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Category: Fall/Winter 2017 – Nehemiah

Nehemiah Part 5: Wrong Views of Work

Nehemiah Part 5: Wrong Views of Work

The following audio clip begins with the testimony of Brandon Hart and continues with the leadership lesson.


Nehemiah 2:9 represents a transition. Nehemiah
 has been emotionally moved by a report about the condition of his people back in Jerusalem. He has caught a vision of what could and should be. He has prayed, fasted and planned. He has courageously stepped forward to personally get involved and risked quite a bit with his requests of the King (Nehemiah 2:1-8). Now, Nehemiah goes to work!

It’s always been fascinating to me to think about this book and what God chooses to remember. One of the most important & powerful people in the world in 450BC was King Artaxerxes, yet what God chooses to highlight, what’s valuable in God’s economy and his history is a slave and cupbearer to the King. He has travelled 500+ miles from Babylon back to Jerusalem to become the lead engineer and foreman on a building project.

 Now before we get to the particular challenges Nehemiah faces, I want to talk about our view of work & the need for a Biblical View of Work

The Need for a Biblical View of Work:

Doug Sherman, a Fighter Pilot wrote a book titled: Your Work Matters to God. Sherman says, “When the chaplain entered the flight room the atmosphere changed….he seemed out of place. His issues and interests seemed distant from ours. He had a different set of heroes – usually people who left the military and became ministers or missionaries.  When he left I felt a chasm between faith and work. I often asked myself  whether flying a jet mattered to God?

If 60% or more of your life (work) doesn’t count to God, then you don’t count to God. If your work has no value, then you have no value. At best you become a second-class citizen in the Kingdom of God.”

Have you ever wondered whether your work matter to God?

Perhaps one of these questions expresses your thoughts:

  • I’m not sure my work has lasting value.  Does ___ (flying/ you fill in) matter to God?
  • I live two lives: Work & Home, Work & Church, Secular & Sacred – when I go through my work day….I don’t routinely think about God…He doesn’t fit into my business world.
  • I maintain 2 ethical value systems: A work system & private system, they are not always the same.
  • I’m bored. So my work seems purposeless.

How do you view your work?

3 Wrong or Incomplete Views of Work

1. Secular View

In this view, the primary purpose of work is self-fulfillment. Success in life means success at work.  Career is center stage. Key words: Winning, Advancing, Achievement……Significance:

Sign-ificance: My work is a sign….which points to something – What is that something? (You, God, Something Else???) 

Frequent thoughts of this view: Do others think I am a success? Do I think I am a success? Are people are getting ahead of me.  I categorize the importance of people by their work.

What are the weaknesses of a secular view of work?

2. Two-Storied View – Secular vs. Sacred

A common missionary story: “I once was a businessman and a churchman. I heard a sermon about doing things which had eternal value, which was something with the word of God & the souls of men.

I read Jesus’ words in John 6:27 – “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life..”   So I quit my secular work for sacred work.

The Two-Storied View distinguishes between Secular & Sacred. Work that matters to God and has eternal value & work that doesn’t have eternal value doesn’t really matter.

Frequent thoughts of this view: “I run a successful business in order to make money so I can support God’s work, in my church, in my city or around the world.”

In the classic film, Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell was the son of Scottish missionaries to China. He was known as “the Flying Scotsman.”  God made him fast. In 1924 he won an Olympic gold medal and set a new world record.

In this clip, Liddell is late for duties at church because of his training.  You see the Two-Storied view from Eric Liddell’s sister. To her, there is the sacred (mission work to China), and the secular (Racing – something that, to her, seems worthless or worse – it preoccupies his time with things of temporary value).  But Liddell has a different view: God made him fast…. and simply doing what God made him good at – brought God pleasure.  

Is it possible that God designed you with particular skills, working skills – that when used brings God’s pleasure?

What are the weaknesses of a two storied view? 

3. Work as a Pulpit

This view sees Christian participation in work is primarily to set-up strategic opportunities for the purposes of evangelism. Text: Matt 28 and the Great Commission: “Go into all the world…..”  OK – got it, my mission field is the Business World. My work is a tool for evangelism. You might redefine your job description so that you are no longer a doctor, teacher or salesman. Rather you are an evangelist in the field of medicine, education or marketing.

What are the weakness of the Work as a Pulpit View?

Questions:

1. What are the weakness of each wrong or incomplete view of work?

  • Secular View
  • Two-Storied View
  • Work as a Pulpit

To what extent have you bought into them?

