Leadership Keys from Jesus (p.4)

4. He strategically used retreats for His own rest and for the renewal of His team. (Mark 3:13-14)

sabbathPreviously in this series we noted how Jesus claimed to be “Lord of the Sabbath.”  He was criticized severely by the Pharisees for His ministry activity on Sabbath days.  They felt He was defiling the Sabbath.

Far from rejecting the Sabbath, Jesus was actually fulfilling it. He was serving, forgiving, and healing people and setting them free from the massive burdens that sin had created in their lives. He was making it possible for people to actually return to God for a real rest.

And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him…” (vss 13-14)

Going up on the mountain probably served several purposes for Jesus.  First, it got His team away from the crowds, the noise, the unending demands.  Secondly, it physically represented an intentional drawing near to God and a narrowing of focus. There is an incredible message in this for us.

The first calling that Christ’s disciples would hear from Jesus was a calling TO HIMSELF!  He chose them.  He wanted them.  He wanted them to be WITH HIM. This is the first and primary calling of every Christ-follower!

“God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor 1:9)

We are not primarily called to work for the Lord.  We are called into fellowship with Him.  And that means we must cease from our own striving and rest in His “finished work”!  Only then, after learning how to be with Him and live in Him, are we prepared to be sent out to work!

It’s quite amazing to realize that Adam was created at the end of the Sixth Day of Creation – so his first full day on earth was the Sabbath.  This means that he began with fellowship with God..not working for God. God worked for six days and then rested.  Adam fellowshipped with God first, then worked!  This is incredible.

I love The Message translation of Matthew 11:28-30:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Keeping the Sabbath Day holy is much more about intentional drawing near to God in fellowship than it is about any particular ritual or regimen.  We need to develop a rhythm of getting alone with Jesus.

A rhythm of proper rest and fellowship with the Lord is essential to effective, powerful, and fruitful ministry.  A Sabbath rhythm might look like setting aside the first hour (or more) of everyday for private prayer, Scripture reading, and meditation.  And setting aside a day of the week for drawing away from the expenditure of precious energy and focusing on rest and fellowship with the Lord.

Anyone who routinely avoids honoring the principle of the Sabbath is asking for a spiritual, emotional, or physical  train wreck.  It is very possible to make an idol out of work and/or ministry and give no real attention to the most important priority of all: fellowship with the Savior!

What is keeping you from experiencing a real Sabbath rest with Jesus?  Is it as simple as lack of intentionality or priorities?  Or is it more serious, something on the inside of you that is avoiding God’s presence?

Please remember that just as Jesus called His first disciples, he also desires and wants you to be with Him as His follower and friend.

Leadership keys from Jesus (p.3)

3. People mattered greatly to Jesus, but their needs did not set the agenda or establish the boundaries for His life and ministry – the Father did. (Mark 3:8-12)

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Image source. Creative Commons

I believe and have often taught that Jesus is not only our source of salvation but is also our pattern for life and ministry.  But here’s an often missed reality:  while Jesus lived on earth for 33+ years, His public ministry only occurred in the last 10% of His time on earth.  So what did He do in the other 90%?  That’s an important question and one that helps normal everyday children of God find delight in their families, vocations, neighborhoods, etc.

 

Jesus did no miracles for the first 30 years.  But He still manifested the life and love of heaven…daily!  His life and relationships and choices all wonderfully pleased His Father –  PERFECTLY.  Before His public ministry was launched, just after His baptism, the Father said to Him, “You are My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.”

Jesus did not promote Himself, His ministry, or supernatural powers…before the Father’s time.  He was content to love people where they were…the way they were…without doing works that would draw great attention to Himself.

But this all changed when the season for His public ministry began.  Crowds began to swamp Him.  In our text we read how He had a get-away plan.  A boat was kept ready so He could escape the crowd if necessary.  Though He was amazingly available to massive numbers of people at times, at other times He actually hid from them.  He often went away to lonely places to pray.

And how about this:  He earnestly told the people to not tell who He was! (v.12)  This is pretty amazing.  It suggests that Jesus was doing crowd control.  And also seeking to not draw so much attention to Himself that the “authorities” would become too concerned too soon.  It also may relate to the physical limitations of His own humanity and that of His inexperienced disciples.

To summarize, we must learn how to allow God Himself to establish our ministry and its boundaries.  We must trust Him for wisdom and anointing to do what He’s called us to do.  But we should also realize we cannot do everything and are  not called to do everything.  We must acknowledge our limitations and set boundaries that are in keeping with the timings and the scope of what God has truly called us to do.

Finally, saying “no” is usually much harder than saying, “yes”, to people.  But our “nos” often define what our God-called boundaries are better than our “yeses” do!

