What’s your AQ — Attitude Quotient?

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Are we drifting?

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Anger is like a bomb

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What Can We Learn?

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Radical Generosity

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Handling Success

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The Changeless and the Changing

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Growth Requires Change

By John Ed Mathison
Executive Director
John Ed Mathison Ministries

Change is always difficult because most of us don’t want to change.  However, thejohn ed amount of growth is often dependent on the amount of change we are willing to make.

My experience with Sunday School at Frazer is an excellent example.  Early in my ministry I put together a visionary group called the Joel Team to help discern God’s vision for the future.  One layperson suggested that Sunday School attendance had to grow in our church.  This bucked the trend because United Methodist Sunday School had been declining over the last 50 years.  Our Sunday School was small, but these creative laypeople began to discuss how we could change that trend.

We discovered that some of the larger Sunday School classes were meeting in smaller rooms, and some of our smaller classes were meeting in larger rooms.  This isn’t good stewardship in the use of the facility.

Let me remind you that Sunday School classes have a tendency to have ownership of their space.  They go to great efforts to upgrade the looks of their classroom.  The window treatments, the altar tables, etc. are oftentimes personally made by members of the class.  One layperson suggested, “Why don’t we look at Sunday School attendance every six months and rearrange the rooms to give the largest rooms to the largest classes.”

Caution!  This is a huge change.  People began to see that every Sunday School class might have to change rooms.  But the question is – do we want to grow a Sunday School or do we want to have business as usual and keep our own rooms?  Change would be necessary.

The Joel Team, consisting of people from all age groups, said that our core value is to grow our Sunday School. To do that it would be necessary to place the largest classes in the largest rooms.  It was voted on and passed unanimously, because the core value did not center around the inconvenience of change but the vision of growing the Sunday School.

Every six months the average attendance of each class is recorded and the rooms are assigned accordingly.  The Sunday School grew to three sessions each Sunday morning.  Each room is used three times.  If you go to Frazer today you will see no permanent Sunday School class names on a door.  There are actually three slots for 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 Sunday School.  Each class has a nameplate that they can slide into that slot.  The classrooms change accordingly to average attendance and the size of the room.

It has also created a bit of competition.  If you want to keep your Sunday School room, you need to be inviting people and growing!

Another layperson suggested that the best way to grow our Sunday School is to start new classes.  Because the tendency to give a new Sunday School class a room that is not being used (because nobody else wanted that room) you design defeat for the new class.  The Joel Team suggested that we give the best classrooms to the new classes.  That was a big mindset change for Sunday School classes.

All of these ideas passed our governing body almost unanimously.  Because the Joel Team had representatives from every age group in the church it was not a case of “they” making a decision for radical change, but it was a “we” are a part of that deciding body.

If these proposals had been my idea, I would not have been retained as pastor very long!  But this was the vision of the laypeople.  When laypeople have ownership, vision becomes reality.

What was the result – Frazer grew a Sunday School that became the largest Sunday School attendance of any United Methodist Church in America!!  The amount of change dictates the amount of growth.  Vision became reality when people were willing to change.

John Ed’s blog posts appear on For His Glory each week.
Contact: JAM Executive Suite 4,4131 Carmichael Road, Montgomery, AL 36106 Phone: 334-270-2149 Email:info@johnedmathison.org

The Challenge Of Change

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Band aids don’t work

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Leadership

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The “Yet” Mindset

By Dr. John Ed Mathison
Executive Director
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries

All of us face tough times and difficult situations in life.  We are walking down the hallwayjohn ed of life and turn a corner and all of a sudden we are stopped dead in our tracks by something we didn’t expect.  It can either cause us to turn around and run, or serve to help us face life with confidence.

God never puts us in situations that He doesn’t provide the things necessary to face those situations.  The witness of the Bible and history is that people of faith have confidently put their trust in God and discovered that apparent stumbling blocks can be turned into stepping stones.

