BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for December, 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

KNIGHTHOOD AND LOYALTY (Part 2 of 11)

Knighthood, evolving originally out of the Frankish emperor Charlemagne of the Middle Ages, serves today as a noble illustration of servanthood, generosity, courtesy, compassion, and most importantly loyalty.  Around age 6 or 7 a lad would be sent away to train and serve on the long arduous path toward knighthood. He would learn basic hunting, valuable battle skills, the caring and riding of horses, and so on. In war, the chivalrous knight was idealized as brave in battle and loyal to his king and God, and willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good.

Loyalty is that rare quality of putting principle and the good of others ahead of oneself.  It has to do with allegiance, devotion and faithfulness to another.  These are qualities not easily found in our self-indulgent and individualistic world where our impish desires command center stage. Kings Solomon and David affirmed the rarity of loyalty in stating, Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?…Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. (Pro. 20:6; Psa. 12:1)  Yet, remarkable examples of loyalty and faithfulness can be found in the Scriptures:

  • Both God and Christ are referred to in Scriptures as faithful. God:  The Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. (Deu. 7:9) Christ: He had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  (Heb. 2:17)
  • Ruth exhibited loyalty to Naomi amidst the most trying of circumstances. Said she, Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.  (Rut. 1:16)
  • Jonathans armor-bearer, who at great risk to his life expressed his unyielding loyalty: "Do all that you have in mindGo ahead; I am with you heart and soul." (I Sam. 14:7)
  • David remained loyal to King Saul by twice sparing his life, even as Saul was trying to destroy his.  (I Sam. 24, 26)
  • Davids men demonstrated loyalty by risking their lives to obtain a drink of water for their king.  (2 Sam. 23:15-17)
  • Paul experienced the satisfaction of faithful and loyal men. For example: Epaphroditus:  My brother, fellow worker and fellow soldierwhom you sent to take care of my needs. (Phi. 2:25) Epaphras:  Our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf. (Col. 1:7)

So tell me my friend in Christ, are you loyal to God? Loyal to your spouse? Loyal to those whom God has put under your charge? Loyal down to the very center of your being? That is, are you holding the line on truth, integrity, and fidelity when so many around you are slopping along, cutting corners here and there, and hedging on the truth when it is to their advantage to do so?

In Hamlet, William Shakespeare penned these immortal words, This above all:  To thine own self be true, for it must follow as dost the night the day, that canst not then be false to any man. 

 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

KNIGHTHOOD: A VISION FOR BIBLICAL MANHOOD (Part 1 of 11)

Today we are in an epic struggle to retain biblical manhood as gender roles are blurred, challenged and re-written to accommodate the increasing perversion of Western culture. Stu Weber makes the poignant observation that Our culture is in deep trouble, and at the heart of its trouble is its loss of a vision for manhood. If it is difficult for you and me as adult males to maintain our masculine balance in this gender-neutral culture, imagine what it must be like for our sons, who are growing up in an increasingly feminized world. 1

Lou Whitworth further amplifies, We must supply our young men with healthy, noble visions of manhood, and the figure of the knight in this regard is without equal.  In the knight we find a conception of manhood that can lift, inspire, and challenge our young men to new heights of achievement and nobility. 2 The notable historian Will Durant asserts, Not all knights were great men, but all great men were knights. According to Durant, chivalry and knighthood gave to the world one of the major achievements of the human spirit. 2

C. S. Lewis, with the collaboration of close friends in their struggle to raise sons into balanced biblical manhood, wrote The Necessity of Chivalry.  In it he addressed the issue of the disparate strands of manhood, such as fierceness and gentleness and the need to find a healthy synthesis of these competing impulses. If either of these drives were not tempered and channeled, the healthy balance necessary for authentic Christian manhood would be lost. Lou Whitworth points out that Strength and power, without tendernessgive us the brute. Tenderness and compassion without masculine firmness and aggression produce a male without the fire to lead or inspire others. 3

The Bible presents numerous examples of those in whom these two elements resided.  Jesus was tough and tender. He wept over Jerusalem, desiring to gather her people as a hen gathers her young under its wings.  (Matt. 23:37-39)  He also wept over the tomb of Lazarus.  (Jn. 11:35) Yet he ran off the money changers with a whip. (Jn. 2:13-17)  In Gethsemane his powerful glance knocked men to the ground.  (Jn. 18:4-6)

