Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “emerging leaders”

Fig Tree Prayer Lessons

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”  Mark 11:20-25 ESV

When Jesus cursed the fig tree after not finding any fruit on it, His disciples took note (see Mark 11:12-14).  Upon passing by the tree the following day, Peter draws everyone’s attention to the withered tree. Jesus used the opportunity to instruct them in some key principles of prayer.

1. Jesus begins the fig tree lesson with a reminder that the object of their prayer of faith is God Himself.  It is God who answers and moves mountains, not our faith.  We just need have the faith to ask!  Jesus did not say, “Have faith!” – but rather, “Have faith in God!”

2. He goes on to remind us that we must bring our requests before the Lord.  We must ask! Jesus assumes that we will ask specifically – “Lord, move this mountain!”  While this may seem obvious, James rebukes us with, “…You do not have, because you do not ask.”  James 4:2 ESV

3. Jesus now instructs His followers that when making our petitions we are not to doubt in our heart that God will answer.  This does not mean that we have to self-brainwash ourselves trying to remove all doubt.  But the exhortation is to avoid a type of doubt that says, “I know this is a waste of time, but just in case, I’ll make my request.”  That type of praying sees the act of prayer as a kind of good luck charm or perfunctory act.  God is not honored with such requests.

4.  Next Jesus reminds us that instead of doubting, we are to believe in our heart that our prayers will be granted.  Even more, He says, we are to believe that we have already received the answer.  This is an attitude of expectancy from the Lord based upon His promises, faithfulness, love and generosity towards us. It is rooted in the reality, “… If God is for us, who can be against us?”  Romans 8:31 ESV

5. Lastly, Jesus states that unresolved conflicts and a failure to forgive those who have wronged us will hinder our prayers.  The Holy Spirit will remind us as we pray of those who we are to forgive. (see Matthew 5:23-24 and 1 Peter 3:19)

Certainly Jesus had much more to say about the subject of prayer (see Matthew 6 and Luke 11) .  But it is important to note that during the last week of His public ministry, He taught His followers about prayer as illustrated by a withered fig tree.

 

PS  A Primer for Kingdom Leaders:  100 Reflections for Improving Your Leadership – A collection of 100 of my most popular blogs – compiled, edited and available for FREE download.  See Tom’s Books page above to download.

Ouch – That Hurts!

Jesus was betrayed by one of His leaders in training.  He spent three years with Judas, investing in him, training him and giving him every opportunity to contribute with the others.  Yet he took the love Christ extended and turned it into rebellion.  That must have hurt!

When we serve with or for others, sacrificing and giving our all, we assume their acceptance and support.  When we extend ourselves in the service of others we assume a gratefulness for our efforts.  It can come as a shock when our efforts are not recognized, appreciated or are overlooked as insignificant.  Ouch, that hurts!

What to do when our best efforts are ignored, unappreciated or worse, put down and dismissed by our leaders or supervisors?  How do we respond when those we trust disappoint us or show a side of themselves that we assumed and expected better from them?  How do we react when we get our feelings hurt or when our expectations of others are not met?

First, it’s time to reset our perspective and expectations of others.  There is no perfect leader.  We are all people in process.   Our leaders are imperfect people and so are we.  Don’t place unrealistic expectations on them that they cannot meet.  Most are simply doing the best they can with what they have.

Secondly, if there really is a wrong that has been done, go to them privately and explain your hurt and disappointment without casting blame.  Decide to forgive them whether they admit wrong and ask for forgiveness or not.  And when they ask for forgiveness, give it.  Beware of harboring an unforgiving spirit that can turn to a root of bitterness and defile you.  (see Hebrews 12:15)

Third, remember that the Lord has placed you in this context and under this leadership.  He will not allow anyone to frustrate His good and perfect plans for you.  Jacob was cheated by his father-in-law who changed his wages ten times!  Yet he testifies that God protected him from harm. (see Genesis 31: 7)  Joseph was sold into slavery, falsely accused of attempted rape by Potiphar’s wife and imprisoned.  Yet he testifies to his brothers that though they and others meant it for evil, God intended it for good. (Genesis 50:20)  Nothing touches us outside of God’s good and perfect will.  Rest in Him and His sovereignty in all things – those that feel good and those that don’t.

