Monday, December 31- Are YOU Watching?

      It’s the BIG day- New Year’s Eve. What are YOU planning for this evening? I must admit that New Year’s Eve has NEVER been a really big deal for me…even when I was “young and wild”! In fact, the “wildest” thing I have ever done on New Year’s Eve was play drums for a special high-priced dinner/theater event that ended at midnight that night. It was great fun, and any excuse to get paid to play the drums is a good night for me! (I mean, to get PAID for something I would do for free? Forget about it!) In other words, I am NOT your average, run of the mill party animal. And it’s NOT simply because I’m a “preacher man”- I never have been. I will probably share some finger foods with my wife, youngest son and in-laws, watch some TV…and completely miss the ball actually dropping! (I know…I lead and exciting life!)
     New Year’s Eve has always had a special place in the history of Methodism. The founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, observed New Year’s Eve by originating Watch Night services in 1740. He also called them Covenant Renewal Services….make sure and come back tomorrow to read more specifically about that. The services provided Methodist Christians with a Christian alternative to what Wesley called “drunken revelry” on New Year’s Eve. Methodist Watch Night services include singing, spontaneous prayers and testimonials, as well as Scripture readings. A liturgy for the Watch Night service is found in The United Methodist Book of Worship. Watch Night services provide the opportunity for Christians to review the year that is ending, confess their sins, and then prepare for the year ahead by praying and resolving to accomplish certain things. 
     Maybe you’re planning to party this evening. If so, more power to you! (Please drink and drive responsibly!) No…I’m not going to try and talk you out of the big party you are counting on. You’re an adult- you can do what you want! BUT…I would encourage you to also spend some time today in pray, asking God to forgive you of any sins you have committed, and looking ahead to what God has in store for you in the new year. I pray that God shows you some GREAT things for your new year! I also pray that you continue to join me on this odd ride I call Stick With Jesus! 
Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- My Non-Existent New Year’s Resolution

