BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for September, 2002

Thursday, September 26, 2002

THREE SINS THAT OFTEN ACCOMPANY THE BLESSING OF GOD:

 

#1 – A LAKSIDICAL APPROACH TO OBEYING GODS WORD

 

Many of us surrendered ourselves to God in our youthful years a time when we were running scared. Scared because we were unsure of our capabilities, and untested in the crucible of life. I suspect that few of us had any idea at that time as to the implications — or demands — of that commitment. However, as we gained the confidence that often accompanies success, we found our dependence upon God and His Word slowly (almost imperceptibly) waning.

 

Moses addressed a similar issue with the Israelites:

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathersHe humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deut. 8:1,3) (See Deut. 4:1; 5:32; 6:1-3; 32:46,47; Psa. 119:4-6; I Thess. 4:1,l2)

 

#2 – FORGETFUL INGRATITUDE FOR GODS BLESSING

 

Success we discovered, tended to dull our memory of Gods blessings. Thus, it was not uncommon for us to lapse into benign ingratitude:

 

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandsBe careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this dayBut remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. (Deut. 8:2,11, 18) (See Deut. 7:18;32:18;Psa. 77:11; 106:7; 2 Pet. 1:12; 3:1,2)

 

#3 – TAKING CREDIT UNTO OURSELVES FOR GODS PROVISION:

Few among us, it seems, survived the dizzying effects of success in retaining childlike humility (Matt. 18:2-4):

When you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slaveryYou may say to yourself, My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." (Deut. 8:12-14, 17) (See Deut. 9:4; Isa. 10:12-14; Dan. 4:28-33; 2 Cor. 4:7; Gal. 6:14)

PRAYER: O Lord, if I have wandered in my passion for you and your word, would you purify me, and rekindle the hunger I once held so dear. I ask for your forgiveness where I have failed to express my gratitude for your blessings. I ask your cleansing for taking personal credit for your bounty. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

THREE SINS THAT OFTEN ACCOMPANY THE BLESSING OF GOD:

 

#1 – A LAKSIDICAL APPROACH TO OBEYING GODS WORD

 

Many of us surrendered ourselves to God in our youthful years a time when we were running scared. Scared because we were unsure of our capabilities, and untested in the crucible of life. I suspect that few of us had any idea at that time as to the implications — or demands — of that commitment. However, as we gained the confidence that often accompanies success, we found our dependence upon God and His Word slowly (almost imperceptibly) waning.

 

Moses addressed a similar issue with the Israelites:

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathersHe humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deut. 8:1,3) (See Deut. 4:1; 5:32; 6:1-3; 32:46,47; Psa. 119:4-6; I Thess. 4:1,l2)

 

#2 – FORGETFUL INGRATITUDE FOR GODS BLESSING

 

Success we discovered, tended to dull our memory of Gods blessings. Thus, it was not uncommon for us to lapse into benign ingratitude:

 

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandsBe careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this dayBut remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. (Deut. 8:2,11, 18) (See Deut. 7:18;32:18;Psa. 77:11; 106:7; 2 Pet. 1:12; 3:1,2)

 

#3 – TAKING CREDIT UNTO OURSELVES FOR GODS PROVISION:

Few among us, it seems, survived the dizzying effects of success in retaining childlike humility (Matt. 18:2-4):

When you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slaveryYou may say to yourself, My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." (Deut. 8:12-14, 17) (See Deut. 9:4; Isa. 10:12-14; Dan. 4:28-33; 2 Cor. 4:7; Gal. 6:14)

PRAYER: O Lord, if I have wandered in my passion for you and your word, would you purify me, and rekindle the hunger I once held so dear. I ask for your forgiveness where I have failed to express my gratitude for your blessings. I ask your cleansing for taking personal credit for your bounty. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

LORD, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE ME TO DO?+

 

That was Pauls question at the time of his conversion, and I suspect it is a question we often find ourselves asking. It may help us clarify our responsibility in serving Christ if we were to view ourselves as a:

SLAVE Paul, a [slave] of Christ Jesus (Rom. 1:1a) In Biblical times, bond slaves were persons who had gained their freedom, but had voluntarily returned to serve their master. With this imagery in mind, Paul referred to himself as an intentional slave (or servant) of Christ. (See Gal. 1:10; Tit. 1:1; Rom. 6:18,22)

 

Yesterday, I overheard a fellow whose friend had been the chauffeur of Lucille Ball, the comedian. Mrs. Ball paid him well to be available at any time, day or night. Perhaps we should ask ourselves if we are willing servants of Jesus Christ who are accessible to Him at His bidding.

