BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for August, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A SEDUCTIVE MISTRESS

Lets face it: Money is a seductive mistress!  You cant live without it, and you continually run the risk of it, like a charmed snake, reaching up and biting you to your destruction.  Consider a vexing issue presented by John Wesley over 300 years ago, which serves as a sobering warning for you and me:

I fear, wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore, I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue for long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches. How then is it possible that Methodism, that is, a religion of the heart though it flourishes now as a greed bay tree, should continue in this state?  For Methodists in every place grow diligent and frugal; consequently, they increase in goods. Hence they proportionality increase in pride, in anger, in the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life. [I Jn. 2:12,16].  So, although the form of religion remains, the spirit is swiftly vanishing away. Is there no way to prevent this-this continual decay of pure religion?  We ought not to prevent people from being diligent and frugal; we must exhort all Christians to gain all they can, and to save all they can; that is, in effect, to grow rich. 1

If God has blessed you financially to the point that you have excess, you may want to consider these action steps:

  Craft a mission statement for yourself and your family that will insure that you leave an eternal legacy relative to the building of the Kingdom of God.  Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Matt. 6:19-21)

  Surrender your earthly holdings to God, making him the owner and you the steward: Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful (I Cor. 4:2). Carefully analyze Luke 12:16-21.

  • Determine to be a generous giver: Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful [hilarious] giver (2 Cor. 9:7). (See Deut. 15:7-11)
  • Choose to be content with Gods level of provision and get off the upward mobility treadmill. Carefully study 1 Timothy 6:6-10 and Philippians 4:11-13.
  • Set limits on your work to insure that the pursuit of wealth does not crowd out your nurturing relationship with your spouse and children.  It is all too easy for gifted and driven people to violate family relationships by their physical or emotional absence:  If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever  (1 Tim. 5:8). That little word provide means to look out for your family, which includes the financial but is all encompassing in scope.  
  • Choose to live under your income.  Put a cap on your standard of living.  Prayerfully consider giving away your excess.  From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Lk. 12:48b).  Keep in mind you have two important responsibilities beyond providing for your family:

(1)  To participate in the work of building the Kingdom of God: Jesussaid, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations

(2)  Helping the poor of this world. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (I Jn. 3:16-18) Carefully study Deut. 15:7-10, Proverbs 14:31 , 19:17 , Isaiah 58:6-12, and 1Timothy 6:17 -19.

CONCLUSION: Immersed as we are in a money-mad world of materialism and affluence, may God grant us his wisdom on handling wealth. If God has blessed us financially, there is no reason for guilt (Pro. 10:22 ), but we clearly need to understand that we will indeed give him an accounting as to how we handled this seductive mistress. (See 2 Cor. 5:9, 10)

1 Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Dover Publishing, Inc. Minpola N. Y. 2003, pg 175

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

DISCIPLINE AND SELF-CONTROL

People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.  We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated. 1

Like it or not, discipline and self-control are basic to spiritual growth and maturity: Discipline yourself for the purpose of godlinessBut the fruit of the Spirit isself-control (I Tim. 4:7b NAS; Gal. 5:22a, 23b).

If we in our world of touchy-feely me-centered Christianity resent and resist restrictions in the name spiritual liberty, we may want to consider St. Pauls analogy of spiritual maturity to two great Greek festivals, the Olympic and Isthmian games: You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself (I Cor. 9:24-27 Msg. Trans.).  (See 2 Tim 2:5)

Paul implores us to run to win. Unlike the Greek athletes, ours is for an imperishable prize: Godhas given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the deadand into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for youI have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (I Pet. 1:3, 4; 2 Tim. 4:7, 8 – Selected).

Athletes in training gain control over their minds and bodies and place themselves on a strict regimen. Paul, in like manner put himself on a rigorous routine of discipline, lest he be shelved (in terms of effective service.) (I Cor. 9:27)  In Romans 8:13 the Apostle gives us the means by which winning over the flesh is possible:  If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

The reality is that the imperishable requires discipline and self control just as the perishable: Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us  (Heb. 12:1b NLT). As followers of Christ, whatever good we may accomplish, whether in education, business, the arts, our marriage, sports, our walk with God – you name it, can only be achieved through these twin virtues as we are led and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  (See Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:16)

Many of us started out on our pilgrimage with Christ with enthusiasm and a deep sense of devotion. Somewhere along the way however, we broke training as the flesh, the world, our daily concerns and personal interests – and laziness, choked our spiritual growth: The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful  (Mk. 4:19). (See 1 Jn. 2:15, 16)

Look around you at your fellow believers. Many are slaves to their bodies, which tell their minds what to do.  Their impulse is to eat and drink what they want, when they want; to sleep as they please; to indulge in whatever entertainment crosses their path, etc. It behooves us to consider Pauls caution: "Everything is permissible for me–but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me–but I will not be mastered by anything (I Cor. 6:12 ).  (See I Cor. 10:23)

QUESTION:  So tell me, my fellow brother or sister in Christ, how are you doing in the discipline and self-control departments?  Do you view yourself as a person of excellence?  Do you respect yourself? Are you choosing to prioritize and focus your life?  Are you choosing to order and discipline your mind and your world so that you make time for God, your kids, your spouse, and serving others?  Jesus, our model and standard, had a reputation for excellence: "He has done everything well" (Mk. 7:37).  How about you?

