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Author: Paul Phillips

Paul was born in Fort Benning, Georgia. He earned his BS in Sports Management from Furman University and worked for the Atlanta Braves Public Relations Department. In 1987, Paul joined Young Life staff and served as the Wilmington area director for 13 years. Paul completed his MDiv at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2001 and became CCC’s founding pastor in 2002. He’s married to Nancy, and they have two grown children.
Titus’ Toughness Test

Titus’ Toughness Test

Wrestling’s ultimate toughness test, the Battle Royale. In order to get our mind set and blood pumping, let’s watch.

Now we all know, at least I hope we do, that wrestling is staged, but nothing could be more staged than this goofiness. I love the guy in the arena with his hands on head, thinking ‘how could this happen?’

Leadership, especially spiritual leadership, is like this Battle Royal. Opponents come at you from every side.

As a leader, you know how this works. Something difficult needs to get done. Perhaps a confrontational conversation, a challenging task, a project that you know will be a heavy lift. You need to lead people in a new direction, but the very same people might not want to go. Whatever the challenge, you know it will take someone with toughness, perseverance, and emotional maturity. Not a snowflake! There are only a few people who you can count on.

For Paul, Titus was one of those people. Titus was tough, so Titus got the difficult assignments. Are you tough? Not as a bully, but as a someone who can take a stand, navigate difficult conversations, and deal with difficult people? If God needs a leader to take a difficult assignment, are you ready to go?

Here is some background on Titus: Titus was Greek. He was an early convert to Christianity under the teaching of Paul. Titus, like Timothy, became one of Paul’s most trusted companions and co-workers. It seems like Titus drew most of the toughest assignments given by Paul.

Test #1. Standing Against the Cultural Tide

Galatians 2:1-5 – In about 50 AD the Gospel was just beginning to spread from Jerusalem, from the Jews to the Gentiles. Incorporating different cultures and ethnicities was wonderful, but it (not surprisingly) created conflict. The first Christians we all originally Jews. Many of them believed that if Greeks or Gentiles were to belong to the church, they would not only have to accept Jesus, but were also required to accept Jewish cultural practices (i.e. – Circumcision). For more than 2,000 years the people of God had been circumcised, but now under a New Covenant, it was rightly argued that circumcision was no longer required. The matter was a tremendously contentious issue for the early church. (See Acts 15)

“I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me…but even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in— who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you”

Galatians 2

In Galatians 2, Paul is recalling the time he took Titus (an uncircumcised Greek convert) to go to Jerusalem to meet with the early church leaders. Titus was the token uncircumcised Gentile, which meant the authenticity of his faith would be scrutinized and questioned by forceful, combative “False Brothers” (vs. 4). Yes, Paul was standing with Titus, but imagine the tone of the questions, the racially charged comments, and the religious arguments Titus had to withstand. Titus had to be tough to stand as the token Gentile in the early church, he couldn’t “yield in submission even for a moment” (vs. 5)

I want you to feel that cultural pressure.

This is Ruby Bridges. It’s 1960 in New Orleans, the first day of integration.

Ruby was the first one and had to stand alone, Titus had to do the same.

Leadership can be lonely. Sometimes you will have to stand alone. Are there places you feel alone? How well do you handle that kind of pressure?

2. Peacemaker – Standing in Difficult Conversations

2 Corinthians 2:4 – Most Bible scholars think The Apostle Paul wrote 4 letters to the church at Corinth. We only have 2 (the 2nd & 4th). Paul’s relationship to the church at Corinth was complicated. He had established the church on one of his missionary journeys but soon after he left, the church began to go sideways. Corinth was a raucous seaport, full of people with strong opinions and not much discipline.

After Paul leaves Corinth

  • They reject Paul’s teaching and begin to question his authority
  • Sexual immorality becomes common, as well as abuse of the Lord’s Supper, showing off in the worship service, and lawsuits among believers
  • Paul has to make an emergency second trip back to Corinth, which he describes as “painful” He follows this painful trip with a Severe Letter referred to in II Corinthians 2:4

“I wrote you out of great distress & anguish of heart, with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.”

2 Corinthians 2:4

Paul needed someone to deliver this severe letter of rebukes and corrections, stay there to absorb the blow back, and then navigate a way forward. Who does Paul send for this tough assignment? Titus! (O Joy!)

In Matthew 5 ,Jesus says: “Blessed are the Peacemakers…” Peacemakers are not Doormats, they are not PeaceFakers. They are not people who never making waves. No, they are tough negotiators who stand in between people, speak the truth, and find a way forward. This takes a great deal of toughness and emotional maturity.

3. A Picture of Crete

Titus 1:5, 10-14 – At some point Paul and Titus visited the island of Crete, just off the coast of mainland Greece. Crete had a terrible reputation. Greek mythology stated that Zeus was born on the island. Zeus had a reputation for seducing woman and lying in order to get his way. This mythology reflected the culture.

One of the Greek words for “liar” was: “kretizo” which means: to be a Cretan. In the opening chapter we see Paul immediately addressing character issues. (1:2) “God, who never lies”. The God of the Bible is totally different from Zeus, God never lies and those who serve him in leadership roles must also have godly character (Listed in 1:6-8). However, finding or developing these types of leaders will be a tough task.

(Notice verses 12-13a) I love the honesty of Paul’s last statement. A Cretan prophet says they (Cretans) are liars, lazy & evil. Paul’s response? Yep!

One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true.

After Paul visits several of the harbor towns in the island of Crete and does his evangelistic outreaches, he needs to leave behind someone to stand against the corrupt culture, to silence the deceivers and empty talkers, and to develop & install godly leaders in these new house churches. Who you going to call? Titus! (or theGhostbusters) How would you like this assignment as a leader?

This is totally different from Titus’ trip to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, Titus was the uncircumcised Greek outsider, now he’s in his own culture. He fits in with the language, customs, and traditions yet, because of the Gospel, he is an outsider in his own culture. Most of us face this kind of pressure. How to live in our own culture yet, because of the Gospel, be an outsider. This will take a tough person.

Questions:

  1. Leadership can be lonely. At times you will have to stand alone. Are there places you feel alone? How well do you handle that kind of pressure?
  2. Peacemaking is not the same as PeaceFaking. Standing in between a conflict, stating the truth, and navigating a way forward take a great deal of emotional maturity. How skilled are you in navigating conflict?
  3. What are some of the most difficult cultural challenges you face as a leader within your own culture? The American culture, your business culture, your family culture?

 

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips Signiture

Paul Phillips
Pastor, Christ Community Church
www.ironleader.org
paul@cccwnc.com

5 Characteristics of Jesus’ Leadership

5 Characteristics of Jesus’ Leadership

Last week we began looking at Jesus’ leadership by examining just one characteristic, Servant Leadership. Our text was Philippians 2:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…who took on the very nature of a servant.”

