BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for October, 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

DO I POSSESS AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE? A SPIRITUAL EVALUATION:

  I long for my eternal home, recognizing the relative poverty of this temporal sojourn:  Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found nakedFor while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by lifeTherefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord… (2 Cor. 5:1-4, 6)  (See Job 19:25; Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:53, 54; Phil. 1:20-24; 3:20, 21; Heb. 11:13, 14; I Pet. 1:6,7;5:1)

  I am aware of the Holy Spirit residing in my life as the down payment of my eternal life with God:  Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.  (2 Cor. 5:5) (See Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:13, 14; 4:30; 1 Jn. 3:24) 

  I am, by faith putting my trust in the unseen over the temporal:  We live by faith, not by sight. (2 Cor. 5:7) (See Rom. 8:24, 25; 1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Cor. 1:24; 4:18; Heb. 10:38; 11:1; 1 Pet. 1:8)

  I am conscious of the fact that one day God will call me to account; thus I am living my life accordingly: We make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. (2 Cor 5:8-11a) (See 1 Sam. 2:3; Ecc. 11:9; 12:14; Matt. 10:28; 25:31-46; Jn. 6:27; 1Cor. 15:58; Phil. 1:20-22; 2 Tim. 4:7,8; Heb. 10:31; Rev. 20:11-15)

  I understand my God-given responsibility to partner with Him in influencing the lost toward Christ: God reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors. (2 Cor. 5:18 20a) (See Isa. 52:7; Mal. 2:7; Mk. 16:15, 16; Jn. 20:21; 2 Cor. 3:6; Eph. 6:20)

  I am motivated by the love of Christ to live selflessly for Him:  For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.  (2 Cor. 5:14, 15) (See Matt. 10:37, 38; Jn. 21:15-17; Rom. 6:13; 12:1; 14:7-9; 1 Cor. 6:20; Eph. 3:16, 17; Col. 3:17; Tit. 2:14; Heb. 13:20, 21; 1 Pet. 1:8; 4:2-4)

  I now see people (and Christ) from Gods perspective rather than mans:  So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. (2 Cor. 5:16) (See 1 Sam. 2:29; Matt. 12:48-50; Jn. 15:14; Gal. 2:5, 6; 5:6; Col. 3:11; Jms. 2:1-4)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

TEN PRINCIPLES OF PERSONAL EVANGELISM?+

Sharing your faith effectively with others is among one of the most challenging  experiences you will encounter as a disciple of Christ.  How to proceed? Hopefully, the following Ten Principles will instruct and encourage you in this important area of your walk with God:

#1  Ask people if you can pray for them:  Instead of trying to turn a conversation toward God, simply ask people, Can I pray for you? Surprisingly, many people open up, which in turn provides further opportunities to share the Gospel.

#2  Be yourself:  You dont have to have the answer to every question.  You can say, I dont know, but give me a week, and Ill get back to you. It is ok to be limited.  You dont have to be a super evangelist, or The Bible Answer Man.

#3  Be prepared:  Master a simple, clear presentation of the Gospel.  Learn to respond to peoples objections to Christianity.  Every believer can share what Christ has done for him or her.  Sharing a prepared, brief and well-stated personal testimony is one of the most powerful tools you can have.

#4  Overcome nervousness:  Many have found that when you ask permission to share, people are usually open. Each person needs to develop his own style. The more you share, the more natural it will become. Initially, it may be awkward. You will just have to work through the rough period until you develop your style.  If we want to share your faith, we must be willing to take a risk.

#5  Pray:  Ask God to give you a special love for your lost friends and associates.  Ask God to give you wisdom and a sense of timing as to what to share and when.

#6  Look for where God is already working:  Ask God to bring people into your path who are open and searching for Him. As you engage in conversation, pepper your speech with references to your faith and then watch for signs of interest. If a person isnt open, dont push it.

#7  Be intentional:  Despite our different giftedness, we all have a responsibility to share our faith. Perhaps the best way to do this is by intentionally developing friendships we hope to share with. The longer we know the Lord, the more our sphere of influence tends to decrease as far as the people who havent heard the Gospel yet.  Thus we need to make the effort to go out of our way to cultivate genuine relationships with unbelievers.

#8  Listen, love and respect:  Learn to focus on loving people rather than just getting results.  Think of being part of a process of lovingly sharing the Good News in a way that draws people toward Christ, instead of pushing them away.  We need to approach people with love and compassion.  If they sense we care for them, they will be more willing to listen.

