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Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for April, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

FOUR TEMPTATIONS BUSINESS PEOPLE FACE: (Part 3 of 4)

In our previous Facts we discussed (1) The temptation to complain about our situation, and (2) The tendency to challenge God-given authority.  In this Facts we will consider our inclination: 

#3 TO NOT BELIEVE THAT GOD WILL FULFILL HIS PROMISIS ON OUR BEHALF:

If you are running a business and relying primarily on your genius for success, you have every reason to be fearful. You know that somewhere out there is someone better than you in every respect, and that it may only be a matter of time until he leaves you in the dust.  Today, Google is to Microsoft what Microsoft was to IBM a couple of decades ago. What, with the looming political and economic uncertainties of the 21st Century, there is no way, apart from the promises of God for protection and provision, you can guarantee sustained security and success.  

Israel also struggled with fear, and with believing God and His promises: God had previously promised Canaan to Abraham and his offspring. (Gen. 12:7; 13:14,15; 15:18; 26:3; 28:3, 13; 48:4 et al) He now instructs Moses to send 12 spies into the Promised Land to survey the situation. When they viewed the powerful inhabitants, ten out of the twelve spires were paralyzed with fear in not believing God was able to grant them victory in taking the land.  All they could see was the giants. The people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very largeWe can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we areThe land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great sizeWe seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."  (Num. 11:29-34 selected)  (See Deut. 1:8; 8:1; 9:23 ; 10:11 ; 11:13 ; Josh. 1:11; 18:3, etc.) Perhaps we are no better!

Following are a number of reasons why we allow ourselves to also be enslaved by fear:

  • Seeing the problem before us as larger than Gods ability to deal with it. (Psa. 78:17-20)
  • Surrendering to a victim mentality, rather than claiming and appropriating His promises of victory.  (Rom. 8:37 ; 2 Cor. 1:20-22; Heb. 10:38 ,39; 11:11 ,13,17,33,39;  I John 4:4)
  • Allowing Satan to win the battle for the mind by refusing to surrender our mind and intellect to the Lordship of Christ and to the authority of the Scriptures.  By our disobedience we are dis-allowing the transforming work of the Holy Spirit to conform our wayward mind into the mind of Christ. (Rom. 12:2; Phil. 2:5-8; I Cor. 2:16; 2 Cor. 5:4, 5; 11:3)
  • Allowing fear to become a self-fulfilling prophesy. (Job 3:25 )
  • Failing to confront the Enemy at the spiritual warfare level.  (Eph. 6:10 -18)
  • Allowing fear to immobilize us after an act of disobedience, rather than confessing and forsaking the sin.  (Gen 3:10; 20:8,9; Pro. 28:13

If you struggle with fear  and most of us do following are some Scriptures you may want to ponder and pray over:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fearEven though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near youFor God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-disciplineDo 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 hand.  (I Jn. 4:18a; Psa. 23:4; Isa. 54:14; 2 Tim. 1:7; Isa. 41:10)

My friend in Christ, Jesus death and resurrection destroyed the power of the Enemy in your life. God intends for you to live in the glorious freedom of the cross; in joy and in victory.  The enemy would like to dig his heel into your neck and immobilize you to the bondage to fear and sin. Choose to believe Gods promises. You are a child of the King. Live like it!

Next week we will conclude this series with a discussion of the sin of presumption.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

FOUR TEMPTATIONS BUSINESS PEOPLE FACE: (Part 2 of 4)

In our previous Facts we discussed the temptation to complain.  In this Facts we will discuss our tendency :

#2 TO CHALLENGE GOD-GIVEN AUTHORITY:  For example, there is a thirteen mile stretch from my town to the  next little burg. The speed limit is 55 mph. So I set my cruise control at 59.5 mph (I understand that there is a 5 mile an hour grace allowance! At least in California!). Almost every car on the highway whizzes past me at 5 15 mph over the speed limit.  Tell me we are not all rebels at heart!  Lets admit it, we dont want anyone telling us what to do.  Not the government, not our spouse, or even our spiritual leaders.  We love being the master of our fate. Calling the shots.  Being top dog. And God have mercy on anyone who challenges that right! Left to our natural inclinations, we will do whatever it takes to retain control over what we want and intend to do.