Prayer: Lord, as your bond slave, I am available to you today, when you call. Amen

 

SERVANTYou, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Gal. 5:13) Given the interminable demands and expectations made upon us, just how are we to determine whom to serve? (See Num. 14:26; Jn. 12:26; 13:12-16; 2 Cor.1:24; 4:5; Gal. 6:10; Eph. 5:1)

Prayer, Lord, amidst the many challenges before me, help me to discern your will as I seek to prioritize whom I am to serve. Help me to begin first by serving my family, and then serve outwardly to others [Jerusalem, Judah, Samariathe world Act. 1:8]. Father, assist me in understanding the difference between a servant and a doormat. Amen.

 

STEWARD It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. (1 Cor. 4:2b) How can we responsibly administer the time, resources and talent God has entrusted to our care? How do we counter-balance our inclination toward greed and hoarding with prudence and generosity?

 

Prayer, Lord, responsible stewardship is a tall order. Today, I ask for your wisdom on how to honor you in discharging the resources you have commended to my care. Amen.

 

SHEPHERDBe shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve. (I Pet. 5:2) (See Gen. 33:13; Isa. 40:11; Act. 20:28)

 

Prayer, O God, give me a shepherds heart akin to yours, as I, in kind shepherd those whom you have placed in my charge. I pray my motives will be genuine, and that I will exhibit true compassion. Amen.

+Acts 9:6b

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

LORD, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE ME TO DO?+

 

That was Pauls question at the time of his conversion, and I suspect it is a question we often find ourselves asking. It may help us clarify our responsibility in serving Christ if we were to view ourselves as a:

SLAVE Paul, a [slave] of Christ Jesus (Rom. 1:1a) In Biblical times, bond slaves were persons who had gained their freedom, but had voluntarily returned to serve their master. With this imagery in mind, Paul referred to himself as an intentional slave (or servant) of Christ. (See Gal. 1:10; Tit. 1:1; Rom. 6:18,22)

 

Yesterday, I overheard a fellow whose friend had been the chauffeur of Lucille Ball, the comedian. Mrs. Ball paid him well to be available at any time, day or night. Perhaps we should ask ourselves if we are willing servants of Jesus Christ who are accessible to Him at His bidding.

Prayer: Lord, as your bond slave, I am available to you today, when you call. Amen

 

SERVANTYou, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Gal. 5:13) Given the interminable demands and expectations made upon us, just how are we to determine whom to serve? (See Num. 14:26; Jn. 12:26; 13:12-16; 2 Cor.1:24; 4:5; Gal. 6:10; Eph. 5:1)

Prayer, Lord, amidst the many challenges before me, help me to discern your will as I seek to prioritize whom I am to serve. Help me to begin first by serving my family, and then serve outwardly to others [Jerusalem, Judah, Samariathe world Act. 1:8]. Father, assist me in understanding the difference between a servant and a doormat. Amen.

 

STEWARD It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. (1 Cor. 4:2b) How can we responsibly administer the time, resources and talent God has entrusted to our care? How do we counter-balance our inclination toward greed and hoarding with prudence and generosity?

 

Prayer, Lord, responsible stewardship is a tall order. Today, I ask for your wisdom on how to honor you in discharging the resources you have commended to my care. Amen.

 

SHEPHERDBe shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve. (I Pet. 5:2) (See Gen. 33:13; Isa. 40:11; Act. 20:28)

 

Prayer, O God, give me a shepherds heart akin to yours, as I, in kind shepherd those whom you have placed in my charge. I pray my motives will be genuine, and that I will exhibit true compassion. Amen.

+Acts 9:6b

Thursday, September 12, 2002

PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO SPEND TIME WITH GOD+

Intimate fellowship with Christ was the purpose of both creation and the cross: Godhas called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord (I Cor. 1:9b) Here are a few suggestions on how to cultivate that intimacy:

 

#1 Make the time regular preferably in the morning:

Set a goal of 5 days a week, minimum. Solitude and silence should grace the time. If you are new at it, start with 10 minutes. The time will pass surprisingly quickly and soon you will find yourself expanding it to more.

#2 Have a specific place where you can be alone:

 

The patio

The car

The bathroom

A closet

#3 Include in your time:

 

Worship

Thanksgiving

Confession of sin

Petition (asking God for answers)

Intercession (prayers for others) Make a list of people

#4 Read and meditate over Scripture:

Set up an ordered sequence. I find I get more when I take a slow, measured, and in depth approach, rather than race through a specified number of chapters a day. Begin by meditating from a Psalm and a portion of a Proverb. As your appetite (and allotted time) expands, you may also want to add a segment from the New Testament. Once this pattern is well established, you may then want to add a portion from the Old Testament.

