BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for December, 1999

Wednesday, December 29, 1999

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE NOT FOLLOWING A SPIRITUAL SHYSTER?

Good Morning!

A few months ago a leading pastor disappeared from sight. Then the truth came out that for years he had kept a “sex slave” in his house, and had enticed his flock with a mixture of convoluted Scripture and Eastern mysticism to keep them intrigued and off balance. And, he was getting rich off of them. Recently a pastor shared with me the abusive style of leadership endemic throughout his denomination, and how he in kind has practiced it upon his flock.

In my recent study of 2 Peter 2:1-22, I discovered the following characteristics of false teachers:

  • They arise from among the believers. (Vs. 1) (Act. 20:30; Rom.16:17,18;Gal. 1:8,9;I Tim. 1:3; Jude 4)
  • They are popular, attracting many followers. (Vs. 2)  (I Jn. 4:5)
  • They bring discredit upon true Christianity.  (Vs. 2) (Rom. 2:23, 24; 1 Tim. 6:1)
  • They  exploit people financially. (Vs. 3, 14) (2 Cor. 2:17; I Thes. 2:5;1 Tim. 6:3-5)
  • They ensnare young converts by promising them sexual “freedom”. (Vs. 8, 19) (Jn. 8:34,36; I Pet.2:16)
  • They are audacious and arrogant, despising all authority. (Vs. 10) (Jer.10:21;Lk 19:14; Act 7:27,39; Jud. 8)
  • They blasphemously enter spiritual realms in which they are ignorant. (Vs. 10,12) (Jude 8-10)
  • They revel in lustful pleasures, seducing the unstable. (Vs. 10, 13, 14)(Rom. 13:13;2 Tim. 3:5-7)
  • They are under God’s judgment. (Vs. 1,4-13, 20-22)  (Jer. 23:9-40; Ezek. 34:1-10; James 3:1)

How can we protect ourselves from these spiritual shysters?

  • Know the Word of God and compare it with their teaching. (Acts 17:11;2 Tim.4:2-4; 2Pet.3:16,17)
  • Realize that if they are super popular, they probably are not from God.(Mt.24:23,24;Lk.16:15;Jn.15:18-20)
  • Don’t be easily impressed by “signs”, “miracles”, etc. (Mt. 24:5,24-26;Mk.13:22;2Thes.2:9-12;1Jn.4:1-3)
  • Be wary of spiritual leaders who are abusively authoritarian, and lack compassion. (I Pet.5:3; Mat.9:12-13)
  • Understand that false teachers twist the Scriptures, often attacking the Deity of Christ; usually pushing salvation by their definition of good works. (2 Cor. 4:2; 2 John 7; Col. 2:16-23)

 

My prayer is that you are having a great week!

Wednesday, December 22, 1999

WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN TO TAKE UP THE CROSS AND FOLLOW CHRIST?

Good Morning!

“…If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Lk. 23,24)

What it means in practical terms  to lose one’s life:+

  • Being willing to suffer the pain and humiliation of the cross.  (Heb. 11:26;12:1,2; 13:13)
  • Being willing to forgive and embrace those who sin against you and see what they meant for harm as sent from God for good.  (Gen. 50:20; Acts 7:60; Phil. 1:15-18)
  • Being willing to be separated from those you love. (Matt. 10:37, 38; Lk. 14:26)
  • Being willing to be dependent on others.  (Act. 20:4,5; II Tim. 1:16; 4:9-13, 21)
  • Being willing to face the loneliness that sometimes comes with dedication to Christian service. (Phil.  2:19-21; II Tim. 1:15; 4:10, 16)
  • Being willing to keep walking faithfully, one step at a time, through the desert of the soul, when it seems God has abandoned you.  (Job 23:8 – 17; Psa. 42; 84:5-7)
  • Being willing to accomplish what God calls you to do. (Isa. 6:8; 50:7; Act. 20:24; 26:19; I Cor. 15:58; II Tim. 4:7)
  • Being willing  to surrender all to God and not strike back at those who oppose you.  (Lk. 6:27-36; I Pet. 2:20-23)

What it means in practical terms to save one’s life:++  …It is getting up in the morning ,going to work, coming home, going through the drill, playing some golf on the weekends, going to church, and taking a vacation now and then.” In other words,  “It is living life and keeping one’s discretionary time for one’s self.”

Are you in fact taking up your cross and following Jesus?   If you are, thenyour attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing,  taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:5-8)

 

My prayer is that you are having a great week!

Wednesday, December 15, 1999

WHEN FAMILY AND SOCIETAL VALUES CONFLICT: “The greatest danger to those who would follow Jesus is not overt persecution by society, but subtle seduction by its values.”+

Good Morning!

Two years ago Ruth and I dined with a couple who were are on the fast track professionally. Their four year old boy, the mother assured us, was getting adequate attention from her when she arrived home each evening around dinner time from her glamorous, but emotionally draining job.  We asked the couple their understanding of Titus 2:3-5:

“…Teach the older women to…train the younger women to love their husbands and children…to be busy at home…to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” 

 Silence. Then awkward doublespeak about the changing roles of women in a modern society.

Two months ago we dined again with this couple and their (now) six year old boy. Immediately I was struck with how emotionally starved and out of control this child  appeared to be.

