BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for October, 2005

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

CHECK POINTS ON HOW I AM DOING IN THE “RACE”

Recently, in addressing a group of university students, I mentioned the joy I was experiencing in walking with Christ for over a half a century. A young man attending that meeting called to have lunch. "Dwight, as I look around I cant find men still walking with God as they reach their senior years. Including my dad. Am I going to fall off the cliff too? How have you been able to sustain your walk?"

One of the things I mentioned to him is the fact that we learn to live victoriously and close to Christ a day at a time. A lifetime is the composite of thousands of daily lives. We dont one day just "fall off the cliff"! Remember Jesus instruction? "Don’t worry about tomorrowToday’s trouble is enough for today." (Matt. 6:34b)

Hopefully, the following questions will prove helpful in ascertaining whether or not we are on the right track:

What are your goals?

+ That is, what do you want most in life? Is it all about you and your career? Impressing your peers? Proving to yourself that you can "make it?" Is your life all about the here and now? Or are your goals primarily about things eternal? Consider Jesus word of caution, "And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?" (Matt. 16:26)

What do you think about?

What captivates your thoughts, emotions, and passions? That which dominates your thought life determines your very essence. "As [a man] thinks within himself, so he is." (Prov. 23:7b) Is that a comforting truth, in light of Jesus warning, "There is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open." (Lk. 8:17)

How do you spend your money?

Do your spending habits reflect selfish indulgence or sacrificial generosity? For example, does your checkbook indicate a genuine concern for the less fortunate? (Prov. 19:17) And a genuine concern for the advancement of the Gospel? Do you harbor a secret desire to be rich? "Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be." (Matt. 6:21 NLT)

What are you pursuing?

How, for example do you spend your leisure time? Are your quests wholesome and honoring to Christ? Were he to show up would he be pleased? Would you be comfortable or embarrassed?

Who are your friends?

Who are the people you hang out with? Do they inspire you toward a life of nobility and excellence? Do they raise the bar in terms of your thinking and aspirations? Or do they cause you to slog along in mediocrity? Solomon reminds us, "Whoever walks with the wise will become wise; whoever walks with fools will suffer harm." (Prov 13:20) (See Heb. 10:24)

What grabs your attention?

Whom and what do you admire and appreciate? Is it the beautiful people who have "made it" to the top? Or those who have sacrificially invested their lives for the Kingdom of God? (The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive!) "Don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people." (Rom. 12:16b NLT)

What amuses you?

How about your humor? Is it uplifting, gracious and disciplined, or dark, degrading and off-color? It is incomprehensible that Jesus would tolerate debased humor. "Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful" (Eph. 4:29b NLT)

+ Key ideas adapted from an article by A. W. Tozier

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

GEMS ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP FROM JOHN MAXWELL

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Leadership is servant hood:

"Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must become your slave." (Matt. 20:26b, 27) (See Mk. 9:35; 10:43,45)

If I can’t live it, I won’t teach it:

"Ezra had determined to study and obey the law of the Lord and to teach those laws and regulations to the people of Israel." (Ezra 7:10b) (See Ezra 8:1-9; 1 Tim. 3:2)

Leadership means you go first:

"Let’s go across to see those pagans, Jonathan said to his armor bearer. Perhaps the Lord will help us Do what you think is best, the youth replied. I’m with you completely, whatever you decide." (1 Sam. 14:6a,7) (See 1 Sam. 18:7; 23:1-6; 30)

I need to change myself before I change others:

"First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye." (Matt. 7:5b) (See Jer. 15:19; 2 Tim. 2:21; 1 Pet. 1:22)

Great leaders ask for great commitment:

"Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." (Lk. 14:33b) (See Matt. 10:38,39; Lk 18:22,29,30; 19:23,24; Jn. 12:25,26)

Leaders must always replenish themselves:

"Jesus made the disciplesgo on ahead of him to the other side. He [then] went up on a mountainside by himself to prayHe was there alone." (Matt. 14:22a,23a,c) (See Mk. 6:31; Lk. 5:15,16; 6:12)

Leaders lift others to a level they could not reach by themselves. Leaders are lid lifters:

"Jesus looked intently at Peter for a moment and then said, You are Simon, John’s son–but you shall be called Peter, the rock!" (Jn. 1:42b) (See Isa. 60:22; Jn. 14:12)

There is no success without sacrifice:

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." (John 12:24) (See Act. 20:24, 31; Gal. 4:19; 1 Thess 2:8,9; 2 Tim. 1:3)

Leaders choose and develop the people around them:

Paul to Timothy: "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." (2 Tim. 2:2b) (See Eph. 4:11-16; Col. 1:28,29; 1 Thess. 2:7,8,11,12)

Leaders know that there is no success without successors:

"I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most men do." (Neh. 7:2) (See Exo. 18:21b; Col. 1:7,8; 2 Tim. 2:2)

It’s amazing what you can accomplish if the leader doesn’t take the credit:

"Jesus called the Twelve and said, If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all." (Mk. 9:35,36) (See 1Cor. 15:10; Eph. 3:7,8; 1 Tim. 1:15,16)

You give people the size of your vision. Small vision, small people. Big vision, big people:

God to Abraham: "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless youand all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Gen.12:2a, 3b)

+ Scriptures added by me

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

ANSWERING QUESTIONS WITH QUESTIONS

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In interacting with non-believers about the truth of the Gospel, one way to get to the heart of their issues is to probe with questions.

