Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah

Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah

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Centurion’s Servant

Monday, February 07, 2022

Centurion’s Servant

The setting is rather ordinary: “When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. There, a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die” (Luke 7:1-2).  Centurions were commonplace in the Roman Empire. They were equivalent in rank to a captain and normally commanded 100 soldiers. Normal life expectancy did not reach what we would call mid-life. But there is something extraordinary in the centurion’s concern for his servant. He highly valued him. That means the servant washonored by the centurion. He was considered valuable anduseful. He cared for him as a person. The centurion was a man of rank and power.  He gave orders and they were obeyed.  He easily could have said, “If this slave dies, we’ll have to get another one.”  But the centurion’s position and power had not gone to his head.  He had concern for this one whom society would normally have despised.  And so, he entreated Christ on behalf of his slave.  

The centurion hears about Jesus and sends the elders of the Jewsto Him. They describe the centurion as a man who loves Israel. They present him as a worthy man. Jesus is not far from the centurion’s home so he accompanies them (Luke 7:3-6). Rather than present himself as a man who loves Israel he tells Jesus, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” True humility stems from seeing my insufficiency and Christ’s all-sufficiency. The centurion’s servant was about to die (7:2).  He was helpless to deal with this irreversible illness and imminent death.  What a picture of the human race, impotent to deal with the ravages of sin and its ultimate result, spiritual death!  The centurion saw his own insufficiency to deal with the problem, but he also saw Christ’s all-sufficiency.  So, he said to Jesus, “Just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Luke 7:7).  False humility says, “I can do nothing” and stops there.  True humility adds, “But I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13) andcries out to Him to work.

The centurion had an exalted view of the Lord Jesus Christ and of His authority over this hopeless disease: “... just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (7:7).  The centurion understood the principle of authority.  He knew what it meant to speak and to have his words obeyed. But he knew that his servant’s desperate condition was beyond the realm of his authority.  He needed to go to the One in authority over all creation.  He recognizes Jesus to be that One.  He even knew that Jesus did not need to come and physically lay hands on his servant.  The Lord of Creation, who spoke the universe into existence, simply had to speak the word and his servant would be healed.  That is an exalted view of Jesus Christ!

Where did the centurion get this faith?  Scripture teaches “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word concerning Christ” (Rom. 10:17).  God imparts faith through the hearing of the Word about who Jesus is.  We read (Luke 7:3), the centurion “heard about Jesus.”  

It is only a speculation, but I think that this centurion may have heard about Christ from the nobleman in Capernaum whose son Jesus healed (John 4:46-54).  Both men were in government service.  Jesus healed the nobleman’s son at a distance, which would have encouraged the centurion to believe that Jesus could do the same with his servant.  

At any rate, he heard of Christ, and he believed.  If we want to be more effective servants of Christ, we need to ask God to show us through His Word a more exalted view of the Lord Jesus.  And we need to direct others into the Word and pray that God will open their eyes to the glory of the exalted Savior.

A few final thoughts, how clearly do we see ourselves? Is therejust a little part of us that would say, “I love the Lord. I love His church. I give generously. I am at all the assemblies.” Is there alittle part of us that feels like we sort of deserve God’s mercy?

How do we see Jesus? Do we see Him as the centurion sawHim, one possessing all authority? Do we see Him as our only Hope?

Biblical faith is an exercise in reality – true seeing. Do we see ourselves as we really are? Do see Christ as He is?  

Finally, Jesus praised this man’s faith. We tend to think that God will use a person with unusual gifts, but even more important than giftedness, the Lord will use a person who simply trusts in Him.  He is looking for men and women of faith.


Friday, February 04, 2022


This man seems to have entered the Gospels straight from a horror movie. He lived in the cemetery. He was possessed. He couldn’t be contained - even breaking chains (perhaps the demons gave him enhanced strength). He mutilated his flesh, filling the night with his screams. Can you fault the people for keeping their distance from him? Can you imagine being a disciple and seeing the Lord interact with him? 

Let’s add a layer of complication. There’s not one demon inside this man. His name is “Legion” for they were many. How many is many? Hundreds? Thousands? We’ve seen Jesus cast out a demon, but this many? 

Here’s how the healer responds - when others cower in fear, the Master doesn’t flinch. He speaks and every THING obeys - yes, even a multitude of demons. He sends them into the pigs, and the pigs run in craze into the sea. 

