Saturday, August 31- “Why? Can You Make It Hotter?”

     Comedian George Wallace is a funny man. Here is a sample:
    “My mother could say some stupid things. I do something wrong, she’d say things that didn’t even make sense. “You go to your room and you stay there until you know how to act.” I’m in my room for three hours. I come out. She asks, “Did you learn how to act?” I said, “To be or not to be, that is the question.”
     “I was walking around Taiwan and bought some flip flops for my feet. I said I wonder where were these made. Looked under the bottom. It said, “just around the corner.”
     “Freaks everywhere. I went to a church in Chicago. Church had six Commandments and four do-the-best-you-cans.”
      He also had something to say about hot weather. He said, “Don’t you hate it when somebody comes up to you and says, ‘Is it hot enough for you?’ ‘WHY? Can you make it any hotter?!'”
     I live in the Midwest- northwestern Illinois, to be exact. And it’s August. Therefore…it’s hot. Plain and simple. Now, about 2 weeks ago, it was really rather nice. But one the MANY retired teachers who are members of the church I serve said, “It’s nice NOW…but school is starting soon. So it will be 102 degrees in the shade…with a heat index of 224 degrees…on the first day of school!” (That might be a SLIGHT exaggeration of what she actually said…but you get the idea!) And sure enough, on the first day of school…it was HOT. STINKING hot! Melt your shoes to the pavement hot. And, of course, the school my younger son attends…say it with me…has NO air conditioning! Fortunately, the first day of school was already scheduled as an early dismissal day. That’s good. But the five days of this week we NOT scheduled to be early dismissals…they just turned out that way!
     We Illinoians LOVE to complain about the weather- it’s TOO hot, it’s TOO cold, it’s TOO wet, it’s TOO dry! Whatever the weather is doing at any given moment…it’s too SOMETHING! And I will admit that I am as guilty of that behavior as anybody…especially when it’s hot! But here’s the truth of the matter…we can’t change the weather. (I know…right?!) So we have two choices: 1. complain about it or 2. embrace it!
     You know what? Regardless of the weather, THIS is the day that the Lord has made. This one. And this is the ONLY today we have. Therefore we need to rejoice and be glad in it. We need to recognize the fact that this day is a gift- another opportunity to be upright, breathing and about God’s business. We don’t know how many of these we will get. So we can’t afford to squander them by whining and complaining about how they aren’t perfect. Why? Because they ARE perfect- because they are made by God. And God don’t make no junk! (I believe that’s from The Message translation of thee Bible!) So enjoy today. Embrace today. Make the most of today. And most of all…serve God today!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
 Tomorrow- 3:16- Beyond the Gospel of John; A Many-Splendored Thing

Friday, August 30- Stripping, Waxing and Scotchgarding

     The church I serve has been in total, complete, utter turmoil over the past few days! Fortunately, the turmoil hasn’t been relational in nature…but physical. Let me explain!
     Our fall programming is about to kick off- and I mean ABOUT! And in anticipation of an already heavily-used building being used EVEN more, we wanted to get some of the more heavily-used areas of the church cleaned. So we brought a company in to A. clean and Scotchgard (and that IS a proper noun!) the carpet in our Fellowship Hall next to the Sanctuary and B. strip, clean and wax the tile floors in the basement…ALL the floors!
     What that has meant is that EVERY piece of furniture in those areas had to go…somewhere else. That alone was a challenge. It also meant that from Tuesday morning through THIS morning, those areas that are being cleaned are completely off limits. COMPLETELY off limits! Oh. My. Gosh! But we creatively figured out how to use other parts of the building, how to use different entrances…and how to dance around LOTS of tables, chairs and other assorted bits and pieces of furniture that have been piled EVERYWHERE but where they belong.
     As I have watched the building get a bit of a facelift…AND seen how challenging it has been, it has reminded me of how God works in our lives. Think about it- God often makes small “tweaks” in our lives. But sometimes, He feels the need to do a more…major…work. Sometimes, He has to move all the “furniture” out of our lives, block some often-used entrances and do some MAJOR stripping, waxing and Scotchgarding! It’s NOT fun, it’s NOT easy and it seems to take forever. BUT…when it’s over, when we make it out the other side, we are stronger, wiser and more able to face the trials and tribulations that life has to throw at us.
     The next time you feel like you are being stripped, waxed and Scotchgarded…take heart. While it’s NOT easy, you WILL come out the other end. And when you do, you will be glad that you faced the troubles…and survived. And when that happens, God will be able to use you to even greater purposes than He already is!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
 Tomorrow- “Why? Can You Make It Hotter?”

