BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for March, 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

SO, DO YOU REALLY WANT TO BE FREE FROM YOUR BONDAGES?

SO, DO YOU REALLY WANT TO BE FREE FROM YOUR BONDAGES?

You can be! Listen to Christs astounding promise: If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free So if the Son liberates you [makes you free men], then you are really and unquestionably free. (Jn. 8:31, 32, 36 Amp.)

How is this possible? Let me share from personal experience here.  Back in my 20s a godly old man graciously pointed out to me how offensive my speech was; laced as it was with self-centeredness, off-color statements, exaggerations, insensitivity, etc.  I have to tell you, I was grieved when I realized the truth of his statement. But try as I may, I could not break the pattern. So, I thoroughly studied what the Word of God had to say about speech.  Then I picked out a half a dozen or so key verses or passages from that study and determined to prayerfully memorize them over a 6 8 week period.  As I memorized, I prayed fervently that God would plant His Truth in my heart and liberate me from my enslavement. To my utter amazement the grip this vice had on me diminished and died.  I was liberated!

Over the next several years, I repeated this process in every other area of bondage in my life. Today, I can tell you, I am free! I do not mean that there are not skirmishes from time to time, but the enslavement to sin in these areas has been broken.

So, would you like to be free of fear? Anger?  Defeating sexual issues? Envy? Gossip, etc? Take Jesus at his word and attack your bondages with the liberating power of Gods word.  Claim the promises in John 8:31,32, 36 above.

For starters, here is a sampler of Scriptures in four critical areas:

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 hand.  (Isa. 41:10) Also: Gen. 15:1; Deut. 20:1-4; 31:6,7; Josh. 1:7-9; 2 Chron. 20:17; Psa.23:4; 27:1; 46:1,2; Isa. 51:12, 13; 54:14; Rom. 8:31-39; 2 Tim. 1:7; 1 Jn 4:18.

ANGER: "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angryGet rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (Eph. 4:26, 31) Also:  Psa. 37:8; Pro. 12:16; 14:17, 29; 15:1, 18; 16:32; 17:14; 19:11, 19; 25:28; 27:3, 4; 29:22; Ecc. 7:9; Matt. 5:22-24; Col. 3:8; Jms.1:19, 20.

LUST: For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do–living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.  (I Pet. 4:3-5) Also:  Exo. 20:17; Job 31:1, 9-12; Pro.4:22-27;  6:25-29; Matt. 5:27-30; Rom. 8:1,2; 1 Cor. 9:24-27; Eph. 2:1-6; 2 Tim. 2:22; Tit. 2:12; Jms 1:12-15.

PRIDE"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.  (Jer. 9:23, 24) Also: Lev. 26:19, 20; Deut. 8:11-20; 1 Sam. 2:3,4; Psa. 10:2-6; 12:4; 18:27; 31:23; 52:7; Pro. 6:16, 17; 11:2; 12:9, 15; 13:10; 15:25; 16:5, 18, 19; 18:12; 20:6; 21:4; 25:27; 26:12; 27:2; 29:23; 30:12, 13; Isa. 2:11-17; Matt. 20:24 28; 23:6-8; Mk. 10:43-45; Lk. 1:51; 1 Cor. 3:18; 2 Cor. 10:12, 18; Gal. 6:3; Phil. 2:3-8; 2 Tim. 6:17-19; Jms.. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:2-4.

A couple of closing thoughts: The battlefield is in the mind which must be transformed into a godly mindset.  Carefully analyze Romans 12:1, 2; 2 Cor. 10:3-5; and Ephesians 4:23,24.  And dont forget the empowering role of the Holy Spirit in liberating us from sins bondages. In this regard, carefully study Romans 8:1-27; John 6:63;  and Galatians 5:16.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

MORE, MORE, FASTER, FASTER!!! (Part #2)

Our first point in last weeks Facts was on the dangers we face when our primary focus in life is on the pursuit of money: The tendency toward greed. In todays issue we will discuss: 1

The tendency toward a dangerous narrowness That is, the narrowness of a single-minded devotion to the goal of making money. J. Paul Getty and Howard Hughes come to mind as the arc-types.  Here is how Solomons constricted pursuit of wealth effected him, I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the windSo my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sunWhat does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?…All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.  (Ecc. 2:17, 20, 22, 23)

The tendency toward insatiability That is, the process by which money assumes such a dominant place in [our lives] that everything (and everyone) is viewed as a commodity to be bought and sold.1 As such, we evaluate everyones worth in terms of their net worth, rather than their intrinsic worth as a creation of God.  (Sports figures and movie stars?) G. K. Chesterton wrote that the vulgar heresy of capitalism was the falsehood that things are not made to be used but made to be sold.

