Book Review: Leadership In Turbulent Times

Book Review: Leadership In Turbulent Times                                                                                               Author:  Doris Kearns Goodwin

Books on leadership are plentiful on the bookshelves (wait-there are almost no more bookshelves to find books!).  Some of these books are focused on general principles; some tell the story of how an organization blossomed and grew, all the while giving or insinuating leadership considerations; while others are more biographical, based on one particular leader.  A recent work that demands attention, not only because the author was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, but because of its interesting and articulate expression of leadership considerations for all those who want to become better leaders.  Leadership In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin examines four Presidents of the U.S. to tell the story of their leadership of a nation and what principles can be gleaned from their victories as well as their mistakes.

Goodwin invites us to learn from Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson.  In the first section, she introduces us to their childhood life and upbringing, with the ultimate purpose of showing portents and hints of leadership potential.  Next, Goodwin zooms in on a particular period of life for each of these that tested their endurance in adversity.  While these four men found themselves virtually at the point of collapse, they rebounded stronger than ever with a refashioned character and a reinforced strength for the call of leadership.

The last section of the book focuses on four key aspects of leadership that each of these Presidents highlighted and from which we can learn tremendous lessons:  Lincoln/transformational leadership; Theodore Roosevelt/crisis management; Franklin Roosevelt/turnaround leadership; and Lyndon Johnson/visionary leadership.  A key event in each of their presidencies is used for drawing out essential leadership skills for the read to consider (respectively: the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War, the Coal Strike, the Hundred Days, and the Civil Rights legislation).  Each principle is enlarged and narrated through a certain response, attitude, action, etc. of that particular president.

What is the real value of this book?  Besides the fact that it is provided with so many interesting details of great leaders of our country that thrills any history buff, it helps the reader to see real practically how key leadership principles were demonstrated by these Presidents.  It is one thing to read about key principles that are sometimes endlessly recycled in leadership books, but it is another to see in a detailed way, how these principles were clearly demonstrated and even intentionally thought out by these leaders.  For these Presidents, some of their leadership glories were more part of their character and personality, more of a natural outflow of who they were.  But then there were other principles that were learned, developed, planned, and calculated.  These were either learned from other people as models for them or realized and adopted as they were developed out of their growth as leaders as well as through trials of adversity.



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Single-Mindedness (Bonhoeffer-part 3)


Single-minded people can drive you up the proverbial wall!  They only care about one thing; only talk about one thing; and only listen to one thing; and if you are not beating the same drumbeat, they do not have any time for you.  Single-mindedness can be zeroed in on any interest, hobby, goal, or whatever.

As Jesus was out calling disciples to himself, what did he expect of them and want to grow in them?  Nothing less than single-mindedness.  Not to a cause, not to a philosophy, not to a way of life; but, simply devoted and obedient to him.  In chapter three of The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer sums the discipleship calls to the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22), Simon Peter (Mark 1:17), Levi/Matthew (Mark 2:14), and others (Luke 9:57-62) as one of single-minded obedience.  But how do you become so single-minded as Jesus requires?  Bonhoeffer answers, “Only one thing is required in each case-to rely on Christ’s word and to cling to it as offering greater security than all the securities in the world.”

For the follower of Jesus, the word of Christ is trusted to the degree so as to remove trust in whatever else that existed before meeting Christ.  That Word and calling from Christ interrupts one’s previous obedience to the calling of the world.  This happens as the Word of Christ dwells and permeates the believer so as to reveal the weakness of the world and to magnify the power of Christ in him through that Word.  Single-minded obedience is not so much the forcefulness of the intensity of the follower, but rather should be ascribed to the power of Christ’s Word.  Followers cling by faith, but it is the Word that is driving a person to single-mindedness.  As followers of Jesus, let us not think so much of ourselves, but rather let us think more highly esteem the word of Christ.  He does the work in us through His Word as we simply cling to it.

How much time do you take to not only read the Scriptures that proclaim the glories of the Messiah Jesus, but to so meditate and allow the Word of Christ to work upon your beliefs, desires, and allegiances?  How is this Word throwing out the old and bringing in the new?  The Word of Christ will work and perform in you what Christ requires of you as you hold to it for your life-Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3:16-17 ESV).

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Call of Jesus to Jesus (Bonhoeffer-part 2)

In chapter two of Bonhoeffer’s work The Cost of Discipleship, the nature of the command from Jesus to follow him is examined from Mark 2:14 (“Follow me”).  While noting the important exception that faith must not be separated from obedience in regards to the belief of justification by faith, faith and obedience in discipleship cannot and must not ever be separated.  Otherwise, discipleship is lost.

As part of understanding this obedience, Bonhoeffer is at pains to preserve the calling of Jesus to a new life and existence.  Jesus summons us away from a life of security, self-control, and limited way of living into a realm where Jesus and his call gives and creates a totally new way of living, full of the possibilities that only Jesus can create.  The old is broken away from and the new is protected from being wrongly perceived as an addition or clarification of the old.

As Jesus called the rich young ruler to Himself in discipleship (Matthew 19:16-22, Jesus taught that his call of discipleship is not a “completion” of one’s old life.  Following Jesus is not just taking another step of the journey that we are currently taking through life.  The kind of life Jesus was offering was not available to this man apart from selling his possessions, which symbolized his old existence.

The new life of Jesus that He offers us is so radically different in nature that this new existence ought not to be confused or fused with our past existence.  From a more deeply theological understanding, Jesus was saying the same thing to Nicodemus when he told him that he could only have a share in the Kingdom of God by being born again from God into a new life (John 3).  The old life is not worthy of Jesus being joined to it as some kind of addition that adds or fulfills what we are.  The old life cannot be restored or recreated.  It has to be done away with.  The life Jesus offers is not even to be seen as making a new start.  This is not stopping and then starting again with a new perspective on life.  What we are apart from Jesus must come to nothing.  All of “self” must die so that we can become what Jesus calls us to be through the Gospel in being his followers; little images of Himself.

