BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for May, 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

WHAT ON EARTH IS HAPPENING TO TRUTH? (Part 2 of 2)

The moral and spiritual decline you and I are witnessing today (postmodernism) is rooted in a rejection of Judeo-Christian values and assumptions dating back to the Reformation and Enlightenment Periods; values and assumptions that fostered the Industrial Revolution and the Information Age.  Some of those assumptions were the inevitably of progress, the invincibility of science, the desirability of democracy and the unquestioned rights of the individual. 1

The net result of the current decline is the loss of confidence in, and rejection of objective truth, values, authority, and the structures that gave them to us, such as institutions of learning, the government, churches, parental authority.  From the postmoderns perspective, it was these established values and institutions that taught us the so-called inevitability of progress, the invincibility of science, the superiority of democracy, and the unquestioned rights of the individual; values they believe that resulted in the depletion of natural resources, environmental pollution, the fear of global warming, and the increasing disparity between the worlds rich and poor. 1 Uncoupled from societys centuries old foundation, the postmodern is left to fend for himself as he chooses to determine truth, subjected only to his own interpretation and judgment.  Is it any wonder that common among postmoderns is a spirit of pessimism and cynicism as they attempt to decide what is real, and what can be trusted?

How do their values play out in daily life? 2

  • They choose to believe that each individuals beliefs, values, lifestyles, and claims to truth are equal.
  • They wholeheartedly approve of others beliefs or lifestyle choices.
  • They believe that we have no right to judge another persons views or behavior.
  • They accept the idea that everyone has the right to do what he or she believes is best for himself or herself.

From a Biblical perspective, what  will be some of the long term effects of postmodernism?

  Rejection of authority that will result in societal chaos: When people do not accept Divine Guidance, they run wild… In those days there was no king in Israel. People did whatever they felt like doing. (Pro. 29:18 NLT; Jud. 17:6)

  Unbridled actions that will lead to unintended consequences: There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to deathBe happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.  Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgmentDon’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of othersignoring God! harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life (Pro. 16:25; Ecc. 11:9; Gal. 6:7,8 Msg)

How am I as a follower of Christ to relate to, and influence the postmodern person?

  • Understand that many are looking for spirituality, wherever they can find it.  Many are painfully aware of the emptiness and purposelessness of their lives.
  • Realize that most postmoderns hunger for relationships that are real and meaningful.
  • Be aware that many postmoderns are looking for authenticity, and will embrace people who possess it.
  • Know that if postmoderns are to accept the truth of the Gospel, it will probably happen over a sustained period of time as they observe the Gospel lived out.  That is, conversion will probably be process driven, rather than event driven.

Question:  Are you indisputably committed to a biblical world view and lifestyle, regardless of the shifting values and mores of society?  At whatever the cost?  Because cost you it will. When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psa. 11:3)  (See Psa. 60:1-3; 78:60-64; Isa. 24:1-12; 2 Tim. 2:19)

Dont let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands, and moves toward the goal of true maturity.  (Rom. 12:2 Philips Translation) (See Exo.. 23:2; Deu. 18:9-14; Jn. 15:19; 17:14; Eph. 2:2; 4:17-20)

1 Toward a Theological Understanding of Postmodernism, Daniel J. Adams

2  Adapted from The Last Christian Generation, Josh McDowell, Key Green Books, Holiday FL, 22, 23

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

WHAT ON EARTH IS HAPPENING TO TRUTH? (Part 1 of 2)

Western civilization is on a slippery slope, abandoning the truth anchored in the Judeo-Christian heritage, into a world of relativism. The big question today is not, Is it true? but, Does it work?  Truth is now redefined as whatever rings true to your experience, whatever feels real to you.1 Hugh Heffner gave us, If it feels good, do it. Today its If it works, its right. What we are talking about here is the postmodern philosophy that believes: 2

  Moral and religious truth does not exist in any objective sense.

  Instead of discovering truth in a story (such as the Bible) that presents a unified way of looking at life, postmodernism rejects any overarching explanation of what constitutes truth and reality.

  Truth-whether in science, education, or religion is created by a specific culture or community and is true only in and for that culture.

  Individual persons are the product of their cultures.  That is, we are not essentially unique individuals created in the image of God; our identities are defined by culture   (African-American, European, Eastern, Western, urban, rural, etc.).

 All thinking is a social construct.  In other words, what you and I regard as truths are simply arbitrary beliefs we have been conditioned to accept by our society, just as others have been conditioned to accept a completely different set of beliefs. 3

  Any system or statement that claims to be objectively true or that unfavorably judges the values, beliefs, lifestyle, and truth claims of another culture is a power play, an effort by one culture to dominate other cultures.

Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, contemptuously asked, What is truth? (Jn. 18:38). Two or three decades ago, our restless youth echoed  Johnny Cashs lyrics,  
The lonely voice of youth cries: What is truth?"  Today we have moved on from that question to challenging the very existence and veracity of truth. So, what is truth? 
Can it be known? Let me suggest three points to ponder in this age of confusion and uncertainty: 

God the Father, and His Son Jesus are the Truth and the source of Truth:  GodLet God be true, and every man a liar He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A  faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is heThe Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind (Rom. 3:4; Deut. 32:4; I Sam. 15:29; – Selected) (See Deut. 7:9; 1 Sam. 15:29; Psa. 31:5; Isa. 65:16; Rom. 3:4; 2 Tim. 2:13; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18)  ChristThe Word [Christ] became flesh and made his dwelling among usfull of grace and truthI am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through meI came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. (Jn. 1:14; 14:6; 18:37; Rev. 19:11 Selected) 

The Holy Spirit is the One who reveals ultimate Truth to usThe Spirit of truth will guide you into all truthWhen the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about meThe anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you.  (Jn. 16:13; 15:26; 1 Jn. 2:27 Selected)  (See Jn. 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:10-16)

We also learn the Truth by choosing to do Gods will as revealed in the Scriptures:  Jesus: If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my ownIf you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (Jn. 7:17; 8:31, 32- Selected)  (See Jn. 18:37; Eph. 4:18)

QUESTION:  Are you committed to knowing and obeying the Truth, whatever the world around you chooses to believe?  Are you committed to the Truth, whatever the cost? Because cost you it will.

