Thursday, July 28, 2016

                                         The Judas Syndrome
When relationships falter and go bad we often are shocked and wonder what happened. Out of nowhere seemingly solid and close relationships often fail in what seem to be unknown causes. There are many reasons why relationships fizzle and fail, but today I would like to describe a serious and staggering collapse in relationship that I call the "Judas syndrome". Judas was one of Jesus twelve disciples who though selected to follow Jesus as one of the apostles eventually betrayed him for money. Judas heard and saw the amazing teaching and miracles that the other 11 apostles experienced and yet ultimately he chose to reject Jesus and betray him to death. Just what went wrong? When relationships collapse there is often a series of choices that lead to a progressive downward spiral toward separation and 'death' of the relationships.
A key word to look at and understand in the development and health of any relationship is expectation. At any point in relationship both parties have both spoken and unspoken expectations regarding what the other person should or should not do to maintain or even deepen that relationship. The ability to form reasonable and healthy expectations (and to be able to communicate them clearly) in relationships is a fundamental need in the development and growth of healthy relationships. When we can't communicate what we need or expect in our relationships, we set ourselves up for the certainty of disappointment.
Disappointment can be be defined as not getting what we want, when we want it. Healthy relationships have a balanced and understanding view of what others can supply in adding value to our lives. When we put people at the center of our lives and subtract the need for God, we ensure an eventual collapse of relationship. Healthy relationships demand we have both a vertical and horizontal flow of relationships. Jesus boldly spoke on this very issue in the 22nd chapter of the gospel of Matthew, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments." When we put all of our expectations for love and intimacy on people alone, we create an imbalance. As a result of sin, we neglect our need for relationship with God and put people in a place they are doomed to disappoint. No one on this planet can supply all our need for love intimacy apart from God.
Judas Iscariot was called by Jesus to follow him and proclaim his message. But Judas expectation of Jesus was for a political deliverer and source of income. A turning point toward disappointment is unveiled in the gospel of John chapter 12 and verses 1-7. Here we see an amazing contrast in relationship. Mary in contrast to Judas, understands that Jesus is so worthy of adoration and devotion that she takes expensive perfume to wash and anoint Jesus feet. Mary knew who Jesus was and no expense or act of worship was too extravagant for him. Judas on the other hand who is described as a 'thief' laments the loss of potential material gain for himself. Judas was disappointed. Judas wanted Jesus to be something he could never be and this marked the turning point in his life...bitterness was at the door calling loudly to his soul.
When we don't get what we want in relationship, we often blame the other person or even God. Our expectations unexamined and tried by truth lead us down a slippery path of disappointment and hurt. When we don't examine our expectations and deal in a healthy way with our disappointments we are potentially on a highway toward bitterness.
Bitterness can be defined as a person marked by cynicism and deep contempt for others. A bitter person ceases to believe in the goodness of the other. There is nothing to believe for in relationship. There is an ongoing burning of disgust centered around the places of disappointment and unmet expectations. Unresolved bitterness is perhaps the most fatal form of 'soul cancer'. It eats away at our humanity and saps our ability to love one another. It bleeds over into other relationships like physical cancers and tumors spread to other organs and body systems. Unless bitterness is addressed and healed, it is always fatal leaving its victims alone in their pain. The end of unresolved bitterness is always 100 percent fatal. There is only one cure and the victim of bitterness is often resistant to swallow it-----forgiveness.
Jesus is God and he is under no obligation to be someone or something else. Our prayers cannot be used as leverage to get him to do what we want or become someone he is not. Judas wanted Jesus to deliver Israel and provide him with a position in a liberated nation. Jesus had no such intention and Judas was disappointed to the point of bitterness. It ate on him day and night and he was looking for a way to strike at the heart of Jesus. Our disappointments flow out of our corrupted desires. Desires can be pure when we walk in surrender to the will of God. Desires that are not surrendered to God become sources of tyranny and corruption. Finally in one horrendous act of betrayal, Judas revealed his ignorance of who Jesus was. Judas desire for money led him to betray the Son of God for 30 pieces of silver. In an unprecedented act of selfishness he was shouting for all the world to hear, "If I can't get what I want, Jesus won't get what he wants". Judas got his money but he didn't get what he wanted or needed. Judas hung himself and forfeited the love and relationship he so desperately needed. It's all about love and nothing else will ever satisfy.
Judas is not an aberration. The temptation to move in the direction of what I call the "Judas Syndrome" is present in all of us to some degree. All of us have expectations. All of us must deal with our disappointment. And unfortunately we might encounter the dangerous mine field of bitterness.
Wounds of the soul are difficult to overcome. The way out toward healing can seem insurmountable. It's difficult to walk out of darkness alone We need a community of people who will reflect healing and forgiveness toward us even when we stumble and fall into sin. We need God....and we need one another. It's all about love.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Intimacy Killer: A Spirit of Control

