idealistic viewpoint.  The cynic remarked, “The desire for peace does not necessarily ensure it.”

The young man who prayed about making peace a possibility said, “That is true, but neither does the desire for food satisfy your hunger, but at least it gets you started toward a restaurant!”

What are some of the things you need to start today that one year from now you will be glad you started?  Here are some possibilities – you add to your list!

  1. Lose weight. We like to talk about this, but very few people do anything about it.  The reason is that they never get started.  CDC has ranked Alabama #3 in the nation for adult obesity – about 35%.  We need to get started on the problem.  This means it starts with me.  I will certainly feel better and be healthier mentally, physically and spiritually.
  2. Change my attitude. Our attitude determines so much of what we do in life.  Our actions are a result of our attitude.  The altitude we achieve in life is often dictated by an attitude that needs to be improved.  I have discovered that the reality of circumstances in life is not nearly as important as my attitude toward them.  It’s time to change my attitude.
  3. Drop the profanity. Our society has become more and more accepting of profanity.  That troubles me.  I believe the use of profanity is a lack of knowing how to express ourselves.  It’s also a symptom of a lack of self-control and latent anger.  The dictionary offers a lot of words that could be used to substitute for the profanity.  I’ve been around coaches recently who are working to eliminate profanity personally and professionally as a coaching staff.  The best time to start monitoring my speech is today.
  4. Save money. We are living in an age where we are so easily influenced to buy things we don’t need and to spend money we don’t have.  When a crisis occurs, we are in the red.  Our nation needs to start being responsible with our financial resources.  A year from now most of us would be glad if we started today to save more than we have in the past.  Start saving today.
  5. Build a personal relationship. In a day of social media that is driving people to communicate and interact by text, twitter, email, Facebook, etc. we are creating a world of “isolates.”  The second commandment of Jesus is to love our neighbors.  You can’t love someone without relating to them in person.  Start today to build better and more authentic relationships.

I went to see two of my grand kids participating in cross country races with a couple hundred runners from about 20 schools.  The runners had trained; they had received instructions from their coaches; they had stretched, and had spent some time mentally psyching themselves up.  But there was no way to win the race as an individual or as a team until they stepped up to the starting line and started when the gun sounded.  You can’t finish until you start!

Someone has said the best time to plant an oak tree was 25 years ago.  The second best time is today.  When confronted with a challenge, the best thing is to do the right thing.  The second best thing is to do the wrong thing.  The worst thing is to do nothing.

Start today!  You will be much better off a year from now.

I think I hear the starting gun!

A Caring Man

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  We live in a world today where people are looking for someone who cares.

Rev. Si MathisonMy dad was the best man that I have ever known.  I saw him care for the least, the lost, the lousy, and those on the lowest social level.  He didn’t finish college until I was in the 5th grade.  He didn’t talk about caring – he cared and did something about it.

God called my dad home 11 years ago.  I can still hear a lot of his words ringing in my ear.  I really miss hm.  I have some questions I would like to ask him.  I would love to hear him preach again.  I would love to watch him lead congregational singing.  I would love to thank him again for introducing me to Jesus.  I would love to thank him again for showing all of us that ministry is exciting, fun, and worth giving 100% to it.

We moved him to Montgomery where he spent the last years of his life at the Wesley Gardens retirement home.  We used my home address for his home address so I could handle his business affairs.

On September 11, 2017, I received a letter addressed to Mr. Si Mathison at my home address.  I opened the letter and was shocked to discover it was from a great caring organization.  It is relying too much on technology to express how much they care.  It was basically a computer-generated letter to my dad.

The letter began, “We want to thank you for being a member of our family and tell you how much your support was missed this past year.”  The letter was encouraging him to contribute financially and continue praying as a “vital role” in helping respond to the needs of people.

The letter ended by asking him to give again today.  If my dad were alive today, he would give again!  There was a postscript to the letter that said, “If you have already sent your gift, many thanks.”

