Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
August 18, 2013
Auburn Methodists know how to have a good time
Last Wednesday I had a great time with a hundred old folks in Auburn. The occasion was a Jubilee Ministry Celebration beautifully arranged by Lynn Jackson who is on staff at Auburn Methodist Church. Hank Elliott led the group in a foot-stomping good time singing great old gospel songs.
When Hank saw me come in, and realized I was up to preach after the singing, he told me to get fired up because the last song would be “I’ll Fly Away.” Hank and his friends, an excellent male quartet, had the crowd singing with gusto. He created an exciting moment for me to step up and preach.
Lynn had asked me to speak on the theme “Connected in Service” based on the words of Jesus in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
So I talked about connections and how important the right connections are to all of us. I have some great connections in that church. Ed Williams and David Housel are two of my best friends. Both have had sterling careers at Auburn University and are exemplary Christian gentlemen. I got to hug both of them Wednesday.
My connection to Pastor George Mathison began when he was a little boy in Wetumpka. His dad, Brother Si, led me into a life-changing connection to Jesus while serving as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Wetumpka. George and I have been prayer partners for more than 50 years.
George’s mother Mary was a dear friend. Our connection with Mary was quite strong. When Dean and I led a group on a missions tour around the world in 1967 Mary came to our home and took care of our four young sons for three weeks. For such heroic service she should have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. To this day Dean and I still marvel at Mary’s extraordinary kindness to us.
When one gets connected to Jesus he is then connected to others who are joined to him. This is one of the great privileges of the Christian life – to serve the Lord alongside others who are serving him. The memory of such connections brings incredible joy to my heart.
I think, for example, of my friend Ralph Freeman of Atlanta, a marvelous singer of gospel music. While driving Ralph to the airport on one occasion I felt prompted to stop and visit a dying friend. The woman had never professed faith in Christ though I had been praying she would. That afternoon I asked her if she would like to invite Jesus into her heart and she said yes.
I baptized her as she knelt at the coffee table in her den and she accepted Jesus as her Savior. I was so overcome with joy that I turned to Ralph and said, “Ralph, sing something!” He smiled and began singing the Doxology as I had never heard it sung before. Connected to Jesus and connected to Ralph and Mary, there in that humble home, the presence of the Lord was never more real. It remains for me a truly unforgettable moment.
My connection to Jesus is the most important connection of my life. But I have learned one thing: for that connection to remain strong I must surrender daily to Jesus. Last Wednesday, while enjoying fellowship with some wonderful old codgers on the Plains, I surrendered to him again.
If you need some excitement in your life, check out those Auburn Methodists. I want to stay connected to them. They know how to have a good time! + + +