Thursday, August 29- The Trouble With the Holy Spirit

     I am applying for a new job. I know, I’ve been a United Methodist minister for 17 years. I went to school for 3 years to earn my Master’s Degree in Theology so that I could do this. My family and I have sacrificed much to be where we are. But I am applying for a new job. What IS that job, you ask? Publicist/Agent for the Holy Spirit- United Methodist division!
     OK…so maybe I’m NOT getting a new job! (Frankly, I can’t imagine what else I COULD do- A. I feel fully and completely called by God to do exactly what I’m doing and B. I have NO other appreciable skills anyway!) But I have become more and more aware of the fact that the Holy Spirit needs a Publicist/Agent. He MUST- so many churches don’t seem to know anything about Him. And we ALL know that, if you want to raise your visibility, you hire a Publicist/Agent! (To all of my theater/acting/show biz friends- I DO understand that there is a difference between a Publicist and an Agent! But for my purposes today…just play along!) And since the Holy Spirit CLEARLY has a problem with visibility…I would like to offer my services!
     Seriously, I just finished teaching Week 5 of a Six-Week class on the Holy Spirit. And the material has been very…eye-opening. Many people who are attending one of the 2 weekly sessions have shared just how impactful the class has been on their awareness and understanding of the Holy Spirit. Even me, Mr. Fancy Master’s Degree 17 Years in the Ministry (that’s a LONG name!), has had some serious epiphanies regarding the working of the Holy Spirit during these past few weeks.
     The Holy Spirit isn’t just some…”ghost”…who is part of the Trinity…a part we don’t think or talk much about. Instead, He is the very essence of God…His Spirit…that Jesus sent to dwell within us when He ascended to Heaven after the post-resurrection appearances. Jesus lived WITH the disciples while He was here on Earth, but the One He sent, the Holy Spirit, lives IN us- guiding us, moving us, prompting, prodding and behooving us. And if we are open to Him, willing to let Him lead us…control us…then our lives will be blessed beyond measure. It doesn’t mean everything will be “perfect” by Earthly standards. It means that our priorities…our lives…will be led by something much stronger, much greater than the things of Earth!
     Be open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. He is God’s emissary in this world- God’s ONLY emissary. He is living IN us and wants to FILL us, so that we may better serve God by serving others!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
 Tomorrow- Stripping, Waxing and Scotchgarding

Wednesday, August 28- Jesus in the Gospels: The Gospel of John- An Overview

     (Wednesdays are Bible Study Day here at Stick With Jesus. Today, we continue our current 9-week study called Jesus in the Gospels. Each week, we look at how each of the 4 Gospel writers saw Jesus and how they presented Him to their intended audience.
     Let me say up front that I take a different approach to authorship claims in the Bible than do many of my colleagues. Do I KNOW that Matthew actually wrote the Gospel of Matthew? No. But can I PROVE that someone else specifically IS the author? No. Ultimately, does the text say what the text says REGARDLESS of authorship? Yes! Therefore I am perfectly comfortable to attribute authorship to the name historically credited with such!) Matthew’s Gospel is the link between the Old and New Testaments, with many Old Testament prophetic references.)
• The text itself is unclear about this issue.
• The author is attributed as John, which means “the Lord is gracious”
• He also wrote the New Testament books John I.,II, III and the Book of Revelation
• He was the son of Zebedee and the brother of James
Eastern Orthodox tradition says his mother was Salome
• He was a Palestinian Jew
• He was originally a fisherman with his father and brother on Lake Genesareth.
• He was first a disciple of John the Baptist
• He was one of the original 12 disciples
• He was the Beloved Disciple

     He, Peter and James were the only witnesses of the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the Transfiguration and the events in the Garden of Gethsemane
He and Peter were sent to make the preparation for the Passover meal
At the meal, his place was next to Jesus
He and Peter followed Jesus after the arrest to the palace of the high-priest
He was the only disciple who stayed near Jesus at the foot of the cross
He took Mary into his care as the last legacy of Jesus
He and Peter were the first disciples to run to the tomb
He was the first disciple to believe that Jesus was alive
He and Peter took prominent roles in the founding and guidance of the early church
Some modern scholars believe that John the Apostle, John the Evangelist, and John of Patmos were 3 separate individuals.
• The book lacks much of the history of the Synoptic Gospels
• It doesn’t include much about current events and political culture
• Most scholars agree at it was written in the range of 90–100 A.D. but dates as early as 60s and as late as 140s are advanced by a small number of scholars