Lastly, check your attitudes and motives.  Are you serving for the reward and recognition you hope to receive?  Are you working hard in the hopes of climbing an organizational chart?  Are you serving for the praise of others or are you serving Him who never forgets your labor on His behalf?  (see Colossians 3:23-24 and Hebrews 6:10)

We all will be disappointed in our leaders and most likely, get hurt – it’s a matter of when, not if.  But it is how we respond that can make it a growth and development opportunity for us.  How are you doing on your journey and your relationship with your leadership?

PS  A Primer for Kingdom Leaders:  100 Reflections for Improving Your Leadership – A collection of 100 of my most popular blogs – compiled, edited and available for FREE download.  See Tom’s Books page above to download.

The Desire for Recognition

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.
                   Theme Song from TV Show – Cheers

Jonathan had an idea.  “Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.” And his armor-bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.”  (1 Samuel 14:6-7)  And the Lord honored their faith and zeal and delivered all of Israel a great victory that day.

Today, when we recount this story and tell of God’s greatness, we remember Jonathan, son of Saul, as the one who God used.  But we do not know the name of his armor bearer.  That man joined right along with Jonathan, risking his own life, stepping out in faith, and fighting right alongside Jonathan.  Jonathan got the recognition, his armor bearer did not.

When God punished the sin of the world by bringing a flood upon the face of the earth, He spoke to Noah about saving his family and the animals.  Over one-hundred years later God shut up Noah and his family into the ark – Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives.  Today, we recall the story of Noah and the ark, but we do not know the name of Mrs. Noah.  She too entered the ark along with her three daughters-in-law and the world was repopulated by them, but we do not know their names.

In 1 Kings 13 we have two men used of God to further his purposes during the reign of King Jeroboam – ‘the man of God from Judah’ and the ‘old prophet.’  Both were used of God during their days to speak the truth to the king, but we do not know their names.  They died and were buried together, unknown to many except God Himself.

How important is it that you are recognized – that everybody knows your name?  Many will serve God in obscurity, never being recognized for their faithful service, not seen as important or having the spotlight upon them.  But God does not forget.  He rewards those who serve Him.  There will be a time when all are recognized for their contribution and labor.  God knows your name!!!

“I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord , the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”  Isaiah 45:3 NIV 84

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”  1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV

PS  A Primer for Kingdom Leaders:  100 Reflections for Improving Your Leadership – A collection of 100 of my most popular blogs – compiled, edited and available for FREE download.  See Tom’s Books page above to download.

Kingdom Leaders and the Word

Study it through, Pray it in, Live it out, Pass it on.       Leighton Ford

Jesus reminds us that it is the seed of the Word of God the Kingdom worker plants that springs forth in the life soil of an individual (Mark 4:14).  Peter reminds us that we have been born again by the seed of the Word of God –  “… since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…” 1 Peter 1:23 ESV

A mark of a Kingdom leader is that they saturate their life and leadership with the Scriptures.  Not in a proof text, Post-it note kind of way – “Ooops, I’d better add a verse to this so that it sounds more spiritual.”  Rather, they have so embedded themselves in the Word of God that it naturally flows from them as they live and lead others to accomplish mission for the glory of God.

Note in the above quote that the first three steps regarding saturating our life and leadership with the Bible are internally focused.  We study the Word, not in a purely academic sense, but rather, with an eye towards applying it to ourselves and then to others.

Next we pray over the Scriptures with a meditative, contemplative attitude, expecting God to speak to us personally.  He will speak to our current situations and challenges, directing our paths and helping us sort out His voices from the cacophony that that surrounds us.  In Isaiah 30:21 (ESV) He promises, “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.”

Next in the ministry of the Word is that we have to apply it to ourselves before we share it with others.  It was Howard Hendricks who said, “If it does not work at ‘home,’ don’t export it!”  Hypocrisy is by definition not living what you instruct others to be or do and Jesus had much to say about hypocrites – none of it positive!

Lastly, having studied, prayed and personally applied the Word, we now share it with others.  We align our leadership with God’s ways and seek to bring glory to Him, knowing that we will give an account for our actions at the end of our days. Hebrews 13:17 (ESV) says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” And James gives Kingdom leaders this sobering reminder, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1 ESV)

Thus, we do humbly serve the King and seek to advance His Kingdom by honoring His Word in our life and leadership.  Are you seeking to saturate your life with the Word?  Are you pursuing knowing Him and abiding in Him by meeting Him daily in the Scriptures?

Over-Communicate!!!

The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”  So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God.      Exodus 24:12-13  ESV

The Lord had something extremely important to communicate to His people.  So, He called Moses and his aide, Joshua, up on a mountain top for 40 days of extended time together.  What was communicated from God to Moses during those days was recorded by him in the following chapters of Exodus, chapters 25-31.  Let’s examine how God communicated to and through leadership.

There were three general means of communication that the Lord used to get the message of the Law, the Tabernacle, and Levitical leadership across to Moses (and Joshua), seeking to ensure clarity of message.

The first means of communication was verbal.  “The LORD said to Moses…” (Exodus 25:1).  To deliver a message, speaking the message to another (sometimes repeating the message) is an initial step.  The fact that Moses records the words spoken to him by God implies that he (or perhaps his aide- Joshua) were taking detailed notes of what was being spoken to them.

Secondly, we note that God used visual reinforcement of what He communicated verbally.  “Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.” (Exodus 25:9 ESV)  Again the Lord says, “And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.” (Exodus 25:40 ESV)

The third way the Lord used to deepen the impact and clarify the message was by written words.  Note what Moses took down the mountain when he left after 40 days.  “And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God. (Exodus 31:18 ESV)  Here was the ‘executive summary’ of the Law – the 10 Commandments –  written on stone tablets by God Himself.

Verbal, visual, and written means of communication were all used by God to ‘over-communicate’ this very important message.  As Kingdom leaders, don’t assume telling is communicating.  Don’t assume because you put it in writing that those you lead are reading it.  And yes, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words!

May it not be said of your leadership, “What we have here is a failure to communicate!”

Casting Vision by Modeling

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.  1 Corinthians 11:1 (ESV)

I was recently asked, “Tom, what is a good way to develop a platform for influencing others?” I replied that a powerful means for influence is your own example and recounted this story of unknown origin that illustrates the power of modeling.

A young man sat on a bench in his train compartment opposite an older gentleman who was engaged in reading his bible.  The young man thought he recognized the older man as one of his personal heroes – a preacher who had great impact and a worldwide ministry.  Seizing the opportunity to talk with his hero, he worked up his courage, cleared his throat and asked him a question.

“Excuse me, sir, but aren’t you Mr. …?” he timidly asked.  Putting aside his bible, the older man responded affirmatively.  “Sir,” the young man continued, “I have admired your ministry for a long time and so desire to have the type of influence you have for Jesus.  Is there any advice the you would have for me to gain that influence which you now have?”

The old saint thought for a moment and then said, “Young man, I find that if you set yourself on fire, others will come and watch you burn!”

Never underestimate the power of your own example.  Point others to Christ and His Kingdom by the way you live as well as your words.  Live your personal calling in such a way as others take notice that you are one whose life backs up what you so proclaim.

Aside from the Bible, the biographies of great men and women of God have more shaped me as a Kingdom leader than any other books.  These ‘historical mentors’ have modeled a way, having blazed a trail that I seek to follow.

Yes, “Leaders are readers!” – but be careful what you read.  Saturate your life with the Scriptures and regularly read biographies of those who were used of God to change the world.  Then, others will come and follow the trail you leave behind.

Is your example worth following?

Apathy or Engagement?

