#259: Two Obscure Women Whose Courage Saved a Nation

Leadership Lessons from The Lesser Known

Whenever I see a list of important women in the Bible these two women’s names are never listed. Their near anonymity is not surprising since their names are listed only once in the Bible, and their entire story takes up only six verses in Exodus (Exodus 1:15-20).

Women Courage

But the nation of Israel owes them a great debt.

Israelites in Egypt

Back when the Israelites were in Egypt they enjoyed relative prosperity while Joseph was alive. But after Joseph died, a new Pharaoh came along who didn’t know Joseph, and he was intimidated by the size of the Israelite community.

To solve the problem of the growing Israelite population, Pharaoh enslaved the Israelites committing them to hard labor. But their population continued to swell.

Frustrated by his failed attempt to control the Israelite population, Pharaoh called in the two head Israelite midwives, Shiphrah and Puah. He ordered them to kill the Hebrew baby boys as they were born (Exodus 1:16).

But Shiphrah and Puah feared God and did not do what Pharaoh had ordered them to do (Exodus 1:17).

Shiphrah and Puah were probably not the only two midwives serving the entire Israelite nation. I think they were the leaders of the midwives’ union and used their influence to convince the other midwives to go along with their plan to disobey Pharaoh and allow the Hebrew boys to live.

When Pharaoh called Shiphrah and Puah in to explain why the Hebrew boys were allowed to live they explained that the Hebrew women gave birth before the midwives could arrive (Exodus 1:19).

God approved of the action of Shiphrah and Puah. He caused the Israelite population to grow even more, and because Shiphrah and Puah feared God, He gave them families of their own (Exodus 1:20-21).

Courage and Conviction

Shiphrah and Puah feared God more than Pharaoh. As a result, they had the courage and conviction to do what was right no matter the cost.

They understood that in this specific case, God’s law superseded man’s law. They knew that killing innocent Hebrew babies was a sin against God. Pharaoh could have easily ordered their execution, but Shiphrah and Puah preferred to be right with God.

Peter encountered a similar situation when the apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin and accused of violating the order not to preach about Jesus. Peter and the other apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Peter and the apostles also displayed courage and conviction in refusing to obey man’s law when it violated God’s law.

Must We Obey Man’s Law Regardless?

Paul, writing to the Romans, said: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1).

So, as Christians, are we to submit to authority, as Paul directed, or are we to observe the example of Shiphrah, Puah, Peter, and the Apostles?

The answer, it seems, is to submit to man’s law as long as it does not conflict with God’s law.

Killing innocent babies is a sin against God. Regardless of what Pharaoh commanded, it was wrong. So, Shiphrah and Puah defied man’s law to be obedient to God’s law.

Christian leaders, we need to be guided in our actions by the Holy Spirit. We need to be filled with courage and conviction and follow the example of two obscure Hebrew midwives to obey God no matter the cost.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you encountered situations when you had to decide between following man’s law or God’s law? Do you think Christians should follow man’s law even if it conflicts with God’s law?

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Category: Personal Development | Courage/Risk-Taking

#231: Is it Wrong to Leave God out of the Workplace?

A recent survey of professing Christians found that 83% were either very careful about how they integrated their faith in the workplace, or rarely if ever, let anyone in the workplace know about their faith.


Respondents gave a number of reasons for their reluctance to let others know about their faith, but the root reason was fear. They were afraid of being judged, of being oppressed or persecuted, or of not being able to defend their faith.

If our work is to be in harmony with God’s will then we cannot leave God out of the workplace!

I believe there are three reasons why we should not leave God out of the workplace: 1) work is Godly, and 2) work is our service to Jesus, and 3) work is our evangelism.

Work is Godly

Beginning with the creation account in Genesis, we see God is a worker. At each stage of creation, God paused to review His work and proclaimed that it was good.

In Genesis 2:15 God placed Adam in the garden of Eden to “work” it. Work was commanded by God, before the fall of man, and it was good. In fact, the word translated “work” in Hebrew is abad. The same word is translated elsewhere as “worship.”

Work is Godly. It was ordained by God. Work is a form of worship to God!

