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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

 

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

Jesus the Humble Servant – Leadership Lesson

Jesus the Humble Servant – Leadership Lesson

On January 13, 1982, 74 passengers and 5 crew boarded Air Florida Flight 90 from DC to Fort Lauderdale. They boarded the plane during a snowstorm. The pilot failed to de-ice the wings and moments after take-off the plane plunged into the icy Potomac River. Only 5 people survived. It certainly wasn’t the worst airplane disaster but it gripped national attention to the servant leadership of one man. This man was known as “The Man in the Water.”

Balding, probably in his 50s, an extravagant mustache. He was seen clinging with five other survivors to the tail section of the airplane. This man was described by Usher and Windsor as appearing alert and in control. Every time they lowered a lifeline and floating right to him, he passed it on to another of the passengers. “In a mass casualty, you’ll find people like him,” said Windsor, “But I’ve never seen one with that commitment.” When the helicopter came back for him the man had gone under.

Still, he could never have imagined such a capacity in himself. Only minutes before his character was tested, he was sitting in the ordinary plane among the ordinary passengers.

For at some moment in the water he must have realized that he would not live if he continued to hand over the rope and ring to others. He had to know it, no matter how gradual the effect of the cold. In his judgment he had no choice. When the helicopter took off with what was to be the last survivor, he watched everything in the world move away from him, and he deliberately let it happen.

-Roger Rosenblatt

Just imagine, every time the life ring is dropped, you hand it off to someone you don’t know…serving them but putting your own life at risk.

Thankfully, none of us will have to endure this kind of test. However, every day as leaders we face much smaller yet still important tests of our character. We enter ordinary offices (or) families with ordinary people and then suddenly something goes wrong. Things don’t work out the way you hoped. Someone has to make a sacrifice.

How you react at that moment defines your leadership style. When you’re sitting on the plane or sitting here this morning, you can say whatever you want about your leadership style, but it’s at moments like these; when circumstances force you to display your leadership. That’s when everyone finds out your true leadership character. What characteristic or adjective describes your leadership style?

Jesus’ leadership is best described as “servant leadership”

Jesus’ servant leadership is best summed up by Paul in Philippines 2:3-8.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus….taking on the very nature of a servant.”

“Vainglory” vs. “Humility”: (It’s a Heavy Weight Fight)

In one corner, is vainglory.

(Greek: keno-doxia – empty-praise)

My definition is pride hiding behind virtue.

Jesus tackles vainglory in the sermon on the mount. Turn to Matthew 6:1-18. “Beware” is Jesus’ warning. Don’t be deceived into thinking God applauds your life when you are really living for the applause of others.

3 Gauges to Examine

 1. Giving to the Needy (Matthew 6:2-4)

Jesus illustrates the absurd with the absurd (vs. 2) “When giving to the needy…sound no trumpet before you.” Imagine passing around the offering basket today and as it’s comes down your row, you scramble through your purse in order to pull out your checkbook and trumpet! (Da…ta..da !!) “Thank you! I just dropped in my check.” It’s ridiculous. Yep, and it’s also just as ridiculous to give to needy people in a way which draws attention to yourself.

Jesus offers a solution: “When you give, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” When you give with one hand, don’t pat yourself on the back with your other one. Don’t seek applause from others, don’t even seek applause from yourself.

“Giving to the needy” is not just limited to giving money. It could be about giving your time or talent, but you’re still looking for applause.

Preaching in India was a unique experience for me. For safety reasons they had me wait outside in a truck until it was time for me to come on. When it was time, I preached to a crowd of about 2000 people, but immediately after I was done, for the same safety reasons, they took me away. I walked off the stage, got in a truck, and they drove me away. I was in the back seat of the truck with two guys I had never seen before. Also neither of them spoke English. For an hour we drove through the dark back to the hotel. As a pastor who is so used to getting instant feedback from my congregation, I couldn’t help but keep asking myself, “how’d I do?” I realized how much I hungered for applause. In this case, it would never come.

Jesus tells us to give and not expect applause from others.

2. Prayer (6:5-15)

In the Jewish culture there were set hours each day for prayer. Some people would purposely time it so they would be at a busy intersection when it was time to pray. “O man, how did I end up here at this busy intersection, where everyone can see me pray? Oh well.”

Do you ever pray, and at the end of your prayer you hope someone is impressed with you? Do you see how ridiculous this is? The primary purpose in prayer is to make God’s name great. “Hallowed be your name.” Yet, you use prayer to make your name great. Its vainglory hiding behind virtue.

3. Fasting (6:16-18)

Jesus is observing people using fasting as a way to draw attention to themselves. And again, there has to be laughter here. “Don’t look gloomy – don’t disfigure your face.”

Pharisees fasted twice a week and apparently some wanted to make sure other people knew that they were in the spiritually elite club. They didn’t verbally say anything, but they walked around with gloomy, tired, disfigured faces, in the hopes that someone would ask:

  • “Hey, are you OK?”
  • “Oh surrrre……why do you ask?”
  • “Well, you don’t look so good”
  • “No, I’m fine…well…maybe it’s because I’m FASTING!” “But don’t tell anyone because this is just between me & God”

We all understand what Jesus is trying to uncover. Bragging while hiding behind a virtue. Bragging behind a false humility is so common, it actually has a name now: Humblebrag.

It happens often in the Christian community. It usually contains the word “Bless”

So blessed to be watching the sunset from my balcony in Hawaii.

Pastor’s tweet: “I am truly humbled you follow my tweets. I pray they enrich your life and strengthen your ministry. God bless all 200,000 of you!”

Do you practice your life with Jesus in a way you hope is noticed and applauded by others? Or if not, do you applaud yourself? That’s Vainglory.

In the Other Corner: Servant Leadership.

Jesus became the perfect example of humility when he took on the very nature of a servant.

Humility is not thinking of less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

In 1 Peter 5:5, we are told to “clothe yourselves with humility.” The word “clothe” means to “tie it on”, or “make a knot”, like you would tie an apron. It’s a command to action. Humility is not something you wait for to grow, it doesn’t grow naturally, it must be cultivated. Peter’s instructions are informed by his personal encounters with Jesus. So when Peter says, “Tie humility around your waist like an apron” he must have been thinking of The Last Supper.

Recall Peter and the other 11 disciples in the upper room. As they enter, each one walks right past the foot washing station. As Jesus is trying to discuss with them his coming suffering and death, a long standing dispute breaks out among the disciples: Who will be the greatest? This must have been so painful to watch. As all 12 men are taking hits from the helium tank of pride and puffing themselves up, where is Jesus?

(John 13) Jesus gets up from the table, lays aside his own garments and ties on the towel of a servant. One by one he washes the bloated feet of the disciples. The Creator bends down to serve his own creation.

A day later he hangs on a Cross, handing the ring of life to us while he dies. That is servant leadership.

Questions:

1. The Man in the Water – Where are the places in your ordinary life that your character is tested? What’s challenging about handing the life ring to others rather than taking it yourself?

2. “Vainglory” – Pride hiding behind Virtue. Why is it difficult to detect pride in yourself? Discuss the challenges of living a virtuous life without living for the applause of others. Discuss how men humblebrag.

3. “Humility” – Not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less and less.” Humility is not something you wait for to grow. It doesn’t grow naturally. It must be cultivated. – How do you cultivate Humility?

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips Signiture

 

 

 

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

 

 

“The 4 C’s of Nehemiah’s Leadership” – Leadership Lesson

“The 4 C’s of Nehemiah’s Leadership” – Leadership Lesson

This year we have been traveling through the Bible looking at different leaders. From Adam to Abraham, Moses to King David. The Kingdom was split in two and eventually Israel was taken into exile. -During our last time together, Spence talked about Daniel, a young man who put God first. For our last Old Testament leader, we will look at Nehemiah.

Like Daniel, Nehemiah was in exile. Hserved the King of Babylon. Nehemiah was called by God to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem. He lived around 400 BC, so this was one of the last books of the Old Testament.

Nehemiah is one of my favorite character studies and was an exceptional leader. One reason Nehemiah is accessible as a leader is because there are no overt miracles; no parting of the Red Sea, no visit by an angel, Nehemiah never walks on water. Instead, Nehemiah was a man who had a passion, who worked hard, prayed, encountered criticism and made difficult leadership decisions.

Nehemiah was a regular guy who caught a divine glimpse of what could and should be. Then, he went after it with all his heart. His story is not much different than ours.

4 Key Leadership Components of Nehemiah

1. Concern/Passion: (1:2-4)

Effective leadership begins with an internal concern, some kind of passion to move forward. Nehemiah was so emotionally moved by the report about the condition of his city and his people that he mourned, fasted, and prayed for 4 months.

Passion is the catalyst which catapults you out of passive concern and into action.  Vision begins with a dissatisfaction of what could and should be.

For Passion to have staying power and not just be a desire/dream requires action: 2 specific actions from Nehemiah.

  • First, is prayer. Nehemiah fasted and prayed for 4 months – wrestling with God with his passions.
  • Second, is planning. When the king asks Nehemiah, “What are you requesting,” Nehemiah immediately rips off a list of things he needs.

If God (the King of Kings) asked you, “What are you requesting?” how you would respond? What’s your passion? Have you prayed about it and planned for it?

If you read his response, Nehemiah doesn’t ask for a miracle. (God, you go do something). Nehemiah asks for an opportunity to go build the wall himself!

“Dreamers dream about things being different, leaders envision themselves making a difference. Dreamers think about how nice it would be for something to be done, leaders look for an opportunity to do something.”

Andy Stanley

2. Clarity (2:17)

I love this simplicity. The problem: “We are in trouble and a disgrace. The city is in ruins.” The solution: “Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem”. All good visions should be simple enough to communicate in a sentence or two.

3. Community (Chapter 3)

This is one of the most import chapters in Nehemiah. I counted more than 40 individual names, and more than 10 groups’ names. If you read Chapter 3 in its entirety you will notice one name missing, Nehemiah’s! Chapter 3 is when we really find out Nehemiah is a leader.

“A leader is great, not because of his power but because of his ability to empower others.”

John Maxwell

Nehemiah empowers hundreds of people to rebuild the wall. That’s real leadership!

The currency every great team uses is TRUST. Each member has to trust that the other person on their team will do their part. They must “build their own part of the wall.” A team with not much trust, is dysfunctional.

In this year’s NCAA tournament, how many were screaming for the ball to be in Justin Jacksons hands? After all, he is the ACC Player of the Year. Imagine the trust it must take (which has to be built over time) to hand the ball to a former Walk-On to take the game winning shot!

4. Conflict (4:1-4 & 8)

As soon as they begin building the wall, they encounter conflict. Every worthwhile endeavor will experience conflict. Many times it will be right at the very beginning and you may be easily discouraged.

I have a beautifully hand written letter in my office dated February 2002 – one month before we began CCC. It says, “I feel strongly in my spirit that it’s not God’s Will” for us to start our church.

Much of your leadership success will be based on your skill for navigating conflict and discouragement. Discouragement for your passion can come in many different forms.

Questions

  1. Concern: What concern do you have that catapults you out of passive concern and into action? Do you dream about things being different or do you envision yourself making a difference?
  2. Clarity: What are you about? (yourself, business, church, family….) Is is clear? Could you state it in a sentence or two?
  3. Community: In your leadership do you empower others or are you a Lone Ranger? Can you put the outcome in the hands of someone else?
  4. Conflict: How do you deal with conflict and discouragement?

 

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips Signiture

 

 

 

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

“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

“Jeroboam’s Legacy” – Leadership Lesson

“Jeroboam’s Legacy” – Leadership Lesson

During our last few meetings, we looked at three Kings who ruled over the undivided kingdom of Israel: Saul, David, Solomon. They reigned for 120 years; 1050 to 930 BC.

In 930 BC, the Kingdom splits in two because Solomon does not walk in
God’s ways. The split occurs between the larger Northern Kingdom (Israel)
and the smaller Southern Kingdom (Judah).

(1 Kings 11) Several years prior to his death, Solomon takes notice of a very ambitious worker and promotes him to be in charge of the entire labor force. His name is Jeroboam. One day, Jeroboam has an unusual encounter with the prophet Ahijah. During this encounter, Ahijah takes Jeroboam ‘s cloak and tears it into 12 pieces. Jeroboam is instructed to take 10 of the pieces for himself, which later represents his leadership over the larger territory of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Here are God’s promises to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:37-38):

  • You will rule over all your heart desires
  • You will be king of Israel
  • (If you walk in God’s ways) God will be with you
  • God will build a dynasty as enduring as David’s
  • I will give Israel to you

Imagine how stunned Jeroboam must be. In this one encounter he has been promised more than he could ever imagine.

Fast forward to the end of Jeroboam’s life – I Kings 14

Jeroboam does become king of Israel, yet he drifts away from God. In chapter 14, Jeroboam is in a leadership crisis. His son is ill and his wife is wondering what is going to happen.

Jeroboam remembers the old prophet Ahijah, but his relationship with Ahijah is good, so he sends his wife in disguise.

(I Kings 14:6) – There is no reason for the disguise because Ahijah has gone blind. However, Jeroboam iss right, Ahijah tells him what will happen.

(Read I Kings 14:6-16) Ouch! Jeroboam’s wife must have been just as stunned by the news. Listen to the new set of promises:

  • I will bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam.
  •  Your son will die.
  • God will give up the entire nation Israel and they will be scattered.

Let’s fast forward one more time:

200 years later: The end of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Listen to Jeroboam’s legacy:

  • 2 Kings 17:6: In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
  • 7-8: And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel, hand in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced.
  • 15-16: They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols sand became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them that they should not do like them. And they abandoned all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made for themselves metal images of two calves; and they made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal.
  • 21-23: When he had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. And Jeroboam drove Israel from following the LORD hand made them commit great sin. The people of Israel walked in all the sins that Jeroboam did. They did not depart from them, until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day.

What a legacy. After so much promise, 200 years later, Jeroboam is the one who is blamed as the cause of the entire nation’s destruction.

How does someone start with so much promise yet end in disaster? What Happened? The Answer: Jeroboam blew up like a rocket exploding on a launch pad (Watch video).

Here are 3 Lessons from Jeroboam. (Read 1 Kings 12:26-33)

1. Jeroboam Relied On His Own Wisdom

The Israelites were given very specific instructions on worship. They were to go to Jerusalem (Southern Kingdom of Judah) three times a year & offer sacrifices. Jeroboam was worried they would give their allegiance to their king, Rehoboam, and kill Jeroboam — So (vs. 26) “Jeroboam said in his heart — Thought to himself,”  Jeroboam devised a plan for worship “from his own heart.” No prayer, no outside consultation by the prophet Ahijah. Nope, just Jeroboam and the thoughts of his own heart. This is dangerous.

This reminds me of my old football coach. When I’d mess up, he’d often say, “Phillips, what are you doing?” My response: “Oh, well, I thought…” (SLAPS HELMET) “Phillips, no one is asking you to think!

Now, I don’t think the lesson here is to not think, but Jeroboam exploded on the launch pad because he thought too much of himself instead of inquiring on God.

He drifted from God’s word to his own word. In Deuteronomy 17 there are detailed instructions for Kings, “When the King takes the throne, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law…It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law…”

In addition, he foolishly failed to get wisdom from others. Proverbs 15:22 – “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Leaders, how many leadership mistakes do you make when your holy trinity is me, myself, and I? When you drift away from God’s word and godly advice, you are headed for explosion.

2.When Jeroboam took his focus off God – He traded in faith for fear and was directed by the people and not by God.

(Read 1 Kings 12:27) – Notice how fears and insecurities spill out and paranoia sets in once Jeroboam makes himself the center, “They will give their allegiance to Rehoboam and will Kill Me!”  Jeroboam becomes fearful God might not come through on his promises, so Jeroboam takes matters into his own hands.

Consequently, Jeroboam is driven to do whatever it takes to please the people. The people become the controlling factor instead of God.

Here’s an illustration from the Gospels. Even the bravest follower can become fearful of men.

Peter said to Jesus, “I will follow you, even if it means my own death!” He seemingly has no fear. Then in Matthew 26, all of his confidence quickly drains away in the
face of a servant girl. “Weren’t you with Jesus?” One small voice derails the great apostle. I wonder if one voice has captured your attention. The voice of a girlfriend, boyfriend, boss, spouse, parent, peer – like a snake that has slithered up a tree and whispered in your ear – can you really trust God, perhaps it would be better if you took matters into your own hands?

The Point: Jeroboam explodes on the launch pad because he trusted his heart over God’s word & He feared the people over fearing God.

3. Jeroboam Made a Fundamental Shift in Worship

(Read 1 Kings 12:28-29) “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough…It is too much for you.” In other words, Jeroboam says, “There is no need to make the difficult journey to Jerusalem. I have set up two convenient places for you to worship and even provided a shinny golden experience for you to worship. Then in (vs. 33) Jeroboam creates his own feast.

I want you to see this enormous shift. Through the prophet Ahijah, God had promised to build Jeroboam an everlasting Kingdom, but he must follow after God. Instead, Jeroboam builds a nation which says. “We still want God but we want Him in a way that will be convenient for ourselves. Worship now centers around what is easiest and most convenient for the us.” Can you imagine?

This shift in worship (God-centered to Man-centered) eventually brings down an entire Nation! What a Legacy.

The final point: Jeroboam’s explosion on the launch pad doesn’t just effect
himself or his family, it affects an entire nation, that’s the power of leadership.

Questions

  1. You will leave a legacy, especially if you are a father. If you had to written in one phrase on your tombstone, what would you want it to be? Why?
  2. There were three main reasons Jeroboam exploded on the launch pad:
  • He relied on his own wisdom rather than God’s Word or Godly
    Advice
  • He traded faithfulness for fear. In Jeroboam’s world people were BIG
    & God was small so he was directed by the people rather than God.
  • He had a fundamental shift in Worship. Worship became man-centered
    rather than God-centered. Worship had to be easy and convenient for him.

Talk about these three things and what you can learn from them.

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips Signiture

 

 

 

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

Too busy to read? General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis doesn’t think so.

Too busy to read? General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis doesn’t think so.

Just before Marine Gen. James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis was getting ready to deploy with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force to Iraq in early 2004, one of his colleagues asked him about officers who sometimes found themselves “too busy to read.”

The legendary general carted around a personal library of 6,000 books with him everywhere, and he had plenty to say on the topic. Read the full article here.