We previously talked about what it looked like to be a servant leader. Of course we know Jesus had many more excellent leadership attributes. There are a few more I want to examine this morning. Here’s my thinking – “If my attitude should be the same as that of Jesus, what are some other characteristics I should be following? If Jesus is the lead pilot, especially in Leadership, how can I align myself with his leadership?”

Watch this video of the Blue Angels. They are 18 inches apart, flying between 400-700 mph. All taking their light patterns from the lead pilot. So, as I am moving through my life, sometimes at great speed, what do I need to do to stay in formation with Jesus?

5 Characteristics of Jesus’ Leadership

1. Jesus was Disciplined in Prayer

Read Mark 1:32-38

That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

Jesus makes prayer a priority. He gets up early and does the opposite of what we would have expected.

Mark 9:28-29

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

Apparently the disciples thought they could do things on their own. When they wing it, they lose power.

Luke 11:1-2

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples…..{followed by the Lord’s Prayer}”

This is the only recorded instance of the disciples asking Jesus to teach them something. Of all things, they asked for prayer! Because things change through prayer.

Mark 14:32-38

And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Understandably Jesus’ own flesh was wanting to resist the cross (“Take this cup from me”). Yet Jesus gains strength in prayer. The disciples sleep and are soon swept away.

Here is an illustration involving Charles Spurgeon known as the “Boiler Room”:

“Five college students were spending a Sunday in London, so they went to hear the famed C.H. Spurgeon preach. Waiting for the doors to open, the students were greeted by a man who asked, “Gentlemen, let me show you around. Would you like to see the heating plant of this church?” They were not particularly interested, for it was a hot day in July. But they didn’t want to offend the stranger, so they consented. The young men were taken down a stairway, a door was quietly opened, and their guide whispered, “This is our heating plant.” Surprised, the students saw 700 people bowed in prayer, seeking a blessing on the service that was soon to begin in the auditorium above. Softly closing the door, the gentleman then introduced himself. It was Charles Spurgeon.”

If there is one place to be aligned to Jesus, it is prayer. How is your Boiler Room with God? Or do you just wing it?

2. Jesus Led Himself Well: He Learned Self-Control

Proverbs 25:28

“Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.”

Jesus understood if he was going to lead others well, he had to lead himself first! One area of breakdown and all would be ruined. Just like a wall amde for flood protection. If only one part of the wall is not up to strength, the flood will still prevail.

Jesus time and time again shows us his self discipline. He fasted for 40 days, he constantly withdrew to solitude with his father, and he repeatedly walked away from recognition. After all, many of the people wanted to make him king!

John 6:14

“After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they said, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”

How are your walls of Self-Leadership?

3. Jesus was Laser Focused on his Vision

John 17:4 says, “I have brought you glory on earth,” (my definition of Glory – the visible explosion of the infinitely great attributes of God), “I have completed the work you gave me to do. I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world.”Isn’t that surprising? There are so many more still unreached. .In his humanity, even Jesus’ role was limited.

1 Corinthians 12:27

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

What’s your part? You might have more than one role. Husband, Father,  Churchman, Work? Some roles might have you in the lead, and some roles you might be in support position.

Whatever it is, do you live with a sense of purpose? That you are on Mission? Do you know your part? Are you in alignment with Jesus?

4. Distractions Were Part of the Mission

Jesus handled distractions with grace.

A paraphrased example from Mark 5, the Bleeding Woman: A large crowd followed and pressed around Jesus because he was going to heal a Father’s daughter. A woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” The woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole story. Jesus did not treat her like a detour or a distraction.

Here is another instance from Mark 10: Jesus was passing through Jericho with his disciples & a large crowd. As they were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” Once again, he was not a distraction.

How do you handle people or events that aren’t part of your agenda for the day? Do you treat them like distractions? Jesus didn’t, and saved lives in the process.

5. Jesus Built a Team, Needed a Team, and Gave his Mission Away to a Team

Jesus doesn’t intend your life to be a solo mission. He built a small team of 12 disciples and larger support team who helped him in his ministry. John the Baptist was the first team member!

Jesus eventually gave his mission away to the team that he built. We see this in Matthew 28 and the great commission. Read Acts 2:12-14 This is one of my favorite scenes! The Holy Spirit had just fallen on the Apostles and they were preaching the Gospel in several different languages. After all the commotion, Peter stepped up as the leader, just as Jesus intended.

And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.”

To stay aligned with Jesus, it will take a team. Do you have a spiritual team around you, or do you fly solo? Who are you leading?

Questions

  1. Prayer: What’s the temperature in your Prayer Boiler Room?
  2. Self Control – Proverbs 25:28 – “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.” What are the weak spots in your wall?
  3. Laser Focused Vision: Do you live with a sense of purpose, that you are on mission. Do you know your part, are you in alignment with Jesus?
  4. Distractions: How do you handle people or events that aren’t part of your agenda for the day? Do you treat them like distractions?
  5. Team: To stay aligned with Jesus, you need a team. Do you have a spiritual team around you or do you fly solo? Who are you leading?

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips Signiture

 

 

 

Paul Phillips
Pastor, Christ Community Church
www.ironleader.org
paul@cccwnc.com

 

 

 

 

Jesus the Humble Servant – Leadership Lesson

Jesus the Humble Servant – Leadership Lesson

On January 13, 1982, 74 passengers and 5 crew boarded Air Florida Flight 90 from DC to Fort Lauderdale. They boarded the plane during a snowstorm. The pilot failed to de-ice the wings and moments after take-off the plane plunged into the icy Potomac River. Only 5 people survived. It certainly wasn’t the worst airplane disaster but it gripped national attention to the servant leadership of one man. This man was known as “The Man in the Water.”

Balding, probably in his 50s, an extravagant mustache. He was seen clinging with five other survivors to the tail section of the airplane. This man was described by Usher and Windsor as appearing alert and in control. Every time they lowered a lifeline and floating right to him, he passed it on to another of the passengers. “In a mass casualty, you’ll find people like him,” said Windsor, “But I’ve never seen one with that commitment.” When the helicopter came back for him the man had gone under.

Still, he could never have imagined such a capacity in himself. Only minutes before his character was tested, he was sitting in the ordinary plane among the ordinary passengers.

For at some moment in the water he must have realized that he would not live if he continued to hand over the rope and ring to others. He had to know it, no matter how gradual the effect of the cold. In his judgment he had no choice. When the helicopter took off with what was to be the last survivor, he watched everything in the world move away from him, and he deliberately let it happen.

-Roger Rosenblatt

Just imagine, every time the life ring is dropped, you hand it off to someone you don’t know…serving them but putting your own life at risk.

Thankfully, none of us will have to endure this kind of test. However, every day as leaders we face much smaller yet still important tests of our character. We enter ordinary offices (or) families with ordinary people and then suddenly something goes wrong. Things don’t work out the way you hoped. Someone has to make a sacrifice.

How you react at that moment defines your leadership style. When you’re sitting on the plane or sitting here this morning, you can say whatever you want about your leadership style, but it’s at moments like these; when circumstances force you to display your leadership. That’s when everyone finds out your true leadership character. What characteristic or adjective describes your leadership style?

