Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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38. Leadership Lessons – Part 1

Nehemiah 7:1-3

“Then it was, when the wall was built and I had hung the doors, when the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, that I gave the charge of Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the leader of the [a]citadel, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many. And I said to them, “Do not let the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot; and while they stand guard, let them shut and bar the doors; and appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, one at his watch station and another in front of his own house.”

As we get ready to wrap up our series in Nehemiah I want us to come back to chapter 7 that I purposefully left till the end. It’s here in chapter 7 that Nehemiah gives us seven leadership principles. As we consider Nehemiah’s example, we see that life changing leadership requires both courage and grace. Over and over again, in the face of all kinds of odds, Nehemiah courageously led. Instead of caving to the opposition he kept his focus on what God called him to do. Not only did he face the call courageously, but he did it graciously as well. It is crucial for leaders not only to lead with courage but model God’s grace. Because if we don’t, we will never recognize our role in the greater picture. We have all been called to a life of leadership and it is my prayer that as we learn how to lead well that we won’t just listen to the Word but that we will live out the Word. When it comes to leadership lessons Nehemiah reveals that the first leadership principle, we need to pay attention to involves having clear:

  1. Priorities – Vs 1

In verse 1 Nehemiah establishes three priorities, the first revolves around providing:

A. Physical protection.

Nehemiah posts guards to protect the gates because the gates were the weak link in the walls. So, let me ask you where and what are the weak links in your walls, and are you posting watchmen to guard over those weaknesses where you are most vulnerable. As men the gates to our city are our eyes, and one of the greatest guards we can employ are accountability partners who will ask us the hard questions. Now as men we need to take the lead when it comes to providing protection for our families. Part of your mandate as a man is to be a gate keeper for your family. Last week we saw in chapter 13 that these guards were not just entrusted with physical protection but also spiritual protection. They were called on to close the gates at Sabbath. What guards are you stationing at the gates of your heart? What gates do you need to shut so that you can protect your family spiritually? It’s not always bad things that we need to say no to, because even good things can get in the way of God things. Something as simple as sports can take the place of the Savior. And before we know it, we are raising our kids in a basketball court instead of in Christian community. Instead of the central focus being the cross it becomes a pole, we trade Him for a hoop. But we convince ourselves that it’s ok because after all we think of all the families we can reach for Christ on that court. But what we forget is that before we go to war, we need to worship, look we gather together to praise Him and to prepare our hearts to serve Him. Trading our time in worship for witnessing will never work, because you can’t give what you have not received. Many of us are trying to pour out from a position of poverty because we are not spending time in praise. Look if you don’t guard the gates you will raise your kids to believe that sorts more important than the Savior. The second priority:

B. Praise

Nehemiah appointed singers to lead in worship. Nehemiah understood that there is more to life than work. Our primary purpose is worship, and if we are not careful, we will replace it with lesser things. All work and no worship leads to worry. Many of us are living weary worn out lives because there is no worship. Worship provides perspective because it reminds us that God is our number one priority. The problem is that many of us are putting the Savior in second place instead of the preeminent place. So, let me ask you are you giving priority to the problems or to the praise? Without worship our witness will soon represent that of the world and it won’t be long before we are reduced to a city without walls. Worship reminds us of Gods faithfulness and forgiveness, worship reminds us that we can’t walk without Him. The third priority was to:

C. Provide biblical teaching.

Here we find Nehemiah appointing the Levites as Israel’s teachers. It was their responsibility to teach biblical truth and impart the great realities of the faith. This week I was reminded of the importance of the repetition of serious study because no matter how you have read a scripture you can always walk away with new insights because God’s Word is living and active. Are you making protection, praise and the study of scripture a priority? Are you giving time to trivial things or to the truth? Where are you receiving your training, is it from the Word of God or from the world? The second leadership principle involves:

  1. Passing the Baton –Vs 2-3

Leaders need to find other faithful leaders; they need to be willing to let go and let others follow in their footsteps. Now this is both a courageous and gracious act. It is courageous because many of us have this bogus believe that no one can do it as well as we can. It takes courage and confidence to say that I may not be needed in this particular role anymore. It is a gracious act because sometimes a leader has to give up a role that they enjoy doing themselves to make room for others to serve. If we are not careful, we will become selfish servants and if that happens, we will never engage the next generation and the baton we carry today will be the baton that is dropped when we die. Nehemiah shows us the importance of discipleship when he turns leadership roles over to Hanani and Hananiah. Why does he picked these two and who should you be investing in, those who exhibit reliability and reverence. Leaders who put God first and make serving people a priority. So, let me ask you do you reflect reliability and reverence?

