BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for November, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

BETRAYING CHRIST (Part 2 of 2)

During Jesus final meal with the Twelve, he made this startling announcement:  All of you shall be offended [fall away] because of me this night. (Mk. 14:27b)  Peter, aghast at the thought of denying Christ, passionately blurted out, I will lay down my life for youLord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death." (Jn. 13:37; Lk. 22:33)

Jesus knew that when the disciples begin to comprehend the torture and death awaiting him, they would loose their trust in him, and deny all association with him, lest they too suffer the same fate. He would become an offense to them and they would become cowards in deserting him.

So, in the white heat environment at Jesus abduction, Peter succumbed to his fears, by following Christ at a distance, and later by outright denial of any association with him: Peter began to call down curses on himself andswore to them, I don’t know the man!" (Matt. 26:74)

Because the stigma and stench of cross-related deaths could not be tolerated in the sophisticated and polite society of Jerusalem, the convicted were strung up outside the city at that horrid place called Golgotha, which literally means, a skull.  In all probability it was named such because of the many skulls of people who had suffered crucifixion there. (See Matt. 27:23; Act. 7:58; 14:19; Heb 13:12)

Today the cross of Christ continues to remain an offense to many.  However, to the redeemed, the cross of Calvary holds a special beauty.  As one poet penned, In the cross of Christ I glory, towring oer the wrecks of time; all the light of sacred story gathers round its head sublime.  St. Paul also expressed profound love for the cross, May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal. 6:14)

Yet, tragically many of us mirror Peter and the other disciples shame of Christ and the cross by:

  • Our silence among friends and associates in not declaring our allegiance to Christ as one of His followers. (Matt. 10:32, 33)
  • Not standing up for the truth of the gospel in the public square.
  • Living a self-indulgent life that belies the teaching of Christ to take up our cross.  (Lk. 9:23,24)
  • Not purposefully pursuing the lost with the message of the cross. Often, due to our fear of rejection. (Col. 1:28,29)

If down deep you truly are ashamed of Christ and his cross, consider this:

  • Jesus is not ashamed to call [us his] brothers.  (Heb. 2:11)
  • If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Lk. 9:26)
  • If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (I Pet. 4:16)

PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, it is precisely because of the cross of Christ that I have been given a new life and an eternal hope. Grant me the courage today to embrace the cross and all that it represents by reflecting you in my thoughts,  motives and actions. Today may my life project the very aroma of Jesus Christ. Amen (2 Cor. 2:15, 16)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BETRAYING CHRIST (Part 1 of 2)

While they were reclining at the table eating, [Jesus] said, I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me–one who is eating with me."  (Mk. 14:18)

Jesus was referring to Judas cold-blooded plan to hand him over to the authorities; a plan bathed in hypocrisy.  We easily point the finger at Judas and distance ourselves from him.  How could he travel with Jesus, steal from the purse, and plot his demise behind his back? We would never do that.  Yet many of us who profess commitment to Christ betray him by our lives.  Here is how we do it:

We betray Christ by rejecting his authority over our lives: "Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Lk. 6:46)  For example:

  • Our extreme emphasis on grace and liberty at the expense of biblical teaching on the life of the cross. You have been called to live in freedomnot freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love.  (Gal. 5:13a) (See Matt. 10:37-39; Mk. 8:34-38; Lk. 14:26-33; Jn. 12:24-26; Act. 20:23, 24; Rom. 6:4-7; 8:13, 14; 2 Cor. 5:14, 14; Gal. 2:20; 5:24; 6:14; Phil. 1:20, 21; 3:8,9; Col. 2:11-14)
  • Our immersion in rabid, materialism, with scant regard for the seething masses living in poverty and misery across the globe. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  (I Jn. 3:17) (See 1 Sam. 2:29; Psa. 119:136, 137; Pro. 23:4,5; Jer.6:13; Lk. 8:14; 12:15; Eph. 4:19Col. 3:5; 1 Thes. 2:5; 1 Tim. 3:3,8; 6:7-10; 2 Tim. 3:2; Heb. 13:5)
  • Our casual approach to sexual purity in contrast to Gods call to personal holiness. (See Ex. 20:14; Num. 5:11-31; Deut. 22:22-29; Pro. 7:1-27; 39:3; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; 1 Cor. 7:9; Gal. 5:16-25; 1 Thes. 4:3-5; Tit. 2:5,6)
  • Our free-wheeling approach to marriage, divorce, and re-marriage, with little regard for biblical teaching. (See Gen. 1:27; 2:24; Deut. 24; Matt. 5:31,32; 19:3-9; Mk. 10:2-12; I Cor. 7:10-13, 40)

