Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

7 Woes for Leaders – #3

Jesus launches into a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders around Him at the dinner table of a local Pharisee (see Luke 11:37-52).  This passage begins a list of seven failures that these leaders experienced.  The following continues the list of six failures that are prefaced with a dire warning, “Woe to you…”

Here’s #3  –  “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.”  v. 43   (NIV  1984)

Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees were very interested in appearance.  They wanted the prominent seats in worship services at the synagogue.  They wanted to be noticed by others when they strolled through the public marketplaces.  They were more interested in seeking the approval of others, rather than doing what is right.

Ego and pride can be very insidious in their growth within us.  Prominence, success, platform, recognition can all plant seeds within our hearts that sprout into the strangle vine of pride.  Leaders, because of our positions and prominence can be susceptible to this noxious weed in our life.  How we respond when praised and recognized is key to keeping these weeds out of our garden.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Any man can handle adversity, but it is success that is the true test of a man.”

Instead of seeking the approval of others in order to win their recognition or praise, do what is right.  But what is this “right” that we are to do.  Numerous passages in the Bible describe leaders doing what is right in the eyes of God, not men.  For example, “For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite (1 Kgs 15:5).   NIV  1984

Doing what is right is doing what is pleasing to God.  It is living and leading in such a way as to seek His approval – His alone.  For in pleasing God, by doing what is right, we may run counter-cultural to the times or the wisdom of the world.

So where do you find your approval?  Your heart will tell you and God knows.

7 Woes for Leaders – #2

Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.  You foolish people!  Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?  But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.    Luke 11:39–42  (NIV 1984)

Jesus launches into a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders around Him at the dinner table of a local Pharisee.  This passage begins a list of seven failures that these leaders experienced.  The following begins the list of six failures that are prefaced with a dire warning, “Woe to you…”

Here’s #2  –  Majoring on the minors, while neglecting what’s really important  – v. 42  (NIV  1984)

Jesus points out that the Pharisees were fastidious in their tithing practices.  Even giving a tenth of the herbs from their garden to the Lord.  But their myopia in focusing on the minor issues of tithing down to counting the herbal seeds of their garden caused them to miss the bigger issues.

He pointed out two big misses in particular – the neglect of justice and the love of God.   These issues are reflective of the very heart and character of God.  They had majored on the minors while neglecting the more important matters.

Note that Jesus says that they should not have neglected the former.  That is, don’t stop your attention to giving of your income to God. But, at the same time, don’t neglect the macro Kingdom issues that align with His overall purposes and character.

For Kingdom leaders, we can get so consumed with the operations – the doing of the Kingdom work that we neglect the King.  We can focus on the tactical and miss the strategic.  We be consumed with the immediate and neglect the long-term.

Both the work of the Kingdom and the King, the tactical and the strategic, and the urgent, immediate as well as the long-term are needed.  It is a both-and, not an either-or.

Are you majoring on the majors or the minors?

7 Woes for Leaders – #1

When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table.  But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised.  Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.  You foolish people!  Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?  But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.     Luke 11:37–41  (NIV 1984)

Jesus launches into a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders around Him at the dinner table of a local Pharisee.  This passage begins a list of seven failures that these leaders experienced.  I’ve included this first exhortation to the following list of six that are prefaced with a dire warning, “Woe to you…”

Here’s #1  –  Using leadership’s privileges to promote personal greed and wickedness  –  v. 39   (NIV  1984)

The Pharisees were questioning Him about washing before eating.  In particular, they were concerned about ceremonial cleansing of their dishes and utensils.  Jesus uses this question as a launching point for a stinging rebuke.  He excoriates them for cleaning the outside of their cups, while they ignore the evil inside their hearts.

These leaders were focused on the externals rather than the internals.  They looked good on the outside, but in their hearts they were evil.    They used their leadership to promote personal greed and wickedness.