In business we are amazingly adroit at figuring out ways to circumvent the spirit of the law. In contracts we use legal subterfuge to mask our real intent. When it comes to submitting to the authority of our pastor or other spiritual leaders, we are practiced at patronizing them. You know, keeping them at arms length so they wont know what is really going on with us. (See I Thes. 5:12 Heb. 13:7, 17; I Pet. 5:5)

In Numbers 12, Miriam and Aaron challenge Moses leadership, complaining over the Arab Cushite woman he married – which of course was a ruse in their attempt to usurp his increasing authority: While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. They said, Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too? But the Lord heard them. (Num. 12:1, 2) And the cost of their rebellion? The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them. When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam–leprous, like snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy. (Num. 12:9,10) 

Romans 13 puts forth several important principles on this subject of submission to authority:

  • God places governmental authorities over us: Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God. (Vs.1) (See I Pet. 2:13 -17)
  • When we rebel against God-given authorities, we are rebelling against GodConsequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  (Vs. 2)
  • Do what is right and you wont have to worry about governmental authorities coming down on you: For the authorities do not frighten people who are doing right, but they frighten those who do wrong. So do what they say, and you will get along well.  (Vs. 3 NLT; see also verse 4)
  • Obey the authorities to maintain a clear conscience: So you must obey the governmentto keep a clear conscience.  (Vs. 5b) (See Tit. 3:1; I Pet. 2:13,14)

The gnarly issue is often raised as to whether we should obey corrupt authorities.  We know from the Scriptures that Daniel submitted to Babylonias fraudulent authorities (Note the exception in Dan. 6:6-12). David submitted to vicious King Saul who sought to kill him (I Sam. 24, 26), and Jesus willingly surrendered to his perverted captors. (Jn. 19:11-13). By way of contrast, Peter and John refused to obey the authorities who insisted they terminate their witness of the Christ (Act. 4:18-20; 5:29).  Ethicists generally agree that Christians have the right to disobey their government when it promulgates laws or actions that are contrary to the word of God. 1

QUESTION:  Have you surrendered first to the Lordship of Christ, and then to the authority of his earthly appointees?

Next week we will discuss our fear that God will not fulfill his promises to us.

1 Christian Ethics Norman Geisler, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, pg. 241

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

FOUR TEMPTATIONS BUSINESS PEOPLE FACE: (Part 1 of 4)

Last week my wife and I meandered around the little town of Mt. Shasta , California. As we passed a mom and pop hardware store the sign proudly announced, Founded in 1949 I observed a distinguished, graying sixty something proprietor behind the cash register, decked out in a starched white shirt and a bright red apron.  My guess is that this is a family business, and that he is the son of the founder. There is something about a small business owner, slugging it out day in and day out, that gets to your heart. As we made our way down the street, I couldnt help but wonder if the shopkeeper may well be facing a brief future, as it is only a matter of time until the city of Mt. Shasta acquires the mega stores that could elbow him out of business through clever marketing and lower priced merchandise.

If you are in business, you know the odds are stacked against you as to whether or not you will survive in the long term. Its a tough world out there, and not a lot of charity floating around when the filthy green stuff is at stake. Given the challenge of successfully running a business today, let me put forth four temptations that you probably face on a daily basis:

#1 TO COMPLAIN:  For Example:

1)  Comparing the good old days of the past with your current difficulties:  If you are inclined to grumble, you share common ground with the Israelites in the wilderness: Now the people complained about their hardships: We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.  (Num. 11:1a, 5a). Old King Solomon cautioned us, Do not say, Why were the old days better than these?"  (Ecc. 7:10) So, when times are tough, cash is in short supply, and sales are slow, how easy it is to hearken back to the good old days when you received a regular pay check; (before venturing out on your own);  the days before government intrusion, an undisciplined workforce, etc.