An insatiable hunger for money may indicate the need to use money to meet at least some of our needs, such as the need to gain power or status over others.  Money, rather than God becomes our security.  By our wealth we are able to garner the admiration and approval of others. We may be an empty shell inside, yet we can mask our fears, insecurities, and depravity behind the mask of money: The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor. Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!   (Pro. 10:14; Ps. 52:7)  (See Psa. 49:5,6; 62:10; Pro. 10:15; Ecc. 7:12; 1 Tim 6:17)

Our insatiable hunger for money runs the risk of consuming us.  Individuals and societies who devote themselves to money soon become devoured by it  We become what we worship. Money literally seems to eat people away, drying up the sap of their vitality, and withering their spontaneity, generosity, and joyA recurring theme is the evaporation of life juices in the very rich and an inability to take pleasure in the fruits of their wealth.2

Again, Solomon stands as the consummate example of one consumed by money: I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well–the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.  I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. (Ecc. 2:8-11) 

Sam Waltons wife admitted, I kept saying, Sam, were making a good living.  Why go out, why expend so much more.  The stores (Wal Mart) are getting farther and farther away.  After the seventeenth store, though, I realized there wasnt going to be any stopping it. By way of contrast, I remember counseling a young fast tracker who wrestled with just how much to expand his company. How much is enough? Certainly he had the ability to take his company to a much higher level, growth-wise.  After carefully evaluating his priorities before God, he concluded he would cap his staff at 150 and would give it 100% of his effort not more than 45 hours a week. Today, a quarter of a century later, he has developed into a joyful, fruitful follower of Christ.

QUESTION:  Are you bound by money, or are you free from it?  Is it a consuming force in your life?  If so, what practical steps should you take at this time to move you  towards liberation?

1 The Call, Os Guinnis, Thomas Nelson, 1998, pg. 130

2 The basic ideas for the three key points in this Facts are drawn from The Call, Os Guinnis, Thomas Nelson, 1998, pages 128-136

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

MORE, MORE , FASTER, FASTER!!! (Part #1)

Jesus referred to the Pharisees as a money-obsessed bunch. (Lk. 16:14) Sounds like us does it not?  Hey, we love the stuff! At least that is what our mad rush of more, more, faster, faster, reveals.  Is it not true that what satisfied us a decade ago is a bore to us today?  Like drugs, it increasingly takes more and more money to give us a kick. Our lust for more, better, smoother, slicker, lustier (bling) is insatiable.  Admit it or not, our idolatrous efforts to acquire more and more, faster and faster puts us in severe spiritual jeopardy.  But lets let the Scriptures speak for themselves:

We brought absolutely nothing with us when we entered this world and we can be sure we shall take absolutely nothing with us when we leave it.  Surely then, as far as physical things are concerned, it is sufficient for us to keep our bodies fed and clothed. For men who set their hearts on being wealthy expose themselves to temptation.  They fall into one of the worlds traps, and lay themselves open to all sorts of silly and wicked desires, which are quite capable of utterly ruining and destroying their souls. For loving money leads all kinds of evil, and some men in the struggle to get rich have lost their faith and caused themselves untold agonies of mind.  (1 Tim. 6:7 -10 Phillips)

King Solomon spoke from first hand experience on the futility of obsessive acquisition:  Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?…All man’s efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied.Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man.  (Ecc. 5:10, 11; 6:7; Pro. 27:20) (See Ecc. 1:8)

Jesus got right to the heart of the matter in stating, You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both.  (Matt. 6:24 Msg.) His use of the term mammon (in the King James Version) -Aramaic for wealth conveyed the idea that money can exercise a powerful spiritual force over us.  It is never neutral. One look at our check book will quickly reveal the power of that truth.

If your primary focus in life is on the pursuit of money, here are three dangers you face: 1

The tendency toward greed.  Greed may be defined as an excessive and reprehensible desire to acquire. Generosity, on the other hand has to do with being unselfish, magnanimous, bountiful and liberal; possessing a noble, forbearing spirit.  The Hebrew word for money, kesef comes from the verb meaning to desire, or languish after something.  Its a thirst for something that never can be satisfied.  It has to do with getting what we do not have and clutching on to what we do posses.2 The antiquated word for greed was avarice which can be translated materialism. Today we assuage our conscience by calling it upward mobility.

The irony is that it is the blessing of the LORD [that] brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it.  (Pro. 10:22) His caution to the children of Israel after blessing them in the Promised Land was, (1) As more and more money [comes] in, [and you] watch your standard of living going up and up make sure you dont become so full of yourself and your things that you forget God, your God, and (2) If you start thinking to yourselves, I did all this.  And all by myself. Im rich. Its all mine! well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth  (Deut. 8:9, 17, 18a Msg)

QUESTION:  Based on the definitions of greed and generosity in this Facts, how would you characterize yourself?  As a greedy or generous person? Explain.

In next weeks Facts, well discuss the two more dangers we face when our primary focus in life is on the pursuit of money.