#9  Be patientThe Kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up day by day and the seed sprouts and grows how he himself does not know.  (Mk. 4:26,27)

#10 Be available: Sharing the eternal truths of the Gospel requires a willingness to sacrifice time and comfort. Perhaps our prayer would be, God, give me one soul for you this year.

Make the most of your chances to tell others the Good News. Be wise in all your contacts with them. Let your conversation be gracious as well as sensible, for then you will have the right answer for everyone. God’s people must not be quarrelsome; they must be gentle, patient teachers of those who are wrong. Be humble when you are trying to teach those who are mixed up concerning the truth. For if you talk meekly and courteously to them, they are more likely, with God’s help, to turn away from their wrong ideas and believe what is true. Then they will come to their senses and escape from Satan’s trap of slavery to sin, which he uses to catch them whenever he likes, and then they can begin doing the will of God… (Col. 4:5,6; 2 Tim. 2:24-26 Living)

+ Adapted from an article in the Biola Connection, Fall 2004, pages 9 14

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

WHAT IS AT THE ROOT OF OUR CHRONIC DISSATISFACTION WITH LIFE?

Ambition and death are alike in this: neither is ever satisfied. (Pro. 27:20 TLB)

Isnt it true that we are for ever looking for the new?  The novel? That which will jolt us? Thrill us?  Titillate our senses? Secretly we seem to crave the forbidden fruit; that which is out of bounds and out of reach. Or on the next rung of the social ladder. Something out of the ordinary that will gratify our unquenchable desires.

Yesterday a friend of many years related how his computer repairman was surprised that his computer contained no record of involvement with pornographic sights.  The repairman told him that most of his work is done for professed Christians, and it is the rare exception when the computer records indicate the user has not engaged in pornographic viewing.  A fellow believer recently complained to me that he is bored sexually with his wife. Her body, he tells me doesnt measure up to Hollywoods decadent standard. Is it not true, more often than we would care to admit, that it does not take much to arouse us to indulge in secret fantasies and curiosities by peeping at the perverse and the degrading? 

Why are we chronically dissatisfied with life?

Because we are rebels at heart. Are we not inclined to give God a portion of our heart, like a young woman who commits to her beau sort of until someone better comes along?  Like the girl in my high school days who said to me, Dwight, I really like you, but you dont have a car.  

Bloated with over stuffed bellies, dresser drawers and garages, we are restless and bored. Thus, we are forever scanning the horizon for something – anything – that will assuage our restlessness, fears, and insecurities. Perhaps somewhere out there is a new way we can experience a new high that will lift us out of our doldrums or depression. Recently a friend died and his sister commented to me on her boxes and boxes of un-opened nylons, lingerie, etc. She seemed to need to always be buying things to feel good about herself. The simple fact is that the life centered on self-fulfillment and self-indulgence deteriorates into a ghetto.  A prison where the walls close in and life takes on a stifling, suffocating quality.

Imagine, as a Nation, we save minus 1.5% of our disposable income!  We are now plagued with obesity as a major health problem (one in three adults). In a brief span of years we have transitioned from the largest creditor nation in the world to the largest debtor nation. In our wanton quest for meaning, consumerism has enveloped us.

As I write this Facts, Ruth and I are visiting our daughter, Julie and her husband Darrin, and their two children who live in France, where they are ministering to ex-pats, and bringing the Gospel to young French professionals.  They live in a modest apartment where the frig is 1/3rd the size of the typical U.S. model. In fact, almost everything about the way they live is scaled downby choice. Simple and unencumbered. What consumes them is a passionate pursuit of Christ, focused investment in their two children, and loving people in the Name of Christ.  Their lives are the very epitome of freedom and joy.  And talk about a zest for life! People are drawn to them like a magnet because of their authenticity, their love for others, and yes their unencumbered freedom. 

In wonderful ways they are experiencing the reality of Isaiah 58:10,11 and Philippians 4:11-13: If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed [The Lord] will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land  and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.  (Selected) I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need. (NLT Selected)

QUESTION: So how are you doing, my fellow pilgrim?  Is Christ the central focus of your life as demonstrated by a purposeful and disciplined pursuit of Him? Or have you allowed other distracting pursuits to creep into your heart and life? He so desires a larger life for you and me. Let us resolve anew today to lift our eyes to Him and determine to engage in His grand purpose for us: Knowing Christ and making Him known. Amen!  (Matt. 6:33)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

HONESTY IN THE MARKETPLACE

The other night my son Wes held the annual party for his employees and mentioned that it was the best one ever. When I asked him why it was so good, I had to dig the answer out of him.  Basically the morale was high, and people loved working for his company simply because he was honest, delivered on his promises, and treated his people with respect. How refreshing compared to a world where:

  • Top executives often bloat their salaries while forcing austere salary cuts on the labor force.
  • Padding expense accounts, and delayed payment for services rendered is standard practice.
  • Low balling to win the contract is followed by shoddy workmanship, goods, and services.
  • Conflict of interest pays dividends to those who control the power.

