Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 6

The Lord will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.

The Lord often uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  The second is personal peace about the decision when you pray and reflect upon it.  The third means is wise counsel and the fourth is critical thinking.  The fifth and final means is circumstances.

God will open doors to guide us.  He will also close doors to lead us to other open doors.  But the enemy can also create opportunities and seek to confuse with multiple choices, all seemingly good.  How to know is the closed door permanently closed or is it simply a matter of continuing to knock and wait until it opens?

In Acts 16:6-10 (ESV) we read, “And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.  And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.  So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’  And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

It seems that Paul’s strategy was to plant the gospel in major cities that were transportation and communication hubs.  On this, his second ministry tour, he completed visiting the cities from the first tour and now was going to go to Ephesus – the major city in the province of Asia.  Logic and strategy dictated this as the next destination.  But, God, through the Holy Spirit (a prophet, vision, dream?) prevented this from happening.  The door closed.

The team redirected north to Bithynia and then to Mysia.  Both were again blocked from entering by the Spirit, finally ending in the port city of Troas.  It was here that Paul had a vision (note the extra-ordinary means of direction) to come into Macedonia (northern Greece).  Europe was next in God’s plan, but it was not originally part of Paul’s.  Ephesus was reached eventually, but it would be several years later on Paul’s third tour.

The Spirit will let you know if the door is closed and you should redirect or just be patient and trust and He will open it in His time.  Tune your heart to His voice and you will hear it.

 

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 5

The Lord will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.

Remember, we are talking about major decisions in our lives, not things like, “What color should I paint my wall?”  But rather such decisions as, “Is God asking me to assume this ministry leadership role?”

The Lord uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  The second is personal peace about the decision when you pray and reflect upon it.  The third means is wise counsel.  The fourth is critical thinking.

It was Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, who said, “God gave you a lot of leading when He gave you a brain.  So use it!”

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  Note that it does not say to forget your own understanding.  Rather, it says ‘do not lean on your own understanding.’  That is, do not put your full weight upon your ability to understand.  You often can’t think your way into the will of God for many times God’s will is counter-intuitive and ‘illogical’ from the world’s perspective.

But neither should we throw away our brain when working through an important decision.  I will often make a ‘pro-con’ or ‘plus-minus’ list.  In one column I’ll list all the things that I sense are positive about this decision.  The other column are those items that seem negative or I have major concerns about.  Then I reflect and pray for discernment over both columns.

Think it through.  Reflect on it and ask the Lord for objectivity over yourself.  Ask for Him to give you His perspective on this and insight into the consequences in the future – both good and bad – of this decision.

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 4

Because God is God, He will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.

Note, we are talking about major decisions in our lives, not things like, “What will I wear today?”  But rather such decisions as, “Is God asking me to assume this ministry leadership role?”

The Lord frequently uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  The second is personal peace about the decision when you pray and reflect upon it.  The third means is wise counsel.

Proverbs 15:22 (ESV) says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”  Note that it says, ‘many advisers.’  What the Lord will do is give you a consensus of opinion from many advisors, but not all will say the same thing.

Proverbs 13:20 (ESV) reminds us, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”  Who you choose to ask for counsel determines the quality of counsel you will receive.  Finding the right counselors who know us, want our best and God’s best for us is a challenge.

You don’t want biased counsel from those who are trying to direct you to a particular outcome.  It is hard to get counsel from someone who does not have hidden motives – someone who is neutral in whatever decision you may choose.  Objective counsel from mature believers will be used to give perspective and direction.

Look for counsel from those who are more mature and experienced than you.  If you ask your friends, they may only give you the answer they think you want to hear, not wanting to risk the friendship by telling you the truth.

Wise, godly counsel can be hard to come by.  Proverbs 19:20 (ESV) says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”  The Lord will see that you get good counsel if you seek it.

 

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 3

Because God is God, He will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.

Note, we are talking about major decisions in our lives, not things like, “What will I have for lunch today?”  But rather such decisions as, “Is God calling me into vocational ministry?”

The Lord uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  The second is personal peace when you pray and reflect upon the decision.

In Isaiah 30:21 (NIV) we read, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  The Spirit will confirm with your spirit that you are on the right path, keep going, don’t give up or doubt.  There will be an inner settledness and confirmation from the Lord that this is the way.

Though you may not have all the answers yet, you will have a deep peace of heart, a rest in your heart, knowing that this is from God.  Doubts only need more facts.  Anxiety only needs more reassurance.  It’s is unbelief and disobedience that we must avoid.

You may have unanswered questions and the Lord may simply say that you must trust me on that one.  But other times your doubts will be removed as you get more clarity on the situation.  The Lord will give you all you need at the right time to make the right decision.

Psalm 143:8,10 say, “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. … Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.  The Lord will guide and direct you from His Spirit within you.  Listen carefully and you will hear His voice.

Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  John 10:27 (ESV)

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 2

Because God is God, He will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.

Note, we are talking about major decisions in our lives, not things like, “What will I have for lunch today?”  But rather such decisions as, “Is God calling me into vocational ministry?”

The Lord uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  You can expect to have specific biblical passages or Scriptural promises that speak to the decision you are working through.

Obviously, if something is contrary to a direct teaching or command in Scripture, or contrary to God’s character, it is not the will of God (i.e. marrying a non-Christian – see 2 Corinthians 6:14).  But God can also speak to us concerning our specific situations through personal promises from the Bible.  The Holy Spirit will confirm in  your heart that this is God’s promise to you.  For more details, see Praying Over God’s Promises.

In Psalm 119:105 (ESV) we read, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  The Word of God is like a small, hand-held, oil lamp that sheds enough light for us to take a few steps, illuminating the path as we move ahead.  It’s only enough light for the next few steps, but as we go, we have light for the next few steps.  See also Proverbs 6:22-23.

When wrestling with decisions have an expectant attitude as you interact with God’s Word.  You may hear Him speaking while in your morning devotions, when listening to a Sunday sermon, or He may bring to mind a passage you have memorized.  His direction from the Word will often be multiple passages, not just a singular one.  He does not want us confused or mistaking His voice for another’s.

Jesus promises us, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  John 10:27 (ESV)

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 1

Kingdom leaders want to further God’s purposes in their lives and through their leadership.  They seek to align their decisions in accordance with God’s will.  But given the many choices, how does one discern the Lord’s will in specific decisions?  Here are some foundational thoughts regarding this important topic.

If a Kingdom leader is to know the will of God, they must first commit themselves to doing it.  Often, we desire to know God’s plans for us and then we decide if we want to obey them.  But God’s ways are not our ways.

Jesus says in John 7:17 (ESV):  If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

And again in Romans 12:1-2 (ESV) we read: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Note that the precursor for testing the good and acceptable and perfect will of God is to first present yourself a living sacrifice to the Lord and become transformed in the renewal of your mind.

In Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV) we see:  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  The Lord is working on/in/through us to do His good works which He planned long ago.  It’s our job to align ourselves with Him and His plan for us and then we will experience His perfectly designed plan for which we were created.

Because God is God, He will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.  This can be frightening, but if we really know God and His love, we will also trust Him as we follow His guidance by faith.

May our attitude be that of Mary who, after learning about God’s plan for her to be the mother of Jesus says, …”Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  Luke 1:38 (ESV)

Trust in the Lord

Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.                      Isaiah 26:4   ESV

All of life and leadership is a faith journey for no one knows the future and how it will come to pass.  Kingdom leaders make decisions based upon the best information available and then trust that the Lord will establish the work of our hands.  (see Psalm 90:17)

Faith is only as good as the object of our faith. I could have great faith that if I jump off my roof and flap my arms rapidly, then I will fly.  But my faith and strenuous effort will not conquer gravity.  The object of my faith was not worthy of my trust.

The more we know about what (or Who) we are placing our trust in, the more confident we will act.  Some leaders are placing their faith and trust in themselves and their leadership experience.  While your ability to control outcomes and recall previous experience may prove helpful, there still is no certainty of outcome.  Your vision is fixed on the ‘rear-view mirror’ instead of on Him who controls the future.

Some leaders will put their faith and trust in other people – their team, their co-workers or their friends.  But once again this is short-sighted and can lead to great disappointment as all people are fallen and people in process.  They will disappoint you (and you too will disappoint others) – it is only a matter of when, not if.

Some others will trust their processes or their own resources.  They take reasonable risks in their leadership and assume that their ‘rainy day resources’ will cover any eventuality.  But there will always be something beyond the expected norms – the 100 year flood – that far out-strips all available resources.

Any trust placed outside of the Lord Himself is doomed to be shown as folly.  Having our trust and faith in Him alone will ensure a stability and security that rises above the everyday trials of life and leadership.  This does not mean that we live a ‘pain-free’ life or have a leadership that is devoid of great upheavals.  But what it does mean is that He will see us through whatever comes our way.  He is sufficient for all that we experience and He has promised never to leave us.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.       Psalm 20:7   ESV

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.                           Proverbs 3:5-6   ESV

The more you know the Lord and His ways, the more your faith and trust in Him will grow!

Where’s your trust today?

Happy New Year!!

As we end one and begin a new calendar year, it’s good to pause and reflect upon what was and what we hope will be.  It is through reflection that we can gain perspective and see more clearly the overarching, God-orchestrated, macro movements of our lives.

Leaders are often too busy to stop and reflect.  We always have more things to do and people to see.  We take one item off of the do-list and add three more!  Who has time to stop and think?

Today…..now is the time to stop and reflect upon who you are becoming and what you are doing!  Your personal diary, journal or devotional notebook can be of great help to look back through and observe themes or topics that Lord has been addressing in you.  Here are some questions to get you started in this reflection time.

Are you pleased with your own personal spiritual walk?  More importantly, is Jesus pleased with your pursuit of Him?  How’s the pace of life?  Do you have a margin in your life?  Are you living and leading from an overflow?  How’s the family doing?  Are you paying the price to experience the marriage you committed to on your wedding day?  Are you investing deeply in your children and grandchildren, knowing that the years for significant influence are rapidly passing you by?

What fears are you trying to ignore related to your leadership?  Are you leading with faith and courage?  Is the vision of where you are leading to focused or foggy?  Do you have a team that is unified and empowered around a shared vision?  Are you accomplishing the mission that you intended to accomplish?

These and many more questions are helpful for taking stock of where you are today and where you need to be/go tomorrow.  Use this season for reflection and refocus as you start a new year full of new hope and new beginnings.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

PS  If you’ve found this weekly leadership blog helpful, please consider making a donation by clicking the Donate link on the right side of the page. 

Merry Christmas!

Perhaps like me, you’ve wondered where all of the Christmas traditions came from.  Here’s some background to help with giving some new (old?) meaning to these seasonal traditions.

December 25 – The Day of Jesus’ Birth

In ancient times birthdays were celebrated only by kings and royalty.  It was not customary to record the specific date of an individual’s birth.  Being unsure of the exact date of Jesus’ birth, many dates began to be observed as Christianity spread from country to country.

Bishop Hippolytus calculated the birth of Jesus to be December 25 in 235 AD.  Emperor Constantine ordered the celebration of Christmas in 320 AD.  Since 400 AD Christendom has accepted this date as the traditional date of Jesus’ birth.

Christmas was first celebrated in America in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia.  In 1836 Alabama became the first state to establish Christmas as a legal holiday.  Colorado recognized Christmas as a state holiday in 1861.

St. Nicholas or Santa Claus

Nicholas was born and raised in Turkey in 280 AD.  When Nicholas reached age 19 he entered the priesthood.  He became known as the ‘patron saint of children’ because of his habit of leaving unidentified gifts at the homes of needy families.  This mysterious donor is called “Father Christmas” in England.

Introduced as “Sinterklass”  to America by the Dutch as the patron saint of their colonies or as the English and French said, “Saneta Claas.”  In 1809 Washington Irving portrayed a jolly fellow who rode in a sleigh pulled by reindeer; a far cry from the original St. Nicholas.  The giving spirit of St. Nicholas should inspire us all.

Candy Canes

A popular account says that a candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy to celebrate the birth of Jesus, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane.  He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus.

He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy.  He chose white to symbolize the purity and Virgin Birth of Jesus.  He made it in the “J” shape for the name of Jesus.  The shape is also that of a shepherd’s staff, to remind us that the Bible calls Jesus the Good Shepherd.  The red stripe is to remind us of the blood Christ shed for us when he died on a cross.

Christmas Carols

Until the Middle Ages there was no congregational singing in Christian churches.  Trained choirs sang chants and monotonous songs.  After the Christmas services, the church members would often gather in the streets to sing songs about the birth of Jesus, called ‘carola.’  Martin Luther introduced congregational singing to the churches.

“Silent Night” is the most popular Christmas carol.  Written on Christmas eve in Obendorf, Austria in 1818 by a priest as he walked in the snow house-to-house inviting his members to the service that evening.  Returning to his church, the priest asked the organist to write the melody to the lyrics he had composed on his walk.  Sung for the first time at the service that evening, it was sung to guitar as the church organ was broken!

Christmas Trees

This tradition was borrowed from the non-Christian people of northern Europe and given a new meaning.  These people would bring evergreens into their homes during the winter months to remind them of the hope of the coming spring.

Christians adapted this custom and added that the evergreen symbolizes the everlasting life offered through belief in Jesus as our Savior.  Trees were set up on Christmas and decorated with lights (candles) to symbolize that Jesus was born on a beautiful, starry night in Bethlehem.  Tradition says that Martin Luther was the first to add lights to the decorated tree.

Creche or Manger Scene

Until the 13th century, those that celebrated Christmas generally overlooked the lowly conditions of Jesus’ birth.  In 1219, St. Francis of Assisi visited Bethlehem where he was struck by the simplicity of Christ’s birthplace.  He was dismayed by the contrast of Jesus’ humble beginnings and the lavish church celebrations of his birth.

St. Francis created a rustic stable scene for midnight mass on Christmas Eve 1223.  He used live animals and people portrayed Mary and Joseph, shepherds and the angels.

Stockings

Long before Christmas trees were a part of the common Christmas traditions, stockings were hung in anticipation of the arrival of St. Nicholas.  English immigrants brought this custom with them to America.

The original Christmas stockings that were hung were those worn for everyday apparel.  They were hung with the hopes of being filled with treats from the visit of St. Nick.

What traditions are a part of your Christmas celebrations?  What values are you communicating as you celebrate?  Perhaps you can lead your family or your friends in remembering the true reason for the season as you reflect upon some of these established traditions.     MERRY CHRISTMAS!

PS  If you’ve found this weekly leadership blog helpful, please consider making a donation by clicking the Donate link on the right side of the page. 

Leadership Cycles

Image result for kokanee salmon colorado public images  Colorado Parks and Wildlife – Blue Mesa Reservoir

Every fall as the water temperature drops and the hours of daylight shorten, thousands of four-year old kokanee salmon move out of Colorado reservoirs into streams to spawn and die.  It happens every year and is a yearly cycle that draws fishermen to the streams seeking to catch these beautiful red fish.

Just like the kokanee salmon yearly spawning cycle, so too in Kingdom work we have ministry cycles that repeat year after year.  The fall is usually a time of new ministry launches for the ministry year which coincides with the beginning of the academic school year.  Summer vacations have ended and new initiatives begin.

The fall ends and winter begins (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) with packed schedules celebrating holidays and family gatherings. Winter ends and the promise of spring comes with Easter as a milestone and then we hold on to the end of school and the warm days of summer with its usually slower pace.  Then it’s time to prepare for the fall again and so the cycle repeats.

The longer one is in Kingdom work and experiences these cycles it can become a bit routine, if you are not careful.  New leaders with little experience are truly excited with the newness of it all.  But for those who have ‘been there and done that’ so many times before, we can become a bit dull to it all.  This should never be so for we are serving the King of kings and Lord of lords!

Howard Hendricks former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary was once asked how he stayed motivated and energized as he repeatedly taught the same classes year after year.  He replied, “I remind myself how impactful these courses were for me when I first experienced them.” He took his eyes off of himself and fixed them on his audience.

Ministry cycles are not inherently bad.  It’s how we respond to them that makes all the difference.  If we make it about us, then we will certainly get bored and in a worse case, even cynical.  But if we take our eyes off of ourselves and keep the focus on those we lead and influence, then it stays fresh and challenging.

So, where’s your gaze?  Is it fixed upon you or others?

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