Greener grass or artificial turf

Some people go through life trying to find a reason why they’re not successful where they are. They feel like the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. It may look greener, but it is usually artificial turf! God’s greenest grass is right where you are standing. Produce where you are planted!

For years, I went to Larry Brown at Kut Above to get my hair cut. I was always fascinated by a sign that he had right in front of the barber’s chair. In the center was a picture of him and his grandchildren. The plaque was a quote from George Moore which said, “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs – and returns home to find it.”

5 years ago, I was in Zurich, Switzerland, with some other pastors working with the Billion Soul Initiative. We’d spent a couple of days making strategic plans to carry out Dr. Bill Bright’s goal of starting 5 million churches and winning 1 billion people to Christ. When we finished our meeting, a couple of Pastors from the U.S. said that we ought to go and visit Ulrich Zwingly’s church. One person, who claimed to be an expert on church history, said that it was in Lucerne, which was about an hour away by train.

I responded that I would not be able to go because my plane would be leaving in a couple of hours. They had more time, so they caught the train and went to Lucerne. On my way to the airport, I asked the cab driver about Ulrich Zwingly’s church, and the driver told me that it was one block from where he picked me up! I asked him if he was sure, and he told me that he’d lived there all of his life, had been to the church, and he was certain.

My friends spent several hours of valuable time going to look for a famous church, and they were standing one block away from it all the time!

I remember hearing a great story about a farmer who got tired of the hard work on the farm and wanted to go find his fortune. He sold his farm and set out to search for diamonds. He spent his life going to different parts of the world, but never did find any diamonds. He returned to his hometown and went back to see his old farm. He was shocked to see that the man who had bought the farm had discovered one of the largest and most valuable collections of diamonds right in his own backyard! The farmer had swapped green grass for artificial turf!

In Luke 15, Jesus told about a boy who wanted greener pastures. He got his inheritance, went to a new pasture, wasted all he had, and wound up in a pigpen. His greener pasture was artificial turf!

One of the most beautiful verses of scripture is Luke 15:17, “He came to himself.” The Greek translation literally means he “woke up” and started thinking correctly. He decided to go home where his father gladly received him and threw a big party for him. God still gives wake-up calls today!

It’s easy to think that things could be better if we were elsewhere. God might be saying to us – “think correctly – come to yourself – realize that I put you where you are for a certain reason, and your greatest joy and happiness always occurs where I put you. You are standing in green grass! Bloom where you’re planted.”

God’s grass is never artificial turf, but always greenest where He puts us!!

Thou O Lord

The problem with praying 2 Chronicles 7:14

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I Know exactly who will be our next president

It’s no secret. And fairly obvious if you think about it. A Democrat? Joe Biden? A Republican? Donald Trump? A woman? A dark horse Independent?

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Grace and. . .

I know there’s a boatload of folks out there who profess to be Christians who believe they’ve been saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8). They can even tell you their salvation story.

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Giving or Getting

Doris Buffett was the older sister of Warren Buffet, one of the richest men in the world. Warren announced in 2006 that he wanted to donate most of his $77 billion fortune before he died. Doris volunteered to sift through all of the requests and to make recommendations to her brother.

Doris was interested in helping people who really needed it, such as paying for dentures, wheelchairs, automobile repairs, etc. She did give money to some big organizations that do things like aid victims of domestic violence, improve the lives of the mentally ill, educate prisoners, etc. Doris also gave away $200 billion dollars of her own wealth. She said, “The plan is for my last check to bounce.”

She didn’t want to just give to things like the symphony, opera, and ballet. She wanted to give to ordinary people. She would also advise recipients how they could make extra money, use what they had more effectively, etc.

She said she wanted her epitaph on her grave to read, “She made a difference.” When questioned about it, she explained, “Unless you do, why were you here?”

Giving is a life or death matter. Consider two bodies of water in the Holy Land. One is the Sea of Galilee. The other is the Dead Sea. Both of them receive their water from the same source. But each body of water produces drastically different results.

The Sea of Galilee is surrounded by luscious green grass and trees and has many fish living within it. Its water is very pure. It also is used to fertilize the fields around it to produce fruit. The Sea of Galilee doesn’t keep the water it receives but has an outlet to send the water forward. The Sea of Galilee produces life!

The Dead Sea has nothing living in it or around it. It is so salty that you can literally float in it. I’ve done that! It has no outlet. It keeps the water for itself and therefore becomes impure. It produces death.

Getting without giving can turn life into death. It’s more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35) I’ve had many funerals during my 60 years of ministry. In the funeral procession, the minister’s car is always placed just behind the hearse carrying the body to the gravesite. I’ve never seen a U-Haul hooked up to the back of the hearse because somebody wanted to “carry it with them.” Read Psalm 49:14-17.

We need to be careful about which groups we give to so we can be certain that our gift is used for its intended purposes. I’m reminded that the people who emphasize that “you can’t take it with you” might be trying to “take it with them!”

Billy Graham started an organization called ECFA – Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. They have stringent requirements for membership, but it helps to ensure donors that their gifts will be used in accordance with the purpose of the organization. Joining ECFA was the first thing we did when the John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries was established. I advise all nonprofit ministries and religious groups to join it.

Doris Buffett died this year. Let’s learn her legacy lesson on giving!

Politics and Religion

Politics and Religion

You will never read a word on this blog about politics or religion. I don’t disparage Democrats or support Republicans. I will never put my hope in any president or elected official. Nor will I put my hope in any evangelist or TV ministry.

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What do you pray for?

When most Christians pray don’t they usually want God to do something for them?

Generally speaking don’t most of our prayers fall into one of four categories?

  • heal me
  • answer my prayer requests
  • hand me (get something for me
  • help me

Max Lucado Ministries did a survey of 1,000 folks who professed to be Christians Lucado asked them what they prayed for. Below is a list of their responses:

  1. 51% of the respondents prayed for their own sin
  2. 46% prayed for their enemies
  3. 44% prayed for natural disasters
  4. 20% said they prayed to win the lottery
  5. 10% said they prayed for revenge for someone who hurt them
  6. 11% said they prayed for their favorite team to win
  7. 9% said they prayed to find a good parking spot
  8. 7% said they prayed not to caught for speeding

Most surveys we regard as unreliable. At best we are skeptical of their findings. But if we swallow any of Lucado’s results, even with a grain block of salt, to me they tell a sad story. These numbers tell me we’ve got a lot of church folks and people who claim to be Christians who have no clue about prayer. How to do it. How not to do it and what the purpose of real prayer should be.

What would you do?

The bible teaches us that Daniel was a man of integrity. For 70 years throughout his life he did the right thing. Even when doing the right thing threatened to get him devoured by lions.

Politicians today aren’t concerned in the least with doing the right thing. They won’t make the tough, right calls. They make the easy, cheap, popular, self aggrandizing calls. Not like Daniel who always did what was right.

Would you choose to do the right thing?

  • What if they passed a law that forbid you to read the bible?
  • What if it was against the law to pray?
  • What if it was against the law to sing praise songs?
  • What if the law forbid you to gather in small groups to pray?

Would you defy te law to do what you knew was the right thing to do?

Think about it. The culture is encroaching on believers more every day. Will you cave to the social pressure to conform to the world or will you do what you know is the right thing to do?

Fire Drill

Remember those fire drills in elementary school? The teacher would say, “Okay, boys and girls, today at 1:30 we’re going to have a fire drill.”

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Character

My friends over at Webster’s Dictionary define character as doing the right thing when no one is looking. Character, they say, is the way you treat people who can do nothing for you.

My dear friend Richard Sudderth was a brilliant, shining example of someone who had more character in his little finger than I have in my whole body.

Richard went home to be with Jesus on Tuesday. He passed away peacefully in his sleep. He was 95.

Richard was among the very first friends I met when my church, One Heart, merged with First Baptist Norcross seven years ago. We struck up a close friendship right away. We both were an active part of the Saturday morning small group men’s Bible study until it became too much of a struggle for him to make it by 8 a.m. on Saturdays. Richard was also a member in good standing of the older mens’ Bible study on Sundays.

