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

 

Everybody Said, But Nobody Did

Here are the lyrics to a great song by Acappella called Everybody Said, But Nobody Did. If you want to listen to it, here is a link to it on YouTube.
Everybody said that anybody could do
The important things somebody should do
Everybody knows that anybody could do
All the good things that nobody did
Well the preacher came to me and said what I ought to do
If I wanted to make my religion true
He’d do it himself but he really didn’t have the time
He said that the duty was mine
Everybody said that anybody could do
The important things somebody should do
Everybody knows that anybody could do
All the good things that nobody did
Well the deacon came by and said give me a hand
If you want to be going to the promised land
Here is something that I don’t have time to do
So I better give it to you
Well I’m too busy so I tell everybody
The work’s got to get done by somebody
It can be done by anybody
But nobody (nobody), nobody (nobody), nobody did
Everybody said that anybody could do
The important things somebody should do
Everybody knows that anybody could do
All the good things that nobody did
All the good things that nobody did (x2)
This song is a simple reminder of how Christ put us all in a body, and we all have talents, gifts and functions in the body. But in order for the body to work, each part must do its share.

Euodia and Syntyche, Part 3

Today is the final part of the series on Euodia and Syntyche. Here are the links for first two articles.

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:1-4).

Help these women who labored with me in the gospel. Euodia and Syntyche were women of the best intentions, and they had servant hearts. The church at Philippi began with strong women (Acts 16:11-15). Of course, by the time of the writing of this epistle, Philippi had elders and deacons, but they still had strong women. These women aren’t to just fade away into inactivity because they now had elders and deacons. Paul tells the congregation to help these women in their work as they are fellowshipping in the gospel. Whatever these two sisters were doing, whatever work they were involved in, Paul tells the brothers and sisters to be an encouragement and support to them in their work for Christ.

The kingdom needs strong, servant-hearted women. Strong-minded is not to be confused with always going around giving people a piece of your mind. Nor does it mean being stubborn and unwilling to consider other viewpoints. However, we must not also confuse “meek and quiet” and “submissive” (1 Peter 3) with being a doormat that sits still and never uses the talents, voice and strengths God gave to the woman. This balance comes when we become “one mind” in Jesus. Our strengths, our talents are tempered and guided by the love and humility of Jesus.

God’s work, not mine. Paul’s letter to the Philippians often mentioned joy and rejoicing, but that is not what the letter to the Philippians is primarily about. He often used words like “mindset” and “mind” in this letter, but Paul was trying to get at more than the power of positive thinking.

If you go through this short letter, and underline or highlight all the times Paul says Lord, God, Jesus, Christ, or Savior then you will begin to understand the theme of Philippians. Why did Paul endure such cruel suffering and harsh treatment? Because it is all about Jesus (Philippians 1:21,29-30; 3:10). Why did Jesus leave heaven’s glory to die on the cross? Because it was God’s work and God’s glory that would be accomplished (Philippians 2:4-11). Why did Timothy put his own interests aside and sincerely care for the brethren? Because Timothy sought the things of the Lord Jesus, not his own things (Philippians 2:19-21). Why did Epaphroditus come close to death? Because he did everything “for the work of Christ…not regarding his own life” (Philippians 2:30). Why did Paul want to stay on earth and help Christians when he would much rather die and be with Jesus? Because he was all about serving Jesus and doing His work for His people (Philippians 1:19-26).

It is God’s work that He begun in the Philippian disciples, and it is God that continued to work in them and through them (Philippians 1:6; 2:13). Paul considered himself just an instrument in the hands of the Great Physician. Euodia and Syntyche needed to be reminded of this valuable principle. It is not our ministry, nor is it our church. The money isn’t ours. Those Bible classes are not our Bible classes. It is not our worship service. Those people being taught are not our people. It’s all about Jesus. This is His work. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10).

My mother, Linda, shared with me some very simple yet powerful words as I began my first full-time preaching position in Columbus, Ohio. She said with tear-dimmed eyes, “Remember who your Master is.” How right she was. Once we fully grasp that, and once we as individual Christians own that concept, then we can begin to view ourselves as merely instruments and servants of the Master. We see the value in others walking along with us as partners, sharing in the work together, side by side. We stop looking for ways to get the credit for teaching someone or having the best ideas, and we look to lift up other brethren and point out their great worth and their ways of contributing to the family and body of Christ. We will listen to other ideas and consider other ways of doing things instead of saying “This is the way we’ve always done such and such.”

Being of one mind. This means we are focused on the same purpose. We have the same Lord and we belong to the same team. Our goals and purposes are the same. We have the same enemy and we are on the same side in the conflict against the Devil. Look for the word “same” in the letter to the Philippians – it is very instructive.

This requires listening to each other. Being of one mind requires valuing other’s input. That means I have to stop and consider the feelings of others. We have to take the foot off the accelerator sometimes and remember that the task is not as important as our relationships with each other.

