Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Bible Reader's Joke Book

For many years I have been collecting jokes from books, sermons, lectures, magazines, etc. I have used jokes and humor stories in my sermons and classes since I first started in ministry.

The Bible Reader's Joke Book

Now I've put over 2,000 of these jokes together in a 500 page book and published it. It is available on in either paperback or Kindle version.

The jokes are categorized from Genesis to Revelation and there is also an extensive topical index at the end if you want to see where other jokes on the same topic are located.

The paperback can be ordered from:

The Kindle version is available at:

 This book is designed for use by Youth Pastors, preachers or teachers, Bible Study leaders, and by anyone who loves humor and loves the Bible

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. If you appreciate your pastor perhaps this is a ministry tool that he doesn't yet have that he would enjoy!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Unique Experiences in Jordan

I think I've traveled to Jordan about 11 times in the last 13 years (including 6 times to teach and 5 tours). Even when I'm here teaching I usually rent a car and with my map (and Canadian passport for safety) I try and see as many archeological sites as I can. I also try and just enjoy the diversity of this country and I've enjoyed driving in the desert until I was almost in Saudi Arabia and even headed down the road to Iraq a ways until I thought some wise thoughts! The students in class have kidded me that I know more, and have seen more, of Jordan than they have! This year (and in every past time I've taught here at the Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary) I don't think any student has been aware of the 6th Century Byzantine Mosaic floor that is only a 1/4 away from the school. I have to show them pictures before they will believe me.
But often my highlight of any tour is when I have a chance to "get off the beaten track" and see the inside of the people and country. This past week has included several of these unique experiences in Jordan that I probably couldn't plan even with money but the Lord has graciously provided them for me.
Let me just briefly mention a few of them and include a picture of two for you

1) Preaching in Churches in Jordan. On this particular trip I have preached in an Arabic Church of the Nazarene near downtown Amman (1st Circle), at a Sudanese Arabic Church (2nd Circle) which ended up being attended by about 15 different Nationalities, and at an Alliance Church just outside Amman proper in a village called Marj Al-hamam. (also two chapels services at JETS with students here from 6 or 7 different nations). I'll also teach class for 56 hours including translation over the 18 days I am here in Jordan. I am planning to rest when I return (while, sort of, since Sharon and I leave for Israel and Jordan exactly one week from the day I arrive home!)

2) Eating and Drinking in Jordanian Homes. Years ago I would have had a hard time eating anything that wasn't from a cow and accompanied solely by potatoes and "normal" vegetables. God has allowed me to change and enjoy a wider variety of His good things. Here in Jordan I have enjoyed Arabic barbeque, Mansef, Maqluba (upside down rice and califlower or eggplant or ? with either chicken or lamb, Arabic coffee, Turkish coffee, Sahlab, and along with these meals in the tradional Arabic/Jordanian hospitality. Today I posted on Facebook the following post on my lunch today — Today I was the guest of the parents of Hassan (one of my student and a pastor of an Alliance Church in Marj Al-hamam, just outside of Amman) in Na'our, Jordan. They treated my in traditional Jordanian fashion which meant I felt I was royalty! I was fed lamb (his mother kept putting pieces on my place - I ate three!) and rice and nuts and vegetables and fruit and of course Arabic coffee (it comes in just a tiny cup but it is powerful and it was just wonderful). At one time this man owned over 100 dunams [25 acres] of land as well as sheep and goats etc. He sold much of it when land, this close to Amman, became valuable, and he kept a high hill on which he and all his sons (and uncles and cousins) now have beautiful, modern homes that would rival much of what I see in upscale Dallas. You can see the tall buildings of Amman in one direction (10 miles?) and in another direction (30 miles?) you can see the hills of Judea in Israel today.
I asked this 75-80 year old man numerous questions about his younger years in this land, the events of 1947-48 and 1967 when wars was in this region, and what it was like when he met the King of Jordan etc. etc. I was just curious and fascinated, and he loved my interest in his much loved land and country.
I have found when I serve my Lord, with what a times seems like some sacrifice, He blesses me with people and experiences that I couldn't buy with money. Today was one of them.

