Friday, June 11, 2021

Leadership Thought: The Day I Discovered I Was Published.

Dear Friends,

I love to encourage people. I think the reason I love to do so is because I know how much encouragement has meant to me  throughout my life. Writing a daily Leadership Thought is not always easy. Sometimes I wake up very early, and I have no idea what I am going to say, and even when I do think I might have something worth sharing, I have no idea how to express it.  Writing is work and quite honesty there have been a number of  times when I have thought to myself maybe I should reinvest my early morning hours in doing something different, but each time I do, I receive a letter from someone, as I did the other day, encouraging me to continue writing.

The e-mail came from a friend in South Florida, and it was the P.S. that caught my special attention. “II don’t think it’s God’s timing for you to stop writing daily ‘devos.’ Just ‘sayin.’” Thanks, Tina Reeder, for taking the time to encourage me, and thank you for the many others of you who over the years have kept me writing because of your kind and encouraging words.

A few months ago, one of our church leaders surprised me with a gift that I will never forget. It was a book titled The Home Run, Leadership Lessons from the Coach. And guess who wrote it? Below the title in big letters was the author’s name-Tom Crenshaw.

For the last two-year Dan has casually encouraged me to put some of my devotionals in book form, but I had always dismissed the thought as I have never had any self-inflated views of my writing skills. In fact, I write more for my own benefit than for the benefit of others. I write because it is a good discipline and because I know the more, I write the better I will become, and improvement, regardless of the area, is something that I have always sought to pursue.

You and I are different because of the people we have been around. Fortunately, I have been around lid lifters, people who want to lift me to higher levels than where they found me. My mom, my high school and college coaches, pastors I have known, associates with whom I have served, and a multitude of friends like Dan Brennan, Tina Reeder, Ned Newland as well as some of you reading this have been some of my life’s greatest cheerleaders.

Benjamin Disraeli has written, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but reveal to him his own.”

George Adams writes, “There are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else.”

You and I are the products of the people with whom we have associated, unfortunately some may have been like anchors in our boat. They have dragged us down with  words of criticism and disapproval that have left us feeling discouraged and defeated. Others, however, have been the wind beneath our wings. Their  words have lifted us and inspired and encouraged us to be the best we can be.

It has been said that people will go farther than they think they can when someone else thinks they can, and I know this to be true.

Oh, you won’t have to worry about standing in line to purchase my book in Barnes and Noble for only a limited number of copies have been published. In fact, the number is very limited-maybe 25 or so to accommodate my family and a few of my cheerleading friends. However, 25 is a start, so keep your eyes focused on the Best-Selling Books lists, for another 25 may soon be printed. And if you happen to be lucky enough to purchase a copy, please don’t ask me to autograph it, for my neuropic fingers only type but no longer  write.

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom

P.S. Think about someone who might need a little encouragement and send them a note or give them a call. Who knows how high the wind of your words might lift them, but I assure you they’ll enjoy the flight and you’ll enjoy watching them.

Leadership Thought: Secretaries, and Other Church Leaders, “You Don’t Always Have to Be Nice.”

Dear Friends,

I sent the message below to our church secretary, who is one of the nicest and kindest persons you will ever meet. I wanted her to know, as I indicated in my letter to her, that while we appreciate her warm and friendly spirit and the wonderful way she makes people feel after spending time with her, that her job security does not require her to be nice all the time.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do think it is important for the face of the church to be pleasant when she speaks to people on the phone or in person, but that expectation only goes so far. Should people take advantage of her kindness, or presume she has nothing else to do except address their needs, I draw the line. I told her it was Ok to growl occasionally-one of the best things a church secretary can do to relive tension, and that the rest of the staff would even be Ok with an occasional scream so long as it remained a decibel or two below a train whistle.

No one has to remain quiet and unresponsive when disrespected or taken advantage of, and that goes for anyone, not just church secretaries.