Leaders often have access to resources that others don’t.  We can take advantage of these for our own personal use rather than using them for the accomplishing the mission.  Leaders have authority to make exceptions and often those exceptions are to our personal benefit.  Or, worse yet, we can think that the rules and regulations don’t apply to us.

The source of this is pride.  It is the sin of Lucifer that resulted in the great divide.  He subtly works to help us justify our self-centeredness.  “You sacrifice so much for this work,” he whispers.  “You deserve it.”  “It’s only a little thing,” he says.  “No one will know.”

Be very careful!  For the Lord’s hand comes off those who do such things.  Even more, He actively works against and opposes those whose hearts are prideful and self-centered.

That is why Scripture says:  “God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”  Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.   James 4:5-7  (NIV 1984)

Hobbies or Hobbles?

I was educated and trained as a veterinarian, specializing in horses.  There were certain times when I needed to restrain a horse in order to work on it.  Hobbles were one of the most useful, simple means for immobilizing a horse and to protect me from getting my brains beat out by a horse hoof!

A 1,200 pound horse can be pretty much immobilized by tethering a couple of its legs together.  Great power and strength can now be brought under control with a small rope around the legs.

Leaders are busy, often intense, and sometimes over-extended people who need times when they unplug from their responsibilities and recharge.  This habit of stepping away from our leadership duties to build reserve is sometimes referred to as living within our boundaries, scheduling with a margin, or simply taking time off.  It’s an excellent discipline and will enable sustained contribution over a long time.

But sometimes our hobbies can become hobbles for us.  What was just a small hobby now becomes an obsession.  The all-in intensity we bring to our leadership now becomes focused on our leisure activities as well.  What was a recharge opportunity now becomes an opportunity for mastery instead.

Living in Colorado, I love being outdoors in God’s creation.  And I especially enjoy fly fishing in the mountains around my home.  People come from all over the world to experience what I have out my door.  It’s a wonderful privilege to live where I live.

Yet, as I enjoy my hobby of the pursuit of trout, I want to be aware that this is a means to an end, not an end for me.  Fly fishing is a recharge opportunity to allow me to pursue my primary calling of seeking to change the world one person at a time by helping them live and lead like Jesus.  If I’m not careful and circumspect, my hobby can become my hobble to keep me from accomplishing my God-given mission.

There are some who may be called to serve as fly fishing guides or in other parts of the industry who, for them, fly fishing is their mission.  They use this as a platform to serve God and influence others.  This is good and right.  I could have been asked by Him to continue as a equine practitioner and should I have done so, it would have been right.  But the Lord asked me to change my vocation and leave vet medicine in order to become a vocational missionary.  Both vocations are honorable and good.  There is no higher value in vocational Christian service.  We do all for Him and His glory whether it is ‘ministry’ or ‘marketplace’ as all are of equal worth and value in His eyes.  It’s simply a matter of personal calling and God’s plans for our lives.

Do you have a hobby or a routine that helps you recharge?  How are you managing that hobby?  Is it truly refreshing you or has your hobby now become your hobble?

Read and Reread Your Bible

Leaders are readers!

J.O. Sanders

The quote from J.O. Sanders is certainly true.  Leaders must be living and leading from an overflow.  But, what to read?  There is an overabundance of books – especially leadership books!

For Kingdom leaders the primary reading material must begin with the Word of God – the bible.  It is our instruction manual for life and leadership.  It is a love letter from our Heavenly Father.  It is our comfort and anchor of hope when we face tough times.  We must saturate our life with the Scriptures in order to lead well as a Kingdom leader.

Some years ago I met a missionary who so impressed me with his grasp of the Scriptures that I had to know what led to his mastery.  Over lunch, he mentioned that as a younger missionary 25 years before he had begun the habit of reading the entire bible through once a month!  Two and one-half hours a day of reading led him to accomplish that impressive monthly task.  Well, that was a pretty discouraging lunch!

