BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for May, 2005

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

GRAPPLING WITH LIFES UNANSERABLE QUESTIONS

This was a tough week for me

. In fact I feel like I have been punched in the stomach. On Monday, I got a call that our friends baby was still born. Then yesterday, Will passed away. 53 years old. Fun-loving, free spirited, Christ-centered. Stunning family. Scores of people over decades were deeply and eternally changed for Christ by this wonderful, delightful man. Cancer took him down, leaving behind a wife and three children who still need him.

The question is why

? I know that I certainly dont have the answer. Years ago I was in the United Nations building in New York and observed a massive tapestry two stories in length. Viewed from the back side it presented a confusing array of fabric endings. Observed from the front, the tapestry displayed a stunning scene of an African country side. I suspect that this side of eternity, we are viewing the backside of lifes tapestry. "We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!" (I Cor. 13:12 Msg)

In my time alone with God these days, I am meditating my way through the Book of Job, which is the story of a righteous man who lost his children, possessions, health, and reputation. Behind the scenes a drama is being played out between God and Satan. Satan asserts that Jobs loyalty to God would disappear, were it not for the "perks" the Almighty has afforded him. God then gives Satan access to Job to test his allegations. Thus Jobs losses. Ultimately God restores Job from his devastating experience, but never explains the "why" behind the suffering.

Following are several observations from the Book of Job that might give us respite amidst lifes unanswerables,

Living a righteous life does not insulate us from suffering: "In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evilHe was the greatest man among all the people of the East. " (Job 1:1,3b) (See I Pet. 4:12,13)

There is a lot going on behind the scenes with God that is not ours to know. "The secret things belong to the Lord our God" (Deut. 29:29a) (See Job 1,2; 11:7; Act. 1:7; 1 Cor. 2:16)

The drama being played out in the Book of Job is primarily about the glory of God. (See Job 1:6-12; 2:3-6)

God can and does put a "hedge" around us, but reserves the right to remove that protection: Satan to God, "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face. The Lord said to Satan, Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." (Job 1:10-12a)

Our reactions are the true indicators of our "righteousness": At the news that he had lost almost everything, "Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing." (Job 1:20b-22)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

ON LOOSING OUR “FIRST LOVE”

Recently, while leading a small group discussion with senior men I was struck with how dull they were spiritually.

Here are four possible stages they may have gone through in the process of loosing their "first love":

#1 From fresh intimacy to dogged devotion: When the unsullied, tender union and communion with Jesus begins to wane, it is often overtaken by a rigid legalistic adherence to the truth. We become ministry and program centered rather than Christ and relationship centered. Our inner life begins to take on a rigid metallic tone. Christian service is often accomplished at the expense of gentleness, kindness, sensitivity, and humility. Our concerns seem to focus on such issues as success, failure, reputation, and image. Joy, spontaneity, wonder, and a spirit of freedom are replaced by standards of performance, conformity, and getting the job done at all costs.

"I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love."

(Rev. 2:2-4)

#2 From dogged devotion to indifference: Our heart cools as our focus subtly shifts from intimacy with Jesus to achieving the task at hand. We find time with God to be duty driven, rushed, and utilitarian. The Spirits touch, His unfolding of spiritual truth, and sweet communion with Jesus become the exception rather than the norm. In time, we find our heart coldly indifferent to the things of God. Were not angry, just bored.

"Israel was soon overfed; yes, fat and bloated; then, in plenty, they forsook their God. They shrugged away the Rock of their salvation."

(Deut. 32:15b Living)

#3 From indifference to the seduction of new loves: Slowly, almost imperceptibly, we begin to embrace new seductions: The lust for money, seeking the respect and esteem of our secular-minded peers, and pursuing new levels of comfort and pleasure not previously even considered. The things of God now seem bland, slow, and out of date. By way of contrast, our new loves appear to be exciting, titillating, fast moving, fresh, cutting edge and liberating. Eves fascination with the forbidden fruit is now where we want to live.

"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. 4:19b)

#4 From the seduction of new loves to open rebellion against God: All pretense is now gone. We are in the new camp where the "God thing" is pass. This is a new era for experimentation, casting off old restraints, freedom without responsibility, and living existentially on the edge. We are redefining the rules and laughing at the idea of consequences. Our lifestyle is characterized by self indulgence, questioning and challenging authority, and doing our own thing. The sacred mantra is "toleration" of all views, except of course, Biblical Christianity.

"Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things."

(Phil. 3:18b,19)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

THE OTHER DAY I LEARNEDOR RE-LEARNED THREE BASIC LESSONS:

#1 Your service in the Name of Christ is never wasted

:

A few weeks ago I received a phone call from a twenty something fellow named Brandon. "Remember me, Mr. Hill?" he asked with anticipation. No, I did not. "Well, when I was 9 years old you took my 6 year old sister and 8 year old brother and me for ice cream and a swim! Remember? Your family and ours lived overseas then?" Faintly, I recalled something about it. "Mr. Hill, I am planning on going to China as a missionary, and it all started when you took such an interest in my brother, sister and me. I decided right then that if missionaries were like you, I wanted to be one."

Whew! Can you believe that? Ice cream and swimming and he plans to be a missionary? This keen young adult today owns his own company, is published in a very sophisticated technical field, and will, in all probability fulfill his goal of going to China. Reflecting back on that brief "investment", I am reminded of I Corinthians 15:58,

"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain

."

#2 If you dont get the foundations straight, your life will crumble:

Brandon went on to tell me that a year ago his father walked out on his mother and five siblings. While his parents were holding seminars on Christian living, their own foundation was crumbling. While growing up, he knew his parents lives were not founded on the Word of God, but on "Christian" performance.

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

(Matt. 7:24-27)

#3 With Christs help you can surmount your circumstances:

Brandon has stepped into the gap left by his father and created a means of supporting his mother and siblings. As devastating as his fathers exodus is, Brandon has determined that by Gods grace no one will rain on his parade. It is apparent to me that he has a brilliant future ahead of him in serving God. A friend once said, "You can tell the measure of a man by what it takes to get him down." By that standard twenty something Brandon is a giant in the making!

"We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. These bodies of ours are constantly facing death just as Jesus did; so it is clear to all that it is only the living Christ within [who keeps us safe].

" (2 Cor. 4:8-10 Living)

Question:

In our victim based society where we are told we are not responsible for our lives, what attitude are you choosing? To pout, cast blame and play the pity game? Or to stand tall in the strength and hope of Christ as illustrated in the young life of Brandon? The choice of course is yours to make.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

FOUR SIMPLE QUESTIONS TO ASK IN LEADING AN INVESTIGATIVE BIBLE STUDY

Here is a profoundly simple but effective approach for getting people to investigate the Scriptures.

This method can be used either for evangelistic or discipleship purposes.

With our society moving toward secularism and the so-called post-Christian era, increasing numbers of people will find less and less common ground with Jesus Christ. That being true, asking them to "accept Christ" will become increasingly meaningless and unrealistic. Perhaps another approach to consider might be along these lines: "Joe, would you take 45 minutes to an hour with me for several weeks say during a lunch hour where we can investigate this Person Jesus Christ, to determine whether or not he has any relevance to our lives today?" The idea is to expose him to cameos of Christs life in order to prepare him to make an intelligent response to Christ.

During those study times carefully select passages that graphically depict the Person of Christ. One passage could be Colossians 1:15-20:

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."

Utilize a modern translation (or paraphrase) of the Bible. Read over the passage and then ask these four questions

:

"What does it say

?" Most people will read the passage and then look to the leader for the answer. Do not allow this luxury. Walk them through the process of digging out the meaning. Their realization of the fact that they can discover the meaning of a passage could prove to be life-transforming. Dont settle for sloppy freelance interpretation. Do your homework ahead of time so that you in fact know the intention of the writer as to the meaning of the passage.

"What questions do you have

?" No question asked is stupid. Respond to his question(s), by pointing him back to the Scriptures. Dont be afraid to admit you dont know the answer to a question.

"What does it mean

?" That is, what is the relevancy or significance of the passage to our lives? Or what is the meaning behind the words?

"How does it connect with your life

?" Without seeking for application to our lives, the study may well be an exercise in futility.

Realize that creating an environment of grace where people are free to explore, struggle with truth, and share their doubts and honest questions, presents a potent dynamic for people in allowing them to begin the process of discovering or growing in Christ. Other passages for study could include, John 1:1-5; 3:1-8,14-21; 8:1-11; chapter 9.