Written probably in Ephesus, in the Anatolia region

• It is the 4th New Testament book, canonically (in Biblical order)
• It is the only non-Synoptic Gospel (not a “biography”, as such)
• It is the least biographical of the 4 Gospels
• It begins with a foundational truth from God, “In the beginning was the Word…”
• It focuses on the divinity of Jesus, clearly establishing Him as the Messiah
• It substantiates Jesus’ purpose and reason for coming to earth
• It is organized into 5 main sections spread out over 21 chapters:
I. The Prologue (1:1-18)
A. The Deity of the Logos (1:1-5)
B. The Humanity of the Logos (1:6-18)
II. The Book of Signs (1:19–12:50)
A. In (Perea and) Galilee: First Cycle/Initial Ministry (1:19–2:12)
B. In Jerusalem and Judea: First Cycle/Seeking a Sign (2:12–3:36)
C. In Samaria: Gentile Response (4:1-42)
D. In Galilee: Second Cycle/Healing the Official’s Son (Second Sign) (4:43-54)
E. In Jerusalem and Judea: Second Cycle/Sabbath Controversy (5:1-47)
F. In Galilee: Third Cycle/Signs Given (6:1-71)
G. Ministry in Jerusalem and Judea: Third Cycle/Hostility Peaks (7:1–11:57)
H. In Jerusalem: The Final Manifestation (12:1-50)
III. The Son of God’s Ministry (13:1–17:26)
A. Jesus Ministering to His Disciples (13:1–16:33)
B. Jesus Praying for His Disciples (In Gethsemane) (17:1-26)
IV. The Passion Narrative (18:1–20:31)
A. The Suffering (18:1–19:42)
B. The Glory (20:1-31)
V. The Epilogue (21:1-25)
A. Jesus’ Appearance by the Lake of Tiberias (21:1-14)
B. Jesus’ Reinstatement of Peter (21:15-23)
C. Commendation of the Gospel by the Ephesian Elders (21:24-25)

• It was written for 3 primary reasons:
1. for Greek-speaking Jews who were not believers
2. to strengthen the faith of Christians
3. to counter criticisms and/or unorthodox beliefs of Jews, John the Baptist’s followers, and those who believed Jesus was only spirit and not flesh
• Jesus, not his message, is the object of reverence
• John portrays Jesus as “a brief manifestation of the eternal Word, whose immortal spirit remains ever-present with the believing Christian”
• John includes the most direct claims of Jesus being the only Son of God
• Only in John does Jesus talk at length about himself, including a substantial amount of material Jesus shares with the disciples only
• Certain elements of the Synoptic Gospels (i.e.- parables/exorcisms) are not found in John

John omits about 90% of the material in the Synoptic Gospels.
Jesus’ public ministry consists largely of miracles not found in the Synoptic Gospels (Like the story of Lazarus)
John has far more focus on the mystical relation between Son and Father
There is a strong development of the concept of the Trinity
John focuses on the relationship of Jesus the Redeemer to His believers, on the Holy Spirit as the Comforter and on the prominence of love
• A main theme emphasized in the Gospel of John is the deity of Jesus
• His purpose was to present Jesus as the Son of God

     Next week we will dig deeper into John’s understanding of Jesus as the Son of God

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
 Tomorrow- The Trouble With the Holy Spirit

