BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for March, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

RECENTLY AN 18 YEAR OLD ASKED MY COUNSEL ON LIVING LIFE. HERES MY ANSWER:

Build a solid biblical foundation for your life: As you are already discovering, life is no cake walk.  It can be tough. There will be severe challenges along the way.  But if you build in the practice of spending regular time alone with God and His word, in order to develop intimacy with Christ, life will work.  In fact, it will be an adventure!  Without this foundation, however, life will become a tragedy.

Jesus:  "These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hitbut nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. "But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards."  (Matt. 7:24-27 Msg.)

Stay pure:America is a candy store of titillating delights close to irresistible for a healthy young man.  And America is also on a downward spiral that is frightening in its long term implications.  The sacred mantra today seems to be, Hey, everyone is doing it, which of course makes engaging in most anything ok.  The idea of tolerance for whatever now takes precedence over the long established Judeo-Christian values upon which this Country was established and made it the great nation we all enjoy.  Wise old King Solomon sagaciously cautioned: If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?…There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough;  look againit leads straight to hell.  (Psalm 121:3 KJV; Proverbs 14:12 Msg.)

I have observed a number of exceptional men who have ruined their lives through sexual immorality.  Again, Solomon is  warning us that immorality will reduce a man to a loaf of bread, costing him his very life. (Proverbs 6:26 ; 7:23 ) So become a student of the trigger points that begin the process of running you down the wrong path, and learn how to stop the progression before it even gets started. Also, having a buddy with whom you can share and be accountable to is invaluable.  Few men win in this vital area of life who try to go it alone.

It is possible to live a pure life.  Ruth and I both were both virgins when we got marriedand I had spent 3 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and years at the university, with every temptation imaginable in front of me. How is it possible?  Psalm 119:9,11 gives us the answer:  By living according to your wordI have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. 

Learn to draw on the grace of God:  If you blow it, remember:  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousnessIf you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.  (1 John 1:9; Psalm 130:3, 4) If  real men err, they get up, dust themselves off and go at it again:  For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again  (Proverbs 24:16)

Marry an emotionally healthy woman:  By that I mean marry someone without a lot of hang ups and emotional baggage. A low maintenance type.  Someone with a funny bone, a bit of  spunk, and a real zest for life. There are a lot of wounded pups floating around who will want to glom on to you.  Be careful.  Marry someone who possess a bit of healthy independence, and who doesnt have to be married, or have to have you.  And of course, choose a woman who totally loves God! A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.  (Prov. 31:10)

Understand Gods grand purpose and choose to join Him in itLiving solely for yourself will become a bore.  Its too small.  Life will close in on you. Here, I believe, is one of the most profound truths in all of Scripture:  Jesus:  "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life.  (Luke 9:23,24)

Life can be boiled down to this:  (1) "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ And, (2) Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37, 39)  If you choose to give your lives away to others in helping them know God/Christ, life becomes a grand adventure.  If you  reduce your life to focusing on the holy trinity of Me, Myself, and I, you will become pretty small potatoes.  Decide to write history rather than indulge in it.  And that history is to be written in the lives of people who are children of the Kingdom because you showed up and made the eternal difference to them.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ENDURANCE AND ENCOURAGEMENT

Two ingredients are necessary if you and I are to make it across the finish line in this, the Christian race: Endurance and encouragement. St. Paul puts it this way, May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.  (Rom. 15:5)

Yesterday a close friend whose wife is in a life and death struggle with cancer sent me this piece from Charles Spurgeon: “The Christian sometimes sinks very deeply in sore trial from without. Every earthly prop is cut away. What then?  Still underneath him are the everlasting arms. He cannot fall so deep in distress and affliction but what the covenant of grace of an ever-faithful God will still encircle him. All through life, and at its close, we shall be upheld by the everlasting arms–arms that neither flag nor lose their strength, for the everlasting God does not faint or grow weary.”

God gives us similar encouragement:  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  (Isaiah 43:2)

It is true that when faced with difficult times we are to endure hardship like a soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3). But we also need to be encouraged and to encourage one another daily (Hebrews 2:13 ). That is, we must not attempt to go it alone. For our survival, it is imperative that we are part of a company of fellow-believers who mutually encourage each other:  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.   (Heb. 10:25)

Following are a few principles that may help us in this area of endurance:

Develop an eternal perspective: But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. (Rom. 8:25 ; 2:7) (See Rom. 8:23; 2 Tim. 4:7, 8)

Welcome suffering as an ingredient that produces character through perseverance:  You know that the testing of your faith develops perseveranceNot only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  (James 1:3; Rom 5:3-5) (See Mt. 5:10-12; Acts 5:41; Eph 3:13; Philip. 2:17; Jas. 1:2)

Learn how to personally tap into Gods strength: Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the FatherMay the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.  (Col. 1:11, 12a; 2 Thes. 3:5) (See Ex. 14:13; Eph. 6:10; Philip. 4:13)

Live in anticipation of the fulfillment of the promise of GodYou need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (Heb. 10:36)(See Rom. 4:18-24; Heb. 6:12, 15)

Be spurred on by powerful examples of others who have gone ahead; people who have been willing to make the necessary sacrifices to run and win the race: Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Heb. 12:1) (See Heb. 11)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

FOUR TEMPTATIONS THAT COULD DERAIL YOU

Forceful voices call you away from hanging in there with the straight life which says keep plugging. Sure the noble path of responsibility is heavy. Sure there are times you want to punch out. Underneath you may be asking yourself, Is this all there is to life?  Just plodding along with never ending responsibilities for the rest of your life? So you suck in your gut and tell yourself, Hey, you have mouths to feed, backs to cloth, and a home to maintain. Fix your eye on the goal and hang tough.

