Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Faith”

Following a Leader I Disagree With

What should I do?  My supervisor does not lead from a platform of wisdom. He or she has obvious character flaws that influence poor judgment and the resulting poor decisions. Yet, I’m asked to submit to their leadership and follow after them – helping to implement their poorly thought through plans that I struggle to embrace. What to do?

If you haven’t had this experience yet, you will. All leaders are people in process and far from perfect. They will (and so will you) make poor choices and drive some not so well thought through decisions. How are we to respond in such emotionally charged and frustrating circumstances?

First, when a decision is made that we disagree with, make an appeal to reconsider the decision. Daniel and friends did this when asked to violate their beliefs about diet (see Daniel 1). Learning to make an appeal to an authority over us is a skill to be developed. We want to seek to align ourselves with the desired outcomes but execute these outcomes without violating our conscience. See Proverbs 21:1.

Second, we recognize that all authorities are God-placed, wise and unwise, godly and ungodly and the Lord will use all to further His purposes. Further, He will not allow any leader to hinder or block His good and perfect plans for me. I may not be able to see or understand His purposes at the moment and He is under no obligation to explain Himself or His ways to me. I am called to trust Him and walk by faith. See Daniel 2:21 and Hebrews 11:6, 8.

Third, if I suffer under poor leadership and entrust myself to God and His care, it is honoring to God and Christlike. Jesus was sinless, falsely accused and died. His example is one Peter points to as our example when suffering harsh treatment from leaders. Beware of a spirit of rebellion or developing a cynicism that can lead to a root of bitterness. See Hebrews 12:15 and 1 Peter 2:13-23.

This process will not be easy – no one promised your life and leadership would be easy. But He will give you wisdom as you negotiate these relationships and you will see the goodness of God and His loving kindness for you and all as you follow Him. Trust Him!

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13  ESV

Optimistic or Delusional?

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?    Romans 8:31   ESV

Perhaps you’ve heard it said, “One with God is a majority.”  Thinking realistically, this is very true.  But, living this truth can be a very different reality.

Part of strategic leadership is thinking and planning ahead with a good understanding of risk assessment.  The inexperienced idealist would simply ignore perceived risk, plan and execute those plans hoping that it all works out well.

Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.”  Prudence, a component of godly wisdom, assesses risk, and if judged to be too great, seeks protection from it.  The simple person sees the risk also, but ignores it and pays the price.

The question is how to evaluate risk?  All of life is a risk, for none of us knows for certain about tomorrow, next week or next year.  We don’t even know with absolute certainty our next breath!  As Kingdom leaders, what do we do to wisely assess risk and then act accordingly?

First, we acknowledge our limitations in knowing with any degree of certainty what the future holds.  We acknowledge how dependent we are on the Lord to guide us, give us insight and discernment as we plan, and wisely choose courses of action that are pleasing to Him. This self-awareness should move us to prayer and listening to His Spirit as He guides us.

Second, we seek what information we can to learn of the risks that we face.  Some will be clearly visible and some not so.  Risk is assessed in light of the potential impact on our mission.  Scenario planning can be helpful in thinking what courses of action might be available if things go poorly.  Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Third, make your decision by faith in trusting the Lord that He is with you and will never leave you.  He and His resources will be with you.  And should things not go as well as hoped for, you know that He has control of it all and will use it for good – for you and for His purposes in and through you.  Romans 8:28

Lastly, should things really go poorly, we must be flexible enough to change our plans.

Leading is risky business!  How’s your risk assessment?

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!

Rewards for Laboring

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.   If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.   1 Corinthians 3:10-15  (NIV  1984)

In the passage above Paul is talking about his labors for Christ.  He, the ‘expert builder’ of people, reminds the Corinthians that there will be rewards given at the ‘bema’ judgment seat at the end of days.  All of our labors will be tested by the fire of God, revealing true motives and outcomes.  Some will lose potential rewards while others will be rewarded for their faithfulness.  Salvation is not at risk, this is rewards for service.

As Kingdom leaders who labor for the Lord and His purposes, the reminder that we will have to give an account of our labors should be sobering.  The writer of Hebrews says, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.”  Hebrews 13:17  (NIV  1984)  We are stewards of a trust given to us by the Lord, the trust of leading His people to accomplish His purposes.

In the parable of the Talents there is an accounting when the servants are called to report to their Master the results of their labor.  Faithfulness is rewarded by the Master (see Matthew 25).  Immediately following this parable is another titled the Sheep and the Goats.  Referring to the final judgment, the sheep (faithful ones) are welcomed into heaven and are surprised at their reward.  Note that in this instance, they are rewarded for service given to other believers -“whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  (Matthew 25:40)  We see similar principles of reward for labor taught in the parable of the Ten Gold Coins (see Luke 19).