Tuesday, August 27- New Members

     A great thing happened at church this past Sunday- we brought another new member into the church! At the first church I served (where I had the extreme joy of seeing worship attendance grow from an average of 200/week to 800/week in the 7 years I was there!), we coined a phrase to describe the act of bringing in new members- “pulling up another chair around this ever-expanding table of grace”! That is a phrase I have hung onto throughout my ministry.
     I have had LOTS of conversations with LOTS of people, both clergy and laity, who think people like me put too much emphasis on things like number of new members and average worship attendance. Their argument is that it shouldn’t be about the numbers- it should be about relationships. OK- I’ll grant you that relationships are important. As we build relationships with fellow Christians, we help each other deepen our relationship with God. And that’s a GOOD thing! 
     But does an emphasis on relationship and deepening of faith automatically preclude attention to numbers? I would argue…absolutely NOT! Those who downplay paying attention to average attendance and number of new members seem to think that it is an either/or- you can either focus on relationships OR number…but NOT both. And that is simply not true…or it doesn’t have to be. 
     My philosophy is this- the Mission and Vision Statement of the church I serve is “to connect people to Jesus Christ”. Period. End of sentence. Everything we do as a church is measured against that yardstick. And if connecting 200 people to Christ each week is a good thing…then connecting 300 people each week must be (if I do my math right) 50% better. it doesn’t seem like rocket science…AND…it seems hard to argue with.
     Membership in a church, in and of itself, isn’t the end-all and be-all. There are LOTS of people who have a membership in a church…and never darken the doors of the building. So simply claiming “we have ____ members in OUR church!” doesn’t mean much. I want to know how many of those members are actually engaged in ministry. How many of them are coming to worship every Sunday? How many of them are actively involved in connecting people to Jesus Christ? If that percentage is pretty large, if members are actively involved…then membership is a GOOD thing!
     The church I serve has seen SEVERAL new members this year. we’ve seen many baptisms. We’ve seen an increase in worship attendance. We’ve seen a greater commitment to supporting the ministries of the church financially. But most importantly, we’ve seen an increase in the number of people actively involved in ministry. And if THAT’S a bad thing…then count me guilty as charged…because that just excites me all day long!
     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 in the Gospels- The Gospel of John: An Overview

Monday, August 26- Only Other People Have Minor Procedures

     There is a saying that I have been lifting up for YEARS in ministry- “Only other people have minor procedures”. If I’ve said it once if said it 1,000 times. You know what I mean- when someone ELSE has to have some medical procedure, we downplay it and act as if it’s no real deal- “You’ll be fine…it’s a…minor procedure!” But if WE have that same procedure, well…all bets are off! It is then NOT a minor procedure but a MAJOR one. There’s preparation beforehand, there’s the anticipation and anxiety leading up to it, there’s the procedure itself and then there’s the recovery time after. It is FAR from a minor procedure!
     As I said, I have lifted that phrase up more times than I can count. And because I have lifted it up so many times, you would think that I have always fully understood it and believed it. You would THINK that…but you’d be WRONG!
     On May 28th of this year (my oldest son’s 25th birthday…happy birthday!), I found out I have this…THING…in my head. And immediately, TONS of people reached out to me. My family was literally overwhelmed by the outpouring. And people have continued to be supportive. But I have noticed an interesting dynamic. As soon as people hear any GOOD news, they shift gears into the “everything’s OK” mode. Here’s an example- I found out I had the tumor in my head. It was devastating. Over the next few weeks, I found out that it was: A. not in my brain, B. not cancer, C. aggressive and bone-eroding and D. not currently a candidate for surgical removal.
     I thought it was great that it is not in my brain and not cancer. But for me, those two pieces of good news were tempered somewhat by C. and D.- aggressive, bone-eroding and can’t be operated on. What I heard, because it’s MY head and MY health, was the quintessential “good news/bad news” scenario. What many other heard, however, was “not cancer”…period. I had people say to me when they found out I was still seeing specialists about my head, “But I thought everything was OK…it’s not cancer!”
     As I thought through that, I realized that I have been just as guilty of that over the years. Someone has a diagnosis, they have surgery…done…all is well. All is well for ME maybe…but not for them! They are still dealing with the recovery, the continuing treatment, the fear, the uncertainty. For them, it was FAR from a minor procedure. For them it is…their life. To those people in whom I failed to see that and understand it…I’m sorry. My situation has made me MUCH more aware of that fact and I am trying to do better!
     It’s amazing how God can use YOUR “bad stuff” to help you better reach out to others. What I am figuring out, however, is that things like that only happen if you are willing to LET Him use you in that way. If you ARE willing, however, God can…and will…do amazing things with you, in you and through you!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
     Tomorrow- New Members

Sunday, August 25- 3:16- Beyond the Gospel of John; I’ve Got a Secret!

