From “Here I Stand” to “There We Go!”

Dr. John Ed Mathison

By John Ed Mathison

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.

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!

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

Dr. John Ed Mathison

By John Ed Mathison

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!

Be a Barnabas!

 

Dr. John Ed Mathison

By Dr. John Ed Mathison

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!