BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for February, 2006

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

FINISHING WELL:+ The course that I was set I have finished, and I have kept the faith. The future for me holds the crown of righteousness which God, the true judge, will give me in that day (2 Tim. 4:7b,8a Phillips)


Marathons attract all kinds of people, that fall into at least three different groups
:

1. Those who run to win. Only a small number actually enter a race thinking they can come in first place.  I am not in this group. (I suspect some of these people are not actually human, but aliens from a planet of Kryptonite-powered running robots. I have no proof of this.) Back in the 60s Wally Samson seemed to be in this winner category.  Brilliant. Articulate.  A visionary. A natural leader. Knew the Bible cold. However, somewhere along lifes race, he stumbled, fell and never got up again.  Today he lives alone. Isolated.  His wife and children are wounded and shattered.  In my 20s Wally was my first choice to win the gold. 

"Do not consider his appearanceThe Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Sam. 16:7a,c)

2. Those who run to place. A larger group (but still small in percentage, probably about 5%) almost certainly will win a divisional prize, improve their time and train for the next big raceI am not in this group either. In the world of business and the professions, some of my contemporaries are high visibility performers. On the cutting edge. Some are in demand on the speaking circuit.  Others are published. Most are high capacity, multi-taskers, seeming to juggle several balls in the air at onceand with relative ease! I can only look on with wonder and sigh. Few high achievers do not struggle with the issue of pride, which ultimately will derail them spiritually if left unattended.

For I envied the arrogantThey have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to manPride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Psa. 73:3a,4,5; Prov. 16:18)

3. Those who run to finish.  This is the vast majority. I am in this group. Ah, group three. We are the ones who struggle to make it to the next water stop. Our biggest struggle is that we will get sick and throw up right in front of a Channel 13 news camera. We are the ones who know we should have trained more than we did, and swear we will next year…but probably won’t. When asked, "What was your time?" we answer simply "I finished."

In the Christian race, we are all in category three. We are slow, fast, fit, fat, and everything in-between.  Some of us stand out for our speed, and we amaze the crowds with our skills, while others run despite greater challenges, and barely drag across the finish line, passing out on the ground as we finally complete the course. But in this one race, fast or slow, we all can win the same prize.  These are the people with whom I most identify.

David Emery runs an auto repair shop. On Sunday he teaches a 5th grade boys Sunday school class.  A bit halting in his speech and manner, David makes up for it with his magnetic warmth. He and his family live from one paycheck to the next, and drive older cars.  Eating at Dennys is a good night out on the town.  David just hangs in there year after year, loving God and serving his family and church. But never is he in the forefront.  No, David goes unheralded, unnoticed, and unapplauded.  But category three David, most certainly will finish the race.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (I Cor. 1:26, 27)

For many marathon runners, the thing that gets them through the last mile is something very simple: the sight of the finish line.  By keeping their eyes focused on that banner, they can make it to the end.

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be dismayed. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will triumph…I press on toward the goal to win the prize (Isa. 50:7 NLT; Phil. 3:14a)

+ Adapted from Christian Love Notes

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

WHAT DRIVES YOUR LIFE?

 Only God really knows the true motivations of our heart.  Are we driven by rock rib convictions that are born out of prayerful intake of Gods word through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit?  Or by negative, reactionary impulses which are the product of a self-life that has never been brought under the Lordship of Christ?  Such as:+

Fear of failure. Fear that I might not make it. Fear of the future.  Fear that somewhere down the road everything will fall apart.  Fear of rejection. Fear that I might get cancer. A life controlled by fear has no concept of the liberation that is available in Christ.

"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciplesThen you will know the truth, and the truth will set you freeSo if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  (Jn. 8:31,32,36)

Resentment or anger based on unresolved issues from the past. Perhaps your father told you you wouldnt make it, so you are out to prove him wrong. Or your brother and you are in heated competition to beat each other out in business or sports or the social climb. Or someone angled you out of some money or a coveted position so you are out to grind him into the dust. Or you are still angry over your rough childhood: Abused, unloved, played 2nd string in sports, etc. Perhaps you are gnashing your teeth over your goals being blocked.  So, you are out to prove somethingwith a chip on your shoulder.

An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sinsSee to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (Prov. 29:22; Heb.12;15)

Guilt: You may be unable to forgive yourself for the terrible sins you committed in your secret past. Or perhaps you are struggling with guilt over a current sin to which you are in bondage. Christs forgiveness seems academic rather than experiential. Or perhaps you are allowing yourself to be beat up by a bully pulpit type pastor:  If you loved God more today than you did a year ago, you would be praying more, giving more, trusting God more, serving more.  So you are forever trying to jump over a raised bar of performance. 

  If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before GodAs far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us… (I Jn. 3:21b; Psa. 103:12)

Materialism that manifests itself in a restless discontentment with what you have.  You must possess the newest technical advances for your computer, PDA, etc. Or you must have a larger house. Or increasingly more exotic vacations. What satisfied you 5 years ago is a bore today.  In truth you are on the upward mobility treadmill.

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his incomeGodliness with contentment is great gain. (Ecc. 5:10 NLT; I Tim. 6:6b)

Need for approval: Because you are not experiencing the rest found in Gods great grace, you relate to people in a manner that seeks to earn their acceptance. Thus, you are forever ministering in the Name of Christ, often at the expense of legitimate personal and family needs. Its a service born not so much out of a deep spiritual concern, as it is the incessant need for approval.

