Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah
Serve Like Andrew - John 12
This is a busy chapter. Jesus has come to Jerusalem. His hour has almost come. There are so many notable thoughts through this text: Mary’s example, the triumphal entry, the mixed response of the crowd.
There’s one detail I especially like from John 12. It’s about an Apostle that doesn’t get a lot of attention. When we think of the Apostles we think of Peter – bold, brash, powerful in words (sometimes to a fault). We think of Paul – the writer, the preacher, the incredible disciple of Christ. Here in John 12:20-26 we read about Andrew. There are some Greeks who want to see Jesus, and they are brought to Andrew, who will introduce them to Jesus.
What do we know about Andrew? He was brothers with Peter. He was a fisherman. He was an Apostle. And… that’s about it. Now his brother – no problem. We could go on and on about Peter. He’s a bold preacher. We have many of his sermons. He performed many miracles. He was an elder in the church. He wrote two letters.
Well what about Andrew? What letters did he write? None that we know of. What about the sermons he preached? We don’t have those either. Well what about his work in the kingdom? Hmm…
What did Andrew do? Well, he brought Peter to Jesus (Jn 1:40-41). And he found the boy with the bread and fish and brought him to Jesus (Jn 6:8-9). And here in John 12 Andrew helped some Greeks who wanted to see Jesus. No, we don’t have any recorded sermons from Andrew. He is known for bringing people to Jesus.
Now ask the question – Peter and Andrew – which one was faithful in their service to Christ? They both were. Which one was more important? They both were. They both served Christ in their own way.
Here’s the thing – you may never preach a sermon. You may never teach a class. You may never write an article, bulletin, or blog for others to read. But you may be one who brings one to Christ. You may be one who introduces a friend to Jesus. You may be the one who invites a neighbor to a study. And that is very important. The one who invites is just as important as the one who teaches. The one who brings a person to Jesus is just as important as the one who helps him learn about Jesus.
We all can serve Christ in different ways. Don’t feel bad if you can’t serve Christ like another brother. Serve Jesus to the best of your ability. Be an Andrew – be known for bringing someone to Christ!
Gracious God, You know all things. What wisdom you had in choosing the men you did for your service, for your apostles. You can use men from different backgrounds, with different talents, and use them to accomplish great things in Your service. I know it is the same today Lord. While our efforts today may seem small to us, you can use our efforts to do great things in the lives of others, and in your Kingdom. Help me to see the value in small acts of service. Help me to do what I can with what I’ve been given to Your glory.
Raising Lazarus - John 11
Remember in John 10 Jesus spoke for the last time in a public way in Jerusalem. When He had spoken, they had taken up stones to stone Him. It was Israel’s ultimate rejection. “We don’t want You. We don’t want to have anything to do with You. Leave us!” And He did. He went to the other side of the Jordan where the rulers in Jerusalem had no jurisdiction. There He stayed out of their hands and had a mini-revival. Many were coming to Him and many were believing.
The stark unbelief of the authorities had never manifested itself more clearly, but God was not going to allow the glory of His Son to be dimmed one bit. So, the tone of John 11 is almost one of divine defiance, where Jesus said, “You rejected Me. You didn’t want to have anything to do with Me. But You cannot stop why I’m here, or what I’m about to do.” And the raising of Lazarus, the Jews were even more determined to destroy Jesus.
When Lazarus died, why did Jesus say that Lazarus' sickness was not unto death? He knew He would raise him and God would be glorified. Jesus did not say Lazarus would not die, but only that the final outcome would not be death.
First of all, Jesus said, “It’s for God’s glory and that the Son of God may be glorified by it” (John 11:4). Why did Jesus raise Lazarus? It was not for the life of Lazarus. It wasn’t even for the love of Mary and Martha. Jesus raised Lazarus for the glory of God. When Jesus said, “When God’s glory is manifested the Son is going to be glorified.” In John’s gospel, His being glorified always refers to the cross. Remember Jesus’ prayer in John 17:1; “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son.”