Sunday, December 30- Jesus the Delegator

      Fresh out of business school, the young man answered a want ad for an accountant. Now he was being interviewed by a very nervous man who ran a small business that he had started himself. “I need someone with an accounting degree,” the man said. “But mainly, I’m looking for someone to whom I can delegate my worrying.” “Excuse me?” the young accountant said. “I worry about a lot of things,” the man said. “But I don’t want to have to worry about money, so I want to delegate that to you. Your job will be to take all the money worries off my back.” “I see,” the young accountant said. “And how much does this delegated job pay?” “I will start you at $100,000/year.” “$100,000/year!” the young accountant exclaimed. “How can such a small business afford a sum like that?” “That will be your 1st worry!”
     Author and humorist James Boren once said, “When in doubt…mumble; when in charge… delegate.” What does it MEAN to delegate? According to the dictionary, to delegate means to empower another person to act. Delegation is the act of enabling someone else to accomplish a task.  Delegation says, “I believe in you. I believe you’re capable of following through on this responsibility or task.”  Delegation says, “We’re part of a team.”  Delegation in the church helps others find their niche in ministry.  Delegation helps develop new abilities and a deeper sense of contribution. To delegate to others expands their level of competence and confidence.
Although delegating sounds like one of the simplest things in the world to do…it can be one of the hardest to accomplish. Often, our attitudes interfere with our ability to effectively delegate. We tend to think things like, “Delegating is really just relinquishing.” Dumping tasks on someone else without any effort to foster their success is relinquishment.  Proper delegation isn’t anything like that–it’s actually hard work. But if you fail to delegate because you want to save time in the short term, there’s likely to be a time in the future when you’re overloaded with work and don’t have anyone prepared to help you.
We also think, “Delegating means giving up power and control.”  I would argue- not when done properly.  Effective delegation involves retaining control over the end result. In addition, delegating frees up time that you can use to pursue new, innovative projects that make you more valuable to God.  Maybe we think, “If I delegate I become nonessential.”  We fear that we’ll lose our value, so subconsciously we decide that the best way to deal with that fear is to hold others back. Or we think, “It’d be SO much easier to just do it myself.  What I can do in 10 minutes will take 30 if I have to teach someone else how to do it. If you want something done right, do it yourself.” But when we think like that, we aren’t seeing the big picture, we’re not thinking of the long-term benefits. A SHEPHERD can only lead so many sheep- no one to delegate to. But the number of sheep a RANCHER can manage is only limited by his ability to delegate to his ranch hands. 
Since the beginning of creation, God has been delegating- empowering others to accomplish a task.  Psalm 8 says, “What is man that you are mindful of him…You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet.”  God entrusted His creation to…us…and through us He’s going to accomplish His plan. God made the animals, but He delegated to us the job of naming them, taking care of them.  He designed the ark, but entrusted Noah with the job of building it.  If God, the Creator of the universe, entrusts His creation to us, shouldn’t we be more willing to act on it?
In Exodus 18 we learn about the “Jethro Principle” (not to be confused, of course, with the “Ellie Mae Principle”!)…another approach to delegation.  Moses is the leader of hundreds of thousands of Israelites. He serves as the judge for the people, and they stand around him all day long…he is basically overwhelmed. But his father-in-law, Jethro, gives him some timely advice:  “Select capable individuals from all the people and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. This will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.”
Educator Howard Hendricks once noted, “Any time you do for someone else what they are capable of doing for themselves, you are helping to create an emotional cripple.”  As Christians, our job is to develop good leaders, not just willing followers.  God wants His people serving…ALL His people. Christian leaders are developed as God entrusts us with greater levels of responsibility and decision-making. However, many people simply don’t delegate, or respond to delegation, well. But Jesus is not like many people! He’s NOT, for instance, like preachers who can’t ever let go of the reins of power and delegate important tasks. Jesus is a delegator.  He really does authorize us to act for Him, to act LIKE Him, and He empowers us to do so. 
In the Gospels, Jesus offers some truths about delegation:
1. Delegation is a trust- the one delegating AND the one receiving the delegation must trust each other
2. We need to consider a person’s abilities- setting someone up for failure is never helpful
3. Faithfulness in a few things is a prerequisite for being in charge of many things- empower someone to carry out a relatively simple task. If they succeed, they are ready for greater things.
Let’s look at one of the best-known, widest-impacting Scriptures about delegating:
Matthew 28:16-20- Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We can learn a lot from Jesus’ approach as a delegator of ministry in this passage.
What He asked His disciples to do was something He had already modeled for them.
But notice the specifics he gave them revolved around vision- an overall approach.
He gave very little direction on the how-to of the ministry itself – no detailed instructions. They had seen Him model all of that, and He was encouraging them to be free to use their own judgment and be who they were as they did ministry. This is a Deploy-and-Debrief form of ministry training- as opposed to training them for years on every hypothetical situation before letting them try it. He gives them authority and power – this is key for delegation. He reminds them to stay focused; at the end of the day it’s more about their message and their faith and less about fancy bells and whistles. Jesus delegates authority to all believers to act in His name–to heal and prophesy, cast out demons, raise the dead, do all manner of things as we exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And the authority for these things comes from Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t dumb down discipleship.  He raises the bar pretty high…high enough that we can’t get over it without His Divine Intervention…and lots of it.  Jesus invites Himself into our lives, gets us prepped, delegates His mission to us, and the next thing you know we’re Christians on the move.
There are 2 main goals of delegation:
1. Success- f
ailure is seldom a good motivator in taking on new responsibilities
2. Development- raising competence, confidence and faithfulness in others
There are 3 types of delegation:
1. Directing- giving a specific job with intermittent deadlines to ensure success.
2. Coaching- enabling someone to design their plan, with coaching and advice, until the job is done.
3. Authorization- simply turning a task over to someone who is capable and ready. 
There are 6 steps to delegating:
1. Identify needs
2. Select the best person for the job- trust is one of the best forms of motivation
3. Define guidelines and potential pitfalls
4. Establish levels of accountability and evaluation
5. Identify available resources
6. Turn them loose!
In the end, you can delegate authority, but you can’t delegate responsibility. You can give others the power to do things on your behalf, but, no matter who does something wrong or right, the final responsibility always lies with the one delegating authority. In common parlance, “Blame rolls uphill.” When we DO exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit with love, when we DO make disciples for Christ, when we DO share the Word of God with authority and power, then God is glorified. The best way to glorify Jesus is to obey Him, follow Him, imitate His ways.  Reading Scripture is great…but it’s not enough.  We have to get up, get out, and get moving.
Jesus didn’t come to meet our every demand, make all our wishes come true, or ‘complete us’.  He came to enlist us in bringing in the Kingdom. Jesus is not here to help us get what we want out of God; He’s here to see that God gets what He wants out of us. Jesus doesn’t say “please love Me”, or “please agree with Me- He says “follow Me…and I’ll make you fishers of the most slippery eels to catch- people.” And through faithful fulfillment of a delegated responsibility, we experience the joy that comes from having God use us. And we, as it all turns out, are God’s hands and feet in the world. 
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed Sunday! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- Are YOU Watching?

Saturday, December 29- If That’s a Dog’s Life, I’ll Take It!

