BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for November, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

FOUR EMPHASIS THAT MAY RECOUPE YOUR RAVAGED SOUL: (Part 4 of 4)

Surrender: Relinquishing my will up to His.

If you are born again, Christ became Lord of your life the day you received Him into your heart. Colossians 2:6 and 7 enjoin us to continue growing in that Lordship relationship: Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,  rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.Perhaps over the years Christs Lordship has been compromised like the foxes eating away at the cluster of grapes mentioned in Song of Solomon 2:15:  Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards. (Song of Sol. 2:15)

The fact is that Christ is indeed the Lord of all,  which all of us will acknowledge in eternity, either voluntarily or involuntarily: God exalted [Christ] to the highest placethat at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Phil. 2:9-11)

Recently I met with an old friend who confided in me that all his life he has been a rebel. Only in recent months has God been able after years of intense discipline to get to the core of his rebellion. And the cost of his spiritual insurgency? The devastation of his first marriage, and near destruction his second. He went on to tell me that after his mother conceived him, his father went off to war, returning when he was 16 months old.  By then even at that young age he, with his indomitable will had already over-run his mother as she tried to cope with raising her brood of children in the absence of his father.

He related that though he was raised in a wonderful Christ-honoring family, his beloved father, try as he may, was unable to  break his will in order to bring him into compliance with Christian and family values.  While unimaginably gifted in business, he has, over several decades experienced one set back after another. Finally, in his late 40s God miraculously broke through to him, and he surrendered his life to Christ.  And yet, in spite of his conversion, his fierce pride continued not only to profoundly plague his domestic life, but also his career.  Now in his senior years, looking back over his life, he is convinced that God disciplined him through  his repeated career and domestic struggles as a means of breaking his towering will.

Let us be honest: Few of us are willing to abandon ourselves without equivocation to Christs Lordship. One reason is that we are fearful of giving Him control of our lives on His terms.  We love to coddle our lusts, our pride, our anger, and our judgmental attitudes toward others. We bristle when someone calls us to account. We refuse to surrender our agenda to God.  We refuse to seriously dig into Gods word.  When the stark truth of Gods word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit does pinpoint our rebellion, we twist or water down the Scriptures in order to justify our actions.  Rare is our prayer that the Spirit of God would expose us at the core, and root out our sins.

The surrendered life is a broken life. It is a life of genuine humility that grieves over its sinful failings (Matt. 18:4; Ps. 51:6). It is a life that refuses to put self forward (Mk. 9:35) .  Rather, the surrendered life is voluntarily given up for others in humble service (Phil. 2:5-8). Surrendered followers of Christ have a soft edge about them.  They step back and put others first (Rom. 12:10).  They have dealt with the bitterness that life brings their way by giving it up to the Sovereignty of God (Rom. 12:10).  They live and breathe the prayer Jesus uttered before going to the cross, Not as I will, but as you will.  (Matt. 26:39b) They whole heartedly embrace Jesus injunction to his disciples, If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all right to himself, carry his cross every day and keep close behind me.  For the man who wants to save his live will lose it, but the man who loses his life for my sake will save it.  (Lk. 9:23, 24 – Phil. Trans.)

QUESTION: How do you think Jesus evaluates the quality of your Lordship to Him?  Is there a change you need to make?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

FOUR EMPHASIS THAT MAY RECOUPE YOUR RAVAGED SOUL: (Part 3 of 4)

Solitude:  A place alone; apart. Isolation. Seclusion. Remoteness.

Jesus recognized the need for solitude:  The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. (Mk. 6:30-32)

Weve all heard the dictum, Unless you come apart, you will come apart. It is in those periods of self-appointed solitude that God probes our deepest thoughts and speaks to us at the depth of our being. Imagine:  Just you and God: Alone. No tapes. No books. No music. No props. Just you and God.

Consider I Kings 19:11, 12, where God instructed Elijah, who was on the brink of spiritual and emotional melt down: "Go out and stand before me on the mountain, the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.

Have we become so accustomed to the violent intrusion of incessant words and noise that it has numbed us from the ability to hear the quiet, soft voice of God? How easily we could miss him. How easily we do miss him. I wonder, in our noisy world, if we have become afraid of this kind of naked vulnerability and exposure before God. Perhaps we dont know what to do with it.  Have we become so calloused that we dont even want it? 

