BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for July, 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

OUR CONFUSION BETWEEN GRACE AND LICENSE

 Recently, a teen-aged lad in a family we have known over the years impregnated a non-Christian girlfriend a relationship his parents had strongly disapproved of, but to no avail. He admits his preference of dating non-Christian girls, with little regard for his parents wishes.

 Upon learning of the pregnancy, he contacted a spiritual mentor who counsel him to get back into church and Bible study.  This mentor related to me the lack of shame and repentance over the sin of (1) fornication, and (2) sinning against God and his parents in not honoring their desires. (I Cor. 6:9; Psa. 51:4; Exo. 20:12; Eph. 6:2,3)

 Today, it seems that the general approach to spiritual restoration is a kind of kid glove style, so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of this free-spirited teen. Not so St. Paul: Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.  (I Tim. 5:20) Unimaginable today that we would dare be so brash. Sodirect.  After all, we might loose him!

 This morning in my reading I mused by my way through Exo. 19:10-13:  Exo. 19:10-13: Then the Lord told Moses, "Go down and prepare the people for my visit. Purify them today and tomorrow, and have them wash their clothing. Be sure they are ready on the third day, for I will come down upon Mount Sinai as all the people watch. Set boundary lines that the people may not pass. Warn them, ‘Be careful! Do not go up on the mountain or even touch its boundaries. Those who do will certainly die! Any people or animals that cross the boundary must be stoned to death or shot with arrows. They must not be touched by human hands.’ The people must stay away from the mountain until they hear one long blast from the ram’s horn. Then they must gather at the foot of the mountain." (NLT)

 Moses is on the mountain with the Holy Presence, receiving the Ten Commandments.  Meanwhile the bored, impatient and sensual Israelites engage, with Aaron encouragement in riotous and sensual revelry around the newly crafted golden calf. Moses, upon returning to the camp from 40 days in Gods presence is enraged at their sin, smashes the tablets, grinds the golden calf into dust and forces the Israelites to drink it, and commands the slaughter of 3,000 of the men, women and children.  God, in kind threatens to destroy the whole nation; his wrath being turned away by Moses intercession.

What is missing in getting this teenager back on track is a complete absence of comprehension of just who God is and what God requires of him in terms of repentance and a commitment to personal holiness. (Exo. 15:11; Rev. 15:4; 2 Cor 7:1; Matt. 3:2; Heb. 12:14; 2 Pet. 3:11) He needs to understand that Gods grace is not a license to sin (Rom. 6:1, 2)  He also needs to understand the Sixth Commandment:  "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.  (Exo. 20:12) He has violated that command and profoundly offended and grieved his parents.  In the Old Testament, they stoned stubborn, rebellious, disobedient children. (Deu. 21:18-21)

 In our near religious mantra, I have my rights! here in America, our current perversion of the democratic ideal, we are sinking: Free speech and the First Amendment morphs into unbridled expression of the most base, sensual perversion and indulgence of every form imaginable.

 Someone needs to sit down with this teenager and explain a few facts to him:

  • The balance of Gods great grace expressed at calvary with Gods severity and judgment.  (Rom. 11:22) Jesus was enraged at the monitary exploitation and desecration of the temple and trashed the money grubbers, while compassionately forgiving and releasing the woman taken in adultery.  (Matt. 21:12-17; Jn. 8: 1-11)
  • Naked we will stand before the Holy Presence and give an account of our lives.  (Rom. 14:10-12; 1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:10).  It behooves us not to trifle with Scripture in rationalizing our behavior in a Christian society on the skid:  Without holiness no one will see the Lord.  (Heb. 12:14b)
Thursday, July 19, 2007

DEALING WITH THE IMPASSE IN YOUR MARRIAGE

Have you ever had an impasse in your marriage?  You know, two people, coming from different backgrounds, temperaments and giftedness, who look at the same data, truth, or reality, and come away with opposite conclusions? No amount of talk, persuasive efforts, argumentation, pouting, manipulation or pressure can change their perspective.  Period. From their perspective 2 + 2 seems to equal 4.2. Its the irresistible force against an immovable object!

Well, what to do.  Pout? Yell?  Threaten? Withdraw?  Cast blame? Slander?  Move to the Bahamas? What?

No, as a sheer act of the will you start with praying over, and applying I Corinthians 13:4-8. You just do it, because its not about being right. It is about being Christ-like: Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always me first, doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit.  (Msg.)

Next you prayerfully ponder James 1:2-5: When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, dont resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!  Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.  And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God-who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty-and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him.

  You have a trial in your life that God intends to use to produce in you the quality of perseverance that translates into spiritual maturity.  God is more concerned about your development character-wise then in you being right relative to the impasse. He intends to use the impasse to forge godly character in youwith no guarantee of solving the impasse. (Rom. 5:3-5)

Then, you prayerfully mull over and apply the characteristics of wisdom mentioned in James 1:5 (above), as amplified in James 3:17, 18.  That is, you concentrate on you, making the necessary character changes, and let God take care of the necessary changes in your spouse:

  The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all:

Pure: Literally, clean, modest, innocent. (See Phil. 4:8; 2 Cor. 11:2) Question: Am I living without hypocrisy?  With total integrity?