  To be loved for who you are is the most essential human need. The development and growth of intimacy in our relationships demands maturity and selflessness. It's difficult to find deeply satisfying relationships, but easy to have shallow and frustrating 'friendships'.
 Due to our own insecurities and fears we often resort to ineffective and fatal behaviors in our relationships. Perhaps one of the most fatal of all is the manifestation of a controlling spirit. True love inspires, enables and empowers freedom of choice. All true love is rooted and grounded around the ability to move forward and maintain the relationship based on freedom and trust.
When we try to take control of another persons choices in relationship, we ensure the death of any possibility of true intimacy. A spirit of control closes the human spirit and damages the soul. We were not born to be 'controlled' and manipulated....we were born for real love.
The worst form of counterfeit love and intimacy is rooted in a horrific mutation of love known as narcissism.... the pathologic love of self. The narcissist doesn't love the other... he or she seeks to shape the other into whatever brings the ego the greatest pleasure of the moment. The root cause of a controlling spirit is the worship of self. The controller must be satisfied above all else...above all others. The partner of a controller is a slave of whatever they want: sex, attention, adulation, conversation, money or someone to hurt deeply.
The tragic end of someone dominated by a controlling spirit is the destruction of all their relationships and ultimately themselves. When we don't allow others to be free to love or reject us.... to set up boundaries in relationships based on trust and the natural patterns of growth over time that intimacy demands... to that extent we enslave ourselves to faux relationships based on lies and deception.
The more we attempt to squeeze others to conform to what we want....the more we dishonor them. People are made in the image of their creator who describes himself for us with three simple words, "God is love". God's image in us is honored and respected when we allow others to choose in relationship. God's great love doesn't demand a wins a response through proving his love. You can't love someone you don't trust. You can't be intimate with someone who seeks to use you for his or her own selfish desires.
Intimacy demands freedom. Do you seek for deeply satisfying relationships? Begin today to set others free in your life. Stop demanding what you want and start giving who you really are... no strings .... no chains. Real love is both a choice and a gift. You can't demand it...but you can give it and receive it from a God who is true love personified.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

