BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for June, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

IS IT TRULY POSSIBLE FOR ME TO EXPERIENCE JOY IN MY DAILY WALK WITH CHRIST?

You are pressing your way through the day, negotiating contracts in a business environment that takes no prisoners, that increasingly knows no ethical boundaries, and at best promises a hazy financial future. It is exactly here that you are commanded to Rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 4:4a).

Right. Ill put that on my do list, and will choose to be joyful – starting tomorrow – since today I am too wrung out to even think about it!  Gods word gives us no room for whining or excuses, Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. (Jms. 1:2) How is this remotely possible?

Well, we know from Scriptures that joy can reign in our lives amidst trials and sorrow. Jesus, for example, assured his grief stricken disciples  of joy and hope as they faced the specter of him going to the cross, I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (Jn. 16:20-22) (See Rom. 5:3-3; Heb. 12:2; I Pet. 1:6-8)

What exactly is this joy I am suppose to experience? Certainly there is little around me that fosters inner joy.  For starters, joy is not to be confused with happiness, which is based on circumstances. Nor is joy an emotion we can conjure up. We err if we confuse joy with pleasure. Actually the Greek word for pleasure is hedonism the prevailing philosophy of our self-absorbed, pleasure seeking culture. A hedonist is a person who is a lover of pleasures more than [a lover] of God. (2 Tim. 2:4)  

As we choose to live in an abiding relationship with God (John 15), we find ourselves surrendering to his promises and eternal purposes. It is then that we experience his inner joy as he liberates us from our fears as he demonstrates to us that he indeed is worthy of our trust.  You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right handI trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvationMay all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, The Lord be exalted! (Ps. 16:11; 13:5; 40:16)  (See Ps. 32:11; Lk. 10:20; Jn. 15:11; 17:13; Rom. 15:13)

The path to experiencing His inner joy begins with simple and immediate obedience to His word and to the inner prompting of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is then free to release its fruit in our lives as expressed through love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal. 5:22b)

You can be sure that the Enemy of your soul seeks to strip you of your joy through  acts of disobedience.  May God grant us deliverance from being put in King Davids position after his adulterous affair, as he desperately cried, Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.  (Ps. 51:12)

QUESTION: Is joy an integral part of your daily experience with God? Are there actions you need to consider taking as you to continue to cultivate this marvelous gift from God?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

EIGHT REASONS THE CHURCH IS FAILING IN ITS CALLING TO MAKE DISCIPLES: (7 OF 8)

#7 A failure to understand and commit to Gods grand plan:

In John 10:10, Jesus promised life that is to be experienced on a superfluous scale, I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. Few professed followers of Christ seem to actually experience this abundance in their daily lives. A prime reason is because we are living small, dwarfed lives that are focused primarily on us and our future, our fulfillment, our success, our ministry, etc. This misguided emphasis is often exacerbated by the teachings of the church, focusing as is now in vogue on personal fulfillment and crowding out the larger picture of Gods Grand Plan of bringing his creation into his Kingdom for his Glory.

Jesus call to join with him in the fulfillment of his redemptive plan is a call to self-renunciation and selfless service that opens the door to experiencing Jesus promise of an abundant life: If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all right to himself, carry his cross every day and to keep behind me. For the man who wants to save his life will lose it, but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it. (Lk. 9:23, 24 Philips Trans.)

Gods Grand Plan

  • To bring his creation the people of this world into his kingdom:The Lordis patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance[God] wants all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truthFor God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4; Jn. 3:16)
  • To transform these redeemed people into the likeness of Christ: [To] become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of ChristWe, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (Eph. 4:12b; 2 Cor. 3:17)
  • To enlist you in the process of winning the lost and discipling the saved to become like Christ:  "Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of menGodgave us the ministry of reconciliationand he has committed to us the message of reconciliationWe are therefore Christ's ambassadorGo and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  (Matt. 4:19; 2 Cor. 5:18-20; Matt. 28:19, 20)

QUESTION: Rick Warren, in his best seller, The Purpose Driven Life opens with, Its not about you. With this in mind, let me ask you,  just where is the focus of your life? On you and your fulfillment? Or are you in fact giving up all right to yourself in participating with God in his Grand Plan for his Kingdom and his Glory?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

EIGHT REASONS WHY THE CHURCH IS FAILING IN ITS CALLING TO MAKE DISCIPLES: (6 of 8)

#6 We have developed no clear pathway to maturity 1

For the most part, churches do not have a well thought out pathway that leads people toward spiritual maturity. The end product needs to result in self-initiating, reproducing, fully devoted followers of Christ. 2

Rick Warren of Saddleback Church states, Instead of growing a church with programs, focus on growing people with a process. We need a process to go with purpose. Unless the purpose is fleshed out in a process, then we dont have anything but nice platitudes. 3 Warren goes on to stress that the church needs to clearly define its purposes and then organize them so that there is a sequential process to accomplish them in the lives of believers.