Peter Drucker informs us that the spirit of an organization is created from the top:  The proof of the sincerity and seriousness of a management is uncompromising emphasis on integrity of character. This, above all has to be symbolized in managements people decisions. For it is with character through which leadership is exercised:  it is character that sets the example and is imitated.  Character is not something one can fool people about.  The people with whom a person worksmay forgive a person for a great deal: incompetence, ignorance, insecurity, or bad manners.  But they will not forgive a lack of integrity in that person. Nor will they forgive higher management for choosing him.If an organization is great in spirit, it is because the spirit of its top people is great. If it decays, it does so because the top rots; as the proverb has it, Trees die from the top.+

Certainly John Hammond was on the mark in stating, Character is the real foundation of all worthwhile success

Christ, in the parable of the sower speaks of those who possess a noble and good heart.  (Lk. 8:15) It is a heart characterized by moral righteousness, moral excellence, moral rectitude; a heart that loves what is right and virtuous; a heart void of vice or immorality. St. Paul captured the spirit of the noble and good heart in stating, We are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men. (2 Cor. 8:21) (See Act. 24:16).

In the bare knuckle world of competition for the Almighty Dollar, character, principle and virtue are often shunted to the sidelines as greed and the herd mentality take over.  As Christs followers, and as his ambassadors in the marketplace, you and I will often be called upon to stand alone to do what is right, not what is necessarily profitable. Operating at this high moral standard may prove to be one of your greatest challenges in life. Recently, at a social gathering I met a businessman who lost everything millions – when he miss-judged market trends.  He then spent the next decade repaying his creditors, rather than filing bankruptcy. This mans moral resolve is reflective of statements by Shakespeare and Theodore Roosevelt:  To thine own self be true…  I care not what others think of what I do, but I care very much about what I think I do. That is character. 

QUESTION:  Tell me, are you trueto yourself?  To God? To your associates in the business world? The day will come when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ. (Rom. 2:16b) Are you ready for that level of scrutiny by our Holy God?

+ The Daily Drucker Harper Business Publishers, 2004, page 3

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

UNPREPARED FOR WAR

One of the reasons we as a Nation were asleep on 9/11 is because we did not realize the fact that the terrorists were at war with us. We viewed the disparate attacks over the past two decades as isolated incidents. Military personnel returning to the U.S. from life and death struggles in wars abroad such as Desert Storm, often were shocked at the business as usual atmosphere in America. People were conducting their lives as though the war did not exist.  One of the reasons Satan has many of us on the mat for the countdown is because we have not faced the fact that we as believers are engaged in a spiritual war with a brutal enemy bent on destroying us.  We are unprepared for the battle that is a violent clash of kingdoms, a bitter struggle unto the death.+  As Jesus warned us, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  (Jn. 10:10)

Recently I attended the memorial service of a relative and ran into acquaintances, some of whom I had not seen in many years. It was obvious that life had beaten some of them up pretty badly.  Not uncommon among them were failed marriages, miss-directed offspring, anger and cynicism. Clearly Satan had ravaged, despoiled and devastated them.  I suspect that most had not the slightest comprehension as to why life had not worked very well for them.  As John Eldridge puts it, Until we come to terms with war as the context of our day we will not understand life. We will misinterpret 90 percent of what is happening around us and to us. It will be very hard to believe that Gods intentions toward us are life abundant; it will be even harder not to feel that somehow we are just blowing it.+ 

Oswald Chambers makes the point that life without war is impossible in the naturalJesus said, In the world you will have tribulation. (Jn. 16:33)  This means that anything which is not spiritual leads to my downfall.  Jesus went on to say, But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. I must learn to fight against and overcome the things that come against me.++

By way of contrast, it was also apparent at the memorial service that those who had chosen to put themselves under Christs protective care were experiencing his promise of the abundant life in John 10:10.

QUESTION:  So, are you lollygagging around like the folks in the U.S. during the eras of our foreign-based wars as though we were at peace?  Or are you taking seriously Pauls sobering warning to prepare for the war in which you are already engaged? Your very spiritual survival on how you answer that question.

So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.  (Eph. 6:11-18 Msg)

+ Waking The Dead John Eldredge, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 2003 – page 17

++ My Utmost for His Highest – Oswald Chambers, Discovery House Publishers, Copyright 1992, December 4