The Apostle Paul also demonstrated this blend of gentleness and fierceness.  For example he warned the Ephesians night and day with tears (Act. 20:31), and was gentle among [the Thessalonians] like a mother caring for her children. (1 Thess. 2:7) Yet he endured almost incomprehensible suffering beyond what most military personnel would ever face.  (2 Cor. 11:16-29) On other occasions he courageously, and without hesitation, went after false teachers. (Gal. 1:6-9; 2:11 -14; 5:12 )

In the Old Testament David was a poet and singer, but also a warrior and king.  He tenderly cared for Sauls crippled son Mephibosheth, yet without hesitation he fiercely killed Goliath.  (2 Sam.l 9, 1 Sam. 17)

Understanding the balance, tension, and legitimacy of the fierceness and gentleness in men is desperately important in an age where humility and forbearance are necessary for modern day warriors, while valor is demanded of the urbane and modest man.  Otherwise he is in danger of becoming what Lewis terms a milksop.  4

For the next ten weeks we will explore C. S. Lewis ten ideal characteristics appropriate for modern-day knights: Loyalty, kindness, humility, purity, servant-leadership, honesty, self-discipline, excellence, integrity, and perseverance. Be assured that the Scriptures will be our textbook.

In the meantime, you may want to ask yourself, In todays upside down world, am I a knight or a milksop? 4

1 Stu Weber cited in Robert Lewis, Raising A Modern-Day Knight: A Fathers Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood  (Colorado Springs, Colo.: Focus on the Family, 1997), vii.

2 The story of Civilization The Age of Faith, Will Durant (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1950) 578

3 Knighthood and Biblical Manhood, Lou Whitworth, pg. 1

4 Milksop:  An unmanly man, boy; a weak, timorous fellow; sissy.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

PRIDE: THE ROOT AND ESSENCE OF SIN

I just learned of a friend of mine (who took a church from nothing to 1200 people in three years) who has fallen into sexual immorality.  Over the years he has been secretly plagued with deeply-rooted unresolved issues, which in his pride he has consistently refused to divulge, deal with, and be held accountable for. It was these root issues that eventually led to his undoing.

I finally got him on the phone, having escaped with his wife to the Caribbean , Dwight, it is hell.  I may not have a marriage. Our lives are changed forever. In our brief but intense conversation he said nothing about defacing the Name of God or about the 1200 people he had deeply offended.  No, it was all about him and his discomfort; his embarrassment.  In a word, raw, untamed pride.

So just what is pride? It is the very root and essence of sin.  And how does it manifest itself? By putting ourselves rather than God at the center, as manifested by our boasting, high-mindedness, arrogance, and drawing attention to our skills, accomplishments, possessions or position. At its root is rebellion against God in that we take unto ourselves the honor and glory that is his due. This is precisely what King Herod did, and it cost him his life: [King] Heroddelivered a public address to the people. They shouted, This is the voice of a god, not of a man. Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. (Act. 12:21-23 Selected) Is there any doubt that "God opposes the proud"? (Jms. 4:6)

The insidious nature of pride and Gods concern that it not control us is brought home in his dealing with the Apostle Paul. God had given him extraordinary revelations and knew that if he did not injure him, he would loose him to pride. To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  After pleading with God three times without success – to remove the thorn, [God] said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Pauls conclusion? Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:1-10 Selected)

God warned Israel of pride that could easily engulf  them with the success he would give them after crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land, You may say to yourself, My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me. But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.  (Deu.. 8:17, 18)  Why the warning?  Because, God emphatically instructs us, I will not yield my glory to another. (Isa. 48:11b)

QUESTIONS YOU MAY WANT TO ASK YOURSELF IN EVALUATING YOUR PRIDE QUOTIENT:

  • Are the words, I am sorry, and I am wrong part of my vocabulary? (Matt. 23:12)
  • Whom do I really credit for my success? God or myself? (Psa. 33:16-19; Zec. 4:6)
  • What is my attitude toward the less fortunate; the less accomplished; the less attractive? Disdain? Judgmentalism? Avoidance? Or compassion?  (Matt. 9:36; Lk. 18:9-14)
  • In conversation, do I purposely step back from the limelight, or do I maneuver the focus toward myself?
  • Is my planning and decision-making bathed with prayer and the counsel of godly people?  Or do I plow ahead on my own? (Pro. 15:22; 20:18; Jms. 4:13-16)
  • Am I resting in who I am in Christ, or am I still trying to prove myself and impress others?  (Eph. 2:4-9)

Because pride is such a menacing force for all of us, an exercise you might consider is praying your way through the following passages: John 13:1-17; Luke 18:9-17; Philippians 2:5-8.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

FOUR CRITICAL QUESTIONS I WANT TO ASK YOU

The other night my wife and I went to a PG-13 movie that was billed as an airy comedy.  The theatre rocked with laughter as bathroom humor dominated throughout the film.  And this was the most benign motion picture showing that night at the multiple movie complex. And oh yes, the previews? Filth.  On the way home I pondered the Scripture, If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?  (Psa. 113 KJV) Is there any doubt that the foundations of our society are under severe attack?

A recent news article made the point that in the 1940s the major concerns of educators in the public schools were kids cutting in line, running in the hallways, cheating on a test now and then, and tardiness. Today the major concerns range from rape to drugs, to teen pregnancy, to violence with weapons. Tell me, do you think our foundations are being destroyed?

Let me ask you four questions: 1

Do you have an informed mind? That is, do you know what is going on? A random pole was taken as to whether it was ignorance or apathy that lay at the core of our problems. The first person interviewed stated, I dont know and I dont care. Not long ago I was driving golf balls on a range where turkeys were blissfully grazing 50 yards in front of me, ignorantly unaware that their lives were in imminent danger. That seems to me to be the condition of the vast majority of believers today:  Blissfully unaware or indifferent to the looming danger all around them. One Christian leader described our head-in-the-sand stance as one of benign indifference. By way of contrast, it was said of the men of the tribe of Issachar, [They] understood the times and knew what Israel should(I Chr. 12:32) Do you? 

Do you have a dislocated heart? That is, do you care? America today reminds me of a house that has been ravaged by termites. From a distance it looks in tact, but when you get up close you can see that it is hanging by a thread. The question is, does anyone care? When war correspondent Bob Pierce observed the hundreds of thousands of destitute orphans from the Korean War, he prayed, Lord, break my heart with the things that break your heart.  And with that he founded World Vision. Nehemiah, lamenting the postexile condition of his people, and state of disrepair of Jerusalems wall and gates, sat down and wept, and for days fasted and prayed to the Lord: I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.  (Neh. 1:4, 6, 7 selected)  Bob Pierce and Nehemiah cared. Do you? 

Do you have a broken spirit? That is, are you totally dependant on God? Have you come to the point in your walk with God that you know you are helpless, impoverished, and have nothing to offer apart from  a broken, contrite heart, coupled with total dependence on Christ? David, after his sin with Bathsheba confessed, The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will  not despise. (Psa. 51:17) Jesus exhibited total dependence on his Heavenly Father in stating, ".The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the  Father does the Son also does. (Jn. 5:19) He than informed his disciples, "Apart from me you can do nothing. (Jn. 15:5b) Augustus Toplay penned, Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross  I cling. Do you honestly believe that to be true? 
Do you have a radical faith? That is, are you willing to step out?  Jim Rayburn observed troubled, lost teenagers, and by faith started Young Life. Dave Wilkerson learned of mayhem through gangs in New  York City and by faith started Teen Challenge. A friend of mine is broken over severe inter-city family disintegration in a major metropolitan area, and by faith and against sever odds, is bravely crafting a  program to make an eternal difference. Hudson Taylor wept over untold millions in China without Christ, and by faith founded China Inland Mission. Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall  I send? And who will go for us? And I said, Here am I. Send me!" (Isa. 6:8) Can you honestly say the same?

1 Some of the key ideas for this Facts are credited to Chip Ingram, Holy Ambition What it Takes to Make a Difference for God.