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