Less Predicting – More Producing

People today are fascinated with predictions about the future.  It has become especially popular when folks predict what God is going to do.  It has also become financially lucrative.

One self-proclaimed “Biblical researcher,” David Meade, predicted the world would end on September 23, 2017.  When it didn’t happen, he amended his highly-publicized claim by saying, “Wait until the middle of October.  I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed.”  It’s now past the middle of October! 

Television evangelist Rick Joyner predicted that Christian prophets would soon be able to write news stories a week in advance.  He said, “You don’t need to watch the Super Bowl.  I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen.”  If he could really do that, he could make a quick fortune as a stock broker.

In the 1980’s, Edgar Whisenant wrote a book – “88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988.”  He sold a lot of copies of that book.  When the world didn’t end in 1988, he revised the book to add one more reason and called it “89 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1989.”  The interesting thing about buying that new book was that you could pay for it with a credit card and not make any payments for 2 years! 

Predicting has gone on for a long time.  Back in the 1800’s, a religious leader named William Miller calculated that somewhere between March 21, 1823 and March 21, 1844, Christ would return and Judgment would occur, and the new Millennium would begin.  A contemporary of Miller’s was Alexander Campbell, the leader of the Disciples of Christ.  He wrote an article in 1841 to poke fun at Miller and documented that Miller had taken out a copyright on his book .  What good was a copyright that didn’t expire until 10 years after he said the world would expire? 

Sports fans really love to predict outcomes of games.  Some go a little too far.  A couple of years ago, Burke O’Connell, a New England Patriots fan, had the Patriots logo tattooed on his calf along with these words – “Super Bowl 50 Champs.”  The Patriots lost two days later to the Denver Broncos, but Burke still has the tattoo.  He actually made an even dumber prediction when he had his chin tattooed with the name of his girlfriend, and then she broke up with him!  He simply admitted, “I can’t say ‘live and learn’ because I didn’t live and learn.”

One of my favorite sports stories is about the Major League All-Star game several years ago when Yogi Berra and Stan Musial were playing against each other.  Yogi Berra was in the locker room with all the pitchers from the American League.  They were discussing how to pitch to Stan Musial.  They discussed at length whether you should throw the ball high and tight, or low and away, or change speeds, or keep the ball high and away.  Everybody was predicting how they could get Stan Musial out.  Finally, the inimitable Yogi Berra said, “That’s enough.  Quit.  Your American League pitchers are not going to figure out how in 15 minutes what National League pitchers haven’t been able to figure out in 15 years.” Good advice!

I think the best advice is not to worry or panic about the future.  We know that God is in charge and Jesus is coming again.  We don’t know the day or the hour.  Jesus was very clear that our responsibility is not to figure out the details of His return, but to be ready.  Read Matthew 24:35-42 and 25:13.  Mahatma Gandhi said, “I do not want to foresee the future.  I am concerned with taking care of the present.  God has given me no control over the moment following.”

We need to quit predicting the future and start producing the fruit of the present!  We need to quit looking for clever ways to use religion to make money, and start letting the Bible teach us how to help prepare people to live effectively starting today and forever.  (Tweet this)

We need to move from apocalyptic conjectures to apostolic certainties!

From Selfies to Service

The word “selfie” was the new word a couple of years ago.   It refers to how people take pictures of themselves.  It has become quite popular.  It has also become extremely dangerous.  In the first 8 months of 2016, 73 people died while taking selfies.  That’s up from 39 selfie deaths in 2015, and 15 selfie deaths in 2014.   The majority of people fell from buildings, mountains – others tried to take selfies on train tracks or while posing with fire arms.  Men accounted for 76% of the deaths.Selfie Naruto

Even animals are becoming fascinated with selfies.  About 6 years ago, a wildlife photographer was shooting pictures in Indonesia.  A crested macaque named Naruto discovered the camera and snapped a photo of himself.  The selfie was placed on social media and immediately went viral.  Interestingly enough, a discussion occurred about who owned the rights to his selfie.  The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have sued so that the monkey can get a percentage of profits he made from the selfie.

In October 2017, a teenage girl was taking selfies of herself at a Los Angeles art exhibit.  She posed in front of a row of pillars, accidently brushed one of the pillars, causing them to fall like dominoes.  She created $200,000 worth of damage.  The artist, Simon Birch, commented, “We trust people.”   I’m not sure if the exhibit will continue trusting selfies.

A Greek fable tells about Narcissus, a youth with extraordinary beauty, who became infatuated with his beauty.  He neglected the advances of Echo, and she died of love sickness.  Narcissus was punished by the gods by being made to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool.  He couldn’t get away from looking at his own reflection, and he grew weak, dying of love-sickness.

