What does God look like?



Dr. John Ed Mathison

By John Ed Mathison

One day a first grade Sunday school teacher asked the class to think about something important and draw a picture of it.  Each child began working on the special picture that they wanted to draw.  The teacher noticed one little boy who seemed to be more focused than the rest.  The others had finished and he was still working.  She walked over to his desk and said, “Jimmy, what are you drawing?”  He looked up and said, “Teacher, I’m drawing a picture of God.”  The teacher said, “Jimmy, nobody knows what God looks like.”  Jimmy thought for a minute, and replied, “Well, they will when I finish this picture!”  

   What does God look like according to you?  The only thing some people know about Him is what they see in His children.  What qualities of God can people recognize in you each day?

   I remember hearing a beautiful story about a little boy who wanted to meet God.  He put some Twinkies and cokes in a bag and walked out the door.  He had only gone a few blocks when he met an old woman sitting in the park staring at some pigeons.

   The boy sat down next to her and opened his bag.  He noticed that the old woman looked hungry so he offered her a Twinkie.  She accepted it and smiled at him.  Her smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again.  He offered her some coke, and again she smiled.  

   They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling and never said a word to each other.

   As it started to get dark the boy knew that he had to go home.  He got up, walked a few steps, and then turned around and ran back to give the old woman a really big hug.  She gave him her biggest smile.

    When the boy opened the door to his house his mom noticed a look of joy on his face.  She said, “What did you do today that made you so happy?”  He said, “I had lunch with God.”  Before his mother could respond he added, “You know what?  She’s got the most beautiful smile I have ever seen!”

   The old woman went home also radiant with joy.  Her son was stunned when he saw her face.  He said, “Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy?”  She replied, “I ate Twinkies in the park with God.”  And before her son could say anything she said, “You know, he’s much younger than I expected.”

   We can learn about God from a lot of different sources.  One of the best sources is people.  We have an opportunity to both demonstrate Godly attitudes and qualities, and to associate with people from whom we learn about Godly living.

   In his youth, Jacob cheated his brother Esau out of his inheritance.  Later in life, Jacob and Esau met.  Jacob was overwhelmed by Esau’s forgiving attitude and he said, “I see your face as one sees the face of God and you have received me favorably.”  (Gen. 33:10)  Jacob saw the face of God through the redeemed relationship with his brother, Esau.

As a youth I attended MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) every Sunday night.  We always ended by repeating the benediction together.  Part of this was, “The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine upon you…” (Numbers 6:24-26)

  Whose face shines in and through you?

How to deal with death



Dr. John Ed Mathison

By John Ed Mathison

One subject that most people avoid is the subject of death.  People are reluctant to talk about it, but we better understand what it means and what its implications are because it will happen to each of us.  Occasionally someone will say to me, “If I die…”  I usually interrupt and remind them that the question is not “If I die, but when I die.”  The death rate always has been and still is 100%! 

   There are a lot of answers offered for how to deal with death and what the results will be.  This is one question every person had better get right because we don’t get a second chance to answer it!  

My friend, John Geiger, has the right answer.  In June 2017 he was diagnosed with ALS and doesn’t have long to live.  Recently a large group of people gathered at our office to pray for revival.  John was there.  It took a lot of effort for him to make it.  His contagious smile, deep faith, strong spirit, and confident witness verified that he knew the right answer about death.

   John says, “As we fight death, whether it’s 1 year, 10 years, or 50 years, we all have final breaths.  We can spend our time talking about ourselves – that’s a waste of breath.  We can spend it grumbling and complaining – that’s a sad use of air.  Or we can spend it in praise and thanksgiving proclaiming the truth in all circumstances.”

   He rightly contends that “Jesus has solved the problems of mankind, especially our final enemy – death.  And He didn’t do it with just a positive philosophy.  He did it Himself by coming and taking the form of a man, dying a death, and rising from the death with witnesses.  This is a message that changes the world and changes my attitude for being faithful with whatever breaths I have left.”