When the World Comes Home

Recently I was invited to speak at a forum on diversity at the University of South Alabama. The University has a new President Dr. Tony Waldrop who sees the need to recognize the shifting demographics of both students and the United States as a whole. Though I am not an employee of the University, two international Professors recommended I serve on the panel which spoke to students, faculty and other employees. I thought it was a great opportunity to speak from a biblical perspective on diversity. I would like to share briefly some of the main points I shared on building healthy cross cultural relationships. If the world is indeed moving to our neighborhoods, we will have to equip ourselves and our churches and ministries to know how to build Christ honoring relationships with our diverse neighbors!
4 Attitudes that assist in building cross cultural relationships
  1. An Open Mind: When we close our minds, we become deeply ethnocentric--viewing others different than us as culturally inferior or of less value.
  2. A Humble Heart: Fallen and sinful humanity is basically prideful and cultural bigotry is one example of this reality. We simply reject others as being inferior to ourselves. It takes a humble heart to consistently be open to significant relationships with people unlike us!
  3. A Listening Ear: In order to be open to others we have to make every effort to listen carefully to people different from us. We need to listen for what is being said, what isn’t being said...and for what needs to be said!
  4. Faith in a loving God: The greatest enemy of healthy relationships is fear. The New Testament epistle of 1 John 4: 18, 19 is clear, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”
 Segregation is rooted in fear and pride. We seldom move in the direction of people different than us without the possession of some key character traits and behaviors that help us build the bridges that help us over the real chasm of cultural differences. We tend to choose to spend time with people similar to us. Proximity in our daily lives doesn’t necessarily lead to relationship. Someone will have to get uncomfortable before real relationships develop across cultures.
Creating a Culture of Honor
“Love one another with brotherly affection, Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)
One of the key ways that assist in building significant friendships is to foster trust and respect for one another in the area of culture...we seek to build bridges of honor. We do this by asking 4 key questions to allow our neighbor to reveal his or her heart to us.
  1. Show us who you are in the context of celebration--food, dress, music,dance, art and and cultural tradition that relates to a significant life passage such as a wedding.
  2. Tell us who you are in the midst of suffering and difficulty
  3. Tell us who you are in the area of belief, values and family
  4. Tell us who you are in  the area of your dreams and hopes for the future

Do you seek to build meaningful and healthy relationships across cultures? It will take time and effort… a willingness to sacrifice your ‘comfort zone’....but it will be worth it all. Life is all about relationships; the rest is just details!

Jim Mather
Friends of Internationals

Friday, April 15, 2016

Embracing Diversity in Relationships

Key attitudes to assist in embracing diversity as a lifestyle

  1. An Open Mind--when we close our minds, we become deeply ethnocentric---viewing others different than us culturally as inherently inferior or not as valuable.
  2. A Humble Heart--fallen and sinful humanity is defined as “prideful” and cultural bigotry is one example of this sinful reality---we simply reject others as inferior to ourselves. It takes a humble heart to consistently be open to significant relationship with people unlike us!
  3. A Listening Ear-- to be open to others we have to make every effort to listen carefully to people unlike ourselves--- listening for what is being said, what isn’t being said….and what needs to be said is a skill learned progressively by people who open the door to building new and purposefully challenging relationships.
  4. Faith in a loving God--- the greatest opponent of healthy relationships is fear. The New Testament letter 1 John chapter 4:18, 19  instructs us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”

I’ve been blessed to be involved in the lives of international students attending the University of South Alabama. The vision of the ministry of Friends of Internationals is to “Make Friends around the World” by providing a family like atmosphere for students living in Mobile, Alabama. What a huge opportunity to build significant relationships with people from nearly 100 nations!

But opportunity to build relationship  and actually doing it are two different things. Proximity to people different different than us is not relationship until and unless we pursue diversity with all of our heart.

Segregation ---separation of races---is rooted in fear and pride. We seldom move in the direction of people different than us without some key character traits and behaviors that help us lay the building blocks and build the bridges over the very real chasm of cultural differences. We tend to spend our time with people similar to us. We back away from varying styles of dress, food, entertainment and other deeper issues of belief, values and ways of ordering family and society.

Building a culture of Honor in a diverse society
What you honor you get more of….”~ Charles Simpson

Honor; high respect, as for worth, merit, or rank

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. ~Romans 12:10

One of the key ways that we seek to build significant friendships to build trust and respect for one another in the area of culture….we seek to build bridges of honor.

We seek to experience the food, music, dress and anything significant in a specific culture in presentations of celebration in a prepared home environment. We seek to allow others to define and tell us ‘who they are’ in an open and embracing atmosphere of honor. We believe that God has placed specific treasures within every defined people on the planet….and we believe that ultimately we are all enriched when we uncover, share and celebrate these ethnic specific treasures!