     There are many great mysteries in the history of the world, among them:
The Roanoke Colony- 121 colonists who, in 1587, settled on Roanoke Island in present day North Carolina to establish a colony. Their leader sailed back to England for “reinforcements” and when he returned several years later, the settlement was deserted and none of its members were ever seen again.
The Tunguska Blast- In 1908 a blazing fireball descended from the sky and devastated an area about half the size of Rhode Island in the wilderness of Tunguska, Siberia with a force equivalent to 2,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs. To this day, no one knows for sure what caused the explosion.
The Bimini Road- an underwater rock formation near North Bimini Island in the Bahamas with an unusually symmetrical arrangement of stones that has led to speculations about it being the remnant of a lost civilization.
The Mary Celeste- a ship found in 1872 floating in the middle of the Strait of Gibraltar with no signs of a struggle and everything intact except for a missing Captain’s log. The crew was never found.
     But HERE are some of the REAL mysteries of the universe-
Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
Is there another word for synonym?
If a parsley farmer is sued, do they garnish his wages?
Why do doctors call what they do “practice”?
If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why does he keep doing it?
What was the greatest thing BEFORE sliced bread?
How much deeper would oceans be if sponges didn’t live there?
If it’s zero degrees outside today and it’s supposed to be twice as cold tomorrow…how cold will it be?
And the greatest mystery of them all- what does it say on MY driver’s licenses under “hair color”?
     Today, we continue our current sermon series- 3:16: Beyond the Gospel of John- that has been leading us to next Sunday- Labor Day weekend. For 7 weeks, we are looking at a series of “Chapter 3, Verse 16’s”, from both the Old and New Testaments, that help us better understand what it means to live our lives more fully in the shadow of God. The first week, we looked at Daniel 3:16 and talked about the fact that God empowers us to take a stand. The 2nd week, we focused on Joel 3:16 and reminded ourselves that God is our strong tower in the midst of change. The 3rd week, we jumped to Zephaniah 3:16 and looked at persistence as we considered the fact that God says, “Stay the course.” Week 4, we moved to the New Testament as we considered Acts 3:16 and talked about the fact that God heals us through faith. Last week, we looked at 1Corinthians 3:16 as we claim the fact that God lives within us- we ARE His dwelling place. Today, we move to 1Timothy 3:16 as we consider the fact that, when we connect with Jesus Christ, God reveals to us a mystery.
Daniel 2:46-47 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel, ‘Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.’
     Do you remember the game show “I’ve Got a Secret”? It debuted in…ready?…1952! It came on the heels of another successful show, “What’s My Line?” Gary Moore and Steve Allen were hosts, and celebrity judges included Henry Morgan, Bill Cullen, Carol Burnett, Arthur Godfrey, Carol Channing, Lucille Ball, Woody Allen, Boris Karloff and Johnny Carson! The format was very similar to “What’s My Line?”- 4 panelists took turns questioning the person with the secret to determine exactly what their secret was. The contestant won money if the panel couldn’t guess the secret in the allotted time. Each show featured three “regular” contestants and one celebrity guest with their own secret to hide.
     We LOVE secrets and mysteries, don’t we? Between conspiracy theories, alleged “monsters”, UFO’s and ghost stories, not to mentioned the scripted shows that focus on mysteries, TV is heavily populated with opportunities for us to satisfy our craving for mystery.
But just what IS a mystery? A mystery is a truth that is only known by revelation. It’s something that we simply can’t fully understand. It is, by definition, beyond meaning. It was the 1st man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, who said this- “Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of our desire to understand.” So mystery fuels our desire to better understand the world around us…to better understand life. And for our purposes today, the term “mystery” applies to truths that we can’t understand unless God reveals them to us.
     Paul’s’ New Testament letters to Timothy and Titus are, collectively, called the Pastoral Epistles- “epistle” because it’s just a fancy word for “letter” and pastoral because they offer instructions for pastor and congregations regarding functions and guidelines within the church.
     In the Book of 2Timothy, Paul warns Timothy about false teachers and urges him to be faithful in carrying out the office to which he has been called.  It’s seen as somewhat prophetic about difficult times that will come. In the Book of Titus, Paul deals with the character and qualifications of church officials such as elders, declaring that they are to be men of dignity, respect and honor.
     In the Book of 1Timothy, Paul deals primarily with church worship and organization. It is in THIS Pastoral Epistle that we find today’s 3:16-
1Timothy 3:16 Without a doubt, the secret of our life of worship is great: He was shown to us in a human body, proved right in spirit, and seen by angels. He was proclaimed to the nations, believed in by the world, and taken up in glory.
     One of the many interesting things I did as an actor was a series of Murder Mystery weekends. People would pay for a package that included transportation to and from the Historic Mineral Springs Hotel in Okawville, IL, 2 nights stay, meals and participation in a murder mystery. All of the actors…except me…would pose as paying customers, riding the bus to the hotel with the other guests on Friday evening. I portrayed the “bad guy” who worked at the hotel. I would drive to the hotel separately and pose as an employee. While the guests would recognize the actors among them pretty quickly, it usually took them until sometime Saturday to figure out that I was part of the “story”.
