BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for August, 2006

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

TWO PATHSTWO CONSEQUENCES

From the Garden of Eden to the present, God has given us the privilege of choice.  We can embrace Him or rebel against Him.  The choice is ours. The consequences are not. Many folks who dutifully darken the door of a church each week live lives of obdurate, secretive rebellion against the Lover of their soul.  William Henley, a cripple since childhood, one of the early humanists, penned these defiant words in 1849. His is the quintessential statement of a life centered on self.  A life in rebellion against God:

  Out of the night that covers me, black as the Pit from pole to pole,

  I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul.

  In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud.

  Under the bludgeonings of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed.

  Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the Horror of the shade,

  And yet the menace of the years finds and shall find me unafraid.

  It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,

  I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.

A century later, Dorothea Day answered Henleys Invictus with this lovely poem entitled, My Captain:

  Out of the light that dazzles me, bright as the sun from pole to pole,

  I thank the God I know to be for Christ the conqueror of my soul.

  Since His the sway of circumstance, I would not wince nor cry aloud.

  Under that rule which men call chance my head with joy is humbly bowed. 

  Beyond this place of sin and tears that life with Him! And His the aid,

  Despite the menace of the years, keeps, and shall keep me, unafraid.

  I have no fear, though straight the gate, He cleared from punishment the scroll,

  Christ is the Master of my fate, Christ is the Captain of my Soul.1

In life we have the choice to captain our own ship or surrender to the Captain of our soul.  Both choices have temporal and eternal consequences.  Consider wise old Solomon: They [who] rejected my advice and paid no attention when I corrected themmust eat the bitter fruit of living their own way. They must experience the full terror of the path they have chosen.  For they are simpletons who turn away from meto death. They are fools, and their own complacency will destroy them.  But all who listen to me will live in peace and safety, unafraid of harm."  (Pro. 1:30-33 NLT)

Two paths. Two consequences.

QUESTION:  Which path are you really choosing?

1 Dorothea Day, My Captain, in The Best Loved Poems of the American People,  selected by Hazel Felleman (Garden City, N. Y.: Garden City Books, 1936), 73,74

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

FOUR REASONS SO FEW PEOPLE ARE TRUE LABORERS FOR GOD

Jesus was filled with compassion as he observed people who were fainting and scattered (Literally: as if slapped) due in part at least to the lack of spiritual leadership. Among the masses there are those, he said, who will respond to him but for the fact that the toilers available to guide them are in short supply. (Matt. 9:36-38) All around you people are in trouble with their lives, and some of them will welcome the Gospel if you make the effort to bring it to them.

From 2 Timothy 2:1-5 we can ascertain four reasons for the shortage of laborers:

A failure to appropriate the grace of God:  Paul admonished Timothy, Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  (Vs. 2:1) The apostle understood that if Timothy were to remain strong as a laborer, he would need a regular dose of Gods grace. Writing from a Roman prison, Paul was well aware that in the thankless environment of a world hostile to the Gospel, one must not only experience Gods grace in dealing with his own failings and sin, but he must also extend that grace to others. After all, lost people usually are not very attractive, self-absorbed as they are with their own lives.  (See 2 Cor. 12:9,10; 2 Pet. 3:18)

An unwillingness to suffer for the Gospel: Paul instructed young Timothy, Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (Vs. 2:3) That is, expect persecution, rejection, exploitation, indifference, and a lack of appreciation for your efforts.  Accept without complaint the reality that you, as Christs servant and message-bearer are the giver while most of your lost associates will be the takers. (See Lk. 17:10 2 Cor. 4:8-18;12:15; 2 Tim. 2:10; 3:12; Heb.12:2,3)

A lack of single-minded focus on winning the lost: A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders.  (Vs. 2:4 Msg.) Lets face it, you already have a full plate: Kids schooling and little league, business pressures, the attraction of recreation and entertainment, enjoying the company of old friends, responsibilities in the community and at church, etc. All worthwhile activities to be sure.  But we need to be aware of their subtle power to draw us away from even sequester us – from laboring to win the lost.  If we are to effectively reach people with the Gospel, it will be by naturally and intentionally building long term trust and relationships through recreation, back yard barbeques, standing with them in their times of crisis, etc., etc. This of course translates into a significant commitment of our time and resources.  A significant commitment of our very lives.  (See Lk. 8:14; 2 Pet. 2:20)

An unwillingness to live and minister by the rulesIf anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. (Vs. 2:5a)  In drawing a metaphor from the Greek Olympics, Paul is suggesting the necessity of such qualities as intense discipline and preparation, self control over ones lusts and corruption, and a certain inner toughness.  (See 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 4:7,8)

QUESTION: Are you in fact carrying your God-assigned cross (Lk. 9:23, 24) in laboring among the lost whom God has placed in your life?  Or are you just dabbling around the edges? If you are just dabbling, what changes do you need to make now?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

EIGHT VALUES THAT WILL HELP US STAY FOCUSED FOR LIFE AND MINISTRY:+ (Part #2)

Expectant faith and persevering prayer rooted in the promises of GodExpectant Faith: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  What does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Heb. 11:1; Rom. 4:3; 8:24,25) (See Gen. 22:7, 8; Psa. 27:113; 42:11; Jn. 6:29; 2 Cor. 4:18;  2 Tim. 1:12; Heb. 3:14; 10:22, 3911:6, 13)  Persevering Prayer: And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the groundMy dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in youFor this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. (Lk. 22:44; Gal. 4:19; Col. 1:9)  (See Eph. 5:17; Col. 4:12; 1 Thess. 5:17; Heb. 5:7)  The Promises of God: Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilledHis divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (Josh. 21:45; Heb. 10:36; 2 Pet. 1:3,4) (See 2 Cor. 1:20, Heb. 10:23,36; 11:13,33)

QUESTION:  Have you asked God to give you promises from his word upon which to ground your life and ministry?

