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Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for September, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A FRESH APPROACH TO WINNING THE LOST TO CHRIST

We must never forget the bitter and confusing lostness, the isolation and spiritual barrenness by which the unsaved and the unenlightened negotiate the world.1

True indeed. But just how do I win my lost friends to Christ?  Much of what many of us were taught is that as a matter of course we are to directly confront every one we can with the Gospel.  Kind of hit them in the face with it. Many of us were taught a tool or two that we felt compelled to present to our potential converts. Kind of a sales pitch for Jesus. No doubt many of us felt uncomfortable and relatively ineffective with this packaged approach. Perhaps we wonder how many people we have alienated with this rather rigid and blunt tactic.

One thing we may need to do is take a careful look at our giftedness. Some people seem to have a natural gift of evangelism. Fine. Most of us do not. Perhaps we need to re-examine the Scriptures on this subject, especially observing Jesus approach to reaching the lost.

In studying Jesus encounters with people, we are hard-pressed to observe a set approach to evangelism. What stands out is that he served and loved people at their perceived point of need.  For example, the blind men in John 9 and Luke 18:35 -43, and the leper in Luke 5:2-13.  With Nicodemus in John 3, and the woman at the well in John 4, Jesus did use a more direct approach. It seems that Christ viewed the winning of the lost not so much as an event, but as a process.  Does that not suggest that we too should view each person we encounter as someone in process on their spiritual journey toward God?  Our job then is to love them, listen to their heart, and then prayerfully, as guided by the Holy Spirit, gently seek to move them a step or two closer to Christ on their journey.  We would do well to heed St. Pauls wise counsel:

The Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Tim. 2:24-26)

As we live our lives among the lost, there are at least two powerful ways we can influence them spiritually:

By the power of love:  If we truly believe with St. Paul that love is the greatest force in the world (I Cor. 13:13 ), we would find it easier to soften and slow our approach with people. We could start by allowing the very life and love of Jesus to flow through us to others. Remember how he commended those who cared for the needy?  "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for meFor I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. (Matt. 25:40, 35,36) 

By the power of example:  Just the other day a dear friend of ours led one of her employees to Christ after praying for her and loving her for 3 years.  Said the new believer, The reason I came to Christ is that for 3 years I have observed your quiet, Christlike manner. You lived it so powerfully and beautifully before me. And you did not push your beliefs on me. You just loved and served me. In the end, I could not resist Christ.  Certainly this is verification of Christs instruction: Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:16)

1 Mane Attraction, Touchstone Magazine, page 39, June 2006

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

DADS, HERE EIGHT WAYS TO EXASPERATE YOUR CHILDREN:1

If you are a typical dad, you live with a lot of pressure in your work,  and want desperately to prepare your kids for the tough realities of life.  You want them to succeed. In your world of excellence, discipline, planning and perseverance, it is difficult not come down on your kids when you see them slouching toward mediocrity.  Paul warns us, Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).  The Greek word for exasperate is parogizo, and literally means to anger, enrage, provoke to wrath.  The dictionary adds words like infuriate, madden, frustrate and annoy.  So just how do we do that? Here are eight ways:

Overprotection.  We smother them by overly restricting them as to what they can do. We communicate lack of trust in allowing them to do things on their own, by forever challenging their judgment, rather than trusting them. Thus we inhibit their development in learning to make intelligent decisions on their own in keeping with their age and maturity level. We fail to guide rather than control their wills. It is intriguing to me that Christ released the disciples to accomplish his will with the simple instructions found in Matthew 28:18-20.  Because he had built his values into their lives, he was able to risk the possibility of their failure by leaving the details to them.

Favoritism.  Isaac favored Esau over Jacob and Rebekah preferred Jacob over Esau. When parents compare one child with another the results can be devastating.  The less talented one may well become discouraged, bitter, withdrawn and resentful. Tragically, they will in kind express similar favoritism among their peers.  I Corinthians 12-14 speaks of different giftedness, yet all are precious in Gods eyes. In the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) it is obvious that not all are equally gifted.  Yet there is no hint that God plays favorites.  Nor should we.

Unreasonable expectations. That is, we push our children beyond reasonable bounds.  Nothing the child does measures up to our expectations.  How many parents have I observed who fantasize the accomplishment their own unfulfilled dreams through their childs athletic or academic success.  I remember our son Wes, striking out all three times at bat in Little League. When the game was over he jumped into the car, and I asked him, Did you have fun? And, Did you give it your best shot? His answers to both questions was Yes.   With that I said, Hey, lets go get some ice cream!