On Sunday afternoon I asked Hassan to stop the car so I could take a picture of the Almond Tree that was in bloom by the side of the road. As I took the picture an Arab woman came out to see what we were doing. As it turns out she knew Hassen's parents
The Almond tree that I originally was shooting can be seen outside on the other side of the road
quite well and so of course now needed to give them three bags of fresh vegetables so he could take them home. Once she met me and realized I was a guest in her country she INSISTED we come in for "just a moment" so she could feed us a little something (I had just finished a wonderful chicken meal at Hassan's home that his wife Rula had cooked). About 30 or 40 minutes later after I have eaten the BEST figs, almonds, sweet moist raisins I have ever eaten (and also I turned down oranges, apples, bananas, and the offer to come back for a
I'm kneeling down beside the "first wave" she brought in. Isn't it a beautiful room? You might never guess as you pass by outside.
meal of lamb!) and I have drunk fruit juice and then Arabic coffee (not the thick, dark Turkish coffee I often have in a home here). I was going to turn down the coffee but the pastor quickly informed me that this type of coffee signified friendship. It hardly tastes like coffee (it is made with water, lightly roasted coffee, ground with cardamom and boiled for about 15 to 20 minutes—not percolated or filtered—but boiled and this particular Arabic coffee had something else in it too but nobody could tell me what it was! But I saw it and felt it in my mouth - almost like rice?) In the past this type of coffee was used to conclude a negotiation or show reconciliation and so to refuse to drink this would be an insult. Here I am (an American/Canadian, male, professor, Believer in Christ), sitting in a very special hospitality room (attached to the home but with a separate entrance from the house entrance) being shown gracious hospitality by an Arab, Muslim, Bedouin woman! I'm glad I didn't insult anyone, I drank it, enjoyed it and look forward to having the opportunity to do this again! You can't buy experiences like this!

3) Unique Sites. This time I have been so committed to ministry (every day but one since I've been here) I haven't taken any trips solely for the purpose of sight-seeing and research. But on Sunday after dinner and before church I was privileged to see, on a private farm, a very ancient tree. It was huge, the men I spoke to disagree on its age (anywhere from 140 years back to a thousand years). No one could tell me for sure what type of tree it was (nothing that I have ever seen in my travels here in the Middle East that I can remember).

People sometimes ask me why I travel so far and work fairly hard when I could be at home with my family and grandkids enjoying my sabbatical (and let me say I enjoy every minute with my family and miss Sharon lots when I'm away). I do this because I believe the Lord has called me to do it. I think that this seminary in Jordan is strategically placed for such a time as this. There will never be any true peace here unless hearts are changed. The Lord can do this in Arab lives throughout this country and the surrounding countries. I don't do it for this great and enjoyable experiences I have "on the side" but isn't our God good to give them to me?
JETS hopes to move into their campus in August. However, they need about $400,000 to complete it to the standard the government is insisting on before they can take possession. Would you pray with me that the Lord will provide this?  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Preaching in Jordan

When I'm here in the summer (I usually come in July but because I'm on sabbatical it allowed me to come here in Febuary) I often see license plates from Saudi Arabia. I haven't seen many of them this time but I did see one that seemed to have some connection with the monarchy or at least government. I was wondering as I took the picture if a security person was going to start asking questions. Apparently I looked innocent enough and I went on my walk.
One of the real joys I have as one who enjoys both the Scriptures and the local church is the opportunity I often have to preach when I am traveling. On Saturday morning I preached in morning chapel at JETS with men and women present from at least 6 different countries. Sunday evening I preached at 1st Circle Church of the Nazarene whose pastor is a former student I taught at JETS, I was translated by a former student and translator I had at JETS, and in the audience was a former student and his wife that I taught at DTS in Dallas! Although I just had a little part in the preparation of these former students, what a joy it is to see them in ministry and to hear what God is doing through them.