The dignity and value of every personFor you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own childrenThe Lord is notwanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  (1 Thess. 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:9) (See Lk. 15:4-7; 19:2-9; Jn. 1:43; 4:1-38; 8:1-11)

QUESTION:  Are you personally discipling an individual?

Love and grace expressed among us in community: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.   (Col. 3:12-16) (See Rom. 12:10,16; 13:8; 14:13; 15:7,14; I Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:2; 5:19, 21; Col. 3:13,16; 1 Thes. 5:11; Heb. 3:13; 10:24; 1 Pet 3:8; 4:8; 5:5; 1 Jn. 1:7; 4:7)

QUESTION:  Are you healthily integrated into a body of fellow believers in Christ?

Families and relational networks in discipling the nationsAs Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. Follow me, he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciplesAndrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.  The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, We have found the Messiah"  (Matt. 9:9, 10; Jn. 1:40-42a) (See Jn. 4:28-30,39; Act. 16:30,31)

QUESTION:  As you seek to fulfill the Great Commission, are you a team player or the Lone Ranger?

+ Navigators Inc. Calling, November 2003

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

EIGHT VALUES THAT WILL HELP US STAY FOCUSED FOR LIFE AND MINISTRY:+ (Pt. #1)

The passion to know, love, and become like Jesus Christ:  Everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have ChristThose who obey my commandments are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them, and I will love them. And I will reveal myself to each one of themAs the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.  (Phil. 3:8; Jn. 14:21; 2 Cor. 3:18b)  (See Jn. 17:3; I Cor. 2:2; 2 Cor. 4:6; Col. 2:3,4; Jn. 14:23; 15:9,10; Rom. 8:29; 12:2; 1 Cor. 15:49; Col. 3:10)

QUESTION:  Would those closest to you naturally conclude that your primary focus in life is to know and become like Jesus Christ?

The truth and sufficiency of the Scriptures for the whole of life: All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do…Jesus said to the people who believed in him, You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  

  Your words are what sustain me. They bring me great joy and are my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.  (2 Tim 3:16, 17; Jn. 8:31,32; Jer. 15:16) (See Jn. 10:35; Mk. 12:24; Rom. 15:4; Heb. 4:12)

QUESTION:  Is it evident from the condition of your heart and your manner of living that you are in fact resting in the adequacy of Gods word for life and ministry?

The transforming power of the Gospel:  For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believesJews first and also GentilesTo open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me. The people who walk in darkness will see a great lighta light that will shine on all who live in the land where death casts its shadow. (Rom. 1:16; Act. 26:18; Isa. 9:2) (See Mal. 4:2; Jn. 8:12; Eph. 5:8; Col. 1:5,6; 1 Thess. 1:5,6)

QUESTION: Do you truly believe the Gospel has the muscle to change lives as evidenced by your unabashed willingness to expose people to its truth?

The leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit: Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of GodBut you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Rom. 8:14b; Act. 1:8) (See Psa. 143:10; Isa. 48:17; Rom. 5:8; 8:9; Micah 3:8; Zech. 4:6; Lk. 10:19; Act. 6:8)

QUESTION:  Does your life play out more like a machine with sand in its gears, or like an eagle riding the wind? (See Gal. 5:19-21; Isa. 40:31)

+ Navigators Inc. Calling, November 2003

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

I KINGDOM VISION

The vision for the Kingdom of God is global in scope. Jesus died for the whole world (Jn. 3:16) and it is on Gods heart that each person will enter his Kingdom. (2 Pet. 3:9) We know from Scriptures that every people group will share eternity with him (Rev. 5:91-14)

As we look out over the world, we are to share the Fathers vision that all peoples will have the opportunity to hear and respond to the message of the Kingdom. To reach the world with his Kingdom message, we begin where God has placed us: Where we live, work and play. This is our Jerusalem and staging area for the rest of the world. (Act. 1:8)  Before we can reach the world at large, we must reach our immediate world. We first must reach one.

As a business or professional person, God has uniquely placed you in the marketplace, not only to provide for your family, but also to affect people in that world to become part of his Kingdom.

II  Kingdom Values

As you live out Kingdom values (Matt. 5 8) you become salt (5:13) and light (5:16) to a lost world in desperate need of hearing and responding to the message of the Kingdom.  The objective is that your life will be so kingdom orientated, and thus radically and beautifully different from the worlds values, that those around you will be compelled to ask why and how.

III  Kingdom inVestment

Jesus left the disciples here on earth to further his Kingdom (Jn. 17; Matt. 28:18-20) through winning the lost and discipling the saved.  Our mission in life is to participate with God in this his grand scheme of getting his lost creation into his Kingdom and bringing them to maturity so that they too will participate with him in the winning of the lost and the discipling of the saved.