Yes this scene is chaotic, and strange, and kind of a mess - but isn’t that how suffering happens? It’s never nice and neat, coming at convenient times, easy to understand. It’s wild. It’s unpredictable. It comes uninvited and unannounced. It leaves us panicked, worried, even frightened. 

But then here comes Jesus, into the mess, in the midst of the chaos, and where once there was suffering, now there is peace. Do you see that with the demon-possessed man. Where once he was naked, now he’s fully clothed. Where once he was mad, now he’s in his right mind. Where once he served the will of the demons, now he is willing to serve the will of the one true Lord. 

In our story, where once there was pain, to now have peace. Where once there was fear, to now have courage. Where once there was doubt, to now have faith. Now matter how dark, no matter how bleak, this powerful story provides a powerful lesson - the great physician can genuinely turn the darkest night into day. 

Holy God, today we give thanks for the kindness You showed towards the man possessed by many demons. We are in awe of your compassion, so touched by your mercy, so impressed by your healing power. This story gives us a greater confidence in You - we know and believe that we can face our hardest times trusting that You can handle our darkest storms and bring hope and healing in Your wings. Thank You for this wonderful glimpse of hope, and the guarantee of victory to come. In Your blessed Son we pray. Amen. 

Calming the Storm

Thursday, February 03, 2022

Calming the Storm

The story begins with the simple words of Jesus, “Let us cross over to the other side” (Luke 8:22).  Jesus wanted to go to the other side by a boat because it was one of the few minutes He could get away from the demands of the masses.  It had been a long day that began with confrontation and continued amidst the press of the immense crowd. People were crowding around Jesus. He hardly had time to eat. One of the very few times that Jesus could get away and rest was when He traveled by boat from one place to the other. So, He gets on the boat, and the very first thing He tries to do is settle back and try to get rest.  

And I’m sure it was a hard storm for them to understand.  Especially considering the journey they are taking is in obedience to Jesus!  Now, it’s one thing, if you’re like Jonah, and God says, “Go somewhere” and you rebel against God, and you go another way, and you get caught up in a storm.  You say, “Ah ha, storms, you see, are the result of disobedience.” But here are the disciples and they are exactly where Jesus tells them to be. They are doing exactly what Jesus tells them to do, and a storm comes. Maybe following Jesus doesn’t mean you always get smooth sailing.  

The humanity of these men comes out in that one little question, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  Now, think about that question, because there is a subtle implication here. That is, that their question suggests Jesus went to sleep during the storm.  You see, they are not accusing Jesus of ignorance of the storm. They are accusing Jesus of indifference to it.  Now, if He had gone to sleep when it was still, they would have woken Him up and said, “Teacher, there is a storm here. Help us.”  That is not what they did.  They woke Him up and said, “Don’t you care about this storm?  You’re going to go to sleep in the middle of this thing?”  

Now, haven’t we often felt just like them? The storms of life have hit us. The winds are fierce, the waves are high, and we want to shout to God, “God what’s the deal?  Don’t You care about me?  Are you not noticing what I’m having to put up with right now?”  And I think the danger of that kind of attitude is that beneath it, there is the presumptuous implication that God’s relief and deliverance are a matter of debt and not of grace. 

Now, what are we going to do with that story?  I mean, that’s an incredible story.  “Are you going to try to tell me that a man stood up and spoke to water and wind, and it settled down?”  Some have said, “What happened here is that Jesus woke up and His presence was so reassuring, a great calm entered the hearts of the disciples so that they were able to steer the boat to safety.” The problem with that is that it doesn’t look at verse 41, because verse 41 says, “that even after Jesus calmed the waves His disciples were terrified.”  In fact, they were more afraid after He calmed the storm, than they were before.

Further, storms come even when we are near Jesus. Just because they were in the same boat as Him, did not mean they were exempt from the storms.  Just because we are Christians does not mean we are exempt from the storms that come from living life under the sun. It does mean, we know The Son who can calm the storms.

So, He silences the storm, but He’s not finished.  Because after He rebukes the storm, notice, He rebukes the disciples.  In fact, I believe He’s more displeased with the disciples than He was with the storm.  And He says to them, “Why are you so afraid?”  The waves did not swamp the disciples, fear did.  Now, I’ve been in a sinking boat, and I can think of a lot of reasons to be afraid when a boat starts to sink.  But Jesus said, “You’ve got reasons not to be afraid.”  What were they?

