BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for June, 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

HOW, IN THIS HELTER SKELTER WORLD, ARE WE TO MAKE SENSE OF LIFE AND HOW IT IS TO BE LIVED?

 

In Ecclesiastes,  chapter 3, wise old Solomon offers us a few clues:

 

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.  (Ecc. 3:1) (See Ecc. 3:17; 7:140

 

Therefore, take a deep breath and slow the pace.  Sense Gods timing and then move with it.  When we rush, we usually error and miss it.

 

A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,  a time to kill and a time to heal,  a time to tear down and a time to build,  a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,  a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.  (Ecc. 3:2-8) (See Job 14:5,14)

 

Therefore, learn to flex with the ying and yang of life.  Life is not a formula to be endured, but an adventure to be celebrated.

 

He has made everything beautiful in its time(Ecc. 3:11a)  (See Gen. 1:31; Deut. 32:4; Ecc. 7:29; Mark 7:37)

 

Therefore, take the long view. God, on His timetable is producing something majestic and eternal. Few things in life of enduring beauty are born without time and pain.

 

He has also set eternity in the hearts of men. Yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end(Ecc. 3:11b)  (See Deut. 29:29; Job 11:6,7; John 15:15; Acts 1:7; Rom. 1:19,20; 11:33, 34; 1 Cor. 2:16)

 

Therefore, respond to the pull of God on your heart for things eternal.  Rest your unknown future in His hands, trusting that He is mysteriously working His eternal wonder for His glory and your future.  How boring life would be if we understood it all!

 

I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil–this is the gift of God.  (Ecc. 3:12,13) (See Ecc 2:24; 5:18-20; 9:7)

 

Therefore, commemorate life! Live it to the fullest! Embrace your work as a sacred gift from God.

 

I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere Him.  (Ecc. 3:14) (See Ps. 33:11; 119:90, 91; Isa. 46:10; Dan. 4:34, 35; Eph. 3:9-11)

 

Therefore, recognize that God has everything covered, choreographed and on time.  Hes not in heaven wringing His hands, anxiously worried that something might slip through the cracks. Understand that His eternal work is about His glory, not ours.

 

God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked  (Ecc. 3:17b) (See Ps. 98:9; Ecc. 12:14; Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; John 5:22, 26-29; Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:5-9; 1Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Thes. 1:6-10; Rev. 20:11-15)

 

Therefore, live life with a clear understanding that God will call you to account.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

ARE YOU THE REAL DEALOR A SPIRITUAL FRAUD?

 

Jesus, in his epic encounters with the religious leaders of his day, pierced their pharisaical armor, exposing their deep-rooted hypocrisy.  I wonder how you and I stack up with them in these four areas:

 

  They had a superficial relationship with God: You have never heard [the Fathers] voice nor seen his form (John 5:37b). (See 2 Tim 3:5; 1 John 1:1,2; 4:12)

Question: Are you experiencing the refreshing presence of God in your walk, worship and times alone with Him? Is the Spirit of God ministering to you at the deepest level?  Or is your relationship with God obligatory and boring?  (See Ps. 68:9; Hos. 6:3; Mi. 5:7; Ezek. 34:26; Acts 3:19)

  They possessed a cavalier attitude toward the word of God: There is nothing left in your memory of his Message because you do not take his Messenger seriously. You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you'll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! Yet you refuse to come to me to have life (John 5:38, 39 Msg. John 5:40 NIV).  (See Matt 22:29; Luke 4:4-7, 11-14)

Question: How closely does our life resemble this indictment:  You do not know the Scriptures or the power of God (Matt. 22:29b).  (See Isa. 66:2b)

  They where more interested in garnering the praise of men than possessing the love of God:  Jesus: "I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your heartsHow can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?  (John 5: 41, 42, 44).