#5 Journal:

Write down what you are gleaning from the Scriptures.

I find using different colored pens to circle and underline principles and key words or ideas is helpful.

With appropriate passages ask, What does this text teach me about Jesus? Write it down.

Write out a prayer that relates to the passage. Also, jot down specific answers to prayer.

Record applications you are making from your time of prayer and meditation on the Scriptures.

QUESTION: If you are not consistent in your time alone with God, are you willing to begin now by taking the necessary time and effort to develop constancy in this critical area of your life?

+ Some of the key thoughts originate from, Discipline, The Glad Surrender Elisabeth Elliot, Baker Book House

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO SPEND TIME WITH GOD+

Intimate fellowship with Christ was the purpose of both creation and the cross: Godhas called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord (I Cor. 1:9b) Here are a few suggestions on how to cultivate that intimacy:

 

#1 Make the time regular preferably in the morning:

Set a goal of 5 days a week, minimum. Solitude and silence should grace the time. If you are new at it, start with 10 minutes. The time will pass surprisingly quickly and soon you will find yourself expanding it to more.

#2 Have a specific place where you can be alone:

 

The patio

The car

The bathroom

A closet

#3 Include in your time:

 

Worship

Thanksgiving

Confession of sin

Petition (asking God for answers)

Intercession (prayers for others) Make a list of people

#4 Read and meditate over Scripture:

Set up an ordered sequence. I find I get more when I take a slow, measured, and in depth approach, rather than race through a specified number of chapters a day. Begin by meditating from a Psalm and a portion of a Proverb. As your appetite (and allotted time) expands, you may also want to add a segment from the New Testament. Once this pattern is well established, you may then want to add a portion from the Old Testament.

#5 Journal:

Write down what you are gleaning from the Scriptures.

I find using different colored pens to circle and underline principles and key words or ideas is helpful.

With appropriate passages ask, What does this text teach me about Jesus? Write it down.

Write out a prayer that relates to the passage. Also, jot down specific answers to prayer.

Record applications you are making from your time of prayer and meditation on the Scriptures.

QUESTION: If you are not consistent in your time alone with God, are you willing to begin now by taking the necessary time and effort to develop constancy in this critical area of your life?

+ Some of the key thoughts originate from, Discipline, The Glad Surrender Elisabeth Elliot, Baker Book House

Thursday, September 5, 2002

RECKLESS GRACE+

I want to introduce a new sociological category: failers. That is, people who fail on a regular basis. People like me. I am a lay pastor of a small, not growing church. I am not ordained. I am not seminary trained. I was asked to leave both bible colleges I attended. I am divorced and remarried. On any given day I am capable of being a jerk with my wife and family. I am terminally insecureAt times people irritate me, and I hide from them. I am impulsive, which causes me to say things I shouldnt and make promises I cannot keep. I am inconsistent.

 

My walk with Christ is a staggering, stumbling, bundling attempt to follow Him. At times His presence is so real I cant stop the tears, and then, without warning, I cant find Him. Some days my faith is strong, impenetrable, immovable, and some days my faith is weak, pathetic, helpless, knocked about like a paper cup floating on the ocean in the middle of a hurricane. I have been a Christian for 45 yearsBut I am still a mess. I am light years away from being able to say with Paul, copy me. I am 56 years old and still struggle. A flawed clumsy, unstable follower of Jesus. A bona fide failer. That bothers a lot of peopleSome have abandoned meNot Jesus. He refuses to give up on me. Sometimes late at night when Im about to give up and go to sleep, I know I have heard Him weeping for me.

 

You see, Jesus has a fatal flaw: He cant stay away from failures. He is a friend of failers, a lover of failers. Everyone else has given up, He seeks them out the woman who failed at five marriages; the blind man by the pool, who had failed to get his timing down for 38 years in a rowthe disciple who failed at following; the thief who failed at keeping the law; the adulterous woman who failed at moral purity; the doubting disciples who failed to believe.

 

In Luke 14:15-24, Jesus told a parable about failures. A wealthy man prepared a party for his successful friends. When the day of the party arrived, all of his friends decided they couldnt come. So the host told his servants, go out and invite all the losers you can find the drunks, the prostitutes, the homeless, the lame. The host threw a party for all the failers. Jesus was defining his church. He was making it very clear that the church is more than a safe place for losers; its membership is made up of losers, failures like you and me.