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37. Confronting Compromise – Part 3

Nehemiah 13:10-22

10 I also discovered that the Levites had not been given their prescribed portions of food, so they and the singers who were to conduct the worship services had all returned to work their fields. 11 I immediately confronted the leaders and demanded, “Why has the Temple of God been neglected?” Then I called all the Levites back again and restored them to their proper duties. 12 And once more all the people of Judah began bringing their tithes of grain, new wine, and olive oil to the Temple storerooms.13 I assigned supervisors for the storerooms: Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah, one of the Levites. And I appointed Hanan son of Zaccur and grandson of Mattaniah as their assistant. These men had an excellent reputation, and it was their job to make honest distributions to their fellow Levites. 14 Remember this good deed, O my God, and do not forget all that I have faithfully done for the Temple of my God and its services. 15 In those days I saw men of Judah treading out their winepresses on the Sabbath. They were also bringing in grain, loading it on donkeys, and bringing their wine, grapes, figs, and all sorts of produce to Jerusalem to sell on the Sabbath. So I rebuked them for selling their produce on that day. 16 Some men from Tyre, who lived in Jerusalem, were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise. They were selling it on the Sabbath to the people of Judah—and in Jerusalem at that!17 So I confronted the nobles of Judah. “Why are you profaning the Sabbath in this evil way?” I asked. 18 “Wasn’t it just this sort of thing that your ancestors did that caused our God to bring all this trouble upon us and our city? Now you are bringing even more wrath upon Israel by permitting the Sabbath to be desecrated in this way!”19 Then I commanded that the gates of Jerusalem should be shut as darkness fell every Friday evening,[c] not to be opened until the Sabbath ended. I sent some of my own servants to guard the gates so that no merchandise could be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20 The merchants and tradesmen with a variety of wares camped outside Jerusalem once or twice. 21 But I spoke sharply to them and said, “What are you doing out here, camping around the wall? If you do this again, I will arrest you!” And that was the last time they came on the Sabbath. 22 Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and to guard the gates in order to preserve the holiness of the Sabbath. Remember this good deed also, O my God! Have compassion on me according to your great and unfailing love.

After seeing the breaking of the submission and separation promisesthird we come to the:

  1. Support Promise

At the end of Nehemiah 10, the people say, “We will not neglect the house of God.” But in verse 11 Nehemiah askes the question, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” It’s here that we discover that those who were supposed to be ministering were out in the fields working instead of leading worship and the temple storerooms were empty because the people had stopped tithing. The lack of tithes explains why the rooms were available for Tobiah to live in. The tough truth here is that if the people had been putting God first with their finances there would not have been room in the Temple for Tobiah. Nehemiah responds by rebuking the leaders. So, let me challenge us as parents what precedence are you setting for our families when it comes to finances. Do your kids see you putting God first or furthest? Nehemiah didn’t just rebuke he also recruited reputable men to collect, count and care for God’s money. What about your reputation when it comes to God’s riches, how responsible are you? Are you putting God first with your finances? When the people got stingy with their giving the first thing to happen was that the singers were silenced. There is a correlation between our pennies and our praise, between our money and our mouths. Because when it comes to worshipping you can’t separate your words and your wealth. The problem is that if we are not careful with our cash it won’t be long before we end up worshipping our wealth instead of using our wealth to worship. Not only did they neglect supporting God’s work, but they also neglected the:

  1. Sabbath Promise

The Israelites had promised not to do business on the Sabbath yet here they were so wrapped up in wealth that they didn’t have time for worship. When money becomes an idol, you can ill afford to take a day off. This describes a lot of our lives; we have become busy believers who trade rest for riches. They had secularizing the Sabbath, instead of making it about the Master they made it about money. Nehemiah was serious about the Sabbath, and so should we be when it comes to the concept of rest. Nehemiah reminds them that one of the reasons for their slavery was because they rejected the Sabbath. Today many of us are experiencing the problems that come from placing riches above our relationship with God. We were not built for 24/7 living, if you burn the candle at both ends you are going to melt in the middle. Today many of us are letting money melting down our marriages. We are so busy running after riches that we are ruining our relationships. How many of us as husbands spend more time pursuing our work that we do our wife? The greatest danger to pastors isn’t worldliness it’s our work, because we can become so busy working that we forget to worship, when that happens ministry has become our mistress and we are in danger of leaving our first love, the Lord. If we are not careful we will get so busy doing things for God that we forget to spend time with God.  Nehemiah ordered that the city gates be shut on the Sabbath. What gates need to be closed in your life so that Christ not cash becomes your priority? Because if you don’t close the gates you will end up in the bondage of busyness. Whatever you worship will become your witness. One of the reasons we need to take a time out to rest is because it gives us an opportunity to reflect on where we really are. So, let me conclude with a few questions:

Submission – Are you living in Submission to Scripture? Is scripture or the secular your standard? What’s your authority the Word or the world?

Separation – Are you sensitive to sin or are you surrendering to sin? It’s time to stop dabble with sin and start put it to death.

Support – Are you giving to God or are you giving in to greed?

Sabbath – Are you resting or running?

What about you do you have a holy ambition that demonstrates an exclusive commitment to God and an undeniable consistent lifestyle that is pleasing to Him?