Work is our Service

Numerous passages in the New Testament speak of the grandeur and unity of God’s creation.

Paul, writing to his young protégé Timothy, said, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

God created the concept of work, and here Paul says everything God created is good. Everything here includes work!

Paul, this time writing to the Colossians, says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…it is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).

Paul makes it very clear that work is one way we serve the Lord. Paul makes no distinction about the type of work that serves the Lord. There is no higher and lower plane. The person in the pulpit serves the Lord in his work just as much as the field worker, the fast food worker, the housekeeper, the office maintenance man, and everyone else does in his/her work.

The relevant question is, “Is this work in harmony with God’s will? Is it of service to Christ?”

Work is our Evangelism

A lot of Christians I know don’t think of themselves as evangelists. But trust me we all are! Whether we like it or not we are in the world, and the world sees Jesus through what they see in us.

Some folks abdicate their responsibility by saying evangelism is the role of the professionals; the pastors, and missionaries.

But that limits our ability to reach the world and does not align with Scripture.

First of all, our pastors have an hour or maybe a bit longer (depending on your denomination) to preach to people, who, for the most part, are already in the boat.

You and I, on the other hand, have 40, 50, or even more hours in the workplace where we have the opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ to people who, for the most part, are not in the boat.

Secondly, all Christians have been given gifts for the express purpose of ministering to the body. Writing to the Ephesians Paul said the gifts were, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).

Third, Jesus commanded us to be salt and light to the world.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).

Salt is a preservative, but if it becomes impure, it loses its ability to preserve. We are to be like pure salt that preserves the Lord’s teaching. If we become impure by accepting a secular worldview our teaching is of no value to the Kingdom.

Light provides direction and enables you to walk securely without stumbling. If the light is hidden under a basket, it is of no use. A Christian who hides their faith is of no use in bringing light to others.

Christian leaders, we must be pure salt and a bright light in the workplace. We must use the gifts and opportunities God has given us to build up the Kingdom.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you struggled to be pure salt and a bright light in the workplace?

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Category: Personal Development | Courage/Risk-Taking




#125: 5 Truths Esther Taught Me about Leadership in the Face of Death

I loathe confrontation, and that has led to a number of terrible decisions in my career. As a people pleaser, there have been times when I would much rather smile and endure, than muster the courage required to deal with a problem face-to-face.

Esther truth

There are tire track impressions on my back—stark reminders of several situations when I allowed someone to run right over me rather than stand my ground. (If it hadn’t been for my wife’s encouragement and support there would have been many more examples).

The problem is that ignoring a crisis does not make it go away, and refusing to stand up and confront an issue is not the definition of a strong, courageous leader.

Happily, the Bible gives us many examples of courageous people that God called on to do a great work, and one of my favorites is a little orphan girl named Esther.

Esther parents had died and she was raised by her cousin Mordecai. Through a series of remarkable circumstances Esther, a Jewess became queen of Persia, the greatest superpower the world had ever seen.

Haman, the prime minister of Persia, hated the Jews, and through a series of lies convinced the king that the Jews must be exterminated. Mordecai heard about the king’s edict to kill all the Jews, and he secretly got word to his cousin Esther.

Esther’s actions teach us five very important truths about leadership in the face of death:

Truth #1: We Need to Understand the Situation (Esther 4:1-8).

Mordecai got a copy of the king’s edict to Esther in the palace so she would understand what was at stake. At the same time, he told her she was the one person whom God had placed in a unique situation to do something to save her people.

Lesson for Us. Esther took her time to read through the king’s edict. She understood the implications of the edict, and her unique position to act on behalf of her people. Always take the time to really understand the situation before you agree to engage.

Truth #2: We Must Count the Cost (Esther 4:9-10).

Esther realized that coming before the king without being summoned might result in her execution unless the king granted her permission to come forward.

Lesson for Us. Most of the leadership situations you and I are faced with are not life and death, but regardless, it is a wise man or woman who counts the cost before proceeding.

Truth #3: We Must Always Seek God’s Wisdom (Esther 4:15-17).

Esther sent word to Mordecai that she and her servants, and Mordecai and all the Jews should pray and fast for three days to seek God’s wisdom.