Jesus’ leadership is best described as “servant leadership”

Jesus’ servant leadership is best summed up by Paul in Philippines 2:3-8.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus….taking on the very nature of a servant.”

“Vainglory” vs. “Humility”: (It’s a Heavy Weight Fight)

In one corner, is vainglory.

(Greek: keno-doxia – empty-praise)

My definition is pride hiding behind virtue.

Jesus tackles vainglory in the sermon on the mount. Turn to Matthew 6:1-18. “Beware” is Jesus’ warning. Don’t be deceived into thinking God applauds your life when you are really living for the applause of others.

3 Gauges to Examine

 1. Giving to the Needy (Matthew 6:2-4)

Jesus illustrates the absurd with the absurd (vs. 2) “When giving to the needy…sound no trumpet before you.” Imagine passing around the offering basket today and as it’s comes down your row, you scramble through your purse in order to pull out your checkbook and trumpet! (Da…ta..da !!) “Thank you! I just dropped in my check.” It’s ridiculous. Yep, and it’s also just as ridiculous to give to needy people in a way which draws attention to yourself.

Jesus offers a solution: “When you give, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” When you give with one hand, don’t pat yourself on the back with your other one. Don’t seek applause from others, don’t even seek applause from yourself.

“Giving to the needy” is not just limited to giving money. It could be about giving your time or talent, but you’re still looking for applause.

Preaching in India was a unique experience for me. For safety reasons they had me wait outside in a truck until it was time for me to come on. When it was time, I preached to a crowd of about 2000 people, but immediately after I was done, for the same safety reasons, they took me away. I walked off the stage, got in a truck, and they drove me away. I was in the back seat of the truck with two guys I had never seen before. Also neither of them spoke English. For an hour we drove through the dark back to the hotel. As a pastor who is so used to getting instant feedback from my congregation, I couldn’t help but keep asking myself, “how’d I do?” I realized how much I hungered for applause. In this case, it would never come.

Jesus tells us to give and not expect applause from others.

2. Prayer (6:5-15)

In the Jewish culture there were set hours each day for prayer. Some people would purposely time it so they would be at a busy intersection when it was time to pray. “O man, how did I end up here at this busy intersection, where everyone can see me pray? Oh well.”

Do you ever pray, and at the end of your prayer you hope someone is impressed with you? Do you see how ridiculous this is? The primary purpose in prayer is to make God’s name great. “Hallowed be your name.” Yet, you use prayer to make your name great. Its vainglory hiding behind virtue.

3. Fasting (6:16-18)

Jesus is observing people using fasting as a way to draw attention to themselves. And again, there has to be laughter here. “Don’t look gloomy – don’t disfigure your face.”

Pharisees fasted twice a week and apparently some wanted to make sure other people knew that they were in the spiritually elite club. They didn’t verbally say anything, but they walked around with gloomy, tired, disfigured faces, in the hopes that someone would ask:

  • “Hey, are you OK?”
  • “Oh surrrre……why do you ask?”
  • “Well, you don’t look so good”
  • “No, I’m fine…well…maybe it’s because I’m FASTING!” “But don’t tell anyone because this is just between me & God”

We all understand what Jesus is trying to uncover. Bragging while hiding behind a virtue. Bragging behind a false humility is so common, it actually has a name now: Humblebrag.

It happens often in the Christian community. It usually contains the word “Bless”

So blessed to be watching the sunset from my balcony in Hawaii.

Pastor’s tweet: “I am truly humbled you follow my tweets. I pray they enrich your life and strengthen your ministry. God bless all 200,000 of you!”

Do you practice your life with Jesus in a way you hope is noticed and applauded by others? Or if not, do you applaud yourself? That’s Vainglory.

In the Other Corner: Servant Leadership.

Jesus became the perfect example of humility when he took on the very nature of a servant.

Humility is not thinking of less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

In 1 Peter 5:5, we are told to “clothe yourselves with humility.” The word “clothe” means to “tie it on”, or “make a knot”, like you would tie an apron. It’s a command to action. Humility is not something you wait for to grow, it doesn’t grow naturally, it must be cultivated. Peter’s instructions are informed by his personal encounters with Jesus. So when Peter says, “Tie humility around your waist like an apron” he must have been thinking of The Last Supper.

Recall Peter and the other 11 disciples in the upper room. As they enter, each one walks right past the foot washing station. As Jesus is trying to discuss with them his coming suffering and death, a long standing dispute breaks out among the disciples: Who will be the greatest? This must have been so painful to watch. As all 12 men are taking hits from the helium tank of pride and puffing themselves up, where is Jesus?

(John 13) Jesus gets up from the table, lays aside his own garments and ties on the towel of a servant. One by one he washes the bloated feet of the disciples. The Creator bends down to serve his own creation.

A day later he hangs on a Cross, handing the ring of life to us while he dies. That is servant leadership.

Questions:

1. The Man in the Water – Where are the places in your ordinary life that your character is tested? What’s challenging about handing the life ring to others rather than taking it yourself?

2. “Vainglory” – Pride hiding behind Virtue. Why is it difficult to detect pride in yourself? Discuss the challenges of living a virtuous life without living for the applause of others. Discuss how men humblebrag.

3. “Humility” – Not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less and less.” Humility is not something you wait for to grow. It doesn’t grow naturally. It must be cultivated. – How do you cultivate Humility?

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips Signiture

 

 

 

Paul Phillips
Pastor, Christ Community Church
www.ironleader.org
paul@cccwnc.com

 

 

“The 4 C’s of Nehemiah’s Leadership” – Leadership Lesson

“The 4 C’s of Nehemiah’s Leadership” – Leadership Lesson

This year we have been traveling through the Bible looking at different leaders. From Adam to Abraham, Moses to King David. The Kingdom was split in two and eventually Israel was taken into exile. -During our last time together, Spence talked about Daniel, a young man who put God first. For our last Old Testament leader, we will look at Nehemiah.

Like Daniel, Nehemiah was in exile. Hserved the King of Babylon. Nehemiah was called by God to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem. He lived around 400 BC, so this was one of the last books of the Old Testament.

Nehemiah is one of my favorite character studies and was an exceptional leader. One reason Nehemiah is accessible as a leader is because there are no overt miracles; no parting of the Red Sea, no visit by an angel, Nehemiah never walks on water. Instead, Nehemiah was a man who had a passion, who worked hard, prayed, encountered criticism and made difficult leadership decisions.

Nehemiah was a regular guy who caught a divine glimpse of what could and should be. Then, he went after it with all his heart. His story is not much different than ours.

4 Key Leadership Components of Nehemiah

1. Concern/Passion: (1:2-4)

Effective leadership begins with an internal concern, some kind of passion to move forward. Nehemiah was so emotionally moved by the report about the condition of his city and his people that he mourned, fasted, and prayed for 4 months.

Passion is the catalyst which catapults you out of passive concern and into action.  Vision begins with a dissatisfaction of what could and should be.

For Passion to have staying power and not just be a desire/dream requires action: 2 specific actions from Nehemiah.

  • First, is prayer. Nehemiah fasted and prayed for 4 months – wrestling with God with his passions.
  • Second, is planning. When the king asks Nehemiah, “What are you requesting,” Nehemiah immediately rips off a list of things he needs.

If God (the King of Kings) asked you, “What are you requesting?” how you would respond? What’s your passion? Have you prayed about it and planned for it?

If you read his response, Nehemiah doesn’t ask for a miracle. (God, you go do something). Nehemiah asks for an opportunity to go build the wall himself!

“Dreamers dream about things being different, leaders envision themselves making a difference. Dreamers think about how nice it would be for something to be done, leaders look for an opportunity to do something.”

Andy Stanley

2. Clarity (2:17)

I love this simplicity. The problem: “We are in trouble and a disgrace. The city is in ruins.” The solution: “Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem”. All good visions should be simple enough to communicate in a sentence or two.

3. Community (Chapter 3)

This is one of the most import chapters in Nehemiah. I counted more than 40 individual names, and more than 10 groups’ names. If you read Chapter 3 in its entirety you will notice one name missing, Nehemiah’s! Chapter 3 is when we really find out Nehemiah is a leader.

“A leader is great, not because of his power but because of his ability to empower others.”

John Maxwell

Nehemiah empowers hundreds of people to rebuild the wall. That’s real leadership!

The currency every great team uses is TRUST. Each member has to trust that the other person on their team will do their part. They must “build their own part of the wall.” A team with not much trust, is dysfunctional.

In this year’s NCAA tournament, how many were screaming for the ball to be in Justin Jacksons hands? After all, he is the ACC Player of the Year. Imagine the trust it must take (which has to be built over time) to hand the ball to a former Walk-On to take the game winning shot!

4. Conflict (4:1-4 & 8)

As soon as they begin building the wall, they encounter conflict. Every worthwhile endeavor will experience conflict. Many times it will be right at the very beginning and you may be easily discouraged.

I have a beautifully hand written letter in my office dated February 2002 – one month before we began CCC. It says, “I feel strongly in my spirit that it’s not God’s Will” for us to start our church.

Much of your leadership success will be based on your skill for navigating conflict and discouragement. Discouragement for your passion can come in many different forms.

Questions

  1. Concern: What concern do you have that catapults you out of passive concern and into action? Do you dream about things being different or do you envision yourself making a difference?
  2. Clarity: What are you about? (yourself, business, church, family….) Is is clear? Could you state it in a sentence or two?
  3. Community: In your leadership do you empower others or are you a Lone Ranger? Can you put the outcome in the hands of someone else?
  4. Conflict: How do you deal with conflict and discouragement?

 

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips Signiture

 

 

 

Paul Phillips
Pastor, Christ Community Church
www.ironleader.org
paul@cccwnc.com

The Particular Temptations of Young Men – Tim Challies

The Particular Temptations of Young Men – Tim Challies

Whether you are raising a young man or you are one , this is an insightful read from Tim Challies. Read the full blog post here. 

 

What God means to accomplish in young men are rarely great deeds that are visible to the public, but the invisible construction of a foundation of godly character that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

-Tim Challies

 

“Daniel: Who’s on top?” – Leadership Lesson – Spence Hackney

“Daniel: Who’s on top?” – Leadership Lesson – Spence Hackney

Spence Hackney did an excellent job leading us through the life of Daniel and learning from his leadership. Take a look at his lesson below:

Daniel: Who’s on Top?

For context, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with the first half of the book of Daniel (chapters 1-6).

In bullet form, here is what happens in the first half of Daniel:

  • Daniel witnesses the fall of Jerusalem
  • Daniel is taken to Babylon
  • Daniel has the gift of interpreting dreams, and hears God
  • Daniel encounters 3 Kings in his life
    1. Nebuchadnezzar – He dreams of  a statue of bronze, iron, gold and clay that would be destroyed. The dream symbolized Nebuchadnezzr’s fragile kingdom. In response, he builds a gold version and makes the people worship it in an attempt to symbolize that his kingdom would live forever. He disagrees with God’s word even though he knows his power.
    2. Belshazzar – He throws an enormous party and serves wine using the cups from the temple in Jerusalem. A floating hand mysteriously appears and writes on the wall in response. Belshazzar is killed that night.
    3. Darius – He makes a law that the people could only pray to him and to no other god. Daniel gets thrown into the lion’s den over this. God miraculously saves him.

Nebuchadnezzar and the other two kings were in love with themselves. They loved the power. They loved the wealth. The loved the women. They would do anything to get it. I think that Nebuchadnezzar would have had a guy like this around his palace somewhere:

Ridiculous, right? I don’t think any of us would employ someone to tell us we’re #1 before we go to work every day. But let me tell you a personal story that may help you see that it isn’t all that far fetched. This is a story of failure in my life that came as a result of believing I was #1. I wrongly believed I was on top.

First, a little background. In 2012, I went to India to work with Alpha Ministries. It rocked my life. I saw the church planters who were willing to lose everything and endure grueling torture and hardships to take the gospel over the next mountain. I felt like I was in the presence of spiritual giants. I knew what they were doing mattered and I wanted in. However, they shuttled me around in a van with the curtains drawn for fear someone would attack us, so it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t ever going to be as effective as they were on the ground. However, to grow their ministry—take the gospel further—Alpha needed prayer and financial resources and God made it clear to Tara and I that our role would be to provide both. And that we were to do it by expanding our small web design business. I’d been doing web design and digital marketing for over a decade, but had kept it pretty small. God revealed, however, that if I would scale the business up we could support ministries like Alpha in substantial ways. So, in January 2013, Proclaim Interactive was born. Since then he has grown it 25-35% a year and from 2 employees to 11. And I have to give God all the glory—He did it!

But recently it started to feel like I did it…

Last month I had a huge deal implode that I had been working on for over 6 months. The details aren’t important, but just know it would have redefined Proclaim and my own life in a big way. I was certain it was from God and then, it unexpectedly blew up in a heartbreaking way. I was dejected and crushed. I couldn’t understand what went wrong.

When I started reading Daniel a few weeks ago I saw parallels between the book and what I was living through. I could identify with how Daniel felt—dejected and crushed—as he was led away from the ruined walls of Jerusalem. Reading Daniel’s story helped me tremendously to get my life back into the correct orientation, as study of the Word often does. You see, my core problem is that God was no longer on top in my life. I had started to think of myself as #1. I had started to worship the gift and not the Giver. John Piper says that the ultimate deep sin is loving anything more than God. I had done it. Even if I would have said He was on top, I was living and thinking like I loved a whole number of other things more than Him.

As I repented and prayed through the situation, it became clear that I had slipped in several key areas:

  1. I was proud. I had great pride in what I had done. but the truth was, I hadn’t built Proclaim, God had. Likewise it was His to do with as He pleased.
  2. I also had substantial confidence in my own abilities. I thought of myself as wise and had begun to think of myself as the “secret sauce” that was going to make everything work out.
  3. I had quit depending on the Lord’s guidance. Even if I looked to Him for the overall direction, I’d stopped depending on Him to walk me through the details. I thought I could handle it.

I needed to confess these things. Confession is the key to humility. I had to confess my pride (and a couple of other sins as well) before God and let Him deal with it as He saw fit. Afterward, it felt like He had done “spiritual surgery” on me.

So, as I am speaking to you this morning please understand my heart. I’ve recently blown it spiritually, but I’ve been forgiven and restored. My desire is that by being transparent about my failure, you’ll avoid it in your own life.

Let’s look at the real teacher here to learn how to keep God on top.

Benefit of Making God #1 – Hearing His Voice

Before we go further we need to stop here and say “so what.” How does putting God first practically help us? I know the Bible says to, so we should do it, but is there any practical benefit to doing this? Does it change our lives here on earth and for all eternity in heaven?

I think that the answer is plainly seen in Daniel’s life. You see, Daniel had the ability to hear God. The kings, the most powerful men in all the land, had to come to Daniel to hear what the Lord was saying. Daniel heard from God personally in many ways. He was normally able to hear God’s voice and direction without the need for a preacher or prophet to tell him.

Daniel could hear the Lord personally and directly because he put God first. Loving God more than anything else and putting Him first allows us to hear God because it restores a right relationship. We intrinsically know this is the case. If we have a relationship that is out of whack it’s really hard to truly “hear” the other person. I remember as a boy thinking that I was “hot snot” when I was 15. I was a better driver than my Dad. I was smarter than him. I knew what girls wanted better than he did. I had a cooler car than his big old suburban. I was pretty sure I was superior in every way. I remember him trying to talk to me and I would completely tune him out. Why? Because our relationship was all turned around. (Now, when I was 16 I wrecked the car, bombed calculus and got dumped by the girl, so the situation sort of corrected itself!) And frankly, I think that’s sort of what God has done that to me in the past few weeks, corrected my situation. And though I wouldn’t have admitted it at first, now I’m grateful. I’d rather have a right relationship with God than anything else. I’ll trade everything else I have to hear his voice!

Loren Cunningham, the man who founded Youth with a Mission (YWAM) and the Mercy Ships, was a man who clearly and personally heard God. You can read his story in “Is that Really You, God?” and see how God spoke to him as YWAM was forming. It’s fascinating. Whenever Loren Cunningham talks about hearing from God he says that it starts with “Acknowledging the Lordship,” which is college educated language for “Putting God on Top.” It’s that simple. If the Lord isn’t on top, you’re not likely to hear from Him reliably.

So how do we keep Him on top? Let’s see how Daniel did so that he could hear from the Lord:

Expect that failure may be required

Daniel’s story begins with failure. Jerusalem had finally fallen to Babylon. God made it clear that this was because the Israelites had cheated on Him by loving other gods. God’s people are scattered as slaves and outcasts throughout the surrounding lands. Daniel ends up in Babylon because he was deported from his home as a sort of royal servant.

I’ve had a whole bunch of failures in life, the most recent was the failed deal I spoke about. They were all heartbreaking. I am sure that Daniel was heartbroken over God’s people’s inability to obey God. However, there was amazing benefits to witnessing this failure first hand.

Failure gives us a real understanding of the misery of living outside of Christ.

I propose that it is Daniel’s eyewitness account of the failure of the Jews to love God and put Him first that defines Daniel’s life. Above all else Daniel did one thing exceedingly well. He loved God more than anything else. Period. End of story. Daniel didn’t want anything more than he wanted a relationship with God. He had seen first hand what happened when a country falls in love with something else. He had lived through the destruction. He had seen the blood on the ground. He had seen the starving babies in the mother’s arms. He had a real, visceral, tactile understanding of what it looked like to fall in love with something besides God.

Failure maintains humility because you understand that it can happen to you

Failure means you have the opportunity to give Christ the glory when He carries you through it. Christ is most glorified when He helps me, not when I help Him.

Put God first in the little things as well as the big things

This all started for Daniel because he didn’t want to violate God’s rules by eating the king’s “rich food.” I can totally see myself justifying this. “But God, I didn’t have any choice, it was all there was to eat…”

My pride started with little things. These were good things too…not evil. It was the percentage increase in this year’s P&L over last years. It was being able to give my old Jon boat to a friend. It was getting to donate significantly to Alpha. These grew into me thinking that I was pretty wise. It grew into me putting my wisdom on a pedestal and worshiping it.

Little things grow into big things.

Little things indicate that your attitude is wrong.

Little things are practice for when the big things come.

Daniel acknowledged that everything he had came from God

Daniel never tried to interpret dream without God. He stated repeatedly that God was the source of his power.

For myself, my wisdom became my power. I started to think that I earned what I had by making good decisions. Where did my wisdom come from? God’s word. Any power I had came from God.

Maybe, like me, you struggle with pride. If you need to confess it, now is the time. If you think that you are humble, ask God to search your life. Ask God to show you what you love more than Him and confess it.

  • Proverbs 18:12 Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.
  • Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
  • Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
  • James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
  • I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I was recently convicted that men are terrible at sharing the truth about what they’re dealing with. When someone asks “how’s it going” I almost always respond with “awesome!” Many of us walk around thinking that everyone else has it all together and that we don’t, so we keep our problems all to ourselves. But this isolates us from the body of Christ. I’ve been working on being honest with those close to me and I hope you’ll do the same.

 

-Spence Hackney

Questions

  1. Who is “on top” in your life right now? Is there anything that gets more love than God?
  2. What are the “little” things in your life that may be indicating that God is not on top?
  3. What failures in your life have given you humility before God?
  4. Do you publicly acknowledge that your abilities and knowledge come from God?
  5. Do you hear God’s voice clearly and personally?

 

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips Signiture

 

 

 

Paul Phillips
Pastor, Christ Community Church
www.ironleader.org
paul@cccwnc.com

“Elijah – God’s Provision in the Midst of Exhaustion” – Leadership Lesson

“Elijah – God’s Provision in the Midst of Exhaustion” – Leadership Lesson

During our last few meetings we looked at the three Kings who ruled over the undivided kingdom of Israel: Saul, David, and Solomon. In 930BC the kingdom split in two. As we saw 2 weeks ago, Jeroboam was the first leader in the Northern Kingdom. He exploded like a rocket on the launch pad and left a terrible Leadership Legacy.

About 40 years after Jeroboam, one of the worst Kings comes to reign over the northern kingdom of Israel: King Ahab. Before I go any further, yes, there is a connection between Ahab in Bible and Captain Ahab in Moby Dick.

(Read I Kings 16:30-33)

The wickedness of Ahab and Jezebel caused people to almost completely abandon the Word of God (Example: 1 Kings 16:34) They even sacrificed their own children! In order to combat the darkness that is cast over a reprobate country, God sends his own leaders; Prophets. The specific prophet sent to confront Ahab is Elijah.