I have been privileged to work with a number of great church secretaries over the years, and I know how hard they work and how committed they are to serving others. I tend to several flower gardens with my secretary in mind, for long ago I learned that if you bring your secretary flowers, you will  have a happy and devoted secretary who not only likes you, but who will defend you to the death. And who doesn't need a little additional job security?

So, to you Karen, Denise, Debby, Karen, Lynn, Megan, and any other secretaries I have been blessed to minister with over some fifty years of ministry, I dedicate the message below to you. And to those who read this and who aren’t secretaries, I remind you that you too don’t have to grin when you feel like growling.

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom

“Biblical Leaders Don’t Have to Be Nice All the Time,” Tom Harper, Biblical Leadership, June 7, 2021,

“I don't envy those of you in church leadership.

You have pressures those of us in the marketplace don't have. When you let a staff member go, you often have a tougher time because you've been at his family's hospital bedside, done their funerals, conducted their marriages or counseled them through personal crises. When we part ways with employees, the roots aren't as deep, and the aftermath doesn't last as long or spread among entire families like in the church.

Whether you lead in ministry or any kind of organization, Solomon has some great advice (and I paraphrase): "Be nice. But sometimes don't be nice."

That's a relief on one hand – it's okay to not to be liked all the time. On the other, especially for us people pleasers, it's frightening. What do you mean, don't be nice? Most of us actually care about what people think.

Let's look at a passage in Ecclesiastes you've heard before:

Ecclesiastes 3:3-8
3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Jesus himself said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34).

If you too must be a peace breaker from time to time, remember you're in good company. Jesus showed the way we need to be when short-term peace is detrimental to the greater good."

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Leadership Thought: How Far Can Your Joy Be Heard?

Dear Friends,

How far is your joy heard? The kind of joy  I'm thinking about  is the earth-shaking kind, the kind that rattles the very foundation of a community. It is the  kind that reverberates through a community like the  backside of a hurricane. It is the same kind of joy that was experienced in Nehemiah’s day as the community came together to celebrate the rebuilding of the walls surrounding Jerusalem.

If you want to read about what biblical joy sounds like, you might want to flip to the 12th chapter of Nehemiah. As you read this chapter, I suggest that you try and imagine the joyful expressions of thankfulness that must have resounded from the top of the wall as Levite's joined with choirs, and special singing groups who were surrounded by the sounds of symbols, lyres and harps all joining together to create a symphony of joyful praise. The joy of the Lord could not only be heard in Jerusalem but in places far distant from those walls (Nehemiah 12: 43)

I haven't heard a lot of that kind of joy expressed over the past year. Instead there has been fear and sadness, and  lots of frustration during a time when people were longing for the Pandemic to be over, and a time of  normalcy to return.

I am happy to say, however, that what little joy I have heard, has come from my colleagues in the faith here in our church, and that is the way it should be. We are a people that should be able to “rejoice in the Lord, always”(Philippians 4: 4), and that includes even in the midst of a Pandemic, for our joy is not based on outward circumstances but in the Lord.

It is worth remembering what Larry Crabb has written in Effective Biblical Counseling, when he discusses  the difference between joy and happiness.

“Many of us place top priority not on becoming Christ like in the middle of our problems, but on finding happiness. I want to be happy, but the paradoxical truth is that I will never be happy if I am concerned primarily with becoming happy. My overriding goal must be in every circumstance to respond biblically, and  to put the Lord first, to seek to behave as He would want me to. The wonderful truth is that as we devote all our energies to the task of becoming what Christ wants us to be, He fills us with joy unspeakable and the peace far surpassing what the world offers.”

“Paul said it was his ambition (goal) not to become happy but to please God at every moment. What a transforming thought! When I drive my car to work and someone cuts me off, when my kids act up during church, when the dishwasher breaks,”  and yes, I might add, even when my wife, Jean goes on a trip taking  my only set of keys with her-it just happened……… (Through all of this) “my primary responsibility is to please God.” (Effective Biblical Counseling, Lawrence Crabb, pp. 20- 21).

Simply put if you want to be happy, you won't find it by seeking happiness. You will only find it through seeking the Lord. And when you do, you will not only discover happiness, but in the process, you will find something even greater-joy, real joy, the kind  that is never dependent on circumstances, but which is always dependent on the Lord.