In my class right now I have 3 students from Egypt, 1 student from Syria, 3 students from South Sudan, 1 student from Korea, and 3 students from Jordan. What will God do through these committed servants of His? Some of them have very little  and they have been through so much. I plan to give whatever I can to help them prepare to preach and teach the Word. 
If anyone reading my blog feels God wants them to contribute some money to these students, please just write me an email. You could send it to my home, meanwhile I could use my bank card to get some money and give it to them while I'm here. These students are a tremendous investment in reaching the Arabic speaking world.

Friday, February 8, 2013

First Week in Amman, Jordan

Today is Friday and in the Middle East this means it is the "Weekend" since the Muslims (who are the majority, except in Israel) take this day as their day of worship. The roads are pretty empty, stores are closed and the seminary here takes a break as well. If you want to reach your neighbors you can't offend them and today many churches will have services so that neighbors can come.
Saturday here is a regular weekday and so I will teach tomorrow from 9 am - 1:30 pm with just two 15 minute breaks. Four hours of classes a day can be energy consuming but of course I only have to actually speak for half that time since everything I say is translated into Arabic.
Tomorrow I will first speak in chapel at 8:15 am (on Wednesday the chaplain had a Jordanian "breakfast" for chapel time! [see the picture]) and then in the late afternoon I will head off to the International Church here in Amman to hear one of our DTS alumni, Jeffrey Townsend, preach. Sunday will be a "day off" here at JETS (Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary) since many Christian churches will have services, though often in the evenings since Sunday is a regular work day for most people. I will be preaching at the 1st Circle Church of the Nazarene (near the downtown of the Old City). This church is pastored by one of my first students that I taught here at JETS back in about 2003. Lo'ay and his wife Wafa (from Syria) are a wonderful couple that I enjoy fellowshipping with every time I come to Jordan. Their children Laith and Rula will be receiving some special treats I brought them from Texas!
In the past I have always visited Jordan (I think I've been in this country at least 11 different times) during the summer months (May to August) and so this is the first time I have been here in the winter and seen rain. In fact, on Wednesday it was foggy and rainy as I went for my daily walk.
On my walks this week I passed by a site I have visited in the past (none of my students here even knew that it was there even though it is just a 1/2 mile from JETS). It is a mosaic from the 6th Century. These days however, it is locked and the outside of the shelter is overflowing with trash. Can you imagine if in America we had a man-made relic that was 1,400 years old? We'd have it displayed is a modern building and charge an admission fee. Here in the Middle East there are so many ancient remains that most of them are not even properly preserved. But not everything here in Amman Jordan is ancient or rundown. I took a picture of a new mall that is being developed just a mile from where I am staying. They also have a great pedestrian mall with Starbucks just a half mile away, just a hundred yards from the Sixth Century mosaic floor (above). There is a real mixture here, ancient - modern, religious - secular, Muslim - Christian, etc. Jordan for the most part is a stable nation with the population not supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in the latest election and yet it is a monarch with a king who has almost absolute power (he can dissolve Parliament whenever he desires). Yet the people recognize that in many surrounding nations chaos reigns. I'd appreciate prayer as I seek to minister here. I need wisdom in what to say, what not to say, how to say what I need to say etc. The people who host me here are fabulous. I admire them for their commitment to this ministry here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Teaching in Jordan, 2013