Peace-loving: Literally, loving peace, bringing peace. (See Heb. 12:11) Question: Do I really desire peace (but not at the sacrifice of purity)? 

Considerate: Literally, patient, mild, yielding, equitable.  (See Phil. 4:5; 1 Pet. 2:18) Question: Am I truly a reasonable person or am I dogmatic and arbitrary? Is it my way or the highway?

Submissive: Literally, compliant, good for persuasion, reasonable.  (See Eph. 5:21, 22; 1 Pet 3:1,2) Question:  Am I willing to carefully consider and even submit to my spouses preferences over my own?

Full of mercy: Literally, compassionate, tender, possessing pity.  (See Jms. 2:13,16) Question: Am I willing to lighten up and not demand my standard? Do I allow for mistakes and human frailty?

Good fruit: Literally, good deeds. (See Phil. 1:11; Matt. 7:17,18) Question:  Is what I am saying validated by the integrity of my attitudes and actions?

Impartial: Literally, unwavering, unhesitating, not doubting.  (See Jms. 1:6) Question: Is my thinking and are my decisions based on the solid foundation of a pattern of applied Biblical truth in my life?

  Sincere: Literally, genuine and unfeigned. (See Rom. 12:9) Question:  Am I the genuine, authentic, article?  That is,   unaffected, real, frank, truthful, and honest at the core?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

18 July, 2007

DEALING WITH THE IMPASSE IN YOUR MARRIAGE   

Have you ever experienced an impasse in your marriage? You know, two people, coming from different backgrounds, temperaments and giftedness, who look at the same data and come away with opposite conclusions? No amount of talk, persuasive efforts, argumentation, manipulation or pressure can change their perspective. Period.  From their standpoint 2 + 2 seems to equal 4.2. The  irresistible force against the immovable object!

Well, what to do. Pout?  Yell? Threaten?  Withdraw? Cast blame?  Slander? Move to the Bahamas? What? 

No, as a sheer act of the will you start with praying over, and applying I Corinthians 13:4-8.  You just do it, because its not about being right.  It is about being Christ-likeLove never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always me first, doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. (Msg.)

Next you prayerfully ponder James 1:2-5: When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, dont resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!  Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.  And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God-who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty-and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him.

  You have a trial in your life that God intends to use to produce in you the quality of perseverance that translates into spiritual maturity. (Rom. 5:3-5) God is more concerned about your development character-wise then in you being right relative to the impasse. He intends to use the impasse to forge godly character in youwith no guarantee of solving the impasse.

Then, you prayerfully mull over and apply the characteristics of wisdom mentioned in James 1:5 (above), as amplified in James 3:17, 18.  That is, you concentrate on yourself in making the necessary character changes, and letting God take care of the necessary changes in your spouse:

The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all:

  Pure: Literally: Clean, modest, innocent.  (See Phil. 4:8; 2 Cor. 11:2) Question: Am I living without hypocrisy?  With total integrity?

  Peace-loving: Literally: Loving peace, bringing peace. (See Heb. 12:11)  Question: Do I really desire peace (but not at the expense of purity)?

  Considerate:  Literally: Patient, mild, yielding, equitable. (See Phil. 4:5; 1 Pet. 2:18) Question:  Am I truly a reasonable person or am I dogmatic and arbitrary?  Is it my way or the highway?

  Submissive: Literally: Compliant, good for persuasion, reasonable. (See Eph. 5:21, 22; 1 Pet 3:1,2)  Question: Am I willing to carefully consider and even submit to my spouses preferences over my own?

  Full of mercy:  Literally: Compassionate, tender, possessing pity. (See Jms. 2:13,16) Question:  Am I willing to lighten up and not demand my standard? Do I allow for mistakes and human frailty?

  Good fruit:  Literally: Good deeds.  (See Phil. 1:11; Matt. 7:17,18) Question:  Is what I am saying validated by the integrity of my attitudes and actions?

  Impartial:  Literally: Unwavering, unhesitating, not doubting. (See Jms. 1:6) Question:  Is my thinking, and are my decisions based on the solid foundation of a pattern of applied Biblical truth into my life?

  Sincere:  Literally: Genuine and unfeigned. (See Rom. 12:9)  Question: Am I the genuine article?  That is, unaffected, real, frank, truthful, and honest at the core?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

HOW NOT TO BECOME A CHILD OF THE LIE

The other day I was chatting with a young woman who spent a summer in Washington D. C. as an apprentice journalist in the hope of one day becoming a professional news reporter.  By the end of the summer she backed away and is now studying to become a physician. The reason?  The destructive environment of dog-eat-dog competition.  Henri Nouwen, in his book, Life of the Beloved+ speaks of the suffocating world that accepts or rejects us according to its own agenda of efficiency or controlThe world persists in its efforts to pull us into the darkness of self-doubt, low self esteem, self-rejection and depression.

It begins in childhood, perhaps on the playground: Who is chosen first in sandlot baseball, then popularity games in high school, who gets into the frat or sorority at the university, and then on into the raw world of business. Recently I played a round of golf with an old friend and a couple of his pals.  Later I reflected back on how the impressive achievements of each man was artfully finessed into the introductions: A three star general in the Army, the CEO of an insurance company, a noted author, etc. To be one of the boys one must have achieved at a certain level.

In the media, and in real life the beautiful people reign. Joe average, it seems doesnt have a chance. Isnt it interesting that movies like Forrest Gump, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Shriek were all big hits? All deal with the anti-hero; the little guy who is struggling with life.  Something within us cries out that we the average person can win and gain a measure of respect in a cruel world.

Let me suggest three ways you, Gods chosen and beloved, can be protected from being robbed of living out your immense worth to God:

First of all, we have to keep unmasking the world about us for what it is: Manipulative, controlling, power-hungry and, in the long run, destructive.  The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this.++ You have to go back to the promises and truths of Gods word as to your immeasurable worth to him.  Ponder, claim and appropriate them for yourself.  Daily. Hourly if necessary!  For example: Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the wonderful kindness he has poured out on us because we belong to his dearly loved Son. He is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of his Son, and our sins are forgiven. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. (Eph. 1:4-8 NLT)

Secondly, we need to get around a company of believers who know and experience the truth of who they are in Christ: In this company you will gain reinforcement, nurturing, and a renewed perspective and hope: Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.  (Heb 10:24, 25 NLT) Toughing it out alone will spell defeat.

Thirdly, we need to constantly celebrate our status as Gods beloved ones: Learn to thank and praise him throughout the day.  Rather than grouse over the problems at work, the nation, or the world, focus on worshiping and praising him as you reclaim and rejoice in your unique position and calling as his child: …God has given us the privilege of being born againGod has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him. It will be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies goldand your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold.  (I Pet. 1:3-7a NLT)  

+Life of the Beloved, Page 48, Henri J. M. Nouwen, Cross Road Publishing Co. N. Y., N. Y. 1992

++ Life of the Beloved, Page 49, Henri Nouwen,

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

ON REACHING THE LOST AMONG US

You want the honest truth? Basically I am not particularly attracted to many people outside of Christ. Given the choice, I gravitate toward the delectable company of those who share my interest in spiritual matters. People who have been cleaned up by Christ. Perhaps that is shocking to hear, but it is the truth.

Recently my wife and I were camping out and met the couple in the campsite next to ours. For 15 20 minutes we shifted back and forth on our feet as they impressed us with their many accomplishments. When they left (actually, I excused myself), I told Ruth how distasteful that encounter had been. But dear, she said, They are lostLets invite them out for dinner tonight.  We prayed, asking God to love them through us; to focus our attention on them. And so we did.  Through a long dinner, we listened while they continued the one way conversation about themselvesand unpacked before us their broken lives of pain, confusion, and despair. As we parted John said, If you are ever in our area, please stop by.  You know, I cant help but wonder the last time they had been taken seriously and given love and respect. St. Paul stated that he was under obligation both to the Greeks a highly advanced and sophisticated society – and to the non-Greeks. Literally, the barbarians. (Rom. 1:14) If I selfishly cater to my desire to surround myself only with the attractive, non – barbarians types, I am failing my God-given obligation to reach out to the lost with the Gospel.

As I look around my neighborhood, the folks without Christ seem to have three things in common:  (1) They are self-absorbed. (2) Their lives appear to be in a perpetual state of crisis, and (3) They have no idea how to get out of the muck, let alone the fact that it is even possible.

So, what am I to do about these lost people?

  • I need to ask God to give me His love for them.  A little over a year ago we moved into a one street neighborhood of 14 homes. We asked God to give us a special love for each person. And he has! I know myself well enough to know that in the natural that just would not happen. I am talking about the kind of love described in Psalm 126:5, 6:  Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. 
  • I need to engage with them. Four weeks ago, we asked our next door neighbors over for desert.  Again, that night the conversation was all about them.  When they left, Ruth and I looked at each other in amazement.  Never had we met two more desolate, vacant, and unhappy people.  Unattractive? Yes.  Self-centered? Yes.  Lost people in desperate need of the Savior.  Well, two weeks ago Ethel, the wife, died!  One half hour after her demise, her husband Rod learned that he has lung cancer. Since Ethels death, weve had Rod over for dinner, stopped by to see how he is doing, taken in food, etc. In fact, we are taking him out to dinner tonight.  One of these days if he is in fact terminal I will be at his hospital bedside, and by Gods grace, I will talk to him about his eternal destiny. Hopefully, through our loving care, Ruth and I will have won a responsive ear for such a hearing.

QUESTION: Do you possess a heart that chooses to love the unlovely, irrespective of the cost?  A heart that chooses to love the self-absorbed barbarians among you, for his glory and for their salvation? 

How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel of peace with God and bring glad tidings of good things. In other words, how welcome are those who come preaching God’s Good News! (Rom. 10:13 Living)