Speaker and writer Tony Campollo reminds us, "The Kingdom of God is a Party.” And if this is true, and I believe it is, and if God’s will for us is to “rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all situations (1 Thess. 5:16-18),  then let’s put on our party hats and start to celebrate.

Yours in faith and friendship.

Tom

P.S. And didn’t Jesus say, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.”

Leadership Thought: Wise Words as Rick Warren Steps Down as Saddleback’s Pastor.

Dear Friends,

Rick Warren, pastor at Saddleback Church in California has been a wonderful friend and mentor of mine.  Now, I don’t know him personally, only indirectly through his books, U tube messages, and leadership e-mails, and I am grateful to be the beneficiary of his wisdom and pastoral and professional leadership abilities.

His Purpose Driven Life is one of the bestselling books of all time, having sold 40 million copies.  If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and  purchase a copy today. I promise you; it will be a great investment of your time and money.

Rick started Saddleback church 42 years ago, and today it is one of the largest churches in the country with over 30,000 weekly worshippers, with thousands more on different campuses in California as well as on campuses all around the world, including Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, and Berlin.  The church recently celebrated their 50,000th baptism.

Throughout his 42 years of ministry as founding pastor of Saddleback Church, Rick has remained free of scandal. Preaching as many as 5 times a week, and living with a rare auto immune disease that mimics Parkinson’s, has taken a significant toll on his health, and last week he announced he would be stepping down as Saddleback’s lead pastor.

This morning I listened to the message he delivered to his Saddleback family in which he announced the reasons for his retirement. In sharing his decision, he provided a series of guidelines to contemplate when considering change in your life: “Enlist the prayers of others, seek the counsel of wise friends, take time to be quiet and listen to God, consider what you have done well in the past and the gifts you possess, don’t be in a hurry to make your decision but trust in God’s timing, and finally ask yourself if you are willing to do something even harder in the future than what you have done in the past.”

Now I can’t do justice to the wisdom he shared in his 52 minute message, but I would encourage those of you who might be envisioning change in your life to listen to the message “How to Discern the Best Time to Make a Major Change” in its entirety. I have provided the link below.

Rick is still planning to remain involved in the ministry, but his teaching will be limited. He says he envisions his wife Kay sitting in the front row of their sanctuary being cheerleaders for the one God calls to take his place.

Rick, you have served well. You have faithfully fulfilled the call God gave you 42 years ago to found Saddleback, you have influenced and impacted millions of people throughout your ministry, and you have done it without stain or blemish, so I ask for God’s blessing to rest upon you as you continue to serve Him is whatever capacity that might me.

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom

https://www.newsweek.com/rick-warren-retires-1598357

Monday, June 7, 2021

Leadership Thought: Reflections at Last Night's Fellowship of Christian Athletes' Banquet.

Dear Friend,

Last night I attended a Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s annual fund-raising dinner as I have done for the last decade or so. I invited a couple of friends to join me as I am always interested in introducing others to the ministry of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The evening always brings back a lot of memories as 59 years ago, almost to the very day, this young sophomore football player from the Virginia Military Institute found himself numbered among 500 other young men in Lake Geneva, Wisc,  for my first ever Summer F.C.A. Conference.

I still remember some of the speakers. Bart Star, Jessie Owens, Bob Feller were among some of those who would be speaking. I was there because of the influence of a good friend, and fellow football player, Chuck Beale, whose life had been changed at a similar conference a few years before, and he was eager to share his experienced and his newfound faith with anyone who would listen.

As I sat there last night at the dinner, my mind wandered back to that first F.C.A. Conference in Lake Geneva. It was after hearing Jessie Owens share his spiritual testimony and his  challenge to those present to yield their lives to Jesus that I quietly walked back to my cabin and knelt down beside my cabin cot and gave my life to Jesus.