   John relates how a skeptical person confronted him about his attitude.  John said he told the man about his ALS and the man looked at him and said, “Oh, everybody needs something to comfort them – something to believe in.  I’m so glad you have those nice thoughts.”  John then looked at the man and replied, “Comfort?  I don’t want comfort.”  The man was shocked.  John said, “I want truth.  If Jesus Christ came out of the grave – His body rose – I want to know because there is hope for mankind and hope for death.  But if he’s still in the grave, I don’t care what you try to comfort yourself with, there is no comfort.”

   John has spent his life teaching students how to live – now he is teaching all of us how to die.  He knows who holds the keys to death.  He knows the truth! 

   A lot of people are very fearful today, especially with all the talk about nuclear weapons.  Bunkers are being designed that might help people survive a nuclear attack.  Properly stocked and built, these bunkers might keep you alive for a few months.  Some will cost you a billion dollars – but you will eventually die.  A billion dollar bunker won’t help you when you die – but a bunker that was briefly occupied for 3 days 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem is empty, and that’s the bunker that makes an eternal difference! (Tweet this!)

That’s why Paul said, “O death, where is your sting?  O grave where is your victory?  Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (1 Cor. 15:55)  Death is the victim, not the Victor.  The victory has already been won! 

   Please get the answer right about dealing with death!

Driven by a dream



Dr. John Ed Mathison

By John Ed Mathison

Judith Toensing is a sixth grade teacher in Yuma, Arizona.  She is one of those teachers – and there are many – that teach more than just the subject assigned to them.  They teach students to dream.  They inspire students to think about doing things that no one ever thought they could do.

   Judith did this for Christin Gilmer in 1997 as she graduated from the sixth grade.  On her report card Toensing wrote, “It has been a joy to have you in class.  Keep up the good work!  Invite me to your Harvard graduation!”  Christin did exactly that in June 2018 when she graduated from Harvard with a Doctorate of Public Health!

   Everybody can make a difference in somebody’s life – help them see what they can be.  Gilmer said, “It meant so much to me to know that outside of my mom, someone believed in my dreams and my ability to accomplish them.”

   The people in the administration at Harvard learned about that sixth grade dream that Judith put in the mind of Christin, and Dean Michelle Williams sent a note thanking Toensing for all of her “immeasurably important” work.  She invited Judith to Christian’s Harvard graduation – and said that Harvard would pay for all of her expenses!

   There’s no limit to what can happen in the life of a person when someone helps them to dream God’s dream.  Thank God for school teachers, coaches, neighbors, preachers, friends, etc. who help people dream big.  God uses people to help create dreams that redefine what is possible!

   President John F. Kennedy announced one day that before the end of the decade of the 60s the United States would put a man on the moon.  People thought that was absurd and impossible.  The President created a picture in the minds of the American people of what could be.

   His vision was received by a high school student Neil Armstrong.  The night Armstrong graduated from high school, he took his science teacher to the front porch of the gymnasium, put his arm around his shoulder, looked up at the moon, and said, “Teach, some day I’m going to put a foot on that moon.”

   I remember calling off church on a Sunday night in July 1969 so that we could all watch that historic moment when Armstrong touched the moon.

   Armstrong did touch the moon in 1969, but that’s not when he really touched the moon.  He really touched the moon the night that somebody placed in his mind the possibility of his doing it.  He saw it!  Putting a foot on the moon was a part of the journey that had started when he saw it in his mind.

The Prophet Joel said that God wants our “old men to dream dreams and young men to see visions.”  (Joel 2:28)  God put a vision in the mind of Moses that he should lead the people of Israel to the Promised Land.  Everybody thought he was crazy, but he was driven by that dream – and it came true! 

   God is putting visions in the minds of people today.  A few minutes invested to help someone see God’s vision can pay dividends for a lifetime.  (Tweet that!)

Have you attended a graduation lately?