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

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

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

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

(Read I Kings 16:30-33)

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

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

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

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

(Read 1 Kings 18:17-19)

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

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

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

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

Failed Expectations

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

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

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

God’s Comfort

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

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

My Story From My Sabbatical

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

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

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

The Main Point

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions

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

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

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

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

 

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips Signiture

 

 

 

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

Saul’s Disobedience and its Consequences – Leadership Lesson

Saul’s Disobedience and its Consequences – Leadership Lesson

As we begin our first lesson in 2017. Let’s review where we left off in 2016:

  • Moses: Leads the people of God out of Egypt and Slavery
  • Joshua: Military general who leads them into the Promised Land
  • Judges: Gideon (Judges 2:11-12 – Read) “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. They abandoned the Lord….instead they went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them.” **They preferred to follow the ways of the world around them rather than be Obedient to God. **This disobedience set up a sad spiral which ended: Judges 21:25“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

So – When you turn from Judges to Samuel (the last Judge), you could say Israel was looking for a leader. The leader they chose, was Saul.

Unfortunately, Saul continued the sad spiral of disobedience. This clip is a good example of the childishness of blatant disobedience:

The greatest challenge in leadership is Self-Leadership. The hardest person to lea is the person you stare at in the mirror every morning. We all have preferences, impulses, and desires. They strongly influence our leadership. (We want ice cream!) But Christian Leadership requires obedience to God’s preferences, impulses, and desires above your own! The failure of obedience can have heavy consequences, much more than being taken to your room.

1. Fatal Beginning: I Samuel 8:4-7 (Read)

The Elders (the Leaders) uncoupled themselves from God’s leadership.
They decided instead to obey their own desires – their voice/their
desires will be King. (This is a repeat of Genesis 3 when desires become King)

Samuel’s Warning (1 Samuel 8:10-18)

God warns his people through the prophet Samuel that the leader they elect will bring trials upon them. The phrase “He will take” is repeated in verses 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17.

He will take:

  • Your sons
  • Your daughters
  • The best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards
  • A tenth of your grain
  • Your male and female servants, and your donkeys
  • A tenth of your flocks…and you shall be his slaves.

This is important: Whenever you uncouple your life from God and listen to another voice, that voice takes. He will take.

John 10:10 – “I have come that they may have life, and to have it to the full…the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy…(i.e. to take).

Samuel 8:18 – Just hold on to that, there will be a day when you cry out and the LORD will not answer!

People’s Response (1 Samuel 8:19-20)

Even after God’s warning, the people respond – “No, we don’t want God as our King, we want what we want, we want to be like everyone else. Just like the kid in the movie, “We want ice cream!”

The LORD’s Response (1 Samuel 8:22)

Verse 22 is such a scary and sobering voice. The Lord said to Samuel: “Obey their voice.” Let them lead. “Make them a king.” Give them a king in their own image. One who is emotionally immature, a king who will easily uncouple himself from God’s instruction.

2. Saul’s Downward Spiral of Leadership

It is worth noticing in 1 Samuel 9:1-2 that Saul is wealthy, handsome, and tall. These are all of the external qualities the world is looking for in a leader. Yet, it is not those qualities which make great leaders.

Saul’s 1st Leadership Test – Chapter 13

Samuel (representing God’s voice) tells Saul to go to Gilgal and prepare to fight against the Philistines. Saul is instructed to wait 7 days for Samuel to arrive. When Samuel arrives, he is supposed to give an offering (seeking the Lord’s favor in battle) and give instruction to Saul.

So here is the real leadership test. It is not the fight against the enemy (Philistines), the real fight is against himself. Will Saul obey they voice of the Lord or will he “eat the ice cream?”

Question: As a leader, are you willing to be led by God’s Word, even when you have to wait? Even when it looks like things are falling apart and people are abandoning you? Even when everyone else is doing business another way? When those things happen, who’s voice do you obey? This is a constant challenge!

Read 1 Samuel 13:8-11 – This is oh so painful. So familiar to times in my own life! In verse 10, if he had just waited a little. In verse 11, he is skilled in blame shifting. He says “I saw,” meaning that he follows what he sees, not God’s instructions. He blames the people, then Samuel, and then the Philistines. Everyone gets thrown under the bus, except Saul! In verse 12, he says “So I forced myself”. In other words: it was difficult to go against God’s word, but I forced myself. Saul uncouples himself from God’s Word.

Back to the key point, your biggest enemy is yourself!

A Second Similar Test – Chapter 15

Who’s word will Saul obey? Samuel gives Saul specific instructions to destroy the wicket Amalekites. “Saul, go to war and don’t bring anything back.”

Saul’s response is in 1 Samuel 15:9. Saul keeps the king (Agag) and the best of the livestock alive. Verse 12 tells us that after the battle, Saul sets up a monument to himself. His voice, his desires are king. 1 Samuel 15:19-21 display so many poor leadership traits: Blame shifting, the fear of man, and a disconnect between his leadership and those he leads.

Here’s an illustration: Long ago, when my son Zachary was little, I saw there was a broken pot in our house. I asked my wife if she broke the pot. She said no. At this point, I knew it was Zachary so I asked him, “Did you break the pot?” “No,” he said. A few seconds went by, and then he said, “…but my foot did.” We blame shift so easily, but good leaders take responsibility for themselves and their people.

1 Samuel 15:23b is the LORD’s response. “Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you from being king.”

Chapter 18

Following David’s defeat of Goliath (Read vs. 6-9), Saul’s emotionally immaturity intensifies. Saul’s childish response is so incredibly unattractive. He drifts further from God. Saul is uncoupled from God’s word and is slowly being destroyed.

Chapter 28

Saul is nearing the end of his reign. He is now completely uncoupled from God’s voice and under great pressure from the Philistines.

Read 1 Samuel 28:5-6. Saul doesn’t cry out to repent, he doesn’t cry out for a restored relationship with God. No, he cries out for rescue. He is only concerned about himself. Recall 1 Samuel 8:18. God did not answer him in that day.

Read 1 Samuel 28:7 . Saul, who once forced himself to go against God’s Word now easily consults a Medium, a Necromancer.

Leaders, please listen. Sin, when left unchecked, grows. When you uncouple yourself from God’s word, it may seem like a small thing in the beginning. But when left unchecked, it is catastrophic.

Chapter 31

Saul commits suicide. John 10:10. The enemy wins. Saul’s total destruction. The failure of obedience can have some heavy consequences. Saul loses himself, his sons, and a nation.

Questions

1. If your greatest enemy is yourself (self leadership), then what area of Self-leadership do you need to focus on in 2017? Do you have a real plan to work on that area?

2. Saul was:

  • A blame-shifter
  • Afraid of what others thought
  • Refused to take personal responsibility for personal mistakes
  • Emotionally Immature (Jealous of David’s victory).

In your mind, which one of these is the most unattractive leadership quality? Why?

3. How does God’s Word affect your everyday leadership style and decision making?

Friends and Brothers,

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

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions – 2017

New Year’s Resolutions – 2017

Iron Leaders,

It is time to kick-off Iron Leadership for 2017. Our first meeting of the year is this Friday, January 6 at 6:30 AM or at 6:00 AM for the Daily Office. Make it your new year’s resolution to attend this year’s Iron Leadership meetings. Look at the spring schedule below and go ahead and put those in your calendar.

Another one of your new year’s resolution should be to read good books, so I took the liberty of sending you a couple of book of the year lists from World Magazine. The first one is their 2016 books of the year and included in the article are previous years’ winners. Also, for fathers of young children, there is a list of children’s books that I referenced in reading good books to my children.

2016 Books of the Year: Persecution. Cultural Pressure. Death, Marriage, Fun by Marvin Olasky

The Nifty 50: World’s List of 50 Great 20th Century Books for Children by Susan Olasky

….And for those of you who have less lofty goals than reading great books, here is something for you:

Friends and Brothers,

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

2017 SPRING SCHEDULE:

-January 6
-January 20
-February 3
-February 17
-March 3
-March 17
-April 7
-April 21
-May 5
-May 19

Nine Attributes of a Real Man

Nine Attributes of a Real Man

“As a man who has been fatherless almost all my life, I have found that defining masculinity is deceptively difficult. I didn’t have someone around to demonstrate true and healthy manhood. My father’s absence has been a source of grief and regret, but this sense of longing has driven me to God for answers, fulfillment, and sonship. He is my one faithful Father, my heavenly one.” Read the rest here.

Adam in the Garden – Leadership Lesson

Adam in the Garden – Leadership Lesson

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 could spend several weeks focusing on some of the take away lines for what I am trying to accomplish in Iron Leadership.

Great Leaders – like Wolves caused a “Trophic Cascade”. Introducing something at top of the food chain which creates change all the way through the food chain, all the way to the bottom. They don’t personally change everything. Instead, they start a chain reaction which changes everything.

Great Leaders – like Wolves put things to death, yet that action leads to giving life to many others.

Leaders – like Wolves of Yellowstone have been absent for 70 years. Things were deteriorating because of their absence.

Great Leaders – like Wolves change patterns of behavior. They cause things to regenerate, and the growth is remarkable!

When Great Leaders – like Wolves, when introduced in small numbers can transform not just the ecosystem but also its physical geography. Wolves changed the Rivers! – A few Wolves changed a massive amount of landscape. This is my hope for Iron Leadership: Introducing just a few men into our culture, city, and churches can create a “Trophic Cascade”. Nothing is more needed as our culture rapidly deteriorates!

“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.”

Stated Purpose of Iron Leadership

This phrase: “Act like men” is lifted from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. The Apostle Paul closes his long and difficult letter with this phrase. The letter was difficult because the church at Corinth was a disorderly crowd (Politics, Power Struggles, Sexual Immorality, Lawsuits, and troubled marriages just to name a few reasons…Sounds like a fun church to lead!) — Although Paul addressed these challenges in the letter, he knows that when the letter is finished being read – the leaders in the church will not only have to face these issues head on, they will have to face PEOPLE head on. This will be an enormous leadership challenge. Paul knows the the challenge will require leaders to “Act like Men” – (An/drid/zo/mai) in the Greek.

One word in the Greek, 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.

Today, you’ll realize this phrase “Act like Men” is no longer politically correct. In a recent article from Princeton University, the Ivy League school banned the word “Man” from its vocabulary.

Here are suggested gender-neutral alternatives from the article:

Man Alternatives

 

So at Iron Leadership, we are swimming against the cultural tide as we learn how to “Act like men”. We believe the best place to learn how to act like men is by reading the Bible, examining the lives of men in the Bible (Good and Bad), and by being around other men.

This year we are going to walk through the entire Bible and examine leadership from different men: From Adam to Jesus, and later the Apostle Paul.

Adam’s Position as Leader

The Wolves video is perfect for this morning because Adam initiates a “Trophic Cascade” of epic proportions. His failure of Leadership initiated a cascade which has affected all of human history.

First, let me establish that Humanity (Male & Female) was given leadership over Creation. Creation is intended to thrive under man’s leadership (I realize humanity’s leadership is imperfect) but mankind is not equal to the rest of creation – we are unique & given unique responsibilities . We don’t worship the creation, we rule over it. This is important.

Biblical leadership is established in Genesis 1:26-28: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over [all creatures]. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over [every living creature]”

Male and Female are created in the image of God and given the task of ruling. Bearing the image of God is to represent the authority of God. We serve as vice-regents over the creation.

Second, it was God’s good design to give unique leadership to Adam – Something not always affirmed, even in Christian circles. Here are 4 ways we see the unique leadership of Adam:

  1. The order of creation: Adam was created before Eve. This forms the foundation for the order of human relationships.
  2. The naming of woman: Adam was given the honor and responsibility of naming his wife. (Genesis 2:23). In the Bible, the person who names something is always the one who has authority over it. In creation, God named the night and the day, the expanse, the earth, and the waters. By naming them he showed his authority. Authority does not mean oppression or dictatorship!
  3. The primary accountability: God held Adam primarily accountable for the Fall. While Adam and Eve hid from God, God called “to the man and said to him, ‘Adam, Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:9). God called to Adam alone – he is the leader – it’s God’s Chain of Command. Notice that Satan reversed this order, approaching Eve before Adam in an attempt to disrupt the God-given design of leadership. Satan is always turning God’s plans upside down.
  4. The representation of the human race: Adam had a special role in representing the human race. Though Eve was the first to be tempted to sin, it was Adam who was considered most responsible for their combined disobedience. I Corinthians 15:22: “as in Adam all men die…” Adam is given the responsibility for causing the “Trophic Cascade” – not Eve
  5. Adam represents Christ in a marriage: Ephesians 5:23 – “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” Adam is designed to model Christ’s leadership of the church in his family.
  6. The need for a Second Adam: Genesis 3:15 begins to hint at the need for a “Second Adam” – a second man who can come into the world and crush Satan and reverse the effects of the first Adam. I Corinthians 15:22: “as in Adam all men die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Christ is the second Adam, not the second Eve.

I Corinthians 15:45-49: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Jesus is the “last Adam” who initiates an eternal “Trophic Cascade” which reverses the effects of the first Adam.

The Second Adam is a HUGE topic that we can’t fully get into right now. But this does further add to the point that men were designed for unique leadership.

Adam’s Failure as a Leader

Read Genesis 3:1-6. Adam, what happened? Here are just a few areas where Adam failed as a leader.

  • Apathy / Severe Complacency: Adam stands nearby yet does not act. The world is about to fall apart and he doesn’t do anything.
  • Self Absorption: He may be just too into what he is doing to notice or care what’s going on around him.
  • Fear: Adam has never had to confront, challenge, stand up to anything, so he may be afraid. As a result, his fear paralyzes him.

Whatever the reason – it was a failure of Leadership. It wasn’t Satan’s fault, Eve’s fault, or God’s fault. It was Adam’s – and he began a “Trophic Cascade” which we still experience the effect of today.

Questions

  1. What has the greatest negative effect on your personal leadership: Apathy, Complacency, Self-Absorption, Fear….something else? Why or How?
  2. Are you convinced you were Divinely designed to exercise leadership? What is your biggest   leadership challenge in the coming year?

Friends and Brothers,

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

 

 

 

The Best Leadership Quotes from the 5LQ Podcast – Barnabas Piper

The Best Leadership Quotes from the 5LQ Podcast – Barnabas Piper

“I have the privilege – and it really is a privilege; that’s not just puffery – to interview top Christian leaders (and some who aren’t Christians but are really good at what they do) on a weekly basis alongside Todd Adkins for the 5 Leadership Questions podcast. I learn an incredible amount from getting to ask questions and converse with these people. Even knowing their credentials and accomplishments I am often blown away by their wisdom, practicality, and insight. Here are some of the best quotes from the first 100 episodes of the podcast.” See the fantastic list here.