Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Faith”

Confronting our Greatest Fear

When reflecting upon all the things in life that threaten me and induce a fear response, it seems that the final threat is the greatest – the threat of dying.  It is the ultimate threat in that it appears to be a terminus – so final and so unknown.  All of life we are working to advance the Kingdom, fulfill a personal destiny and serve others.  But with death all of this appears to end.

Jesus says to us in John 14:1-3 (ESV), “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”  When Jesus says “I will” do something, it will be done!

Death is not a terminus, rather it is a junction.  It is a transition from one form of existence to another.  We finally fulfill our ultimate destiny – seeing Jesus face-to-face and joining those who have gone this path before us.  We exchange our current reality for one much more real for the rest of eternity.

Paul reminds us of our destiny in 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 (ESV), “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

I was recently encouraged by the following poem from the great hymn writer, Fanny Crosby, titled ‘Some Day.’

Some day the silver cord will break,
And I no more as now shall sing;
But, O the joy when I shall wake
Within the presence of the King!

And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story, saved by grace:
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story, saved by grace.

Some day my earthly house will fall,
I cannot tell how soon ’twill be,
But this I know—my All in all
Has now a place with Him for me.

Or some day when my Lord will come,
And called to meet Him I’ll be blest,
He then will say to me, “Well done,”
And I shall enter into rest.

Some day, till then I’ll watch and wait,
My lamp all trimmed and burning bright,
That when my Savior I will greet,
My faith will then be changed to sight.

Until such time as the Lord calls us home, let us do the work He has asked of us, not shrinking back in fear due to present difficulties. He has given all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”   1 Corinthians 15:54-55  ESV

Responding to Fear

Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’  So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.   Acts 27:23-25  NIV

Paul and his shipmates had been driven across the Mediterranean by a storm for the past two weeks.  The crew had lost all hope of survival and all were in a state of despair.  With no sign of abatement in the tumult, out steps Paul with a word of hope for all.

The previous night an angel from the Lord had appeared to Paul and promised to see him out of this storm and on to Rome.  Paul exhorts those onboard not to lose hope, respond with courage, for he believed what God had promised.

Note that Paul takes a public stand that God would do exactly as He promised, regardless that present circumstances seemed to preclude a good outcome.  It was Paul’s faith in God’s promises that they were encouraged not to lose hope and keep up their courage.

Like Paul, faith in the promises of God can be contagious and bring hope when others have lost their own.  As Kingdom leaders we can be confident in God’s faithfulness to His promises and point others to these, boldly proclaiming that we believe that He will do exactly what He has promised to do.

For those of this world, confidence in their own ability experience or resources, is the response to fear.  But when those worldly resources are exhausted hope is lost and a sense of gloom can take over. For Kingdom people – God’s children – faith is the opposite of fear.  But our faith is based upon God, His promises and power to never leave us or forsake us in our trials.  It is founded on the reality that He never changes and has promised to never leave us. He will see us through every trial that He allows to touch us.

We must avoid the sin of presumption, for presumption acts based upon zeal or worldly wisdom, without God’s direction.  Presumption is foolishness and God will expose it.  David prayed in Psalm 19:13 (ESV), “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.”

The storms of life come upon all people (see Matthew 7:24-27).  But only one type of person stands the test – those who hear the Word of God and obey it.

May we be those people and point others to the ONE who will see us through the storm!

Acting in Faith, not Fear

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”   Luke 12:32  NIV

Jesus frequently talked to His followers about the subject of fear.  In particular, He exhorted them to not be controlled by their fears, rather respond to fear with faith in God.

Note what He says in Matthew 8:26 (NIV): He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  That is, why are you so fearful that your fear has taken control of you.  Jesus had led them into the boat, into the storm and was with them in the midst of the storm.

In Hebrews 11:7 (NIV) we read of the response of Noah as he confronted his fear. “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.”  Noah’s fear of God and His promised punishment of the world’s sin moved him to build an ark and protect his family.  It was an act of faith as it appears that to this time there had never been rain on the earth.  It was by faith that Noah acted based upon what God had promised to do.  Noah’s holy fear was a combination of fear and faith.

