We are all busy, there are many things competing for our time and energy. Leadership can be defined as having influence in someone elses life. If you have faith in Jesus Christ you are also a spiritual leader, because now you are an ambassador for God. The influence we have with people, whether it’s at work, home, school or church is often a reflection on what daily habits we have.
Jesus gave us a great example of things we can do to stay focused on the right things and keep the right perspective on life. It’s easy to drift and be consumed by the day to day activities of life unless we develop these essential habits. So here are five things we can observe in the life of Jesus that can contribute to our development of faith, character and leadership.
I hope these are habits that become a normal part of your life. I encourage you to take small steps toward applying these habits into your daily, weekly and monthly routines. If you do it will transform your leadership and your relationships.
One of my favorite books is found in the Bible in the Old Testament. It’s the book of Nehemiah. It’s a story about a man that led a movement to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, a city that had been destroyed and in ruins for many years.
The reason I like this story so much is because it demonstrates how much can be done when a person works hard and involves God.
Here are three simple life lessons from the story of Nehemiah, I hope you will take the time to read his story:
Nehemiah’s story is amazing and well worth reading. Read it here – Nehemiah
One of my heroes is Nehemiah. His story is found in the Bible and it’s loaded with leadership and spiritual principles. Nehemiah was a Jewish man living in Persia after the Persian empire had taken over Jerusalem and exiled the Jewish people. Slowly over a 90 year period the Jewish people were traveling the 800 miles back to Jerusalem and were trying to rebuild that great city.
Nehemiah had an important and prestigious job as the cup bearer to the king. He found out that the rebuilding process in Jerusalem was not going well and they were struggling to make it. Mainly it was because the walls around the city had been torn down and that left them vulnerable to the people around them. Nehemiah had a great concern about the walls of his beloved city. The rest of the story is how he went about rebuilding the walls.
Here are some of my takeaways:
Wall rebuilding then…. Wall rebuilding now:
Ancient walls served many purposes. They offered Protection, Security, and reflected the strength of the people.
Likewise, today the walls of spiritual disciplines that we build around our lives are vital for our Protection and for building our relationship with God.
We need to examine the condition of our walls.
Are some gates open for the enemy to slip in?
Has neglect allowed a loose piece of stone or mortar to become a hole or a gap?
Have weeds of compromise overrun certain sections until those toppled walls have become a main entrance for sin?
If your walls are in need of repair lets take a look at some principles from Nehemiah.
First: Develop a genuine concern for the condition of the walls.
Is it a burden on your heart? We must have a genuine concern for the condition of our spiritual lives. If spiritual growth is not important it will take a back seat to all the more important stuff in our lives. The spiritual walls we have in our lives keep us focused on the best things and growing in our trust of God.
Second: Express direct prayer for guidance and protection.
Nehemiah started 800 miles away in prayer before the Lord. Prayer tends to be an afterthought many times. It should be the first thing we do. Get into the habit of acting on your burdens only after you have given them a firm foundation in prayer. Prayer is a privilege and God is available at all times. We have access to the only one that controls everything.
Third: Face the situation honestly and with determination until the task is finished.
If we are upfront and honest about a problem we usually can get more of a commitment from the people around us. An honest appraisal of your own spiritual walls will help you stay determined to fill the gaps. We all know were we tend to struggle and where we are allowing things to influence us in a negative way. If your unsure then ask the people that are closest to you for honest feedback.
Fourth: Recognize that we cannot correct the condition alone.
No amount of experience can overcome sin’s power to crumble our walls. It is only when we are willing to live in dependence on God that we have the power to fix and build the spiritual walls we need for survival. If we are serious about making changes in our spiritual lives then allowing other people to speak into our lives is vital. Pray for someone that can hold you accountable by asking tough questions and then pray for courage to be open and honest.
Breezes instead of wind gusts usually knock us down. We get lulled into neglecting our walls. We drift from God and allow other things to take priority in our lives. Slowly we stray away and can find ourselves lost, stuck or alone.
Pray for God’s help in recognizing those subtle breezes in your life that are causing you to drift into moral compromises.
What area of your spiritual wall needs repairs or strengthened?
Are you faithful in all areas of your life? At work, At home, At play?
Take some time soon to think about the condition of your own walls and then follow Nehemiahs example and rebuild them as needed.
God has a way of surprising and inspiring us in the most unexpected ways. I am on a weekend retreat for men that run Radical Mentoring Groups. I’ve done three of these groups and love it each time I do a group. I’m meeting up with over 100 other men that are doing these types of groups across the country. We are gathering in Cleveland GA, which is north of Atlanta near the mountains.
When I arrived I discovered that I had some extra time before the retreat started, so I decided to drive up into the mountains and do some sight seeing. I found a park area and decided to do a little hiking. The weather was sunny and near 50 degree’s. For people in GA that’s really cold but for me it was perfect. I was the only one at the park and had the trails to myself.
I decided to do some running and got my heart rate up as I climbed up to an amazing waterfall. I then turned around and headed back another way and found a second waterfall. As I was there I started talking to God and asked him why I was here and had this extra time. Then it hit me hard – God was telling me he loved me! As I stood in the middle of this amazing wooded area I was struck by God’s goodness and was humbled at the gift he gave me of free time to just enjoy his creation and talk with him. The sense of how much he loved me stopped me in my tracks.
I asked him what else he wanted to tell me and I heard some simple things, here they are:
So that’s the start of this retreat, I can’t wait for the rest of the weekend. I am anticipating that God has something more for me this weekend.
Last week I attended a Night of Worship at the Dover campus of NewPointe Community Church. I am a pastor at one of the other campuses, so it was nice for me to just be a regular guy attending and worshiping. I have to admit I went to see if I could get some ideas on how to make our worship event better the following week. As I got there and walked in I connected with a few people I know, but was pretty anonymous and slipped into a seat about a third of the way up. As the music started I sang, prayed and even raised my hands throughout the evening. I was also critiquing some of what was happening, making note of things I would do differently and things that I liked.
Then God did something unexpected. I don’t remember the exact time during the service or what song we were singing, but I heard God say “Don’t Eat!” I have to admit I was a little startled and confused. I asked God if that was from Him and if I heard him right. I heard it again “Don’t Eat!” That same morning in the church service I sat in on at my campus our senior pastor had mentioned the idea of Fasting as a spiritual discipline. I have fasted before with other people and by myself. I have given up TV, sports, coffee, food, meat and movies. Yet this time was different because God was telling me not to eat.
So I didn’t eat any food for the next three days. Each day I talked to God and when I asked if I could eat I heard “not yet”. During those three days, I was hungry and even felt some hunger pains. Yet each time I thought about being hungry I immediately connected with God and talked to Him. I felt such an inner peace and strength that seemed to get stronger each day. This three day fast reminded me how much I take food for granted. I don’t have to wonder where or when my next meal will come from. I can eat anytime I want and eat anything I want. Yet I am not all that grateful for what I have.
It’s the same way spiritually. God is with us all the time, we can talk to him anytime and ask for anything. Yet too often we take that for granted and only turn to him when things go wrong or we need something. Those three days of eating reminded me that I need God 24/7. That when I am connected to him the temptations are less powerful, the way I respond to things is much better and I make better decisions.
Psalm 63:1 says “God you are my God. I search for you. I thirst for you like someone in a dry, empty land where there is no water.” When I read that I had to admit that I do not pursue God like I would pursue water if I had none. Am I really hungry for God, desperate to know him more and more?
Jesus said this in Mathew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
When push comes to shove, what is most important to me? What takes priority?
God doesn’t need people to evangelize the earth, do missions projects or give away millions of dollars. He looks for people who will worship him in spirit and truth. Not just on Sunday mornings or whenever our day of rest is. God wants people who will worship him in the way they live. God made us to worship and every day we worship something.
When I hunger and thirst for God and seek him with all my heart, I get a glimpse of how much he loves me. As I grow, I understand a little bit better the depth of that love. God’s love for me never changes, yet as I change and grow, I get a clearer perspective of God, the world around me and the people in it.
That all came as a result of hearing two words from God and then obeying him. What would happen if we would listen to God all the time and really trust him with everything? What would happen if we did what he told us to do? What if we would follow his commands and live our lives fully surrendered to him?
On Thursday morning I woke up and knew I could eat again. The granola with Almond milk tasted better than ever before. I was grateful for the food I had in the house and once again my mind turned to God and his provision and care for me. I had a good day with my wife and got some time to rest and relax.
Then on Saturday something happened that I almost missed. It’s easy to just write things off as weird or a coincidence. I was bored and was flipping through the television, looking to escape into a movie or something entertaining before the Buckeyes came on that evening. We all know that there are lots of unwholesome things on television and I can get drawn into movies or shows that have too much sex, violence and bad language in them them. As I was searching, the smoke detector in the room beside be would beep from time to time. I thought that was odd, but dismissed it because I figured it just needed new batteries. I ended up watching a movie that was not the best choice.
I told my wife afterward about the smoke detector and as I was telling her I realized the smoke detector is hard wired and does not use batteries. It has not beeped since then. Then it hit me, was God warning me, trying to get my attention and help me avoid temptations. Then this verse came to my mind in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
I wish I had that power I felt when I was fasting all the time. If only I had paid closer attention to that warning, I could have fed my mind with something much better. I don’t always turn to God even when he is right in front of me. I guess that is the human side of us, yet God’s love never changes and he sees me as his beloved son even when I miss the way he gives me to escape temptations.
I am excited about what God is doing in me and who he wants me to become. The more I seek him and hunger after him the more he can use me to impact and influence other people. The more I listen and pay attention and then obey what he is telling me the more fruitful my life will become. We are all in process and when we allow God to drive and we trust him amazing things can happen.
Here are four ways develop your character:
Developing your character takes courage to face your strongholds, habits and hang-ups. It’s hard to do but the rewards are huge. Lead on.
This week I met with my older brother Brian for lunch. We don’t get to spend much time together anymore so it was nice to meet with him and talk about what is going on in his life. He is facing some big life-changing things like starting his own business, being an empty nester and getting involved in ministry at his church.
As we talked, I could see and hear how much God has been working in his life. He has grown more in the last two months than he had for the last several years. God really has gotten a hold of him and he is following God with all his heart. As I heard him talk about how close he felt to God I got to thinking about how many people aren’t experiencing that kind of relationship with God. Brian includes God in every decision and won’t make a move without hearing from God. He works hard at what he knows he should be doing and waits on God for things he is unsure of.
So here are a few keys I learned from Brian to growing our faith:
I have been reading a couple of books on the subject of prayer. Both are very good, one is an older book originally written in 1937 by Oswald Chambers called “If You Will Ask”. I am reading the 1989 edition. I am also reading a new devotional book by Mark Batterson called “Draw the Circle”. Both have inspired me and challenged me. I find myself praying differently, more often and more boldly. There are so many take-aways I could share, but I want to focus on one part of Chambers book entitled The Submission of Life.
He starts the chapter with this: “We are not built for ourselves, but for God. Not for service for God, but for God. That explains the submission of life.” Submission is one of the most difficult things to do and yet one of the most powerful things we can do. It seems odd that submission is powerful, but with true submission comes peace, unity and rightness with God. Chambers goes on to say this: “God is not concerned about our aims. He does not say, “Do you want to go through this bereavement, this upset?” He allows these things for his purpose. We may say what we like, but God does allow the devil, He does allow sin, He does allow bad men to triumph and tyrants to rule, and these things either make us fiends or they make us saints. It depends entirely on our relationship with God. If we say, “Your will be done,” we get the tremendous consolation of knowing that our Father is working everything according to His own wisdom. If we understand what God is after, we shall be saved from being mean and cynical.”
God isn’t checking in with us to see if his plan is ok. God sees all things and knows all things, therefore he knows what is best and how to work all things for good. When we fully submit to his will we can stop worrying about everything in the world around us and focus on how we are responding to the things in our lives. We can look to what God wants to do in us. Listen to what else Chambers says:
“The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, nobler men and women, or they are making us more captious, more insistent on our own way. We are either getting more like our Father in heaven, or we are getting more mean and intensely selfish. How are we behaving ourselves in our circumstances? Do we understand the purpose of our life as never before? God does not exist to answer our prayers, but by our prayers we come to discern the mind of God, and that is declared in John 17:22 “That they may be one just as We are one.” Am I as close to Jesus as that? God will not leave me alone until I am.”
When I read that I said Wow outloud. Prayer is really about getting to know God, becoming more intimate with him and understanding his heart. The more we pray the more we change. God wants to be one with us, but that can only happen if we submit to His will and His ways. The more time spent in prayer the more clear our purpose in life becomes. What would happen if we would start praying for God’s will to be done in our lives, for us to become one with Him and see as He sees and think as He thinks. What would happen if we would do what He says and be obedient to His will. God’s will is that we become one with Him as Jesus was one with Him. To become more like Him in all our ways.
This past week my friend and mentor Jim Mason turned 88 years old. I have gotten to know Jim over the past 10 years. I have had the privilege of serving with Jim in the Pastoral Care ministry at NewPointe Community Church. Jim is a retired pastor having served many Free Methodist churches over the past 40 plus years. Jim also served his country in WWII. He has shared some incredible stories with me about the war, pastoring a church, loving his family and his wife.
Jim is one of the most godly men I know. He is also the most humble man I know. I have had the honor of seeing him serve his family in times of crisis. I have gone to the hospital with him to call on sick people. I was amazed at his compassion and how he interacted with the nurses and staff. They loved him and many of them knew him.
He has been through some real hardships in his life, but through everything, he has kept a strong faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
He lost his wife last year and once again I was amazed at his level of compassion and faith. He served her through those hard days and never blamed God. He recently shared with me the final moments he had with her before she passed away. He has been an inspiration to me and has challenged me to be a better man, pastor, husband and child of God.
At 88 years old Jim continues to serve at church. He is in our prayer room every Sunday for all three services. He prays for every prayer request that comes in over the weekend. He writes letters and calls people that are struggling and hurting. He goes and visits people as much as possible. He stops in my office once or twice a week and always encourages me. He also encourages most of the other staff members as well. We pray together and talk about how we can help more people through the prayer/care ministry.
He also is passing on to his family a legacy that will out live him for decades. Jim I love you and appreciate your friendship, thanks for being a great example to me and others. Thanks for your obedience to Christ and your humble servant spirit. I know your rewards in heaven will be great.
My favorite book in the Old Testament is Nehemiah. This is an incredible story that is packed with wisdom, leadership principles and examples on how to live life and get things done. Nehemiah had a good life, he was comfortable, had a good job, made plenty of money, had influence with his boss and was well respected by many. Things were good, until God revealed to him the situation his home town was in. His home town was Jerusalem, and it was a mess and the people that were trying to rebuild it were under attack and being taken advantage of.
When Nehemiah heard what was going on he was deeply troubled and impacted. He was never the same again. He felt deep compassion for the people and their situation. But he did more than just feel for them, he immediately began fasting and praying for how he could make a difference.
I love that about Nehemiah. He started by seeking God with all his heart. He focused fully on God by fasting and not getting distracted from praying for this situation. He did this for months, before God opened up an opportunity for him to make a difference. What I really love about Nehemiah was that during those months of praying and fasting, he also began to make plans. He thought about what it would take to go and help the people that were in Jerusalem. He put a plan together and began gathering resources and thinking through what it would take.
What I take away from that, is that we need to pray and seek God with all our hearts. We also need to continue to work hard and make plans while we seek God. If we do both of those, God will open up the doors to help make things happen. It may be as simple as giving you favor with your boss, like he did for Nehemiah. When Nehemiah got that chance to go, he had a plan on how to get there.
Has God put a burden on your heart? Are you deeply concerned for a person, a family, a people group, a country, a leader? If you are, then start fasting and praying for them. Also start making plans on how you can make a difference. Maybe it is building a better relationship, maybe it is doing some research, maybe it is giving some money, maybe it is writing a letter, maybe its getting involved in your church. Whatever that burden is, pray and make plans, be ready when God gives you that opening.
If you have not read Nehemiah lately, I suggest you read it. Nehemiah didn’t complain about what was going on around him, he did something about it.