2. Is it possible that God designed you with particular skills, working skills – that when used brings God’s pleasure?

3. If 60% or more of your life (work) doesn’t count to God, then you don’t count to God. If your work has no value, then you have no value. At best you become a second-class citizen in the Kingdom of God.”

Do you think your work matters to God? Why?


Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips

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

 

Nehemiah Part 4: Courage

Nehemiah Part 4: Courage

 

So far this year we’ve been talking about vision.

This morning I want to talk about one more thing it takes to move forward in your Vision: Courage. – Even after you have done all the pounding needed on clarifying your vision – there will come a moment when what you need most is Courage:  Courage to walk toward a difficult or impossible looking situation; Courage to take a risk.

Every significant vision the Lord births in you is going to put your courage to the test.

Let me say this another way, especially for younger leaders: There is no path with God which is void of Risk, or void of a head-on collisions with fear!

One of the greatest leaders in the Bible is Joshua. He is a 5 star military general.  Joshua follows a great leader Moses – and at Joshua’s commissioning ceremony this is what Moses says to him: “Be strong & courageous. You shall bring the people of Israel into the land.” 

After Moses passed away and just before Joshua enters the land, the Lord shows up and says to Joshua personally (three times in four verses) “I will never leave you, don’t be afraid but be strong & courageous.”  – Even Joshua dealt with fear and discouragement. He needed a divine push to go from 40 years in the desert into the Promised Land.

Every significant vision the Lord births in you is going to put your courage to the test.

Unfortunately, many of these God-designed Visions are silently aborted.  The risks seem too great. God, give that to someone else!

Nehemiah’s Courage

Let’s examine this moment of courage for Nehemiah (Chapter 2)

It’s been 4 months of prayer and planning for Nehemiah. He’s been looking for an opportunity to get involved in helping his disgraced people back in Jerusalem. Finally, that moment arrives:

Nehemiah 2:1 – “I had not been sad in the presence of the king before.” Why? Because it was illegal. In those days, no one who worked for the king could come into his presence while sad. Nehemiah risked being throw out!

Nehemiah 2:2 – “The King notices and asks Nehemiah, “What’s wrong…I see this sadness of heart?”  Nehemiah’s thought, “Then I was very much afraid!” — Nehemiah is VIBRATING with FEAR Why? Because this could be explosive. He is risking everything on how he responds.

This is the Abort or Launch moment. Nehemiah can back out now and no one will know. He can silently abort God’s vision.  This happens all the time.

Nehemiah 2:3 – Here’s a huge step. Nehemiah spills out the pain in his heart.

I want to suggest (I can’t be certain) that Nehemiah couldn’t have done this 4 months ago. I believe it took 4 months of Prayer, Fasting, and Journaling to clarify his pain and get a vision of how he should act.

This is similar to David in 1 Samuel 17:

Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.” David replied: “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this Philistine will be like one of them….The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.

Courage is a muscle which you can build over time. God had built Nehemiah’s courage muscle so that he was able to step forward when his moment arrived.   

I love the NIV here: “I was very much afraid…BUT…” — But my faith was bigger than my fear. I got to the point that my faith was bigger than my fear. This is a muscle you can build over time, but you have to respond to the small steps God is directing you and not abort the vision because of fear!

Nehemiah 2:4 is a huge question, “What are you requesting?” Again, this is not a question Nehemiah could have answered 4 months ago, but now he is ready and willing to risk. Nehemiah takes a risk by asking for 3 things he asked for in rapid succession:

  • I need Freedom – King, I going to need some time off working for you so I can go help someone else.
  • I need your Favor – I need travel documents with your signature which will allow me to travel safely between here and Jerusalem 
  • I need part of your Fortune – I need several loads of lumber from your lumber yard so I can rebuild the wall and build a house I plan to live in.

I am wondering what the others in the King’s presence must have thought. Nehemiah has been smoking something….He’s not even supposed to be sad and now he is asking the King for all this…he’s going to prison for sure!

This is a vision Nehemiah is willing to put everything on the line… incredible Courage! Nehemiah risks his job, Nehemiah risks his influence with the king, Nehemiah risks his life…..The King could have easily had Nehemiah imprisoned….

(vs. 8) – One more important detail we don’t want to read past too quickly. “And the king granted me what I asked, for…”

For what?

  • For, I was courageous and brave?
  • For, I had a great plan?
  • For, I am smart?
  • For, I took the Dale Carnegie course on how to Win Friend and Influence People – so I was successful?

No, For, the good hand of my God was upon me.

Nehemiah wasn’t just courageous. He also knew where the credit belonged; To God alone!  This is the kind of character God is looking for to fulfill His visions.

