BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for November, 2005

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE MASTER ABOUT TRUE GREATNESS? (Part #2)

 Last week we talked about the fact that,

1.  It is inbred in us to desire to be the greatest.

2.  The world sees greatness in terms of how much power and authority a person wields over others.

3.  Personal ambition for greatness breeds dissention among brothers.

4.  The greatest among us is probably not the most obvious person.

5.  We naturally seek to be great, but are rarely willing to pay the price of becoming great – on Gods terms.

Continuing our discussion:

6. Christ set the standard of greatness by giving up his life to liberate us from our sins. Are we consciously dying to our personal preferences in serving others that they might experience a new life in Christ?

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healedChrist loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to GodHowever, I [Paul] consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (Isa. 53:5; Eph. 5:2b; Act. 20:24) (See Isa. 53:8,10,11; Jn. 10:15)

7. God measures greatness in terms of the quality of our service to others:

  Such as giving a drink of water to a needy person. When, for example was the last time we went out of our way to help a disheveled person on the street?

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servantThen the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, "He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matt. 20:26b; 25:34,35,45) (See Mk. 10:43-45)

  Such as putting others before ourselves. When was the last time we knowingly stepped into the background in order to give others room to gain the spotlight?

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselvesDo nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Rom. 12:10; Philip. 2:3,4) (See Gen. 13:9)

QUESTION: In life there seem to be two classes of people: Givers and takers. Which are you?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE MASTER ABOUT TRUE GREATNESS? (Part #1

Last night my wife and I bypassed viewing a Hollywood production on T. V. that honored and elevated the rich and beautiful in our society.  Glitz, photo opts, scantly clad women strutting their stuff – all on parade. Ogled and applauded around the world.  After all, those receiving the awards are perceived as the folks who have reached the pinnacle of success. Not so, says the lowly Carpenter who walked the dusty paths of Galilee 2000 years ago:

1.  It is inbred in us to desire to be the greatest. Does not the vicious, embattled business environment testify to this fact?

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 18:1-3)

2.  The world sees greatness in terms of how much power and authority a person wields over others. We all know about Bill Gates, but probably dont know or care much about the janitor in our office complex.

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. (Mk. 10:42)

3.  Personal ambition for greatness breeds dissention among brothers.  Am I secretly competing with others for recognition; for the top position? Or do I have a heart to serve and promote others before myself?

[The disciples]…argued about who was the greatestLet us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Mk. 9:34b) (See Rom. 12:10; Gal. 5:26; Phil. 2:3-7; I Pet. 5:3; 2 Jn. 1:9)

4. The greatest among us is probably not the most obvious.  Lets admit it, we would naturally gravitate more toward Princess Diana than Mother Teresa; Michael Jordan over the guy collecting tickets at the sports arena.

"Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 18:4) (See Matt. 23:11)

5. We gravitate toward wanting greatness, but rarely are willing to pay the price of becoming great – on Gods terms. The idea of carrying the cross, of dying to our pride and selfish ambition, and of living sacrificially for others for the Glory and Kingdom of God goes down hard.  Is it possible that we crave the tribute of others more than Gods affirmation, Well done, good and faithful servant?  (Matt. 25:21,23) (See Lk. 19:17,19)

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. What is it you want?  he asked. She said, Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.  You don’t know what you are asking, Jesus said to them. Can you drink the cup I am going to drink? We can, they answered. (Matt. 20:20-22)  (See Jer. 45:5)

QUESTION: Fundamentally it all boils down to humility expressed in service to others. Do those closest to you perceive you as a humble servant? Or as one who manages to elbow his way to the center?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

“THE VISION THING”

Decades ago my wife and I planted ourselves in a major city in Asia to reach business and professional men and women for Christ in the marketplace. (Rom. 10:13-15)

God gave us a vision. That is, he gave us a clear picture in our minds of reaching a certain segment or niche if you please, of that society. And he impressed upon us a plan on how to go about it. (Pro. 29:18) (See 1 Sam. 3:1)

