BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for June, 2004

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

CONDUCTING A SPIRITUAL AUDIT

Six questions to keep your personal accounts in order:+

1. Am I content with who I am becoming?

I must be sure my profession does not consume my person. It’s important that I be more than I do or have. When the time comes for me to leave my title and power, will I have anything to fill the vacuum? As I mature am I moving from power to wisdom; from the offensive to being sought out?

"Throw off your old evil nature–the old you that was a partner in your evil ways–rotten through and through, full of lust and sham. Now your attitudes and thoughts must all be constantly changing for the better. Yes, you must be a new and different person, holy and good. Clothe yourself with this new nature."

(Eph. 4:22-24 Living) (See Job 22:23; Ez.18:30-32; 2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 2:11; 3:8,9; Heb 12:1; Jms. 1:21)

2. Do I have a quiet center to my life?

For many of us our life motto seems to be, "When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream, and shout." God’s word however encourages us to "Be still and know that I am God." (Psa. 46:10) There is an important difference between the fast track and the frantic track. By way of contrast, Jesus quietly "went about doing good." He had a quiet center. A peace, which evidenced the presence of God. Do I? (See Psa. 131:2; 23:2;Isa. 30:15; 32:17)

3. Is my prayer life improving?

Do my decisions have prayer as an integral part, or do I make decisions out of my desires and then immerse them a sanctimonious sauce I call prayer?

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayerpresent your requests to God."

(Phil. 4:6a,c) (See I Ki. 3:5; 2 Chr. 7:14; Psa. 37:4;Matt. 6:6-9; 7:7,8; 21:22; Jn. 14:13,14; 16:23,24; Jas. 5:16-18)

4. Is my humility genuine?

There is nothing so arrogant as false humility. Humility is not denying the power that I have but admitting that the power comes through me, not from me.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves."

(Phil. 2:3) (See Psa. 37:11; 131:1; Pro. 11:2; 27:2; Isa. 57:15; 66:2b; Jer. 45:5; Mic. 6:8; Lk. 18:14; 1 Pet.5:5)

5. Is obedience in small matters built into my reflexes?

Do I try to bargain with God or rationalize with him? Obedience largely determines my relation with Christ. Good intentions count for little.

"Obedience is the test of whether we really live ‘in God’ or not. The life of a man who professes to be living in God must bear the stamp of Christ."

(I Jn. 2:5,6 Phil Trans.) (See Pro. 19:16; 19:17; 1Jn. 5:3;Lk. 6:46)

6. Do I have joy?

Joy is perfected in the full belief in the total sovereignty of God. Doubt dilutes joy. Does my joy extend into my suffering; understanding that my suffering is my maturation.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

(Jms. 1:2-4) (See Neh. 8:10; Isa.12:1-3;61:10; Rom.15:13; 2Cor 6:10)

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

HERES A STASTIC THAT SHOULD SEND A CHILL DOWN YOUR SPINE

One person out of 160 in the United States is currently incarcerated. As a Nation, we have the highest penal retention rate in the world.

That shocking statistic is simply the tip of the iceberg of indicators that our Nation is in a severe moral crisis. Following are five oft-quoted manifestations of moral decline.+ How do you think we as a Nation stack up?

Increases in antisocial behavior, such as crime, drug use, and violence generally;

Family decay, including increased rates of divorce, illegitimacy, teen-age pregnancy, and single-parent families;

At least in the United States, a decline in "social capital," that is, membership in voluntary associations and the interpersonal trust associated with such membership;

General weakening of the "work ethic" and rise of a cult personal indulgence;

Decreasing commitment to learning and intellectual activity, manifested in the United States in lower levels of scholastic achievement.

"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people."

(Pro. 14:34)

As Ruth Graham once stated, "If God does not judge America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah."

Early this morning I pondered my way through 2 Kings 17 and the reasons the Scriptures give for God selling Israel into exile. At least eleven are offered, including

:

Israels rejection of Gods decrees, covenants and warnings. (Vs. 15)

Israels pursuit of worthless idols. (Vs. 15, 16)

Israels sacrifice of her sons and daughters. (Vs. 17)

Israels sell out to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. (Vs. 17)

Israels worship of the Lord, coupled with her service to her own gods. (Vs. 33)

We believers are the glue that holds society together. If we, the salt and light, succumb to the forces that are causing the process of disintegration, what possible hope does our Nation have?

"When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?"

(Psa. 11:3)

Recognizing our vulnerability in any of the above areas, is there one in particular that you should be giving special attention to at this time?

+The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, page 304, by Samuel P. Huntington Simon and Schuster Publisher

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Part #2

FIVE DISCIPLING PRINCIPLES FROM THE LIFE OF JESUS AND JOHN THE BAPTIST:

Last week I mentioned that John 1:35-51 is a delightful window into how Jesus and John worked with the men they were discipling. The three points discussed were:

#1 John released his people, directing them to Jesus.

#2 Jesus selected people with hungry, responsive hearts.

#3 Jesus imbued his people with a hope for the future.