“No way,” I thought.  “Can’t do that.”  But I did ask him how he knew how much to read each day.  He replied, “I counted the number of pages in my bible and divided by 30.”  “Hmmm.  I can’t do the entire bible, but I bet I could do the New Testament,” I thought.  So I counted the pages and divided and thirty and read the entire NT in one month.  I took me about 30 minutes a day of reading.  I continued to do that for the next 8 years and was extremely blessed by this habit.  Today, several times a year I’ll read the entire NT in a month. Last year for my devotions, I read the NT through each month for the year.

Everyone of you reading this blog is capable of the same.  You can read the entire NT in a month by allocating 30 minutes each day for reading.  You’ll find that through repetition, you will soon be able to quote passages, though never having memorized them, just because you have read them over and over.

So, what’s stopping you from this developmental habit?  Only you.  How about launching out and see if you can do it?  Your depth will overflow into all areas of your life and leadership.

The Impact of a Godly Leader

“The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me;
    his word was on my tongue.
The God of Israel spoke,
    the Rock of Israel said to me:
‘When one rules over people in righteousness,
    when he rules in the fear of God,
he is like the light of morning at sunrise
    on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
    that brings grass from the earth.’   2 Samuel 23:2-4

David here describes the impact of a leader who walks with God and leads in light of this reality.  Note that he testifies that it was the Spirit of the Lord who spoke through him (v. 2), thus this summary regarding the impact of godly leadership is one for our attention.

David mentions two characteristics of this type of godly leadership.  This leader ‘rules over people in righteousness.’  That is, they do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, for He alone, expressing Himself through His Word, is the true standard for which we can determine what is right or wrong.  David’s leadership became the standard for righteousness.  Note the number of passages that compare the leaders who followed David and their leadership with David and his leadership.  For example, regarding King Josiah it says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.  In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David.”    2 Chronicles 34:2-3

The second characteristic of godly leadership is that they ‘rule in the fear of God.’  Now what does that look like?  It would seem that one who walks and leads in the fear of God is one who has a proper perspective on life and leadership.  They understand that they have arrived at a position of influence not due to their own effort as much as it is God who has provided this opportunity for them to lead.

They too know that any leadership ability they have comes from Him, their Maker.  He places leaders, He also removes them, and we all will be asked to give an account of our leadership to Him who gave it to us (see Hebrews 13:17).  Speaking about David’s life, Paul says, “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep…”    Acts 13:36

The impact of this leader is similar to the impact of sunshine and bright light upon well-watered, nutritious earth – it brings forth growth.  This fruitfulness is seen by all and God’s hand is recognized as being upon this leader.

David was not a perfect leader, yet God used Him to lead others and become a standard for which other leaders were measured.  That inspires and motivates me to strive to be the best I can be, for His glory.

How about you?

Fixing Your Thoughts and Gaze

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.      Hebrews 3:1  (NIV)

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.      Hebrews 12:2   (NIV)

Someone has said, “A fog in the pulpit is a mist in the pew.”  Another common saying is, “If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.”  Clarity of purpose and destination are essential for good leadership.

The daily flurry of activity and leadership demands can take what at one time was crystal clear and make it seem distant or out of focus.  I call this the “leadership whiteout.”  If you have ever driven in a blinding snow storm where the blowing snow does not allow you to see the road in front you will know what I mean.

A leader’s job is to bring clarity.  But if the leader is not certain of their destination or purpose themselves, then it will certainly only be less clear for those seeking to follow their lead.

The author of Hebrews exhorts his readers to fixate on Jesus and Him alone in the midst of the daily hum.  We are to fix our thoughts on Him and not become distracted by those many voices clamoring for our attention.  In our leadership we seek to hear His voice and obey His voice, wanting to please only Him.

We are to fix our eyes on Him – He is the true north on our personal compass.  He keeps us oriented to eternal purposes rather than be consumed by the temporal tyranny of the urgent.

And so, where are your thoughts today?  Where are your eyes focused today?  Take a moment right now to reorient and refocus.

