Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for December, 2004

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


In last weeks "Facts" we discussed four steps toward winning the lost: (1) Take little initiatives, (2) begin praying for them and responding to them, (3) serve them, and, (4) partner with others. Three more steps:+

#5 Converse the faith:

Our job is to promote the search for Christ and to capitalize on the losts curiosity. Notice how naturally evangelism transpired in this passage: "Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, We have found the Messiah (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to JesusJesusfinding Philipsaid to him, follow me. Philip found Nathaniel and told him, We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of NazarethNazareth! Can anything good come from there? Nathaniel asked. Come and see, said Philip." (Jn. 1:40-42a,43,45a,46) No evidence here of a "canned" approach to evangelism. Just natural spontaneity!

#6 Guide them into the Scriptures:

As you cultivate acquaintances and develop new friends, you might consider trying this or a similar approach: "My wife and I have a custom of reading the Bible because we find that it helps us order our lives. We are not doing it right now, but we are going to start, and when we do, well let you know." Then change the subject before they have the opportunity of responding. Recognize the fact that generally people reject a new idea. Therefore, allow some time to pass (a few weeks or so), before again mentioning the idea that at some future date you and your wife will begin the Bible reading group. Again, change the subject. In time they may well go from rejecting the idea to tolerating it. And then to embracing it, and actually to anticipating your invitation. Their curiosity and sense of need can prove to be strong motivators.

When, in time you do meet for the "Bible reading" session, take a small portion of one of the Gospels say John 1:1-5 and ask "who", "what", "when", "why", and "how" type of questions. Questions that cannot be answered by a "yes" or "no." For example, "Who is the Word referring to in verse 1?" (defined in verse 14). "Who/what is the source of life?" (The answer is in verse 4) Etc., etc. The idea of the "Bible reading" sessions is to expose them to the Person of Christ in an unrushed, non-pressured environment of grace. Keep the meetings casual, non-religious, and relatively short (1 hour?). Avoid "God talk", or religious cliques, or a "churchy" environment. Rather than teaching or proclaiming the truth of the Scriptures, create an atmosphere where they can grapple with the word of God in discovering the truth for themselves. Observe Jesus as he interacts with the downcast disciples on the road to Emmaus, after the resurrection: "Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himselfThen he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." The disciples response to Jesus teaching? "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" (Lk. 24:27b, 44,45, 32b)

#7 Mid-wife the new birth:

As you help people delve into the Scriptures, work through such passages as John 1:1-5; John 3:1-8; John 4 [perhaps divide this long section into two studies]; John 8:1-12; John 9 [perhaps divide into two studies]; John 9:1-21, etc., etc.) Dont choke them with too much material. Leave them hungry at the end of each session. View each exposure to the Bible as part of a process that transpires over an unrushed period of time. In all probability, somewhere along the line, without pressurizing them, they will either invite Christ into their lives, or ask you to help them cross the line to the new birth.

+Adapted from seed thoughts by Jim Peterson of the Navigators in a series of lectures, 01/02 in Malaysia

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


During the Korean War, Marine General Chesty Puller, along with his men of the First Marine Division were surrounded on every side by hoards of invading Chinese troops at Chanqjin Reservoir (November 27, 1950). To his men Puller announced, "The enemy is on every side. They cant escape!"

Perhaps at times you have felt that the "enemy" has surrounded you, putting you in a defensive, defeatist posture. In fact God may well have placed you behind enemy lines, so to speak, to win them to Christ. Surrounded as you are, you have unique access and opportunity as an "insider." Following are a few suggestions on how you can bring these "outsiders" to faith in Jesus Christ:+

#1 Take little initiatives:

Make an effort to greet your neighbor across the street, or the person on the elevator in your office building. Converse casually with people at the health center, or in the grocery store. In time, get their name. Develop the acquaintance. Cultivate a friendship.

#2 Begin praying for them and responding to them:

Now that you have their name, begin praying for them by name. Ask God to give you compassion for them, and also to work in their hearts in giving them a hunger for himself. When you engage them, be sure you are not guilty of answering questions they are not asking, or talking long after they are finished listening. As an "insider fisherman", learn to bait the fish rather than dynamite them out of the water. That is, restrain your urge to "hit" them with the Gospel. Wait, pray, and practice the principles found in Colossians 4:5,6, and James 1:19: "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders [the lost]; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyoneBe quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry"

#3 Serve them:

Isnt it intriguing that the Good Samaritan felt no pressure to give a "commercial" for Jesus after serving the needs of the injured man? (Lk. 10:25-37) Perhaps he understood the power of love and Jesus injunction to let ones light shine through good deeds (Matt. 5:16). By the way, the Biblical idea of a neighbor has little, if anything to do with geography, but has everything to do with serving those who need us.

#4 Partner with others:

In seeking to win the lost, "Lone Rangerism" usually is not the best approach. The Scriptures are replete with the idea that evangelism is primarily a group or team effort: Jesus: "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) Paul: "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." (I Cor. 3:6) So involve some of your believing friends in helping you with the planning and execution of your outreach to the lost. You will find strength, courage, and the blending of gifts in a group/team effort.

In next weeks "Facts" we will conclude the discussion with points 5 7.