It is here in our times of solitude where self-examination can take place: A man ought to examine himself (Literally: His real motives, thoughts and actions).  (I Cor. 11:28)  Or where we invite God to do the examination: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  (Ps. 139:23, 24)

It is here that we get past our inner restlessness; where secret thoughts, fears, motives, and sins, are uncovered and dealt with.  It is here, isolated with God, where the Spirit probes our depth.  Psalm 51:6 comes to mind: Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Henri Nouwen speaks of solitude in penetrating terms:

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, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something. But thats not all. As soon as I decide to stay in my solitude, confusing ideas, disturbing images, wild fantasies, and weird associations jump about in my mind like monkeys in a banana tree. Anger and greed begin to show their ugly faces

CONCLUSION:  If we are to know God deeply, given the white heat pace at which most of us are living, it is imperative that we periodically carve out time and a place of solitude where we can experience intimacy with God. The question is, just how badly do we want closeness with the Almighty? And what price are willing to pay to get it? God instructs us as to the cost:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  (Jer. 29:13)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

FOUR EMPHASIS THAT MAY RECOUPE YOUR RAVAGED SOUL: (Part 2 of 4)

Stillness:  Rest.  Quietude. Free from agitation or disturbance.

Many years ago in the early morning I picked up some donuts for a mens Bible study. Screeching, discordant music blared from the radio. I asked the teen age girl behind the counter if she enjoyed the music.  No, she replied. Then why do you listen to it, I quarried? Because all my friends listen to it. 

Yes, we live in a noisy, clattering, boisterous society where the idea of cultivating stillness in our lives comes off as rather arcane or simply out of reach. Do we have any idea how destructive the absence of stillness is to our soul? Or how destructive it is to our ability to connect with the Almighty?  Just recall the last time you were alone in the wilderness and how surprisingly restorative the experience was; how much closer you felt to God. Pastor Chuck Swindoll confides that in leaving Los Angeles for Plano, Texas he realized how damaging the ever present noise of a major metropolis had been to his soul.

Is it not true that the combination of the noise of the media, information over-load, traffic, coupled with our hectic schedules, dulls our senses to His still, small voice, thus making us numb to His gentle touch? My wife Ruth tells me that most women she knows are taking some kind of pill to sleep, relax, or quell their anxiety. Christians included. Imagine the restless inner sanctum of their souls!

The question is, can we really know God without cultivating stillness before Him? I dont think so. God enjoins us in Psalm 46:10 to be still, and know that I am God Other translations put it this way:

Cease striving and know that I am God

Give inadmit that I am God

 Stop fighting and know that I am God.

 Step out of the traffic. Take a long loving look at me, your High Godabove everything.

Unless we are choosing daily to cultivate a lifestyle that fosters this inner stillness of soul, we are in the process of:

Drying out.

Burning out.

Living in a constant state of frustration, and agitation. Even anger.

Becoming brittle, disillusioned, cynical, and detached, without meaningful heart engagement with the Father.

It is in those times of stillness before our heavenly Father that He truly reaches us at the core of our being.  And it is where He truly changes us.  Many mornings in my time alone with God, I have sensed the Holy Spirit prompting me to close the Bible, turn out the light, and simply be still before Him. It is in those moments that He speaks to me in ways I can scarcely comprehend, much less even begin to express.  It is here that He brings healing, and gentle reassurances of his love, protection, and hope. And yes, even insights into His inner heart. 

Question: How are you doing in the inner core of your being? Is there a settled rest and stillness of soul, or raging  anger and anxiety?  Perhaps you need to take some time this week  to be alone with God to re-evaluate your priorities and style of life as to needed changes. Your future spiritual health may depend on it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

FOUR EMPHASIS THAT MAY RECOUPE YOUR RAVAGED SOUL: (Part 1 of 4) 1

21st Century living for the modern business or professional can be cruel to the soul:  The pace, the pressure, the multi-dimensional complexities of staying competitive in a shifting global economy could eat your lunch.  Spiritually and every other way.

Let me suggest four steps you can take to countermand a culture, that left unchecked threatens to ravage your soul:

1)  Simplicity:  Disentangled.  Freedom from complexity, subtlety, or cunning.

Our personal lives, like the Federal Government, by default naturally become bloated with too much stuff. Lets admit it: We are choking on over extended schedules, materialism, play, ministry, workYou name it. Both  Solomon and Jesus identified the heart of the issue:

God made us plain and simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated. (Ecc. 7:29 TEV)

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)

Paul echoed a similar concern: I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  

On a personal note he wrote of his own simplicity of focus: But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I count everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.  (Phil. 3:7, 8; 2 Cor. 11:3)

Robert Foster reminds us that Simplicity is freedom. Duplicity is bondage.  Simplicity brings joy and balance.  Duplicity brings anxiety and fear.  The Christian disciple of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style.

Matthew 6:33 expresses the essence of simplicity through disciplined choices:  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Nothing can come before the Kingdom of God and the pursuit of His righteousness.

Much of our frenzied activities center around amassing material possession. Thus Jesus warned us:  "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money…Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."  (Matt.6:24;  Lk. 12:15)

Four questions to ask yourself:

1.  Do I view myself as the owner or steward of my earthly possessions?

2.  Whom do I believe is my provider and protector? God? Or me? 

3.  Are my possessions available for others to use?

4.  What steps do I need to take to re-focus and simplify my life?