One good way to face this is what I refer to as the “Yet Mindset.”  I was recently reading in the Book of Habakkuk because of a devotional by my friend Mark Sartain.  Not often do I read that book as devotional literature.  Habakkuk and the people of Israel were facing some really tough times.  They rounded a corner and faced a depressing situation.  Habakkuk declares, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails and the fields lie empty and baron; even though the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty!” (Habakkuk 3:17)  That is a tough situation.

But Habakkuk had a “Yet Mindset.”  He said, “Yet I will wait patiently.”  Notice that little three letter word “Yet.”  After cataloging the tough situation he says, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.”  The “Yet Mindset” prepares us to wait patiently and rejoice for the upcoming victory that God is going to provide.

The “Yet Mindset” begins in the mind.  It is connected to our thinking.  Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you are right.”  The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi and said, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 2:5) It is how we think.

We can never change our actions until we change our minds.  We can never make progress in life until we make some changes.  George Bernard Shaw said, “Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

A “Yet Mindset” is about a mindset of confident waiting and rejoicing.  The “Yet Mindset” is not one that just helps us get by the best we can.  It is a victorious mindset.  It is not a mindset that is trying to stay close and play a good game, or even trying to tie the game – it is a mindset of how God wants to give us victory. David writes, “Trouble will last for only a second, but His favor lasts a lifetime.  Weeping may stay all night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)  “You have turned my crying into joyful dancing; you have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.”  (Psalm 30:11)

Look how Habakkuk closes out his book.  His last words were the result of his “Yet Mindset” when he says, “The Lord is my strength.  He will make my feet like the feet of a deer, and will make me walk in the high places.”  (Habakkuk 3:19)  Wow!  Feet like a deer and walking in high places.  The “Yet Mindset” declares, “Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.”  (I John 4:4)  Paul had the “Yet Mindset” when he affirmed; I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:3)

Let God help you get the “Yet Mindset.”
John Ed’s blog posts appear each week in For His Glory.

Contact: JAM Executive Suite 4,4131 Carmichael Road, Montgomery, AL 36106 Phone: 334-270-2149 Email:info@johnedmathison.org

How Will You Finish?

By John Ed Mathison
Executive Director
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries

The Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, Georgia is the largest 10K race injohn ed the world.  Thousands of people participate.  This year’s 46th running of the Peachtree Road Race produced an interesting conclusion. Two runners were out in front of the field towards the end of the race.  One was American Ben Payne.  The other was British competitor Scott Overall.

Ben Payne is in the Air Force and stationed in Colorado Springs.  He was the leader coming down the home stretch.  But Ben made a strategic error.  A few steps from the finish line he put up his index finger indicating that he was cruising to victory.  What he didn’t realize was that Overall was sprinting to the finish and quickly gaining on Payne.  He passed him right at the finish line.

Now the finish was so close that nobody knew who had won.  It took a couple of hours to determine that Overall had won by 9/100ths of a second.

The U.S. lost a 10K to the British on July 4th, 2015.  We had the victory won – but Ben celebrated a little early.  He failed to finish.  I am glad that 239 years ago America did not just start a race.  We enjoy our freedoms today because our forefathers finished the race!

I am glad the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence didn’t put together a document on which they could negotiate and potentially back out.  They signed a document that they knew would cost them dearly, but it would represent the very foundation on which this nation was built.  They faced extreme opposition within this country because no one thought that the states could gain independence.  But we had leaders who were willing to put their lives on the line and finish!

Our early forefathers put together our first flag.  It was the symbol of what this nation stood for.  It has been subsequently modified 26 times.  In 1958 President Eisenhower commissioned a contest to modify the flag to include the 50th state.  Interestingly, a 17-year-old high school student, Robert Heft, decided to participate and made it his class project.  His design of the American flag was accepted, which we display today.  Interestingly, he made a B- on the project.  Today we need to make an A+ on finishing the task for the principles on which this nation was built!

A lot of people have gone to battle under that flag.  Over a million Americans have died.  They were willing to finish the course!

I had an opportunity to go to Paris Island for a few days and view firsthand what our Marine recruits go through.  It is a huge challenge.  They take boys and make men out of them.  But they have to finish the test before they move forward as Marines.

