BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for July, 2009

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hey Dad, how are you doing in the fathering department? Ponder this from Strongest Dad in the World by Rick Reilly, Sports Illustrated:


[Eighty-five times Dick Hoyt has] pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he’s not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars–all in the same day. Dick’s also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right? And what has Rick done for his father? Not much–except save his life.

This love story began in Winchester , Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs. “He’ll be a vegetable the rest of his life;” Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. “Put him in an institution.” But the Hoyts weren’t buying it. They noticed the way Rick’s eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. “No way,” Dick says he was told. "There’s nothing going on in his brain.” "Tell him a joke,” Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain. Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? "Go Bruins!” And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, “Dad, I want to do that.” Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described “porker” who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. "Then it was me who was handicapped,” Dick says. "I was sore for two weeks.” That day changed Rick’s life. “Dad,” he typed, “when we were running, it felt like I wasn’t disabled anymore!”

And that sentence changed Dick’s life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon. "No way,” Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren’t quite a single runner, and they weren’t quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive  field and  ran anyway,  then they  found a  way to  get  into  the race  officially: In 1983 they ran

  another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year.

Then somebody said, "Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?” How’s a guy who never learned to swim and hadn’t ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried. Now they’ve done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii. It must be a buzz kill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don’t you think? Hey, Dick, why not see how you’d do on your own? “No way,” he says. Dick does  it purely for “the  awesome feeling” he  gets seeing Rick  with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride

together.

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters.  Their best time’? Two  hours, 40  minutes in 1992only  35 minutes  off the world  record, which, in case you don’t

 keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.

“No question about it,” Rick types. “My dad is the Father of the Century.” And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack; his arteries were 95% clogged. “If you hadn’t been in such great shape,” one doctor told him, “you probably would’ve died 15 years ago. ”So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other’s life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland , Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father’s Day. That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give  him is a  gift he can  never buy.  `The thing I’d most like,”  Rick types,  “is that my  dad sit in  the chair and I  push him

once.”

So dad, are you giving it your best shot with the kids God has entrusted to your care?  Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything.  It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen. (I Cor. 13:7,8 Phillips Trans.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

COURAGE (Bravery. Boldness. Fearlessness. Intrepidness. Gallantry. Resolution. Firmness arising from strong moral convictions. Fortitude.)

When a person internalizes the truths of God into his life, he will at some point be challenged to compromise his convictions. When he determines that compromise is not an option; that he is willing to suffer the consequences of unwavering adherence to his beliefs, especially in the face of severe opposition, that is courage.

Nearly 500 years ago, Martin Luther was brought before the power elite of the medieval church and ordered to renounce his faith. "My conscience is captive to the word of God," Luther told them, "and I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither safe nor right. Here I stand," Luther concluded. "I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen."

Courage was on display when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, the three companions of Daniel, refused to bow down to the kings image of gold, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."  (Dan. 3:16b-18)

St. Paul, whose apostolic authority was severely challenged by the Corinthian Christians, penned, Be alert and on your guard, stand firm in your faithact like men and be courageous; grow in strength. (I Cor. 16:13 Amp.)

Robert J. McCracken reminds us that, The world is not perishing for want of clever or talented or well-meaning men. It is perishing for the want of men of courage and resolution who, in devotion to the cause of right and truth, can rise above personal feeling and private ambition

General Douglas MacArthur stated, Courage moral courage, the courage of one’s convictions, the courage to see things through. The world is in a constant conspiracy against the brave. It’s the age-old struggle the roar of the crowd on one side and the voice of your conscience on the other.

Fear imprisons; faith liberates; fear paralyzes; faith empowers; fear disheartens; faith encourages; fear sickens; faith heals; fear makes useless; faith makes serviceable.  H. E. Fosdick

If you and I are to live courageously for Christ in a world that increasingly disregards and despises him, it is imperative that we are deeply rooted in the word of God and its promises so that we will rise to the challenge Joshua gave the Israelites before facing their towering enemy, Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Jos.. 1:7-9)

My challenge to you and to myself – is to live large lives for God.  Push out the walls. Expect great things from God, attempt great thing for God. (William Carey) Whatever your pain, disappointment, barrier, unanswerable questions, or advisary, choose to put your hand in his and courageously believe him, that he will see you through.   

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, then to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

FEAR (Alarmed concern, anxiety, apprehension, consternation, dread, fright, panic, terror, timidity, trepidation, unease)

Fear is like back pain: Paralyzing. Immobilizing. Consuming. Certainly it is not Gods idea of how we are to live our lives.  Rather, it is Gods intention that we be free from fear:  Do 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 handFor God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline…I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears (Isa.41:10; 2 Tim. 1:7a; Psa. 34:4)

The raw truth about fear is that it is the absence of faith in not believing God:

   [Jesus] said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" (Mk. 4:40)

  [Jesus] replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?  (Matt. 8:26)

  He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.  (Psa. 112:7)

What is it that we fear the most?