George Barnas research concluded, Relatively small numbers of born again adults said that their churches gives them the specific paths to follow to foster growth. Slightly less than half said their churches had identified spiritual goals, standards or expectations for the congregation in the past yearOnly one out of every five believers stated that their church has some means of facilitating an evaluation of the spiritual maturity or commitment to maturity of their congregation. 4

The Navigators, for example have several tracks that are designed to lead people toward spiritual maturity:

The 2-7 Series and Design for Discipleship Bible Study Series: These are comprehensive Bible study courses designed to lay a solid foundation in peoples lives. (These materials can be procured through NavPres 719-548-9222) http://www.navpress.com/

The Baseball Diamond Illustration: 1st base is Evangelism: Training people on how to win the lost: "Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matt. 4:19). 2nd base is Establishing: Getting immature believers established in the disciples of consistent time with God through prayerful mediation of the scriptures, systematic bible study, and scripture memory. Etc.  May the God of all graceestablishyou (I Pet. 5:10). Establish here literally means to set fast, confirm, and strengthen.  3rd base is Equipping: Giving disciples the heart, vision, and knowhow of winning the lost and discipling believers toward reproducing their lives in others. [God] gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11, 12). Equipping here literally means to complete, furnish and perfect.  Home plate is the aggregate effect of the previous three bases, resulting in producing laborers for a life time. Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." (Matt. 9:38b NKJV) Laborers here literally means toilers who do Kingdom work for the King.

The Wheel Illustration: For a detailed explanation, Google: The Navigator Wheel Illustration

http://www.navigators.org/resources/shared/tools/Wheel220ch.jpg

QUESTION: Have you thought through on a cogent, systematic process of discipleship for your protgs? Or are you just winging it?

1 Key ideas in this Facts are derived from Greg Ogden, Transforming Discipleship, Downers Grove, IL Inter-Varsity Press, 2003 2 Ibid, p.54, 3 Rick Warren, The Purpose=Driven Church (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1995), p. 382.4 George Barna, Making Disciples (Ventura, Calif.: Issachar Resources, 2000), p. 79

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

EIGHT REASONS WHY THE CHURCH IS FAILING IN ITS CALLING TO MAKE DISCIPLES: (5 of 8)

#5 We have an inadequate view of the church as a discipleship community. 1

Contrary to common perception, discipleship is not a solo event of God and me. Paul reminds us, A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. Our identify as believers is found and shaped in community. God has an assigned role for each of us through our spiritual gifts of building up the Christian community, his body, the church. (A careful study of I Corinthians 12 14 powerfully validates this idea).

This idea of Christian community goes down hard for some, living as we do in a highly individualistic society. Greg Ogden states  that the social capital of religious life is being undermined by privatized faith. The collective strength of the church has been weakened by the trend over the last generation toward isolated, personalized belief. 2 Putnam quotes Wade Clark Roof and William McKinney:

Large numbers of young, well-educated, middle-classdefected from the churches in the late sixties and the seventiesSome joined new religious movements, others sought personal enlightenment through various spiritual therapies and disciplines, but most simply dropped out of organized religion all together [The consequence was a] tendency toward highly individualized religious psychology without the benefit of strong supportive attachments to believing communities. A major impetus in this direction in the post-1960s was the thrust toward greater personal fulfillment and quest for the ideal selfIn this climate of expressive individualism, religion tends to become privatized and more anchored in the personal realms. 3

In reviewing John 13:34, 34 and John 17:20-23, it is difficult to conceive of how these principles can be lived out apart from a community of grace, the body of Christ, the church:

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one anotherI pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.

Following are other Scriptures that speak powerfully of spiritual growth in the context of community:

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edificationEach of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him upIt was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built upFrom him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its workTherefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (Rom.14:19; 15:2; Eph. 4:11, 12, 14; 1 Thess. 5:11)

QUESTION: Which influence will you follow in determining your world view, and consequently your actions as it relates to spiritual formation and discipleship: (1) Powerful cultural forces that embrace a highly individualistic approach to discipleship, or (2) Biblical imperatives that embrace the concept of spiritual growth in the context of believing communities of grace? We would be wise in heeding St. Pauls caution in Romans 12:2: Dont let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity. (Philips Trans.)

1 Key ideas in this Facts are derived from Greg Ogden, Transforming Discipleship, Downers Grove, IL Inter-Varsity Press, 2003 2 Ibid, p.51; 3 Wade Clarke Roof and William McKinney, American Mainline Religion: Its Changing Shape and Future (New Brunswick, N. J.: Rutgers University Press, 1987) pp18-19