Little did I know at the time how my life would change because of that decision. This morning I found myself quietly and gratefully reflecting on those 59 years since that Lake Geneva experience. I thought of the 7 wonderful churches I have served, and the young men I have coached and taught as a teacher and as an athletic director, and the many friends I have made throughout my years of ministry. I thought of how blessed I am to have such a wonderful wife and 4 incredible children, who like their dad, are all teachers.  And at my age, how lucky I am to find myself still ministering in a wonderful church, serving alongside  two young and gifted pastors.

And as I reflected on these things, it dawned on me that the day before was D-Day, June 6th, when  our  troops first set foot on the beaches of Normandy in 1941, and how similar that D-Day was  to my Spiritual D-Day when I knelt beside my cabin cot on that Lake Geneva summer evening of 1962.

In both cases, the first stage of ultimate victory had been achieved, but there would  still be a lot more territory to be conquered. The enemy would still need to be displaced. Satan’s occupying forces would still need to be destroyed.

The goal of every invasion is to defeat the enemy and that requires discipline, devotion, and an unwavering determination to accomplish the mission, and that is why we as believers continue to wage war against the unseen enemy of our souls. The battle rages on for the victory of Christ in the hearts of His people.

Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have and have it to the full (John 10:10)

There is still work to do, battles to be fought, before the victory flag can be planted in the ground. While Christ’s army awaits that final promised victory and  the sound of the trumpet call of God that marks the enemy’s final demise, we labor on for the victory that is assured  even though it has not yet finally been accomplished.

And so, we take the Good News with us as did those D-Day soldiers as we travel from village to village, town to town and nation to nation. Our foe is crafty and his power is real, and he wages an unrelenting battle to protect his territory, but D-Day has been achieved and  V-Day is just around the corner, and we can confidently proclaim, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

I hope you, too, are enjoying D-Day as you await that final V Day victory when Christ shall come and take us home to be with Him forever.

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Leadership Thought: Are You Ready to Be Your Church's MVP?

Dear Friends,

In an hour I will be heading up to our church for a time of prayer. This past Sunday in the course of my message, I challenged our members to join me at our church at 6:00 am to spend an hour together in prayer. I don't know how many or how few will be participating, but the one thing I know is that even if it is only a handful, our church will be different because of the time we spend together.

In the sports world we have MVP's. They are those who are recognized as the " Most Valuable Players." They are the ones who put up big numbers and who are known for their athletic productivity whether it’s on the baseball of football fields. In the spiritual world we also have our  MVP's. The MVP's in the spiritual world are not to be confused with those in the sports world. They are not necessarily those who come through in the clutch when there is some significant financial need, or those servants who are always there when there is an important task to be accomplished. The MVP's are not always the most well-known or prominent members of the church; in fact, many in the church may not even know their names. No, unlike MVP's in the sports world, these are not the Most Valuable Players; they are the "Most Valuable Prayers.”

The church MVP's are those behind the scenes people like Pearl Goode who are the key to the church's ministry. They are the ones who faithfully and consistently spend time on their knees praying for their pastors and their church. 

Pearl Goode was a widowed nurse in her mid-60s, living in Pasadena CA. in 1949 when a young evangelist came to hold tent meetings in Los Angeles. The very first night of the crusade, she watched the fiery preacher Billy Graham and his team share the gospel. As Pearl later recounted in an interview, "That night God laid those boys on my heart as a burden."

After that night, Pearl traveled to dozens of Billy Graham Crusades and prayed during each event. Pearl then joined the volunteer prayer team for the greater Los Angeles Crusade and was a part of seeing the campaign extended from three weeks to eight weeks, with people cramming into the tent every night to hear the Good News. After that early crusade, Pearl became a prayer warrior for the Crusades, with hardly anyone on the Billy Graham team even knowing who she was. 

She would spend her own money to travel by greyhound bus to wherever they were holding an event, quietly check herself into a motel near the venue, and immediately begin praying. Pearl estimated that over the years of her prayer ministry she covered 48,000 miles to pray for the Crusades.

In an address Billy Graham gave in 1994, he said, "She prayed all night many nights, and I could sense the presence and power or that prayer. When she died, I felt it." 