In Chapter 17 , Elijah is confronted by a series of desperate, yet miraculous events:

There is a three year drought in Israel (symbolizing the drought of God’s Word). During this drought, Jezebel (Ahab’s wife) is searching for prophets and killing them. Elijah is forced to live in a cave by a small brook and is miraculously fed by ravens. Eventually the brook dries up & Elijah enters a small town looking for food, only to find a widow and her young son on the brink of starvation. They were just starting to eat their last scrap of food. Some time later, the young son dies and the widow lashes out at Elijah saying: “You have come to bring death to my son.” Following this, Elijah miraculously raises the boy from the dead.

All of these were great miracles, but they took an emotional toll on Elijah. Just imagine, he was hiding for his life, facing drought and hunger, facing blame & death. This series of challenges comes to a finale in Chapter 18. Elijah has a showdown with Ahab. I Kings 18 is one of the great stories in the Old Testament.

(Read 1 Kings 18:17-19)

Elijah & the LORD vs. Ahab & 450 prophets of Baal, all gathered on Mt Carmel on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea.

(Vs. 21) Elijah’s first confrontation is with the general population of Israel. They have come to witness the showdown. Elijah’s description of them is “Limping between two opinions.” They can’t make up their mind of who they want to follow. They can’t put both feet on one belief so it looks like they are limping back and forth. When confronted by Elijah, they are so spineless; they stay silent! It’s painful what Ahab’ leadership created in God’s people.

Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal: Both build an altar, prepare a sacrifice and call on God to bring fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice. Whichever one does, that’s the true God. Prophets of Baal go first, but he is a “No Show” – then God shows up in a spectacular way (Read vs. 37-40).

(Vs. 41-46) Following the Showdown, another strange event happens: Elijah prays for the drought to be broken and for God to send rain – which God does. Elijah informs Ahab he better get back home to Jezreel or his chariots will get stuck in the rain and mud. Then Elijah races Ahab back, running ahead of him the entire way back. A distance of 15 miles.

Failed Expectations

Now we come to chapter 19 & the main point of this talk. Now here’s my guess – After all that has happened: God spectacularly defeating Baal and his prophets in front of Ahab, God sending the rain to break the drought, and Elijah racing Ahab back to Jezreel – Elijah is expecting some kind of spiritual revival. Perhaps Ahab will tell of Jezebel about the power of God and there will be some kind of spiritual turning toward the LORD.

Elijah’s expectation is not met. Instead, 19:1-4 tells us Elijah is afraid and exhausted spiritually, emotionally, and physically. As a result, he runs out of Israel and into Judah. He ends up running as far away from the action as he can get, then he sits down and tells God –

“I’m done, I am completely spent. I know I have seen a lot of great victories but I can’t fight anymore. I am a burnt piece of toast and request a seat on the Eternal Bench.”

God’s Comfort

(I Kings 19:9-18) – Elijah is depressed, in shock and emotional toast, but notice how God addresses Elijah.

  • God speaks in a low whisper (vs. 12) – Just like you would to someone who is experiencing a total breakdown. “I am here, Elijah – you are safe”
  • God asks Elijah a question and listens to his story – even though Elijah’s viewpoint is extremely limited and inaccurate (vs. 13 – 14). What a kindness by God – God asking Elijah, “how do you see things?”
  • God tells Elijah to go back – It is essential that God tells Elijah: “Elijah, I am not done with you. You don’t see everything I see. Even now I am preparing new leadership. Ahab and Jezebel don’t get the last word, I do!” What a helpful reminder: Imagine how much more God sees than we do. Immeasurable!
  • God reminds Elijah that though he feels alone, he is not alone. God reveals that there are still faithful, fighting men. Elisha (Elijah’s replacement) & 7000 prophets are still left in Israel who will fight alongside you. You’re not alone. What an Encouragement!

My Story From My Sabbatical

The first 10 years of being a pastor were emotionally and spiritually exhausting for me. I remember sitting in this parking lot thinking I had made a great mistake by starting the church. I was trying not to believe God was cruel. I had seen God do many great things: Moving us from a coffee shop to this present Church Building. But it didn’t matter – I was toast. In 2012, I went on my Sabbatical.  I thought I was done. I was spent and it was time to fall away. God, please, put me on the bench! For some reason I actually agreed to go to Kenya on my sabbatical to encourage pastors who ministered to one of the largest slums in the world. (Kibera, which has 750,000 people). What an impossibly difficult place to Pastor. One Sunday, I was preaching in a one room mud hut. After I was done I sat on a broken plastic chair looking out at the slum thinking, “What am I doing here?”

An Elder in the church followed my sermon and said to me: “Man of God, we are so thankful you have come all this way to preach God’s Word to our people and help train up our Pastors. Thank you! But now you must go back to your home and keep preaching this same truth to your people.”

It wasn’t a whisper, it was an African in a slum. God was saying, “Paul, I’m not done with you yet. I know you feel like a piece of toast, but go back!” One month after my return I started Iron Leadership. That was 5 years ago. I am so glad I stayed.

The Main Point

Every leader, or every person really engaged in spiritual battle, whether it’s a battle for your own soul, your family, your church, or community: you will reach a point of exhaustion. You will drive out I-40 and see the mileage sign for Barstow California and want to drive as far away from your challenges as possible. You will say, “I’m toast!”

Every leader will reach some kind of breaking point. I want to encourage you that if you are still here, God’s not done with you yet. Your problem, your challenge doesn’t get the last word. God does. You are not alone. You at least have these men who will fight alongside you!

Watch this scene from Captain Phillips. In 2009, Captain Richard Phillips was taken hostage by Somali pirates. He spent 5 days on the boat before the pirates were all simultaneously shot and killed by Navy Seal Snipers.

This is an intense final scene. He is exhausted in every way and his life is threatened. In this emotional scene with a Naval Doctor, she whispers, “you are safe now.”

One year later, he was back as captain of a ship.

Maybe this morning is God’s whisper saying, “You are safe now. I am here, I will take care of everything. I am doing millions of things you can’t see – and I’m not done with you yet.”

Questions

1. How does your view of reality change when you are exhausted?

2. Why were God’s previous miracles not enough to keep Elijah from slipping into depression?

3. What was most encouraging to you about God’s response to Elijah?

4. What’s the gauge on your emotion tank read right now? When was a particularly low point?

 

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips Signiture

 

 

 

Paul Phillips
Pastor, Christ Community Church
www.ironleader.org
paul@cccwnc.com

“Jeroboam’s Legacy” – Leadership Lesson

“Jeroboam’s Legacy” – Leadership Lesson

During our last few meetings, we looked at three Kings who ruled over the undivided kingdom of Israel: Saul, David, Solomon. They reigned for 120 years; 1050 to 930 BC.

In 930 BC, the Kingdom splits in two because Solomon does not walk in
God’s ways. The split occurs between the larger Northern Kingdom (Israel)
and the smaller Southern Kingdom (Judah).

(1 Kings 11) Several years prior to his death, Solomon takes notice of a very ambitious worker and promotes him to be in charge of the entire labor force. His name is Jeroboam. One day, Jeroboam has an unusual encounter with the prophet Ahijah. During this encounter, Ahijah takes Jeroboam ‘s cloak and tears it into 12 pieces. Jeroboam is instructed to take 10 of the pieces for himself, which later represents his leadership over the larger territory of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Here are God’s promises to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:37-38):

  • You will rule over all your heart desires
  • You will be king of Israel
  • (If you walk in God’s ways) God will be with you
  • God will build a dynasty as enduring as David’s
  • I will give Israel to you

Imagine how stunned Jeroboam must be. In this one encounter he has been promised more than he could ever imagine.

Fast forward to the end of Jeroboam’s life – I Kings 14

Jeroboam does become king of Israel, yet he drifts away from God. In chapter 14, Jeroboam is in a leadership crisis. His son is ill and his wife is wondering what is going to happen.

Jeroboam remembers the old prophet Ahijah, but his relationship with Ahijah is good, so he sends his wife in disguise.

(I Kings 14:6) – There is no reason for the disguise because Ahijah has gone blind. However, Jeroboam iss right, Ahijah tells him what will happen.

(Read I Kings 14:6-16) Ouch! Jeroboam’s wife must have been just as stunned by the news. Listen to the new set of promises:

  • I will bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam.
  •  Your son will die.
  • God will give up the entire nation Israel and they will be scattered.

Let’s fast forward one more time:

200 years later: The end of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Listen to Jeroboam’s legacy:

  • 2 Kings 17:6: In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
  • 7-8: And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel, hand in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced.
  • 15-16: They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols sand became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them that they should not do like them. And they abandoned all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made for themselves metal images of two calves; and they made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal.
  • 21-23: When he had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. And Jeroboam drove Israel from following the LORD hand made them commit great sin. The people of Israel walked in all the sins that Jeroboam did. They did not depart from them, until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day.

What a legacy. After so much promise, 200 years later, Jeroboam is the one who is blamed as the cause of the entire nation’s destruction.

How does someone start with so much promise yet end in disaster? What Happened? The Answer: Jeroboam blew up like a rocket exploding on a launch pad (Watch video).

Here are 3 Lessons from Jeroboam. (Read 1 Kings 12:26-33)

1. Jeroboam Relied On His Own Wisdom

The Israelites were given very specific instructions on worship. They were to go to Jerusalem (Southern Kingdom of Judah) three times a year & offer sacrifices. Jeroboam was worried they would give their allegiance to their king, Rehoboam, and kill Jeroboam — So (vs. 26) “Jeroboam said in his heart — Thought to himself,”  Jeroboam devised a plan for worship “from his own heart.” No prayer, no outside consultation by the prophet Ahijah. Nope, just Jeroboam and the thoughts of his own heart. This is dangerous.

This reminds me of my old football coach. When I’d mess up, he’d often say, “Phillips, what are you doing?” My response: “Oh, well, I thought…” (SLAPS HELMET) “Phillips, no one is asking you to think!

Now, I don’t think the lesson here is to not think, but Jeroboam exploded on the launch pad because he thought too much of himself instead of inquiring on God.

He drifted from God’s word to his own word. In Deuteronomy 17 there are detailed instructions for Kings, “When the King takes the throne, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law…It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law…”

In addition, he foolishly failed to get wisdom from others. Proverbs 15:22 – “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Leaders, how many leadership mistakes do you make when your holy trinity is me, myself, and I? When you drift away from God’s word and godly advice, you are headed for explosion.

2.When Jeroboam took his focus off God – He traded in faith for fear and was directed by the people and not by God.

(Read 1 Kings 12:27) – Notice how fears and insecurities spill out and paranoia sets in once Jeroboam makes himself the center, “They will give their allegiance to Rehoboam and will Kill Me!”  Jeroboam becomes fearful God might not come through on his promises, so Jeroboam takes matters into his own hands.

Consequently, Jeroboam is driven to do whatever it takes to please the people. The people become the controlling factor instead of God.

Here’s an illustration from the Gospels. Even the bravest follower can become fearful of men.

Peter said to Jesus, “I will follow you, even if it means my own death!” He seemingly has no fear. Then in Matthew 26, all of his confidence quickly drains away in the
face of a servant girl. “Weren’t you with Jesus?” One small voice derails the great apostle. I wonder if one voice has captured your attention. The voice of a girlfriend, boyfriend, boss, spouse, parent, peer – like a snake that has slithered up a tree and whispered in your ear – can you really trust God, perhaps it would be better if you took matters into your own hands?

The Point: Jeroboam explodes on the launch pad because he trusted his heart over God’s word & He feared the people over fearing God.

3. Jeroboam Made a Fundamental Shift in Worship

(Read 1 Kings 12:28-29) “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough…It is too much for you.” In other words, Jeroboam says, “There is no need to make the difficult journey to Jerusalem. I have set up two convenient places for you to worship and even provided a shinny golden experience for you to worship. Then in (vs. 33) Jeroboam creates his own feast.

I want you to see this enormous shift. Through the prophet Ahijah, God had promised to build Jeroboam an everlasting Kingdom, but he must follow after God. Instead, Jeroboam builds a nation which says. “We still want God but we want Him in a way that will be convenient for ourselves. Worship now centers around what is easiest and most convenient for the us.” Can you imagine?

This shift in worship (God-centered to Man-centered) eventually brings down an entire Nation! What a Legacy.

The final point: Jeroboam’s explosion on the launch pad doesn’t just effect
himself or his family, it affects an entire nation, that’s the power of leadership.

Questions

  1. You will leave a legacy, especially if you are a father. If you had to written in one phrase on your tombstone, what would you want it to be? Why?
  2. There were three main reasons Jeroboam exploded on the launch pad:
  • He relied on his own wisdom rather than God’s Word or Godly
    Advice
  • He traded faithfulness for fear. In Jeroboam’s world people were BIG
    & God was small so he was directed by the people rather than God.
  • He had a fundamental shift in Worship. Worship became man-centered
    rather than God-centered. Worship had to be easy and convenient for him.

Talk about these three things and what you can learn from them.

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips Signiture

 

 

 

Paul Phillips
Pastor, Christ Community Church
www.ironleader.org
paul@cccwnc.com

Solomon’s Wisdom: Beginning With the End in Mind – Leadership Lesson

Solomon’s Wisdom: Beginning With the End in Mind – Leadership Lesson

For today’s lesson, we will have a guest lecturer. He happens to be the smartest person who ever lived. It might be good to confess up front that it’s often hard to be in the room with the smartest person, especially if they look down on you. (view video below)

Today we are learning from someone much smarter than a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon, and thankfully he doesn’t look down. Instead, he writes down all the mistakes he made, so you and I can avoid wasting our lives investing in emptiness.

Our guest speaker is Solomon. His wisdom comes from the book of Ecclesiastes. The book is jammed with great leadership advice, but today let me offer just a few highlights from chapters 1 and 2.

