The Chain

kaley-dykstra-10484-unsplash
The chain of healthy obedience to Christ goes something like this:
He loves you.
You love Him.
You worship Him.
You serve Him.
You make disciples … who make disciples.
The mission gets accomplished.
If you break the chain, then you will no doubt break the ministry.
If you don’t love Him, you cannot worship Him.
If you don’t worship Him, you cannot serve Him.
If you don’t serve Him, you cannot make disciples.
If you don’t make disciples, the mission will not be accomplished (no matter what else you do).
He loves you … now what?

Sounds Like a Plan

Please, Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and to that of Your servants who delight to revere Your name. Give Your servant success today, and have compassion on him in the presence of this man. [At the time,] I was the king’s cup-bearer. – Nehemiah 1:11
Who is responsible for the success or failure of your plans?
Is it you? Well, you certainly need to do your best and work with all your heart for success.
Is it someone else … like those in authority over you or coworkers or forces beyond your control? Again, I would say yes, you need to be free to work to the best of your ability without interference and enjoy the fruits of your labors.
Fact is, when we succeed, we are usually quick to claim the responsibility, but when we fail we are quicker still to search for someone else to blame. We most often fail because we refuse to take responsibility for our own actions, true leaders accept responsibility, live with the choices they have been given, and make the best of it all realizing that the absence of as plan … and whining … is no plan at all.
Nehemiah faced a difficult task, so he made sure his heart was right with God, put together a plan, submitted it to the Lord, accepted the need to make adjustments, and pressed forward (realizing the risks).
Sounds like a plan.
Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing. – Thomas A. Edison

The Key to Finding Community

So we rebuilt the wall until the entire wall was joined together up to half its [height], for the people had the will to keep working. – Nehemiah 4:6

ian-schneider-66374-unsplash

Many have written about the leadership principles contained in the Book of Nehemiah … including me. And why not? The man did his job well and he did it in obedience to God. For me, one of the clearest examples of Nehemiah’s leadership acumen was seen in the passionate diligence of those who actually did the work. The biblical record indicates that they “had the will to keep working” and did it wholeheartedly as a unit.

So what does the way the people worked have to do with Nehemiah’s leadership? As a leader (and strategist), he allowed each member of the construction “team” to work in an area that held their greatest interest and concern (according to their passion), which included protection of their personal home and family. Of course, individual safety could only be guaranteed if the person working next to you also performed well and this “strategy” created the linkages that bound the unit together. When the work of everyone else has an effect on your success (and the success of the entire project) then you want to encourage the best in one another.

Community (and camaraderie) is often discovered in the areas of common interest we share, but it must also be wrapped in an all-encompassing goal that is bigger than individual concerns. Good leaders see this, capture it, and communicate it for greater effectiveness and success.

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet. – Theodore Hesburgh

What Great Work Demands

So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” – Nehemiah 6:3

rob-walsh-542246-unsplash

Leaders have to make a lot of decisions and often the most important decision a leader must make is between choices that are either good or best. This is further complicated by others’ definitions of these concepts and the leader soon realizes that what is “best” looks different for most people.

For the leader who is seeking to accomplish God’s mission, there is the added influence of our common enemy (the Accuser) to keep him from those activities that truly make a difference. It is here that “busy” often replaces “vital,” ministry is often replaced by program, and the selfish needs of an individual can hinder the effective service of a multitude. Good leaders know how disruptive distractions can be and deftly maneuver through them to remain on task. They understand themselves (weaknesses and strengths), they know their organization, they are bound to achieve God’s purposes, they are aware of the enemy’s tactics of diversion … and they humbly move through inevitable failures that God might always be glorified.

It will never be easy to lead, but great work demands great leadership. Be one.

You can always find a distraction if you’re looking for one. – Tom Kite (professional golfer)

Our Greatest Defense

While he was facing the square in front of the Water Gate, he read out of it from daybreak until noon before the men, the women, and those who could understand. All the people listened attentively to the book of the law. – Nehemiah 8:31

ricardo-gomez-angel-519016-unsplash.jpg

I don’t believe it is possible to have a spiritual awakening apart from an accompanying re-commitment to God’s Word (the Bible). When we read the story of Nehemiah, we may focus on the wall reconstruction (a great accomplishment), but unintentionally gloss over the importance of the spiritual renewal that followed that laborious task.

With great wisdom, Nehemiah realized that even if the new citizens of Jerusalem rebuilt the outer wall, they would also need to rededicate themselves to God’s truth if they truly intended to survive. With this in mind, he brought in Ezra (a respected teacher and spiritual leader) to lead the people back to this necessary foundation.

Woe to the nation that creates great physical defenses, yet forgets to address the moral character of its people. Though it may be protected from the enemy outside, the enemy within will ultimately win the day … and said nation will ultimately perish.

A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Where Does Change Begin?

sydney-rae-408416-unsplash
Where does change begin? We all have those areas of our life that we would like to improve or change (positively). Yet, perhaps we are stuck and can’t seem to “get the ball rolling” in the direction that will get us where we would ultimately like to be.
So … what is the “nudge” we need?
Truth. If a change is truly needed, then it is because we have allowed ourselves to believe a lie and the only way to overcome that lie is with the truth. By taking the initiative to encounter the truth, we confront the lie … and this produces a conflict that must be resolved. Discomfort is the unavoidable characteristic of change. Truly, there is no gain without pain.
Now, you have two choices. Embrace the lie and suppress the truth (harden your heart) so as to produce a false sense of peace (that will destroy) … OR embrace the truth and destroy the lie. If you choose the latter, the work is just beginning and will require a multitude of difficult actions that will take you down the deepening path of truth, wellness, peace, and ultimate victory.
If you choose the former, you will be deceived, but happier … for a time. Unfortunately, a life without absolute truth is just not living.
We cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. – Charles Swindoll

In Need of a Savior

But as soon as they had relief, they again did what was evil in Your sight. So You abandoned them to the power of their enemies, who dominated them. When they cried out to You again, You heard from heaven and rescued them many times in Your compassion. – Nehemiah 9:28
john-torcasio-1150874-unsplash
Does God ever get tired of our cries for help? I think it might be possible (if He could ever get tired), but due to His infinite mercy He will always want us to come to Him with our problems and needs. Two reasons come to mind:
1) When God shows His faithfulness by hearing our cry and meeting our need, our trust in Him grows.
2) When God allows us to endure the consequences of our sin by seemingly ignoring our cry (for a time), then our understanding of His holiness grows.
In either case, we learn to come to Him with our needs and to lean on Him in every moment of our lives. We also grow in our understanding of His character and arrive at a greater knowledge of Him as our only true Savior. Bottom line, we need the Lord and He loves to rescue.
If you were not a sinful, polluted, helpless, and miserable creature, this Savior would not be suited to you, and you would not be comprehended in his gracious invitations to the children of men. – Archibald Alexander