BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for June, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HUNGER AND THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Matt. 5:6)

The haunting questions I am asking myself are, Do I really want to be a righteous man? Do I truly hunger and thirst for righteousness?  Or do I simply want the benefits of being righteous; benefits such as peace, stability, fulfillment, a meaningful ministry, the love and respect of others, etc?  When Jesus spoke of hungering and thirsting for righteousness, he was talking about spiritual desperation. A starving person has a single, all-consuming passion for food and water. Nothing else has the slightest attraction or appeal. Nothing else can get his attention. Everything else pales in comparison.

Certainly Paul possessed that consuming desire for righteousness: But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Phil. 3:7-9) (See. Psa. 42:1; 63:1; 84:2) The question is, do I share his passion?

Jesus makes this offer to us for our parched souls, Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (Jn. 4:13)  God not only invites us to drink of his thirst-quenching water, but he also implores us to not waste ourselves in the futile pursuit of that which cannot satisfy: "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. (Isa. 55:1, 2) (See Isa. 44:3, 20)

The raucous, self-indulgent marketplace is fraught with seductive forces that would kill your quest for righteousness. Little wonder then that Paul expressed deep concern for the believers in the self-gratifying commercial center of Corinth, I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  (2 Cor. 11:3) It seems to me that Satan uses the marketplace environment to allure us in three key areas:

The lust for power: After all, isnt power the name of the game in the marketplace?  Whos the top dog? Whos the king-maker?  Who controls the most people? Who dominates the market share, etc.? Lets admit that we love the dizzying toxin of power.  Of running the show. Of exercising authority over others.  Heady stuff, to be sure. The problem is that its a bit difficult to hunger and thirst for righteousness while jockeying and politicking our way up the ladder. Thats because the lust for power and control is fundamentally the life of self, often expressed in the phrase, I will.  Observe Satans willful challenge for the power that belonged only to God: You [Satan] said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. You said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.  (Isa. 14:13, 14) (See Jms. 4:13-16)

The lust for praise:  Oooh how we love the applause, the titles, the perks, the bowing and scraping. I just got off the phone with Jim, a mega-gifted individual who is quietly serving Christ in an out of the way part of the world among the truly poor and uneducated.  During our conversation he said something about seeking obscurity.  By way of contrast, Jesus made this observation about a praise-conscious group of wanna be believers, They loved praise from men more than praise from God.  (Jn. 12:43) Its a bit difficult to hunger and thirst for righteousness when you are consumed with garnering mens praise.

The lust for pleasure:  King Solomon, who had both the means and opportunity to indulge in a pleasure-centered lifestyle,  mused in his waning years, I thought in my heart, Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure  And his conclusion as to its value?  Meaningless, a chasing after the wind.  (Ecc. 2:1a, c,10, 26) (See Lk. 12:16-21; 1 Pet. 2:11)

QUESITON: If you are gut honest, just where does your primary passion really lie? To be truly righteous? Or to immerse yourself in the futile pursuit for power, praise and pleasure?

 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

BLESSED ARE THE MEEK (Matt. 5:5a)

In the marketplace of power and control, the very thought of meekness comes off as insipid and ineffectual. After all, it is the assertive types, not the docile, compliant, and timid that make things happen in the commercial center of ideas, action and leadership!

Well guess what?  Jim Collins in his monumental work, Good to Great discovered in his research that the best CEOs what he calls Level 5 leaders combine extreme passion for a cause with deep humility and a sense of teamwork. Without humility a man cannot learn, because the first step to learning is the realization of our own ignorance. Perhaps a paraphrase of Blessed are the meek (Matt. 5:5a) could be, Blessed is the man who has the humility to know his own ignorance, his own weakness, and his own need.1 The biblical concept of meekness does not connote weakness.  It is power put under control. Powerful King Solomon reminded us that a person without meekness is like a city that is broken into and without walls (Pro. 25:28).  He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, then he who captures a city (Pro. 16:32 ). An unbroken colt is of little use. Wind and people out of control prove to be destructive. Meekness appropriately measures out its resources.

It would serve us well to keep in mind that poverty of spirit (Matt. 5:3 of last weeks Facts) focuses on our sinfulness, while meekness (Matt. 5:5) focuses on Gods holiness, and that the basic attitude of humility underlies both virtues.

Frank and Sarah come to mind when I think of meekness. Frank has a PhD from one of our blue chip universities and masterfully leads a mid-sized company of excellence. I first got to know Frank many years ago when he helped me put up a basketball hoop for my 9 year old son, the day our family moved to town.  He was hungry for discipleship. Sarah, now in her late 80s, has for many years been the quintessential business leader in her city, and continues to quietly influence leaders to practice excellence, ethics and good governance. Years ago I remember discovering Sarah on her knees at her church, cleaning toilets that she observed had been overlooked, in preparation for a one day conference.  Both Frank and Sarah reflect their deep inner core of biblical values as they speak with passion and conviction in measured tones. Both, by their powerful, meek presence command monumental respect and influence in their community.

Biblical examples of powerful leaders embracing the quality of meekness would include:

Christ who twice drove out the money changers (Jn. 2:14, 15; Matt. 21:12 , 13), yet meekly sacrificed himself for others, serves as an example for us to follow: …Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his stepsHe did not retaliate when he was insulted. When he suffered, he did not threaten to get even. He left his case in the hands of God (I Pet. 2:21a, 23).  This gentle Jesus, the One who spoke the worlds into being, humbly rode a donkey into Jerusalem as the coming King (Matt. 21:5).

Moses who in righteous anger smashed the tablets upon learning of the golden calf, was more humble than any other person on earth (Num. 12:3; Exo. 32:19).

David who had the opportunity to kill Saul but refused stating, "The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord" (I Sam. 24: 5, 6).

