Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for December, 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008


3.  The tendency to select the wrong people:  In our zeal (and insecurity) to help others, we may be inclined to commit ourselves to the first people who show an interest in being mentored.  In your ministry you need to decide whether you are running a field hospital for the sick and wounded, or a combat center for training laborers for the harvest field. Both are legitimate, but they must not be confused with each other.  Just be sure you know the difference. Keep in mind:  Counsel the weak; coach the strong.

Years ago while in college a woman discipler showed up on our campus looking for candidates. Somehow she latched on to the most mal-adjusted, and emotionally needy girl at the school.  Suddenly, the relatively well adjusted, spiritually receptive young women were unavailable. Not everyone who is accessible is the right choice: During the time he was in Jerusalemmany people noticed the signs [Jesus] was displaying and, seeing they pointed straight to God, entrusted their lives to him. But Jesus didn’t entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn’t need any help in seeing right through them.  (Jn. 2:23-25 Msg)

In the selection process, there needs to be a filtering mechanism. I understand, for example, that the New York Yankees baseball organization has four farm clubs. When they need a top flight third baseman, they call down to the farm clubs and select the most qualified player available in that position. Christ ministered broadly over the first six months of his public ministry. He then spent a night in prayer before selecting the twelve from the masses:  One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.  When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.  (Lk. 6:12, 13)

In our pride we can unwittingly select the gifted and attractive; people perhaps who cater to our own pride, but who do not have the basic character upon which to build a true disciple. Israel made that mistake of choosing a hollow but physically attractive man to be their king. When he withered under pressure, God instructed Samuel the priest to look for Sauls replacement with this qualifier: Do not consider his appearance or his height,  for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (I Sam. 16:7) 

Gods selection criteria can be surprising:  God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"?  (I Cor. 1:27,28 – Msg) (See Ex. 18:21; Acts 6:3) I remember a diminutive, rather unkempt student at one of our universities who possessed a great heart for God and his fellow-students.  His teeth were crooked, his grammar tortured, and his social demeanor awkward. Most would classify him as a nobody. Yet, because of his great love, scores of collegians sought him out for counseling, discipling, and leadership training. He reminds me of the old adage, God has the uncomfortable habit of putting his hands on the wrong person.

You may want to look for people the following qualities to mentor:

F AITHFUL  – Paul: I have no one else like [Timothy], who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. ButTimothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. (Phil. 2:19-22 selected) (See Pro. 25:192 Tim. 2:10)

A VAILABLE"Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men.  At once they left their nets and followed him.   (Matt. 4:19, 20) (See Matt. 4:22, 22; 9:9; Lk. 9:57-62)

A – BLE to teach others And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.  (2 Tim. 2:2 NKJ) (See 1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:24-27)

I NTER-DEPENDENT Love one another fervently with a pure heart. (I Pet. 1:22b) (See Rom. 12:10, 16; 1 Cor. 1:10; 16:20; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 4:2; 5:19; Col. 3:13, 16; 1 Thes. 5:11; Heb 3:13; Heb. 10:24; Jms. 4:11; 1 Pet. 3:8; 4:9)

T EACHABLE – The Greek word for disciple is mathetes, which means a learner; a pupil. Come unto metake my yoke upon you, and learn of me  (Matt. 11:28, 29 selected) (See Jn. 6:45; Phil. 4:9; 2 Tim. 3:14; Heb 5:8)

H EART My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. (Psa. 84:2) (See Psa. 27:8; 42:1,2; 63:1; 119:58; 81; 143:6)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


1.  The failure to understand the difference between busyness and fruitfulness:  When you encounter a friend, the question is often asked, How are you? Invariably the response is, busy. The inference is that to be busy is to be significant. Jesus never instructed us to be busy, but he did expect us to be fruitful. In John 15, he assured us that if we would live in him and allow his words to live in us, the natural result would be cleansing, pruning, abiding, and fruitfulness.  You may want to take some time and carefully analyze Jn. 15:1-16:

I am the real vine, my Father is the vine-dresserHe prunes every branch that does bear fruit to increase its yield. Now, you have already been pruned by my words. You must go on growing in me and I will grow in you.  For just as the branch cannot bear any fruit unless it shares the life of the vine, so you can produce nothing unless you go on growing in me.  I am the vine itself, you are the branches.  It is the man who shares my life and in whose life I share who proves fruitful. For the plain fact is that apart from me you can do nothing.  (Jn. 15:1-5 Phillips Trans.) 