Bonhoeffer points out that there is no content to the call of Jesus in Mark 2:14.  There is no reason given and nothing is promised.  The only thing that makes up the call is Jesus.  Jesus is our reason; Jesus is our goal; Jesus is the content.  Either a potential disciple is pulled to Jesus by his glory and grace to be like him or one goes on his own way as before and stays as he is, in his old existence of death.

What journey are you on in life?  Are you trying to make your old life better by adding Jesus into it so He might make your life better than it was before?  Beware!  Please know that Jesus never agreed to do that for you and if you try that, you will be frustrated when Jesus doesn’t come through for you as you think he promised. Give up, surrender, cut off your old life. Let it die!  Humble yourself before Jesus and ask for the only kind of life that is indeed life-Jesus.  Jesus has nothing to offer you except himself because there is nothing better!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Bonhoeffer Begins!

Our men’s group is going to launch into reading The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Because of that, I am going to try and post some of my thoughts about this book along the way.

I have read bits and pieces of this book previously, but I have read and re-read the introductory chapters and chapter 1 again and it seems like a book written for our times today.  Do we understand the gospel call of Jesus to be one of His disciples?  In the introduction, he rhetorically asks the question of whether or not the church in Germany at that time had hidden the command of discipleship from humankind.  Through the church’s dogma, had the church made following Jesus difficult in the sense that the call was no longer heard from Jesus?  He will go on to assert that the church indeed had done that atrocious deed.

In the “Introduction,”  he asks “And if we answer the call to discipleship, where will it lead us?”  This is an important question to ask of any disicple-wanna-be of Jesus.  Bonhoeffer answers this question according to how the NT answers it.  “Only Jesus Christ, who bids us follow him, knows the journey’s end” (see John 21:15-23).  The final end where Jesus will take us is to be with him and to see his glory (John 17:24).  But, in this life, only Jesus knows what He will choose to put us through.  The path is not ours to choose.  We don’t look at the path Jesus has us on as much as we look at the One who leads us.  He draws us by his glory and grace and where he takes us is inconsequential compared to who he is for us.

Seven years later, in a concentration camp in Flossenbürg, Germany, Bonhoeffer finally came to the end of his discipleship journey with Jesus in this life.  Because of his discipleship calling from Jesus, Bonhoeffer gave his own life to Jesus on April 9th, 1944 as he was executed for opposing the National Socialism of Germany and the Nazi Fuhrer Adolf Hitler.

Where will Jesus take us as we follow Him?  I would ask myself and you “Does it matter?
Is not Jesus greater than anything we could face?  Is not Jesus more than anything we could lose?

Lord, help us to follow Jesus as He leads us in paths unknown to us but known to Him; all for His glory and all for our Christ-likeness.!

For more information, you can find some general information on him at

See also



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Christmas Poem- 2013

Christmas morning comes with its holy silence

The sons of earth and the sons of heaven bow in glad reverence

The world lays in its cold darkness with a heavy roar

Only the Son of God knows the stillness of the heavenly shore


Come to help your people know, Lord of Glory-Bright

The glories of God and heaven are only a blink of faith away

The gospel of Jesus now tells us how our souls need to finish from goin’ astray

Come and make your people know, Lord of Sabbath-Might



Could this really be the birth of our Savior, sin’s mortal blow?

Make haste to come to straw and hay, where majesty now dwells

Could this really be the birth of our King, salvation’s joyous glow?

Make haste to gaze on kingly brightness, where the water of heaven wells


Do not gaze too long upon the world and its hide-and-seek adornments

Jesus is here and has accomplished all the Father’s achievements

Jesus born for a manger and a cross whose grace stamps out all our sin

Jesus now all-glorious, victorious over the Fall and all, waits for us in the heavenly inn.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Christmas From Bethlehem

This is a helpful video in seeing the birth of Jesus from a Middle-Eastern perspective.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Should We Be “Anti-Gay?”

Having lived in Minnesota for 35 of my 42 years of life, I still keep track of what happens in the 10,000 lake state.  A few days ago, I read an article from the Minneapolist Star Tribune that addressed the issue of whether or not the GOP is “anti-gay” (  This phrase “anti-gay” got me thinking.  Should anyone be “anti-gay?”  The phrase is quite ambiguous and therefore is a useful catch-phrase for those with a political agenda.

To what could this phrase be referring? Perhaps it refers to various societal rights and privileges related to marriage, health care or the Armed Services, etc. that some people believe homosexuals should not have. It also could have a moral reference; homosexuality is wrong by some absolute moral code or even perhaps by a cultural, relativistic code. This phrase also does not distinguish between a moral conviction about homosexuality and the personal attitude toward and treatment of those who are homosexuals.

As Christians, we should have two approaches when dealing with this issue.  First, we should be known as those who are “anti-sin” and not just “anti” certain sins.  We are “anti” to anything that is contrary to God’s revealed moral will for human beings to do or not do.  Second, while we must consider homosexuality a sin against the creator of humanity and sexuality, we do not want to have an attitude of “anti” against any person. As neighbors of humanity in this common neighborhood of the world, we must love all in hopes that God may also grant repentance toward those who are in sin.  Third, while we need to decry all sin as against God, we must recognize that some sins like homosexuality are far greater in their destruction potential of families and the societal structure.  If we are “anti-gay,” meaning against homosexuality itself as a practice, it would be for the sake of the enduring welfare of our society. 


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized