BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for July, 2006

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

INTIMACY WITH THE ALMIGHTY (Part #4)

In the past three Facts we have discussed:

#1 – The Discipline of Simplicity Through the reordering of our private world.  #2 – The Discipline of Silence Through leaning the practice of being still before God.  #3 – The Discipline of Serenity Through cultivating the practice of inner stillness.

In this Facts we will discuss the fourth imperative to developing deeper intimacy with Christ:  #4 The Discipline of Surrender Through trusting the Lord completely.1

55 years ago I made my way down an aisle at an evangelistic meeting and wonderfully found Christ. During those early years especially, I wrestled with fears, failures, and inner struggles. But I always found my way back to the Source. I read the promises in the Word of God, claimed and applied them, and increasingly experienced His gentle, sovereign hand, forgiving, guiding, supplying, empowering, and enriching my life beyond anything I could ever have imagined.

God can do anything, you knowfar more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.  (Eph. 3:20 Msg)

How could I ever have harbored fears that he would fail me? Today, 55 years later, I can say without reservation, based not only on lifes experiences, but also on the promises found in the Scriptures, that God can be trusted if we will but trust Him and surrender. The truth of Proverbs 3:5,6 has been proven true to me over and over: In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success. (Living)

As I look back over those many years and I suspect you can identify with me – I daily faced the inner struggle to surrender to Him a struggle so aptly stated in a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions:

When thou wouldst guide me I would control myself. When thou wouldst be sovereign I rule myself. When thou wouldst take care of me I suffice myself. When I should depend on thy providing I supply myself. When I should submit to thy providence I follow my own will. When I should study, honor, trust thee, I serve myself, I fault and correct thy laws to suit myself.  Instead of thee I look to mans approbation, and am by nature an idolater. Lord, it is my chief design to bring my heart back to Thee.2

Will you join with me in this prayer of surrender: Lord, when I think of your surrender to the Fathers will that spelled the extinguishing of your life for mine, how could I entertain for a moment the fact that you do not have my best interests at heart co-mingled with your grand purpose and glory. At this moment I choose to release my death grip on the control of my life.  As an act of the will, based on the promises of your Word, I surrender afresh all that I am to you: My rebellion, pride, fears, manipulation of people and circumstance, inclination to speak half truths, the desire to impress, the need to control my and other peoples lives, my past secret sins, failings, and omissions.  I renew afresh my resolve to carve out regular time alone with you.  I confess that I am depleted and tired from living a half committed life. From this day forth by your grace, and with your empowerment I will daily surrender to your sovereignty and live a life empowered, and centered on you and on service to others. In Jesus Name. Amen.

1 Many of the ideas in this Facts are drawn from Intimacy with the Almighty, Charles Swindoll, Word Publishing, Inc. Dallas, TX 75039

2  Arthur Beet, ed., The Valley of Vision (Carlisle, Penn.:  The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

INTIMACY WITH THE ALMIGHTY (Part #3)

In the past two Facts we have discussed:

#1  – The Discipline of Simplicity Through the reordering of our private world.

#2  – The Discipline of Silence Through leaning the practice of being still before God. In this Facts we will talk about:

#3  – The Discipline of Serenity Through cultivating the practice of inner stillness.1

It is only in times of solitude that God is able to probe our secret inner thoughts, revealing to us things we hide from others. Consider the words of Henri Nouwen, In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding:  no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken nothing. It is this nothingness that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something. But that is not all. As soon as I decide to stay in my solitude, confusing ideas, disturbing images, wild fantasies, and weird associations jump about in my mind like monkeys in a banana tree. Anger and greed begin to show their ugly facesThe task is to persevere in my solitude, to stay in my cell until all my seductive visitors get tired of pounding on my door and leave me alone. 2  If we are honest with ourselves, we resist this kind of soul searching.  It seems so radical, so severe, so close, so revealing.  And besides, I dont have the time with all that needs to be done.

Jesus understood the importance of solitude when he said to his disciples,, Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest (Mk. 9:30b) Paul instructed us to spend time in self-scrutiny: Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves  (2 Cor. 13:5a) This simply cannot be done without the practice of solitude and inner stillness.

An inner restlessness grows within us when we refuse to get alone and examine our own hearts, including our motives. As our lives begin to pick up the debris that accompanies a lot of activities and involvements, we can train ourselves to go right on, to stay active, to be busy in the Lords work. Unless we discipline ourselves to pull back, to get alone for the hard work of self-examination in times of solitude, serenity will remain only a distant dream. How busy we can becomeand as a result, how empty!  We mouth words, but they mean nothing.  We find ourselves trafficking in unlived truths.  We fake spirituality.3

One of my close friends, and probably the most gifted businessmen I know, routinely takes a day a month at a mountain cabin to spend time in solitude alone with God.  This is especially significant in light of the fact that for years he struggled with a chronic sense of guilt for his lack of achieving totally unrealistic self-imposed goals. Today he is joyful and free and amazingly fruitful in affecting the lives of other professionals for Christ – all a product of his determined purpose to maintain a practice of solitude, amidst the extreme demands as the owner and CEO of a successful business.

QUESTION:  Inner stillness and serenity are the by products of allowing the Spirit to probe the depths of our inner sanctum.  Are you carving out adequate time to be alone with God in solitude?  If not, why not begin taking incremental steps in that direction today.