Recently, over breakfast with the father, I again broached the subject of parental priorities, expressing concern that their child seemed to lack love and discipline. This time he immediately concurred. And then the real truth came out:

 His wife’s parents, he informed me,  have been “emotionally blackmailing” his spouse to build a high profile career in appreciation for the sacrifice they had made in financing her blue chip education. The lad, they insisted, should be farmed out to a pre-school and maids when the mother is working. So, under their continuos pressure, he had abandoned his wife to emotionally twist in the wind.

Do not the Scriptures instruct us to “leave and cleave”? Isn’t the husband to be the head of his wife, shielding her from these abusive parents?  Should he not be taking a stand on priorities? (Gen.2:24; Eph. 5:21-23)  (I won’t even talk about the newly born baby who compounds the issue even further.)

A recent  U. S. survey indicates that there is now a dramatic swing away from married women who are heading into the market place. Instead, many are now returning home to raise their offspring. And guess who is leading the charge? 23 and 24 year old  mothers whose own mothers a generation ago put aside their  apron for a briefcase. And the reason for these young mothers’ evangelical zeal? 

“Mom was not home enough, and we’re not doing that to our kids!”

QUESTIONDo you have a Biblical perspective on family priorities, roles and responsibilities? Or are you also shifting with the fickled whims of our society?

 

My prayer is that you are having a great week!

Wednesday, December 8, 1999

THE REAL REASON MOST OF US FAIL TO SPEND CONSISTENT TIME WITH GOD:

Good Morning!

It’s not lack of disciplineBut lack of appetite. If we don’t have a hunger for God it is because our affections have been drawn away to other loves. To name a few:

–  Rapid materialism – The rush and the seduction of acquiring and indulging. (I Tim.6:10)

–  Sexual fantasies and indulgence. (Gen. 6:1,2,5,6; 2 Sam. 11:1-4; Job 31:7,9;2 Pet.2:14)

–  “Success” – That frenetic dash to achieve; “win”;  make a name for oneself. (Ecc. 2:4-11)

–  Seeking the approval of others. (Matt. 22:16; Lk. 16:15; Acts 5:29; Gal. 1:10; 1 Thes 2:4))

Recently a young professional shared with me the dryness of his times alone with God. He said that the Scriptures seemed flat. Irrelevant. He then explained that in his job, he and a team of analysts routinely submit reports to their superiors that affect company policy.  It is a common practice, he informed me, to jade the reports in a manner that will put the team members in a favorable light with their higher-ups. If he chooses not to go along, his career is put in jeopardy. So play along he does.   

Is there any doubt as to why he has little appetite for the things of God?   

Last night I dined with a businessman who, for the past 3 years I’ve unsuccessfully attempted to motivate to spend consistent time with God.  We’ve had “quiet times” together, talked about priorities, personal discipline, how to meditate on the Word. You name it. All to no avail.   

John,” I asked, “how’s your time with God?”  Embarrassment, fumbling. Then, “Dwight, I won’t lie to you.  It’s not very good.”  Yet this man spends 10 hours a day in his career, and untold hours in church work. But he will not carve out personal time with God.  

Let’s be honest. We find time to do what we really want! So the issue is not discipline, but appetite.

“If we cannot recognize the value of simply being alone with God, as the beloved, without doing anything, we gouge the heart out of Christianity.+

QUESTION: How would you evaluate your appetite for spending time with Christ? Are you eager? Or is it obligatory? If your times with God are the blahs, what do you think is the root cause? 

 

My prayer is that you are having a great week!

Wednesday, December 1, 1999

ATTEMPTING TO LIVE ON YESTERDAY’S HOME RUNS

Good Morning!

Recently, on a late night T. V. program, a crooner of my teenage era who had lost everything to alcohol and a string of failed marriages, was attempting to resurrect the glory of his withered career, as he labored through forgotten ballads in a voice long in need of retirement. I felt sad for him.

But you know, none of us can live on the “glory” of our past. Like it or not, “yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s ball games.” We need more than that to hold on to.

Most of us, I suppose have received a few awards along the way, and have experienced the thrill of that momentary applause and recognition.  But time passes, memories fade, people change. Life moves on. And those diminished accolades, as Paul so aptly stated, are, in reality no more than a “perishable wreath.”  (I Cor.  9:25)

Yet many of those wreaths were purchased at great personal price. Recently, a friend of an acquaintance who commanded an enviable position with an international corporation, was abruptly sacked after 27 years of dutiful, sacrificial service which he gladly gave in exchange for “success”. And the cost? The mortgaging of his family.  

Hopefully, he is re-thinking his definition of “success”, and coming to the realization that there is more to life than clinging to a diminishing prize. Certainly true “success” is more transcendent than that! 

Mother Teresa once said, “God has not called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful.” Her faithfulness to God is her success. Is it not to be ours as well?

As I attempted to gain perspective on this issue, I came across I Thess. 2:19, 20, 

“For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?  Indeed, you are our glory and joy.”

 Paul understood that one day when he stood before Christ, what would count would not be his earthly  “success”,  formidable as it was, but  the lives of the  people in whom he had invested for the sake of Christ (I Cor.  3:10-15). Indeed, his maturing flock had become his hope. His joy.  His glory. His crown. 

QUESTION: By scrutinizing the secret affections of your heart, where in fact does your hope, joy, and glory lie? With a shriveling wreath? Or with the anticipation of an eternal crown?

 

My prayer is that you are having a great week!