Lesson for Us. Esther didn’t just pray for wisdom herself, she engaged her staff and all the Jews throughout the land to pray and fast with her. This is an oft-neglected step in the leadership action plan. Ask God! We tend to run ahead of God working on our own power. Let’s remember to stop and seek God’s will.

Truth #4: We Must Plan a Course of Action.

Esther carefully planned out her approach to the king, and how she would make a request to the king to save her people.

Lesson for Us. We’re not told explicitly in the story, but sometime during the three days of prayer and fasting, Esther devised a detailed plan of action for approaching the king and making her request known. Never act against a major initiative without a well-developed plan!

Truth #5: We Must Execute Our Plan (Esther 5:1-8, 7:1-10).

Esther got all dressed up in her royal robes and approached the king, who allowed her to enter. When the king asked what she wanted, she asked only that the king and Haman join her for dinner that evening. At the dinner, the king asked what she wanted, and she said only for the king and Haman to join her the next evening for dinner and she would tell him. The next evening, she asked the king to spare her people because they had been sold into destruction by none other than Haman.

Lesson for Us. There is a time for prayer and a time for action. Once the time for prayer was completed Esther took action the very next day. We need to be just as decisive and courageous knowing that whatever happens God is with us.

The role of a leader places us in tenuous situations where we are going to have to stand courageously because God may have placed you in this position for just a time as this (Esther 4:14).

The next time you are confronted with a leadership crisis make sure you understand the situation, count the cost, seek God’s wisdom, plan a course of action, and then and only then, execute your plan!

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you struggled to deal with difficult situations in your role as a leader? Which of these lessons is most difficult for you?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?


Category: Personal Development | Courage/Risk Taking

#124: Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Transforming Fears in your Life

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?  The three little pigs were, and they had good reason.

Fear Wolf

In the story of the three little pigs that Walt Disney popularized in 1936, the wolf huffs and puffs and blows down one little pig’s perfectly good house made of straw.  Determined to stand their ground two little pigs hid out in the house made of sticks.  When the house made of sticks came apart the two little pigs ran to the house of their brother.  All the huffing and puffing from the wolf didn’t matter, they were safe once inside the brick house.  Eventually, the three little pigs had the wolf for dinner.  There is a lot of wisdom in this story about how fear affects us in our lives.

The First Fear

The word “fear” is found throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  Adam is the first to express fear when God confronts him in the Garden of Eden after he and Eve ate the forbidden fruit;  “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10 NAS).

Given the circumstances, Adam and Eve’s fear of being naked was justified.  God banished them from the Garden, condemned mankind to a life of toil, and increased the pain of childbirth (Genesis 3:16-17).  Fear is like a two-edged sword; in some cases it motivates people to achieve, and in other cases it cripples.  Seasoned actors who give legendary performances confess to having stage fright.  Executives who manage large companies fail to discipline their children for fear of losing their love.  What is it about fear that motivates some and cripples others?

What is Fear?

Mr. Webster defines fear as, “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger, a profound reverence and awe especially toward God.”  The Bible uses the same word, yare, to express both the fear of danger and reverence for God.  The Israelites provide an example of the fear of anticipated danger.

Recall in Numbers 13, Moses sends 12 spies into the land of Canaan to find out if their cities are fortified, if the people are strong or weak, and whether the people are few or many (Numbers 13:18-19).  The spies returned after a month and ten of them said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us” (Numbers 13:31).

The result of this report was that the entire nation of Israel was afraid to go in and take the land that God had promised them, so they ended up wandering in the desert for 40 years before they got a second chance.

The irony of this example is that after wandering for 40 years Joshua sent two spies into the city of Jericho where they spoke to Rahab, the harlot.  Rahab tells them, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.  For we have heard how the Lord dried up the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt…And when we heard it our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is in heaven above and on the earth beneath” (Joshua 2:9-11).

Fear kept the nation of Israel from taking their land when God first wanted them to so they wandered in the desert for 40 years.  All the while the Canaanites who had only heard stories about the Israelites had their hearts melt away with fear.

