Verse 1&2 of chapter 23 in Joshua read like this: “A long time afterward, when the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their surrounding enemies, and Joshua was old and well advanced in years, Joshua summoned all Israel…” Knowing his life on earth was near its end, Joshua takes one last stand as the great leader of Israel and calls together a meeting of the people to take them on a trip down memory lane. As I read these verses I wondered what “rest” would have looked like for Joshua and the people of Israel? I can imagine that they began to settle in and build for themselves a home, a place were they could raise their families, establish their crops and get busy with life.
Even today we may find the same type of “rest”; we can become complacent with life, we can develop a sense of comfort within the day-to-day happenings and lose sight of where we have been and maybe even forget where we are heading. Like Joshua we need to take hold of the opportunities once and a while to look back on how God has been faithful to us in the past. We need to reflect not only on the good things in life but the things that were hard and how as a church or individual we have grown through those experiences.
Moving forward Joshua reminded the people of Israel that they needed to “fear the Lord, and serve Him with all faithfulness”. (24:14). Joshua challenged their faith and they responded by pledging to faithfully serve the Lord. This is my job; this is every leaders job in the church today, we must be taking our cues from men like Joshua. We must be marching forward serving the Lord and serving others so they might know who writes our story. We like the Israelites have to be reminded to serve with all faithfulness in obedience to the Lord’s commands.
Imagine for a minute the weight of the responsibility Joshua had to face in distributing the land among the twelve tribes. I often face adversity when having to referee my three girls as they protect their own space between their bedrooms and best places to play around the house. Joshua and the Israelites made it to a point where they could see beyond the major battles and conquests and begin to settle into the land that was promised to them through their fathers. I wonder about the disputes that happened between the people as the land was divided up, how many decisions would have been appealed because someone didn’t get a Dead-Sea view or beach access along the Mediterranean shores.
There is a certain amount of curiosity inside my mind that wants to see a picture of how Joshua approached this task. What did the planning documents look like, how did he select the land and why did the people listen to him. One of the things that I pick up on as I read between the lines of the awkward pronunciations of the names of the tribes, clans and cities is that Joshua is receiving his plans from God, He is orchestrating the whole event. God through Moses and Joshua had designed the plan for inheritance by direct order and some through the casting of lots.
Joshua’s dependence on God for direction in every area of this journey is inspiring, his faith in trust for protection as they battled, his kindness and patience as he distributed the land and his commitment to keeping the people on track with God is something to be desired as leaders. Joshua was a successful leader because of his faith in God. At the end of the day, at the end of my time it would be my hope and prayer that someone could write the same about me… Steve was a great leader because of his faith in God, not because it’s about me but because it is all about God.
Before I jump in and try and understand how Joshua built and managed the vast groups and teams entrusted to him I have to comment on his calling and direction from the Lord. Chapter one of Joshua outlines the commissioning of Joshua. After the death of Moses the Lord speaks directly to Joshua giving him instructions to move forward and take the people into the land that was promised to them. Joshua had a huge task before him and He knew that the Lord was with him just as he promised to Moses before him.
As Joshua assumes command over the entire nation of people he depends on the partnership of the officers and leaders and to help communicate the instructions handed down from the Lord for their journey ahead. Fitting into the shoes of one of the greatest leaders before him, Joshua had to be strong and courageous, a command given to him over and over at the start of his journey. As a leader it would have been music to his ears to hear the people respond as they did in verse seventeen of chapter one “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.
Joshua does not magically appear out of nowhere to become the new leader, he has apprenticed alongside Moses first quietly behind the scenes then becoming a commander of the army and his right hand man. Joshua had earned the respect of the people and I think that was one of the key factors in his success as a leader, aside for his own trust in the Lord. As I learn more about how God has been working in my life I see how he has been doing the same work in my life as he did in Joshua’s. As I continue to grow into leadership apprenticing with a strong leader and man of God it is my hope and prayer that I can gain the trust and respect that will help lead the way to building the Kingdom of God as God has called me to.
Nehemiah completes the building of the wall and puts into place leaders that he feels are competent to carry on with the duties of caring for and maintaining the structure he has put in place. He returns to his post in serving the king of Babylon and later returns back to Jerusalem to check in with his leaders. Although I am sure the wall around the city was in good shape I don’t think Nehemiah felt the same way about what was happening inside the city, the appointed priest has setup shop a nice place for his buddy to stay in one of the storerooms. The Levites and the singers were left to their own resources and fled from the temple so they could survive. Last but not least they people had broken their promise to keep the Sabbath holy.
I put myself in Nehemiah’s place for a moment and felt like banging my head against the wall. All the time, effort and love Nehemiah poured out to rebuild the city and the people seemed to be slipping away again. I like what Nehemiah does next, he doesn’t just give his head a shake and walk away, he takes the “bull by the horns” and starts to clean house. He evicts the illegal tenant from the temple storehouse, he set straight the division of the tithes and offerings, pulls the Levites and the singers back to their rightful place and threatens the people with the “smack down” if they don’t return to observing and respecting the Sabbath.
Nehemiah took direct action in dealing with the problems; he put new leaders in place to help fix the situations. Nehemiah always surrounded himself with others when he needed something done; he built a team around him that allowed him to make the necessary changes. At the beginning of Nehemiah’s story we know that he spent much time in prayer asking for God’s direction and I have no doubt that he did them same at the end of the story. As I walk away from this story I am better equipped through Nehemiah’s actions as a leader to face the challenges ahead of me as I grow.
The beginning verses of Nehemiah chapter five are filled with outcries from the people who were poor and suffering with hunger, the loss of land and having their children taken into slavery; all these sufferings were for the benefit of wealth and notoriety of the nobles and officials. Verse six gives us Nehemiah’s emotional response, “When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry.”
These events and the emotions pushed Nehemiah beyond just building the wall, Nehemiah had to stop and manage his team “So I called together a large meeting to deal with them” (vrs.7b). Nehemiah became aware of the problem and dealt with it, he didn’t shrug it off and return to the project at hand, he took action. Nehemiah had compassion towards the people and did his part to make things right.
Nehemiah had the opportunity to become one of the elite, he could have let his powerful position control his actions but he chose to honor God by not following in the footstep of those before him. Nehemiah models for us a great leadership quality that helped cultivate more loyalty from the people than the few that could have been in his close circles. Nehemiah’s relationship with God was the first priority and focus and through that he was able to rise up from a cupbearer to the king to a prominent leader among the people of Israel.
Passion for God, Compassion for People. This statement is a wonderful short summary of our mission and vision as a church in Departure Bay. Reading through the chapters of Nehemiah inspires me and encourages me to have the same passion for God and the same compassion for people as Nehemiah did.
As I read through Nehemiah’s account in chapter three of the designated tasks for the rebuilding of the wall I can’t help but wonder about the organizational “spreadsheet” he had to keep track of all the work and the workers. The rebuilding of the wall was a massive undertaking and like many of our modern day projects came up against opposition, questions, doubt and logistical issues.
Even though chapter three reads like one of the many tiring genealogies in scripture to me it was encouraging. Look beyond the wall and the gates, what else was going on? I see a picture of unity and support throughout these verses, there are priests and leaders coming together with their brothers and getting their hands dirty in the construction of the gates and walls. We see sons and daughters working along side their fathers to complete their tasks. Banding together through the provisions the Lord had provided through Nehemiah the people completed the project in 52 days.
I have never been a part of a massive building project but have had the opportunity to be involved with projects that have required a team of people to come together and work side by side to accomplish their goal. When I relate this to our church today I see the “building project” as our mission and vision, each of us has been given a gift from God to help accomplish the work set ahead of us. As a leader it is part of my duty to help people (the church) work together in unity toward fulfilling the mission that Jesus has commanded us through the great commission.
“Therefore Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Armed with my highlighter and pen I started to read thorough the book of Nehemiah reflecting on how Nehemiah accomplished the huge undertaking of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. Twelve times I highlighted the places where Nehemiah took the time and space to pray to God for direction as he and the people worked together. Each time Nehemiah finds himself in a place where trouble arises he takes it before God and trusts in his direction. As we follow through the book we have prayers that move from Nehemiah’s personal struggles to the struggles of the people, prayers for the poor and prayers of protection from their enemies.
Chapter 9 of Nehemiah holds the longest recorded prayer in scripture, a prayer from the people of Israel. This prayer from the Israelites in an expression of confession, a request seeking forgiveness for the sins they committed in their unfaithfulness in following God. Chapter 13 closes the book with 4 prayers all beginning with the same word, remember, three times Nehemiah asks God to remember him and once to remember the people. I don’t think God has forgotten anything of what Nehemiah has done or what the people have done; Nehemiah was putting his trust in God knowing that He will work through him according to His will.
Being willing and ready to pray in all circumstances is what I learn from Nehemiah. From the beginning of his journey Nehemiah sets for us the standard in which we can use as we work forward in ministry. Our ministry leaders need to be surrounded by and committed to prayer so we can give the glory to God for the work he is doing in our lives personally and in the life of the church.
In one of my previous entries I talked about the authority that Jesus gave the disciples in Matthew chapter 10, I would like to revisit this topic again in light of the last few verses in the book of Matthew in the great commission.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus was very clear that He had all power and authority in both heaven and earth, this is the same authority he empowered the disciples with to go out and fulfill the mission of the great commission, the same mission that we as leaders in the church have today. As a leader Jesus gave them a clear and well-defined purpose for their mission to make disciples of all nations. Jesus sets for us the standard that raises the bar for us as leaders to be on mission with our leadership teams. We as leaders have to allow those within our influence to experience a little of what the disciples did when Jesus sent them out; we have to empower them to lead in the areas where they are gifted.
“And behold, I am with you always…” This for me is the best part; we are never alone in our journey as leaders. Jesus told the disciples that he would be there beside them till the end of the age. We are living and breathing the same promise that they received, we have the same assurance that Jesus is with us until he comes again. As we have this assurance we have to model this and stand with those who lead alongside us. In doing so we can lead effectively together “to cause the name of Jesus Christ to be exalted, God glorified, and believers to be built up as together we reach out with the gospel to the lost.”
“Hypocrites… Blind guides… Blind fools… Full of wickedness… Snakes and brood of vipers…”
These are all strong words and declarations Jesus speaks to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. Jesus presents for us some of the consequences and threats that sin and darkness have for leaders and more specifically to those whose positions are involved with spiritual leadership.
Matthew chapter 23 gives us some important reminders, we as leaders need help to understand the dangers of falling away from God’s leading in our lives. Our lives need to reflect the words we speak, we need to live the truths that have been given to us through the word. Attitudes of servant hood and humility should stand in place of seeking distinction and praise. When Gods people respond to His call we need to encourage and rejoice with them as they live a new life in Christ. God’s love for us is revealed through His justice, mercy and faithfulness in our lives, our efforts must reflect these things over the arguments and sometimes meaningless specifics. Leading with a righteous heart and living in an attitude of love of others will show that God has done a great work in our lives making us an example for others to follow.
Growing up I often heard this statement “hate the sin not the sinner”. Jesus despised what the Pharisees were doing but I do believe that He had a love for them as He did for all the lost people. Jesus “longed to gather” (to love and care for) the people of Jerusalem including the Pharisees and teachers. Even though some may choose to separate from him he is wanting and waiting for us to cry out “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Throughout the book of Matthew we have seen Jesus in action as He leads by example while teaching and training the disciples. It was important that the disciples did not overlook how Jesus responded to the needs of the people around him. In the same way, readers today must be conscious of the example Jesus set in caring for the physical needs of those around us. Stories like the healing of the leper, the centurion’s boy, Jairus’ daughter and the healing of two blind men give us evidence of his authority and a practical picture of “practicing what he preaches” in order to train his disciples.
When we think about building and managing ministry teams we often look for tools that help us as we grow into an effective team. As Jesus teaches his disciples as well as the people around him through the use of parables, he is able to preach to a diverse audience. We begin to understand both the simplicities and complexities of the messages that are written through the words in each of the parables. Why did Jesus choose to speak in parables to the crowds and then only in private explain their deeper meaning to the disciples? Even the disciples asked this question of Jesus and he answers them by saying the people have not experienced the depths of the knowledge of the kingdom of God that they have. Giving the people a simple and clear picture was the only way they could begin to comprehend the complexities of the gospel message.
Matthew Henry in his commentary makes this note: “The nearer we draw to Christ, and the more we converse with him, the better acquainted we shall be with gospel mysteries.” The tools we need as leaders are right in front of us, built into the words written in scripture. In order for us to grow and draw nearer to Christ as Matthew Henry states, we must be conversing with him, spending time in his word and spending time in prayer asking for direction and understanding. The disciples had Jesus to lean on and learn from; today we have his written word that gives us direction and understanding according to his will.