I'm back in Jordan, teaching for 3 weeks at the Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary. I've been coming here since 2003 and it is thrilling for me each time I have the opportunity to teach our Arabic brothers and sisters (and they teach me lots too!).
This year I am teaching the Gospels and Acts course and I have 11 master's level students. They come from Jordan, Sudan, Egypt, Syria and Korea! It was exciting today to hear how each one is intimately involved in ministry even as they study here. I may be able to share, at least in general terms, some of their involvement in later blogs.
I left Texas on Saturday to fly to Tampa, Florida to speak twice at Bayside Community Church. They do post their sermons so if you are bored or intrigued or . . .  you can find the messages I preached at: (   OR On Sunday afternoon I left for the airport at 3 pm and arrived here in Amman, Jordan (via Atlanta and Paris) at the guest house on Tuesday morning at 1 am! Air France had some problems with the plane out of Paris and so I arrived about 4 hours later than expected. A quick sleep and then a cup of tea, chapel and class for 4 1/2 hours (9 am - 1:30 pm), lunch with JETS president Dr. Imad Shehadeh, an afternoon nap, dinner, some prep and now some blog time.
I think every Christian, if possible, should travel and experience "Church" in a different culture. This morning I sat and listened as Arabic voices loudly sang praises to our God. I prayed along with a brother and sister (though I couldn't understand their words except for just a few) but I knew they were praying in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. The devotional was kindly translated for me and it was a good challenge from Ezekiel 37. 
In the days ahead I hope to share more of what is happening here in Jordan and what the Lord is doing with, in, and through me these days. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

In Israel, in Samaria

Challenges Getting Here
I left Dallas on Dec 26, 2012 to co-lead a tour to Israel until Jan 6, 2013. Because of snow in Dallas and bad weather in Philadelphia our plane took off 4 hours late and we only had a 4 hour layover in Philadelphia on our way to Tel Aviv. International flights are never delayed and yet 15 of our tour members from Houston and 11 members from Dallas were able to run through the airport, go through special security and board the plane after we had been told the doors were closed! We took off an hour later than scheduled but we were all on board! We believe it was the hand of God to allow us all to experience this special time in the LAND (all of our suitcases didn't make the transfer!) We just got them delivered to our second hotel, 24 hours late, but not one complaint that I've heard. We are just feeling blessed to be here.

Unique Tour to Israel
This tour has some second-timers to Israel on it so my co-leader Dr. Paul Shockley and I tried hard to develop a tour that would have some new experiences in it for these people and yet cover the major sites for those who had never been to Israel before.

One of our changes was to spend our first night in the middle of Samaria!
The picture above shows the sunrise this morning from our hotel in Ariel, in the middle of Samaria. In moments like this I find it hard to believe that I am here, walking in the land of Abraham, Isaac, Jaocb . . . and Jesus! We spent time in Shiloh (where the tabernacle existed for 300 years, Elon Moreh (where God first promised Abrah the land and where Abram first built an alter to the Lord), Caesarea (think Peter, Philip, Paul), Mt. Carmel (Elijah and the prophets of Baal), and wonderful sites as we drove along the the LAND.

Last night I had the chance of a lifetime to listen to Menachem Gilboa tell his story. 

Menachem from Ariel told me the story of how 10 years ago he was able to wrestle a suicide bomber to the ground at a gas station outside his hotel. He later received a metal and citation of recognition form the IDF Command Central Region of the State of Israel. To realize the courage of this man to put his own life at risk to save 100 Jewish soldiers outside their buses, again reminded me of how great a love a person can have for others. After the terrorist was shot dead and Menachem was able to get up and start to walk away, a soldier shot the dead body again and the bomb exploded. Three soldiers were killed, many were wounded and Menachem experienced serious injuries. I felt the 5 mm ball bearings still lodged throughout his body. To hear his story, to speak to his wife Tova and to realize that 6 months prior to this explosion she had been injured in an explosion inside the hotel lobby, and to hear of their faith in God has been a very moving experience for me.
Preach/Teaching on Mt. Carmel
I love to preach/teach anywhere, but when I'm standing on top of Mt. Carmel talking about a God who Answers, I can get excited! The sun was setting over the Mediterraean Sea, the mountains of Jordan could be seen in the distance, the valley of Jezreel was behind me, no other group was on the roof of the Carmelite monastary, our group wanted to listen, and I had my Bible in my hand. Doesn't get too much better for a preacher!
Hotel on the Med
Tonight we are staying at the Palm Beach Hotel on the Mediterranean Sea. Tomorrow we start with Acco and then . . .  and we'll end up at Kibbutz En Gev on the east shore of the Sea of Galilee. I can hardly wait for tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

This year in Israel?