Narcissism is alive and well today.  Most of us just think too highly of ourselves.  If most of us could be bought for what we’re worth, and sold for what we think we’re worth – someone could make a fortune!  Derric Johnson said, “It’s amazing to see the number of people taking ego trips . . . with so little luggage!”

One piece of evidence of a selfish mindset might be the rise of “sologamy” – a new term that means marrying one’s self.  This trend comes from single people in Brooklyn and San Francisco who are marrying themselves.  They actually have full marriage ceremonies.  Erika Anderson, 37, recently invited friends and family to witness her tying the knot with herself.  She said, “It means that we are enough, even if we are not partnered with someone else.”

Some of these ceremonies have become quite expensive.  In September 2017, an Italian fitness instructor named Lura Mesi married herself in a very lavish ceremony.  This 40-year woman said she was just tired of playing the dating game.  She spent $12,000 to stage “my fairytale wedding – only without a Prince Charming.” 

Selfies and sologamies are counter to God’s instructions for us.  Jesus was not interested in what He could do for himself, but what He could do for others.  He invites us into that same kind of lifestyle.  He said, “I didn’t come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). 

Move from a selfie mentality to a service ministry!

 

“What If?” – The Yella Fella’s Answer

In many small towns across America, young people go off to school, then they find more lucrative places of employment in urban areas rather than returning to their hometowns.  Here is an exception to that trend.

Jimmy Rane grew up in Abbeville, Alabama.  When he was in his third year of law school, an unexpected death in the family brought him back to Abbeville.  These unforeseen circumstances eventually turned him into the owner of a small wood treating business.

That’s how the enterprising law student met a wonderful gentleman named Lawson Curry.  Lawson couldn’t read or write, and he lived in a house with no electricity or running water.  But one day Lawson and Jimmy were talking about ways in which wood treatment and processing could be improved.  He had some good ideas, and Jimmy relied on him as he launched this business.

The company had two employees – Jimmy Rane and Lawson.  The first year they worked really hard, and their sales were $22,000.  After expenses, they had little to show for their efforts.

Jimmy Rane had a dream.  He developed a plan to bring that dream to reality.  A dream without a plan can often become a nightmare.  But a dream with a plan can lead to huge success.  Jimmy worked his plan, and the business grew to be one of the largest wood treatment businesses in the world!  Last year their company’s sales were over $1 Billion!  From $22,000 to $1 Billion!!  And it happened in a small town where folks said you couldn’t do it.

Jimmy Rane doesn’t listen well!  When people tell him something can’t be done, he practices “selective deafness.”  He doesn’t take the opinions of people who don’t understand what it means to achieve a purpose in life.  He is still operating his business on those same principles.

He believes in praying with his employees.  There is a well-used Bible on his desk.  He has a devotional for his employees.  My great friend John Riley is his ICO – Inspirational Communications Officer. 

Jimmy Rane

Jimmy Rane’s office is very unassuming.  His desk is round because he said he never liked to sit across the desk from anyone.  That’s just his value.  There’s an American flag, family photos, autographed pictures of some of the great sports figures, devotional literature, beautiful artwork and a modest sitting section.  My wife could help the looks of that sitting area a lot!!!!

With all his success, Jimmy Rane hasn’t forgotten where he came from.  He has shared generously his success.  The first thing he did was to build a very nice new house for Lawson and his wife Alice.  Lawson couldn’t believe he could live in a house with running water, electricity, kitchen appliances, etc.  Jimmy Ranes appreciated his “partner in business.”  And Jimmy never charged him rent for the house.  Lawson passed away a few years ago, but before he did, he and Jimmy made an agreement that is still being honored to this day – that Lawson’s wife, Alice, could continue to live there rent-free as long as she wanted. 

Jimmy Rane is very active in the United Methodist Church.  He, John Riley, pastor Randy Greene and some leaders were talking about an emphasis the church needed to do in the community in terms of a revival or renewal.  They invited me to come down and preach.  It was a great experience.  On a Wednesday night, the church was filled with people.  There was enthusiastic singing and genuine worship. 

Abbeville is different because of the dream, commitment, creative thinking, and hard work, of Jimmy Rane.  The Methodist church is different because of John Riley and Jimmy Rane and many, many others.

What if more young people went to small towns to start a career?  What if more of us would prayerfully consider initiating something that other folks said would be impossible?  What if more of us were willing to take the risk of following God’s lead to “Walk on the water?”  What if more of us incorporated basic Christian concepts everyday when conducting our business?  What if we chose to share with those in need?  What if – what if?

Update on John Ed’s Surgery

Dear Friends,
Thank you so much for praying for John Ed’s hip surgery.  He went in to surgery around noon yesterday.  After the surgery, Dr. Sheils had a big smile on his face and gave us 2 thumbs-up.  John Ed had an excellent night, and he is feeling very good today.  We ask you to please continue praying for his healing and a good recovery.
We are very blessed by all of you!   Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Lynn Mathison and family

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!