It all started out with meeting a highly visible public figure who had recently come to Christ. Over about a two year period we carefully – even tediously – tutored him and his family in practical ways to know God; how to receive Gods healing and forgiveness from past wounds and transgressions. At times we despaired that anything of substance was happening in his life. However, after a period of time, the Gospel began spreading like a wildfire through his network of relatives, friends, and professional associates. (I Thess. 1:8; Isa. 52:7; Rom.10:14-18)

Simultaneously, we also invested in the lives of about a dozen young professional men and their wives. Fast trackers on the "Wall Street" of that city. With great care, we got down into their lives and helped them develop a Biblical mind-set; coached them on how to know Christ deeply; gave them practical help on how to live out Biblical imperatives. We helped them heal broken relationships and get rid of their bondage to bitterness, lust, pride, money, etc. Again, the Gospel spread like a prairie fire through their natural network of relationships, multiplying to untold numbers across their land.

As I write, we are back visiting that city after a number of years. A young adult commented to me, "Dwight, you have no idea what has happened to the seed you two planted here years agohow it has spread and multiplied." This person was influenced to come to Christ indirectly through the public figure I mentioned above. (Isa. 55:10-13; I Cor. 3:6-8)

So, let me challenge you to ask God to give you a vision of how he would use you in your world

(John 4:35):

– Seek to win the lost and then build deeply into the lives of a few key people. (Col. 1:28,29; 2:6,7)

– Share your life with them. (2 Cor. 12:15; Philip. 2:17; 1Thess. 2:8; 1 Jn. 3:16)

– Help them deal with their sin, pain, bondages, broken relationships, etc. (Act. 26:17,18)

– Coach them on how to know Jesus intimately. (Eph. 3:16-19; Phil. 3:7-15; )

– Guide them on how to study and apply the Word of God into their lives. (Mk. 1:35; Act. 17:11)

– Equip them to minister to people. (Eph 4:11,12)

– Help them discover and utilize their gifts. (Rom.12:4-8; I Cor. 12-14; I Pet. 4:8-11)

– Get them into a meaningful fellowship of believers. (Act. 1:13,14; 2:42; 20:7; Heb. 10:24,25)

– Care enough to confront (if necessary) the sin issues in their lives. (Pro. 27:5,6; 1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Tim. 4:2)

– Become their compassionate, but firm champion. (I Thess. 2:7, 11,12; Tit. 2:13-15)

– Model what they are to become. (I Cor. 11:1; I Thess. 2:10)

Understand:

– We plant and water the seed. The mystery of growth is Gods responsibility. (Mk. 4:26-29; I Cor. 3:6)

– Whatever fruit occurs, it is to his glory, not ours. He is a jealous God and will not share his glory. (Isa. 48:10,11)

– The objective is to contribute in bringing the people entrusted to our care toward spiritual maturity in Christ that they in turn can and will multiply their lives to succeeding spiritual generations. (Eph. 4:13; Col. 1:28, 29; 2 Tim. 2:2; John 17:20)

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

MAINTAINING AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE IN A GODLESS WORLD

I have lived long enough to observe societies gyrate from one extreme to another on social, political, and religious issues; from action to reaction and back again in their restless search for the easy, safe path. Thus the masses of humanity it seems are engaged in a horrific struggle for survival and fulfilled self-interest, and will utilize whatever means necessary to guarantee its accomplishment. When the chips are down, principle almost always takes a back seat to survival and fulfillment. Is it any wonder that our Heavenly Father speaks of the "raging" nations? (Psa. 2:1; 46:6)

Into this caldron of confusion we are born, influenced and molded for good or evil as it relates to our worldview, values and behavior It is no surprise then that St. Paul describes mankind outside the pale of Christ as "deceiving and being deceived." (2 Tim. 3:13) Until we encountered the Savior, that was us.

As new born creatures in Christ we chose to obey the Master and abandon the values of that quintessential liar, Satan and the world system he influences and controls. (Jn. 8:44) Through the enabling of the Holy Spirit and the internalization of the Word of God we started thinking and behaving Biblically as our minds were transformed ("renovated"). (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22, 23) Over time, and through a process of a DNA change, so to speak, we begin to obtain the "mind of Christ" and live out his beneficial, pleasing and complete will. (I Cor. 2:16; Phil. 2:5; Rom. 12:2)

And that is when the trouble began for us because "everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." (2 Tim. 3:12) Jesus was murdered because he was the Truth. If we indeed are internalizing Gods truth and choosing to live by it without compromise, we too have become an affront to a society awash in the godless lies of the Enemy, that embraces any and every belief that caters to the base nature of man.