1 D. A. Carson, For the Love of God

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

LET ME ASK YOU FOUR TOUGH QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR WALK WITH GOD:

In an age of casual Christianity and mediocre spirituality, it behooves us to take careful stock of our lives, asking the penetrating, hard questions, with the understanding that one day we will give an account to a holy God who reminds us that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. (Heb. 12:14)  Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?  (2 Cor. 13:5)  (See Matt. 5:20; 2 Cor. 5:9, 10)

Are you going deep with God? By that I mean, are you studying Gods word regularly, carefully, and in depth? How about memorizing key passages and praying them into your life? Are you internalizing quality spiritual material in the vein of Elizabeth Elliott, Richard Foster, Cynthia Heald, C. S. Lewis, George McDonald, Henry Nouwen, J. I. Packer, John Piper, John Stott, A. W. Tozier, Dallas Willard, and Philip Yancy, etc? Or are you only reading light weight, quick fix religious fast food caliber material that is so prevalent today? Are you choosing to associate with men and women of spiritual substance, who challenge you to the core to be hard after God; to be great for God?

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heartTrain yourself to be godlyDo your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth…He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.  (Jer. 29:13;1 Tim. 4:7b; 2 Tim 2:15; Pro. 13:20 )

Do you possess a passion for holiness? By that I mean a passion for Christlikeness.  An exercise to help you intelligently answer that question is to prayfully review Galatians 5:19-23 as to where you really stack up.  Tell me, do you gravitate toward what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise?  (Phil. 4:8) Or are you inclined toward that which is sensual, pride-based, and materialistic? Does your heart truly yearn for God?  Does your daily schedule and check book strongly suggest that the knowledge of and service to the Holy One is your top priority?

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his templeTo fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.  (Psa. 84:2; 27:4; Pro. 8:13)

Are you a broken vessel before God?  Or does your pride rule your life? Are you grieved over your attraction to sin? Do you have a tendency to react whenever someone crosses you, challenges your authority, or corrects you?  Do you secretly pride yourself on your achievements, ministry, financial success, and social status? If you are truly honest, are you focused primarily on yourself or on serving others?

The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise All who fear the Lord will hate evil. That is why I hate pride, arrogance, corruption, and perverted speechDo nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  (Psa. 51:17 NLT; Pro. 8:13; Phil. 2:3, 4)

Are you intentionally engaging with the lost (the unconvinced) with a view toward influencing them toward Christ? Or are you hunkered down in your holy huddle, safe among the churched?  "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of menWhen you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteousI have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some "  (Matt. 4:19; Lk. 14:12-14; I Cor. 9:22b)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

THREE VALUES OUR LOST FRIENDS ARE LOOKING FOR 1

Transcendence:  Many people are instinctively looking for something that is beyond; searching for something that is transcendent; for something more than their lives are delivering. At some point, when they realize the toys in their lives are failing to satisfy their inner longings, some will ask the question, Surely there is more to it than this. Surely there is another dimension; something beyond this. Whether or not they realize it, they are looking for the reality of God – usually in all the wrong places:

I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Instead, they are clinging to their own way of getting right with God… They won’t go along with God’s way.  (Rom. 10:2b-4a NLT)

Question: Have you thought through on how to help them answer their searching questions about how to connect with our transcendent God?  How you can help them discover what true spirituality is all about?

Significance:  Many people are looking for their own personal identity:  Who am I, where do I come from, where am I going to; what is it all about? We need to instruct them as to who they are. You can be sure they do not know. But we do.  We need to help them understand that they are human beings made in the image of God, disfigured as that image may be. 

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created himFor we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Gen. 1:27; Eph. 2:10) (See Isa 43:7)

Question:  Have you thought through on how you can help them grasp their significance to God?

CommunityPeople are searching for relationships of love.  John Stott reminds us that the invisibility of God is a great problem to people.  Thankfully, God has addressed this issue in two ways:

First, through Christ he made the invisible God visible: 

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.  (Jn. 1:18)

Second, God has ordained that people will see the invisible God through us when we love them:

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (I Jn. 4:12)

So unless our lost friends are exposed to the love of Christ through us in a community of love, our  verbalization of the gospel is of little value.

 Question:  Are you lovingly involved in their lives in a way that they can see the living Christ in you?

1 The ideas of this article are drawn from Evangelism Plus, by Tim Stafford, quoting John Stott in Christianity Today, October 2006, pg 97