1 The Call, Os Guinnis, Thomas Nelson, 1998, pg. 130

2 The basic ideas for the five key points in this Facts are drawn from The Call, Os Guinnis, Thomas Nelson, 1998, pages 128-136

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

PRINCIPLES OF EVANGALISM FROM THE LIFE OF JESUS

Personally, winning people to Christ is about the most challenging thing in my life.  How do you approach someone? How long do you wait before you bring up the person of Christ?  One of the maddening things about Christs style of evangelism is that he never used the same approach twice. Each encounter was tailor-made. Jesus called us to be spiritual fishermen (Matt. 4:19 , 20). Perhaps there is something to be learned in the fact that fishermen use lures rather than dynamite to catch fish.

The account of Jesus winning the Samaritan woman to himself in John 4 furnishes us with important principles of evangelism. They include the following:

Dont wait until it is convenient to share Christ.  Two observations: (1) Jesus was tired from his journey, (2) In the Samaritan culture men did not converse in public with strange women: Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, Will you give me a drink?"  (Jn. 4:6, 7) (See Ecc. 11:4-6; 2 Tim. 4:2)

Obligate yourself to the person.  In this case, Jesus asked a favor. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, Will you give me a drink?" (Jn. 4:7)

Create curiosity by introducing a spiritual element into the conversation that addresses a need.  Jesus answered her, If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." (Jn. 4:10)

Avoid argumentation by addressing the persons real need: In this womans case, she possessed a need for spiritual fulfillment.   Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but 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, 14)

Reveal who Christ is when you detect spiritual interest.  The woman said, I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.  Then Jesus declared, I who speak to you am he." (Jn. 4:25, 26)

Ask God to give you a passion for his work. He said to them, I have food to eat that you know nothing about. Then his disciples said to each other, Could someone have brought him food? My food, said Jesus, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (Jn. 4:32-34)

Recognize that the harvest is over-ripe for evangelism/reaping.  Jesus: Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.  (Jn. 4:35)

Understand that sowing and reaping is a joint effort, and mutual cause for rejoicing. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. (Jn. 4:36, 37)

Know that your reaping may be the result of others hard work of planting. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.  (Jn. 4:38) (See 1 Cor. 3:6,7)

PRAYER Lord, would you grant me the compassion to care enough for those outside of Christ to lovingly involve myself in their lives as an instrument of your grace. Would you grant me the privilege of participating with you in the  noble work of sowing and reaping. Amen.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

KNIGHTHOOD AND PERSEVERENCE (11 of 11)

When you think of perseverance, Lance Armstrong easily comes to mind. Armstrong became a professional athlete at age 16, winning and placing in numerous world class cycling events until he contracted cancer that left him with a 40 per cent chance of recovery. Refusing to bow to defeat, amidst grueling chemotherapy treatments, he set up a killer training program, eventually beating the cancer and winning the prestigious 2274 mile Tour de France an unprecedented seven times. 

What is it in your life that demands perseverance? A marriage gone stale?  A business or profession that no longer challenges or interests you?  An on-going struggle with health problems, over-eating, nagging depression, sexual temptations, or a sense of purposelessness?  Perhaps you are involved in a ministry that exacts more than you feel you can deliver?

One reason lifes suffering calls for perseverance is its redemptive quality in our spiritual development. Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  (Rom. 5:3-5 Selected)

Perseverance has to do with choosing to remain steadfast in the face of suffering, persecution, opposition, attack and discouragement.  St. Paul challenged us to Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (I Cor. 15:58) (See 2 Tim 2:3; 2:12; Heb 3:14; 4:14; 6:12; 10:23, 35,36; Jms. 1:4, 12; Rev. 3:21)

It is amidst lifes struggles that God calls us to persevere:  Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Tim. 2:3)  Not everyone, however, rises to the challenge. It was said of the men of Ephriam, Though armed with bows, [they] turned back on the day of battle.  (Psa. 78:9) Peter told Jesus, Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and death, but failed in the hour of testing. (Lk. 22:33)  Faced as we all are with tough challenges, it is not Gods intention that we vacillate, waver, surrender, yield, or give up. Winston Churchill, during Britains darkest hour of World War II challenged his fellow-citizens, "Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give in. Never give in. Never give in. Never give in."

But to have the courage and determination to persevere, we need to understand that we are not alone in this our struggles. [God] who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ JesusA righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand[God] will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus ChristNow it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (Phil. 1:6; Psa. 34:19; 37:24; 1 Cor. 1:8; 2 Cor. 1:21,22)

We can take heart from both Jesus and Paul who modeled perseverance in the face of  death: Jesus went… to the Mount of Olives, knelt down and prayed, Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the groundI 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. (Lk. 22:39-44 Selected; Act. 20:24)

QUESTION: Will you join me in responding to the challenge set before us in Hebrews 12:1-3? 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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  (See Lk. 9: 57-62; 14:26-33; 21:34; 2 Cor. 7:1)