The Effects of Fear

Dr. Rick Warren (Senior Pastor, Saddleback Valley Community Church) identifies the effect of fear on us.

1) Fear paralyzes our potential

Fear kept the entire nation of Israel from entering into the Promised Land.  If they had not been afraid of the Canaanites they would have saved 40 years of wandering in the desert.  The Israelites told Moses, “Have you brought us out here to die in the desert because there were not enough graves for us in Egypt? … We said it would be better to be slaves to the Egyptians than dead in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:11-12).  The Israelites would rather have been slaves in Egypt than face their fears.  Have you even been so afraid of a situation that you retreated instead of charging forward?  Do you know anyone who is so afraid of their personal computer that they refuse to learn how to tap into its amazing power?  Instead, they dictate memos, hand write presentations, and use a calculator on long columns of numbers.

2) Fear ruins our relationships

Because Moses exhorted the Israelites to take the Promised Land, the people fearing failure wanted to kill Moses, “But all the congregation said to stone them with stones” (Numbers 14:10).  They also wanted to appoint other leaders and go back to slavery in Egypt (Numbers 14:4)!  Fear also hurt their relationship with God.  If Moses had not intervened on their behalf God would have judged them right then, “I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you (Moses) into a nation greater and mightier than they” (Numbers 14:12).  Have you ever been afraid of a customer or a boss?  Perhaps a very important customer threatened to discontinue your product.  You feared the loss of sales and profit, of having to lay off employees, and perhaps even the loss of the business.  Have you ever had a boss threaten you?  “If you don’t fix this business you’re fired.”  “If you don’t increase widget production in your unit up I’ll get someone who can.”  What happens with relationships when fear enters in?  Chances are your level of trust declines, you keep things to yourself, you blame others for your trouble, and you may even look for ways to hurt the other person.  Not exactly the best conditions for building strong relationships!

3) Fear hinders our happiness

Fear kept the Israelites from finding happiness.  They did not get into the Promised Land, and in fact, they wanted to go back to being slaves.  They weren’t happy being slaves either, but they thought that was preferable to facing the Canaanites.  Think about a business situation when you were afraid.  What were you like?  Were you a happy, encouraging manager?  Or were you sullen and short-sighted like the Israelites?  There’s a saying, “Don’t worry, be happy.”  Perhaps a little flip but the point is happiness and fear do not go together.  It’s hard to be happy when your heart is full of fear.  If you want to be happy you need to learn to control your worries and fears.

4) Fear sabotages our success

Job said, “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me” (Job 3:25).  Job feared, past tense, and his fears became manifest.  The Israelites feared the Canaanites so the entire generation wandered in the desert, never having the chance to see the Promised Land.  What fears have kept you from success?  Has the fear of expanding your business kept you small?  Has the fear of new technology kept your business in the dark ages?  Fear often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  What Job feared most became true.  Do you want what you fear most to come true?

One Final Thought

Once safely ensconced in the brick house the three little pigs were not afraid of the big bad wolf.  They had the confidence of knowing that the brick house could stand up to all the huffing and puffing the wolf could muster.  We can have this confidence if we build our own brick house.  But rather than a real brick house, we must build ours from a knowledge of God’s Word.  There are 366 “fear-nots” in the Bible.  That’s one for every day of the year including leap years.  Memorize verses of the Bible that give you strength.  Each verse is like a brick in your house that will protect you from the fears in your life.  Remember those fears are not from God, and the devil cannot blow down a house made from God’s Word!

Bonus Whitepaper

If you would like a broader discussion on this topic, including seven steps for overcoming fear, download the Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?  whitepaper.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Has fear kept you from doing something you felt called to do?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

Category: personal Development | Courage

#109: Will You Answer God When He Calls You to Lead?

OK, I’ll admit it. I screen my calls using the caller ID. When the caller ID says “Private” I’m like, “No way! Maybe when sergeant calls, and of course if an officer calls, but private, nope, no way am I answering the phone.”

God Calls

I bet, even though the conversation in your head might be different, that you do the same thing!