Bearing fruit, Jesus said, is proof of discipleship. (John 15:8) That being the case, the greatest effort you can make toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission is to grow in your walk with God. (Matt. 28:18-20) Why? Simply because you produce what your are. Only healthy, mature trees produce quality fruit.  (Gen. 1:11, 21, 24, 25; Matt. 7:16-20)

So if you are serious about bearing fruit, cut down on your busy, frenetic schedule. In fact, cut it to the bone. Get off the treadmill. Concentrate on in depth, regular quality time with God in his word and prayer. Go deep with God.  And guess what? Fruit will naturally happen.  There simply are no shortcuts to discipleship and fruit-bearing.  (See Gal. 4:19)

2.  The danger of assuming too much:  The story is told of Coach Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers, that he would start each season by standing in front of his grizzled, tough, seasoned football pros and hold a football. He’d then look at them and say, "Gentlemen, this is a football." Then he’d go through the basics of blocking, tackling and other fundamentals of the game to hone and craft a team that was outstanding in its day.+

Almost every time I have assumed a certain level of maturity with the people I am attempting to mentor, I have lived to regret it.  If you assume anything, assume people are having trouble in their marriage, struggles with purity, fear, anger, regular quality time alone with God, etc. So start with the basics by carefully building the foundation: Get the word of God into their life, (Quiet Time, Bible study, Scripture memory), teach them to pray, prioritize, share their faith, surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Introduce them to the attributes of God, etc., etc.

Carefully building the spiritual foundation into a persons life is a slow, tedious job.  If you fail here, the superstructure of their life will eventually crumble. (Matt. 7:24-27) While living in Singapore, I observed the 3 years it took to lay the foundation of the new Parliament Building.  Once the foundation was completed, the superstructure was easily completed within six months. To insure you are building a solid foundation into lives, you may want to follow the outline below. Keep in mind that youve only done your job when they own the truth, as demonstrated by the fact that they in turn are passing it on:

Tell him why (he should spend time with God, for example) Motivation

Show him how Demonstration

Get him started Inertia

Keep him going Perseverance

  Pass it on Multiplication

  I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any other foundation than the one we already haveJesus Christ.  (I Cor. 3:10b, 11)

+ Back to the Basics Terry Brock, 2002 American City Business Journals Inc.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


For increasing numbers in our society, including the Body of Christ, the primary quest in life is not for obedience to the truth, but for meaning that centers on the cult of self: Self-understanding, self-improvement, self-fulfillment, and self indulgence. This self-focused life reveres:

  • Subjective experience over objective truth.
  • Individual fulfillment over spiritual and social responsibility.
  • People-centered worship over God-focused worship.
  • Feeling good over being good.
  • The cultivation of the outer image over the development of inner character.
  • Duty to self over duty to God.
  • Subjective experience over objective obedience to biblical truth.
  • What works over what is right or true.
  • The sacredness of my convictions and intuition over the truth and authority of the word of God.
  • My search for happiness and wholeness over my quest for righteousness.
  • The novel, the exciting, and the new, over the profound, eternal truths of the Scriptures

By way of contrast to the life centered on self, Christ calls us, his followers to love our neighbor as our self. (Matt. 22:39). Sadly, many have mis-understood this command as an injunction to self-love. The statement was meant as a practical guide to loving our neighbor, because no one ever hated his own body. (Eph. 5:29) It is similar to the Golden Rule to do to others what you would have them do to you. (Matt. 7:12) Christ knew people already loved themselves and so he enjoined them to treat others by the same standard. The verb love in the Greek here is agapao, and agape love means self-sacrifice in the service of others. It cannot be self-directed. Self love is the biblical understanding of sin: In the last days people will love only themselves and their money. (2 Tim 3:1b, 2a) 1

Here is how Jesus defined agape love: "If any of you wants to be my followeryou must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. (Mk. 8:34 NLT)  That is, we are to deny, disown and crucify our fallen self and everything within us that is incompatible with Christ as we follow him.  Self-denial is to put oneself into the position of a condemned man on his way to execution. 2 It is renouncing our supposed right to our own way. 3 Self-denial is turning away from the idolatry of self-centeredness. 4

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sinThose who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them thereI have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 5:24; 2:20)

QUESTION:  Are you living a life focused on yourself, or a life that is centered on the cross? 

1 Adapted from John Stott, The Cross of Christ, IVP, 1986, pages 274-294

2 H. B. Swete, St. Mark,  pg 172

3 John Stott, The Cross of Christ, IVP, 1986, page 279

4 C. E. B. Cranfield, Mark, page 281

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


We live in a society with a victim mentality: My mother was an alcoholic. I couldnt qualify for scholarships to get through college.  I came from a poor family. The Government failed me.  Reminiscent, is it not of comedian Flip Wilsons, The devil made me do it mentality.  In other words, its not my fault or responsibility for the way I am. Yes, you are responsible because you have a choice as to whether you will live as a spiritual pauper, or as a child of the King:

WE SAY:    GOD SAYS:       

Its impossible.    "What is impossible with men is possible with God." (Lk. 18:27) (See Gen 18:14)

Im too tired.  "Come to meand I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28-30) (See Jer. 6:16; Heb. 4:1)

Nobody really loves me.    "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son… (Jn. 3:16)

I cant go on.    My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  (2 Cor.