     We didn’t have a “script”- we just had specific clues we had to disseminate to the guests over the weekend. On Sunday afternoon, they would all gather to see who could solve the mystery and reveal the murderer. The story included me getting slapped by one of the actresses and getting into a fight in the dining room during Saturday dinner. We worked out everything with the owner of the hotel in advance, so that he was aware of, and OK with, what was going to happen. Or at least we THOUGHT he was aware!
     The first time we “performed” the dining room fight, it started well. I was bussing tables (remember, I “worked” there) and got into an argument with one of the guests…actually another actor. It lead to both of us on our feet, shoving, wrestling and swinging at each other…just like we had rehearsed. It was going quite well…until the owner jumped in! He was NOT supposed t
o be part of the fight but got caught up in the heat of the moment and…forgot! As he tried to break us up, I kept nudging him aside while whispering, “Stop! You’re ruining the scene!” I kept trying to get him to stop, because it was important to the story that I got punched and fell to the ground…but he just kept right up. Finally, I put my hands firmly on his chest and gave him a pretty healthy SHOVE! He stumbled back enough for me to turn to the other actor and say, “Hit me, I dare you!” He punched me, I fell back onto the floor…and then the owner came back in to drag me out of the room! Even the other actors thought it was part of the show!
     The “swerve” in the story was that, because of the character I played, and the attitude I had, and the fact that I got punched, everybody thought I would end up being the murderer. Instead, I turned out to be the victim! We staged photos of the “crime scene”, which as in my room at the hotel. The about 1AM Sunday morning, I would sneak out of the hotel and go home, leaving them to “find the body” and solve the mystery on Sunday! People love mysteries!
     In today’s 3:16, Paul says that Jesus was-
1. shown to us in a body. In other words, He is, God in the flesh. When we look at Jesus, we see the heart and mind of God…in form that we can better understand. Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. Through Him, we can both see and reach the Father.
2. proven right in spirit. In other words, He has been justified by the Holy Spirit. He has been…endorsed. At Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit descended and with the Spirit’s anointing, the ways, words and wonders of Jesus begin to convince, convict and convert us.
3. seen by angels. They knew him in Heaven. They told Mary, Joseph AND the shepherds that He was coming. They warned both the Wise Men AND Joseph to be careful to protect Him. They told Joseph when it was safe to return. They told of His resurrection. They told of His 2nd coming. They KNEW Him…and they SAW Him.
4. proclaimed to the nations. In other words, He was offered to ALL people. He wasn’t some national hero. He wasn’t glorified by the Jewish community. But He WAS…and IS…the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Lamb of God, the Savior of all who believe, and He came to make a new covenant…with the whole human race. He commanded that the Gospel be 1st proclaimed in Jerusalem, and then to the whole world. And it is to be preached with love, not a sword.
5. believed in by the world. In other words, lots of folks followed Him. Think about it- in the early days of the Christian Church, the Good News of Jesus Christ spread like wildfire. But what about now? Only 25% of all Americans claim that their worldview is founded on Biblical principles. And when asked to describe the CONTENT of their worldview, and how they arrived it, only 9% are able to.
6. taken up in glory. In other words, He went to be with God. After literally 100’s of appearances, Jesus ascended to Heaven, where He sits at the right hand of God the Father.
     Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of prophecy. His virgin birth, His baptism, the miracles He performed, the love He so freely gave, the sacrifice He made, the death, burial, resurrection and ascension- they all point to the fact that Jesus IS the Christ, the Messiah, the one and only begotten Son of God. He is God manifest in the flesh. He is the invisible made visible! He is fully man…and fully God. And…He is a mystery.
     How can we hope to comprehend that which is, at the end of the day, incomprehensible? We KNOW who Jesus really is. They question is- what do we do about it? What do we do with Him? As He died on thee cross, Jesus said, “It is finished”. The Greek word that was used was ‘tetelestia’, which is, interestingly enough, an accounting term that means “paid in full”. Jesus declared from the cross that our debt…OUR debt…has been paid in full! He committed no sin, but He chose to carry OUR sin, to die for our sin, to be buried for our sin. And then He rose again as a testimony to His power, His love and His desire to forgive our sins.
     Matthew 13:11-13 He replied, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Those who have will be given more, and they will have an abundance. As for those who do not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘ Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
     George Washington Carver said, “When I was young, I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ God responded, ‘That is for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ And God replied, ‘Well, George, that’s more nearly your size!’” I don’t know about you, but I would MUCH rather live in a world surrounded by mystery than live in a world that was so small my feeble mind could fully comprehend it.
     The greatest mystery of all is that, even though we are sinners, Jesus still loves us and wants to live in our hearts. He is here and He wants to save us from our sin…if we will accept Him and listen to His words. Do you trust Jesus to guide your life? Is He everything to you? Has His presence in your life made you complete? Is He your Lord and Savior? Have you experienced the mystery?
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and s tick with Jesus!
 Tomorrow- Only Other People Have Minor Procedures!