Withholding compliments. I remember as a 14 year old winning several contests in selling newspaper subscriptions. My fathers response, Well, the newspaper business is kind of a second rate affair. Kids can be angered by this kind of discouragement.  When children are forever told what is wrong rather than what is right, they lose hope and begin to believe that they are incapable of doing anything right.  Both Titus and Philemon were great encouragers: God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus I myself have gained much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because your kindness has so often refreshed the hearts of God’s people  (2 Cor. 7:6; Phil. 1:7). Surely we must do the same with our children.

Rejection.  Were talking here about selfish parents living for themselves, and viewing their children as an intrusion on their lives. In time the children will reciprocate that rejection, viewing their ageing parents as an intrusion on their lives. A careful study of Psalm 112 gives us a beautiful picture of children as a wonderful, integral part of the family.

Demanding an unrealistic pace. We must allow kids to develop at their normal pace. And we have to let them act like kids, which at times will appear childish to us.  While writing this Facts, I had to call my 7 year old grandson and apologize to him for coming down hard on him last night while in the car.  Hey, he was just acting like a normal high energy kid!

Manipulating with love. That is, dishing out love when they perform and withholding it when they dont.  The message they get is that love is conditional, based on achievement.  Consider Christs unconditional love: God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). Christ is our standard here!

Physical and verbal abuse. Gentleness is a fruit of the spirit. How easy it is to be harsh with your children, both verbally and physically.  Sarcasm and put downs, come all to easily.  Love looks for a way of being constructive (I Cor. 13:4 Phil. Trans.).  (See Pro. 22:15; 23:13 ; 29:15)

1 Key ideas adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

AS GODS LABORERS, PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION TO THESE VULNERABLE AREAS:

Stay close to the Source. Our primary mission in life is not to save the world, but to know a Person:  Godhas called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord (I Cor. 1:9)  The truth is that many of us would rather be busy for God than pursue the knowledge of him. God is not impressed with our service when it is done at the expense of deepening our relationship with him: "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers! (Matt. 7:21-23)True fruitfulness is the product not of busyness but of an abiding relationship with Christ: Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  (Jn. 15:4, 5)

Dont miss it with your family.  Your family will either validate or invalidate your ministry. Probably the greatest test  of true godliness is living out Biblical mandates concerning your relationship with your spouse and children (Eph. 5:21-33; 6:4. etc.). If you fail here you disqualify yourself for the larger responsibility of leadership beyond the four walls of your home. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? (I Tim 3:4).

Dont mess with the Glory. Few handle success well, as pride often creeps in.  King Uzziah, after successfully serving God for many years, audaciously took upon himself the role not only of king but of priest. God severely disciplined him by striking him with leprosy. (2 Chro. 26; 2 Kin. 15) In the early years of Billy Grahams ministry a friend of mine inadvertently walked in on him in his hotel room, only to find him flat on the floor literally biting the rug, as he pled with God to not allow his pride to get in the way of Gods overwhelming blessing on his ministry.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;  a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despiseFor this is what the high and lofty One says–he who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contriteSee, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed?  I will not yield my glory to another… (Psa. 17; Isa. 57:15; Isa. 48:10,11).

Dont get bitter. Take a few minutes to study Hebrews 12, which centers on Gods discipline of his children. At the end of that discourse the writer concludes, See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (vs. 15).  Many believers miss the blessing of hardship in life which God either causes or uses as a disciplinary tool, by becoming bitter at God and life.  You can be sure that in life you will be used and abused. (See 2 Cor. 4:8-12; 6:4-10) Your godly reaction to lifes abuses and Gods discipline are a true test of the authenticity of your inner life with God.  In Genesis 50:20, Joseph graciously forgave his ruthless brothers by choosing to see the sovereign hand of God in their plot to destroy him, You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Gen. 50:20).  God expects nothing less of us.

Deal with the sex issue. We have to decide what kind of a person we want to be. Unless we have a passion to be Christlike, we are dead in the water on the sexual purity issue.  (See I Pet. 1:14, 15)  How would you interpret, The wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders will inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:9,10 (selected). You know, there just isnt a lot of wiggle room here.  Jesus said, look, if you have a problem in the sexual area, do whatever it takes to solve it. Period:  If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. [30] And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell (Matt. 5:29, 30).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

HOW TO INSURE THAT YOU WILL STAY PURE AND ABOVE REPROACH (2 of 2) 1

Last week we talked about:  (1) Recognizing that you are vulnerable to temptation,  (2) Monitoring how you are doing spiritually, and  (3) Maintaining the health of your own marriage. Today we will discuss the following three subjects:

Protect your mind. Sin always starts with the mind. Lose control of your thought life and you have lost the battle. I am ruthless as to what I allow into my mind.  Ruth and I are exceedingly careful as to what we watch on T. V. or at the movies. I am brutal with myself as to how I handle the internet. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.  Worthless here means wicked, destructive and without profit.  Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things…We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (Psa. 101, Phil. 4:8 and 2 Cor. 10:5). There is a school of thought that says we need to know about what is going on in the world to have victory over it.  Baloney! St. Paul emphatically stated, I want you to be wise in what is good, and innocent in what is evil  (Rom. 16:19 NAS).  To maintain purity in my mind, I need to wash my mind regularly in the word of God:  Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word. (Eph. 5:25, 26 NIV) (See Jn. 15:3; 2 Tim. 4:5 I Pet. 1:13 )

Think about the devastating consequences of moral failure. Remember Jimmy Baker, Jimmy Swaggart and Ted Haggard? Visualize the day of your daughters wedding and she does not ask you to walk her down the isle. Imagine the crushing devastation to your spouse. The loss of trust and respect. Think of the people who, over the years have looked to you as a beacon of light; an icon of strength and spirituality.

Randy Alcorn, writing in Leadership Magazine stated, "Whenever I feel particularly vulnerable to sexual temptation, I find it helpful to review what effects my action could have: grieving the Lord who redeemed me; dragging his sacred name through the mud; one day having to look at Jesus, the righteous judge in the face, and give an account of my actions; following the footsteps of people whose immorality forfeited their ministries and caused me to shudder; losing my wife’s respect and trust; hurting my daughters; destroying my example and credibility with my children; causing shame to my family; losing self-respect; forming memories and flashbacks that could plague future intimacy with my wife; wasting years of ministry training; undermining the faithful example and hard work of other Christians in our community; and on and on."

Even more sobering, consider, Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matt. 18:6) When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.  (Jms. 1:15)

Do whatever it takes to protect yourself. Proverbs 22:3 states The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naive go on, and are punished for it. There are certain people and situations that I avoid like the Black Plague.  Period. How about Matthew 26:41 "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Dull spirituality is a set up for moral failure. Know your enemy. Guess what, he is not a cutesy little red devil.  He is wise, immensely attractive, brilliant, and a gifted strategist when it comes to destroying you. Consider:  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroyBe self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devourBe strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Jn. 10:10a; I Pet. 5:8; Eph. 6:10 -12)

When I meet the Lord in eternity, I want to be able to look him in the eye and know that I lived my life with moral integrity before him. I want him to say to me, Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your Master’s happiness!  (Matt. 25:23 NIV)

1 Key points adapted from How to Maintain Moral Integrity in the Ministry, Rick Warren

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

HOW TO INSURE THAT YOU WILL STAY PURE AND ABOVE REPROACH (1 of 2) 1

Integrity is at the very heart of leadership. People will follow you if they trust you. Betray their trust and you are finished.  Paul could say that he had led with integrity:  Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.  (2 Cor. 1:12). He also stated that a requirement for leadership was to be blameless (Literally, unaccused, irreproachable). (Tit. 1:6) Thus we are warned in Ephesians 5:3, Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 

Following are a few suggestions on how to live a life of moral integrity:

Recognize that you too are vulnerable to temptation.  How many good people have I known over the past half century who succumbed to sexual temptations; people whom you would never imagine!  Personally, I run scared in this area.  I am constantly reminded of I Corinthians 10:12, So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!  Be sure to also read verse 13! And how about Proverbs 16:18, Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.  We need constantly to keep before us the sobering reality that The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9).

Monitor how you are doing spiritually. Are you staying close to Jesus? Spending quality time with Him?  Feeding on his word? Spending time talking things over with him? If not, you are already in trouble. Proverbs 4:23 instructs us, Above all else, guard your heart (feelings, will, intellect), for it is the wellspring of life.  I Corinthians 9:27 is a sober warning for people who are effectively ministering to others, that you too can be put on the shelf, I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.  (NLT)

Maintain the health of your own marriage. Personally I cant wait to get home to Ruth. Surely that is a great deterrent to giving in to sexual temptation.  Too many have sacrificed the maintenance of their own marriages at the expense of helping others in theirs. Solomon stated, They made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyard I have neglected. (Son. 1:6 (NAS) A grave danger in marriage is that the two of you drift in different directions. You must take proactive steps to pray together, interact on books together, minister together. This is not to suggest that you have no activities apart from each other.  Simply that you learn how to intersect enough to maintain healthy communication and intimacy.

Next week we will discuss: (1) The importance of protecting your mind, (2) Considering the devastating consequences of moral failure, and (3) The importance of doing whatever it takes to protect yourself.  

1 Key points adapted from How to Maintain Moral Integrity in the Ministry, Rick Warren