 

Why is it, then, that so many Christians dont like failers very much, unless they are reformed long-ago failers? Ex-failers. Practicing failers seem to be an embarrassment to todays upwardly mobile Christianity. I dont understand why. As Henry Nouwen points out, Christians have always been downwardly mobile. Were unified by our common weaknesses, our common failures, our common disappointments, our common disillusionment, our common inconsistencies. It is while we were yet sinners Romans 5:8 that Jesus is attracted to us. It is our common failure that makes us desperate enough to look, finally, to the cross, to the body of Jesus, whose blood flows and mingles with ours and graces us with His forgiveness. That is why I love Jesus so much. But He was soirresponsible with grace… So indiscriminate and reckless with forgiveness.

 

In contrast, modern Christianity is so responsible with grace. It is almost as though Christs church is afraid to squander grace, as though it were a limited resource that must be protected and dispensed cautiously. The Grace Dispensers worry that grace might be wasted or misused. Sure, go-ahead, the church can forgive one divorce, maybe two, but five? OK, Christians can forgive adultery, butuhwe cant have sinners running wild in our churches can we?

Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Rom. 6:1,2; Gal. 5:13)

+Dangerous Wonder by Michael Yaconelli

Wednesday, September 4, 2002

RECKLESS GRACE+

I want to introduce a new sociological category: failers. That is, people who fail on a regular basis. People like me. I am a lay pastor of a small, not growing church. I am not ordained. I am not seminary trained. I was asked to leave both bible colleges I attended. I am divorced and remarried. On any given day I am capable of being a jerk with my wife and family. I am terminally insecureAt times people irritate me, and I hide from them. I am impulsive, which causes me to say things I shouldnt and make promises I cannot keep. I am inconsistent.

 

My walk with Christ is a staggering, stumbling, bundling attempt to follow Him. At times His presence is so real I cant stop the tears, and then, without warning, I cant find Him. Some days my faith is strong, impenetrable, immovable, and some days my faith is weak, pathetic, helpless, knocked about like a paper cup floating on the ocean in the middle of a hurricane. I have been a Christian for 45 yearsBut I am still a mess. I am light years away from being able to say with Paul, copy me. I am 56 years old and still struggle. A flawed clumsy, unstable follower of Jesus. A bona fide failer. That bothers a lot of peopleSome have abandoned meNot Jesus. He refuses to give up on me. Sometimes late at night when Im about to give up and go to sleep, I know I have heard Him weeping for me.

 

You see, Jesus has a fatal flaw: He cant stay away from failures. He is a friend of failers, a lover of failers. Everyone else has given up, He seeks them out the woman who failed at five marriages; the blind man by the pool, who had failed to get his timing down for 38 years in a rowthe disciple who failed at following; the thief who failed at keeping the law; the adulterous woman who failed at moral purity; the doubting disciples who failed to believe.

 

In Luke 14:15-24, Jesus told a parable about failures. A wealthy man prepared a party for his successful friends. When the day of the party arrived, all of his friends decided they couldnt come. So the host told his servants, go out and invite all the losers you can find the drunks, the prostitutes, the homeless, the lame. The host threw a party for all the failers. Jesus was defining his church. He was making it very clear that the church is more than a safe place for losers; its membership is made up of losers, failures like you and me.

 

Why is it, then, that so many Christians dont like failers very much, unless they are reformed long-ago failers? Ex-failers. Practicing failers seem to be an embarrassment to todays upwardly mobile Christianity. I dont understand why. As Henry Nouwen points out, Christians have always been downwardly mobile. Were unified by our common weaknesses, our common failures, our common disappointments, our common disillusionment, our common inconsistencies. It is while we were yet sinners Romans 5:8 that Jesus is attracted to us. It is our common failure that makes us desperate enough to look, finally, to the cross, to the body of Jesus, whose blood flows and mingles with ours and graces us with His forgiveness. That is why I love Jesus so much. But He was soirresponsible with grace… So indiscriminate and reckless with forgiveness.

 

In contrast, modern Christianity is so responsible with grace. It is almost as though Christs church is afraid to squander grace, as though it were a limited resource that must be protected and dispensed cautiously. The Grace Dispensers worry that grace might be wasted or misused. Sure, go-ahead, the church can forgive one divorce, maybe two, but five? OK, Christians can forgive adultery, butuhwe cant have sinners running wild in our churches can we?

Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Rom. 6:1,2; Gal. 5:13)

+Dangerous Wonder by Michael Yaconelli