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Facts of the Matter

A weekly letter of encouragement and challenge to business and professional men and women

Archive for September, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In this issue we conclude our series on leadership with influence, having previously discussed vision, integrity, perseverance, courage, innovation and risk-taking.

LEADERSHIP IS INFLUENCE 1 Definitions abound as to what makes for a leader. But there is one essential quality of all leaders:  They all have followers. If you think you are leading and turn around and no one is following, you are simply going for a walk in the park. 

  Christs influence is powerfully demonstrated in the fact that ten of his twelve disciples died a martyrs death in proclaiming his message after his resurrection. After Peters denial, Jesus gently restores him, and then influences him to care for his sheep, with the certain knowledge that it will cost him his life. That is influence!  Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simondo you truly love me? Yes, Lord, he said, you know that I love you. Jesus said, Feed my lambsI tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, Follow me! (Jn. 21:15-19 selected)

  QUESTION: Is your life influencing others toward surrendering to Christs unconditional Lordship and call for sacrificial service?

Leadership is influencing people through the power of example: Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at none other.  (Edmund Burke) Observe the influence Pauls example had on the Thessalonians, who in turn multiplied that influence out to others: You became imitators of us and of the Lordso you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia  (I Thess. 1:6-10 selected) (See 2 Cor. 11:1; Phlilp. 3:17; 4:9; 2 Thess. 3:7; Tit. 2:7)

Observe Davids powerful example that influenced his band of fighting men to become great warriors in the years after he killed Goliath: Josheb-Basshebethraised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter…Eleazarstood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the swordShammahtook his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victoryAbishairaised his spear against three hundred men, whom he killedBenaiahstruck down two of Moab’s best men. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. (2 Sam. 23:8-21 Selected)

QUESTION:  Is your life serving as a powerful example that influences others toward Christ likeness?

Leadership is influencing people through motivation and persuasion: St. Paul instructed Timothy to utilize numerous means to influence his protges toward spiritual growth: Preach the Word; be prepared [to] correct (literally: admonish, convince, convict, reprove), rebuke (literally: censor, charge) and encourage (literally: beseech, comfort, entreat)–with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Tim. 4:2)

QUESTION:  Are you utilizing every means at your disposal to influence people to grow in Christ?

Leadership is influencing people to reach their God-given potential:  The pattern for the church in developing believers to reach their full potential in Christ is outlined in Ephesians 4:11-16:  The spiritual leaders of the Body of Christ are to equip the laity to do the ministry so that the Body of Christ will be brought to a level of spiritual maturity that reflects the very life of Christ: Attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Careful analysis and application of the Ephesians passage is essential for healthy church growth.

QUESTION:  Are you intentionally building Christ into believers lives to the effect that they in turn are equipping others?    

1 John Maxwell

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thus far in our series of Seven Key Elements of Leadership, we have discussed vision, integrity, perseverance, courage and innovation. In our final issue we will discuss influence.

RISK-TAKING is the willingness to incur injury, damage or loss. Risk is dangerous chance.  Hazard. Jeopardy.  It is to go out of ones depth. Years ago a commercial jet plunged into the Potomac River in the dead of winter.  A man on the shore risked his life by diving into the icy waters to rescue people who were facing certain death.

Risk-takers of epic proportions would include Charles Lindberg, flying solo across the Atlantic (1927); Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay ascending Mt. Everest (1953), Christiaan Barnard transplanting the first heart (1967), and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon (1969). None of these precedent-breakers however were reckless daredevils.  In their preparation, they over-studied their subject, going to extraordinary lengths to prudently minimize the danger. But they risked in the sense that the outcome was anything but certain; risked in the sense that they pushed the walls out and forged into the unknown.  General George Patton rightly stated, Take calculated risk. That is quite difference than being rash. 

Followers of Christ act on faith, not risk in the sense that they base their decisions on the unchanging character and promises of God. Yet they risk in the sense that the outcome is not always certain.  Consider: Daniels three friends, before being thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to the golden image of the king said, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Dan. 3:16-18). Or Queen Esther who courageously entered the kings presence unsummoned, to petition for the lives of her people. Such an act could have meant her death. Said she, If I perish, I perish.  (Esth. 4:16)

In the Hebrews 11 account of men and women of faith, not everyone was delivered by God from harms way: Others were torturedfaced jeers and floggingwere stonedsawed in two… (etc., etc.) (Heb. 11:35ff) Gods expectation for his children is certainly not that they step back from the edge, but that they step out in faith and trust God for the outcome, whatever it may be: It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going…My righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him (Heb. 11:8; 10:38) (See Matt. 25:14-30)

Helen Keller once stated, Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing at all Life shrinks or expands according to one’s courage. If you are in business, you can identify with Charles Lindberg and The Babe when they stated, Great achievements involve great risk. Progress always involves risk; you cant steal second base and keep your foot on first base.

Listen to 85 year old Nadine Stair, If I had my life to live over I’d like to make more mistakes next timeI would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more riversYou see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I haveI would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall…I would ride more merry-go-rounds, I would pick more daisies.

QUESTION:  As Jesus follower, are you willing to grow past your comfort zone, to prayerfully and prudently attempt exploits for God that demand faith, and that may result in an uncertain outcome? If not, consider the abysmal alternative: The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live. (Leo Buschagila)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thus far in our series of Seven Key Elements of Leadership, we have discussed vision, integrity, perseverance and courage In the ensuing issues we will cover a willingness to take risk, and influence.