Saturday, August 24- Daily Bible Verse

Titus 3:4-7 He saved us. It wasn’t because of the good things we had done. It was because of his mercy. He saved us by washing away our sins. We were born again. The Holy Spirit gave us new life. God poured out the Spirit on us freely because of what Jesus Christ our Savior has done. His grace made us right with God. So now we have received the hope of eternal life as God’s children.

Saturday, August 24- Food, Glorious Food!

     There are a few basic human needs- food, clothing shelter…WiFi…OK, maybe NOT the last one! And the truth of the matter is this- you can try ALL YOU WANT to connect people to Jesus Christ, but if their BASIC needs aren’t being met, you don’t have much of a sniff of helping them meet their SPIRITUAL needs!
     With that in mind, I have now been a part of two different churches trying their best to address that fact. At my last church, we started a food ministry. Each month, a group of people would get together and cook. The food that they produced would be portioned out into serving, frozen and made available for…anybody who needed food. There were no rules or guidelines. If YOU needed food, or if you KNEW someone who needed food, you came and…got food! That simple! You didn’t have to ask anybody, sign anything or check anything out. You just…took…food. It took a few months to catch on- truly free things are hard to warp your head around!

     Fast forward to the church I currently serve. We hadn’t been here long at all when we went to a cookout. At that dinner, one of the church members talked about wanting to start a food ministry…that sounded pretty much JUST like the one we had just left! We had a conversation that night, followed by some more conversation over the next week or two. And then…the ministry started! Thanks to a generous donation, we were able to purchase a brand new upright freezer dedicated to the Caring Hearts Food Ministry. We purchased a LOT of disposable, freezable containers and we were off and running!
     Last Thursday night, we had a dinner (seems appropriate!) to celebrate the 1-year anniversary of this vital ministry. In that year, we have provided…wait for it…550 meals! No, that is NOT a misprint- 550 meals! Isn’t that amazing?! In 365 days, we fed 550 people AND…the ministry was completely funded- not one thin dime of the money spent to make this ministry a reality came from the church budget. That means that the “budget money” was available to do OTHER powerful ministries that help connect people to Jesus Christ! Awesome!
     Do you know people whose BASIC needs aren’t being met? Maybe you can help them directly…or maybe you can’t. But if you can’t…I’ll bet you can help direct them to those who CAN help them! We are called to be the hands and feet of God in this world…plain and simple!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- 3:16- Beyond the Gospel of John; I’ve Got a Secret

Friday, August 23- Health Update Part Deux

     OK, so yesterday I gave you the straight dope on my most recent doctor’s visit/lab/work/medical testing as we try and successfully treat this…THING…in my head. Well…here’s what’s classic radio announcer Paul Harvey would call The Rest of the Story- or as I put it: Health Update Part Deux!
     One of the things they did yesterday was draw blood for lab work. They do that every time I go. I am amazed at the people who actually draw the blood. They get me in that chair, wrap that rubber band thing around my arm, rub a spot or two on my arm for about 3.9 nano-seconds, swab the spot, wipe it off, announce, “Little stick” as the needle is going in, whip those little vials of blood off and on the needle base and, before I know it…DONE! In fact, they were so fast this time that, even though my appointment for the lab was at 1PM, we arrived about 5 minutes early and I walked OUT of the lab at exactly 1PM…DONE! You know the old saying, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice! Practice! Practice!”- well these folks must be headed to Carnegie Hall!
     The good news about the blood work is that everything they test…EVERYTHING they test…is normal! (It’s quite possible the first time in my life I have been labeled…NORMAL!) Seriously, white counts, red counts, whatever…they are all within the normal ranges. So that is a GOOD thing!
     The other good news I got was from the MRI. The tumor hasn’t gotten any smaller, BUT…it also hasn’t gotten any bigger. Again, a good thing. We may have also found a reason for the fact that the hearing on my right side went from “pretty bad” to “non-existent”- I have fluid in my middle ear on that side that was revealed by the MRI. That fluid, along with potentially causing the even greater decrease in hearing, might also be the culprit behind the vertigo and nausea I’ve been experiencing the last week +. So today I am on THREE drugs instead of the one I was on yesterday. I am praying they will help. If the two new ones don’t help treat the symptoms, then I have to go BACK to the ENT doctor who did surgery on me back in June. Either way, I will head back to Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, MO next month for another visit the oncologist- the van could probably drive there itself by now!
     Let me just say how much my family and I appreciate all the love, support and prayers that have been sent our ways over the past 3 months. (Has it really ONLY been 3 months?!) It reminds us daily that the true beauty of a Christian community is its interconnectedness. We are grateful to be a part of that!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
 Tomorrow- Food, Glorious Food!