God’s favor flows toward those whose faith is bigger than their fear and who will give God the Glory when God responds.

Questions:

1.  How do you react when you are vibrating with fear?  What are the risks you are most afraid to take: Failure, Reputation, Finances, Safety?

2.  Have you ever silently aborted something you felt like God was asking you to do?  Why?

3.  How would you recommend someone exercising their “courage muscle?”  How does your faith become greater than your fear?

4.  Do you have the habit of taking the glory for success or giving God the glory? How does that look in your life?


Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips

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

Nehemiah Part 3: Patience, Pounding, and Practice

Nehemiah Part 3: Patience, Pounding, and Practice

Friday, October 13, 2017 – Audio Recording

 

If you’ve been keeping up in this series, you may be saying to yourself, “Hey, we have already talked about this. Let’s move on!

To that quiet whisper in your head, I would respond:

  • Repetition is the mother of all learning (ask a coach or teacher)
  • What we are talking about in these opening verses of Nehemiah are foundational to the rest of the book and  foundational to our own lives.

Vision: Vision is a preferred future. It’s a picture of what could and should be done.

Getting a Vision for your Soul: Who do you want to BE

  • Expanding your interior life.

Getting a Vision for your Self: What do you want to DO

  • Expanding your exterior life.  Most men think about this vision.

To get a clear vision it takes patience (time), pounding (hammering it out over and over until its clear), and practice (new habits and spiritual disciplines). These things prepare you to move forward.

Unfortunately, patience, pounding, and practice are like saying four letter words in our “racecar” culture. We want a vision, we want it now and we want to immediately move forward. It rarely happens that way.

In chapter 2 we find the primary question we need to ask when thinking about vision:  It’s the Babylonian Kings question to his servant Nehemiah: (2:4)  What are you requesting?” What do you want? It’s a life shaping question.  It’s a question you must pound on in order to get an answer.

Interestingly it’s the same question Jesus asks his first two followers. In John 1, two guys start following after Jesus and Jesus, the king of kings turns to them and asks, “What do you want?These are the first words of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Jesus is probing, “What hunger drives your heart? 

Let’s say you don’t know, or you have hungers that drive your heart that aren’t healthy. What steps can you take? Nehemiah helps us.

First Step: Holy Discontent

We see this in Nehemiah 1:3-4. Nehemiah got a disturbing report, and it rocked him down to his core. It had such an effect on him that he knows he must respond by having an effect on it.

It had such an effect on him that he knows he must respond by having an effect on it.

This happens to our interior and exterior lives. You see something ugly in yourself, or you see something ugly in your corner of the world. Either way, you have what Bill Hybels describes as your “Popeye moment”.  Few people remember him and his dubious anatomical structure. In each cartoon, something would agitate Popeye until he would finally say “I’ve had all I can stands…..and I can’t stands no more!”  Then he’d pop open a can of spinach and the rest is history.

Second Step: Personal Practices

Nehemiah alters his personal practices in verse 4. We talked about this last week. Prayer, Fasting & Journaling.  Nehemiah takes his holy discontent and first starts working on himself. This is huge. Nehemiah works to expand his interior world so he can be prepared when his exterior world expands.

Think of these practices and spiritual disciplines as pounding. What do these practices pound into Nehemiah? How do these shape him?

1. Practices Pound the Right Perspective

Think about this with me for a minute: Nehemiah hears about the great trouble and shame his people. He hears how their defensive wall against enemies is broken down. Nehemiah is disturbed and agitated. 

The question in his mind could have been: “Who broke down these walls in the first place?  The Babylonian King I am serving, that’s who!”

Nehemiah’s agitation could have come out against the King he serves.

Or how about: How long have these walls been broken down? 150 years. I mean, these people have been living in trouble and shame for 150 years. Why haven’t any of those stupid people left in Jerusalem done anything about it? 

Nehemiah’s agitation could have come out against his own people.

Just to clarify, we don’t know if Nehemiah had any of these thoughts during the 4 months of processing. These are examples of blame-shifting. They aren’t the right perspective.

Read Nehemiah 1:6-8. During these 4 months, Nehemiah sees that he is the problem. “We have have sinned. . .I and my father’s house. . .we acted corruptly.” This is huge. This helps him navigate forward in the right direction.

When men come to talk to me about their problems in their marriage & family, who are the main problems? Usually, their wife and kids. If they talk to me about problems at work, its their boss and the economy.  Perhaps, but let’s start with you.

It’s very possible you see the problem correctly but you don’t yet understand the true cause. If you don’t, then you will go in the wrong direction. You need more pounding!