Our troubles will continue until our promotion into Gods eternal presence. Until then, we will continue to struggle fending off the lies and seductive filth endemic in our post Christian world. After all, to get along is to go along. The fact is that we become a marked person when we choose to live uncompromisingly by Kingdom values outside the worlds Machiavellian system. (John 15:18-20) Yet if Enoch (the son of a banished murdered), Noah (probably the only man on earth still obeying God), and Daniel (kidnapped as a youth into godless Babylonia) can do it in the most extreme of circumstances, so can we! (Gen. 5:24; 6:5-9; Dan. 1:8; 6:3,4)

To help me keep a Biblical perspective, I envision that day when I will stand before the Holy King of Kings. My prayer is that I will be able to say to him, "Lord, by your grace I lived with integrity in obedience to your truth." Because of his grace I anticipate him welcoming me to his bosom and into his Kingdom with, "Well done, good and faithful servant." In the mean time, I try to keep in mind the truth of 2 Cor. 4:16b-18,

"We never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever." (NLT)

QUESTION

: My friend in Christ, no one would argue that maintaining an eternal perspective in a godless world is a difficult task. As you daily chose the less traveled path of godliness keep in mind that eternity and the Holy One await youprobably sooner than you imagine. May God help us to prepare now for that Dayand for all eternity. (Heb. 10:25; 1 Jn. 3:2,3)

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

EXERCISING GODLY CHARACTER IN AN UNGODLY WORLD

There was a time in this Country when words like "honor," "duty," "reputation," "integrity," and values such as a strong work ethic, achievement, growth and sacrifice were held in high regard. No more. Today, in our pluralistic society:

We want character but without unyielding conviction.

We want strong morality but without the emotional burden of guilt or shame.

We want virtue but without particular moral justifications that invariably offend.

We want good without having to name evil.

We want decency without the authority to insist upon it.

We want moral commitment without any limitations to personal freedom.

In short, we want what we cannot possibly have on the terms that we want it.1

Let me suggest four forces that have helped bring us to this tragic juncture:

(1) Social pluralism. That is, a society cut loose from its Judeo Christian moorings that now sends contradictory and mixed signals as to its values.

(2) Constant bombardment of secular and contemporary media propaganda that undermines reality and traditional values.

(3) Social upheaval and mobility that have shredded our sense of community, resulting in little, if any accountability or responsibility to anyone.

(4) Obsession with material accumulation, leisure and the cultivation of personal preferences that have moved us away from an emphasis on achievement to performance; from character development to personality development.

Immersed as we are in a pluralistic world, believers run the risk of loosing sight of the fact that godly character is formed through the development of convictions that are chiseled out of unrushed, meaningful time alone with God and His word. Authentic character is validated by our ability to live by those convictions in the crucible of temptation in a society that gives little currency to Biblical absolutes. At the very root of character is moral discipline which is diminished when we compromise the authority and conviction of the Scriptures. When that occurs, there remains little if any compelling force to hold us back from expressing our base nature. If however, we respond with integrity in obedience to the Scriptures, we continue to possess the capacity for self-control – a fruit of the Spirit – when temptation rears its ugly head.

"How can a boy or girl from infancy to adolescence be translucent, innocent and pure?2I have thought much about your words and stored them in my heart so that they would hold me back from sin." (Psalm 119:9,11 Vs. 11: Living Trans.)

QUESTON:

Are you unequivocally committed to deeply building the uncompromising truth of Gods word into the very core of your being, so that you can consistently exercise godly character in an ungodly pluralistic world?

1James Davidson Hunter, The Death of Character (Basic Books Press) 2000 p. IV; Many thoughts derived from Hunters book. 2 Literal translation of verse 9 from the Hebrew text;