BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for February, 2004

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

YOUR EFFORTS FOR GOD ARE NOT A WASTE!

"Stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort."

(I Cor. 15:58b Msg.)

Yesterday I had lunch with an old friend

and in the course of the conversation he said, "Dwight, do you remember Glen Myers?" (I had met regularly with Glen for 2 3 years in what I later concluded had been a futile effort to motivate him toward a meaningful walk with Christ.) "Yes. Why?", I replied. "Hes walking with God. All your efforts at helping him paid off!" Surprised, my mind flashed back to I Corinthians 15:58:

"Nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort."

I then recalled George Crane

: Years of pouring my life into this rather crude, recovering alcoholic. Seemingly to no avail, as he appeared to lay spiritually dormant for a decade, only to explode on the scene to become a powerful force for the Gospel. Again:

"Nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort."

Years ago I spoke at a weekend retreat for U.S. military personnel in the Philippines

. It was a disaster. Returning home with my tail between my legs, I lamented to my wife, "I wasted those mens time with second rate talks. Nothing of consequence happened!" Years later I ran into a missionary in Thailand who informed me that it was at that retreat God called him to missionary service. Again I was reminded that,

"Nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort."

Paul instructs us that love is the most powerful and enduring force in the world

: "Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." (I Cor. 13:13b) That being true, I have become convinced through observing its effect on people, that no loving effort directed toward a person in the Name of Christ is ever wasted or lost. It will affect their life in favor of the Gospel. Either now, or later.

If we understand that our very life, laid on the alter of Gods service is in itself an act of worship (Rom. 12;1), than whatever we do in the Name of Christ ("a cup of water"? Mk. 9:41) is a sacred expression of worship. Nothing is wasted. (See Job 31:15-20; Isa. 58:6,7; Matt. 25:31-46; Rom. 2:7; Gal.6:9,10)

Somy friend, wash peoples feet, so to speak. Give them a cup of water

. Help the widows and orphans (Jas. 1:27). That is, aid those among you who can least afford to reward you. Just do it as an act of worship to God. Everlastingly engage in the little-noticed, unheralded expressions of Calvary love, because,

"Nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort."

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

WHEN GOD SEEMS FAR AWAY

If my relationship with God seems distant, perhaps it is time to take personal inventory:

The Psalmist ponders the conditions for intimacy with God by asking, "Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?" (Psalm 15) He then answers his own inquiry by stating:

"He whose walk is blameless" Question: Am I viewed as irreproachable in the eyes of others; consistently applying Gods word to my life? (See Jas. 1:22-25; Eph. 1:4; Phil. 2:14,15; I Pet 3:14)

"Who does what is righteous" Question: In my dealings with others, am I unequivocally committed to what is true, right and just? (See Rom. 2:12; Eph. 2:10; I Jn. 2:29; 3:7; Rev. 22:14)

"Who speaks the truth from his heart…" Question: Do the words I utter reflect a heart totally committed to the truth? (See Psa. 34:12,13; Isa. 63:8; Eph. 4:25; Col. 3:9)

"[Who] has no slander on his tongueand casts no slur on his fellowman" Question: Am I disciplining myself to not defame others through my speech? (See Ex. 20:16; Lev.19:16; Eph. 4:31; Jas. 4:11,12; I Pet. 2:1; 3:16;)

"[Who] does his neighbor no wrong" Question: Am I a cause of grief and vexation, or a source of encouragement and refreshment? (See Prov. 20:22; Matt. 7:12; Rom. 12:17-21; 13:10; I Thess. 5:15)

"[Who] despises a vile man" Question: Do I genuinely hate what is evil, or do I secretly pander a darker side? (See I Kin. 3:11-14; Esth. 3:2; Job 32:21,22; Psa. 101:4; Dan. 5:17; Jas. 2:1-8)

"[Who] honors those who fear the Lord" Question: Do I respect and openly identify with people who are committed to Jesus Christ? Or am I ashamed of their association when I am with my non-believing colleagues? (See Psa. 16:3; 101:6; 119:63; Matt. 12:49,50; I Jn. 3:14)

"Who keeps his oath even when it hurts" Question: Is my word my bond, whatever the cost to me personally? (See Josh. 8:18-20; Judg. 11:35; 2 Sam. 21:1,2; Matt. 5:33)

"Who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent…" Question: Do I use money to serve or manipulate people?++ (See Dt. 23:19-20; Neh. 5:2-13; Ez. 18:8,17 (Usury); Ex. 23:7; Dt. 16:19; Mi. 7:3; Matt. 25:14 (Bribery))

+Psalm 15; ++ Usury: A sum of money charged for a loan. The Old Testament laws prohibited a Jew from charging another Jew usury but permitted it when money was loaned to a Gentile (Deut. 23:19-20). Although the word has negative connotations today, it was not so in biblical days when usury simply was the interest charged for a loan. Excessive usury was condemned. (Holeman Bible Dictionary)

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION SPIRITUAL DRYNESS

Weve all gone through spiritually parched periods where God seems a million miles away

. The Scriptures are flat, and prayer is as dry as toast. The future? Bleak. You feel like crawling back under the covers and escaping into sleep.