Not so today.  Voices from every quarter are now whining, Hey, you dont have to take it anymore. Punch out.  Get a life. The kids will get over it.  You owe it to yourself. Someone out there will listen and care, and put the sizzle back into your sex life.  Grab it while you can!

Four voices crying out to you to leave the life of self-discipline and responsibility are: +

The voice of pleasure: If you are struggling, there is a reasonable probability that on your radar screen is an attractive, unencumbered person who offers an alternative to the drudge, the noise, financial pressure, the lack of appreciation, the bickering, and the lack of time to yourself:  I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you!  I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. Come, let’s drink deep of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love! My husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey. He took his purse filled with money and will not be home till full moon.  With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a nooseSuch people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.  (Prov. 7:15-22; Rom 16:18b) (See Prov. 1:10; Gen. 39:7-13)

The voice of romanticism: The dailyness of life grinds on: Demanding kids, never-ending bills, constant pressures and obligations. Its all to easy to reminisce back to when you were young, trim, and brimming with optimism and energy. Perhaps you were a leader among your peers, or a star athlete, or home coming queen, or an outstanding scholar. You had respect.  You find your mind replaying those youthful romances.  You recall the rush and the freshness of puppy love.  Andsecretly, you long once again to be desirable; to be admired and respected. Dangerous ground, is it not? Especially if someone crosses your path who triggers those repressed emotions:  My lover spoke and said to me, Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with meBeloved. Come away, my lover, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag  on the spice-laden mountains.Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest.   (S. of S.  2:10; 8:14; Ps. 55:6b)

The voice of extra marital relations: Lets be honest, the lure of forbidden fruit never completely leaves us.  We cross the line and eat the forbidden fruit when desire meets opportunity. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to doWith eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed–an accursed brood! They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness.  (Rom. 7:15 , 16a; 2 Pet. 2:14, 15)

The voice of meeting my ego needs:  We all long to be admired; to be viewed as appealing. To be respected.  The thrill comes when someone sees us as sexy, intelligent, attractive and exciting. This ego need is so powerful that sane, cool-headed people like you and I are capable of loosing all rationale and finding ourselves engaged in grossly dishonorable activities.  Believe it: We have the potential of self-destructing: Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feetLike a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked    (Prov. 29:5;  25:26)

Question:  Have you resolved in your heart that you will take the more difficult path of righteousness over the easier path of self-gratification?  Have you prepared yourself for that inevitable day when you will be severely tempted? Have you thought through as to how you will respond? A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for itYou have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. (Rev. 3:4, 5)  (See Matt. 7:13, 14; 2 Tim. 2:22)

+  Adapted from ideas presented in Straight Talk to Men,  James Dobson, Multnomah. 1991, pages 156-159

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

MANHOOD: (Part 3 of 3) +

My earnest prayer for you as Gods man is:

That, if you are married, you love your wife the way Christ loved the church and gave himself for her; that you be a humble, self-denying, up building, happy spiritual leader; that you consistently grow in grace and knowledge so as never to quench the aspirations of you wife for spiritual advancement; that you cultivate tenderness and strength, a pattern of initiative and a listening ear; and that you accept the responsibility of provision and protection in the family, however you and your wife share the labor: Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the churcha love marked by giving, not gettingAnd that is how husbands ought to love their wivesNo one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his bodyAnd this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her… (Eph 5:25-33   Msg. Selected)

Question:  Are you giving the same effort to loving and serving your wife as you are to furthering your agenda? Your career?  Are you the very reflection of Christ to her? Or are you a diminutive counterfeit?

That if you have children, you accept primary responsibility, in partnership with your wife, to raise up children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord Children who hope in the triumph of God; that you establish a pattern of teaching and discipline that is not solely dependent on the church or school to impart Biblical knowledge and spiritual values to the children; and that you give your children the time and attention and affection that communicates the true nature of our Father in Heaven: These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gatesFathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Deut. 6:6-9; Eph. 6:4) (See Deut 4:9; Josh. 4:21 -24; Ps. 78:4-7; Prov. 4:1-4)

Question:  Have you personally assumed the primary responsibility for teaching, training and disciplining your children?  Or have you relegated it to your spouse, the church, etc?  Are you modeling for them what you want them to become?

That you develop a wartime mentality and life style, that you never forget that life is short, that billions of people hang in the balance of Heaven and Hell every day, that the love of money is spiritual suicide, that the goals of upward mobility (nicer clothes, cars, houses, vacations, food, hobbies) are a poor and dangerous substitute for the goals of living for Christ with all your might and maximizing your joy in ministry to peoples needs: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prizeEndure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer.  (1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 2:3,4) (See Eph. 6:10-18)

Question:  Are you in fact engaged in the spiritual battle for peoples lives?  Or are you pre-occupied (trapped?) in an  upward mobility syndrome?

Whats The Difference?  John Piper, Crossway Books, Wheaton IL. 1990, pages 72-80