Well, one reason would have been His promise to reach the other side.  Another would have been His presence with them.  And another would have been His own calm demeanor amid the storm.  Can you imagine sinking with the Son of God?  But, you see, that gets to the real heart of the problem.  Because, He says, “Do you still have no faith?”  That’s an important question.  

You see, the amazing thing to me is not that He could still the storm.  The amazing thing to me is that He could go to sleep in the middle of the storm. I mean, the boat is tossing and turning, and Jesus isn’t.  He has a peace amid the storm.  

We don’t really know what a person thinks about Jesus until a storm comes.  

Prayer: Lord, please calm the storms of our lives. Please calm the storms of loss of life, betrayal, suffering and emptiness. The storms rag and we need you to command, “Peace Be Still.”

The Nobleman's Son

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

         The Nobleman's Son

He heard, and he came. We don’t know his name, but we know his credentials. He was a nobleman, a man of wealth, of prominence and power. But none of those things mattered today, because on this day all he knew was that his son was ill. He knew his son’s condition was serious. He knew he had to do something. This isn’t an official coming to make an order to Jesus. This is a father pleading on behalf of his son. As far as we know, he had never seen Jesus heal. He hadn’t witnessed the power of the Son of God. He heard Jesus was near, and he came. 

Jesus’ responses must have been surprising. In one sentence He is addressing this man’s lack of faith, and in the next He tells the man to go home, his son will be healed. Can you imagine what this man wrestled with in his mind? “What did He just say? He is better? But He didn’t come. He didn’t see my boy. This is serious. What if He’s wrong? What if it didn’t work? What if I return and it’s not enough? We don’t read those things. He heard, and he came home. Jesus’ first statement about signs and wonders almost seems to be a test. Would this man believe without any sign? Without any evidence? Would he believe Jesus at His word? 

The challenge of Jesus here is one that we wrestle with. Can I take Jesus at His word, even if I can’t see it? If I can’t understand it? The power to heal a marriage, to heal a broken home, to heal a church, to heal the sin-sick soul - do I believe? Do I believe enough to stay in the midst of the mess, trusting God is still at work? Do I believe enough to be patient with the imperfections around me, trusting those around me (and especially me) can grow and mature? Do I believe enough to continue to pray for the prodigals who have left the Lord, trusting He can reach, heal, and restore? 

Maybe I’ve never seen it before - I’ve never seen a prodigal restored, I’ve never seen a struggling marriage mended, a broken home healed, a sin-filled soul forgiven. But Jesus has spoken - do I believe? He heard, and he came. Have you heard about Jesus?  Have you heard He has come? Have you heard there’s healing in His wings? Don’t doubt. Just come. 

Gracious Lord today we thank you for the humble faith of this desperate father. We are impressed that what you chose to reveal about this man was the boldness of his faith. Help me to trust in Your word, in Your promises - even if I cannot see, or understand, or have ever seen it before - help me to chase away my doubts and fears with confidence in You, in who You are, in what You say, in what You can do. Help me, when questions fill my heart, to seek Your words, and to come - bringing my questions and concerns to Your throne. Thank you for bringing healing into this world - especially healing our hearts and minds with greater trust in You. Blessed be Your name! 

Turning Water To Wine

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Turning Water To Wine

Turning water to wine is the first of Jesus’ miracles. This miracle was not recorded to create controversy. John is rather brief in what he says. He spends no time on the incident of the wedding that might be of passing interest. Who was the bride? The groom? Who was present? Was there any relation to Jesus? Why was the supply of wine insufficient? 

The sign shows that Jesus is Lord of creation. He who createdthe vine through which the water must pass to from the grape that becomes wine, and He who could turn the water directly into wine apart from the vine, are one. In this sign He shows His master of matter; when He wills, it obeys. Also, He is Lord of quality; the wine which He provided was superior to that provided by the host.

This sign shows us that no matter what we can create and provide, it is not equal to what God can create and provide. He provides the best. He is the Christ of creation. All things were made by Him (John.1:3). He is also the Christ of compassion. He is the Christ of change.

In Christ we have abundance. What He provides is excellent!Further, when Christ is with us, the best is yet to come! The wine Jesus created was better than the wine grown from the vine. No matter what man may build, create, and envision, it is always less than what Jesus can do. Life with Christ is not just great in the moment. Life with Christ is always this, “The best is yet to come.”

Prayer: Lord, You not only provided the best at the wedding feast, You have provided, with abundance, the life we need so mightily. The abundant life which You provided in Your Son has no equal. We pray we will take our eye off the physical and see the signs He did, so that they will produce faith in us.

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