For some men die by shrapnel,
And some go down in flames.
But most men perish inch by inch
In play at little games.
     The Night they Burned Shanghai  by Robert D. Abrahams

God is one who works.  He is always at work.  The Bible opens with God at  work creating the universe.  Jesus reminds us in John 5:17 (NIV), “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” God has grand plans and purposes which He invites us into.  Kingdom people are invited to join Him in His work, co-laboring with Him (see 1 Corinthians 3:9).

But for those who would volunteer for God’s army, there are certain conditions for ‘active duty.’  Note what the Lord says about those who would seek to enlist for His service.

2 Timothy 2:4 – No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

2 Timothy 2:20-24 – In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

Luke 14:26-33 – “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”

Luke 9:23-24 – Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

Philippians 3:12-14 – Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Life is too short to be playing silly little games.  God’s grand purposes await those who would ‘give up everything and follow Him.’  The One who launched the greatest enterprise the world has ever known – discipling the nations for Christ – beckons us join the effort and engage.

Isaiah 6:8 – Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I.  Send me!”

Leading with Courage – Facing the Black Death!

In 1527, the Black Death with a mortality rate of 50%+ arrived in Wittenberg, Germany.  Many fled the city, but Martin Luther and his pregnant wife stayed to minister to the sick and frightened people.  Other friends who lost family members moved into Luther’s house for mutual support and encouragement.

There was a difference of opinion among church leaders on whether to stay or flee the plague.  All looked to Luther for advice.  The following is an edited version of his guidance titled, Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague.  Many of his thoughts ring true for Kingdom leaders today in the midst of our own pandemic.

“To begin with, some people are of the firm opinion that one need not and should not run away from a deadly plague.  Rather, since death is God’s punishment, which he sends upon us for our sins, we must submit to God and with a true and firm faith patiently await our punishment.  They look upon running away as an outright wrong and as lack of belief in God. Others take the position that one may properly flee, particularly if one holds no public office…”

“From what has been said we derive this guidance:  We must pray against every form of evil and guard against it to the best of our ability in order not to act contrary to God, as was previously explained.  If it be God’s will that evil come upon us and destroy us, none of our precautions will help us.  Everybody must take this to heart: first of all, if he feels bound to remain where death rages in order to serve his neighbor, let him commend himself to God and say, “Lord, I am in thy hands; thou hast kept me here; thy will be done.  I am thy lowly creature.  Thou canst kill me or preserve me in this pestilence in the same way as if I were in fire, water, drought, or any other danger.”

“If a man is free, however, and can escape, let him commend himself and say, “Lord God, I am weak and fearful.  Therefore I am running away from evil and am doing what I can to protect myself against it.  I am nevertheless in thy hands in this danger as in any other which might overtake me.  Thy will be done.  My flight alone will not succeed of itself because calamity and harm are everywhere.  Moreover, the devil never sleeps.  He is a murderer from the beginning [John 8:44] and tries everywhere to instigate murder and misfortune…”

“In the same way we must and we owe it to our neighbor to accord him the same treatment in other troubles and perils, also.  If his house is on fire, love compels me to run to help him extinguish the flames.  If there are enough other people around to put the fire out, I may either go home or remain to help.  If he falls into the water or into a pit I dare not turn away but must hurry to help him as best I can.  If there are others to do it, I am released.  If I see that he is hungry or thirsty, I cannot ignore him but must offer food and drink, not considering whether I would risk impoverishing myself by doing so.  A man who will not help or support others unless he can do so without affecting his safety or his property will never help his neighbor.  He will always reckon with the possibility that doing so will bring some disadvantage and damage, danger and loss.  No neighbor can live alongside another without risk to his safety, property, wife, or child.  He must run the risk that fire or some other accident will start in the neighbor’s house and destroy him bodily or deprive him of his goods, wife, children, and all he has.”

“… You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal.  Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it.  I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.  If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.  If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above.  See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

The Lord promises to guide and direct us along paths we have not walked (see Isaiah 42:16).  We can count on Him when all else fails.  May the Lord give you wisdom from above as you navigate this storm.

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.

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?

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