At Paris Island there is that huge statue of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima in 1945.  250 marines went up the ridge, and only 27 came back down – but they finished the task.  Many of them were just young boys.  They didn’t quit when the going got tough.  One was interviewed and asked how it happened and he said, “We were knocked off the ridge six times, but we came back seven times.”  They finished!

More important than a 10K road race is the race for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness today.  The Brit runner beat the American runner in Atlanta on July 4th, 2015.  The Americans beat the Brits on July 4th, 1776.  Will we finish victoriously?  Read II Timothy 4:7.

How will you finish?

John Ed’s blog posts appear each week in For His Glory.
Contact: JAM Executive Suite 4,4131 Carmichael Road, Montgomery, AL 36106 Phone: 334-270-2149 Email:info@johnedmathison.org

Lifelong Learning

By John Ed Mathison
Executive Director
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministriesjohn ed

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Smart Chopsticks

By John Ed Mathison
Executive Director
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries

Health inspectors give a report each week on restaurants in the Riverjohn ed Region indicating a numerical score for how clean they are.  The report ends with Mark Bullard giving a robust “Clean Up!”   But what about the food the restaurant serves?  Is it pure – untainted?

The Chinese have now developed a pair of “smart chopsticks” that will help you gauge the quality of the food you are about to consume.  These chopsticks have been developed by the Chinese tech giant Baidu and they were recently displayed at a technology conference.

These chopsticks feature built-in sensors that “can detect oils containing unsanitary levels of contamination.”  They have named the chopsticks Kuaisou, and they link to a smartphone app, which displays a “good” or “bad” reading depending on the quality of the food’s cooking oil.  The smart chopsticks will also record temperature, nutritional information, and calories.

Evidently the Chinese markets have had some challenges with food quality scandals such as “gutter oil,” or cut-rate cooking oil made from recycled garbage and sewage that is used by some street vendors.  These smart chopsticks will help determine the quality of the food.

We can see where external things are clean or not.  But we sometimes have real difficulty seeing how pure and untainted ideas, philosophies, opportunities, etc. are.  How do we discern that?

One way is the use of our conscience.  The problem with the conscience is that it is oftentimes based on education, values taught as a child, etc. and cannot be totally dependable.  The conscience can also be dulled.

I like the definition of the conscience by a little boy who said, “It’s a three-cornered thing in my heart that stands still when I am good, but when I am bad it turns around and the corners hurt a lot.  If I keep on doing wrong the corners wear off and it doesn’t hurt anymore.”  Another kid defined conscience as “something that makes a kid tell his mother before his sister tells her.”  You can’t depend on your conscience.

We need God’s divine help.  His desire is to help us discern where there is evil, even though it is well disguised.  We are tempted to consume a lot of things intellectually that are “gutter oil” and recycled from garbage and sewage.  Check out some of the things we watch on television or see at the movies.

God’s spiritual chopsticks come from a close relationship to God like Paul had when he wrote, “It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)  This relationship causes sensors to go off when we are about to consume something that would be unhealthy for us morally, intellectually, or spiritually.  The Chinese app is new.  God’s app has been around for thousands of years and it is the smartest app you can ever receive.

Eating food that is unclean can make you sick for a while.  Consuming things that are impure for our minds and souls can do permanent damage.

Do you have your “spiritual chopsticks” yet?  They carry with them a “life-back” guarantee that includes this life and eternal life.

Together

By John Ed Mathison
Executive Director
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries

An organization functions best when each person correctly accesses his/her gifts, thenjohn ed deploys those gifts as a part of a team effort. Organizations get into problems when some people try to assume responsibilities for which they are not gifted. Another deterrent to productivity is having one person think that his/her gifts are more important than another persons’.

A good model to follow is I Corinthians 12. Paul describes the church as the human body. My body has different parts, such as feet, hands, ears, eyes. My body does not function well if my eyes try to hear or my ears try to see. There is also dysfunction when one part of my body starts claiming that it is more important than another part. Each part is extremely important and essential for my body to function as a coordinated unit.

