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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

 

 

“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

Abraham: Staying at Your Post – Leadership Lesson

Abraham: Staying at Your Post – Leadership Lesson

Pompeii was a popular tourist city on the west coast of Italy in 79AD. It was during the time of the Roman Empire, and it was home to 20,000 people. It was also located near the base of a massive volcano, Mount Vesuvius. When Vesuvius exploded, scientist estimated it ejected 1.5 million tons of ash and rock every second for 24 hours over 12 miles into the atmosphere. The surrounding region including Pompeii was covered with ash 16ft deep. The ash remarkably preserved the city before it was covered in lava. Lava was estimated to have flowed down the mountain at 70mph. Many of the residents escaped prior to the eruption but some were left behind. There is a story about a Roman soldier whose body was uncovered. He was found standing his post at the city gate.

Abraham was a Man on Assignment

In Genesis 12:1-4, the key to Abraham’s success is summed up in one sentance: “Abram went, as the Lord had told him”. Abraham, like the Roman Soldier, was given an assignment. To go to a foreign country and stand his post until the very end of his life. Yes, God was going to work through Abraham, but those things are up to God. Abraham wasn’t perfect, but what Abraham did well was stand his post.

Jesus said in John 17:1 – “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”  Jesus too was on assignment. Jesus didn’t do everything that could possibly be done. Instead, he completed his assignment. Jesus stood his post until the very end.

Do you sense that you are on assignment? What difference does it make if you do or do not think that you are on assignment?

What was Abraham’s Assignment?

Genesis 12:2 tells us that Abraham was to go live in a land and give birth to a new nation. A nation who, like Abraham, will singularly follow after Yahweh.

I want you to appreciate the immensity of Abraham’s challenge and the immensity of Abraham’s world influence.

Genesis 12:6-7 . Abraham builds an alter to Yahweh where the Oak of Moreh is, the land of the Canaanites. Moreh means “teacher”. Most scholars think this particular location was a place of idol worship. Right away, we see Abraham establishing his camp in enemy territory. This assignment will encounter great opposition.

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel. And they presented themselves before God. (Joshua 24:1)

“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River (Ur – Abraham’s home town) and in Egypt (the land they had escaped), and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell (current location). But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15)

Notice the surrounding culture of counterfeit gods: Babylon, Egypt, the Amorites, and the Canaanites. Imagine the pressure – One man and his family standing their post against the current and surrounding culture of multiple gods. Yet, Abraham plants himself and preaches exclusivity. One God, Yahweh! In our current culture, exclusivity is one of the most offensive things you can believe.

God’s Timing and Your Assignment

In Joshua 24:1 – Joshua has the people gathered back to Shechem, where Abraham first stood his post. This is the beginning of God fulfilling his promise to Abraham back in Genesis 12.

This is 700 years later! From 2100BC to 1400BC. Ask yourself, if God commanded you today to stand your post and promised he was going to deliver you a great name and nation, would it be ok with you if he fulfilled it in the year 2716? Would you be ok with that?

[8] By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. [9] By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. [10] For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. [11] By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. [12] Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. [13] These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. (Hebrews 11:8-13)

Do you see? It wasn’t Abraham’s job to make a great nation or get a great name. No. Those were things God would do. Abraham’s job was to live by faith – to be obedient – to stand his post even though it looked foolish and unsuccessful to the surrounding culture. He even had to endure suffering.

Leadership writer Patrick Lencioni says this:

“If you were searching for leaders to change the world, what qualities would you look for? Courage and intelligence would certainly be prime candidates. Charisma might make the list. Yet, I would rank two others ahead of them, the two qualities I’m thinking of are: Humility and Pain Tolerance

When I graduated from college, I wanted to change the world. I was determined to make a difference, defy conventional wisdom, confront the status quo… At the time, I was sure that these lofty aspirations were noble.  I was wrong.  There were two big problems with my zeal.
First, I had no specific idea about what kind of a difference I wanted to make.  And although that may not seem like a big deal, it masked a larger one:  I was more interested in being recognized for having changed the world than anything else. ‘It doesn’t really matter what I changed, as long as it was something unique, and I got credit for it.’ You see, making a difference was not really about the world after all.  It was about me.

There was another problem with my desire to change the world, and it
is just as important. … there were limits to my desire to change the
world.  As much as I wanted to make a difference, I wasn’t too keen on
having to suffer much along the way.  ‘Sure, I  can deal with some hard
work.  Maybe even temporary financial setbacks.  But real suffering?
Embarrassment?  Rejection by loved ones?  No thank you.  I don’t want to
make that big of a difference.’ Before setting out on a quest to change
the world, Christian leaders should probably ask themselves two questions: “Who am I really serving?”  and “Am I ready to suffer?

Patrick learned that his leadership was really all about himself. He was the goal and the terminating point. He also learned that he wasn’t really ready to suffer. He wasn’t ready to stand at his post no matter what.

Abraham was a man on assignment. He planted himself in the middle of enemy territory and counterfeit gods and was going to remain obedient even if he didn’t receive in his lifetime what God had promised. Abraham knew who he was serving and was willing to suffer.

Questions

  1. Do you sense that you are on assignment? As a leader, what difference does it make knowing you are on assignment?
  1. What are your greatest pressures as a Christian leader?
  1. Talk about you and the two leadership characteristics Patrick Lencioni valued: Humility and Pain Tolerance.

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips Signiture

 

 

 

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

A renovation project brings income to a church nonprofit and vitality to a former tobacco town

A renovation project brings income to a church nonprofit and vitality to a former tobacco town

“An enterprising leader of St. John AME Zion Church pushed his congregation to revive its dormant nonprofit and undertake an ambitious plan to buy and improve seven properties in a historically African-American area of Wilson, North Carolina.” Read the full, incredible story.