If we accomplished the job, but we hurt people and alienated them along the way, then was it worth it? Of course not. If we finished the task, but did it alone when it would have been better to join with others, then we missed the greater purpose. If we finished the task, but stepped all over another brother or sister’s feelings, then what did we really accomplish? God doesn’t want individuals living to themselves. He wants a body. He wants a family.

Let us be of one mind, serving together side by side for Jesus, as Paul encouraged these two sisters in Philippi to remember.

Euodia and Syntyche, Part 2

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:1-4).

We continue where we left off yesterday in discussing Euodia and Syntyche from the book of Philippians.

Synergy.

Euodia and Syntyche were called “fellow workers” by Paul. He used the Greek word sunergos, which simply means to work together. This word is the basis for our English word synergy, which means “the interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects” (thefreedictionary.com). Many good brothers and sisters in Christ were called fellow workers by Paul – Paul did not spread the gospel to the whole world by himself. There were many selfless servants of Jesus Christ who risked their necks, sacrificed their lives and material goods, and devoted themselves to the high purpose and calling of living and sharing the good news of Jesus. Synergy. Many souls joined their energy, resources and talents together so that through their cooperation, the combined efforts resulted in a greater harvest of souls. “Each part doing its share” (Eph. 4:16).

These ladies were strong-minded workers determined to work as hard as they could for Jesus and for Paul. They are going to heaven – their names are in the Book of Life. Paul tells the congregation to assist these two sisters in their work. It tells you a lot about these two women, doesn’t it?  They wanted to do great things for Jesus, and they were working tirelessly in their work. However, Paul is telling them that doing great things for Jesus is not enough. They must be united as a team, joined together with one mind, as they served the Lord Jesus.

In the same way we considered Priscilla and Aquila’s “synergy” for Jesus, we must also consider the way brothers and sisters work for Jesus. Way too often we work as individuals doing our own thing, going our own way, focused on our “ministry,” but we are not together in spirit.  As long as I work on my task for the Lord and you work on yours, we do just fine, but what happens when we cross paths? When you and I are working on the same task, then your strong opinions cross my strong opinions, and then what? What happens when you don’t teach a class the way I think you should? What happens when we don’t agree on which Bible curriculum we should use for the kids’ classes? How do we handle our disagreements on how to raise our kids, how to educate and discipline them? We both have ideas for how the classrooms should be decorated and furnished, now what?

When we worked independently and left each other alone, everything was great, right? Wrong! It was not okay, because Christ did not save us and leave us to be individuals operating independently. He placed us within a body, both in a universal and a local sense. All Christians everywhere in the world are part of one body of which Christ is the head (Ephesians 1:21-22), but Christians are to work together locally with Christians, assembling as one body and one family to worship, to build each other up, to reach out to save souls, etc. Paul tells the local body of believers in Philippi to be of the same mind, just like a body with hands, feet, eyes and ears working for the same purpose (1 Corinthians 12:11-27).  Euodia and Syntyche were not doing that, even though as individuals they were doing good works for the Lord. My brother, Mark, has said that a “pile of body parts doesn’t make a body.”

Paul doesn’t have to correct their servant attitude, he doesn’t have to tell them to get busy for Jesus, but he has to exhort them apparently to stop butting heads, forsake the opinionated junk, and work together for Jesus as a unit. We must be reminded of the words of God through Amos when He asked, “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3).

When you have two very strong people with strong minds and strong wills laboring for God, they sometimes will lock horns because of various differences. As that happens, everyone else is affected because we are a body and family and the true work of God is side-tracked. However, when those strong-minded brothers and sisters put aside their differences and humble themselves and submit their minds to the real work of Christ, it is a powerful and unstoppable force for good. The church at Philippi was doing great things for Jesus and Paul, but they will be even greater when they work as one mind, in harmony of spirit.

More to come tomorrow, Lord willing.

Euodia and Syntyche, part 1

This is an article I wrote years ago, and I’m going to divide it up over the next few days for your consideration.

Euodia and Syntyche

Philippians 4:1-4

A long-awaited letter. Picture yourself back in New Testament times when the congregation in Philippi received a letter from the beloved apostle Paul as he sat in a Roman prison. As the congregation assembled together, they are filled with excitement and great anticipation as the letter is read publicly. This is every saint’s first time to hear Paul’s special words from God for them. They did not have a copy machine, so this was the only copy available for the whole church until someone could hand copy the letter. Today we can freely and quickly send information to outer space and back, and we can turn on our smartphones or tablets and have a live video conversation with someone thousands of miles away. We can see them and they can see us in real time. It seems to be no big deal anymore for most in Western Civilization to communicate across the globe; in fact most of us probably take it for granted.

We may not be able to grasp how incredibly valuable this letter from Paul was that traveled by land and sea from Rome to Philippi. They had been waiting for news and encouragement from the man who is responsible for their beginnings in Jesus Christ (see Acts 16).

