Friday, August 31- Jesus Was Here!

     John 2:1-11 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
     Do you remember this story? It’s the first recorded miracle of Jesus in the Bible. And I was obviously drawn straight to this story when I saw the picture above. And let’s be honest…how funny is THAT?! I would love to know if that was done intentionally, simply to set up the gag, or if it was a capricious happenstance. (I would like to think it was the latter- it makes it funnier if it was done unintentionally!)
     I laugh a lot. I have a rather sarcastic humor. I am surrounded by people in my house who are funny, witty and rather sarcastic in their own right…and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. BUT…my humorous approach to life tends to stress some folks…oh, yes it does! I have been accused more than once in my ministry of not being serious enough. I have had people go as far as using words like “irreverent” and even “blasphemous” to describe me. Now, I will openly concede “irreverent” at times, but I adamantly disagree with “blasphemous”. I am simply convinced that God has a sense of humor, AND that He gave me one for a reason!
     Is it wrong to make fun of Jesus? Absolutely! Does this picture do that? Not for my money! This picture pokes fun as us marvelously flawed human beings…NOT Jesus! And if we can’t laugh at ourselves…well…life is simply too short! I love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and I TRY to love my neighbor as myself. I am awed and humbled by God’s presence on a regular basis. I would NEVER intentionally do anything that was designed to blasphemous. But I have seen God’s marvelous sense of humor in the way He has dealt with and guided me over the years. And I am appreciative of the fact that He gave me a sense of humor and a love of life. Therefore…I intend to use them!
     What about you? Do you love life? Do you laugh easily AND often? If not…why not! There ARE things in life that need to be taken VERY seriously…but not nearly as many as we seem to think there are! Live. Love. Laugh. It’s good for the soul!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Thursday, August 30- “You’ve got a LOT of Nerve Calling What You Do ‘Work’!”

     The other day, a guy from my congregation was installing a new air conditioner in the church parsonage- the house in which I live. (And to that I say, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”) I came home for something (the house is RIGHT next door to the church) while he was working, so I went outside to see how he was doing. 
      I talked to him for a few minutes, then said, “Well, I’m going back to work, but if you need anything from me, just holler!” He stopped what he was doing, looked at me, got a devilish glint in his eye and said, “You’ve got a LOT of nerve calling what you do ‘work’!” (You’d have to understand his sense of humor!) We both laughed and then went back to what we were doing.
     It WAS very funny (seriously!), but I was thinking about it later and you know what? He’s right! The truth is that MOST of the time, I LOVE what I do. I’m not terribly fond of the 2 rounds of annual paperwork I have to fill out for the denomination each year. And there are days when it is simply not the best job in the world. BUT…99% of the time, it IS hard to call what I do work!
     I get to work with music, drama, writing and worship preparation- things that put my Bachelor’s Degree in Theater to good use. I get to dream, vision and plan for the staffing and ministries of the church- things that put my undergrad minor in Theater Management and my years of experience IN management to good use. I get to read the Bible, study it, think theologically and help teach and guide people in their faith development- things that put my Master’s Degree in Divinity to good use. I get to be a part of peoples’ lives- at their highest points, lowest points and everywhere in between. How cool is that?!
     What I do is not a job. It’s not even a vocation. It’s my life. Unlike most professions, there is really NO way to separate my personal life from my professional life. I don’t have a job and a life…I just have…life. Everything that I have and everything that I am is a part of my ministry. And…and…and…I wouldn’t want it any other way! Thank you, God, for being so persistent and insistent with me!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- Jesus Was Here!

Wednesday, August 29- Investing Your Life in People

     (Wednesdays are Bible Study Day here at Stick With Jesus. Today, we conclude our current study, Becoming a Contagious Christian, based on the book by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg.
     When I was a kid, my mom took us fishing a lot. Sometimes, we would go down to the Mississippi River (we lived nearby) and fish there. One day, we were fishing the river when my sister got a bite. Whatever was on the other end was putting up a pretty good fight, but she finally flipped it up on the bank behind us. As we walked up to get it off the hook, a neighboring fisherman with a piece of driftwood in his hand ran up and clubbed the daylights out of the fish! We were pretty traumatized! But then he showed us why- my sister had hooked a river gar. If you aren’t familiar with them, they are nasty fish with alligator-like jaws…and teeth. They can do some nasty business to an unsuspecting finger or hand!
     Fishing- it can be rewarding, challenging and horribly frustrating! We Christians are in the fishing business. Think about the steps necessary to catch a fish: get the proper equipment, get the proper bait, go to where the fish are, bait the hook, toss out the line…and wait. Patience is #1 with a bullet in that setting!  
     How is being a Contagious Christian like that? It can certainly be rewarding, challenging AND horribly frustrated. But it is also THE most important thing you can be focused on. Whatever you DO for a living-  it’s important, valuable and it meets a need. But whatever it is that you do…it can’t possibly be more important than saving souls. Leading people to Jesus Christ is the highest thing to which we can aspire. Regardless of our career choice, being a Contagious Christian should be central to who we are and what we do. And once we, as individuals, understand that…LOOK OUT! We live differently, pray differently, love differently, work differently, give differently, and serve differently. With that in mind, let’s take a moment and look at Jesus’ Final challenge:
    
Matthew 28:16-20- Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 
     Who is Jesus talking to in this passage? You might say He’s talking to the disciples, and you would be right. BUT, He’s also talking to US, HERE, NOW, at this moment. This is intended for us 21st Century dwellers just as much as it was intended for those 1st Century dwellers.
     Did you notice the use of the words “go” and “make”? What’s the connection between the two of those, and what does it imply? It implies that we are to be about the work of verbs- we are to be in action. We need to MAKE disciples, but we need to GO as we do it. Spread the word. Cover some ground. Get the word out.
     Also notice that Jesus doesn’t just say “make disciples”; He also says “teach”. Why the combination? Well, if we only make disciples and then leave it at that, then they will never grow in their faith. Only through teaching can we learn more about what it means to be a disciple of Christ. And at the end, Jesus promises that He will be with us “always”- we will never have to go and make by ourselves!
     A recent survey of people 95 years old or older brought about some interested responses. They were asked what they would do differently if they had their lives to live over. Here are the top 3 responses:
     1. Reflect more- spend more time away from the grind of everyday life, focusing on the direction and meaning of their life.
     2. Risk more- be more courageous to step out of their comfort zone and take risks.
     3. Do more things that would outlive them.
     What will last beyond…YOU? What is the #1 thing that holds you back from being a true Contagious Christian? Identify it, claim it, and then pray for the strength and guidance to overcome it! Nothing is more exciting, rewarding or fulfilling than befriending, loving and leading wayward people to Jesus Christ. No other adventure is like it, and no other activity even comes close to offering the same level of rewards.
    Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- “You’ve Got a Lot of Nerve Calling What You do ‘Work’!”