There is a beautiful example of this recently reported in China. A couple of eco-warriors in China are redefining what it means to work together. Jia Haixa is blind and Jia Wenqi is a double amputee who lost both his arms at age 3. They both found it very difficult to find a job.

In 2001, they decided to engage this basic principle. They began working together planting trees along the riverbank in their hometown of Hebei. Despite the fact that neither one of them could do the work by himself, they discovered that together they could accomplish amazing things. They saw their respective situations not as disabilities but as possibilities if they worked together. The 53-year-olds have now managed to plant 10,000 trees over the last 10 years!

Today they are making a modest living which is helpful to their families, but is also helping to protect their village from dangerous floods. Haixa says, “I am his hands. He is my eyes. We are good partners.” It is amazing what can happen when each person contributes his best gift to the work of the entire organization.

Working together is the “together” that makes for success. Sir Thomas Beecham, the eminent conductor of the London Symphony, on one occasion was the guest conductor in another venue and was frustrated with the seemingly undisciplined group of musicians. During the rehearsal the concert master asked Mr. Beecham how he wanted a particular section played. After a long pause, and with great emphasis, he replied, “Together!”

We may not have it all together, but together we have it all!

John Ed’s blog posts appear each week in For His Glory.
Contact: JAM Executive Suite 4,4131 Carmichael Road, Montgomery, AL 36106 Phone: 334-270-2149 Email:info@johnedmathison.org

That’s Crazy

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Running Scared Or Walking Confidently

By Dr. John Ed Mathisonjohn ed
Executive Director
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries

“Running scared” might be the best description of how many people are living today. Fear is rapidly becoming one of the most dominant emotions that we have. Present day circumstances really heighten the emotion of fear.

Various pollsters listed some of the things of which American people are afraid. 71% suspect that there will soon be major terrorist attacks in the U.S. 43% fear that they or someone in their family will contract Ebola. 57% worry about being killed in a mass shooting. 69% fear cyber criminals will steal their credit card information. 62% fear that hackers will break into their phone or computer and steal sensitive and private information. A huge majority of older citizens fear that they won’t have enough money for retirement years.

Andrew Parker, the Britain Security Chief has recently warned that Al Qaeda is planning “mass casualty attacks against the West.” He goes on to say, “My sharpest concern as Director General of M15 is the growing gap between the increasingly challenging threat and the decreasing availability of capacities to address it.” Newspapers, television, social media – every day is filled with new threats that would heighten our fear.

Kenneth Benedict, executive director and publisher of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, meeting in Washington D.C. Thursday, January 24, 2015, reported that they are moving the Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight. Benedict said, “It is now three minutes to midnight. The probability of global catastrophe is very high. This is about the end of civilization as we know it.”

Do we have more to fear today than in the past? I don’t know the answer to that. One person stated recently that we have so much to fear today that back in the Roosevelt days we didn’t realize how lucky we were – having nothing to fear but fear itself!

The subtle danger of fear is that it appears to be something that it is not. It is deceptive. It is false. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous quote that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” was followed by a description of fear as “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

One acronym for FEAR is False Evidence Against Reality. Fear is not always real, it can be exaggerated. It doesn’t always fit with reality. A Russian proverb says, “Fear has big eyes.” Fear will magnify what it sees – and sometimes will see what is not even there. Mark Twain said, “I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’m scared of them.”

The answer to fear is faith. There are 365 references in the Bible to fear. I am not real good at math but that is about one for every day of the year. Each of those references assures us of God’s love and care for us and the importance of placing our faith in Him. As my friend Jim Sanders signs his letters:

Inhale Faith – Exhale Fear.

Psalm 34:4 – “I prayed to the Lord and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” I John 4:4 – “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Isaiah 41:10 – “Don’t be afraid for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you and hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

Life is a choice – fear or faith – running scared or walking confidently.

John Ed’s blog posts appear each Thursday in For His Glory.

Contact: JAM Executive Suite 4,4131 Carmichael Road, Montgomery, AL 36106 Phone: 334-270-2149 Email:info@johnedmathison.org