Question:  What is it that really motivates you? The love, fear, and approval of God? Or the sanction and acceptance of men?  (See Acts 4:19; 5:29; II Cor. 5:11, 14; Gal. 1:10; 1 Thes. 2:4)

  They were easy targets of fraudulent religious leaders: I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him (John 5:43 (NIV).  (See. Matt 24:4,5, 11,  22-27)

Question: Have you settled it once and for all that Christ, the Son of God, is Lord of all, and that you intend to follow him all the days of your life?  Or are you an easy target for spiritual cons?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

THE MUSINGS OF THIS OLD PILGRIM

 

Its early Sunday morning, and I have been struggling my way through the crucifixion of Christ in Matthew 27:

 

  • They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him (vs. 28).
  • They made a crown of long, sharp thorns and put it on his head, and they placed a stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery, yelling, Hail! King of the Jews! (vs. 29).
  • They spit on him and grabbed the stick and beat him on the head with it (vs. 30).
  • After that, they had nailed him to the cross (vs. 35a NLT).

 

As I turned out the light and worshiped the Lord Jesus for his incomprehensible gift, my mind wandered back over the past 56 years since the day I learned of His grace and was forever transformed. (If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation 2 Cor 5:17b): 

 

  The powerful transforming power of the Holy Spirit in influencing me down the right paths. (He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake (Ps. 23:3b).

  The near brushes with sin that could have destroyed me, and His merciful protection and deliverance (For the angel of the LORD guards all who fear him, and he rescues them (Ps. 34:7).

  The years of internalizing the word of God (I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you Ps. 119:11), and the solid influence of men of high spiritual stature who helped build in rock-solid convictions and patterns of healthy spiritual disciplines (You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the LordTrain yourself to be godly (I Thess. 1:5b, 6b; 1 Tim. 4:7b)

  Experiencing an increasingly sweet union with Christ these many years, and, as the Message Translation puts it, Learning the unforced rhythms of grace Matt. 11:29).

  Being privileged by the Lord to participate in playing a small role in helping to fulfill the Great Commission (Gomake disciples of all nations Matt. 28:19b).

  Marrying an amazing woman; working through the normal marital adjustments, and raising kids, who are surprising us with joy as to what they are becoming in Christ (Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is worth more than precious rubiesA wise child brings joy to a father (Prov. 31:10; 10:1b NLT).

 

I then spent time recalling the numerous world crisis during my lifetime: Five major wars, and the genocidal machinations of megalomaniacs likes of Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler, and Stalin, not to mention the untold millions martyred for Christ in the Twentieth Century. And the human cost in suffering as measured by deaths? Over 250 million. * I then mused over our current challenges:

 

  The seduction of many believers by the accelerating hedonistic barbarianism endemic in todays culture, (Many [professed believers] live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things  (Philip. 3:18b, 19).

  The brutal reality of an increasingly pluralized, post-modern, and dangerous world (WMDs, crime, aids, the fundamentalist Muslim jihad-Western confrontation, etc.).  

  The ubiquitously destructive influences that are blasting their way into you and your childrens lives through the libertarian media, courts, and much in our public educational systems, not to mention the ever-present intrusion of drugs, promiscuous sex, negative peer pressure, etc.  

 

So tell me, my fellow pilgrim, are you, amid our world of madness, choosing with His help to live victoriously?  You can, you know! In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  ( Rom. 8:37b-39)

* Ron Sider, Courageous Non Violence, Christianity Today, Dec. 2007; Global Diagram, World Christian Trends, William Cary Library, David Barnett and Todd Johnson

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

THE PRODUCT OF INTIMACY WITH GOD (Part 4 of 4)

 

Bearing fruit is the natural response of a life intimately connected to Christ. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit.  (John 15:5b Amp.) In fact profuse fruit-bearing not only glorifies God, but is proof that we indeed are his disciples: This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples (John 15:8).

I believe the fruit in John 15 is two- fold: 

(1) The free-flowing product of a life controlled by the Holy Spirit, But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22, 23 NLT).

(2) The lives we affect for Christ, We are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life (2 Cor. 2:15, 16a).

God prepares us, his fruit-bearing instruments in two ways:

(1) Pruning: God also expects us to take the initiative in pruning ourselves, 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…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?  (Heb. 12:1b; 2 Cor. 13:5)  (See 1 Cor. 9:25-27).

Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardenerEvery branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful The writer of Hebrews states, No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it  (John 15:1,2b; Heb. 12:11).

(2) Cleansing: As we live out the truth of Gods word, cleansing occurs, You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you (John 15:3) (See John 17:17; Eph. 5:26).

We also share part of the responsibility of living a cleaned life, You have purified yourselves by obeying the truth If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work  (1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Tim. 2:21) (See I John 1:9).