Join me in Israel this December (2012)

I'd like you to consider joining Dr. Paul Shockley and me for a unique journey into Israel whereby we will explore the best of Old Testament and New Testament Israel. This month is the last month to obtain the group travel rates we have negotiated.
If you want to make your own airfare arrangements, and you register for trip before August 30, then you can receive a $1,500.00 credit off total price. If you are seriously teetering, do not delay. Please do not hesitate to contact Paul R. Shockley or Stephen J. Bramer if you have any questions.
We will travel to places we all love to see, (e.g., Western Wall; Sea of Galilee), but also see places not normally seen (e.g., Akko; Samaria; Shiloh; Qumran Cave # 1). This would be a great tour even if you have been to Israel before. You'll see the best of the old and the best of the new sites. If you are interested, you can take a look the pictures on this page (click on them to increase their size) or at an e-brochure on front page of Paul's website: or I will be glad to email you a PDF copy of brochure.
Our trip will be between fall and spring semesters, December 26, 2012- January 6, 2013 and we think this is going to allow a number of people in education to go on this tour since the tours in the fall and spring are often during regular school days. Some businesses are not as busy during these two weeks and so this might be a great time to combine a week of vacation with normal holidays.
The weather will be cool with a possibility of rain. At this same time last year Paul and I spend two weeks in Israel and we loved the coolness, clear days, bright flowers and the beautifully green fields.
We are limiting this tour to a single bus so once it is full it is full! Consider putting down your deposit sooner (now!) rather than later.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Keeping shop in the Old City of Jerusalem

Today I left Bethlehem about 8:15 am and caught a Palestinian bus from there to Joppa Gate in Jerusalem. I walked down (with my suitcase and backpack) to Christian Quarter road to see some of my old friends only to discover that because of Ramadan (Muslim month-long festival) no one got to their shops very early!
9 am and only the bread man is about. My luggage is in front of Ali Baba Souvenir Shop owned by Shabaan.
Close by to where I was waiting was a small food shop so I had a tea and Turkish Delight with nuts. The owner is recently from California so we had a good talk. He insisted I sit in his chair and with my suitcase beside me I had a relaxed hour and a half before things began to come alive in this part of the city. Although it is the "Christian Quarter" many shopkeepers are Arab Muslims. It is called the Christian Quarter because it is where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (traditional place of Christ's crucifixion and burial) is located (today there are other churches and pilgrim rest places etc. in this part of the Old City).
Glad this shop was open for some "breakfast" of Turkish Delight with nuts!
During the month of Ramadan every good Muslim is to fast from sunup to sundown. This fast is not only to include food but water and cigarettes! (I think I noticed that some were especially grumpy by the afternoon!) After sunset they celebrate with eating and drinking and then get up early to have a big breakfast. Apparently, after eating breakfast my shopkeeper friends took another sleep! I was invited to a home tonight which is planning for 100 guests but I had to leave for the airport. I was really disappointed because it would have been quite a honor to be a guest in a home during Ramadan.
Later in the day I became a shop-keeper in the Old City of Jerusalem! Well, it was only for about 1/2 hour, and I wasn't too busy, but I helped some people, and I only accepted one shipment that the owner hadn't ordered! My 22 year long friendship with Shabaan (a Muslim who is celebrating Ramadan these days) resulted in Shabaan asking me to watch his shop while he took some people to another part of the city. I will record this as one of my accomplishments during this sabbatical year from DTS!
Shopkeeper in the Old City of Jerusalem!
I also spent much of my day with my good friend Zack who owns an antiquity shop at 24 Christian Quarter Rd. We drank mint tea (Zack is a Christian believer so he was not fasting, PTL) which is my favorite drink while sitting in the shops of the Old City. If you are ever in Jerusalem part of your experience so be to visit with Zack (and Shabaan)! Tell them Dr. Stephen sent you and they will treat you well.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stars over Bethlehem!