Solomon tells us: Begin with the end in mind!

(Read Ecclesiastes 1:2-3) The word “Vanity” is used 38 times in the book. “Vanity” means “Vapor”. If all you do is live your life “under the sun” then it’s vanity. Its like chasing a soap bubble. Its shiny, but even if you catch it, it ends up being empty.

Solomon has some vivid descriptions throughout the book:

Read Ecclesiastes 1:5 – Life under the sun is like a giant treadmill. You work, you sweat, but you don’t get anywhere.

Read Ecclesiastes 1:4 and Ecclesiastes 1:11 – Generations come and go, like waves on a sea shore thinking they are leaving their mark. But they actually recede quickly and nobody remembers them. In one hundred years, very few people on planet earth will ever know you existed.

Not long ago, I assisted in cleaning out a 90 year old woman’s house who had recently died. In just a couple of days, all of the furnishings were donated to the Rescue Mission, the inside was painted, and the house was sold. It was as if the woman never existed.

By the time you finish the opening poem in the book (verses 2-11), it’s so depressing that you are desperately searching for a bottle of Prozac! Yet, Solomon is very smart. Over and over in his book he presses the reader up against the brevity of life, the futility of wisdom, the emptiness of pleasure, and the meaninglessness of work. It’s like he is singing the repetitive chorus of “Vanity, Vanity!”

Solomon is demolishing in order to rebuild. He’s demolishing an empty way of thinking. Once we stop pretending that what is mortal is enough for us, only then do we have the capacity for the eternal. The depressing conclusion to the poem is designed to draw you into an awareness of and dependence on someone beyond the sun.

The end of the matter” (Read Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) You see, there is life after our brief lives under the sun. Each one of us will, one day, stand before God who will judge how we lived. So it actually matters how you live. It is not all vanity! “Fear God and keep his commandments . . . this is the whole duty of man.” We must live our lives with the end in mind.

Pleasure as a Goal is Vanity

We can see by the way Solomon outlines the rest of his letter that he is anticipating push back. So, he begins by answering the skeptic who falsely believes that there can be ultimate meaning and satisfaction in personal pleasure.

Here us the motto for the one who desires personal pleasure: “Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure.”This sounds like the immortal words from the 80’s rock band, The Cars. It is like Solomon is saying “Let the Good Times Roll.” In chapter 2, there are 5 stops on Solomon’s “Let the Good Times Roll” tour.

Stop 1 – Entertainment

(Read Ecclesiastes 2:2 and Ecclesiastes 2:8)

Here is a wealthy king at a grand party, surrounded by treasure chests full of gold and silver, encircled by beautiful women, entertained by the best musicians, the envy of everyone. You can hear people saying, “He’s got it made”.

Yet, Solomon’s conclusion in Ecclesiastes 2:11 says the end of the entertainment rainbow held not a pot of gold, but instead emptiness.

In 1985, Neil Postman wrote a landmark book titled: Amusing Ourselves to Death. In the book, Postman makes the case that the future of our society will look less like George Orwell’s vision in his book: 1984 and more like Aldous Huxley’s vision in his book: Brave New World. Postman argued that the public will not be oppressed by the State (Orwell – vision) instead the public will be oppressed by their addiction to amusement.

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture. Huxley stated: Those who fear State control have “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”

You know what Solomon would have said to Neil Postman: “There is nothing new under the sun.” People have been trying to amuse themselves to death for 1000’s of years. It has always terminated in “Vanity”.

Here is a story from my saddest counseling session. There was a newly married couple with a lot of tension. The beautiful young girl was trying to save the marriage, but the guy wouldn’t give up his video games. Later, I found out they got a divorce, but he got to keep playing video games.

Stop 2 – Wine

(Read Ecclesiastes 1:3)

If entertainment alone doesn’t work, then let’s add alcohol. Let’s use whatever substance or pill that will anesthetize us from the pain in
this world.

A few of you might remember the old beer commercial slogans: “It doesn’t get any better than this.” That’s what Solomon believed. The commercial practically plagiarizes Ecclesiastes 2:3.

Stop 3 – Work

Solomon was gifted as intellectually as he was monetarily, so he puts his intellect and money to work with an almost God-like creativity.

(Read Ecclesiastes 2:4-7)

Notice the maximum use of personal pronouns: “I made, I built, for myself, I made myself, I made myself…….AND (vs. 7) When he can’t get enough done by himself, for himself, he buys and owns people to make them work for him.

Stops 4 & 5 – Wealth and Women

To get a picture of his wealth and women I want to read a description of Solomon’s life from I Kings 10 & 11:

“Then the king made a great throne inlaid with ivory and overlaid with fine gold. The throne had six steps. On both sides of the seat were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them. Twelve lions stood on the six steps, one at either end of each step. Nothing like it had ever been…All King Solomon’s goblets were gold….. Nothing was made of silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s days..Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon – Solomon loved many foreign women..He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines”

Entertainment, Wine, Work, Wealth, Women – Solomon had it all. If he were alive today he would be a regular face on the cover on Fortune magazine. Our culture would be drooling, saying: “If only I could live like him.”

But what us the end result? When the preacher reaches the end of the “Let the Good Time Roll” tour, what does he conclude?

Answers:

  • Vanity – Ecclesiastes 2:11
  • Hate – Ecclesiastes 2:18
  • Despair – Ecclesiastes 2:20

On February 2, 2014, Oscar winning actor Philip Seymor Hoffman failed to pick up his three children. They went to check on him in his $10,000 month rented apartment in New York City and they found him lying on his bathroom floor in boxers and a t-shirt. He had a needle stuck in his arm, dead at 46. In a haunting quote from an interview in 2013, Hoffman said, “There is no pleasure that I haven’t actually made myself sick on.”

If all there is, is what’s under the sun, if there isn’t something or someone bigger, someone above the sun… then Solomon tells us it all terminates in vanity, hatred, despair, and even death.

Solomon’s despair is not intended to be the last stop on the tour. No, he is kindly using despair to draw us out of ourselves and into dependence on God. He’s demolishing false hopes in order to rebuild on an eternal foundation. Only when we stop pretending that what is created is enough, only then will be have the capacity for the creator.

Conclusion

Read Ecclesiastes 2:24-26. Please notice that these things are not taken away when you enter into a relationship with God. These are all good things that actually come from the hand of God!

24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. 

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 ESV

But (vs. 25), they are not to be consumed “apart from Him.” They are to be enjoyed according to his boundaries. If you use them for your chief end and not his, you make yourself sick on every pleasure. It’s Vanity.

Questions:

1. Why is it important to keeping the end in mind every day? How do you do it?

2. Of the 5 stops on the “Let the Good Times Roll” tour – Entertainment, Wine, Work, Wealth & Women: Which stop is the most tempting for You?

3. This morning you have had a counseling session with the smartest business leader in the world: What one thing to you want to take away?

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips Signiture

 

 

 

Paul Phillips

Pastor, Christ Community Church
www.ironleader.org
paul@cccwnc.com