We betray Christ by refusing to radically obey him, whatever his demands.  For example:

  • "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  (Lk. 9:23, 24)
  • "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.  (Lk. 14:26)
  • Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.  (Lk. 14:33)

We betray Christ by compromising the truth:  Yesterday I played golf with a professing believer.  Half way through the course he asked if he could put his push cart on the back of my battery operated cart. Then, before we reached the 18th hole near the clubhouse he removed his cart from mine, lest he be charged for using my powered cart.  Its called lying and stealing.  How often in writing contracts, negotiations, sales, advertising, expense reporting, revenue projections, et al, do we shade, exaggerate or manipulate the truth to ensure the desired outcome. We call it white lies.  God calls it deceit. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one (Matt. 5:37)  (See Eph. 5:25; Col. 3:9)

PRAYER:  Lord, search my heart and reveal to me any area where I am betraying you by my motives, thoughts, or actions. By your grace, I will make the changes necessary to insure the fact that my life truly honors rather than betrays you. Amen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

HUMILITY

Humility is a rare quality today in our ego charged marketplace where it is all too easy to be caught on the competitive treadmill of outmaneuvering and impressing the other guy. As business and professionals, it behooves us to keep in mind Gods call to a life of humility, and to heed his severe warning against pride:

This is what the high and lofty One says– I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.  "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Isa. 57:15; Jms. 4:6)

Here are a few suggestions to help us deal with our pride and grow toward a life of humility:

  • Humble yourself and acknowledge your sinfulness before God: "Woe to me! I cried. I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." (Isa. 6:5) (See Ex.10:3; Pro. 29:23; Matt. 18:3,4; Lk. 14:11; 18:14; Jms. 4:7,10; 1 Pet. 5:6)
  • Give God the credit for any success that has come your way:  Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth (Deut 8:18b) (See Deut. 8:10-20;  Pro. 10:22; Isa. 5:21; Gal. 6:14)
  • Choose to have a sane, rather than inflated estimate of yourself. (Rms. 12:3,6; 1 Cor. 4:7)
  • Pray for unity: "My prayer isthat all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.May they be brought to complete unity (Jn. 17:20-23 Selected)
  • Do nothing out of selfish prideMy heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for meKnowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  (Psa. 131:1; I Cor. 8:1b;) (See Deut. 8:10-20; Psa. 75:6,7; Jer. 45:5; Act. 5:1-11; Matt. 18:1-4; Mk. 9:35)
  • Focus the spotlight on others, considering them better than yourself: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  (Phil. 2:3,4)
  • Engage in humble tasks of service. (Jn. 13:1-17)
  • Associate with humble people, eschewing the social climber syndrome: Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty (snobbish, high-minded, exclusive), but readily adjust yourself to [people, things] and give yourselves to humble tasks. Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits. (Rms. 12:16 Amp)  (See Matt. 18:4; 1 Cor. 1:10)
  • Choose flexibility over rigidity.  Flexibility is humbly deferring to others.  Rigidity is proudly demanding my rights; my way.  (Gen. 13:5-18; I Cor. 9:19-23)
  • Choose servanthood over authoritarianism: Jesus called them together and said, You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mk. 10:42-25) (See I Pet. 5:3)

PRAYER:  Lord, I confess my inclination of pride over humility.  In this moment I humble myself in beseeching you to root from my heart that insidious arrogance that cools my heart toward you and hinders the free flow of the Holy Spirit in loving and ministering to others through me.  Amen.