We can never underestimate the power of the prayer that is lifted up by wonderful saints like Pearl Goode all around the world.

Prayer-talking to God-is of paramount importance in developing our relationship with our Savior and in building up and supporting others through the work of the Holy Spirit. The great significance of prayer is why we see so many calls to prayer in the New Testament.

Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers in the church, used to point to the furnace or boiler room below the sanctuary whenever someone asked him about the power of his preaching ministry. Every week he stood in the pulpit, there were as many as 300 people kneeling in the basement, the "boiler room," below praying for him and for every word that would come from his mouth.

Want to be a church MVP? If so, start kneeling, for God's MVP's are always found on their knees.

As one great saint of the church used to say, "There is more you can do after you have prayed, but there is no more you can do until you have prayed." 

While you may not be able to join me and others this morning, you can participate with us by simply taking a few minutes following the reading of this message to pray for your pastor and your church's ministry. In doing do, you might become your church's MVP!

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Leadership Thought: Fire Lighter or Fire Fighter: The Blessedness of Being Needed.

Dear Friends, 

Someone said, we can either be the wind beneath someone’s wings or the anchor in their boat. I seek to be the wind.  I want to lift people up and help lighten their loads. I want to do my best to inspire people and encourage them to realize their goals and achieve their dreams.

There are all too many people in our world who act like anchors, and who are quick to drag people down. 

The world needs more fire lighters,  who come alongside those who have a dream and help ignite that dream.  “You can do it,” I’m with you,” “You can count on me." are some of the words in the vocabulary of the fire lighter. 

The firefighter functions just the opposite. The firefighter douses dreams and dampens spirits. He pours water on the flames of enthusiasm.  He finds way to discourage one’s efforts.  “You can never do it,” “the task is insurmountable,” “You don’t have the resources," "you don’t have the background," "you lack the experience.”  The words of the firefighter will leave you discouraged and  ready to give up and quit.

Many years ago, one of my favorite authors, David Mains, told the story of how he and his wife sought to address some behavior issues with their four-year old son Jeremy. He had a habit that they wanted to break, but they were making Iittle progress. They tried everything until as a final resort they applied physical the discipline of spanking.

When conversation was restored, his wife, Karen, asked the chastised little boy, "Jeremy, what are we going to do with you?" Fully contrite, he slowly answered, "Why, don't you just throw me in the garbage.  "

And there are many people, who like little Jeremy, feel like they have been thrown on the garbage heap. They don't feel as if anyone cares about them. They feel like they are without value, good for nothing, except to be cast into life's dumpster.

A number of years ago Anne Murray popularized a song whose lyrics remind me off something we all need.

           “I cried a tear, you wiped it dry

            I was confused, you cleared my mind.

            I sold my soul, you bought it back for me

           And held me up and gave me dignity.

            Somehow you needed me.

            You gave me strength to stand alone again,

           to face the world out on my own again.

          You put me high upon a pedestal. So high that I can almost see eternity, 

you needed me, you needed me; and I can't believe it's you, I can't believe it's true.

          I needed you and you were there, and I'll never leave.

          Why should I leave, I'd be a fool

          'cause' I've finally found someone who really cares."

We all have a need to be needed. We want to know that people care for us. We want them to affirm our value and our importance. We want someone who we know truly cares for us and wants the very best for us. We long to feel valued and  important to someone. Blessed is the person who knows he or she is needed and has someone who really cares.

Max Lucado sums up my thoughts when he writes, "God sees us with the eyes of a Father. He sees our defects, errors, and blemishes. But He also sees our value. What did Jesus know that enabled Him to do what he did? Here's part of the answer: He knew he value of people. He knew that each human being is a treasure. And because He did, people were not a source of stress, but a source of joy." (Max Lucado, I Never Knew That Was in the Bible: Inspirational Thoughts for Each Day of the Year).

Is there someone you know who needs to know he/she is needed? Why not be the wind beneath his/her wings?

Yours in faith and friendship,

Tom