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Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for June, 2007

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

FIVE DEFINING DISCIPLINES OF GROWING FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST+

Consistent Quiet Time: After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone… (Matthew 14:23) (See Joshua 1:8)

If you dont already have a consistent time alone with God, (Quiet Time) set aside a few minutes each day and ponder your way through a few verses in the Bible and then say a prayer. Start with a small portion in the New Testament.  Underline passages or verses that capture your attention.  Memorize verses for strength, courage, usability and faith.  One Christian leader suggests that we pray backwards through yesterday step by step, and forward through today. Praying backwards will lead to prayers of thanksgiving and confession, while praying forward will lead to prayers of supplication.

Organized Bible Study:  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.  (2 Timothy 2:15, 16) (See Proverbs 4:23)

Someone once asked Billy Graham, If you were a pastor of a large church in a principle city what would be your plan of action.  To which Graham responded, One of the first things I would do would be to get a small group of eight or ten or twelve men around me that would meet a few hours a week and pay the price! It would cost them something in time and effort.  I would share with them everything I have learned, over a period of years. Then I would actually have twelve ministerswho in turn could take eight or ten or twelve more and teach them. (I wonder where he got that idea?) In my years of discipling I have never known a man whose life has been significantly changed  apart from regular Bible study.

Accountability Group: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  (James 5:16a) (See Galatians 6:1,2)

Most of our conversation is at the news, sports, and weather level.  Few men are accountable. Accountability has the idea of being regularly answerable for the key areas of our lives to responsible people. Here are four areas of accountability:

1)  Answerable: To be willing to give an account for the goals you have set and the standards of Gods word in your life.

2)  Regularly: Consistently examining the different areas of our lives, lest they deteriorate (like an un-kept car).

3)  Key Areas: Include relationships with God, spouse, children, financial decision, career, integrity, and temptation.

4)  Qualified People: Look for people who will be transparent, vulnerable, and confidential.  Find people of spiritual wisdom and skill.

Active Church Involvement: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  (Hebrews 10:24, 25)  (See Matthew 18:20)

Were talking here not about church attendance, but church involvement, which translates into fellowship, encouragement, and mutual worship of God in a local church.

Personal Ministry: You have heard me teach many things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Teach these great truths to trustworthy people who are able to pass them on to others.  (2 Timothy 2:2)  (See I Peter 4:11) 

As you practice the four spiritual disciplines above, you will begin to experience a closer, personal love relationship with Christ. It will be out of that overflow that you will naturally want to reach out to others in helping them discover Christ and grow in that relationship with him. 

+Key ideas drawn from A Look in the Mirror by Patrick M. Morley

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

THE KEY TO FINDING SATISFACTION AMIDST LIFES TROUBLES AND SORROW

Today, you can pretty much count on some difficulties: A failed contract, an employee or client suing you, your insurance rates going up, one of your children getting ill or making a bad decision with long term consequences.  Or just the weariness of lifes pressures and complexities.

Bill and Adrian, for example have a young adult dyslexic daughter, who cowers at home, fearful of facing the real world.  Landon, a committed follower of Christ appears burned out on running his business of 125 employees, after 25 years.  The weariness comes from the cost of dealing with insurance abuse, employee theft, absenteeism, incompetence, etc.  I had not seen Landon for some time and was stuck with how stressed he appeared, as evidenced by the deep furrows etched on his countenance.  Dan and Carolyns two teen age daughters have severe physical and emotional problems dating back to pre-natal days, owing to the mothers extreme and fast life style. Both children were adopted as babies. Every day, these adoptive parents face the daunting challenge of simply keeping these girls in school and functioning.

The Psalmist reminds us that our lives will invite trouble and sorrow: The length of our days is seventy years– or eighty, if we have the strength yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away… Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble  (Psa. 90:10,15)

Psalm 90 sets forth several encouraging ideas that can energize us as we face lifes daily pain and distress:

  • Amidst lifes anguish and difficulties I can live in the very bosom of God: Lord, you have been our dwelling place (abode, retreat, habitation) throughout all generations.  (Psa. 90:1)
  • During the days and years of our afflictions God is capable of lifting my spirit: Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.  (Psa. 90:15)
  • In the center of lifes frays, I can know that His favor (delight) rests upon me: May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon me.  (Psa. 90:17a)
  • I can entreat God to establish the efforts of my hands.  That is, I can ask him to stabilize and prosper my endeavors: Establish the work of our hands for us–yes, establish the work of our hands.  (Psa. 90:17b)

The key to living victoriously amidst the tussles of life is found Psalm 90:14: Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. That is, the Psalmist felt it was imperative to encounter God in the morning in a manner that satisfied the cries and longings of his heart; to experience His unfailing love, resulting in joyful singing and gladness of the heart. Without this encounter with God, life would be insufferable. 

QUESTION: Do you want to experience His unfailing love in a manner that satisfies you in at the depths of your being? Do you want Gods favor, joy and help in your life badly enough to carve out regular first priority time (in the morning?)? Because that is exactly what it will take: First priority. I cant speak for you, but Im just not tough enough to gut life out day in and day out without regular, vital encounters with the living God in a manner that satisfies the deepest longings of my heart.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

AGITATED IN YOUR SPIRIT? GOD DESIRES TO QUIET YOU IN HIS LOVE.