  • FailureI was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground  (Matt. 25:254b) (See Psa. 42:5; Isa. 31:1)
  • The futureHe will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. (Psa. 112:7) 
  • People:  Isaac lied to Abimelech that his wife was his sister.  (Gen 26:1-11) (See Gen. 12:20-20; 20; Pro. 29:25)
  • That God is not with us: O Lord, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed. (Psa. 30:7)  (See Psa. 10:1; 13:1; 143:7)

Even some of the best people in the Scriptures stumbled in fear. For example:

  • Elijah, after courageously confronting and destroying the prophets of Baal, fearfully runs from Jezebel, who threatens his life. (I Kin. 18:16-19:3)
  • Peter boasts that he will lay down his life for Christ and then fearfully denies him. (Jn. 13:37; 18:15-27)

The Enemy of our soul wants us immobilized by fear. God, however, implores us to trust him and be free from fear:

  • Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you." (Deu. 3:22)
  • Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Jos.. 1:9) (See Jos.. 1:5-9)
  • "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you."  (Isa. 35:4a)
  • God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. (Psa. 46:1,2) (See Jos.. 8:1; Matt. 10:28; Psa. 23:4; 1 Jn. 4:18)
  • Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (Jn. 14:27)

May I entreat you to join the company of courageous people who believed God and overcame their fears:

  • Peter and John defied the authorities prohibition in witnessing for Christ.  (See Act. 4:7-13; 5:17-32)
  • Paul in facing trial and probable death: "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem , not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (Act. 20:22-24)
Wednesday, July 8, 2009

OUR CALLING IS TO LIVE A HOLY LIFE

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do (I Pet. 1:14 , 15).

Be holy in all you do? That sounds a bit daunting, does it not? Soun-achievable. Surely we have to ask ourselves, How on earth is living a truly holy life possible in this world of sensuality, materialism, and pride? To start with, we need to understand that on the cross Jesus took our sins and gave us his righteousness:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)

The question is, what practical steps can I take to not conform to my evil desires, and to truly live a life of holiness? First I need to understand that holiness in this context is not some ethereal, mystical thing. Rather, it is behavioral. Practical.  It is daily shoe leather Christianity.  One translation puts I Peter 1:15 as follows: Be holy yourselves also in all your behavior. (NAS)  And why is holiness so important? Simply because, those who are not holy will not see the Lord (Heb. 12:14b).

Let me suggest four Ds to help us on our journey toward holy behavior:

Desperation:  A friend tells the story of his father who, for many years lived a riotous, debauched life, until late one night while driving home in a drunken stupor, he slammed his car into a tree, and proceeded to vomit on himself, while loosing control of his bladder. In that moment of disgust and desperation he called up to his wife, Honey, call the preacher. For the next 20 years until his death, he followed Christ and influenced innumerable fellow-farmers to do the same.  He had come to a point of desperation.  The blind man in Luke 18:35-48 desperately sought out Jesus and was healed. It is only when we come to the end of ourselves that we will be willing to forsake our evil ways and choose to live a life of holiness.

DisciplinePaul puts the responsibility of discipline that leads to godly living squarely on our shoulders: Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.  (I Tim. 4:7b NASB) Thus, we cannot blame others for our lack of training, or for our spiritual immaturity. We are talking here about the discipline of regular time alone with God in prayer, Bible meditation and study with a strong emphasis on practical application.

Disengagement from our life of sin: 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. 12:1b). That is, we need to identify and deal with our besetting sins. He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy (Pro. 28:13).

Disciple others: As you seek to influence others for Christ, you will naturally be drawn back to the Source. So, win the lost and disciple the saved. (See Matt. 28:18-20) If you think of evangelism as a process, rather than an event, you will be more inclined to take a slower, more measured approach.  You can catch fish either with dynamite or with bait. With the first approach you have one shot at it. With the second, winning the lost will be a continuing, and infinitely more effective process.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART(Matt. 5:8)

These past few months I have been dealing with a highly visible spiritual leader who, it turns out, has been leading a double life for the past three decades.  Last week he divorced his wife of 25 years for another woman.  A few days ago, a spiritual leader of national prominence was exposed for engaging in an on-going relationship with a male prostitute.

Purity of heart is a rare quality indeed, here in Sodom and Gomorrah! The Greeks used the term purity for metals that had been refined to the point of being unmixed, unalloyed and unadulterated. A person with a pure heart was viewed as innocent and chaste. The Books of Psalms and Isaiah both address the purity issue:  

 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snowCome now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.  (Psa. 51:17; Isa. 1:18) (See Psa. 18:20; Eze. 18:21; 36:25; 2 Cor. 7:1; I Jn. 3:3)

The opposite of purity of heart is:

Double-mindedness:  Desiring to serve God and following the world at the same time:  "Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of GodNo one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other" (Jms. 4:4; Mt. 6:24). (See Rom. 7:15-20)

Hypocrisy: Pretending to be something you are notPlay acting: "Woe to youhypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickednessThese people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me (Matt. 23:27, 28; Isa. 29:13) (See Matt. 6:2,5, 16; Act. 5:1-11; Gal. 2:12,13)

Judgmentalism:  Focusing on others faults while ignoring your own: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matt. 7:1-5) (See Rom. 2:1,2; 14:3,4, 10-12; 1 Cor. 4:3-5,11,12)

So, how do I develop and maintain a pure heart?  By cleansing my heart and obeying Gods word: Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-mindedYou have purified yourselves by obeying the truth…  (Jms. 4:8; I Pet. 1:22a)  

QUESTION:  Have you determined that whatever the cost, you will walk before God with a pure heart? 

If so, here are a few passages you may want to prayerfully ponderSurely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost placeCreate in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within meSearch 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 everlastingMay the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psa. 51:6, 10; 139:23, 24; 19:14 )