     We have another girl in our house that I don’t mention very often- Zoey. She is a black lab/English pointer mix…and she’s a big goofball! When he was 5 years old, our youngest son said, “You got my brother a dog when HE was 5. Well, I’M 5…” We had lost our last dog heartbreakingly after several years and weren’t sure we were ready for another dog, so we ignored it as best we could until he was 6…at which time it was simply impossible to ignore any longer! So we decided it was time. My poor wife had our last dog, a HUGE black German shepherd, named Bud, kind of pushed on her, so we decided she should get to pick the dog this time. We also decided it would be best if we went to the Humane Society WITHOUT our son to pick a dog! So, off we went. We got there, and BOY was it hard. All the dogs wanted to go home with us…and we wanted to take them all home! We looked around, and Zoey really caught our eye. In fact, we had seen her picture on the internet before we even came in. We took her out of her pen and into a room where we could play with her and get to know her a bit. She seemed like a good dog, but she was bigger than the lap dog my wife wanted, so we put her back and kept looking. We came upon two beagles in the same pen. They were older, with grey around their muzzles and little bandannas tied around their necks, and the sign said they needed to be adopted together. As we neared their pen, the female sat up on her haunches and begged (literally) for us to take them! We decided that, if we were getting a dog for ourselves and not our 6-year old, we would have gone home with two beagles that day! Meanwhile, Zoey was beside herself in her pen, standing up on her hind legs and  saying, “Hey! What are you doing? I CHOSE you! You can stop looking!” We eventually came to that same conclusion and made the necessary arrangements to get her. She was a year and a half old when we got her, and the vet said she would keep her “puppy enthusiasm” until she was about three. Well, apparently she hasn’t received that memo yet, because she just turned 6 on valentine’s Day and shows NO signs of slowing down! And yet she is, for all her hyperactiveness, devoted, loving, smart, and a great addition to our family. She is even such a little cupcake that she has her own bed! (However, she still sneaks up on the couch when she thinks we’re not looking!)
     I have never experienced the blessing of adopting a child, but I can only imagine, from the joy we receive from our furry adopted “baby”, what it must be like. Have you ever thought about the fact that God is our adoptive parent? We all have biological parents who brought us into this world. But we all also have the opportunity to have an adoptive parent- God. We constantly look around, checking out all the options available to us, searching for that intangible thing that is missing from our lives. Meanwhile, God is there all the time, looking at us with eyes that say, “Why are you looking at other options? I already chose you! You can stop looking and come home!” What an AMAZING thing to consider…God CHOSE you! No matter what other people think of you, no matter who has rejected you, no matter what you’ve done or left undone, God…chose…you! He has reserved a place just for you. He knows everything about you…and still loves you, warts and all. He is devoted, loving, smart, and a great addition to your family! Struggling to find your place in the world? Have those days when you wonder how anyone could love you? Wonder sometimes if it’s all worth it? Wonder no more! God chose you, and life is so much more worth living when you realize that! Now, please excuse me. The dog is standing at the door,  her leash in her mouth, saying, “Please step away from the laptop! I NEED to go!” Have a great day, pet your pet if you have one, and stick with Jesus!
     Tomorrow- Jesus the Delegator

Friday, December 28- Sing We Now of Christmas

     A few days before Christmas, we went caroling.  By “we”, I mean a group of folks from my church. I have taken a group from church caroling every Christmas season for the past 16! I am used to 12 or so people, so imagine my pleased surprise when 30 showed up this year! (It was awesome!)
     We planned on going to one location this year- a senior citizen complex that includes several from our congregation. After we had gathered at the church , we piled into a few vehicles and headed out. 
     As we entered the building, we saw a LOT of people in the common area playing Bingo. We didn’t want to interrupt them, so we headed to a few rooms of people we knew and caroled to them. When we made our way back to the common area, Bingo was done. I asked one of the folks who work at the facility if we could carol to those who were gathered there. She looked at me kind of funny and said, “Aren’t you from the church?” “Yes.” Well, you’re supposed to sing at 2:20PM…which is now!” They had a flier up on the wall, advertising that we were coming! I have NO idea how it got there, or how they knew!
    So, we sang. First, I had us spread out among the residents, rather than all clump together by the entrance to the room. And let me assure you that when 30 committed Christians spread out among 50 residents eager to sing Christmas carols….the results were amazing! If I do say so myself (and I do, because no one else will!), the singing sounded great. 80 voices, all lifted up to the glory of God and the joy of the season. Good stuff!
     We then decided to go to a local nursing home and then another senior citizen complex- all to sing to folks we knew. We had a great time, and I think they enjoyed it, too! We then headed back to church for cookies and punch. And then…we went home! The WHOLE event was done in 2 hours! Amazing!
     But the most amazing thing about the whole event was something that apparently went unnoticed by almost everybody- I certainly didn’t see it and only know about it because I was told after the fact. When we finished singing to the large group at our first stop, I encouraged my group to spread out and greet people. After a few minutes of that, we moved on. But I found out later that one of our newest church members, let’s call him…Gary…had a unique experience/ He walked up to a nice older lady who thanked him for coming but lamented the fact that we had NOT sung Silent Night- “It’s my favorite.” Gary smiled and said, “Well, I could do that for you!” He then sat next to her and the two of them sang Silent Night. What a beautiful image that is! (It’s probably a good thing I didn’t see it- I get a bit “misty” just thinking about it!!) 
     What Gary did is a microcosm of what Christmas should be about- what Christianity should be about. We should be willing and anxious to step up, meet others where they are, and offer them a taste of the love of Jesus Christ. And sometimes…that’s as simple as a few bars of Silent Night!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
 Tomorrow- If That’s a Dog’s Life- I’ll Take It!

Thursday, December 27- “I Feel Tough!”