QUESTION: Is it your desire to be fruitful? Than choose to live lavishly for God, serving him extravagantly by loving others in his Name. Pour out the love of Christ freely and abundantly everywhere you go. Express kindness; be an encourager; lift the weight in heavy hearts; help the less fortunate.  In a word, practice random acts of kindness in the Name of Jesus. 

We live in a bleeding, fractured world.  How arresting is a life that if free, joyful, and others-centered?  Stop worrying about what your gift is.  Just get involved in peoples lives any way you can.  Believe me, your gift will emerge.  If you lovingly serve people extravagantly and unconditionally, you will have people banging down your door. As you choose to develop intimacy with Christ and seek to spill it out on others, it is then that you will discover that fruit happens.  

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

PROCESS OF INTIMACY WITH GOD (Part 3 of 4)

 

Developing intimacy with God does not come easily in our modern world of increasing complexity and pressure. Do you ever feel you are moving at mach speed on a treadmill that is exponentially increasing in velocity, that leaves you whip-lashed and at the point of exhaustion? If, in this culture we are to know God intimately, something has to change!  Following are four emphasis that will assist you in putting balance and sanity into your life in your quest to know God.

 

Simplicity.  Solomon stated, God made us plain and simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated…We work to feed our appetites. Meanwhile, our souls go hungry.  (Ecc. 7:29 TEV; Ecc. 6:7 Msg.)  In our depravity and restlessness we gravitate toward a cluttered, complicated life. My wife and I recently returned from a visit to an Amish community in Ohio.  We learned they believe that modern life complicates, rather than simplifies their lives in ways that militate against contemplation and prayer.  Thomas Kelly comments, God never guides us to an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness. Simplicity and godliness go hand in hand.

 

Silence.  The Scriptures instruct us to "be still, and know that I am God  (Ps. 46:10) The Message Translation puts it rather starkly, "Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God"  If we are to know God, we must learn the art and discipline of practicing silence before him.  Could it be that we simply do not know how to deal with silence?  We may even be afraid of it. Many of us have become addicted to the blare of the television, the incessant blather of unproductive talk, ipods, email, My space, etc.  Noise and words and frenzied, hectic schedules dull our senses, closing our ears to His still, small voice and making us numb to his touch. +  Why is it that when we go to the mountains or the sea we feel relieved and closer to God?  Surely it has something to do with the spiritually rejuvenating power of silence.

There was a time not too long ago without radios and televisions, stop signs, yield signs, merge signs, bumper stickers, and the ever-present announcements indicating price increases or special sales. There was a time without the advertisements which now cover whole cities with words.  Henri Nouwen

Solitude.  Recently in a phone conversation with a young fast tracker, I asked him if he ever took time to do something for himself. Never, came his immediate reply. As we talked on, he began to share his resentment towards his clients, his wife, and his kids as he had allowed himself to become their enabler with little regard for his own legitimate needs.  In his early 40s, he is beginning to experience stress-related health problems.  If we are to survive the madness of modern life, and if we are to  know God deeply, we must plan our schedule in ways that build in regular periods of isolation. Part of that planned solitude will include quietness before God.  It may also include a round of golf, or fishing.  In isolation, of course.

Again Henri Nouwen shares,  In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding, no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me-naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken-nothing.  It is this nothingness that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something.

Surrender.  I can easily identify with this Puritan prayer that points out our struggle with surrender, When Thou wouldst guide me I control myself. When Thou wouldst be sovereign I rule myself.  When Thou wouldst take care of me I suffice myself.  When I should depend on Thy providings I supply myself.  When I should submit to Thy providence I follow my will.  When I should study, honor, trust Thee, I serve myself; I fault and correct Thy laws to suit myself, instead of Thee I look to mans approbation.  As I make it a regular practice to  spend time alone with God, prayerfully pondering the Scriptures, and worshipping him, a sweet intimacy develops between God and me that makes surrender to his Lordship a natural response. 

QUESTION:  Are there steps that you need to take relative to simplicity, silence, solitude, or surrender in order to develop a deeper walk with God?

+The four key ideas are drawn from Intimacy with the Almighty by Charles Swindoll, C. Countryman, Knoxville, TN 1999