1 Rich Richardson, Eight Urgent Questions By Todays Generation, http://wwwgetchurchorg/inside/01-04  2 Josh McDowell, The Last Christian Generation, Green Key Books, Holiday , FL, 2006, pages 43,44  3 Jim Leffel, Our New Challenge: Postmodernism, The Death of Truth, ed. Dennis McCallum (Minneapolis; Bethany House, 1996) 35.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

GOD IS HIS OWN INTERPRETER AND HE WILL MAKE IT PLAIN

Do you ever struggle with depression? Man, I certainly do from time to time. Often without warning, it seems, I will find myself in a funk.  It is then that my mind races back and forth, searching for the cause of the depression.  Rather than allow myself to sink into the quagmire of morose introspection, I will usually pray through Psalm 139:23, 24, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal any sin that may be the cause: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

This morning, in dealing with one of these periodic struggles, I meditated and prayed my way through Psalm 55. I was impressed with the psalmists struggle and need for Gods touch: Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. (vs. 1, 2, 4, 5) Surely, at times we can identify with his desire to escape:  "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest– I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm" (vs. 6-8).

As I pondered this wonderful Psalm, I found myself praising Him for the assurance offered in Davids prayer, I call to God, and the Lord saves mehears me[and] ransoms me (vs. 16-18). The cloud lifted and the depression eased, and  then disappeared.

As I have studied the lives of outstanding believers, I have found that a significant number of them have had battles with depression.  It is interesting to note that it was often out of their tormented struggles that their greatest achievements have been born. One notable example is William Cowper (1731-1800). It was during one of those periods of despair that he penned this marvelous piece:

Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill, He treasures up his bright designs and works His sovereign will.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for his grace; behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour; the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan his work in vain: God is his own interpreter, and He will make it plain.

Larry Crabb in his book, Inside Out, challenges the common belief among believers that they are owed a wonderful, fulfilled, and happy existence that is free of  turmoil.  No, God uses, perhaps even causes pain in our lives to drive us to himself and craft his character in us.  John Piper picks up on this concept in stating, Not surprisingly therefore, suffering fits into Gods design in ways that sometimes baffle us and test us to the limit. Don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you (I Pet. 4:12).  This very baffling and testing is part of the design: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (Jms. 1:2-4). 1

My friend, perhaps you too have your dark moments where there seems to be no way out.  God can and will extend his peace and grace to youif you want him to.

1 The Hidden Smile of God, Crossway Books, John Piper, pg. 20

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

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

In our previous Facts we discussed (1) The temptation to complain about our situation, (2) The tendency to challenge God-given authority, and (3) Our inclination to not believe that God will fulfill His promises on our behalf.  In this Facts we will consider our tendency :

#4 TO ACT WITH PRESUMPTION: Years ago I became involved with a bright, well educated businessman in his mid-thirties who was saddled with a massive debt left by his deceased father. His father, a wheeling, dealing entrepreneur, unwisely leveraged his and others assets to the maximum in development projects.  He was also known around town as a man of strong faith.  Well, when the 100 year recession hit, he stressed out and died.  In inquiring about his business practices from his son, he said, Dad crossed the line from faith to presumption.  And thats what got him into trouble.  Presumption is the act of taking upon ones self more than good sense and propriety warrant: [ It is] excessive boldness or over confidence in thought and conduct. 1 Presumption is to act proudly.  May I suggest that presumption can take at least four forms: 2

Unwarranted boldness: Ten of the twelve spies returned from the Promised Land and undercut Moses by grumbling and spreading a negative report. God strikes them down with a plague. Those who survived presumptuously  announce their intention to enter the Promised Land.  In response Moses said, Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command? This will not succeed! Do not go up, because the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemiesBecause you have turned away from the Lord, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword. Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the high hill country Then the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah.  (Num. 14:36-45 – Selected)

How many people in business have confided in me that in their greed and egocentricity, they pushed ahead, ignoring wise counsel, and consummated a business deal that they later lived to regret. 

Arrogance:  Remember the rich farmer who presumed he had the right to kick back and indulge himself in a life of ease? God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barn full of goodswho gets it?’  That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God." (Luke 12:20, 21 – Msg) Or how about the self-assured businessmen who said Todayat the latest, tomorrowwe’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money. You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing.  Instead, make it a habit to say, If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that. As it is, you are full of your grandiose selves. All such vaunting self-importance is evil  (Jms. 4:13-16 – Msg) (See Jms. 1:11)

DefiancePerhaps nothing captures the spirit of defiance as powerfully as William E. Henleys poem, Invictus: Out of the night that covers me,black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years finds, and shall find, me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.  St. Paul penned it this way: There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away There is no fear of God before their eyes."  (Rom. 3:10-12,18) Could it be that in  our pride we find it all to easy to operate our business with this spirit of defiance?

Insolence: You and I encounter insolent types every day in the marketplace:  Rude. Disrespectful of established authority.  Impudent.  Overbearing. Here is how Peter describes them: They despise interference from true authority, preferring to indulge in self-rule. Insolent egotists (2 Pet. 2:10)

APPLICATION:  Perhaps our prayer should echo that of Psalm 19:13:Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

1 New Ungers Bible Dictionary

2  Key ideas adapted from New Ungers Bible Dictionary