I never heard Richard utter a negative word or comment about another human being EVER! He ALWAYS found a way to say something positive or encouraging in every situation.

Richard and I enjoyed some wonderful fellowship and friendship around his kitchen table. He would invite me over or I’d stop by and we’d gab over big bowls of ice cream and A & W root beer (the only brand he’d allow in the house).

On more than one occasion after church on Sunday Richard would invite me and Marie and our daughter Lois and our two granddaughters out for dinner. The dinner was always a time of great fun and laughter. Richard enjoyed it because he got to shoot spit balls through his straw at our granddaughters while we ate. He still had a big kid inside himself into his 90’s.

I cried when I got word of his death. I’m choking up tears as I write this now. I will miss everything about my dear friend. But he has left an indelible mark of his integrity, his sense of humor, and his shining character on me. I can only hope and pray that my family and friends remember me with one one/hundredth of the character Richard showed me.

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Hospital pause

Last week I spent three days in the hospital dealing with some painful bladder and prostate issues. So I’m playing catch up this week with posts I had planned for last week.

“I hope you rot in hell.”

I was listening to the news the other night. They were in a courtroom and victims of a seriel killer just sentenced to life in prison were delivering their impact statements to the killer.

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How we got here

Occasionally I like to remind myself how I got here.

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Southern Comfort

In the South we’re big on comfort. Especially some of the things we call comfort food. We like to take our time at the dinner table and enjoy our comfort food.

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Sweet tea and Jesus

(Editor’s note) I wrote Sweet Tea and Jesus several years ago. It remains one of my readers’ most liked posts.

Folks who live outside the Deep South don’t understand Sweet Tea. If you go to most restaurants or truck stops north of the Tennessee line and ask if they have Sweet Tea, they’ll say, “Sure, sugar’s on the table.” (That means, “No.  We don’t have sweet tea. Sugar’s on the table.”)

When you make real Sweet Tea, first dump two cups of sugar into a pitcher. Bring a half gallon of water to a boil. When it boils put in three family-sized tea bags. Leave it alone for five or six minutes. Remove the tea bags and bring the tea to a boil. Pour the tea into the pitcher and stir it until the sugar melts. Fill the pitcher half way with ice and stir until the ice melts. Then fill the pitcher with cold water. Stir until blended.

Something real scientific happens when you make Sweet Tea. When the sugar dissolves in the tea, you no longer have sugar and tea, you have Sweet Tea. It is a different mixture. Two separate ingredients mix together to form a new substance. It’s no longer sugar, and no longer tea. It’s Sweet Tea. The sugar won’t settle on the bottom of the pitcher, because it’s not sugar any more. The liquid will always be Sweet Tea to the last sweet drop in the pitcher.

The Bible teaches us that’s the same thing that happens when we accept Jesus Christ as Savior and invite Him into our hearts. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man (water) be in Christ, (sugar) he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (Sweet Tea).

As born again believers we are now spiritually in Christ, and will be forever. God has already guaranteed our position in Christ for eternity.  Ephesians 2:5-6 proclaims, “even when we were dead in our transgressions (God) made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

As a new creation in Christ, He wants to live His life in us, through us and as us to bring glory to God. As part of our true identity we are in Christ and Christ is in us. We’re new creations.

The next time you drink a big glass of Sweet Tea, think about being a new creation with Christ living in you and you in Christ. And for all you Yankees, I hope y’all get to visit us down here one day and savor a tall cool glass of this delicious nectar us Southern folks call Sweet Tea. Y’all will just love it.

A little goes a long way

One of Jesus’ most amazing miracles was the feeding of the 5,000. And he did it with five loaves and two fishes. Mathematically speaking that makes no sense at all–except that Jesus knew a principle his Father taught him. With God a little goes a long way.

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Right into the storm

One of Jesus’ most memorable miracles occured when The Savior fed 5,000 men and their women and children in a remote location as night was approaching. From Mark 6; Matthew 14:13-21;, Mark 6:31-44;

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Leftovers

My all-time favorite meal growing up was my mom’s leftover hash from her pot roast.