+Adapted from seed thoughts by Jim Peterson of the Navigators in a series of lectures, 01/02, Malaysia

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Following is a recent letter to my son a fledging young entrepreneur:

Dear Wes,

I am in the middle of my quiet time, reading in the Book of Ezekiel, which as you know is not always easy to understand! In chapter 28 God tells the City of Tyre why he is going to destroy her. Chapters 27 and 28, leading up to this point describe the beauty of Tyre and their sophistication, trade, etc. But look at verses 4,5:

"By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself and amassed gold and silver in your treasuries. By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth, and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud."

(See Gen 22:17; 49:25; Deut. 7:13; Psa. 107:38; Prov. 10:22; 20:7)

Gods indictment here is focused not on her success, but on her pride. Apparently the people of Tyre took credit for their success, rather than giving it to God. (Verses 6 -9 describe how God plans to bring Tyre down.)

I am reminded of Deuteronomy 8 where God tells Israel they will enjoy great success when they enter the Promised Land. He then issues them this terse warning:

"But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God."

(verses 18 and 19) (See Psa. 127:1,2; Hos. 2:8; Deut. 28:58-68; 29:25-28; 1 Sam. 12:25)

Jeremiah 9:23 and 24 also comes to mind:

"This is what the Lord says: 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

." (See Job 5:12-14; I Cor. 1:19-21,27-29; 3:18-20)

Wes, I have never, ever felt a hint of pride in you. You are as gracious and careful as anyone I know. Success and humility it seems, don’t generally mix very well, as I have seen very few "successful" men remain humble.

Sorry, I don’t mean to be preaching. You of all people don’t need that. But I was so struck by this truth I just wanted to share it. I love you and am so very proud of you,


Wednesday, December 8, 2004


What do you do when you are numbed and paralyzed by pain that seems to have no end

? And no solutions? What do you do when the problem is with you 24/7. That is, you go to bed with it and you get up with it?

Last night my wife and I ran into friends of many years, whom we had not seen for some time. Truly lovely folks. Humble. Ingratiating. Servants of God. Generous.

Their adult children have eaten them alive: Pre-marriage pregnancy. Marriage. Divorce. Another pregnancy. One child is in prison on a twelve year sentence. As they shared, you could feel the agony of their hearts. In fact, you could almost taste it. Yet they chose not to engage in fault-finding, or self-pity. Nothey are quietly suffering with their raw pain.

This morning, with these dear people on my mind, I came across Lamentations 3:32, 38:

"Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love

Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?" (See Job 2:10)

Just how are we to respond when life crushes in on us

? How are we to react when the pain level approaches the unbearable? What do we do when we come up blank in terms of answers? Turn inward? Grow angry? Try to manipulate a solution? Turn away from God?

No, the answer lies not in reacting to the problem, or in trying to "fix" it

, but rather in stepping back and finding that secret haven in the very bosom of God as we wait for his timing and solution. James calls us to "patience in the face of suffering." (5:10). Can we grasp the fact that it is often in these agonizing times of life that God does his deepest work in us? And yesthrough us. Peter and Jesus spoke of it, and Jeremiah, and David, experienced it in the crucible of their own great agony:

Peter: "Now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." Jesus: "How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings." (I Pet. 1:6b,7; Matt. 23:37b)

Jeremiah: "I say to myself, The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." (Lam. 3:24-26)

David: "Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you. I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foeMy soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him." (Psa. 61:1-3; 62:1)

Wednesday, December 1, 2004


As I write, Ruth and I are visiting our son and daughter-in-law and their two boys, ages 4 months and 2 years. So much of what we taught Wes, is now being passed on to his boys. I am reminded of Proverbs 22:6: "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."

Solomon spoke of the responsibility of the father to teach and train his sons: "My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge." (Pro. 5:1,2)

The following ideas may prove helpful in teaching and training your sons:+

Listen to him when he talks all evening if thats what he wants.

Teach him the value of wisdom.

Encourage him to run for student government.

Teach him that no possession is worth stealing.

When hes confounded by a serious problem, encourage him to ask God for help in solving it.

Condition his use of the car upon his grades. Hell become an Einstein.

Remind him to be on time. The world does not operate on teenage time.

Teach him that the world will judge him by his actions, not his intentions.

If you go on a business trip, call him. He misses you.

Show him how to clean his room. Little boys dont just learn this by osmosis.

Dont let him quit out of frustration. He wont learn anything.

Teach him to respect authority, but not be in awe of it.

Teach him theres no harm in failure, but in the failure to try.

If his coach is a screamer, find another team. If youre the coach, retire.

Teach him to stand up straight.

Monitor the movies and T. V. he watches. This may mean you have to monitor what you watch too.

Put a computer in his room. Never a T. V.

Dont hold a grudge against him.

Remember, your primary duty as a father is to develop your sons spiritual well-being.

Give your son an allowance based on his age and the chores he performs. Realize hell always want more.

Teach him to treat each day as holy.

Give him responsibility. It separates boys from men.

Remind him school isnt a place for self-expression. It is a place for learning.

It behooves us to keep in mind the fact that the power of our example is our greatest means of teaching and training our progeny: "My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways." (Pro. 23:26)

+Selected from "Father to Son" by Henry H. Harrison, Jr. Workman Publishing, N. Y.