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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.
Nehemiah Part 1: Vision

Nehemiah Part 1: Vision

Friday, September 15, 2017 – Audio Recording


In 1903 on the sands of the Outer Banks, Orville and Wilbur Wright took flight for the very first time. They didn’t have to pass through any security check points…they didn’t have to worry about any checked bags fees and there was no In-Flight beverage service. The entire flight lasted 59 seconds and traveled 852 feet.

The first human flight happened in 1903, but their vision for flying began 25 years earlier in the Fall of 1878 (139 Falls ago from today). That Fall their father arrived home with an object partially concealed in his hands. As the 2 curious boys approached him, their Father tossed the object into the air. Instead of it immediately falling to the floor, the object actually flew across the room, hit the ceiling and eventually fell to the floor. This new toy was called a Helicopter.

Listen to what they said about the experience: “It was a light frame of cork and bamboo, covered with paper, which formed two screws – driven in opposite directions by rubber bands under torsion. A toy so delicate lasted only a short time in the hands of small boys, but it’s memory was abiding.

Its memory was…abiding.

When they saw the bamboo and paper helicopter fly across their living room, something inside of them snapped. It captured their imagination. Seeing the helicopter gave them a vision.

VISION is the topic of our conversation today, and for some of you it might be the topic for several months.

The definition of Vision is a preferred future. It’s a picture of what could and should be done.  Sometimes it begins with something capturing your imagination (Like the Wright Brothers), although frequently it begins as a concern which grows into a Holy Discontent.  Something about current circumstances has to change.

This is clearly what happened to Nehemiah:

Nehemiah 1:1-4 – In late autumn, in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was at the fortress of Susa. Hanani, one of my brothers, came to visit me with some other men who had just arrived from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had returned there from captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem. 

They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”

When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.

Background

Because of the Israelites unfaithfulness, they were invaded and deported to Babylon. (500 miles away) This took place in 586 BC.

142  years later, Nehemiah hears a report about the current conditions of the capital city of Jerusalem.  This report lodged like a splinter in his mind and he remembers the exact date and who delivered the report (vs. 1-2) Nehemiah can quote exactly what he was told: (vs. 3) “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”

And just like the Wright Brothers in the Fall of 1878 – when Nehemiah hears the report, something snaps. Something about the description grabs his imagination. A Holy Discontent begins to boil in the heart of Nehemiah. He isn’t sure what he should do or what role he should play but he knows something must be done.

As you think about Vision I want you to think about it in 2 ways – you might say 2 sides of the same coin because they belong together:

  1. Vision for yourself
  2. Vision for what you do

Vision For Yourself

Dallas Willard says, “What you become as a person is more important than what you achieve.”

However, most of us spend the majority of our time thinking about and are anxious about sacrificing for our achievements and what will go on our final resume. Although what you do is important, it’s not as important as who you are, or who you become.

Jesus says this to a large group in Mark 8 – “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?  “For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” You can’t exchange an achievement resume for a Soul.

It’s very easy for men…especially men in America to spend their entire lives trying to increase their exterior world of achievements while the interior world of their soul shrinks. It’s much easier and more concrete to work on the exterior world (Body,  Career,  Cars,  401k) Those are things people see, and measure! Some of us might say: “I have no idea how to even work on my Soul.

If a contingent of men came in here this morning, just returning from a visit to your soul, and they gave a report about current conditions, what would they say?

What you become as a person is more important than what you achieve as a person. Do you have a vision for yourself? Do you know the current conditions in your Soul?

Vision For What You Do

What you do in life isn’t unimportant, it’s just secondary. For Nehemiah, he was a faithful  slave in Babylon, the Foreman on a building project, and was eventually the Governor of Jerusalem. That’s his resume. Nehemiah was never a Preacher or Evangelist. He was a business man, and God used Nehemiah in each of those roles.

Now if you are here this morning and you wouldn’t consider yourself a follower of Jesus Christ then I think you can still benefit from many of these leadership principles. You have the right to dream your own dreams and develop a picture of your future and pursue it.

However, if you are a follower of Jesus then you and I have sworn allegiance to the Savior. I Corinthians 6: 20 reminds us we “have been bought with a price” — and Ephesians 2:10 informs us “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

You & I are God’s workmanship, meaning we are a product of God’s vision! Repeat and let this sink all the way down. You and I are a product of God’s vision! 

Not just a product of our family – or culture – or education, but a product of God’s Vision. He has a picture of what you could and should be! And it’s our responsibility to live into His Vision, whether that’s as a slave to the King, foreman on a building project, or a governor and leader.

Whose vision do you have for what you do?

Structural Change

If you have passion for something, if something captures your imagination but it is not accompanied with structural changes in your current behavior or habits, then it’s not a vision, it’s a wish. People who only wish but don’t change come to the end of their lives saying things like: “I wonder what I could have done….”

The structural change Nehemiah makes, the structural change you and I must make, is in our habit of sitting before the LORD each day. (vs. 4) That’s the very first step. We will talk more later about habits of Spiritual Disciplines but watch this video and discuss these questions in your group: (Watch from 0:20 – 6:30)

 

Questions

1.  What you become as a person is more important than what you achieve as a person.”  Do you agree – Why or Why not?

2. Do you have a vision for yourself? Do you know the current conditions in your Soul?

3. What difference does it make knowing we are a product of God’s Vision? How do we incorporate that in what we do?

4. Consider one structural change which needs to take place in order for you to fulfill or get in line with God’s Vision.

