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“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

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

Thank God For Your Job (Doesn’t Matter What Your Job Is!) – Tim Challies

Thank God For Your Job (Doesn’t Matter What Your Job Is!) – Tim Challies

“Labor Day is one of only a few non-religious holidays that is celebrated on the same day in both Canada and the United States. Today all across North America we are taking a break from our normal labors in order to rest. And as we rest, we do well to remember and to thank. More than anyone else, John Flavel has taught me why and how I ought to express gratitude to God. Today I’m following in his footsteps as I explain why you ought to thank God for your job, whatever your job is.”

Read the full blog by Tim Challies.

Living a Life of Stunning Significance

Living a Life of Stunning Significance

Every Christian man is called to get involved in God’s work in some way…Sadly, I have known many Christian men who felt like losers because they were never war heroes, sports stars, or corporate titans.

-Richard Phillips

The Christian life is not only for the “extraordinary”, but for the “ordinary” as well. Read the full blog here.