Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah

Is there anything weighing on you today? Are there concerns in your heart that perhaps keep you awake in the night? How about problems that you want to keep private, but perhaps if a trustworthy person could see through you and ask confidentially what’s going on, you might just open up?

I’ve got a troubling situation eating at me. It has kept me up at night. The options in dealing with this situation are unpleasant. Relationships are at stake and there are potentially harsh impacts to some people no matter the current apparent solution.

Through much practice and learning from many mistakes in the past, I’m in a better habit of noticing these situations and quickly giving them over to God. I don’t pray specifically for him to fix it, I pray for him to take this burden from me. To reveal himself for his glory. To guide my heart. To remind me that the problems of this world are not mine to worry about. To forgive me for trying to control a situation on my own and for my worry.

The ensuing peace after this time in prayer is indescribable. We have a king, a father, who loves us, who knows our hearts and wants us to go directly to him with our troubles. He doesn’t want us to try to hide our problems or for us to worry, he wants us to make him lord of all things in our lives. And we can do this because he has proven himself worthy over and over again.

Today’s reading: Nehemiah 2

Nehemiah was a servant to the king. The time period is believed to have been around 444 BC.

In today’s reading, Nehemiah was suffering from deep sadness that he could no longer contain. As the king becomes aware of Nehemiah’s sadness, Nehemiah becomes fearful.

Why fear? Wouldn’t we want someone to know of our sadness and inquire as to what is going on? Well, not exactly in this case. It was against policy to show sadness in the king’s presence, and further as we learn in Esther 4:11, one could be put to death for approaching the king without being summoned.

Like our God and King, the king in Nehemiah 2 could have responded harshly, however he responded with love, grace, and mercy. The king listened and responded and responded favorably to Nehemiah’s requests.

Learning from Nehemiah’s examples:

  1. Nehemiah used his position of power (favor from the king) to serve God rather than himself. What opportunities are before us today where we could choose to serve Jesus rather than ourselves?
  2. While Nehemiah does convey that he was fearful, he also faces the fear with boldness in God’s name. Who and what can we fear when we know that God has it all in his hands? Nothing!
  3. Nehemiah appeared to have been prepared when he was given the opportunity to ask the king for a favor. We must always be prepared in the name of Jesus. “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15)
  4. Nehemiah attributes to God what should be attributed to God. How often do we praise ourselves or fail to acknowledge God when we see victory? “And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” (Nehemiah 2:8b)
  5. Nehemiah called people to action (again using his power to serve God) and they followed. I believe they followed him because he stayed close to God, he proved himself worthy of being a leader, he was committed to the cause, and he was able to articulate the mission to the people as a matter of logic and heart.
  6. When facing opposition, Nehemiah boldly relied on God’s promises. Again, fearlessness and proving to be a leader worthy of following.

Father God, we seek your wisdom today. Give us the courage and the words to proclaim the truth about who you are and why we serve you. Give us also the wisdom to keep silent when we should just listen instead of talking. Help us to become better leaders and better followers, in your son Jesus’ name and for your glory. Amen.

Angels We Have Heard..in Brooklyn??

In July of 2017, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip doing street ministry with Spread Truth. This was something I had never done before and stretched my comfort zone. Our first day was on parks where you are typically approaching people that are seated, and let’s just say the first guy we approached was about as rude and mean as you could be and I thought to myself..”well…it can’t get any worse than that. It can only get better, so let’s move on and go to the next one!” The rest of the day resulted in some great conversations where the Holy Spirit was at work. Day 2 was a different assignment standing on the sidewalks in the streets of Brooklyn as people passed. To say we were off to a rough start was an understatement. For nearly an hour we could not get anyone to even stop to talk to us as they busily hurried to wherever they were headed. We were very discouraged to say the least, and then came a conversation with Thomas King, a name and an interaction I will never forget.

Thomas, who we later would learn was age 93, was standing by a bench, and we approached him to hopefully tell him the Gospel and change his life..instead…he changed ours. He encouraged us immediately and told us to look at the faces of every person that walked by. He said they were all filled with stress, anxiety, and worry…he said, “What they all need is Jesus!” If they would just remember and lean on the words of Isaiah 26:3, they would not be so troubled. He then told us the words of this verse from memory..

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 26:3

Not only did this emotional pep talk fire us up like a coach before a big game to remind us that people needed what we had and we had to go back out there and push through the rejection, challenges, and disappointments we had experienced and tell them about what they truly needed….which was Jesus, but it was also a great reminder that fear, anxiety, and stress all come from selfish thoughts and concerns about ourselves. 1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” When we are focused on Him and his perfect love for us given on the cross and we know His love shown in this way means we will spend eternity in Heaven with Him and that is all that really matters, we will be in “perfect peace” as Isaiah 26:3 says.

It’s hard to describe our feelings as Thomas captured our hearts and minds with his words of wisdom. Sadly though, Thomas told us than many younger than him, including his church, did not listen. He told us he was recently recognized by his church for his years of membership there, but they would not give him the opportunity to speak when he asked. This saddened me because not only did it disappoint Thomas, but his words had so much impact on us that we did not want him to stop speaking and others would be missing out on his wisdom. Job 12:12 says, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”  How many times do we miss out on the opportunity to learn from our elders by not asking them or not listening to them and discounting their credibility which should be gained, not lost, with age?

Hebrews 13:2 reads, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” I don’t know if Thomas was an angel, but I do know that his words cut sharp like a knife at exactly the right time when we needed it and reminded us that what we were doing was not about us and we needed to re-direct our fear to focus on Jesus and His perfect love which every person who walked by needed. As we head into 2019, we hope and pray that it will bring us many blessings, but it will undoubtedly also will bring us challenges. Let’s commit to being prepared to face those trials because our minds will be fixed on Him and His perfect love, and we will trust in Him which will give us “perfect peace.” We have faith He will give us exactly what we need when we need it..just like He gave us Thomas King.

Do Not Worry


Today’s Readings: 1 Chronicles 24-25, 1 Peter 5, Micah 3, Luke 12

On Friday I spent the day in Chicago eagerly hunting Black Friday deals. I made a plan, packed protein snacks, skipped the coffee so I wouldn’t have to pee and made a map. Not just a map of the city but a map of deals. To say that I was caught up in the materialism of the season is an understatement. I invited a close friend to join me in my quest, which resulted in an honest conversation about money. Not just having or not having money but the fear associated with our need for wealth in order to feel secure. We live in an economy of plenty. Many of us are driven by worry to work more and more in order to achieve that level of financial security that will make us feel safe. In reality, that threshold of safety really doesn’t exist. The more successful we are, the more fear we have of losing that assurance. In today’s readings we hear from Luke on God’s provision in our lives. I love, love, love this scripture. I love it because I’ve lived its power and truth in our family life. Here it is:

“And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” Luke 12:22-31

 I know, it’s long but every word of that scripture is so important, we need to read it all! Jesus is telling us that there will never be “enough” money for us to feel secure. No matter how much money we make it will never feel like enough. Instead, Jesus tells us to seek his kingdom…and these things will be added to you. That is so significant! Why? Because Jesus is telling us that if God’s kingdom is your ultimate goal, not wealth or security, then you have total assurance that your goal will be met. When you feel that assurance, really believe in His promise you will recognize that the money you make is actually enough. That God is providing for your needs, every single day.

When I prepare to write each week, I read the commentary from my three different study bibles. While studying Luke this week, I copied down part of the notes from my NIV Bible into my journal. It’s sort of an action list for managing worry in a biblical way. I’m praying that it reaches someone that is reading today that doesn’t know how they will afford tomorrow. Someone that may not be able to buy gifts for Christmas, or may not be receiving a gift because of financial burden. Here it is:

Overcoming worry requires:

  1. Simple trust in God, your heavenly Father. This trust is expressed by praying to Him rather than worrying.
  2. Perspective on your problems. This can be gained by developing a strategy for addressing and correcting your problems.
  3. A support team to help. Find some believers who will pray for you to find wisdom and strength to pray for your worries.

NIV Life Application Study Bible pg. 1698

 I believe that the power in Bible Journal is our willingness to be vulnerable as authors by sharing our testimony. I’m writing to you each week from my heart. I said earlier that I love this scripture because I’ve lived its power. Just 5 months ago our family was in a position in which we didn’t know quite how we would afford tomorrow. Our son was very sick; he needed me to be with him for an extended time in the hospital. We didn’t know when I could go back to work, and we didn’t know who would care for our girls. It was you, the authors and readers of Bible Journal that lifted us up and held us in that time. You were our support team to help. You were the believers that prayed for us and found wisdom and strength when we couldn’t muster it ourselves. And of course, through you, God provided for Oliver’s needs and the needs of our family. We’ll never be able to thank you enough.

As we begin a new week and welcome December, I’m praying that we can take stock of our life and ask ourselves, are the things I’m worried about genuine needs? Are they comparable to the things that the poor and hungry need? If not, then actively work toward letting those worries go. God does provide.

The Fear of the Lord

Today’s reading has three verses referencing a fear of the Lord. That made me wonder if I actually fear him, so as an exercise to help me think about what it means to fear something, I brainstormed on a few things that I actually do fear: falling off the edge of a cliff (even though I’m nowhere near the edge), ladders, electricity, clowns, extreme turbulence, diving into shallow water, and lack of preparation. Some irrational fear in there but some healthy fear as well.

Deuteronomy 22; Psalms 110–111; Isaiah 49; Revelation 19

He provides food for those who fear him;
    he remembers his covenant forever. (Psalm 111:5)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever! (Psalm 111:10)

And from the throne came a voice saying,
“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
small and great.” (Revelation 19:5)

I’ve come to view the word fear in these verses to be reverence as opposed to a common “fear” of something we might want to run away from. For example, I don’t fear a hot stove, but I have a healthy respect for its intended use and corresponding dangers when misused. In what ways do I reflect a lack of fear (reverence) in the Lord? What does fearing the Lord look like? How is this wise?

Creating the table below was a great exercise to challenge my thinking and behaviors. Each of the earthly focused items are all too near to the way that I live, so creating this table reminded me of my current focus and where it needs to be.

My earthly focus disrespects, dishonors, or demonstrates a lack of fear of God when I… My eternal focus demonstrates fear or reverence for God when I… The wisdom…
Blatantly disobey to feed my own desire. If it feels good, I do it! Obey his commands, even when I don’t want to. Die to self. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38)
Keep on sinning. He’ll forgive me right? Choose to give up a recurring sin and remember the price that Jesus paid for me to be forgiven. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
Put my trust in wealth, power, and pleasure. I choose the lies that the world tries to tell me. Put my trust in Godly things. His word, guidance from the Holy Spirit, his mercy through Jesus. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy (Psalm 111:7)
Seek “what’s in it for me” in this relationship. Meet someone new and contemplate how I can share the love of Jesus with them. Pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit so as to make Jesus known. Share what a difference Jesus has made in my life. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
Try to speed through the week to get to the weekend for some fun! Slow down. Rest. Live in the moment. Thank God for each new day, for the little things. Live in prayer and set aside time for the reading of scripture. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. (Mark 6:31)
Worry about the future; my job, family, and finances. Give it all up to God. He’s got it!!! He may not give me what I think I want, when I want it, but he’s in control and that’s that! Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)


Taking Thoughts Captive

Today’s reading: Leviticus 1; John 20; Proverbs 17; Philippians 4

March 30th, 2016

Taking thoughts captive

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. – Philippians 4:4–8

Here Paul tells us to be careful (or filled with care or worry) for nothing; but to turn such thoughts over to God in prayer with thanks. Then Paul gives us another, what I like to call, ultimate checklist on what we are supposed to be filled with. The sort of things we are supposed to let occupy our mind. Things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy.

Thoughts are curious things. They tend to breed more of themselves. If we think on things that are dark, such thoughts beget more darkness. Have you ever heard the saying ‘when it rains, it pours’ in referring to life’s circumstances? Knowing the truth from God’s word, I wonder if this saying is actually a saying of thoughts rather than of circumstances? Instead let us abide in the word of God and think on things that are light, and let the light shine forth and produce a perfect day.

But the path of the just is as the shining light, That shineth more and more unto the perfect day. – Proverbs 4:18

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; – 2 Corinthians 10:5

Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

May God show us the truth and give us the fortitude to count our blessings in abundance when the deceiver would have us think there are none. Amen.