#4 Jesus illustrated the worth of the individual:

Jesus was intensely engaged in the lives of individuals, as illustrated by his investment of personal time in Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathaniel. Imagine, the Creator of the Universe walked from Bethany (on the other side of the Jordan) to Galilee to seek out Philip:

"Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, Follow me."

Careful analysis of the Gospels reveals that about 1/3rd of Jesus ministry was taken up with individuals.

QUESTION:

Are you singling out individuals for "up close and personal" times of investment into their lives? Or are you simply dealing in generalities with the masses? (See Matt. 18:12-14)

#5 Jesus overlooked petty issues in favor of communicating the big picture:

Nathaniels initial response in meeting Jesus was less than ingratiating:

"Can anything good come from [Nazareth]?"

Rather than retaliate, Christ answered magnanimously

, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false."

Note Nathaniels reply

: "How do you know me? Nathanael asked? Jesus answered, I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you. Then Nathanael declared, Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."

And Jesus encouraging words

, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than thatI tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

QUESITON

: Are you able to overlook petty offenses in order to focus on the larger picture? (See Pro. 19:11)

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Part #1

FIVE DISCIPLING PRINCIPLES FROM THE LIFE OF JESUS AND JOHN THE BAPTIST:

John 1:35-51 gives us a delightful window into how Jesus and John worked with the men they were discipling. Consider these five observations:

#1 John released his people, directing them to Jesus:

Upon seeing Jesus, John the Baptist immediately pointed his two protges to the Master, rather than holding them to himself:

"The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, Look, the Lamb of God! When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus."

QUESTION

: In your discipling, do you view the people under your charge as "yours", or as on temporary loan to you from God? (See I Cor. 1:11-13)

#2 Jesus selected people with hungry, responsive hearts:

Upon learning of Jesus, Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist, immediately followed Jesus, and then promptly proceeded to tell his brother about the Messiah:

"When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, What do you want? They said, Rabbi (which means Teacher), where are you staying? Come, he replied, and you will see. So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hourThe first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, We have found the Messiah (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus."

(Vs. 1:37-39,41,42) (See Matt. 4:18-20; Jn. 45,46)

QUESTION

: Are your "disciples" eager to follow Jesus on his terms? Are they keen to tell others about him? Or are they just hanging around, enjoying the warm fuzzies of the "fellowship"? (See Jn. 2:24,25)

#3 Jesus imbued his people with a hope for the future:

Both Peter and Nathaniel were rough cuts of what Jesus saw them becoming. To fill their hearts with hope, Christ gave them a glimpse of their future:

"Jesus looked at [Peter] and said, You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas (which, when translated, is Peter) ("rock")Come, follow meand I will make you fishers of men.Jesus said (to Nathaniel) , You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than thatyou shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

(Jn. 1:42b; Matt. 4:19a,c; Jn. 1:50,51b)

QUESTION

: Are you communicating your faith in your people by raising their sights as to their potential life and ministry with God? (See Jer. 29:11)

To be continued in Part #2 next week

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

ONE REASON WHY GOOD MEN GO WRONG

I recall three godly men whose lives culminated in disaster:

Not long ago I encountered the wounded son of a known Christian leader who had abandoned his family for another woman. It all started with a clandestine liaison at an internet chat room. The pain this family is enduring is beyond measure.

Another was a high profile pastor who raised funds for a large building program, and then secretly utilized the money to cover church operating expenses. When quizzed about the practice, he adroitly masked the truth. An in-house power struggle ensued and he was removed from his position. A key layman in that church expressed his conviction that God had set this man aside for his pride and duplicity.

Years ago Bill was a significant force for Christ among his peers. Somehow he got entangled with another woman and abandoned his family. Recently a friend of mine ran into him after his 15 years of philandering. Divorced and living alone, he is a repentant, but broken old man.

This morning in my devotions, I read about Jehus zealotry for Gods work, coupled with his negligent application of Gods laws

(2 King. 9,10). Jehu was the son of King Jehoshaphat of Judah, and commander of the army. God instructed him to destroy the house of wicked King Ahab of Israel.

So he

:

Killed King Joram of Israel, the son-in-law of King Ahab.

Destroyed evil King Ahaziah of Judah (the son and successor of Ahab), and some of his relatives.

Replaced Ahaziah with the most worthy of Ahabs sons.

Had Queen Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, thrown from her window. She was then trampled by horses and eaten by dogs.

Slaughtered the 70 leaders under King Ahab, along with his "chief men", close friends and his priest.

Eliminated the practice of Baal in Israel by killing all her prophets.

Jehu exercised great faith and courage in obediently fulfilling Gods mandate, but tragically "was not careful to keep the law of the Lordwith all his heart"

(2 King. 10:31) (See Deut. 4:9,23; Pro. 4:23)

That little word "careful" denotes the idea of watching, saving, preserving, protecting, guarding, and hedging about

. In other words, Jehu was zealous to do the work of God but negligent in carefully nurturing and obeying the word of God. The stories of the three men in this "Facts" illustrate the point that service for God without vigilant cultivation of and adherence to the word of God is a sure receipt for disaster.

QUESTION

: Are you zealous in your service for God, but inattentive in the nurture of your inner life with God? If so, are you prepared to live with the inevitable consequences of such an uneven relationship with God? Few are.