 


Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips

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

An Introduction to Iron Leadership – Trophic Cascades

An Introduction to Iron Leadership – Trophic Cascades

Friday, September 1, 2017 – Audio Recording

 

The stated purpose of Iron Leadership is “To act like men” by: equipping men to be better leaders in their own personal lives, their homes, their work, their churches and city for the sake of God’s Glory.

This phrase: “Act like men” is lifted from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. This phrase comes at the close of the Apostle Paul’s long and difficult letter. It’s difficult because the people in the church at Corinth were a disorderly bunch. (Politics in the church: cliques of people who like one preacher over another, Pride & Power Struggles, Sexual Immorality, Lawsuits, Troubled Marriages & Disorder in the Worship service.)

I love this brief Bio of people who make up the church:

I Cor 6:9 – “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. …And that is what some of you were.”

This sounds like a fun church to lead in, doesn’t it?

Although Paul addressed these challenges in the letter he knows when the letter is finished being read – some leaders in the church will have to face these issues and these people head on. This will be an enormous leadership challenge. Paul knows the challenge will require leaders to “Act like Men” (greek: (An-drid-zo-mai) 

Its just one word in the Greek with no explanation. Paul assumes his readers will know that for some, it’s time to stop being children, it’s time to grow up, grow a spine, and step into God’s intended role…to be Leaders.

So at Iron Leadership we are learning how to “Act like men.” We believe the best place to learn how to act like men by reading the Bible, examining the lives of men in the Bible & by being around other men.

Now what we are doing here is just entry level – introduction and reminders – so if you are struggling a particular area or need more help in any way, you need to ask for help. That’s one great leadership characteristic…not always easy for men. There are great leaders in this church and in your lives that can help.

Content for 2017-2018

Fall-Winter 2017: Nehemiah

This was the first leader we looked at 6 years ago. I want to revisit him as a leader. Nehemiah is one of my favorite character studies (and one of the most accessible) 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.

Winter-Spring 2018: Interior Life of a Leader

You could also say, The Soul of the Leader. One particular concern I have (for myself especially) is that leadership compels you to work with other people, which requires a great deal of energy: Emotional, Mental, Physical, Spiritual, and Financial. This can make it very easy to neglect your soul – your interior life.

Proverbs 4:23 – “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Or, “because the source of your life lows from it.” Leadership flows from your heart and your soul.

Take this illustration for example: When you’re on a plan and are instructed to put on an oxygen mask, you have to put your own on first. If you try to help others without looking after your own life source, you will very quickly be no help to anybody.

Trophic Cascades

Sometimes videos capture exactly what you want to communicate: This is one of those videos. As you will see it’s not really about leadership, yet I want to focus on a few of the “take away” lines which give definition to what we are trying to accomplish in Iron Leadership.

Leaders are like the Wolves of Yellowstone. The wolves were absent for 70 years. Because of that, things were deteriorating.

“Everything rises and falls on Leadership – everything.”
– John Maxwell

If you see a great organization, business, family, church – you will find great leadership.

Great leaders, like wolves are introduced into an environment and cause a “Trophic Cascade.” Introducing something at top of the food chain creates change and tumbles all the way through the food chain, all the way to the bottom.

Here is the keyWolves & Great Leaders – They don’t personally change everything. Instead, they start a chain reaction which changes everything.

Of course the greatest Tropic Cascade in all of human history happened on the first Christmas morning when Jesus Christ was introduced into a dark world. I love how John describes Jesus’ entrance into the World: John 1: 9 – “True light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.”

There is a difference that we must point out: What’s the single biggest difference between the Trophic Cascade described in the video, and the Trophic Cascade that Jesus brings? The Answer: Jesus’ Trophic Cascade is from the bottom up, not the top down.

Great leaders, like wolves put things to death, yet that action leads to giving life to many others. To be a great leader the first think you must be able to put things to death in your own life.

Colossians 3:5 – “Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry…”

Romans 8:13 – “If by the Spirit Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live…”

To be an effective leader of others, you must be an effective leader of yourself. As a leader – you will be asking people to “put to death” certain things in their life. You must lead by example.

To be an effective leader of others….you must be an effective leader of yourself. As a leader – you will be asking people to “put to death”

certain things in their life…you must lead by example.

Great leaders create leadership opportunities for others: The presence of the Wolves gave rise to the work of the Beavers: “Beavers – are Eco-system Engineers.” What a great phrase: “eco-system engineer.”

I don’t think it’s a stretch to conclude from reading Genesis 1:28 – God’s charge to mankind to “Subdue and Rule over the earth” was a charge to us to be His “Eco-engineers” of this world.

Questions:

  1. Trophic Cascade: Top Down vs. Bottom Up. What difference does it make?
  2. “Put to Death…” – Is there one thing you can identify in yourself which needs to be put to death in order for you to be a more effective leader?
  3. As an “Eco-engineer” of your family, work, or team, what’s one of your leadership challenges? How well do you do in allowing others to be “Eco-Engineers”? Under your leadership, do you micro-manage your family and work environment?

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips

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

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