2. Practices Pound a Vision

Nehemiah started out distressed (1:4), and ended up seeing himself as part of the solution, specifically building a wall (2:5). Nehemiah loves his home city and he knows he can’t do everything, but he can tackle one thing, building a wall. We will see in coming weeks how his one thing helps other people do their part. Just like a trophic cascade.

Like Nehemiah loved Jerusalem, I love Wilmington. Lord willing I will die in this city. My grandchildren, perhaps my great grandchildren will grow up in this city. What role does God want me to play? What contribution does God want me to make in order that this city would be stronger for Christ and stronger for human flourishing?  I can’t do everything, but I can tackle one thing.

To build a Church and build men. Thats my eco-system.

Nehemiah sees himself as part of the solution. He doesn’t pray that God would magically make him a better person or magically make his country safe. No, he asks God how he might join with God in accomplishing God’s desires.

3. Practices Pound that any Success is God’s success.

It’s God’s steadfast love, willingness to redeem, power and strong hand. God grants success. God plans on using you, but it means that when you have success, all Glory belongs to God. We only have this one recorded prayer in the opening chapter of Nehemiah. Who knows how much prayer and pounding it took to get Nehemiah out of the center and God into the center? For most men – this kind of prayer that pounds you out of the center is something which must be practiced everyday.

Recall the first question that Jesus asks his disciples in the Gospel of John: “What do you want?” What hungers drive your heart? Do you know? In the very last chapter, Jesus asks a similar question to his number 1 disciple, Peter.

Jesus asks Peter 3 times: “Do you love me? Peter, does your hunger for me drive your heart or is it something else?”  Why does Jesus ask Peter this question? Because Peter, who had promised to follow Jesus even to his own death, denied him. When the pressure came on, we uncovered Peter’s heart. Peter was still hungry for Peter.

Do you recall what happened between Peter’s promise and Peter’s denial? In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus pleaded with Peter to “Watch & Pray…so that you may not enter into temptation…for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Peter didn’t practice prayer, so he wasn’t prepared. Peter was still at the center.

These things don’t happen all at once. Patience, Pounding, and Practice are needed in order to be Prepared.

Questions

  1. What hunger drives your heart? If Jesus asked you “what do you want” – do you know? What would you say?
  2. How do spiritual disciplines and practices pound the right perspective into you? What would be the down side of having your Popeye Moment (“I’ve had all I can stands…”) then acting on it immediately?
  3. Do you pray for God to do something or do you pray asking how you can be part of the solution? What difference would it make?
  4. How do you know if, deep down, you still want to be at the center of your success?

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips

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

Nehemiah Part 2: Fasting, Prayer, and Journaling

Nehemiah Part 2: Fasting, Prayer, and Journaling

Friday, September 29, 2017 – Audio Recording

 

What’s the easiest way for this car to get out of the parking lot? Back up into empty space then turn left and you are out.  However, sometimes it takes a few more turns than you might imagine in order to get out of the parking lot and into your driving lane. (Warning…for those on blood pressure medicine – you might want to shield your eyes!)


Painful…sometimes getting to where you want to go takes more turns than you first imagined.

This semester we are getting a Master’s Degree on Leadership from Nehemiah. Nehemiah begins with a “Vision” or holy discontentVision is a preferred future. It’s a picture of what could & should be done.   You experience something unpleasant & it has to change. For Nehemiah he heard about the trouble and shame of his people in Jerusalem and he had his holy discontent moment. This is the beginning of Vision. (1:4)

Last time we talked about Vision from 2 different angles:

  • Vision for your Soul – Who you are (expanding your interior life) 
  • Vision for your Self – What you do (expanding your exterior life)

Both are important, but your Interior Life takes priority.

Most men are great at expanding their exterior life (Job, Position/Influence, Hobbies, House, 401K) but many think that expanding their exterior life means that their interior life will automatically expand. NOPE, we have to work on our Interior lives (Souls).

This morning I want to remind you that getting out of the parking lot and into the driving lane for your life might take more turns than you first imagined

Think of Moses, when you first think of Moses what usually comes to mind?  Leading the Israelites across the Red Sea, out of Egypt and toward the Promise Land. But Moses was 80 years old when that happened. The first 40 years of his life he learned from Pharaoh on  how to lead a nation.

In Exodus 2 – He sees one of his own people being beaten by an Egyptian soldier and can’t take it. He has a holy discontent.

The problem is that Moses isn’t emotionally prepared – and Moses doesn’t have the skills he needs to survive in the desert.

So, The second 40 years of his life, he lives in the desert: Working on trusting God and learning how to lead a nation through a desert . You might say this a 40 point turn. It took Moses 40 years to get into the driving lane. When Moses is 80 years old, he is ready.