Your labor for the Lord does not go unnoticed by Him.  There will be a reckoning one day and rewards will be given for your faithful service.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.   1 Corinthians 15:58   (NIV  1984)

Fight or Flight?

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.   Matthew 10:16   NIV  1984

The Good Shepherd of the sheep here makes an amazing proclamation:  He is sending His sheep into a pack of wolves!  What is He thinking?  Doesn’t He care?  Doesn’t He know that these sheep are defenseless and are going to attacked by these ravenous wolves?

Yes, the Lord knows very well what He is doing and why He is doing it.  Therefore, as we engage in His grand mission of making disciples of all the nations, we must go with the shrewdness of snakes and the innocence of doves.  He can send His sheep among the pack of snarling wolves because of two things:  He has all authority in heaven and on earth to do so and He has promised to be with His sheep and never leave them.  (see Matthew 28:18-20)

Shrewdness alone would force us to rely upon our own cleverness and intellectual keenness.  Innocence alone would be simple weakness and a passive surrender.  But, combined, they present a posture and an attitude of wisdom and dependence upon the Shepherd who sends His sheep into areas where packs of wolves roam.

Note, that immediately after this statement, the Lord exhorts His sheep to, “Be on your guard again men…” (Matthew 10:17).  This sending of the sheep in not foolish ignorance, but rather a watchful, careful knowledge of the dangers faced and how best to respond to them.

When threatened, we have two natural responses – fight or flight.  There may be times when facing ‘wolves’ that we stand and fight.  We engage in the battle trusting not in our own strength, but the Lord.  The battle is the Lord’s!  (2 Chronicles 20:15)  Our fight is not against flesh and blood, but rather against the forces of evil behind those who oppose us. (Ephesian 6:12)  We engage knowing that the Lord is with us, helping us respond to the threat and trusting Him regardless of the outcome of the battle.

But, there are other times when the way of wisdom is flight instead of fight.  In Ecclesiastes 9:4 we read, “Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!”  Martyrdom may come, and should the Lord ask of us that supreme sacrifice, we can trust Him for the courage and faith to face that trial.  But, we need not go looking for martyrdom!  If it comes, so be it.  But, sometimes the best course of action is a strategic retreat!

What to do when facing a threat?  Should we stand and fight or flee to fight another day?  Trust in the Lord’s leading through His Spirit who lives within His sheep.  You will know which way to go.

“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.’”  Isaiah 30:21   NIV  1984

Martin Luther – Courageous and Combative!

We have just come through the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenburg church which helped launch the Protestant Reformation in 1517.  I decided to read a biography on Luther (Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and His Career by Kittelson) to better familiarize myself with the life of one used by God in such a mighty way.  Here are some of my favorite quotes attributed to this amazing man.

I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.  Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.  Amen.

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.

Pray, and let God worry.

You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.
Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.

Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.

I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.

The Bible is the cradle wherein Christ is laid.

I more fear what is within me than what comes from without.
If I am not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there.

Faith is permitting ourselves to be seized by the things we do not see.

You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the word which the Lord who receives sinners preaches to you.

May the Lord use the example of Martin Luther and many others like him who have the courage to stand for the Lord against the cultural tide of the day!

Curse God and Die!

Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.  His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity?  Curse God and die!”  He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman.  Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”  In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.      Job 2:8-10

Job and his wife had suffered the tragic death of their children, the destruction of their home and wealth, and now Job was afflicted with oozing sores over his entire body.  Oh, the heartache!

It seems like it all was too much for his wife.  Her anger laden invective to him was simply, “Curse God and die!”  How sad!  How depressing!  How real!

As he sat on a pile of broken pottery shards, Job scraped at his sores and reflected upon his lot in life.  Certainly it was not a journey that he would have chosen.  Certainly he would have desired that it never had happened in the first place.

But tragedy had befallen him and his house.  And now he must reason.  The inner man cries out for an answer to, “Why?”  But Job was not a typical man.  His simple statement of faith and trust was this, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

It’s easy to thank God when life goes well.  We express grateful hearts for his mercy and goodness to us.  But, what about when things are not so good?  Can we thank Him when life does not feel good or seems anything but good?  Job did.  And we can follow his example as well.

Last year we suffered with our young granddaughter as she was diagnosed with kidney cancer and then endured 8 months of chemotherapy.  There were some dark days on that part of our journey.  But God in His mercy restored her.  This April we suffered the sudden death of our first-born, Michael at the age of 40.  There continues to be a sense of great loss and missing him.