1 Many of the ideas in this Facts are drawn from Intimacy with the Almighty, Charles Swindoll, Word Publishing, Inc. Dallas, TX 75039

2 Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Way of the Heart. (N. Y.: The Seabury Press 3 Intimacy with the Almighty, Charles Swindoll, Word Publishing, Inc. Dallas, TX 75039

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

INTIMACY WITH THE ALMIGHTY (Part #2)

Last week we suggested the first step we can take in moving toward intimacy with God:

#1  – The Discipline of Simplicity Through the re-ordering of our private world.  In this Facts we will discuss:

#2  The Discipline of Silence Through learning the practice of being still before God.1

Living as we do in a restless world of incessant clatter, noise, talk, snarled traffic, and crushing deadlines, the very idea of cultivating silence seems insurmountable. And perhaps a bit quaint, if not strangely out of context with our times.  The stark fact is that God will not be known without protracted, uninterrupted times of absolute silence. Consider these translations of Psalm 46:10:

  • Cease striving and know that I am God. Stand silent! Know that I am God.  (TLB)
  •  Step out of the traffic! Take a long , loving look at me, your High God above politics, above everything.  (Msg)

Certainly the call of God upon us is to rest, let go, and make time for Him.  It is his desire that we learn the discipline of listening and waiting before him. Is it not true that our frenzied schedules and fragmented involvements dull our awareness or ability to sense his gentle voice and touch?  Everywhere you turn you are being pounded with words demanding that you buy, experience, listen to, or use someones promise of an improved life.  The crowds, the pace, the restless media, the endless trafficand the unrelenting pressures of business, all militate against the possibility of silence in our fractured inner world.

If we are to win over the deafening cacophony of noises, we must learn to say no. Is it not true that others are more than willing to play billiards with our lives? More than willing to speak on behalf of the Holy Spirit in determining our priorities? I am the one who must decide to choose against these unrelenting pressures if I am to know God intimately. I am the one who must decide to create space in my life for silence if I am to know God intimately. Consider the words of Hans Ur von Balthasar,

Harassed by life, exhausted, we look about us for somewhere to be quiet, to be genuine, and a place of refreshment. We yearn to restore our spirits in God, to simply to let go in him and gain new strength to go on living. But we fail to look for him where he is waiting for us, where he is to be found:  in his Son, who is the Word. Or else we seek for God because there are a thousand things we want to ask him, and imagine that we cannot go on living unless they are answered.  We inundate him with problems, with demands for information, for clues, for an easier path, forgetting that in his word he has given us the solution to every problem and all the details we are capable of grasping in this life.  We fail to listen where God speaks:  Where Gods word rang out in the world once for all, sufficient for all ages, inexhaustible. Or else we think that Gods word has been heard on earth for so long that by how it is almost used up, that it is about time for some new word We fail to see that it is we ourselves who are used up and alienated, where as the word resounds with the same vitality and freshness as ever; it is just as near to us as it always was.2

QUESTION:  What simple, practical, incremental steps can you take at this time to begin the process of creating space for silence in your life? A silence that will enable you to more clearly begin to hear the voice of God?

1 Many of the ideas in this Facts are drawn from Intimacy with the Almighty, Charles Swindoll, Word Publishing, Inc. Dallas, TX 75039

2 Hans Ur von Balthasar, Prayer.  Trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press 1986)

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

INTIMACY WITH THE ALMIGHTY (Part 1)

Yesterday I visited with the CEO of a company who is living abroad, utilizing his company and his considerable skills to advance the Gospel into several countries closed to the Gospel. As we chatted, he expressed the frustration he and his wife are feeling, overwhelmed as they are with the demands of daily life.  Too much to do, with too little time for family and less for time for God. It soon became apparent to me that before moving abroad, they had lived with the same frustrations of overload. Over the years he had built an extremely profitable company, but at great cost to his walk with God and his relationship with the family. The more they accumulated, the more complex their lives became. Bubbling beneath the surface of this lovely, committed couple was an under tone of frustration and anger.  It was as though their feet were stuck in molasses at the end of a cal de sac, and they had no idea how to liberate themselves. Most of us can identify with their frenzied, shallow existence, where we often feel we are existing on the fumes. Someone has suggested that we are more like a stampeding herd of cattle than the flock of God beside still waters.1

Many of us share the inner longing of St. Paul for deeper intimacy with God but have no idea of how to achieve it: …My determined purpose is that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death (Phil. 3:10b Amp)

In this Facts we will briefly discuss one of four imperatives to developing deeper intimacy with Christ: The Discipline of Simplicity Through the reordering of our private world 1

I suspect that almost everything in your daily activities argues against a life of simplicity. Could our fragmentized and complex lives be the product of a restless heart that demands more of almost everything?  What about our out of control competition and drive to win at any cost?  And our envy of others and their achievements and status? Could this be why we often find ourselves in a state of exhaustion, frustration and anger? Thomas Kelly states that God never guides us to an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness. Is it just possible that we have been seduced by the archenemy of our souls?  But I fear that somehow you will be led away from your pure and simple devotion to Christ, just as Eve was deceived by the serpent. (2 Cor. 11:3 NLT) To reorder our private lives we must slow our pace and our never ending judgment, envy, comparison and competition with others.  But you must be prepared for a rigorous solo flight against the wind2,

QUESTION:  If you are frenzied, could it be that materialism, competition or envy are among the primary driving forces in your life?  If so, are you willing now to acknowledge and deal with these godless motivations?  Are you prepared now to take one or two practical steps toward simplifying your life?

Next week: The Discipline of Silence Through learning the practice of being still before God.1

1 Many of the ideas in this Facts are drawn from Intimacy with the Almighty, Charles Swindoll, Word Publishing, Inc. Dallas, TX 75039  2 Intimacy with the Almighty, Charles Swindoll, Word Publishing, Inc. Dallas, TX 75039