     There is a woman who was a member of my church- she passed away about 2 months ago. I only met her once before she died. I went to her home, which was an apartment in a Senior Citizen-specific building. We sat and chatted- had a perfectly good conversation. After I had been there for about 20 minutes, we hit one of those inevitable lulls in the conversation. We both sat in silence for about 20-30 seconds (Doesn’t seem that long? Try stopping a conversation for 30 seconds- it can seem like an eternity!), and then she suddenly spoke up. “You have an earring.” I smiled and said, “Yes, ma’am- I do.” I paused a moment and then asked, “Is that OK?” She was refreshingly honest, “I thought it was strange at first., But then I read in the church newsletter about WHY you wear it. Now…it’s OK.” Gotta love it!
     The picture accompanying today’s blog is of a little boy in my congregation. (I made SURE to get permission from “mom” before publishing it!) Let’s call him Jonah. That picture was taken fairly recently. The story behind the picture is this- he was riding in the back seat and wearing his cross necklace. At one point, his mom looked back and saw that he had looped the cross necklace over his ear. The subsequent illusion was that he had a cross earring! 
     His mom asked him about it and he said, “I know why Rev. Mark wears this- I feel tough!” I laughed so hard, if I would have had milk in my mouth…it would have come out my nose! If you look at his expression, he LOOKS tough, doesn’t he?! Well, Jonah, that is EXACTLY why I wear it! Well…sort of! I DO feel tough with that cross hanging from my left ear. But NOT tough in the “I can kick anybody’s tail” way. And NOT tough in the “yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum” pirate way. No, I feel tough in the sense that, when I wear it, I am CONSTANTLY reminded that I am a child of God. I am CONSTANTLY reminded that, as a professing Christian, other people are watching me and I need to make sure my life reflects my words as much as possible. And I am CONSTANTLY reminded that it is a GREAT conversation starter- people talk to my ear, and it gives me a chance to reference it and bring up my faith. Gotta love it!
     The funny side-note to this whole story is that, as Jonah and his mom talked about the whole “earring” thing, he was SHOCKED to find out that I ACTUALLY had an earring! “I thought he just looped his necklace over his ear!” Gotta love it!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
 Tomorrow- Sing We Now of Christmas

Wednesday, December 26- Bad Girls of the Bible: Eve

     (Wednesdays are Bible Study Day here at Stick With Jesus. Today, we begin a new study, Bad Girls of the Bible, based on the writings of Liz Curtis Higgs.)
     All About Eve-
Very little is known about her; not much is said of her in the Bible. She was-
 the first woman on earth
the first wife
the first mother
known as the “Mother of All the Living”
     Like most mothers, even though her accomplishments were great, they were for the most part, overlooked!
     Her name: Adam is the one who gave her the name Eve (Genesis 3:20). Eve- or in Hebrew- chavvah- means “living one, source of life”. It is derived from the Hebrew words chavah (to breathe) and chayah (to live). Her name occurs only five times in the Bible.
     Her hometown was Eden. We don’t know how long she and Adam were in the Garden of Eden. Traditional says that she is buried in the “Eve Grave” in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Her Family Tree is: Husband- Adam, Children- Cain, Abel, Seth and many more children (Genesis 5:4). Noah (and all of humanity) is descended from Seth. Did Adam and Eve begin having children before or after they left the Garden of Eden?
(Genesis 3:23, 4:1-2)
     Key Verses in Eve’s story:
Genesis 2:18 “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”
Genesis 2:23 “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’”
She is referenced in the Bible in: Genesis 2:18-4:26, 2 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Timothy 2:13.
     Read Genesis 2:18-25- “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is right for him.” 19 From the ground God formed every wild animal and every bird in the sky, and he brought them to the man so the man could name them. Whatever the man called each living thing, that became its name.20 The man gave names to all the tame animals, to the birds in the sky, and to all the wild animals. But Adam did not find a helper that was right for him.21 So the Lord God caused the man to sleep very deeply, and while he was asleep, God removed one of the man’s ribs. Then God closed up the man’s skin at the place where he took the rib.22 The Lord God used the rib from the man to make a woman, and then he brought the woman to the man. 23 And the man said, “Now, this is someone whose bones came from my bones, whose body came from my body. I will call her ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of man.” 24 So a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one body. 25 The man and his wife were naked, but they were not ashamed.”

Read Genesis 3:1-6a – “Now the snake was the most clever of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day the snake said to the woman, “Did God really say that you must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden?” 2 The woman answered the snake, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden.3 But God told us, and ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden. You must not even touch it, or you will die.’ “4 But the snake said to the woman, “You will not die.5 God knows that if you eat the fruit from that tree, you will learn about good and evil and you will be like God!” 6 The woman saw that the tree was beautiful, that its fruit was good to eat, and that it would make her wise. So she took some of its fruit and ate it.

Read Genesis 3:6b-8– She also gave some of the fruit to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then, it was as if their eyes were opened. They realized they were naked, so they sewed fig leaves together and made something to cover themselves. 8 Then they heard the Lord God walking in the garden during the cool part of the day, and the man and his wife hid from the Lord God among the trees in the garden.

Read Genesis 3:9-13- 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said, “Where are you?” 10 The man answered, “I heard you walking in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” 11 God asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat fruit from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “You gave this woman to me and she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “How could you have done such a thing?” She answered, “The snake tricked me, so I ate the fruit.”