Thursday, August 22- On the Road Again!

     Ah- this has been QUITE the summer! I don’t mean to brag, but we have gotten away from home NOT once, NOT twice, NOT three times but FOUR times this summer. FOUR TIMES we have been able to leave home and go to visit another place! How awesome is THAT?! Of course, if I’m honest, those 4 times have been A. to the SAME “other place” and B. they have ALL been for my stupid medical appointments! Happy vacation! (We didn’t even get to visit Wally World!)
     By the time you read this, we will have completed our 4th trip to St. Louis this summer. On May 28th, I found out I have this…THING…in my head, and the roller coaster ride began…immediately! In the less than 3 months since that moment, my wife, younger son and I have made no less than those previously-mentioned 4 trips to Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, MO. Since the 1st trip wasn’t until partway through June, we have actually made those 4 trips in basically TWO months. And I promised right up front that, instead of starting a Caring Bridge page, I would be transparent about my health issues right here, in the friendly confines of Stick With Jesus! So…here we go!
     We drove to the St. Louis area Tuesday afternoon. (We stay at my brother’s house in the town in which my wife and I both grew up. We’ve been there so many times this summer that my sister-in-law, bless her heart, gave us a key this time. “I thought it would just be easier!”) After a good night’s sleep in an actual house (as opposed to a motel) with actual family, we drove over to St. Louis yesterday. My first appointment was at 1PM, to have blood drawn for lab work. Although I was told ahead of time I would have an MRI, they told me on the phone on Monday that no…there wasn’t one scheduled for a few more months! O…K! After the blood draw, we waited 45 minutes to see the doctor. (The lab was MUCH faster than anybody expected them to be!) 
     My oncologist (even though this is NOT cancer, it IS an aggressive tumor, so it was decided that an oncologist was the best choice!) was out of town and I was to see his PA- physician’s assistant. She came in and sat with us for a while. We talked about how the last month of drug therapy had gone and if there were any side effects. I had a list…yes, a list…of things I had noticed physically since I started taking the drug I am currently on.
     After we discussed all the side effects, she said, “I wonder if you should have an MRI.” I explained that A. I was told originally I was going to have one, B. I even called ahead to make sure what time the MRI was, only to be told that one wasn’t scheduled and C. when I asked that they check with the doctor to MAKE SURE, because it is a 7-hour round-trip for us, I was then told that they could postpone my visit to a later date! I chose what was behind Door #4- come anyway!
     She made some calls and managed to get me “in” for an MRI- SQUEEZED in, that is. We traveled from the extreme north end of the Barnes Hospital campus to the extreme south end (which, in case you have never been, is a LONG walk!) and made it to the MRI lab at 2:45PM. Since I was being squeezed in, they had to wait until there was a slot where nobody was scheduled. THREE…HOURS…LATER…I was done! (Those MRI’s take a little getting used to don’t they?)
     So now…I wait. Sometime today, the doctor’s office will call me to let me know about the results of the MRI. If the….THING…in my head hasn’t changed, then I will probably have to go BACK to the ENT doctor to see what can be done about my symptoms. If the tumor HAS changed…then we will need to decide where we go from here. I’m not going to lie- this…THING in my head stinks! I would love nothing more than to simply be done with all of this. BUT…it isn’t going to work that way. And so…my family is in it for the long haul. In for a penny, in for a pound. And in the midst of all the…crud…I still hold firm and fast to the fact that God is good, all the time!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
 Tomorrow- Health Update Part Deux