In Luke 12:4-7 (ESV) Jesus reminds us of this Kingdom truth regarding having a holy fear of God, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.  But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.  Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  And the author of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 10:31 (ESV), “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” 

Kingdom leaders are called to respond by faith when facing  threats that cause fear.  Faith does not deny the reality of these threats, but rather, sees them in perspective of God, His promises and His power.  “Nothing is impossible for Him” (Luke 1:37).  A faith response results in courage to meet the threat and act because of the greater reality of God’s ability and faithfulness.

What is controlling you today – faith or fear?

 

Frozen by Fear

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”   Mark 4:40 NIV

Fear is an emotion we experience in response to a perceived threat that could be harmful.  Like all God-given emotions, fear is morally neutral; it’s not good, bad or purple.

Fear can be protective as it warns us of something that may be dangerous.  Imagine you are walking in the woods alone, enjoying the solitude and beauty of God’s creation, when suddenly the peace of the moment is jarred by the sounds of rustling, dry leaves and cracking sticks behind you.  Adrenaline is immediately released into your blood stream.  Your heart rate jumps, blood pressure increases, pupils dilate and you quickly move to high sense of alertness.  Is it a bear?  Perhaps it’s a mountain lion?  Or is it just a squirrel or a rabbit?  This reflex-like response is God-given to protect us. Once the potential threat is identified – oh, it was a squirrel – our fear abates and our physiology returns to normal.

Fear can be paralyzing and destructive causing us not to act if we let fear control us.  “Like a deer in the headlights” describes one who is frozen by fear with no response to the on-coming threat.  Kingdom leaders can experience extreme fear of the unknown future that seems so foreboding and too difficult or challenging to want to think about.  They ‘freeze’ and fail act, hoping that the threat will just go away and leave them alone.

God has no fear, for nothing is a threat to Him!  Kingdom leaders have the God knows no fear as One who promises to never leave us – even in the valley of the shadow of death.  Note the exhortation from Jesus in the passage above:  “Why are you so afraid?”  That is, why are you letting your fear control your actions to the point of panic.  His response was to point them to faith – faith in Him. He had said we are going to the other side of the lake, not going to the middle and drown!

Kingdom leaders respond with faith when confronting our fears.  We acknowledge our fears, but do not let our fears dictate our actions. Rather, we act by faith in God who knows the future, who sovereignly controls the present and is powerfully able to deal with any threat we may face now or then.

Frozen or full of faith?  Which are you during these foreboding days?

Planning into a Turbulent Future 2

Storm clouds precede a coming change, but what exactly that storm will be when it arrives is unknown.  Scenario planning anticipates several possible future situations and helps us prepare for the coming changes. It is not a lack of faith, but it is wisdom to anticipate the coming storms.

Here’s some practical ideas on how to lead your team in scenario planning:

  1. Scenario planning requires that leaders think ahead in order to stay proactive and not reactive in their leadership.  While one can’t be too detailed in future scenario plans, one can anticipate possibilities and likely responses.  Then, as the future becomes clearer, we add more details and follow one of our most likely scenarios.
  2. A key word is “if”  – that is, if this happens, then this should be your response.  If….then… thinking and planning is scenario planning.
  3. When thinking about a future scenario, you must first determine the time horizon for your planning.  To use a weather metaphor – are you thinking about the blizzard, the winter season or the beginning of a ‘little ice age?’
  4. Start future scenario thinking by taking stock of your current reality.  Use a tool like a SWOT analysis (current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) to think on a macro scale for the whole.  Once you have a handle on the current reality, then begin to think and plan for possible future scenarios within your time horizon.
  5. It seems wise and prudent to think out scenarios dealing with three possible futures:  1) minor changes in the future (we go back to almost our previous normal, with a few minor adjustments – like normal start dates are pushed back a little); 2) some significant changes that impact our ability to serve as we have in the past (fall schedule is disrupted – virtual connections continue; access to our audience is difficult, funding gets difficult due to a poor economy and job losses); and 3) major changes (this is ‘little ice age’ thinking – what we thought was just for several months, now looks like it will continue for the foreseeable future).
  6. Do this scenario thinking with your leadership team because there will be differing perspectives from different people and especially if you are geographically dispersed.  Being more inclusive in this will help with ownership and build a ‘guiding coalition’ for leading change as you go forward (see Kotter’s book – Leading Change).
  7. Always remember that the future is known by the Lord and His Spirit can help you anticipate it and prepare wisely for it.  Listen to Him for guidance.  He’s vested in your ‘success’ because His name, glory and purposes are at stake.  Trust Him to lead you.

Be wise.  Be safe.  Be bold!  Trust Him who knows the future!

Planning into a Turbulent Future 1

And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart.  As you enter the house, greet it.  And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.  And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.     Matthew 10:11-14  ESV

Jesus was preparing His disciples for a short-term mission assignment.  He gave them very specific instructions on what to take or not take with them, the audience of their mission and how they were to interact with those they were sent to.  But note that He also helps them anticipate various responses when they enter the villages – both when received positively and also when they are rejected.  He is helping them by doing some scenario planning.

When Jesus sends the two disciples to get a colt, he again helps them anticipate a possible response to those who might think they are stealing it (see Mark 11:1-7).  And it came to pass exactly as anticipated.

Now this is fascinating because Jesus knows the responses they will receive, but they don’t.  Thus, He gives them some preparation so that they are not taken by surprise and have some forethought on how to deal with differing scenarios.  Scenario planning that anticipates several possible future situations is not a lack of faith, but rather it is wisdom.

The enemy will always try to take your focus off the Lord and place it on our threatening circumstances.  While paying attention to and planning for current and possible realities, always, always keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.  Key your head up and your eyes fixed on Him.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.     Hebrews 12:1-2  ESV

Next we will address how to do wise scenario planning… stay tuned!

This Thing Is From Me

… for this thing is from me…   1 Kings 12:24  (KJV)

“Life’s disappointments are veiled love’s appointments.”  Rev. C.A. Fox

My child, I have a message for you today; let me whisper it in your ear, that it may gild with glory my storm clouds which may arise, and smooth the rough places upon which you may have to tread.  It is short, only five words, but let them sink into your inmost soul; use them as a pillow upon which to rest your weary head.  This thing is from me.*

Have you ever thought of it, that all that concerns you concerns Me too?  For, “he that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye.” (Zech. 2:8)  You are very precious in My sight (Isa. 43:4).  Therefore, it is My special delight to educate you.

I would have you learn when temptations assail you, and the “enemy comes in like a flood,” that this thing is from Me, that your weakness needs My might, and your safety lies in letting Me fight for you.

Are you in difficult circumstances, surrounded by people who do not understand you, who never consult your taste, who put you in the background?  This thing is from Me.  I am the God of circumstances.  Thou camest not to thy place by accident, it is the very place God meant for thee.

Have you not asked to be made humble?  See then, I have placed you in the very school where this lesson is taught; your surroundings and companions are only working out My will.

Are you in money difficulties?  Is it hard to make both ends meet?  This thing is from Me, for I am your purse-bearer and would have you draw from and depend upon Me.  My supplies are limitless (Phil. 4:19).  I would have you prove my promises.  Let it not be said of you, “In this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God.” (Deut. 1:32)

Are you passing through a night of sorrow?  This thing is from Me.  I am the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.  I have let earthly comforters fail you, that by turning to Me you may obtain everlasting consolation (2 Thes. 2:16,17).  Have you longed to do some great work for Me and instead have been laid aside on a bed of pain and weakness?  This thing is from Me.  I could not get your attention in your busy days and I want to teach you some of my deepest lessons.  “They also serve who only stand and wait.”  Some of My greatest workers are those shut out from active service, that they may learn to wield the weapon of all – prayer.

This day I place in your hand this pot of holy oil.  Make use of it free, my child.  Let every circumstance that arises, every word that pains you, every interruption that would make you impatient, every revelation of your weakness be anointed with it.  The sting will go as you learn to see Me in all things.    Laura A. Barter Snow

* Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Robert E. Cowman  –  a daily devotion for February 1

Black Swan Event

Black Swan Event  =  an unpredictable or unforeseen event, typically one with extreme consequences

Up until the late 1600’s naturalists assumed that all swans were white.  However, in 1697 the Dutch explorer Willem de Vlaminck discovered black swans in Australia.  This unexpected event upended assumed paradigms and profoundly changed zoology.

Today, our English vocabulary has co-opted this to coin the phrase, ‘black swan event’ where something very unexpected happens that has huge ramifications.  One can imagine how the terrorist’s attacks of 9/11/01 were a ‘black swan event.’  It would also seem that the Covid-19 pandemic is another one.

These events are unprecedented and human wisdom fails to be able to adequately address them because worldly wisdom is founded upon previous experience.  When there is no prior experience to fall back upon (unprecedented), at best we draw from parallel experiences or insights to deal with a completely new situation.

But Kingdom leaders have a second and more reliable source of wisdom for leading in turbulent times – wisdom that comes from above, godly wisdom.  Young and old alike may posses God’s wisdom, for it is a gift.  James 1:5 promises that those who ask for it will receive it.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”  (ESV)  We desperately need this kind of wisdom now!

With the traditional forms of ministry being taken away (i.e. group gatherings large and small), new virtual gatherings (think online video conferences) are rapidly becoming the norm.  Life-to-life discipling still continues but we now connect via our computer or phone screens instead of in person.  The old mantra of ‘form follows function’ is proving true as new ministry forms are being adopted and adapted to meet our functional needs.  It’s a very new day!

As our old ways are swept away by the raging torrent of rapidly changing events around us, we must look to Him for help and the ability to meet the demands of our new situation.  These events have not taken Him by surprise.  In fact, He is orchestrating all for His good purposes and for the advancement of the Kingdom among the peoples of the world.

The headlines and news leads shout woe and sadness.  But God’s work is often unseen and quiet in the midst of the storm.  We must keep our eyes steadfastly on Him as we navigate the storm.

… And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…    Hebrews 12:1-2  NIV

 

Leading with Courage: Covid-19 Crisis and Opportunity

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”               Esther 4:14 ESV

Times of crisis do not make leaders, but they do reveal them.  If there ever was a time for courageous, wise leadership, now is the time!

With the Covid-19 pandemic increasingly gaining people’s attention, many are being reminded of their mortality and vulnerability.  School schedules have drastically changed and major sporting events or seasons are cancelled or postponed indefinitely.   Large public gatherings including worship services (think Easter) will be removed from our calendars, at least for a while.  With the tumbling of the financial markets and threat to personal health, things that once were sources of personal security are being stripped away.  In previous financial downturns some would say, “Well, at least I have my health.”  Now even that is under siege.  People are feeling very, very vulnerable and insecure.

Into this breach step Kingdom leaders with the answer everyone so needs.  It is for such a time as this that we have faith in the One who knows the end from the beginning.  It is in times as this that we need to be reminded of the hope that lies beyond this life.  This is not to say that we adopt a fatalistic attitude – what will be will be.  No, we should be wise as we go about our daily routines.  But our confidence is not in our hand washings and social distancing, but in the Lord Jesus!  Kingdom leaders point their friends to the One who holds the future in His hands.

This crisis atmosphere is also an opportunity to advance the gospel.  Those who do not know the Lord have little resource to fall back on for hope and comfort and we have the answer.  Anticipate the Lord creating daily opportunities for you to point others to the One who can give them the security they long for and desperately need.  Be bold and be sensitive to the leading of His Spirit.

“Be strong and courageous…” the Lord told Joshua.  (Joshua 1:6 ESV)  Like him, you came to the Kingdom for such a time as this!

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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