"Stars over Bethlehem" — I've never been able to write or say that before but tonight I can. Tonight I went for a walk (with my good friend Charles Savelle who just arrived this afternoon) and I looked out over the town of Bethlehem from the neighboring, slightly higher in elevation, town of Beit Jala. The stars were just coming out as well as a sliver of the moon. And I stood there — realizing that over 2,000 years ago the wise men from the east had come here to Bethlehem to worship King Jesus. Nights don't get much better!

Tomorrow morning I leave this part of the country to spend the day in Jerusalem with some long-time friends and then I'll head to the airport for my flight home.
The modern city of Bethlehem (the church steeples [top center] mark the place of Christ's birth. Yesterday I was in Nazareth looking at the church that marked where Mary was told the Holy Spirit would put the Christ-child in her womb.
 On Saturday I'll be at the funeral of my very good friend Stan Johnson. I'm so thankful I can be home in time to honor him but I miss him so very much already. Glad he is home with Jesus.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Where David and the Son of David were born

Last night I got to Bethlehem, the "original" City of David and where our Lord Jesus Christ was born. I'll be careful what I write from here since there is always tension and I want to take care of friends that I make and not make it harder on them.
The trip from Amman to Bethlehem included a taxi to the border (10JD each [$14], an hour going through Jordanian passport control (and paying an 8JD [about $12]) exit fee. Then we purchased a ticket for the bus to take us across the Jordan River (3.5JD [$5]) and another ticket (1.3JD [$2]) for our luggage. The trip across the Jordan was about 3 miles but for various checks and unknown reasons the trip took about 3/4 hour. Then there was a long line as three or four buses unloaded at the Israeli passport control area (before when I have been with a tour bus we have proceeded to a different terminal). Bags and passports were checked, questions asked and answered, waiting was required but an hour and a half later we were through. Then we purchased a ticket in a shared bus (we ended up taking all 10 seats in one bus) for $10 each. This bus was supposed to drop us off at Damascus gate in Jerusalem but because it was Friday AND the first day of Ramadan the Israelis closed all the streets leading to Damascus gate. He dropped us off 1/2 mile away and we walked with our luggage to the bus station beside Damascus gate. However, no buses were running until after the Muslim prayers ended up at al-Aqsa mosque on the "Temple Mount" which Muslims call "Haram al-Sharif" ("The Noble Sanctuary"). Although Muslims are not allowed to eat or drink for about 15 hours each day during Ramadan, they still sell food and so were were able to purchase some bread and humus for a light lunch.
Entering into Bethlehem
We were able to get a bus (a Palestinian bus which cost us 5shekels [$1.25] each) that took us to the border "wall" between Israel and Palestine (occupied territory) and after going through light security we entered into Bethlehem. Some friends arranged some taxis for us and were got to where we are staying. Eight hours after we started we arrived! On a clear day, from the top of Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem, you can see tall towers in Amman!
Outside our kitchen balcony
Our accommodations are very pleasant and clean and our building is built on a hillside just outside where the "little town of Bethlehem" used to be. Today it is a busy, modern city filled with Muslims and Christians (non-Jew, non-Muslim) and only the Church of the Nativity reminds us of the place were Christ was born. The hillside that I look out on to could well have been were David once took his sheep to graze. I plan to take a walk to the top of a nearby hill from where I am told I can see Jerusalem probably 6 miles away (to the Old City).Wish you could be here enjoying this with me!
Remember, if you are wanting to join me in Israel this December, the bus is filling up. Take a look at the brochure and sign up today!  Take a look: