Extreme Ownership

I want to send out a book recommendation today. This is an awesome book on leadership written by two Navy Seals who led successful Seal operations in the battle of Ramadi in Iraq. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin developed some incredible insights on leadership of successful teams during some of the most bloody and intense combat situations in Iraq.

As I listened to this book on Audible, I saw so many parallels to Biblical concepts of leadership. It’s a must read in my opinion.

I’m on my second time through this book, and I highly recommend it.

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals LEAD and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

 

God made Ezekiel hard-headed

Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.”
(Ezekiel 3:8-9)

God made Ezekiel hard-headed. That’s what the verse says. Not that Ezekiel was never to listen to people, nor was he to be a stubborn person. But look at the job he was called to do. The people to whom he was sent to prophesy were a stubborn, hard-hearted rebellious people. Ezekiel was sent to preach “whether they hear or whether they refuse” (Ezekiel 3:11). What was necessary for Ezekiel to endure this calling? God had to make his head hard, just like theirs.

He is told two things here that required hardness, and a steely-eyed determination:

  • Don’t be afraid of them.
  • Don’t be dismayed by their looks.

These guys could be vicious. They have killed prophets and imprisoned others. It was easy to be intimidated in their presence. The way they looked at Ezekiel when he tried to preach must have been scary. God said, stiffen up, have a hard head, and speak My message. The Lord isn’t telling him to be mean, or arrogant, just to be hardened against the coming attacks. Preach the word.

Think of how many of God’s ministers struggled with fear as they were called to preach or carry out His messages? Timothy, Ananias, Moses, Gideon, Joshua, Paul, Jeremiah. The list goes on…

God has to stiffen us up sometimes and help us to have that firm resolve and that hard head so that we can speak truth. Pray for a soft heart, a kind tongue and a hard head.

He Leads Me in Paths of Righteousness

Psalms 23:3 – He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Today’s article is inspired by chapter 6 of “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by W. Phillip Keller.

“…it is no mere whim on God’s part to call us sheep. Our behavior patterns and life habits are so much like that of sheep it is well nigh embarrassing.” – W. Phillip Keller

In this chapter, Keller observes a couple of things about sheep. First of all, sheep left to themselves will absolutely destroy a pasture. They will turn a lush green pasture into a useless piece of ground filled with parasites. The sheep need to be rotated onto different pastures, for the health of the pasture and for the health of the sheep. This takes a considerable amount of energy, knowledge and foresight on behalf of the shepherd.

Secondly, sheep are notorious creatures of habit. They will follow a path until that path becomes a rut, and that rut eventually erodes into a gully, according to Keller. Their stubborn, habitual ways leave a path of destruction behind them.

Aren’t we as human sheep the same way? You and I may not want to admit it, but doesn’t God have to keep us on the move and change our pasture regularly? Otherwise we get stuck in a rut spiritually. Also, just like sheep our habits and stubborn ways leave a wake of destruction behind us. We arrogantly assert that our ways are right and we try to justify them, but as the Proverb writer points out, the end of the path I choose is death (Proverbs 14:12).

I need a shepherd. You do too. That shepherd is Jesus. He is the Way (John 14:6), and as the Good Shepherd He leads down that pathway of His righteousness. He came to give us life and an abundant life at that (John 10), but that requires keeping us on the move down His pathway, not our own.

What Jesus Got Angry About

Today is a continuation of our study from last Thursday and Friday on anger.

Let’s think about this question: When do you see Jesus angry or indignant in the 4 gospel accounts? What we find is a consistent pattern – Jesus was angry when others were being hurt. This is not to say that Jesus never got angry about anything else, but the consistent message from the 4 gospels is Jesus really got upset when others were being oppressed. As Adrian Rogers put it something like this, Jesus was angry when he saw “hard hearts in the face of human hurts.”

God is the defender and father of the helpless and oppressed.

Psalms 68:5-6  Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

Jesus was angry and sad at their hard hearts in the face of human hurts.

Mark 3:1-6  Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.  And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.  And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Jesus was “greatly displeased” when His disciples tried to run off the little children.

Mark 10:13-16  Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.

Jesus was angry at those who “devoured widows’ houses” for their own financial gain.

Mark 12:40  who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

Jesus was angry when the religious leaders became thieves by turning God’s house of worship into a place to take advantage of the poor.

Matthew 21:12-13  And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

Jesus was angry when those religious leaders were hypocrites and laid heavy burdens on people, but wouldn’t lift a finger to move those burdens themselves.

Matthew 23:4  They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.

Let’s meditate on this for today and consider a couple of follow up questions:

Am I angry about the things God is angry about? Or am I angry about personal infractions towards me?

If I am angry about the same things God is angry about, am I dealing with my anger in a way that pleases my God?

David Served God’s Purpose in David’s Generation, Part 3

Acts 13:36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption,

We continue our dive into the life of David and that he served God’s purpose in his own generation. At a practical level for David that meant as a young man he focused on being a shepherd of his father’s sheep. Even when he knew his next job was going to be king of Israel, he still did his everyday job of tending to the sheep. As an older man, while serving as king, David wanted to build a temple for God. God blessed David for his desire, but said, “No…Solomon your son will build the temple.” How did David respond? He devoted the rest of his life to preparing Solomon and Israel for the building of the temple.

Let’s summarize it this way:

  • When David was young, he didn’t focus on the job he was GOING to do, he focused on the job he CURRENTLY HAD.
  • When David was older and king, he didn’t focus on the job he ASKED God to do, he focused on the job God WANTED him to do.
  • Are you and I like David?

Here are a few points to consider about God’s purpose for you:

  • Let God DECIDE what your purpose is. For David as a young man it was shepherding, as an older man it was mentor and temple-preparer.
  • Let God DEFINE what a great purpose and work is for you. David could have gotten a big head as a young man, saying I’m going to be great someday and be king. Instead, he knew greatness at that period in his life was serving God and keeping sheep. As an older man he wanted to do this great work of building the temple, but God’s great work for David was preparing Solomon to build the temple.
  • Let God DETERMINE the right time for you to live out that purpose. David didn’t know when he would become king, so he just kept doing his job and living for God until God revealed the right time for him to be king.

 

Here is a link to David Served God’s Purpose in David’s Generation, Part 1

Here is a link to David Served God’s Purpose in David’s Generation, Part 2

David Served God’s Purpose in David’s Generation, Part 2

Acts 13:36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption,

If you were working at a fast food restaurant, and a prophet of God came to you and said that none of the current candidates would become President of the United States (I would say, hooray!!). But then you are told by the prophet that YOU will be the next President. On January 20, 2021, you will be sworn in as the next President and move to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Would you leave your headset at the drive thru and tell your boss you quit?

Most would. But the young teenager David didn’t do that, did he? Nope, he went right back to work as a shepherd in the field watching his father’s sheep.

For today’s briefing, I want to walk you through a few verses and ask some simple questions along the way.

What was David doing BEFORE he was anointed to be the next king? He was “keeping the sheep” of his father Jesse (1 Samuel 16:11).

What was David doing AFTER he was anointed to be the next king? When David was called to play music for King Saul, it was said that David was “with the sheep” (1 Samuel 16:17-19).

What was David STILL doing while he worked at the king’s palace to play music for the King? He went “back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep” at Bethlehem (1 Samuel 17:14-15).

What did David make sure to do WHENEVER he was sent back to the king? David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper…and went.

Now, men, that is a sermon left for us from a young teenager. He wasn’t entitled, he was humble and grateful and dedicated to his job. Even when he knew that he would soon live in a palace and be the king of all Israel, he still did his “lowly” job of shepherding sheep. He wasn’t even shepherding his own sheep, they were Daddy’s sheep. Look at that attitude!

Do you want to know why God called David to be king? Here is a great reason why, David didn’t get too big for his britches. His heart was humble and dedicated to God, his job, and his family.

Psalms 78:70-72 He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.

More to come on this.

Here is a link to David Served God’s Purpose in David’s Generation, part 1

David and Saul: A Contrast in Two Hearts, part 2

Psalm 78:70-72 – He also chose David His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the ewes that had young He brought him, to shepherd Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance.  So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.

Yesterday we began looking at a contrast between two hearts: the heart of King Saul and that of King David. Why was David a man after God’s own heart? Why did God choose David over Saul? Let’s look at this side by side comparison.

Saul was led by fear. David was led by faith.
Saul sought his own glory. David fought for God’s glory.
Saul viewed the battle as his to win. David saw the battle as belonging to the Lord.
Saul was his own counsel. God was David’s counsel.
Saul blamed others and did not take accountability for his actions. David looked in the mirror, accepted the blame and took accountability for his own behavior.
Saul only valued the word of God when it lined up with his thoughts/plans/lifestyle. David valued God’s word as a light to shine in the darkest recesses of his soul.
Saul worshiped his way. David worshiped God’s way.
Saul destroyed and drove away those who were in anyway a threat to his image, status, plans and power. David surrounded himself with those who were free to give him advice and differing opinions (Samuel, Nathan, Bathsheba, Joab, etc.), and sometimes they were pretty blunt when they gave that advice…yet he listened to their counsel.
Saul took matters into his own hands, David put matters in God’s hands.

Which man was perfect? Which man did everything right? Which man always made the right choices? Well, neither man was perfect. David made some real bad choices in his life, too.

But let me ask you this question: Which man do you want leading you?

And let’s ask ourselves this question: What kind of leader are we? Are we a Saul or a David-type leader?

Good Deed

Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ— 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, 11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. 12 I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, 13 whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. 14 But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. (Philemon 8-14; NKJV)

In considering this text, do you see the awesome and powerful demonstration of leadership by Paul and made possible by the tremendous followership of Philemon?

We have established this is a tough ask Paul is making of Philemon in receiving Onesimus…a slave of Philemon who has run away and is not profitable.  With that in mind, consider the fact that Paul does not command Philemon and he never uses the words “forgive” or “reconcile”.  What Paul does is “appeal” to Philemon’s character to “receive” Onesimus as a brother in Christ.  Paul knows that Philemon understands this is only possible if he forgives and they are reconciled.  Paul is encouraging Philemon to put his faith and love into action and to further refresh the hearts of the saints.

Why didn’t Paul command him?  I cannot say for certain but I understand the power and joy in others doing the right thing because they choose to rather than because they are told or command to.  I understand the tremendous catalyst of choice.  I have responsibility of leadership in my life whether it is with a colleague, an employee, a child, a spouse, a brother/sister…God has given me specific commands and responsibilities to lead.  Do you see that?  God has given me a work to do (responsibility) and I am accountable to the outcomes of that leadership work…and though the authority is implied…the focus is on the responsibility and the expectation is that I fulfill that responsibility as a Christian who emulates Christ Who is love!  Love in the case of Christ is “choice”!  The catalyst!

Leadership is a result of a cultivated relationship of trust, understanding, and mutual respect which provides the foundation for leading or influencing others towards a common purpose and work.  Paul cultivated this relationship with Philemon.  Philemon demonstrated his heart through his fruit.  Paul trusted the faith and love of Philemon and Philemon trusted Paul’s leadership.

This is what is so awesome in this scenario.  No barking orders.  No insecurity.  No resentment.  All of these are opportunities for Satan to place a wedge and start working a relationship apart.  The more people involved, the more opportunity and this is why leadership is so very important!  Choosing the assume the best of another provides the opportunity for them to exceed your expectations and reduces the opportunity for Satan to divide.

Paul’s letter is all about the need to forgive and how to go about forgiveness.  Paul’s approach is all about trust in Philemon’s character because of Philemon’s actions and fruit.  This is a pattern worth evaluating in our own lives.  If a brother or sister has demonstrated love and faith then we can assume the best of them and that they will demonstrate love and faith now and in the future.  This should provide us with a confidence in each other and relieve the need for “orders” or “commands” but rather open opportunity for encouragement, increased opportunity to serve, and growth.

Forgiveness and reconciliation is a hard work that has to be voluntary for everyone.  We can lead others through forgiveness and reconciliation if we first trust and provide opportunity for reconciliation rather than command that we forgive.  Jesus chose us.  Lets choose each other!

I myself am going

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD and to seek the LORD of hosts; I myself am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'”
(Zechariah 8:20-23)

We all need someone to follow. God says we are sheep. Really, whether or not we like it and accept it, we are following someone. The passage above from Zechariah shows us that when someone is walking confidently and humbly toward God, that there will be others who will grab on to your robe and want to go with you. People will follow someone, sadly even if that leader is going in the absolute wrong direction (Matthew 15:14). Are you and I leading others to the house of God in Jerusalem, meaning are we leading others to Christ, to truth, and to His family?

God wants us, as His men, to walk purposefully, confidently, passionately and humbly toward Him and toward His house. When we do that, others will follow. Not everyone will follow, in fact, Jesus tells us that most won’t. But we need to have a Joshua-like attitude that says, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). We are going to God. We are going to God’s house. Do you want to come with us? That’s the mindset God’s men must have.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
(Revelation 22:17)

Jesus was offensive, but He wasn’t

Take a minute to read these two passages from Matthew. On one occasion, in Matthew 15, the disciples were concerned that Jesus had offended the Pharisees (Jewish leadership). Jesus clearly was not worried that He had hurt their feelings, because His words were intended to rebuke them and make an example of them to the others in the crowd.

On another occasion, though, Jesus was concerned about offending certain people. Some had come to collect the temple tax. Jesus taught Peter that since He was the Lord of the temple and its owner, He wasn’t bound to pay the temple tax. However, Jesus did not want to create a situation here where someone would be offended, so He had Peter do some miraculous fishing in order to pay the tax.

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
(Matthew 15:12-14)

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
(Matthew 17:24-27)

There were times when Jesus made a stand for God and it naturally offended people, especially the hypocritical Jewish leadership. But there were other times when Jesus went beyond what was expected in order to keep from offending someone. This is living out the concept of going the extra mile. Jesus didn’t have to pay this tax, He was in no way obligated to do it, and He could have stood His ground and proved how right He was. But He didn’t, He showed humility and love by caring for how others would respond.

It’s something to think about.

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
(1 Corinthians 10:23-24)