Our usual means of response to their questions and inquiries is to give them answers. But is it the most effective way to move them closer to embracing Christ? Consider the fact that Jesus often answered a question with a question: "On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. Teacher, he asked, what must I do to inherit eternal life? What is written in the Law? he replied. How do you read it?" (Lk. 10:25,26)

In Matthew 22:41-41 Christ initiated a Bible study on Psalm 110 with a question, "What do you think about the Christ?"

Responding to inquiries and challenges with thoughtful questions may disarm them, thus setting the stage for thoughtful discussion. Judson Poling makes the point that "seekers rarely realize why they doubt or resist the gospelSnappy, pat answers dont satisfyinner strugglesNobody wants a two-cent answer to a million-dollar question." When they raise spiritual issues, you might consider responding with one of these probing questions:

1. "What has led you to conclude that?

2. "Thats an interesting question. What do you think?"

3. "If everyone held that view, what would society look like?"

4. "What situation in your life makes you wonder about that?"

5. "Is there any answer to that question you wont accept? Why?"

6. "Whats the strongest argument for those who disagree with you?"

7. "What information do you think would cause you to change your mind?"

8. "Even though you dont know, if you had to guess, how would you answer?"

9. "If you found out you were wrong, what would be at risk? How would your life change?"

10. "If I answered your question from the Bible to your satisfaction, would you follow its truth?"

There are also times however when a seekers response requires a challenge. For example, a person may counter John 14:6 "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me," with "Isnt that a bit narrow-minded?" My rejoinder might be, "If I were to say that Christ really meant it, would you rule out the possibility that its true? Why wont you even consider that a possibility?"

Often what keeps people from surrendering to Christ is the fear of the consequences. Many people are living immoral lives that they dont want to give up. If they can discount Christ as divine then they believe they can continue their unexamined lives without accountability to God. I had been despairing over my inability to penetrate my fellow swimmers with the Gospel until one morning I read, "Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." (Jn. 3:19b, 20)

Once a persons objection is uncovered it can be lovingly and truthfully addressed. Perhaps in the exchange we can remind them of the truth of Hebrews 11:6, that God rewards, not tramples those who earnestly seek him.

+ Key thoughts derived from, "What Are They Really Asking?" Judson Poling, "Leadership", Fall 2002 p. 85,86

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

THE NARROW PATH

Picture a modern eight lane highway with scores of high speed cars cruising with ease down its expansive thoroughfare. Unnoticed and off to the side is a crooked narrow path, fraught with hazards that winds its way steeply up the side of the mountain. If you look closely enough you will observe one lonely pilgrim, staff in hand, arduously working his way up its demanding corridor.

Those cruising the highway who happen to notice the path taken by the struggling pilgrim would naturally conclude that such a course is,

Uninviting

Not for us big dogs

Too demanding

Rather odd and out of step with the main stream

Pointless

Jesus spoke of this path, "Go by the narrow gate. For the wide gate has a broad road which leads to disaster and there are many people going that way. The narrow gate and the hard road lead out into life and only a few are finding it." (Matt. 7:13,14 Phillips)

Christs statement is in league with other "narrow" Biblical pronouncements, "No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born againWithout holiness no one will see the LordNot everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" Jesus: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (Jn. 3:3b; Heb. 12:14b; Matt. 7:21; Jn. 14:6)

Our natural response is to reject what appears to be truth that restricts. Yet exacting truth can spell the difference between life and death: Remember the erroneous "O" rings related to the tragic destruction of the "Challenger" space craft? Or the 900 sincere but misguided Cool Aid drinkers in South America?

The narrow path could be a teenager who, against extreme social pressure chooses to say "no" to pre-marital sex. Or a businessman who decides against the common practice of padding his expense account. Or a person who refuses to allow into his mind any stimuli that does not meet the high standard of Philippians 4:8: That which is " truehonorableright purelovelyadmirable excellent and worthy of praise."

The irony is that the narrow path leads to freedom rather than bondageand to eternal life. The alternative path titillates us in the immediate but in the long term proves to be a dead end street of disillusionment and death.

QUESTION:

Which path are you really choosing?