Read Genesis 3:14-16- 14 The Lord God said to the snake, “Because you did this, a curse will be put on you. You will be cursed as no other animal, tame or wild, will ever be. You will crawl on your stomach, and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 I will make you and the woman enemies to each other. Your descendants and her descendants will be enemies. One of her descendants will crush your head, and you will bite his heel.” 16 Then God said to the woman, “I will cause you to have much trouble when you are pregnant, and when you give birth to children, you will have great pain. You will greatly desire your husband, but he will rule over you.”
Other Interesting Tidbits:
1. Eve is an important figure in Judaism, Islam and Hinduism
2. Two distinct Creation accounts seem to exist
a. God made and female created them (Genesis 1:27), which has been assumed to imply simultaneous creation
b. God created Eve from Adam’s rib because Adam was lonely (Genesis 2:18 ff.)
c. To resolve this apparent discrepancy, medieval rabbis suggested that Eve and the woman of the first account were two separate individuals. A Jewish book called The Alphabet of Ben-Sira showed up in Europe @ 6th century A.D. It says that Lilith was actually Adam’s first wife, created at the same time from the same dust. Claiming to be created equal, she refused to serve under him. When Adam tried to force her into an “inferior” position, she flew away from Eden into the air, where she procreated with demons, conceiving hundreds more each day- sometimes described as a night demon, the word liyliyth can also mean “screech owl”. She refused to return to Adam and was destroyed. Then God made Eve from Adam’s rib to be his “second wife”. This story is not supported by the Biblical account.
     In Christian tradition, Eve is sometimes seen as an example of sexual temptation. This tendency isn’t found in Judaism, where Lilith plays that role.
3. Although all subsequent humans have Eve as an ancestor, she is unique in that she was created from man and not woman.
4. Some early Church Fathers saw women as the root/cause of all sin. In fact, they referred to Eve as:
 the lance of the demon
 the road of iniquity
 the sting of the scorpion
 a daughter of falsehood
 the sentinel of Hell
 the enemy of peace
 the wild beast, the most dangerous
 the devil’s gateway
 They even specifically blamed women for the death of Christ

In Islamic tradition:
 She isn’t mentioned by name in the Qur’an, but is referred to as Adam’s spouse
 Adam and Eve share the temptation equally
 no burden is passed on from Eve to women
 there is no original sin as sin cannot be inherited in Islam
 Adam and Eve are forgiven for their transgression

In Hindu tradition:
 Eve is called Havyavati, the consort of Adhama

In Modern Times:
 In the late 16th century a young scholar named Valentius Acidalius published a book entitled Women do not have a soul and do not belong to the human race, as is shown by many passages of Holy Scripture.
 An alternative view was given by Matilda Joslyn Gage who, in 1893, wrote Woman, Church and State: A Historical Account of the Status of Woman Through the Christian Ages with Reminiscences of the Matriarchal. In it she lists 11 reasons why Eve is not really responsible for what happened, including:
1. The serpent tempted her before she thought of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, therefore she didn’t fully understood his meaning.
2. She believed that God hadn’t said she couldn’t eat the fruit, so she did.
3. Sinning through ignorance, she committed a less serious crime than Adam.

 She was created in the image of God
 She was made to be a helper to Adam
 Together, she and Adam fulfilled God’s purpose in multiplying humankind on the Earth

 She was tempted by the serpent, who got her to doubt God’s goodness
 He encouraged her to forget all of the good things God had blessed her with
 He encouraged her to focus on the one thing she couldn’t have
 He encouraged her to be jealous because she couldn’t share fully in God’s knowledge
 She acted impulsively
 She allowed the serpent to undermine her trust in God
 She encouraged Adam to join her in sin
 She blamed someone else instead of taking personal responsibility for her actions
 She and Adam are expelled from the Garden of Eden and are cursed

      Although she shared a close relationship with God and Adam, Eve failed to consult either of them when confronted with the serpent’s suggestions

Life Lessons:
 Women and men both share in God’s image
 There are feminine qualities to the character of God
 God’s purpose for creation couldn’t be fulfilled without the equal participation of women
 God allows us to freely choose because He wants us to follow Him out of love
 Nothing we do is hidden from God
 There’s no long-term benefit to blaming others for our own failings
 We must accept personal responsibility for what we do

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- “I Feel Tough!”

Tuesday, December 25- Daily Bible Verse

Luke 2:1-14 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’

Tuesday, December 25- Merry Christmas!

     When I was a kid, Mrs. Martin used to make my birthday cakes. She was a lady who lived up the road (I grew up out in the middle of nowhere…we didn’t have streets…we had ROADS!) and she made cakes shaped like animals. And I thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen! (I was 14 years old at the time…but don’t laugh at me!) Actually, I was about 5 years old, and I remember seeing a picture of me, on my knees on a stool at the kitchen counter, holding the edge of a cake shaped like a lamb so that it tipped forward for the camera. I had a MASSIVE smile on my face!
     Birthdays are a big deal…aren’t they? In our house, we try and make them very special- it’s the one day of the year that’s YOURS, and no one else’s! You get to pick the dessert AND the dinner, and if you get to pick how we celebrate (within reason, that is)! How do YOU celebrate birthdays at your house? What are the special things you do? And why am I asking about birthdays on Christmas Day, you might ask? Because today is the biggest birthday celebration in the history of the world…and many people aren’t even really aware of it.
     Think about it- a bit over 2,000 years ago a baby was born. Now, you can argue all you want about whether Jesus was REALLY God’s Son, God Incarnate, or not (I’ll always argue that He IS, by the way!), but it would be hard to argue that there is another person who walked the face of this Earth and has had MORE impact that Him. Jesus, very simply, came into the world in a back water town in the middle of nowhere, in a stable, and changed the world. Forever. We even measure TIME by His birth. Seminaries across the nation can change from designating time by BC (before Christ) and AD (anno domini, which means “in the year of our Lord”)  to designating it as BCE (before the common era) and CE (common era) all they want…for my money it’s all smoke and mirrors. Regardless of what you call it, Jesus’ birth STILL forever split time in half. Period.
     So how will YOU recognize Jesus’ birth today? I doubt you will make a cake shaped like a lamb…although it would be terribly appropriate, what with Jesus being the Lamb of God and all…but what WILL you do? Will you set aside some time today to remember His birth, a birth that changed the world, change me…and you? Take a moment today, in the midst of everything else you will do, to thank God for the best birthday/Christmas gift ever!
          Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- Bad Girls of the Bible: Eve

Monday, December 24- A Different Kind of Christmas: By a Different Road

         There were twin boys who were as different as hot and cold, up and down, night and day. One was a cock-eyed optimist while the other was a gloom-and-doom pessimist. One Christmas, as a experiment, their parents gave the pessimist tons of toys and games while the optimist got his room filled…with horse manure. After a few minutes, mom and dad snuck down the hall to see what was happening. To their surprise, the found the pessimist crying! “Why in the world are you crying? Look at all these toys!” “But all my friends will be jealous. And I’ll have to read all these instructions. And they’ll all need batteries! And they’ll eventually break!” Meanwhile, down the hall, the optimist was dancing for joy in a huge pile of manure. His parents couldn’t contain themselves, “Why are you so happy?” The optimist stopped his dancing long enough to shout, “There has GOT to be a pony in here somewhere!”
     What road have you been walking this past year? Maybe it’s been a GREAT road- well-tended, smooth, clear, headed to good places. But maybe it’s been a pretty crummy road- full of twists and turns, potholes galore, without any good signage to tell you where you are or where you’re going? Well, if you were EVER going to let God guide you down a new path, take a different road, Christmas would be it! What if we were to let the lessons of Christmas lead us down a different road in the new year? What if we reorient our priorities? What if we focus not on ourselves but on the radical love of Jesus Christ? As we wrap up our Christmas sermon series tonight, we will look at just that.
Jeremiah 23:5-6 Watch! The days are coming when I will raise up a righteous Branch of David— an heir of his royal line— who will rule justly, act wisely and make things right again in the land. 6 During His reign, Judah will be redeemed and Israel will be a safe place again. The name he is called will tell the story: The Eternal Is Our Righteousness!
     William was a 7th-grader, big for his age. He was a little…slow…mentally, but he was a good boy and the other kids liked him. For the Christmas program, William wanted to be a  shepherd, but the teacher decided he should be the innkeeper instead. When they performed the program, Mary and Joseph came to the inn door and knocked. William opened the door and told them, “There’s no room.” Joseph said to, “But my wife is tired and expecting a baby. Don’t you even have a small room we could use?” But William stuck to his guns…and the script, “You have to find someplace else; there’s no room.” Again Joseph pleaded. And William said…nothing. There was a long pause, and the prompter finally whispered, “No, be gone!” Finally, softness, reluctantly William managed to utter, “No, be gone.” Mary and Joseph, dutifully following the stage directions, turned to leave. Suddenly, William spoke up, “Wait! You can stay in my room. I’ll sleep in the shed!” As stunned silence fell over the crowd, everyone realize that a “slow” 7th-grade boy had managed to communicate the  real truth of Christmas better than any of them. And isn’t that what Jesus did? “Wait. You don’t have to die for your sins. I’ll take your place…on the cross.”
Luke 2:1-15 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
     2 boys were staying with their grandparents one December. At bedtime, as they were saying their prayers, the younger of the 2 boys started praying, “DEAR GOD, I WANT A NEW BICYCLE, A NEW VIDEO GAME, A NEW DVD PLAYER…” His older brother said, “Hey! Why are you shouting? God’s not deaf!”  “No, but Grandma is!”
     Tomorrow, more than a billion people will celebrate Christmas. Surrounded by candlelight and carols, the familiar story will unfold again- an angel visits, followed by a trip to Bethlehem. There, a baby is born in a stable and the announcement is made to certain poor shepherds. We all know that the world is full of great doubt and disbelief, but ion this particular case, doubt is not our enemy- familiarity is. It was Mark Twain who said, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” In other words, perhaps we know the so well that we miss the wonder. What was once coveted is now taken for granted. What was once held in awe now tends to bore us just a bit. And when that happens, faith becomes routine, ordinary, commonplace, a habit. The Bible becomes dry and our testimonies shopworn. Been there, done that. But the mystery of Jesus Christ is a wonder beyond human understanding!
     Joseph loved Mary but there was so much he couldn’t give her- they ended up in a barn. Have you ever spent time in a barn? Growing up with a horse and chickens and turkeys and guinea and goats, I can tell you that a barn is a great place to play, but when it comes to sleeping? Not so much! The, uh…atmosphere…is less than conducive to post-natal care. But after more than 300 Old Testament prophesies predicting nearly every stage of Jesus’ life, which came hundreds of years before He was born- there simply can’t be THAT much coincidence- it happened. For centuries people had waited for the Messiah, and then, it came to pass.
     Have you noticed that there is NO mention of wrapping paper in the Christmas story?
That’s because the people giving the gifts that 1st Christmas were men! And men are NOT big gift wrappers! And that’s NOT merely opinion- it’s scientific fact! You want to know the only time a guy wraps a gift? When the gift is so poor that he doesn’t want to be there when it gets opened! And if us men DO wrap a gift, it never takes more than 3.9 nano-seconds. Gee! It’s no guess which presents daddy wrapped- they all look like enormous spitballs! It must be some kind of genetic defect- I can take a deck of cards, put it in the exact center of a piece of wrapping paper the size of a regulation volleyball court, and when I’m done wrapping, there will STILL be a corner of the box peeking out! My wife, on quite the other hand, can take a 12” square piece of wrapping paper…wrap a C-130 cargo plane…and STILL have enough paper left over to make a homemade tag!
     Have you ever re-gifted? While you b
e exchanging and returning soon? Christmas is no different. God wrapped His gift in swaddling clothes, gave it to us, and then stood back and waited to see what we would do. Exchange it? Return it? Reject it with indifference? Or receive it with joy? If we reject the gift, then we reject God. But if we accept the gift, then we accept God, along with His forgiveness, His help and His hope.
     In December of 1903, the Wright brothers finally got their “flying machine” off the ground. Excitedly, they telegraphed their sister Katherine: “Actually flew 120’! Will be home for Christmas.” Katherine RAN to the editor of the local newspaper and showed him the message. He read it, then said, “How nice. The boys will be home for Christmas.” He missed the big news. Many of us miss the big news of Jesus Christ. We don’t think we need a Savior– we’re good enough, we’re smart enough and doggonit- people like us!
     But have you ever know a fisherman to NOT about a great catch? Or a golfer to not brag about their game? Or a parent to not talk about their child? How do you express joy? C.S. Lewis said that joy is incomplete until it is expressed. We praise and share the things that bring us joy. And the absence of praise and joy is a spiritual barometer in our lives. We tend to miss the baby in the manger for many reasons- we’re too distracted, we’re too busy, we’re too scared, we’re too indifferent. This year, don’t miss the big news of Christmas, don’t miss the wonder and glory of the birth of Jesus Christ. Don’t allow familiarity to rob you of good tidings of great joy. Tonight, accept God’s offer of the greatest gift ever- a baby born in a manger, The Savior, Christ the Lord.
     As I have shared before, I am a big fan of the Peanuts cartoons. I remember a Christmas one where Lucy says, “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. `Tis season of peace on earth and good will toward men. Therefore, I suggest we forget all our differences and love one another!” Charlie Brown is more than a little surprised, “That’s wonderful, Lucy. I’m so glad you said that. But tell me, do we have to love each other only at this season of year? Why can’t we love each other all year long?” Lucy flatly responds, “What are you, a fanatic or something?”
     What we spend our time and money on reveals our real values. It all too clearly demonstrates what we truly worship. Are we storing up treasures on earth or are we committed to following Jesus by storing our treasures in heaven? Take time to think of ways you can make first things first in the new year. How will you spend more time with people you love? How will you better demonstrate your faith through service? How will you continue to cultivate your relationship with God? We are called, not just at Christmas but all year long, to seek out and serve those in need. We let our light shine BEST when we let it shine for Jesus Christ.
God is leading you down a different road than the one you were on. Where is this new road leading?
     In Jesus Christ, God gave us the greatest gift we could ever have. It’s a gift takes a lifetime to unwrap. It’s a gift of enormous value, given freely to all. It’s a gift that enriches everyone who accepts it. It’s a gift that’s ultimately intended to be given away. It’s the gift of life. Before we receive this gift, we walk alone without hope. But after receiving the gift, Jesus walks with us daily. Before we receive the gift, life is ordinary. But after receiving the gift, life is never the same again! And what’s the greatest thing about this gift, about the birth of Jesus? It’s that we can experience it personally. Tonight, God extends a personal invitation to you to come and see with your own eyes the Messiah.
     God offers us a gift tonight, and then He waits to see what we’ll do with it. Will we return it? Or will we receive it with open arms? Jesus came as a baby, into a cold, dark world, to touch our lives, to love us, to show us a better way and to change us forever. Jesus at Christmas is Divine love coming down and reaching out to save us from our  loneliness and our emptiness. Tonight is the night when the infinite becomes the infant- Emmanuel, the Son of God, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Is He your Savior? If not, I invite YOU…to invite Him…into your heart.  
    Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23- A Different Kind of Christmas: Jesus’ Wish List

     There’s a convenience store chain called Quick Trip…QT. There are several of them in the St. Louis area. One Christmas, when our older son was young, he received the obligatory “gift that needs batteries”. Only, unlike every other year…we COMPLETELY forgot to actually get batteries! Aaaawww SNAP, son! If you’re going to give an 8-year old boy a cool battery-operated toy for Christmas and NOT provide batteries…you might as well give him socks, laundry detergent and raisins and just get it over with! We felt terrible! So we tried to imagine who might possibly be open, and we thought of QT. It was a longshot, but it was the only horse we had to bet on! So I dialed their number…and held my breath. It rang and rang, and then, “Merry Christmas! QT.” Whew- saved! I said, “I didn’t think you’d be open!” to which he replied, “Every day is Christmas at QT!” I was delighted…and saddened at the same time!
Isaiah 7:14 The LORD himself will give you a miraculous sign. The virgin is going to have a baby. She will give birth to a son. And he will be called Immanuel.
     Are you done shopping? Let’s see a show of hands. I’ll be honest- I would rather have a great big pointy stick jabbed in my eye that shop…especially at Christmas. Therefore, I am completely ecstatic over the rise of on-line shopping! Amazon has been my BEST friend this season!
     Do YOU struggle to come up with just the perfect gift each Christmas? Do you manage to find the right thing for those special people in your life? It can be tough! But here’s an even tougher question: what do you give…Jesus…on Christmas…for His birthday? This question brings us to the real focus of this entire sermon series, and here it is: Christmas is NOT your birthday! Turn to the person next to you and tell them, “Christmas is NOT your birthday!” It’s NOT! It’s Jesus’ birthday. And we Americans KNOW what we’re supposed to do on someone’s birthday- give them gifts! So what should we give Jesus? What does Jesus want for Christmas? What’s on His wish list? Well, He made it clear in the Gospels that we give Him the BEST gift possible when we give to others- feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned.
1John 3:16-18 We know what love is because Jesus Christ gave his life for us. So we should give our lives for our brothers and sisters. Suppose someone sees a brother or sister in need and is able to help them. If he doesn’t take pity on them, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, don’t just talk about love. Put your love into action. Then it will truly be love.
     How can we change the traditional focus of Christmas from materialistic self-indulgence to giving Jesus what He wants for His birthday? How can we make it less about us…and more about Him? How does God combat evil and despair in the world? By sending you and me! Like the famous Uncle Sam poster- God wants you. We are the hands and feet, the eyes and ears of Jesus in this world. God wants you- your time, talent and treasure- to be used in service. What will you do in the new year to ease the suffering of others?
     French novelist and playwright Alexandre Dumas once got in a heated debate with a young politician. The argument became so intense that it was decided the only way to settle things was a duel. Both men were such excellent shots that it was decided they would draw lots- with the loser shooting himself! They drew lots…and Dumas lost! Pistol in hand, he withdrew to the next room. Everyone held their breath and waited. Suddenly…a shot rang out! They threw open the door and ran into the room…only to find Dumas, completely unharmed, smoking revolver in his hand. Dumas stared at his pistol for a moment, then turned to those gathered in the doorway, “Gentlemen, a most regrettable thing has happened- I missed.”
     The Greek word for “sin” is “hamartia”. It’s actually an archery term which means “to miss the mark”. Some people try to add Jesus Christ to their lives without subtracting sin. But that math problem simply doesn’t compute. When we do that…we miss the mark.  It’s nothing more than a superficial change in belief without a genuine change in behavior. It’s false revival without true repentance.
     To be sure, we are sinners who stand in need of forgiveness. But we are also the pinnacle of God’s creation. And Jesus came as a baby in a manger- not for Hallmark or Wal-Mart or even the Christian bookstore. No, He came for us. He COMES for us- Emmanuel, God With Us. Come Lord Jesus. I’m ready to look into the manger and see for myself a baby Who came to change the world…and me. Are you ready?
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
Tomorrow- A Different Kind of Christmas: By a Different Road