     12:9) (See Exo. 4:10-15; Josh. 1:9; Isa. 43:2; Jer. 1:6-9; I Cor. 10:13; Heb. 4:16 

 I cant figure things out.    Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will   make your paths straight.  (Pro. 3:5, 6)

I cant do it.    I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:13)

Im not able.    And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in   every good work. (2 Cor. 9:8)

Its not worth it.    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.   (Rom. 8:28) (See 1 Pet. 1:7,8)

I cant forgive.    If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But  with you there is forgiveness (Psa. 130:3, 4) (See Matt.   6:14, 15; 18:23-35; Jms.. 2:13; Eph. 4:32)

I cant manage.    My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19) (See Psa. 23; 84:11; Isa. 40:31; 2   Cor. 4:7-10; 9:8; 1 Thes. 5:24)

Im afraid.    For God has not given us a spirit of  fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.  (2 Tim. 1:7 NKJ) (See Lk. 1:74, 75;   Act. 20:24; Rom. 8:15; 1 Jn. 4:18)

Im always worried and    Cast all your anxiety  on him because  he cares  for you.  (I Pet. 5:7) (See I Sam.


Im not smart enough.    You are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God  (1 Cor. 1:30) (See 1 Chron. 22:1, 2; Pro. 2:3-6; 8:5; Jms.1:5)

I feel all alone.   Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.  (Heb. 13:5) (See Dt. 31:6-8)



+ Source unknown

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


The Apostle Peter encourages us to know Christ intimatelyMay God bless you with his special favor and wonderful peace as you come to know Jesus, our God and Lord, better and better. As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness! And by that same mighty power, he has given us all of his rich and wonderful promises. He has promised that you will escape the decadence all around you caused by evil desires and that you will share in his divine nature. (2 Pet. 1:2-4 NLT)

Peter also informs us that God offers us five wonderful blessings that spring from our intimacy with Christ

1)  Gods favor:  Favor is simply another word for the grace of God. That is, God accepts us, finds pleasure in us, and acts graciously on our behalf: May God bless you with his special favor (2 Pet. 1:2) 

For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift. (Jn. 1:16 Amp)  (See Rom. 3:24, 24-31; 5:15-17, 20, 21; 1 Cor. 15:9,10; Eph. 1:6,7; 2:8,9; 2 Tim. 1:9; 2:1)

QUESTION:  Are you making it a practice to appropriate and rest in Gods favor?  Or are you still struggling to earn it?

2) Gods peace: Amidst the harsh, tumultuous realities of modern day life, it is Gods intention that we live in his peace: May God bless you with hiswonderful peace. (2 Pet. 1:2)

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the worldLet the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  (Jn. 16:33; Col. 3:15) (See Psa. 298:11; Isa. 26:3,4; 54:13; Rom. 5:1; 8:6; 15:13; Eph. 2:14; Phil. 4:7)

  QUESTION: Are you choosing to allow His peace to rule in your heart? Or are you living in bondage to your anxieties?

3)  Gods power:  Power here means dynamite and has to do with Gods  force, might, miracles and strength. Its all ours, if we choose to act on it: His divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. (2 Pet. 1:4)

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Cor. 12:9) (See Lk. 6:19; 9:1; 1 Cor. 4:20; 12:28)

  QUESTION: Are you learning to draw upon His power? Or are you still grinding it out on your own? 

4)  Gods promises:  The Scriptures abound with assurances that if we will respond in obedience to Gods word, his blessings will follow:  By that same mighty power, he has given us all of his rich and wonderful promises. (2 Pet. 1:4) 

[God] has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desiresWewant you toimitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.  (2 Pet. 1:4; Heb. 6:12; 2 Pet. 1:20, 21)

  QUESTION: Are you seeking out Gods promises for your life, your family, your business, and the ministry God has entrusted to you? Or are you relying upon your wit and wisdom to pull it all off?

5)  Gods divine nature: It is Gods intention that we take on his holiness:  He has promised that you will escape the decadence all around you caused by evil desires and that you will share in his divine nature  (2 Pet. 1:4b; Heb. 6:12) (See 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:13-15, 1 Jn. 3:2)

QUESTION:  Do those around you see evidence that you are growing into Christlikeness?  Or is self still king?