Tell us who you are so we can love you more fully and completely
What would you like us to know about you?

A. Show us who you are in the context of celebration--Food, Dress, Music/Dance, Art, Cultural Tradition related to weddings and other celebrations that are central to important life passages

B. Tell us who you are in midst of sorrow and difficulty

C. Tell us who you are in the area of belief, values and family

D. Tell us who you are in the area of dreams and hopes for the future

Friday, January 22, 2016

Loving People in an Age of Terror

Following the horrific terror attacks in Paris, France there was a strong political response within my home state of Alabama. From the Governor on down there was a lot of talk about restricting refugee settlement, especially of people coming from the war torn nation of Syria. When I initially heard of this response, I knew that I needed to learn more and get involved in the conversation. For over a decade my wife and I have been involved in serving the refugee community in the city of Mobile.  Beginning in the mid 1970's following the Vietnamese war, Mobile became a refuge for those displaced by years of war in S. E. Asia. Since our arrival to Mobile in 1998, we have connected with refugees from war torn nations around the globe and seen just how much help they need after relocating to a new country. Try to imagine leaving everything you own and know to begin life anew after experiencing the trauma of war! Just learning a new language and culture would be hard enough. But try to imagine starting all over not by choice but by the force of war! I felt it vital that I connect with Alabama congressman Bradley Byrne who made public his concern about Syrian refugees as a potential security threat. I contacted his office and after a few weeks, we arranged to have a luncheon meeting in his Mobile office. Prior to serving in political office Bradley had as a private attorney done some pro Bono work for refugees in Mobile. He assured me he was not against having refugees relocate to Mobile... his major concern was the fast tracking of Syrian refugees to the front of the line without proper vetting. We listened to one another and felt it was a good first start for us to both understand the needs from both a humanitarian and security perspective. I invited Jeri Stroade the director of "Dwell Mobile" and board member Salah Taher who came to Mobile as an Iraqi refugee to the meeting along with my wife Mary who volunteers frequently in the service of refugees. It's not always easy to love people in a world of serious conflict and danger. I do believe with God's help we can learn to live within the tension of competing interests. God asks us to trust him and he also gives us the wisdom and discernment to know how to make difficult choices. As for me and my house we will make every effort to serve people with God's love in these difficult and challenging days. Please join me in praying for governmental leaders to do their jobs with both excellence and wisdom. Also pray for the love of people not to wax cold in an age of terror.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Back to the Future

Dear friends and family;
 What a joy it was to celebrate the graduation from college of our youngest child Gabriella on December 12th! Gabby finished her undergraduate degree in English and we were blessed to have both Mary’s mom and some great friends in attendance. As Gabby moves into a new phase in life, we are amazed at the brevity of life! Seventeen years ago I walked with Gabby onto the campus of the University of South Alabama and heard her ask me, “Daddy when will I get to go to college!” I assured her it would be a long time before that happened…..and now it’s over! The brevity of life assures us that living with humility and wisdom is so very important. When we arrived to Mobile in July of 1998, I had no idea that we would still be actively involved in doing what we initially came to do at that time--- loving and ministering to international students.
 We had a great meeting with Brenda Hinson the director of international student services at the University of South Alabama this past month. She is excited to have Mary and I working full time again with Friends of Internationals. The timing of the Lord is always correct as she informed us that USA is expecting a record enrollment for the spring semester. We are expecting 200 new students from Kuwait alone! We are being given a lot of favor from the University as we are planning on hosting our welcome dinner on campus. Due to the large numbers of new students, our use of the Wesley Center is now inadequate. In the past a hindrance from using on campus facilities has been the cost of catering but Brenda thinks she can get a food waiver and allow us to have a ‘potluck’ dinner. We will also request donations from local international restaurants who are in many cases owned by friends of ours! Please be praying for continued favor with the international students services staff on the campus. We are grateful for a good relationship with the university over our entire 17 years of ministry.
In order to help us build a new foundation for our involvement in the ministry of Friends of Internationals we called many who have been involved in the ministry over the years to a special Friday night prayer meeting. With so much going on in the world internationally including a recent terror attack on American soil, we felt it vital to seek the Lord together for wisdom and to hear His plans for us. We don’t want to do ministry based upon our own good ideas. Sometimes we just need to ‘wait on the Lord’ and let the Holy Spirit to speak to all of us in a special time of prayer. We would love to have you praying with us for wisdom and God’s strategy for reaching international students and refugees in 2016 and beyond!
Since we have stepped down from leadership of All Nations Community Church we are now partnering with a local missionary agency in Mobile to help with administrative and spiritual oversight. Jim has known the President of IGO for over a decade and has taught in their missions training school. It is with great excitement and anticipation that we begin a new partnership with this missions agency! Our financial support and newsletters will now be coming through this organization. You can give online at or by ordinary mail. Thank you for your continued support!