I talked with a man last week and asked how he got in the lane God designed for him. To paraphrase what he said: “I was in my 20’s, sitting alone and looking out at a certain situation, seeing something that needed to change. (holy discontent). So I whispered a prayer: “God if you make a way, I promise to have the courage to follow.”  It was a whispered prayer that at times I almost forgot about, but 4 years later God began opening doors and I walked through them. I have been running in this lane for 16 years!”

For Nehemiahthe distance between his Holy Discontent and external action wasn’t 40 years. The distance between his whispered prayer and God moving wasn’t 4 years. For Nehemiah, it was 4 months.

Although there was no external activity during this 4 month period (Nehemiah was still at his day job), there was quite a bit of internal expansion taking place. God was rapidly expanding Nehemiah’s internal capacity so that his Soul would be prepared for his expanded external world.

God was rapidly expanding Nehemiah’s internal capacity so that his Soul would be prepared for his expanded external world.

Nehemiah’s Foundation of Spiritual Disciplines – Prayer and Fasting

The tower to replace the Twin Towers took 11 years to build.  2 whole years were spent just on the foundation. This is your internal life. 

What are the habits or “foundational practices” Nehemiah used to expand his internal life?   It’s not magic, it’s not a miracle, it’s habits and practices. We see two of them in chapter 1.    These are frequently referred to as spiritual disciplines.

(vs. 4) “Fasting and Prayer” – This is the Biblical launching pad for vision and God ordained movements.

  • Matthew 4: Jesus is about to Launch his ministry, just before he steps into the lane which will change the world – He begins with 40 days of Prayer and Fasting
  • Acts 13: The launching of the Church into the world, the Vision for this launch and naming the Apostle Paul to lead the launch came out of a group of church people Praying and Fasting.

We could list many more.

Two things this practice accomplishes:

ONE: It takes you out of the center of decision making and makes you more receptive to God’s Guidance. When you have that holy discontent moment, you might take action right away (like Moses) or when you get a vision your first thoughts always seem like the right ones, but they may not be.

Prayer and fasting slows you down, takes you out of the center, and leaves room for divine direction.

TWO: A Critical word you will must exercise over and over again is the word “NO”.

Prayer and fasting help you exercise your “NO” muscle. When you get up early to pray or spend extra time on Sunday, you say “NO” to busyness and personal productivity. How often do you sit down to pray, and about 30 seconds into it you say to yourself, ”nothing is getting done…I have to get to work.” Prayer takes you out of the center and exercises the “NO” muscle.

Fasting helps you exercise the “NO” muscle especially to your body and emotions. If you fast for a day, how many times will you need to say “NO” to yourself? For me, quite a lot! As we make our way through this book, we will see Nehemiah exercising “NO” over and over.  God prepares him with 4 months of practice. You will have little success performing “on the spot”.

Businessmen – how often do you need to exercise “NO”?

  • No to working all the time….No to laziness
  • No to unethical practices causing you to cut corners, or to be dishonest
  • No to sexual conversations or inappropriate emotional relationships in the office
  • No to clients who want you to behave in a way contrary to your character

To run in the lane God has designed for you your soul and yourself must employ the habit of prayer and fasting.

Journaling

How do we know that Nehemiah wrote stuff down during the 4 months?

Chapter 2: When the King asks him what’s on his mind, Nehemiah rips off a detailed game plan!   Who knows how many times he wrote stuff down, crossed it out, how many wads of paper were left on the floor?

But after 4 months of Prayer, Fasting, and Writing,  it was clear in his mind.

Reading makes a full man. Conversation makes a ready man. And writing makes an exact man. Exact meaning. He uses language with precision, which is the opposite of fog. Leaders that lead with fog are doing a disservice to their organization. They are going to drive their boat into an iceberg. But leaders whose mind is clear and who can express their ideas with precision and clarity steer the ship in the wonderful, lucid air of truth and openness. So I count journaling one of the most important habits in my life. -Francis Bacon

Here’s my prayer for us this year – by May of 2018 (8 months from now):

  • You will have habits in place which help you be receptive to God’s movement.
  • You will have an expanded interior life….a healthier soul.
  • Through these things, you will have a clarity of your external life.

We can talk about it more, but you have to do something.

Questions

1.  In a sentence or two, what’s the current condition of your interior life?

2. Discuss your Habits, Practices or Spiritual Disciplines you use for
 expanding your interior life. Do you pray, fast or journal?

3. Where do you need to exercise the “NO” muscle?

 


Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips

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

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