2)  Dissatisfaction with what you presently have or do not have:  The Israelites complained, Now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!" (Num. 11:6) Many centuries after the Jews wilderness experience, St. Paul cautioned us, Do not grumble, as some of them did–and were killed by the destroying angel.  (I Cor. 10:10)

The Scriptures remind us, If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  (1 Tim. 6:8) So what is contentment? It is that disposition of the mind thru grace, independent of outward circumstances so as not to be moved by envy (Jms. 3:16), anxiety (Matt. 6:24 , 34) and discontent.  (1 Cor. 10:10) 1 Clearly the Scriptures call us to live a life of  contentment:   

Godliness with contentment is great gainIf we have food and clothing, we will be content with that Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, Never will I leave you;  never will I forsake you. [Paul]: I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength(I Tim. 6:6, 8; Heb. 13:5; Phil. 4:11b-13)

The bottom line: At some point I must make a decision as to whether I will choose to believe that our Sovereign God is in control of my life and my business!  If I do, I then put myself in a position to thank him for how he allows my life to play out, understanding that in the big scheme of things, it is not primarily about me and my comfort, but about God, his Glory and his Kingdom.  It is also about his preparation for my entry into his eternal realm. If I fail to embrace these truths, I will find myself angry, disillusioned, and forever grousing about what should have been my lot.  If, however, I choose to yield to his sovereign plan, my complaining spirit will turn into one of thankfulness as I content myself in his sovereign grace.

Next week well discuss our inclination to challenge Gods authority. 

1 Ungers Bible Dictionary

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

ST. THOMAS MORES PRAYER SHORTLY BEFORE HIS EXECUTION BY KING HENRY VIII:

ST. THOMAS MORES PRAYER SHORTLY BEFORE HIS EXECUTION BY KING HENRY VIII:

St. Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England, was executed by Henry VIII for holding to his faith, taking a stand against the kings attempt to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and for his refusal to recognize Henry VIII as head the of the English church. Just days before his death he penned the following prayer. Surely this is the heart cry of every serious devotee of Jesus Christ:  1, 2

God, have mercy on me, vile abject, abominable, sinful wretch, meekly knowledging before thine high majesty my long-continued sinful life, even from my very childhood hitherto (Psa. 51)  Now, good gracious Lord, as thou givest me thy grace to knowledge [my sins], so give me Thy grace not in only word but in heart also, with very sorrowful contrition to repent them and utterly to forsake them. And forgive me those sins also, in which by mine own default, through evil affections and evil custom, my reason is with sensuality so blinded that I cannot discern them for sin. And illumine, good Lord, mine heart, and give me thy grace to know them, and forgive me my sins negligently forgotten and bring them to my mind with grace to be purely confessed of them. (2 Cor. 12:9; Pro. 28:13; Psa. 139:23, 24)

Glorious God, give me from henceforth the grace, with little respect into the world, so to set and fix firmly mine heart upon thee that I may say with thy blessed apostle St. Paul, The world is crucified to me and I to the world.  To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ.  (Gal. 6:14 ; 2:20 ; Phil. 1:21, 23; See Col. 3:1-3) Give me the grace to amend my life and to have an eye to mine end without grudge of death, which to them that die in ghee, good Lord, is the gate of a wealthy life. (I Cor. 15:51-58)

Almighty God, Teach me to do thy will. Make me to run after thee to the odor of thy ointments. Take thou my right hand and lead me in the right path because o my enemies.  Draw me after thee. With bit and bridle bind fast my jaws when I do not draw near to thee. (Psa. 32:8, 9)  O glorious God, all sinful fear, all sinful sorrow and pensiveness, all sinful hope, all sinful mirth and gladness take from me.  And on the other side, concerning such fear, such sorrow, such heaviness, such comfort, consolation, and gladness as shall be profitable for my soul:  Deal with me according to thy great goodness, O Lord.  (Ecc. 7:2-6; Psa. 51:1; 119:24) 

Good Lord, give me the grace in all my fear and agony to have recourse to that great fear and wonderful agony that thou, my sweet Savior, hadst at the Mount of Olivet before thy most bitter passion, and in the meditation thereof to conceive ghostly comfort and consolation profitable for my soul. (1 Jn. 4:18; Matt. 26:39-42) Almighty God, take from me all vainglorious minds, all appetites of mind own praise, all envy, covetise, gluttony, sloth and lechery, all wrathful affections, all appetite of revenging, all desire or delight of other folks harm, all pleasure in provoking any person to wrath and anger, all delight of exprobration or insultation against  any person in their affliction and calamity. (2 Cor. 7:1; Col. 3:12-14; Rom. 12:9, 10; 1 Pet. 3:8-11)