There remains therefore a rest for the people of GodWe are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. (Heb. 4:9 NKJV; 1 Thes. 2:4b)

+  Seed thoughts from The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

MAGNANIMITY

Magnanimity defined:  Manifesting generosity in forgiving insults or injuries; not given to resentment or envy; great of soul; high-minded.  The opposite is being measly, paltry, petty, or picayunish.+  Magnanimity is indeed an uncommon idea in a society accustomed to one-upmanship, demanding ones rights,  or just crushing the weaker person beneath you.

Last week Harry (a close businessman friend of mine) received a letter falsely accusing him of religious heresy. The letter was written to the members of the board of an organization that reaches out to the underprivileged, suggesting he be removed from his executive position. The heresy issue is a ruse, pure and simple, to oust him from his position of leadership in order to thwart him from making the much needed internal changes within the organization that are critical for its continued effectiveness and growth.  Now Harry is a follower of Christ, who in his carnal days was a seasoned street fighter you didnt want to mess with. Period. Today, Harry has grown in his understanding of forgiveness and grace and would approach solving a problem like this quite differently.  But what is he to do? Well, I thought of King David and the illustrates of magnanimity in his life:

For several long years paranoid, maniacal King Saul doggedly sought to murder David, knowing God had removed the kingly mantel from him for this godly young warrior.  (1 Sam. 13:13,14; 15:26) Twice during Sauls deadly pursuit, David had the opportunity to kill him and end the nightmare of living on the edge of death. David, as young as he was, took his hands off solving the problem by not retaliating against Saul.  (1 Sam. 24, 26) Rather, he allowed God to deal with Saul as He chose.  And deal with him He did. (1 Sam. 15:23; 31:1-6)

Somehow in the mysterious, sovereign plan of God, He allowed David to be unjustly accused and pursued. No doubt the ordeal helped prepare him to become the greatest King in Israels history. Adversity can put steal into our character, if we choose to see the hand of God behind the trial, and if we choose not abort Gods training process.  (Job 23:8-10; Rom. 5:2-5; Jms. 1:2-4) 

Now my guess is that you probably have a Saul or two in your life: Business competitors, perhaps, who would like to put you out of commission.  Or a disgruntled relative. Or an angry neighbor. Or perhaps a rebellious child who is keeping you awake at night.  How do you go about resolving the problem?  By muscling your solution into place?  Or by opting for a God-directed magnanimous approach, as David did? 

Once securely established as King, David asked,  "Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?"  (2 Sam. 9:1) Not only did he invite Mephibosheth, the crippled grandson of deceased Saul (Jonathans son) to dine at his table, but he restored Sauls confiscated land to him.  "Don’t be afraid, David said to him, for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table" (2 Sam. 9:7a)

Further, David instructed his servant Ziba, "I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table"  (2 Sam. 9:9,10a)

Now I suspect that you also may have a have a Mephibosheth or two in your life. I am talking about people who are of no consequence to you.  People who are stuck in the mud of life with no hope of getting outunless someone like you or I help them.  How we choose to relate to our Sauls and the Mephibosheths is a true test of godly characterA true test of godly magnanimity.

+  The Readers Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary, 1968

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

WHERE IS OUR RIGHTEOUS RAGE?

As I look out over the Body of Christ, I cant help but wonder if we, for the most part, have become an anemic crop of spiritually neutral vanilla types without an ounce of fire or indignation over the egregious injustices so prevalent in our society. Im talking about endemic insider trading on Wall Street, the spewing out of media filth into the minds and hearts of our populace, the chronic high crimes and misdemeanors that permeates the white collar sector of corporate America, etc., etc. Where is our righteous rage that motivates us to stand up against this moral carnage and demand change? Perhaps we ought to take instruction from:

Todd Beamer, an ardent follower of Jesus Christ, who on September 11, 2001 marshaled fellow passengers on United flight 93 to overtake the evil and barbaric highjackers with Lets Roll!  And roll they did. 

Andrei Sakharou, a decorated Soviet physicist who was ordered to develop atomic weapons of terrible power. At the risk of his life he stood up to Soviet Prime Minister Khrushchev and challenged Russias defense policy.  Amidst swarms of corrupt, venal, unprincipled intelligentsia he refused to cooperate with the governments course of action.  His courageous act led to the spread of democratic ideals throughout the communist world and to the eventual collapse of the Soviet empire.

Moses, upon returning from 40 days on the mountain alone with God:  When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it. He said to Aaron, What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin? Do not be angry, my lord, Aaron answered. You know how prone these people are to evil. (Exo. 32:19-22)

Nehemiah got down right livid at the exploitation of the poor: When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials… (Neh. 5:6,7a) 

John the Baptist eyeballed the hypocritical religious leaders who showed up at the river for baptism, calling them poisonous snakes. (Matt. 3:7)

Jesus exhibited his righteous outrage at the mercenaries callous contempt for things holy in his Fathers house when he overturned their tables and drove them out of the synagogue. (Matt. 21:12-17)

It seems to me that it is only when we make it a practice to linger in the secret inner sanctum of Gods holy presence and experience the white heat of His righteous cleansing that we are capable of developing a passion for His holiness, a sense of righteous rage that something must be done, and the determination to affect change. 

QUESTION: What about you? Are you indignant over the injustice, exploitation and the unabashed parading of sin in our streets?  Are you standing up, speaking out, and choosing to make a difference? Or are you simply going with the flow as Mr. or Ms. Nice Guy/Gal? After you and I have departed from this planet, will it have made any appreciable difference on our tired, sin-drenched world that you and I were even here?  The answer can be a resounding Yes!  The choice is —-ours.

"I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.  (Ezek. 22:30)