INNOVATION has to do with deviation from the norm, creativity, originality, and affecting change. Discovery, a first cousin to innovation, consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different. Years ago a peach farmer friend of mine was frozen out of marketing his products through the local co-op. Facing bankruptcy, I suggested he rent his trees to families who could pick the fruit on a weekend outing. The idea caught on, and he realized a fine profit for the next several years. Remember the Gutenberg press?  Gutenberg innovatively combined two previously unconnected ideas, the wine press and the coin punch, to create the printing press and moveable type. 

When you think of innovation, you have to consider Gods creative genius: Water, air, plants, and people brought about out of nothing.  In the same breath – a butterfly and a buffalo; the texture of silk and the needles of a porcupine. His innovation spans from the creation of the unimaginable eons of galaxies to the world of sub atomic particles. Picture the Nation of Israel migrating across the desert in desperate need of water.  God prompts Moses to speak to a rock and water gushes out. They complain about the food and bread [manna] drops out of the sky and quail appear out of nowhere. (Exo. 16:11-15)

Before returning to heaven, Jesus told his disciples to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20).  But he chose not to hand them a blue print on how to accomplish the task. Rather, he released them to utilize their God-given creativity. During his earthly ministry Christs innovative style in reaching people with the Gospel was refreshingly diverse and impossible to pigeonhole into a formula. With each person he encountered, he creatively tailored his approach to meet their specific need.

St. Paul was wonderfully innovative in reaching the Jews with the Gospel: Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists,  the defeated, the demoralizedwhoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christbut I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.  (I Cor. 9:19 22 Msg)

Sadly, many of us are afraid of innovation and change. Eric Hoffer, the famous dock worker turned writer and philosopher, reminds us, It is my impression that no one really likes the new.  We are afraid of it…We can never be really prepared for that which is wholly new. We have to adjust ourselves and every radical adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem.

If you are in business or in a profession you know you are dead in the water if you and your company are not on the cutting edge of change. Its either innovation or oblivion.  You and I live in a world of confused, godless people who have bought into a plethora of conflicting post modern ideologies.  In reaching them for Christ, pat answers and approaches are proving to be increasingly ineffective. We need to ask God for a creative imagination on the means of communicating the Gospel to our lost friends. Obviously the message remains the same, but effective approaches will demand fresh, newly minted creativity.

QUESTION: Are you up to the challenge of staying out of the muck of stale thinking patterns, and tapping into the creative genius God has given you?  After all, you were made in his creative image!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Thus far in our series on Seven Key Elements of Leadership, we have discussed vision, integrity and perseverance. In ensuring issues we will cover, a hunger for innovation, a willingness to take risks, and influence. Todays Facts focuses on courage:

COURAGE is that rare quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to meet danger, opposition, or hardship with fearlessness, calmness and firmness. Its bravery. Courage is the decision to act in accordance with what you believe to be right.  Its guts, mettle, pluck, resolution, audacity, valor, boldness, heroism, backbone, grit, determination, tenacity. A rare thing, courage.  But why? Because when we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take the step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen.  There will be something solid for us to stand on or we will be taught to fly.1 Not everyone is willing to live at that level.  To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform. 2 

Mark Twain observed, It is curiouscurious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.That is courage.

The Scriptures do not define courage as such, but powerfully illustrate and inform us of its source. Consider the courage of the Prophet Elisha. Evil King Ahab of Israel – who held the power of life and death in his hands – encounters the Prophet Elisha, who courageously greets him with a blistering indictment, and warning of coming judgment: "What do we have to do with each other?As surely as the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you or even notice youHave you not murdered a man and seized his property?…In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood–yes, yours!…Because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. [God is] going to bring disaster on you. I will consume your descendants.  (II Kings 3:13, 14; I Kings 21:19-21a) That is courage.

So, how does a follower of Christ gain courage over fear? You get before God and prayerfully absorb his word; his promises.  You claim them and determine to fulfill the conditions contained in those promises. You lay your concerns before him and thank him ahead of time that he is the solution to your apprehension. (See Philippians 4:6, 7) Then you step out into your day, armed with the promises of God, trusting him to grant you the victory.  Observe the promises and conditions for fulfillment in Joshua 1:7-9:  Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

During the attacks on New York, September 2001, Rudy Giuliani was in midtown Manhattan when the first passenger plane slammed into the World Trade Center.  He immediately made his way toward the danger area, only to observe the second plane hit. It was obvious to him by now that this was a coordinated terrorist attack. Rather than flee to a fortified bunker, he risked his life as buildings collapsed around him, entrapping him in their rubble. Mercifully, he emerged to help direct the rescue efforts, thus becoming a symbol of hope and courage to the people of New York.  That is courage.

QUESTION:  Are you choosing to base your life on Gods promises, so that you are able to courageously live out the unadulterated life of Jesus in a world that is hostile to Him? Or are you frozen by fear? Curtailed by cowardice?  If so, what steps do you need to take today to begin the process of moving from fear to courage?  From fear to liberation? Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. (I Cor. 16:13 NLT)  (See Deut. 31:6, 7; 1 Chron. 12:28; Esther 4:16; Psalm 31:24; 2 Cor. 1:18-20; 2 Tim. 1:7; Heb. 6:12)

1 Patrick Overton, 2 Theodore H. White, 3 Susan B. Anthony