And give me, good Lord, an humble, lowly, quiet, peaceable, patient, charitable, kind, tender and pitiful mind, with all my works, and all my words, and all my thoughts to have a taste of thy Holy Blessed Spirit. (Eph 4:2, 32; Phil. 2:2-4)

Give me, good Lord, a full faith, a firm hope, a fervent charity, a love to thee, good Lord, incomparable above the love to myself, and that I love nothing to thy displeasure, but everything in an order to thee.  (Psa. 42:11; 1 Jn. 4:7-18; Matt. 22:37-39)

Give me, good Lord, a longing to be with thee, not for the avoiding of the calamities of this wretched world, nor so much for the avoidingthe pains of hell nor so much for attaining of the joys of heaven, in respect of mine own commodity, as even for a very love to thee

Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, as we have hoped in thee. In thee, O Lord, have I hoped, let me not be confounded forever.

1 Touchstone, April, 2006, page 38

2  All Scriptures are added by me

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

IN REACHING THE LOST, IS THE FOCUS TO BE ON CHRIST OR CHRISTIANITY? 1

Christianity is loosing ground in the West. The secularized view Christianity as strident, marginalized, a polarizing force, and an ideology that is against almost everything in the mainstream.  Little wonder then that Christianity is irrelevant to their daily lives. (Secularist in this Facts is defined as people in whose life God is not a significant factor.) If the secularist has a quarrel, it rarely is with the Christ of the Cross, but rather with the self-appointed minions who have painted a caricature of Christianity that has little or no appeal or relevance.

Jesus said, When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.  (John 12:32) Perhaps that is why Paul, in taking the Gospel to the Corinthians stated, I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (I Cor. 2:2)  He may have come to this conclusion after failing in Athens to establish a core of believers. While there he said a few clever things, but did not preach the pure, simple message of Christ.  (See Acts 17:16-34)

If we are to connect with our secular friends, we must stop attacking other religious in order to establish ours upon their ruins, and we must be perceived as the healers of society rather than the self-proclaimed experts in all that is wrong.  The prophecy of the coming Messiah in Isaiah was of the One who would bring healing and restoration. The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. (Isaiah 61:1-3a)

May I suggest several principles in reaching out to the secularized with the Gospel:

  • In your interaction with the secularized, have no hidden agenda. Be up front that you are a follower of Christ.

  Define Christianity as Christ. Not as the Old Testament; not in the history or cont ext of Western civilization, not in the context of any denominational church culture, but only as Christ, and Christ alone. To be a Christian is to follow Christ.

  • Christ must be interpreted in terms of Christian experience rather than through argumentation.
  • Drop the culturally and historically tainted term, Christianity from all communication. You cant find the term in the Scriptures!  Just use the name Christ.
  • Christ must be perceived in the cultural setting. That is, he must be viewed as the Christ of the homeless, the multi-divorced, the counter-culture individual, the stock broker, etc.  He must be seen as moving with the national grain and not against it. 1

An Indian Brahman stated to an associate, I dont like the Christ of your creeds and the Christ of your churches. When asked what he would like, he thought for a moment, mentally picturing Christ dressed in the local garb of India, and answered, [I see him as] seated by the wayside with crowds about him, healing blind men who feel their way to him, putting his hands upon the heads of the poor unclean lepers who fell at his feet, announcing the good tidings of the Kingdom to stricken folks, staggering up a lone hill with a broken heart and dying upon a wayside cross for men, but rising triumphantly and walking on that road again.  He suddenly turned to the friend and earnestly said, I could love and follow [that] Christ 1

QUESTION:  What do your secularized friends see when they think of Christianity or Christians?   Placard wielding protesters? Tightly wound legalists?  The wacko world of much religious broadcasting?  Isolated and insulated go to meeting types who seem detached from the mainstream? Or do they see humble, compassionate listeners and healers who are deeply involved in the lives of the hurting around them; people who speak the good news by the power of their beautifully authentic lives? How do they view you?

1 Key thoughts adapted from The Christ of the Indian Road by Jones, Abingdon Press, N. Y., pages 21-23