Personally, when Im down, my first inclination is to just endure it

hoping somehow that with time it will fade away as I get distracted or engaged in other things. I err with such passive inaction because it gives the Enemy permission by default to toy with my spiritual life. Not to mention the fact that I begin to develop a helpless, victim mentality.

The Psalmist felt exactly the same way

, "My tears have been my food day and nightwhile men say to me all day long, Where is your God?Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me…?" (Psa. 42:3a,5a) Yet he chose to win over his depression and dryness by:

Focusing on his hope rather than wallowing in self-pity and despair:

"Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." (Psa. 42:5b,6a, 11b) (Hope here is literally to wait expectantly; to be patient, to stay.) (See Psa. 18:2; 119:49,50; 130:7,8; 131:3; Jer. 17:13; Rom. 15:13; 2 Cor. 1:9,10; 1 Tim. 4:10)

Remembering the former good times with God, rather than thanklessly forgetting Gods previous blessings:

"These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throngMy soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon–from Mount Mizar." (Psa. 42,4,6a) (See Deut. 4:9,23; 6:12; 8:2,18, 19, 33,34; 1 Sam. 12:9; 1 Chron. 16:12)

Praising God, rather than grousing about lifes circumstances:

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my GodWhy are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." (Psa. 42:5,6a,11) (See Psa. 51:13; 34; 103;104;148:1-10; Lk. 1:46-55)

Abiding in His presence, rather than striving, struggling and chafing:

"By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me– a prayer to the God of my life." (Psa. 42:8) (See Psa. 61:4; 91:1; Jn. 8:31,32; 15:1- 10, 14; 1 Jn. 2:6; 3:23,24; 4:12-16)

One old farmer asked another, "Hey Joe, how ya doing?" Joe responded with, "Not so good under the circumstances." To which the other farmer replied, "Joe, whatcha doing under the circumstances, when you can be standing on the promises?"

QUESTION:

Are you choosing to apply His promises and live as a Child of the King, or are you living "under the circumstances" as a victim of the Enemy? "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:35,37-39)

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

YOUTH IS A STATE OF MIND

Recently I ran into an old friend

now retired. My mind flashed back to when we first met while in our 20s. Man, were we brash; exploding with energy, dreams and enthusiasm! Ours was a "can-do-anything for God" attitude. Sam was a natural leader whom men flocked to follow as he in turn followed Christ.

A couple of decades later he suffered a grave disappointment

when colleagues collectively censored him for indiscretions. The much-needed correction was done compassionately and thoughtfully. Sam never recovered. Instead, he rationalized his behavior, and adopted a "victim" mentality, rather than take responsibility for his failings. As the years passed, a sullen anger brewed beneath the surface as he withdrew and became increasingly critical of others.

Today Sam comes across as a brittle, arbitrary, and joyless old man

, who is emotionally removed from the spiritual battles for the souls of men. The spark, the glint in the eye, and the spontaneity? Gone. The wonder, idealism, and anticipation of youth? Missing. No longer is there fire in the belly. And the rugged determination to accomplish the unimaginable for God? Non-existent. No, today its just business as usual: The boring. The safe. And the predictable. No longer is faith requiredor expected here.

General Douglas MacArthur reminds us that "youth is not a period of time.

It is a state of mind, a result of the will, a quality of the imagination, a victory of courage over timidity, of the taste of adventure over the love of comfort. A man doesnt grow old because he has lived a certain number of years; he grows old when he deserts his ideal. The years may wrinkle his skin, but deserting his ideal wrinkles his soul. Preoccupations, fears, doubts and despair are the dust before death. You will remain young as long as you are open to what is beautiful, good and great; receptive to the messages of other men and women, of nature and of God. If one day you should become bitter, pessimistic and gnawed by despair, may God have mercy on your old mans soul."

St. Paul knew something about getting beat up by life, fellow believers and those hostile to the Gospel

: "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of lifeFive times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open seaWe are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed" etc. (2 Cor. 1:8;11:23-25; 4:8,9)

Yet, he always rebounded. And the reason? His hope was fixed, not on the temporal, but on the eternal

. Thus, nothing could touch him: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in usFor our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17,18)

QUESTION

: Do people leave your presence energized? Motivated to stand tall? Challenged to believe God and do great exploits for Him? Inspired to become Olympic caliber in their walk with God?

Or is it the wet noodle effect? If it is, "may God have mercy on your old mans soul!"