Philippians 2 indicates that it was Epaphroditus that hand-delivered this letter to the brethren.  He was the messenger that the brethren at Philippi had sent to Paul to bring things to aid Paul with his necessities. We also know from chapter 2 that the brethren heard that Epaphroditus was sick and almost died, and they were greatly concerned about his welfare.  Paul sent this letter in the hands of Epaphroditus as a way to comfort and encourage the brethren even more.

These Christians at Philippi, “from the very first day” of their salvation, supported Paul’s ministry in multiple ways, especially by sending him funds “once and again” as he was in other locations preaching the gospel (Philippians 1:5; 4:16).  They were hard-working, loving, dedicated servants of Jesus. Paul loved them dearly (Philippians 1:3-9).

A letter all about the mindset of Jesus Christ. So now the church is assembled, and the letter is read. Paul’s short letter is jam-packed with teaching and examples concerning having the mindset of Jesus Christ. This letter is all about mindset and it is all about Jesus as the foundation for that mindset. Paul had that mindset (Philippians 1 and 3). Timothy and Epaphroditus had that mindset (Philippians 2). Jesus demonstrated the ultimate example of that mindset by leaving heaven and coming down to die on the cross (chapter 2). Some did not have this mindset and they became enemies of the cross of Christ, and it made Paul weep (chapter 3).

As they near the conclusion of the letter, Paul singled out two women in the church at Philippi for a special exhortation about their own mindset and he also addressed the congregation about their responsibility toward these two sisters.  Let us consider what these sisters heard from Paul as this letter was read in front of the whole congregation.

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:1-4).

Are your ears burning? Can you imagine sitting in the assembly and hearing your name singled out by the apostle Paul in this letter? Even more, can you picture sitting there as Paul in his letter tells you and the other sister to get along in the Lord? How did he know? Would your face turn red? How would you respond to being singled out for this exhortation by God’s apostle?

I’m begging you! Paul used this verb “implore” twice, once for each woman. The word is parakaloo, which means to call near to one’s side; it is also translated “urge”, “plead”, “beseech”, “entreat.” I like the word “beg.” I beg Euodia…I beg Syntyche. Whatever was going on between Euodia and Syntyche is unknown to us, but just like the situations in the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:11; 11:18) it was a matter that had come to Paul’s attention, and required his Spirit-led input to guide them.

As I teach often, “the issue is never really the issue.” Christians get bent out of shape over something and think that some issue, decision, or course of action is worth the fight.  Because of that determination to win or to prove ourselves justified, we end up severing relationships, hurting feelings and slowing down the work that we should be accomplishing for Jesus. The issue or decision that was supposed to be the thing we were discussing was forgotten long ago, and it becomes about personalities, long-held resentment and bitterness, who is more involved in the church, who has been here longer, who knows more, etc.

Did you notice in the text that Paul never addressed the specific issues between Euodia and Syntyche? He didn’t say, “Euodia, you were right on this topic concerning helping the widows.” Or, “Syntyche, your way of doing things is better suited for teaching the young women than the way sister Euodia really wants to do it.” No, because the issue was not the real problem. What really mattered was that Paul begged them to keep working for the Lord, but to do it joined together in unison.

Part 2 to come tomorrow, Lord willing.

Acts 6 – The Effect on Evangelism

We continue our in-depth look into Acts 6:1-7.

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
(Acts 6:1-7)

The Effect on Evangelism

Here are two observations for today about getting everyone’s input.

The effect on reaching the lost. Verse 7 happened AFTER verses 1-6. It’s really hard to be effective reaching the lost when you have a dysfunctional local church. It often happens that we talk about how we need to evangelize the lost more. We’ve got to get out there and talk to the lost. Yes, that is absolutely right, but, did you see that there was a problem here in Jerusalem that had to be dealt with first? What happens in the Jerusalem church if these neglected widows continue to be neglected? What impact will that have on the community when they hear how the Jerusalem congregation is dealing with its own? You can see why verse 7 comes after verses 1-6. Sometimes we have to make some corrections/adjustments within so that we can be effective in reaching the community.

This was not a lifetime appointment. These seven men went on later to other responsibilities. Stephen and Philip both went on to preach. Philip went to Samaria later as a missionary and preached the word there. He then went on to Caesarea, where it seems he lived for quite a long time. They were appointed to oversee a need in the congregation, but later at least two of them went on to other responsibilities, specifically preaching the word.

When we appoint a man to a position in the congregation (preacher, elder, deacon) we should not assume this is a lifetime appointment. Maybe a man can only effectively serve as a shepherd for a few years, and for a few years he takes some time to do other things for God. It might be that we appoint a deacon to take on a certain task for which he is perfectly suited, but then later he will not have to serve in that role. That should be OK in our thinking.