Saturday, December 22- The Christmas Pageant

     I am HIGHLY qualified to talk about Church Christmas Pageants- I do, after all, have an advanced degree on the subject! Think about it: Bachelor’s Degree in Theater + Master’s Degree in Church = Advanced Degree in Church Christmas Pageants!
     Now that we have THAT settled, let me tell you about last Sunday! We have 2 morning services on Sundays- 8AM and 10:15. At the 10:15 service last week, we featured the annual Children’s Christmas Pageant. Led by our choir director, this pageant featured Mary and Joseph (I thought Joseph was VERY believable! Of course…he WAS my son!!), a choir of angels, a gaggle of shepherds, a stable of animals, the ever-popular 3 wise men and a narrator to keep the whole thing going. And. It. Was. GREAT! 
     As the various characters came out, the narrator told us the story of that first Christmas. I had heard ALL sorts of stories about the animals (played by our youngest kids) and how they often had difficulty…staying on task! But I must tell you, they did a GREAT job! There was no tail-pulling or face-making until the VERY end- a pretty successful job, I would say!
     By the time the entire ensemble was in place, I was close enough that I literally couldn’t get them all in my camera! And then, after it was over and the applause had died down…I had to follow it! As an actor, you are always told, “Never follow children or animals”. And I had to follow children AS animals! Doomed, I must say! So I stood up, waved and said, “Thanks for coming. Drive safely!” (At least it got a laugh!) 
     I know people who complain about Church Christmas Pageants. I have heard two primary arguments: 1. it is simply using the children for nothing more than the entertainment of the adults and 2. it doesn’t belong in a worship service because it’s NOT worship but a show. And to folks who adhere to one of those two understandings of Church Christmas Pageants, I politely quote that great MASH theologian Col. Sherman T. Potter, “Horse hockey!” 
     Should a church offer up this kind of worship every Sunday? No. But is it appropriate, even powerful, to offer up a Church Christmas Pageant at…say…CHRISTMAS? Every day and twice on Sunday! The story of Christmas was powerfully told and the kids had a very special experience of “big people church”- all at the same time. For me, that is NOT a bad thing, but a win/win situation! So…thank you kids of my church for reminding me of both the raw power and simple beauty of the Christmas story!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
 Tomorrow- A Different Kind of Christmas: Jesus’ Wish List