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Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for July, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

THE POWER OF EXAMPLE TO INFLUENCE

Edmund Burke forcefully drove home the power of example to influence others in stating, People will learn at the school of example and they will learn at none other.  Most secularized people are not about to pick up a Bible and study it. Nor will they bother with church or religion. But when they encounter Christs love, lived out authentically in compassionate service to them, it may well begin them on a journey that leads to encountering the Master. St. Paul affirmed the power of example to influence in penning, Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you.  Christ himself wrote itnot with ink, but with God's living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives (2 Cor. 3:2,3a)

Jesus imitated the example of his heavenly Father: "I tell you the truth, 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) (See Jn. 5:30; 14:24)

Jesus then used the power of his example to shape his disciples lives. For example, the night before the cross he washed their feet, concluding with this powerful challenge: I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (Jn. 13:15)

Would the fact that 10 out of the 12 disciples were martyred for going to the ends of the earth proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah suggest that he had shaped their lives by his example?

Thirty years after Jesus ascension Peter wrote about the importance Masters example: Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (I Pet. 2:21) He also wrote instructions to wives on how through the power of example, to influence their deviant husbands:

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. (1 Pet. 3:1-4) (See I Pet. 5:2,3)

Think about how St. Paul significantly shaped Timothys life by the power of his example: You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance.And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Tim. 3:10a; 2:2)

Paul wrote to the Philippians about the importance of example: Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. (Phil. 3:17) The word pattern here means a proto type; a model.

QUESTION: Are you able with a clear conscience to say to the people whom you are seeking to influence, Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice? (Phil. 4:9a)  If not, why not?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

KEEPING PURE AND UNSPOTTED FROM THE WORLD (Part 2 of 2)

In last weeks Facts we discussed the Scriptural injunction from James 1:27: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless isto keep oneself from being polluted by the world. In a society that is defining deviancy down (Patrick Moynihan) we have two primary adversaries that militate against living pure, unpolluted lives: (1) The world, and (2) our own inner corruption.

How can I insure that I will remain unspotted from the world?

Grasp the cost and preciousness my redemption: For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (I Pet. 1:18,19)  

Understand the vicious power of the Enemy: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroyBe self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  (Jn. 10:10a; I Pet. 5:8) (See Jn. 8:44; Eph. 6:11)

Pursue a spotless life with Christ, as though my very existence depended on it: Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with himIn a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 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.  Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Pet. 3:14; 2 Tim. 2:20, 21) (See 1 Pet. 1:14-16))

Be willing to take whatever defensive measures necessary to remain pure: I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matt. 5:28-30)

Get serious about knowing Jesus: Seek first his kingdom and his righteousnessWhatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider 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 ChristBrothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Matt. 6:33a; Phil.3:7, 8, 13,14)

Sometimes I wonder if we would rather serve Christ than know him. The fundamental problem with not spending quality time with Christ in meditation and prayer is not primarily a scheduling or discipline problem, but an appetite problem. Often, without realizing it, because of our smoldering anger, lust, pride, etc., our hearts grow cold and hard, making the word of God impenetrable (Heb. 3:13). Thus, when we attempt to engage the Scripture, the exercise comes off as boring and irrelevant.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

KEEPING PURE AND UNSPOTTED FROM THE WORLD (Part 1 of 2)

The Book of James informs us that religion that God accepts as pure and faultless involves keeping oneself from being polluted by the world.  (Jms. 1:27b) A tall order when almost everything around us assaults our sense of morality and truth:

New York Senator Patrick Moynihan spoke of America as a Country that is defining deviancy down.

Robert Bork, Supreme Court nominee, wrote a book describing Americas downward spiral:  Slouching Toward Gomorrah.

The Psalmist asked, When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psa. 11:3)

The word pure in James 1:27 comes from the Greek word, katharos (from which we get our English word catharsis: to purify) and conveys the idea of being unsoiled, unalloyed: Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water (Heb. 10: 22). Jesus underscored the importance of a pure heart: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Danish Theologian Soren Kierkegaard, stated, Purity of heart is to will one thing: The knowledge of the Holy. It is Gods intention to present us to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (Eph. 5:27).

Two pressure points we face that militate against us remaining pure and unspotted:

1) The world:

You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.  (Jms. 4:4)

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.  (I Jn. 2:15, 16)

Dont let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold 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 (Rom. 12:2 Philip. Trans.).

The Judeo-Christian foundation upon which western civilization was built is in the process of being replaced by the values of the Post-Modern philosophy which reject absolutes. You do your thing and Ill do mine. Thus tolerance has become the sacred mantra. Reminiscent, is it not of the Israelites during one their decadent periods: Every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Jud. 17:6 KJV).

2) My inner corruption:  

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know itI dont really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I dont do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. I want to do what is good, but I dont. I dont want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway….  (Jer. 17:9 – NIV; Rom. 7:15, 16, 19, – NLT ).

In next weeks Facts we will discuss several ways we can keep ourselves pure and unspotted from the world.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

THE THREE Cs TO HELP US KEEP OUR CHRISTIAN WALK IN BALANCE

To help us with our priorities, may I suggest we major on the these three Cs:

 The Great Commandment:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matt. 22:37)

Knowing and loving God with our whole being is our primary mission in life: Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness  To love God is to obey him:This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.  This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome. (Matt 6:33; I Jn. 5:2, 3) (See Matt. 7:21-23; Jn. 14:21)

The Great Commission:

Jesus concluded the Great Commandment with, Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22:39). When we are filled up with the Love of God, it naturally spills out into the lives of those around us. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers  (I Jn. 3:14a) How can we claim to love the lost among us when we show indifference as to where they will spend eternity?

After three years with the Twelve, Jesus said to them (Judas excluded): "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go 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. 28:18b-20) Here Jesus is commanding them (and us) to win and disciple others as He had done for three years with them.

The Great Compassion

The Scriptures enjoin us to show compassion toward the less fortunate among us: Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widowWhat good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed, but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (Isa. 1:17; Deut. 15:10; Jms. 2:14-17) (See Jer. 22:3; Deut. 15:7-11; Job 31:16-21; Pro. 19:17; 29:7 Amos 2:6,7; 5:11, 12; 8:4-6; Jms. 1:27)

Jesus had great compassion toward the needy, When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil (Matt. 9:36; Act. 10:38b) Likewise, the necessity of our compassionate response to the less fortunate cannot be minimized. In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus speaks of separating the sheep from the goats in the day of judgment. The determining factor as to which category people fall into will be how they responded to the needy.

QUESTION: Is it your fervent intention to love God and others as evidenced by (1) your singular pursuit of God and unequivocal obedience to his word, (2)  your sincere effort to win and disciple others, and (3)  your ministering to the needs of the less fortunate?