QUESTION:  What answer would I receive if I were to ask those closest to you if you are perceived as kindly, patient, moderate, humble, and measured? What would they have to say about being pushy, manipulative, easily irritated, in a hurry, wound tight, arbitrary, harsh, proud or supercilious?  The reason we need to ask these difficult questions lies in the gravity of Jesus statement: Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3b, 4).

1  Barclays Daily Study Bible (NT)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT (Matt. 5:3a)

Recently I had lunch with Jake. Powerfully built, athletic, and a gifted communicator, Jake is a natural leader. During our time together, I was struck with his gentleness and genuine humility. Jake was married to a lovely, deeply spiritual woman who died in her 30s, leaving him with children to raise. After a few years, he married a woman who was wounded from past hurts, resulting in deep insecurities. To complicate matters, one of his children contracted a severely debilitating disease that over the years has demanded many hours of intense, personal attention on a daily basis.

When I asked Jake how he was doing, he paused, lowered his head, and said, What God has put on my plate is almost too much to bear. Then looking up, he rejoined, Dwight, I thank God for every minute of it, as he went on to explain that through his severe trials God was dealing with his inner corruption and deepening his relationship with the Father.  What I was observing was a man who indeed is in the process of becoming poor in spirit.

By way of contrast, the marketplace is crawling with pompous, self-absorbed, condescending individuals with the disease of Big Wheelism.  People afflicted with Big Wheelism believe that it is all about them and how they project themselves  as cool, confident, and having it all under control, as they seem to naturally cruise above us mere mortals in accomplishing the near impossible.  If they happen also to be religious types, they are even more insufferable.

The tax collector in the temple of whom Jesus spoke in his parable, fit this profile: Then Jesus told this story to some who had great self-confidence and scorned everyone else: Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a dishonest tax collector.  The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.  (Lk. 18:11, 12)

Dissimilarity, Jesus elevated those rare individuals who were acutely aware of their own spiritual impoverishment: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3)  That is exactly the silhouette of the corrupt tax collector in Jesus parable: "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Lk. 18:13, 14)

People in the Scriptures who epitomize the poor in spirit would include:

MosesMoses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.  (Num. 12:3)

David: After being exposed by the prophet Nathan for his sin with Bathsheba, David cried out, Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psa. 51:1,3,17)

Paul:  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. (Rom. 7:18 ; 1 Tim. 1:15b) (See 2 Chr. 34:19, 27; Lk. 5:8)

QUESTION:  Soare you the center of your little world?  Is it all about you? If so, you have a very big problem, because God, in his faithfulness and love will not allow you the luxury of a self-centered existence.  Be assured, that in his time he will engineer events that will bring you to the end of yourself. Why?  Because  "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humbleI will not yield my glory to another  (Jms. 4:6b; Isa. 48:11). If, on the other hand, you are conscious of and are dealing with your spiritual destitution, you are on the receiving end of Gods favor. You are in the process of becoming poor in spirit. And that is good news!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

HERES A BASIC PLAN ON HOW TO DEVELOP AN EFFECTIVE MINISTRY:

As business and professional men and women, no doubt it is your desire not only to be successful in your careers, but significant in the work of God. The Scriptures and church history reveal that the prime movers God has used in advancing the Gospel across the globe has been the laity, especially the military and people engaged in commerce. Both Jesus and Paul focused primarily on the non-professional religious class in their evangelism and discipleship. When the first Reformation put the Bible in the hands of the laity, the Gospel spread like a prairie fire. Today, a second reformation is now placing the ministry in the hands of the laity. And that is you! So, as a lay person, how would you begin an effective ministry? You may want to consider the following approach:

RECRUIT people to a vision:  Men and women need a vision as to how God can use them:  Where there is no vision, the people perish…  (Pro. 29:18a) To help you gain a God-given vision, may I suggest you spend unrushed time alone with God in his word and prayer over a sustained period of time. Ask him to impress upon your heart promises from the Scriptures. Listen to his voice; invite him to whisper to your heart that which is dear to his heart. Ask God to open your eyes to see the world through his eyes.  What ministry would he desire to accomplish through you? Visualize what that would look like. Once it is reasonably clear to you, communicate that vision with clarity, simplicity, and passion, and others will join you! (See Matt. 9:36-38; 23:27; Jn. 4:4:34-38; 2 Pet. 3:9; study the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah)

EQUIP people to mature in Christ: That is, build the basics into their lives:  Help them on how to spend time alone with God in prayerful meditation of his word. Teach them to master the Scriptures through in depth Bible study, Scripture memory, etc.  Come along side them in dealing with critical life issues such as fear, anger, broken relationships, a diminished view of God, etc.  Assist them in discovering their gifts and calling. Teach servanthood by your example of selfless service to others. (See Mk. 10:43-45; Jn. 13:1-17). Understand from Ephesians 4:11-13 the profundity of the fact that equipping believers to do the ministry lies at the very core of spiritual transformation and the multiplication of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. And [God] gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;  until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.

RELEASE them to minister to others:  Once your protgs are reasonably established in their walk with God, and are equipped to minister to others, turn them loose to minister: Godgave us the ministry of reconciliationHe has committed to us the message of reconciliationWe are therefore Christ’s ambassadorsWe proclaim him (evangelism), admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom (discipleship), so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. (2 Cor. 5:18-20 selected; Col. 1:28, 29)

SHEPHERD them to remain strong: Now that they are mobilized to minister, dont abandon them! They will continue to need training, prayer and support from the Body of Christ to insure their continued spiritual health, growth and fruitfulness: Be sure that you feed and shepherd God’s flockhis church, purchased with his bloodover whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders.  (Act. 20:28 NLT) (See Act. 14:21, 22; I Pet. 5:2)