When I was a younger man, I answered the phone every time hoping it would be the boss asking me to take on some special assignment. As I grew a little older (and somewhat wiser), I realized that some of those phone calls were assignments that weren’t really all that special. Other assignments were things I wasn’t qualified to do, but my larger than life ego made me say ‘yes.’ In both cases, these were assignments I should have said ‘no’ to!

But what happens when God calls? I hate (really hate) to admit it, but there have been times when I treated God’s call like the caller ID said ‘private.’ Oh sure, I had my excuses. There is the selfish excuse: “God, thanks for thinking of me, but I am pretty busy doing my stuff right now.” There is the deflection excuse: “God, I think Mike over there would do a better job for you than me.” There is the delay excuse: “God, I’m just not quite ready yet.” But the truth is, all of these excuses of mine could be summed up in, “God, I’m afraid.”

If you’ve read the Bible or listened to a few sermons, you’ve probably heard about someone that God called, who was either reluctant or downright fearful, to answer God’s call. It’s good to know that we are not alone!

One of my favorite Bible characters is Jeremiah. There are a lot of reasons I like Jeremiah, but one reason is that like me, Jeremiah was reluctant to answer God’s call, but God used him anyway!

Jeremiah’s Back-story

Jeremiah lived during a very difficult time in Judah’s history. King Manasseh was the most evil king who had ruled over Judah. He had caused the people to reject God, and worship idols, to the point that God said they were worse than the people God had destroyed to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land!

When Manasseh died his son, Amon became king and he was worse than his father. He went so far as to make idol worship the official religion of Judah! Thankfully, Amon ruled only two years when his son, Josiah, became king. Josiah tried to turn things around by renewing the people’s covenant with God. He ordered the idols removed, the temple to be repaired, and worship of God to be resumed. The people made outward changes, but their hearts remained hard. And that’s when God called upon Jeremiah!

Jeremiah’s Call from God

Jeremiah records God’s words when God called Him to lead the nation as his prophet:

The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:4-5

 Now here comes Jeremiah’s excuses:

“Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” Jeremiah 1:6

But, God’s not buying these excuses:

But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:7-10

 Lessons for Us from God’s Call to Jeremiah

  1. God is God, and we’re not! Let’s not forget, God is our creator. God knew us before He even formed us in the womb!
  2. God set us apart. Before we were even born God set us apart. That phrase ‘set apart’ means to be holy, in service to God.
  3. God appointed a work for us to do. God has a specific plan of service that he has appointed to each of His children.
  4. God is not put off by our perceived weaknesses. Our perceived weaknesses, whatever they may be, are not a deal breaker to God (see point 1).
  5. God’s direction is specific. God has a specific plan in mind for the work we are called to do.
  6. God equips where God leads. God equips us to do whatever work He has called us to do—whether we believe it or not!
  7. God is with us always. God does not ask us to do the work alone—he is always with us, and because of His presence we need not be afraid.

Whatever work God has called us to do, rest assured that He called us because He knows everything about us. He created us, and He is more than capable of determining what we can do. God will equip us to do whatever He has called us to do! With God at our side, there is no reason to be afraid, success is assured.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome! Have you been reluctant to answer God’s call on your life? What happened when you finally answered?

#083: What To Do When Opportunities Are Blocked By Obstacles

I once had an opportunity to produce a Spanish language TV show to air on a major TV station in Los Angeles. Producing the show would be a lot of work, cost a lot of money that I didn’t have, and was fraught with risk if it didn’t succeed.


The visionary in me saw it as a great opportunity, but to make it come to life I would have to overcome a number of obstacles. I bet the same thing has happened in your life; a great opportunity came your way, but obstacles threatened to keep you from achieving your vision.

One of my favorite Bible stories is that of David & Goliath as recorded in 1 Samuel 17. In it, we see a great lesson in what to do when opportunities are blocked by obstacles.

As our story unfolds, David’s father Jesse, asks David to deliver some food supplies to David’s brothers who are serving in Saul’s army. David is in Bethlehem and the army is in the Valley of Elah preparing to fight the Philistines. It is a distance of over 80 miles through mountainous terrain. David packs up the supplies and sets off, arriving in Elah just as the army was going out to take up their positions for battle.

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