But today we say by faith – we trust Him who is the Blessed Controller.  Nothing that touches us is outside of His good and perfect will for us.  By faith we say we trust Him and all that He has done.  We do not trust our own feelings, logic, or demand that He explain Himself.  For His ways are not our ways, neither are His thoughts our thoughts.  (see Isaiah 55:8-9).

The Lord is our strength, our shield, and our defender.  He comforts the grieving and gives hope to the discouraged.  We trust Him!

Have the lines fallen to you in pleasant places?  Rejoice!

Have the lines fallen in difficult places?  Trust!

Dependence or Independence?

“And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”      Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence

In Congress  July 4, 1776

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…

Tomorrow is the celebration of Independence Day in America – when America’s Founding Fathers declared the 13 colonies’ independence from Great Britain.  For Americans this day reminds us of our country’s heritage and the fact that many risked and sacrificed much for the freedom that we now enjoy.

But for those who claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ there is no personal independence day.  Rather we celebrate our total, moment-by-moment  dependence upon Him.  For God does not want independent children.  He wants dependent ones.

Independence is a mark of standing upon your own two feet – saying that you are capable of governing your own life without the guidance or help of others.  This type of attitude is found in the world, but not in the Kingdom.  For citizens of the Kingdom of God know that we are Created beings who draw our very breath because our Creator wills it.  We are constantly leaning into Him who made us for strength, help, protection, guidance, and provision to live each day.

Therefore, we boast in our weakness, for then the power of Christ is evident in our lives (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).  This attitude is counter-intuitive to the world’s values.  The reality of our dependence on Him causes us to celebrate for He is faithful and will never leave us.

So, how is your attitude towards Him who made you?

It Is Well With My Soul

Horatio Spafford had known peaceful and happy days as a successful attorney in Chicago.  He was the father of four daughters, an active member of the Presbyterian Church, and a loyal friend and supporter of D. L. Moody and other evangelical leaders of his day.  Then, a series of calamities began, starting with the great Chicago fire of 1871 which wiped out the family’s extensive real estate investments.  When Mr. Moody and his music associate, Ira Sankey, left for Great Britain for an evangelistic campaign, Spafford decided to lift the spirits of his family by taking them on a vacation to Europe.  He also planned to assist in the Moody-Sankey meetings there.

In November, 1873, Spafford was detained by urgent business, but he sent his wife and four daughters as scheduled on the S.S. Ville du Harve, planning to join them soon.  Halfway across the Atlantic, the ship was struck by an English vessel and sank in 12 minutes.  All four of the Spafford daughters—Tanetta, Maggie, Annie and Bessie—were among the 226 who drowned.  Mrs. Spafford was among the few who were miraculously saved.

Horatio Spafford stood hour after hour on the deck of the ship carrying him to rejoin his sorrowing wife in Cardiff, Wales.  When the ship passed the approximate place where his precious daughters had drowned, Spafford received sustaining comfort from God that enabled him to write, “When sorrows like sea billows roll … It is well with my soul.”  What a picture of our hope! [1]

Author:            Horatio G. Spafford
Composer:      Philip P. Bliss
Tune:                Ville Du Havre (Bliss)

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like the sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
‘It is well with my soul.’

Tho’ Satan should buffet, tho’ trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious tho’t!—
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
‘Even so,’ it is well with my soul.

Chorus              It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Yes…. it is well with my soul!  How is your soul state today?

[1] Osbeck, K. W. (1996). Amazing grace: 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions (p. 202). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

Life, Death, and Hope

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him… Therefore, encourage one another with these words.         1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 18

Our son, Michael, died suddenly last month at the age of 40 from a heart attack.  He leaves behind his wife, Joy, and two boys:  Corban (15) and Byron (13).   We all deeply miss him and the heartache of his death will be a long-term healing process.

But we do not grieve his loss like others who have similar losses, for we have hope.  This hope is found in the gospel of life – the Good News that Michael loved Jesus as his personal Savior.  He testified as such (see 16 May blog) and therefore we have hope.  This hope is in our bodily resurrection from the dead.

Michael and all who have trusted Christ will be raised back to life when Christ returns.  We will be given a new body – an immortal one that does not age or decay.  We will live forever with Christ in His presence in heaven.

Therefore, we do not grieve like others who do not have this hope of seeing loved ones once again in heaven.  This hope helps us cope with the huge heartache and sadness resulting form Michael’s death.  But the reality of the resurrection means that our heartache is tempered knowing that it is only temporary.  We will see him again – that truth gives encouragement and hope in the midst of our grief.

By faith, we rejoice that Michael has finished his race well and is now in Christ’s presence.  Yes, we miss him much.  But our grief is not as others who do not have hope.

We love you, Michael.

Dad and Mom

Should you want to make a financial gift to help Joy and their two boys follow this link:  celebratemikeyeakley.com

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