The letter was about caring about the needs for others, but the technological blip in their mailing list failed to express the authentic care they had for my dad.  I don’t want to be too hard on that organization because it can happen anywhere.  It can also happen with individuals who innocently don’t realize someone has died.

Jesus told a story about a man who was overtaken by thieves.  He was robbed and beaten and left along the highway.  Two men, quite religious and represented an organization that ought to care, saw the man but didn’t have time to stop.  They had other important business to “care” about.  They passed by on the other side of the road.

Jesus then told about a common person from another race who showed genuine care for the wounded man.  He was the least likely person to be the hero who cared.  He did the best he could to bind up his wounds and carried him to a nearby hospital and told the people to look after him and he would be back soon and would be glad to pay the bill.

Am I more like the two religious people who had too many more important things to take care of?  How many of us would be like the man who didn’t preach and teach and talk about caring but cared?  Caring is a mark of greatness.  Jesus said, “Your care for others is the measure of your greatness” (Luke 9:48).

Care is best defined not by what it means as a noun, but what it does as a verb.  (Tweet this)  Care is more about walking than talking.  It’s not about how much you know – but how much you care!

 

Adversity – Friend or Foe

Adversity in life can either be a burden or a blessing.  Adversity is a stumbling block or a stepping stone, an obstacle or an opportunity.  Adversity makes some people – it breaks others.

This summer I spoke at a men’s conference entitled “Men of Steel.”  I had the chance to be on the program and spend time with Sid Bream, one of the most famous and favorite Sid Bream and JEplayers for the Atlanta Braves.  He is an amazing person!  He will always be remembered as scoring the winning run in the 1992 playoffs with Pittsburgh.  It is considered one of the most exciting plays in baseball.

The next year the Atlanta Braves started to slump.  They brought in a new first baseman, Fred McGriff.  He ignited the team.  McGriff took Sid Bream’s place.  He became the toast of the town, and Sid Bream dropped to a supporting role.  But Bream’s attitude was tremendous.  He supported the team and gave extra effort and was ready to be used however the team needed him.  He didn’t complain or find fault.  He was a great example of maturity and discipline.  He handled the adversity of going from “Hero to Zero” – from the top to a supporting role, and he attributes that to his strong faith.  Today he is a powerful Christian speaker.  Adversity was his friend – not his foe.

Another great baseball story of adversity is Dave Dravecky.  He was the all-star pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.  His career was interrupted when he had surgery for cancer on his pitching arm.  You may have been watching TV that night when he was pitching and was making a come-back.  All of a sudden his arm went limp.  On June 18, 1991, he had his left arm and shoulder amputated to remove the cancer.

I went to hear Dave Dravecky speak at the Acadome in Montgomery.  A friend of mine collects baseball memorabilia.  I asked him if he had anything from Dave Dravecky.  He draveckyopened up his jacket and showed me the actual baseball jersey that Dravecky wore when he threw his last pitch.  I commented that is priceless! He told me, “John Ed, it’s going to be more valuable after Dave Dravecky signs it today.

In his book, When You Can’t Come Back, Dravecky wrote, “God built a world that is as mysterious as it is majestic.  I believe God rules over the world, but I don’t believe He gave me cancer.  He allowed it.  Why?  I don’t know.  I don’t know the purpose of my suffering.  But I do know the results.”

When I compare the Dave Dravecky before cancer and the Dave Dravecky after cancer, there’s no comparison.  He wrote, “I used to be dogmatic and think there was an answer for everything.  Now I realize there are a lot of things that don’t have answers.  I used to think I could put God in a box; now I believe His ways are too big for any box to contain.  I used to depend on myself; now I depend on God.  I used to be preoccupied with my own needs; now I am learning compassion for the needs of others.  I used to view Christ’s death on the cross intellectually; now I view it more emotionally.  Through my own suffering I have become more aware of His suffering, and I love Him more as a result.”  Wow!

Is adversity your friend or your foe?  Paul said, “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-5).

Read again these two great examples from baseball.  Apply these lessons and . . .

PLAY BALL!