Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the month “December, 2013”

Reflection at Year End

As we come to the end of the calendar year, it’s good to pause and reflect upon what was and what will be.  It is through reflection that we can gain perspective and see more clearly the overarching, 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!  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?  How’s that margin in your life?  Are you living and leading from an overflow?  How’s the family doing?  Are you paying the price to have the marriage you committed to on your wedding day?  Are you investing deeply in your children, 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?  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 time for reflection and refocus as you start a new year full of new hope and new beginnings.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

One of the blessings of the years our family spent in Indonesia was that we lived as a Christian minority.  The blessing in this became evident at the time of major Christian holidays, like Christmas.  There were no cultural distractions to have to explain or avoid.  Rather, Christmas was what we made it.  We could introduce our own traditions and values without having the distractions from the society around us.

Today we live in America once again and are confronted with all of the Christmas traditions that go with the holiday season.  Perhaps like me, you’ve wondered where all of these 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 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!

Glorious Opportunities

One of leadership’s greatest challenges is staying focused on the set direction you’ve intended.  As a young staff member of The Navigators I can remember the exhortation from Leroy Eims, “There are two ways to miss the will of God: 1) sin and 2) glorious opportunities.”

Hippolomy was a mythical, Greek young man who was in love with the beautiful Atlanta.  Atlanta, in addition to her striking beauty, was also a gifted runner, but she had a cruel, sadistic character.  Many young men became infatuated with her beauty and desired to marry her.  These men were challenged to a foot race with two conditions.  If the man won the race, he could marry Atlanta.  But if he lost, he would pay with his life.  Many a man tried and paid the ultimate price for his second place finish.

Hippolomy also became mesmerized by Atlanta’s beauty and challenged her to a race.  Shortly after the race began he lagging behind.  Reaching into his tunic, he withdrew a golden apple and threw it in front of the streaking Atlanta.  The flash of gold caught her eye and she stopped to pick up the golden fruit as Hippolomy raced by.  She soon recovered and again moved ahead of him.  Hippolomy pulled a second golden apple from his tunic and threw it in front of Atlanta who once again stopped to pick it up.  As Hippolomy passed the crouching Atlanta, she realized that the race was nearing the finish and she recovered soon enough to regain a comfortable lead with a short distance to go.

Hippolomy retrieved the last of his golden apples from his tunic and rolled it ahead of Atlanta as she approached the finish.  Atlanta was in a quandary; should she stop and pick up the apple or press for the finish line.  She reasoned that she certainly could do both, so she stopped to placed the golden fruit in her robe just a Hippolomy passed her and raced towards the finish.  She recovered, but now with such a short distance, she was not able to beat him.  Hippolomy had won!

This is not an illustration on how to find a life partner!  Rather, as you race through life, you will find the enemy of your soul rolling “golden apples” of opportunity, compromise, and temptation in your path.  Watch out!  Stay on target!

Confronting or Conforming?

In Mark 2:21-22 Jesus responded to His critics as to why His disciples violated the culturally accepted way of doing things.  He said, “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment.  If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.  And no one pours new wine into old wineskins.  If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined.  No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”

With these two parables, Jesus explained that His Kingdom would not fit the cultural norms of the Jews.  His Kingdom would demand new forms and practices which were not contained in the Jewish cultural norms of the day.  As Kingdom leaders fulfill their mission they will introduce the Kingdom of God into a culture along with it will come new values and practices.  This is normal, good, and inevitable.  Change will come.  But, our desire is that the change will be rooted in biblical, Kingdom values and practices, and not Western, post-modern, or even the latest leadership guru’s best practices or values.

The guiding principle would seem to be this:  we should strive to make Jesus and the Bible the basis of our leadership and the only stumbling block if the message is to be challenged.

In instances where Kingdom values or practices violate the cultural values or norms, we must hold fast to the biblical truth and accept the resulting opposition.  This does not mean we should flaunt our convictions, especially if we know they are likely to cause adverse reactions.  We must be sensitive as we take our stand, so that the opposition we face is an opposition to Christ and the Kingdom, not to us.  This presents us with an opportunity to see God demonstrate His power and grace in spite of cultural barriers and push-back.

In areas where there is no clear biblical precedent, we should yield to the cultural norm so as not to cause an offense over a “side issue” (such as paying temple taxes or whether or not to celebrate certain holidays – see the previous two blogs).

All of these decisions will require wisdom from God.  Ask for it and you will receive it!

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.     James 1:5

The Contextualized Model of Jesus – Picking Your Fights

Yes, Jesus was very confrontational in his facing of the Jewish culture and traditions.  But, there were times when He conformed and submitted Himself to the norms of the day.  For all His willingness to violate the cultural norms of the Jews, Jesus was also at other times compliant to Jewish cultural practices.  One could almost accuse Him of an arbitrary relativism, “flip-flopping,” and being inconsistent in his approach.

Below are some examples of when Jesus did follow the cultural norms of the day.

[1]        Jesus went to the synagogue to worship on the Sabbath   –  Luke 4:16

Synagogue worship started during the Babylonian Captivity after the destruction of the temple and the removal of the Jews from Palestine.  It continued even after the rebuilding of the temple and the return of the Jews to the Promised Land.

[2]        Jesus celebrated the Jewish festivals  –  John 10:22

Jesus even celebrated those festivals that were not prescribed in the Old Testament, such as the Feast of Dedication. The Feast of the Dedication was initiated during the inter-testamental period and is not prescribed in the Old Testament law.  The feast (Hanukkah) “commemorated the purifying of the temple, the removal of the old polluted altar, and the restoration of the worship of Jehovah by Judas Maccabeus, BC 164. [1]

[3]        Jesus paid the temple tax  –  Matthew 17:24-27

The temple tax was re-instituted by Nehemiah after the Captivity at one-third of a shekel, but the tax rate used during Jesus’ time was that rate originally prescribed by Moses (cf. Exodus 30:11-16 and Nehemiah 10:32). [2]

So what made the difference for Him?  Why would He confront on some occasions and on others conform?  Was He a “flip-flopper” who simply applied situational ethics using a relativistic, sliding scale for decisions?

We have some insight into Jesus’ thinking in the Matthew 17 passage regarding the payment of the temple tax.  He states the truth to Peter in that as the Son of the King He is exempt from paying this tax.  “But so that we may not cause an offense” was His reasoning for sending Peter on a fishing expedition to obtain a coin to pay the tax.

There are times when one must confront the norms of the day and risk offending others.  But this is to be thought through carefully and thoroughly.  But if doing what is right means we challenge the accepted way of doing things, then we do what is right and bear the consequences.  However, we don’t want to unduly go about being offensive to people.  Having a generally pejorative attitude is not helpful for leaders.  We must pick and choose our fights.

Remember, you only have so many bullets in your gun!  Pick your fights carefully and aim well!


    [1]  Unger’s Bible Dictionary, 3rd Edition

Moody Press   Chicago, Illinois  1966  p. 362

    [2]  Edersheim, Alfred   The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book IV, Chapter III

MacDonald Publishing   McLean, Virginia  p. 111

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