Everyday you re-enter lifes ongoing battles: With yourself, the traffic, maintaining communication with your spouse, juggling responsibilities, dealing with pressure in business, etc., etc.  How often in this daily secret struggle of the soul do you feel abjectly aloneand at times, a failure? Only you really know your secret battles with inner corruption, and attractions toward what you know to be wrong.  How often in this daily drama called life do you feel not only alone, but unworthy of Gods love?

The other morning in my time alone with God I ran across Zephaniah 3:17. As I prayerfully pondered its truth, I was overwhelmed by Gods love toward me.  For days, the truth of this Scripture lingered as a sweet reminder of Gods grace:

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." (Zep. 3:17)

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. That is, God is able to deliver you from all the power and guilt of the sin and pollution in your life.  Whatever your bondage, he is there to set you free.  He is the prevailing One, the conquering Hero.  Moses faced overpowering enemies. Yet amidst impossible odds, God granted him and the Israelites victory in destroying their enemy:

  God to Moses: When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you…Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory."  (Deut. 20-:1,3b, 4) (See 2 Chron. 20:15-17)

He will take great delight in youHe will joy over you with singing.  Remember the little lost sheep, and the joy of the shepherd when he found him? He joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep. (Lk. 5:15,16)  Or the exuberance of the father of the repentant prodigal son?  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.  (Lk. 15:23,24) Visualize our Creator, Redeemer God joyfully singing and rejoicing over you! That is precisely how God feels toward you right now.

He will quiet you with his love. Last night we spent part of the evening with our son and his family.  Our month old granddaughter, Audrey was a bit fussy.  So her mother picked her up, fed her from her breast, and gently comforted her with touches of love and soft words.  In moments Audrey was securely at rest in her mothers love.  As I observed that tender moment I was reminded of Isaiah 40:11: He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. We are those little lambs!

That is exactly what God does with you and me.  He quiets us with his love. My friend, a harsh, hostile world seeks to wear you down, crush your spirit, and turn you into a cynic and a recluse. Our loving Father desires to quiet and comfort you in the knowledge of his unmitigated loveIf you will but let Him.

May I suggest that you pause for a few moments and pray over these wonderful and profound truths? Thank God for them and receive them into your heart.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

DO YOU HAVE A NINE FOOT PROBLEM AND AN EIGHT FOOT GOD? +

If a follower of Christ chooses in todays business environment to operate on a biblical basis, and thus create an uneven playing field, it is, from a human perspective difficult, if not impossible to survive much less succeed in business without Gods miraculous intervention.  The daunting challenges you as a business person face probably include a severe competitive climate, government encroachment and red tape, cash flow shortages, exploitative or inept employees, a fluctuating market, the continual threat of lawsuits, increasing competition from abroad (China, etc.), and the continuing threat of another terrorist strike, and the negative effect it will have on the economy.

If you choose to do business with total integrity, you will be cast upon the mercy and grace of God, or you and your business will probably fail. Now God has you exactly where he wants you: Totally vulnerable. Totally dependent upon Him. Here is Gods commitment to you: Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right handFor the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to himDo not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Isa. 41:10; 2 Chron. 16:9; Josh. 1:8)

When you draw a line in the sand and say, I will do business Gods way in accordance with Scriptural principles or die, you put yourself in a position for God to work. To intervene. You put yourself in a position where you have to trust God. And that pleases him: My righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with himAnd 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. (Heb. 10:38; 11:6)

Davids victory over nine foot Goliath furnishes us several principles that apply today to the business and professional world.  King Saul and his army intrepidly faced the Philistines and a nine foot giant who taunted them for forty days. In response, Saul and the Israelites shamefully cowered in fear.  In the narrative account, there is no indication that Saul even considered God as the solution to his nine foot problem. But, you know, why bother your god when he is only eight feet tall? Soa teenage shepherd boy showed up at the battle scene, became infuriated that Gods glory was being drug through the mud, and proceeded to kill the giant. 

Here are three reasons why David gained the victory over an overpowering adversary:

  David remembered Gods past deliverances and found faith and courage in that memory:  David said to Saul, When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck itand killed itThe Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine."  (I Sam. 17:34,35,37)

Question: When faced with a crisis, do you make it a practice to strengthen your faith by going back and remembering Gods past deliverances and blessings? (See Deut. 7:18,19; 8:2-6, 18-20)

  David knew that his strength was in the Lord, not in a human solution: David tried to adjust to Sauls ill-fitting armor, but then chose rather to face Goliath with a few stones and a sling shot and simply trust God for the victory: David said to the Philistine, You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. (I Sam. 17:45, 46a)

Question: When faced with a difficult predicament, do you attempt to solve the problem with an ill-fitting human solution, or rely solely on Gods strength?

  David faced Goliath, realizing Gods unseen presence was greater than the giant before him: This dayAll those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands." (I Sam. 17:46, 47 Selected)

Question: When you are up against overwhelming odds, do you choose to believe that only God can and will deliver you, and then respond in faith accordingly? (See Exo. 14:13, 14) 

+ Key thoughts taken from a sermon delivered by Dr., Rev. Craig Milco, Craig Memorial Church on August 15, 2004, Paradise, CA