For part 1 in this series click here.    For part 2 click here.

Leadership keys from Jesus (p.2)

Today we will consider the second leadership key from Mark 3:1-15. (Click here to go to Part 1).

2.  Jesus knew when to face His enemies and when to avoid them. (v. 5-7)

The setting was the synagogue in Capernaum. It was a Sabbath day.  There was a crippled man there and the Pharisees were “watching” Him to see if He would heal the man on the Sabbath.  They were looking for grounds to accuse Jesus of being a lawbrstrategyeaker or blasphemer.

The passage says that Jesus was deeply grieved at their hardness of heart. The Pharisees were so committed to their rules and traditions that they had become insensitive to human need and suffering.  Mark tells us that Jesus was angry at these religious leaders.

He could have avoided the conflict and the added opposition…by simply waiting until the following day to address the disabled man’s needs.  But He didn’t.  Jesus, the true Shepherd of the sheep, was moved with compassion for the sufferer and was NOT going to back down from the hard-hearted false shepherds.  So He healed the man and immediately made things even more difficult for Himself.

One of the characteristics of false shepherds is that they use people to promote their own ministries and reputations.  But the true Shepherd uses His ministry to build up and serve the people – even if at great expense to Himself.

Jesus was definitely willing to stand up to His enemies. But He also knew when to avoid conflict and to even flee from it.  Our text reveals that as a result of the healing of the crippled man that the Pharisees began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him (v.6).  The next verse shows how Jesus faced each situation with wisdom:

“Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples…” (v.7)

Jesus left town before the riot could be started.  Several times in the accounts of Jesus’ ministry we see Him slipping away from difficult situations.  He didn’t back down from His opponents – but He chose which battles to fight and which ones to avoid!

He didn’t fight to preserve His reputation in the eyes of men or to win the acceptance of those with self-serving agendas .  But He was willing to face opposition for compassion’s sake, that is, for the sake of suffering people.

More next time.

Five incredible leadership keys from Jesus (p. 1)

Image result for dry river bed

Just about anybody will admit that Jesus was a great leader.  Even folks who deny His deity will admit his impact.  Today I am launching a short series of posts related to some very timely lessons for leaders – all taken from Jesus’ early ministry.

The text that I have been studying is Mark 2:18 through Mark 3:14.  So here goes the first one:

  1. Life must come before structure and structure must yield to and serve life and mission. 

Jesus had only just begun His public ministry when He began to face serious criticism from the socio-religious powers in His culture.  From being criticized because His disciples were not regularly doing ritual fasts to criticism for His ministry activity on Sabbath Days, it became obvious that Jesus was not a slave to the traditions of man or unbiblical burdens that were being placed on folks.

Some of our Lord’s most famous sayings come from His reaction to empty rituals and lifeless traditions:  “You do not put new wine into old wineskins.” (3:22)  “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (3:27)

Years ago I came across the saying,

“Life begs for structure but structure never begs for life.”

I have often returned to this profound principle. For example, if God had not created life in the first six days, there would have been no need for a seventh day for rest.  If there was no human couple in the Garden, there would be no need for a Sabbath Day.  The Sabbath Day, a period of time set apart and structured for a specific purpose, was intended to serve and refresh people.  It wasn’t a ritual and burden to place on people!

A very practical example involves rainfall.  The many creeks, rivers, lakes, and oceans in our world exist because WATER CAME FIRST. Pay attention to what happens after a big rainstorm occurs.  Water begins looking for and running toward “structure”. The structure helps the water become useful and not wasted (or worse, destructive.)  The structure plays a very important, even essential, role.  But only when water is present.

Growing up in hot and dry West Texas, I know what dry river beds look like.  Most of the year these structures just sit there and do nothing.  It seems they are more than happy to exist without water.  They are not seeking anything.  They are content to hold to a form without life being present within.

I think you get the picture.  And it is an important one.

Jesus refused to prioritize structure over life and mission.  If he had to offend someone’s idea of Sabbath rules to reach someone’s heart (or someone’s crippled body) He would do it.  And when it came to His disciples, He picked people who were teachable and flexible, and not bound by lots of extra-biblical rules and traditions.

Our takeaway from this principle?  Go for life!  Focus on the life-giving truth and power of the Gospel and of the Holy Spirit.  And as fruit is expressed and folks begin to respond, then look for biblical ways for adding structure that is in keeping with the new life that is being expressed.  Structure is essential to the preservation and multiplication of life that is being expressed.  But structure must not become a hindrance to the legitimate activity of the Son of God in our midst.

In the next post we will look at:  Jesus knew when to face His enemies and when to avoid them.