Love in Christ;

Jim and Mary

To Support the ministry of Jim and Mary Mather donations can be made to IGO with a memo for their support.
International Gospel Outreach
P.O. Box 1008
Semmes, Al 36575

Thursday, June 6, 2013

New Hope for the City of Mobile

On Tuesday, August 27th, Mobile, Alabama will be electing a new leader the city desperately needs. It's been said that everything rises and falls on leadership. Our current Mayor Sam Jones is finishing his second term in office. 8 years is a long time to effect change. In his 8 years in office we've seen numerous serious mismanagement which Mobilians would be wise not to forget when they vote.
1. Ladd Pebbles stadium financial mismanagement . (City owned property)
2. Bay Bears stadium which is a city property received no rent payments for years from the privately owned Bay Bears Company.
3. The city owes over $20 million dollars on a cruise  terminal with no cruise ship. Carnival cruise lines pulled out suddenly and was not under contract leaving the city with massive debt.
4. Over the last 8 years the Mayor has had only one singular vision....increase the sales tax to 10 percent. At one point the council agreed to a 'temporary' tax that when it expired had the Mayor a week later insisting we could not survive without a reinstatement of this 'temporary tax'. We again now have the 10 percent tax in place after numerous votes, threats and scare tactics were employed including threatening the public safety by both the Mayor and one Council Member (Fred Richardson) who predicted Mobile was 'going down in flames' unless the tax was passed.
5. In 8 years time and even with increased revenue from the sales tax our public safety employees who were threatened with lay offs have received no significant increase in their pay or benefits. The Mobile police department is paid less than any other department in the region....thus leading to a continuous exodus of experienced and talented officers out of the area.
6. Over the 8 years the Mayor has been in office his communication with both the public and city council has been very controlled and difficult. As council members and concerned citizens seek for answers concerning budgetary issues they have met with delay and in some cases denial of their requests.
7. Even in the management of his own campaign fund the Mayor had numerous discrepancies that caused him to refile his reports and pay back funds which had been inappropriately used for personal or inappropriate items.

All of the things mentioned in this blog show a pattern of mismanagement and a lack of strong leadership skills. We've given Mayor Jones eight years in office and it's my firm conviction that we need someone with a stronger commitment to good management and visionary leadership to take Mobile forward. Sandy Stimpson has decades of business and management experience and he is committed to assisting small businesses to get the same attention that has been paid to the big businesses recently arriving to our city. Sandy also wants to make government more accessible to the people and on day one will remove the door to the office of the Mayor as a symbol of transparency and accountability. Sandy is committed to making Mobile a safe city by working hard to ensure our public safety workers receive the pay they deserve and the equipment they need to serve the public well. The quality of life in Mobile is impacted by the quality of leadership that it receives. Now is the time for Mobile to embrace a proven leader with a clear vision for Mobile. Elect Sandy Stimpson on Tuesday, August 27th and bring new hope to Mobile, Alabama!

For detailed information on the platform of Sandy Stimpson see his web page