A second reason Jesus waited was so that His disciples would believe (John 11:14-15). Ultimately, faith in Christ sees Him as the conqueror of death. We know Jesus could have an answer for a lot of things, but if He doesn’t have an answer for death He’s not worthy of us calling Him “Lord.” But Jesus said, “When this is over you’re going to believe like you never have.”
They were going to witness an event that was going to move them to believe even more firmly. He said, “I’m going to go and I’m going to show you God in action against death, so that you will believe.”
Notice that friendship with Jesus does not protect us from sorrow, does it? There was not a family on this earth loved more by Jesus than Mary, Martha and Lazarus, but they still got sick, and they were still dying. They said, “Lord, the one that You love is sick” (11:3). Notice, they didn’t ask Jesus to do anything. They didn’t invite Him to come back. Maybe they realized that to invite Him back to Bethany was to invite Him back to an execution. Maybe they just assumed that if He heard about the need, His concern would compel Him to come.
They didn’t say, “Heal him.” They just informed Jesus of the situation. They just presented their need without any instructions. Sometimes all we know to say is, “Lord, here is the need
They base their appeal on His love. They don’t say, “Lord, the one who loves you is sick.” They said, “The one whom You love is sick.” The Lord does not bless us in proportion to our love for Him. Jesus doesn’t say, “I’m going to work in your life, because of your love for Me.” But Jesus says, “No, I work in your life because I love you.” And so they say, “Lord, the one You love is sick.”
Prayer: Lord, thank you for loving us. Thank you for Your glory, might and power. We look forward to the day You raise us up.
The Lord is My Shepherd - John 10
There’s a well known verse in this chapter. It’s worth knowing. “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) Abundant life. Life to its fullest. We may be tempted to think of Heaven when we hear of that abundant life – and it truly will be abundant in glory. However I believe the abundant life Jesus offers is not something to come, but something that has come – it can be claimed and lived today.
Sometimes life here doesn’t feel like abundant life. Part of the reason for this is due to the enemies that threaten us. Look in this chapter, there are three listed here: the thief (v. 8), the wolf (v. 12), and the hireling (v. 12). They come to steal, kill and destroy. The hireling is uncommitted to the best interest of the sheep.
Compare these with Jesus – our door (v. 7) access to the abundant life; our good shepherd (v. 11), who leads, protects, feeds, and tend for the sheep; our Savior (v. 17-18) who lays down His life for the sheep.
Do you hear the voice of the Shepherd? Do you believe that there is victory to be found/claimed today? Do you believe He is leading your life to the green pastures, to the sill waters? Do you believe He will care for you and protect you from harm?
No, abundant life is not pain-free life. It is not a life free from struggle and strife. What it is, is a life in the presence of a good shepherd who is leading us to where we need to be. Sometimes the shepherds lead his sheep through the valley of the shadow of death. There are times God’s people wander through the wilderness. But if the shepherd is with us, there’s no need to fear. This shepherd laid down his life for the sheep. He has put them before himself. A shepherd with that much love and devotion deserves my allegiance. Jesus said in v. 27 they are known by Him, and follow Him. They are His sheep, and He is their shepherd.
Here’s a thought for today: read Psalm 23, and then reread John 10:1-18 – picture it in your mind. Then ask, “Am I listening to this shepherd?” Is Jesus my shepherd? Am I following Him?
Today’s prayer: Psalm 23. Pray it. Embrace it. Mean it. “The Lord is MY shepherd…”
Removing the Blindness - John 9
John 9 is a powerfully, validating illustration and commentary on Jesus’ claim in John 8:12; “I am the light of the world, and unless you come to Me you’re going to live in darkness.” John 9 illustrates the fact that Jesus means exactly what He said. That He is indeed the light of the world. He is the only One who can take away darkness, whether it be physical or spiritual.
The question from the disciples comes from a mind-set they had learned from the Rabbis. The Rabbis taught there is no death without sin and there is no suffering without iniquity. Therefore, if someone was personally suffering it was the direct result of their personal sin. Job teaches so clearly that while sin always results in suffering—sin has damaging consequences, but suffering is not always the result of our sin(s).