 

My Weaknesses – Blessing or Curse?

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.   Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.   But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.     2 Corinthians 12:7-10  (ESV)

Paul, a man used greatly of God and also a man given many advantages and special privileges (like personally seeing heaven and the glory that awaits all who believe), also had a great struggle.  He confesses that these wonderful things that he experienced could become a root of pride within his life.  Therefore, the Lord ‘gifted’ him with a ‘thorn’ that he might not become conceited.

This difficulty-weakness-handicap was something physical that limited Paul and made him depend upon the Lord for ability to accomplish his mission.  While not clear what this was (perhaps poor eyesight or partial blindness – see Galatians 4:15 and 6:11), it was burdensome enough for Paul to ask the Lord to heal him and remove the handicap from him.  Three times he asked the Lord for help and three times he was told ‘no.’

Finally Paul came to understand that this thorn was not something to be removed, but rather something to be gloried in.  It demonstrated his weakness and therefore, his total dependence upon the Lord for help.  Therefore, he says, I learned that in my weakness God’s power is manifested more clearly.

What is it that comes to your mind as an impediment to your leadership?  What physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual weakness do you wish were changed or removed in order for you to better serve His purposes?

Perhaps, like Paul’s thorn, what you see as weakness is a gift from the Lord to help you demonstrate His power in and through you.

Are you wishing it were removed from you?  Are you just tolerating it – gritting your teeth and grinding on?  Or are you boasting in your weakness, knowing that He is glorified through it and His power now more evident in you?

Modeling Humility as a Kingdom Leader

Humility is a powerful tool for influence when it emanates from the life of a leader.  Jesus was the perfect model for a leader who consistently demonstrated humility in a variety of situations.

Here’s some examples of Jesus’ choosing to humble Himself…

  1. He became a man and took the form of a servant  –  Philippians 2:5-11
  2. He submitted Himself to baptism by John the Baptist  –  Matthew 3:13-16
  3. He paid the temple tax even though a Son of the King  –  Matthew 17:24-27
  4. He submitted to the Father’s will for the cross  –  Mark 14:32-36

Humility is attractive when it’s genuine.  We can sense it in others when it is not genuine.  We can also pick up very quickly when someone is proud or simply pretending to be humble.

As the Lord will not share His glory with another (Isaiah 42:8), leaders who do not lead with humility, but rather take credit themselves for their accomplishments, are in for a rude awakening.  The proud who don’t demonstrate humility are in for a tough lesson when the Lord finally runs out of patience and acts to humble them (see 1 Peter 5:5).

Nebuchadnezzar was one such leader who learned the lesson of humility through having God humble him.  After a long, painful process, he summarizes his journey with this pointed statement:   “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just.  And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”  (Daniel 4:28-37)

We have this choice – to humble ourselves or to wait and have the Lord humble us.  Could I suggest that the former is preferable, for when God acts to humble the proud, it will be a very thorough, life-altering lesson.

What will you choose?

Rest and Restoration

I’m taking a break from this weekly blog for rest, relaxation, and restoration.

When was the last time you had a break from your routines?

Scientists at NASA built a gun specifically to launch standard 4-pound dead chickens at the windshields of airliners, military jets and the space shuttle, all traveling at maximum velocity. The idea is to simulate the frequent incidents of collisions with airborne fowl to test the strength of the windshields.

British engineers heard about the gun and were eager to test it on the windshields of their new high-speed trains. Arrangements were made, and a gun was sent to the British engineers.

When the gun was fired, the engineers stood shocked as the chicken hurled out of the barrel, crashed into the shatterproof shield, smashed it to smithereens, blasted through the control console, snapped the engineer’s backrest in two, and embedded itself in the back wall of the cabin, like an arrow shot from a bow. The horrified Brits sent NASA the disastrous results of the experiment, along with the designs of the windshield and begged the US scientists for suggestions.

NASA responded with a one-line memo   –     “Defrost the chicken.”

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