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How big is your but?

In his book, The Rest of the Gospel, author Dan Stone writes a chapter called, “The Holy But”¹. Stone writes that the Holy But originated in the Garden of Gasthemene,

“Going a little farther, he (Jesus) fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, ΒUT as You will.’ ” (Matthew 26:39)

Jesus was suffering and grieving about what He was about to do. His circumstances led Him to the cross to die a painful, bloody, lonely death. In spite of the horrible agony He suffered, Jesus lived behind the Holy But. “Yet not my will BUT Yours be done.” Jesus put His life in the hands of His Heavenly Father. He focused on His Father, not His circumstances. Jesus chose God’s will over His own.

Stone says we all live behind our buts.

For example,

  • “I like our pastor, but he’s too long-winded.”
  • “I’d volunteer in the nursery, but Sunday’s my only day off.”
  • “Our atheist neighbors are facing a crisis, but I’m afraid to talk to him about Jesus.”
  • “We’d like to tithe, but we barely make enough to pay the bills.”

Do we know some Christians with big buts like these?

  • “I know Jesus loves me, but you don’t know what I’ve done.”
  • “The Bible says Jesus freed me from sin, but I still sin.”
  • “I believe in Jesus, but church people are hypocrites.”
  • “I know I need to forgive my dad for abandoning us, but I just can’t.”
  • “I know I need to pray more, but I just don’t have the time.”
  • “The Bible tells me God accepts me completely, but I don’t feel accepted.”
  • “God’s grace may work for some people, but not for me.”

The Apostle Paul lived after his but as well. In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 Paul says,

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 48-9

Paul faced dreadful, seemingly hopeless circumstances, but he chose to live behind his buts and above beyone his circumstances.

Later in that chapter, Paul writes,

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  Vs 16-18

Paul put the trouble in front of his buts and put God, or God’s perspective, after the but. He was still afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. But, his perspective and his focus was on God and what God could do.

God’s word teaches us we are totally loved, totally accepted, children of the eternal God? Let’s start putting our circumstances before our “buts” and our faith (and God’s truth about us) behind them.

If we know who we are in Christ, isn’t it time we get off our big but?

1The Rest of the Gospel, Dan Stone, One Press, Dallas, Texas <&copy;> 2000

The “D” word

We don’t like to think about it. We don’t like to talk about it. We don’t know when it will visit us.

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If I could. . .

comparison trap

If I could ever have . . .
If I could ever do . . .
If I could ever marry . . .
If I could ever own . . .
If I could ever accomplish . . .
If I could ever be . . .
If I could ever make . . .
If I could ever get his/her approval

then . . . maybe then . . .enough people . . .or that one person. . . would begin to look at me and say, “You know, you’re alright.”

And if they say that about me, then . . .maybe . . .just maybe . . .I’ll begin to feel “okay” about myself and it will fix whatever it is inside of me that’s broken.

Is this about anybody else out there besides me? Do we sometimes look around at other people and what they have and what they do and how much money they have to make us feel better about ourselves?  Do we sometimes compare our lives to others?

We all do it in some season in our lives. At our core, when we compare ourselves to others to make us feel alright about ourselves, it’s called envy.  Solomon, the wisest man in the world said this:

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4

If we believe Solomon, then every work of ours, every  job, every service, every use of our skills and talents is motivated by envy.
And it’s all worth nothing–like striving after wind.

Envy rots the bones.

There is no win comparing ourselves to those around us.

Never call a sweet hot drink at Christmas time hot cocoa

That’s like asking for a mustard when you want a hotdog, Mustard is an ingredient on a hotdog. Cocoa is an ingredient of hot chocolate. The drink is ALWAYS referred to as hot chocolate. Never hot cocoa. If you were to drink a cup of cocoa it would make you gag. You would spit it out. It is bitter. It tastes like dust.

The thing about corn

I grew up in Shenandoah, a small farming town in Southwest Iowa,

35 miles from Nebraska and 13 miles from Missouri. Corn is the primary agricultural crop in the state.

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