The Rabbis read into Scripture things what would fit what they believed in this matter of sin and suffering. The problem was their belief was wrong. Their basic presupposition that suffering was always the result of personal sin was wrong. Sadly the blind man was not a sufferer to be relieved, he was just a riddle to be solved.
Jesus sheds a little light on the subject with His reply. Notice that Jesus was asked about the cause of the man’s blindness, but He answers in terms of its purpose (John 9:3-5)! Jesus does not try to explain the mystery of pain. Jesus saw in this blind man the possibility to display the works of God.
When we see suffering what do we see? A problem? Or, a possibility? If someone in your family suffers from a physical handicap what do you see in that person? A problem? Or, a possibility to display the words of God?
Why did Jesus do this miracle in this way? Why mix His saliva and dirt and tell him to go and wash? Jesus put mud in his eyes because He wanted to. He wanted to do it that way and so that’s how He did it.
Maybe what we need to understand is this; what is a life changing, thrilling, joyful, transforming miracle to this man, is just another work of God. God, who could speak the world into existence can say to two eyes, “See” and have them see. What we see is remarkable authority, power and grace of our Lord.
The healing shows us something about Jesus. It shows us that He dealt not only in ideas and claims, but He also dealt in the application of them. It’s one thing to go around saying, “I Am the light of the world” but never take darkness away. Jesus backed up His claims with application. Isn’t there an obvious implication there for us?
It’s one thing to come together to study, sing our songs and claim that we are lights in the world and salt to the earth, but it is quite another thing to go out and shed light and live in a way that preserves righteousness.
Prayer: Lord, help us to see. Open our eyes to see You. Remove our blindness. Let us be Your lights to help a blind world see Your marvelous grace that appeared in the coming of Your Son. Amen.
Liberating Truth - John 8
Have you ever tried to walk in the darkness? Maybe it was an early morning run, and you tried to trek your path in whatever light the moon or streetlights could offer. Or maybe you heard something in the middle of the night, and so you creep through the house looking for the source of the noise. Isn’t it amazing how in the dark, silhouettes of the most simple things sure look threatening? I’ll admit that I’ve kicked a few coat racks!
What do we do when we’re scared in the dark? We turn on the light. Why? Light brings clarity. Light reveals the truth. Light helps us see clearly. That’s why Jesus came. Jesus came as a light to this dark world (John 1:9-13).
Isn’t that what John 8 is all about? Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12). In coming to the light one finds freedom from lies and deception. They see clearly (themselves, and others). There’s a relationship Jesus points out in this text between light and truth. The light allows you to see (know) clearly (rightly). They are both liberating (v. 32).
Here’s the problem: not everyone wants to be free. Not everyone wants to know the truth. There are many who do not like the light. Those are the ones enslaved to Satan. Oh they believe they know the truth, but in reality they have purchased a lie.
Just look at the Jews here in John 8 as a good case study of what happens when one opposes the light. They were slaves to their tradition, slaves to their pride – ultimately they were slaves to Satan (v. 44-47). They were unwilling to hear the truth of Christ. They were even unwilling to admit the truth about their past (v. 33).
Here’s the point: slavery leads to blindness. They were slaves of their past, slaves to tradition, and slaves to Satan. It’s no different today. There are some who are slaves – slaves to addiction – to alcohol, to drugs, to eating/food, to screens/social media; some are slaves to pride, to work, to achievement. It is in the best interest of Satan that we remain slaves, blind to the truth.
Jesus offers freedom. Jesus will help us see clearly. Jesus is the light to a world of darkness. When Jesus tried to open the eyes of the Pharisees, they tried to kill Him (8:59). There are some who when shown the truth, rather than listen, they lash out and attack in order to defend the lie.
Ask yourself today, would you rather be a slave of the enemy, or a child in the Father’s house? [8:36] Open your heart to the words of Christ and let the light shine in!
My liberator, my redeemer, the light to my path – you truly set me free. Truth is found in you. Who I am, where I’m from, why I’m here – I can know it all through you. Satan sows his seeds of lies into this world. Help keep my heart honest, open and pure. Be the light to my path – help me to see as you see – set me free from the lies of this world. I trust in You.