BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for December, 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

THE CULTIVATION OF OUR SECRET LIFE WITH GOD

 

Discipline is essential in cultivating our walk with God.  Without it we simply will not learn to hear the voice of God. Because our lives are often plagued with worry, over-extension, and the intrusion of noise, is it almost impossible to hear God when He is speaking to us.  Henry Nouwen states, We have often become deaf, unable to know when God calls us and unable to understand in which direction He calls us. Thus our lives have become absurd. In the word absurd we find the Latin word surdus, which means deafWhen, however, we learn to listen, our lives become obedient lives.  The word obedient comes from the Latin word audire, which means listening. A spiritual  discipline is necessary in order to move slowly from an absurd to an obedient life, from a life filled with noisy worries to a life in which there is some free inner space where we can listen to our God and follow His guidance. 1

 

We learn from Jesus life that He listened to the Father for instruction and guidance (Jn. 5:19, 30). Thus listening is at the heart of true prayer. Prayer is being in Gods presence with an attentive heart to hear His voice, anticipating the Spirits prompting, and the Spirits enlightenment of Gods word.  For God to break through to us, we need to purposely create both inner and outer space in our lives, in order to disallow the world from filling our lives to the point where there is no space for us to be able to listen.  It is therefore essential that we set apart time on our calendar as to when we plan to enter our secret place with God. When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen (Matt. 6:6)

This chaos [of our inner life] can be so disturbing and so confusing that we can hardly wait to get busy again. Entering a private room and shutting the door, therefore, does not mean that we immediately shut out all our inner doubts, fears, bad memories, unresolved conflicts, angry feelings, and impulsive  desiresWe often use our outer distractions to shield ourselves from the interior noises. It is thus not surprising that we have a difficult time being alone.  The confrontations with our inner conflicts can be too painful for us to endure. 1

But not to despair. As we choose to closet ourselves with God, we invite the Holy Spirit to soften our heart, to reveal the rich truths of His word, and to disclose Jesus at increasingly deeper levels. Slowly, over time, as the inner transformation of the heart and mind occurs, the Scriptures come alive, a deep sense of intimacy with Christ develops, and the ugly manifestations of a life controlled by our lower nature begins to dissipate (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:10; Tit. 3:5; Gal. 5:1v9-21).  To our joyful discovery, the fruit of the Spirit naturally finds expression through our lives, affecting those around us (Gal. 5:22, 23). 

Years ago I discipled a very angry and proud man whose heart had grown stone cold over the years. So I introduced him to the practice of spending regular time alone with God. After a few attempts at it he told me, Dwight, I dont get it. Nothing is happening. But with a little prompting, he kept after it, sincerely seeking Christ and endeavoring  to prayerfully apply the Scriptures to his life. Todayyears later, he is a marvelous reflection of the beauty of Jesus Christ.  (I Cor. 15:58; Phil.. 1:6)

This week, may you experience His grace, peace, and protection.

R. Dwight Hill

1 Henri J. M. Nouwen Devotional Classics Harper San Francisco 1990, pp. 94, 95 –

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WHY BOSES AND SECRETARIES GET INTO TROUBLE

Have you ever wondered why so many bosses and their secretaries become sexually involved with each other? The obvious answer is because they are sinners.  True, but also consider this:

When God created Adam and Eve, they were consigned to work together, she as his helper in fulfilling Gods call on his life to manage Gods earthly creation:   The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of itThe Lord God said, It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."  (Gen. 2:15, 18)

Theirs was a God-ordained partnership of husband and wife working together in a mutually dependent and complimentary relationship to fulfill Gods calling.  It was a relationship that naturally consummated in a sexual union: For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Gen. 2:24). The pattern for marriage prescribed by God in Genesis is foundational to biblically based marriages in our era as well.

When a man and woman engage in a working partnership, a bond of mutual respect and trust often develops between them. By virtue of that bonding, they are well positioned emotionally to become increasingly intimate. In the natural evolution of relationships, the possibility of a sexual union is thereby heightened.

The Scriptures clearly teach that Gods intended order in marriage is that the husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is head of us, His church. (Eph. 5:23). As the head, the husband is his wifes protector, just as Christ is ours.  However, when she places herself under the authority of another man, she is now exposed to, and often pressured by the cacophony of confusing voices and forces outside the protective covering of her family. 

Imagine a boss who is gifted and engaging, working with an attractive woman who naturally desires his respect and admiration.  In the course of time through their work relationship, she grows to respect his business acumen and other admirable qualities.  He cannot help but respond to how she compliments him in their team effort, not to mention the stimulation they mutually enjoy as they work together on projects. There now exists perhaps without the two parties even realizing it an inflammable mixture of emotions that in time, and under the right circumstance could ignite into moral disaster.

Why else does Paul instruct married women to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at hometo be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God (Titus 2:5). (See I Tim. 5:14)

Seven suggestions on selecting a secretary: (1) Make sure that the secretary you hire is not likely to look to you to meet her emotional needs; (2) Make sure that your wife meets, interviews, and approves of the secretary before you hire her; (3) Keep your relationship with your secretary on a business level at all times; (4) Make sure that your wife can call you without going through your secretary; (5) Make sure that you never ask your secretary to meet personal needs or perform special tasks that your wife normally does; (6) Make sure that your secretary is committed to the success of your marriage; (7) Make sure that you praise your wife to your secretary and never discuss problems in your marriage with her. 1

This week, may you experience His grace, peace, and protection.

R. Dwight Hill

1 Rebuilders Guide  – 1982 Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, pp 146,147

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

THE ONE THING

 

Today a large segment in our society tends to define itself and its sense of worth by its busyness.  If you are engaged in some form of ministry you also run the risk of defining yourself not only by your ministry but by your being chronically busy. Both can easily become a form of idolatry and bondage.

The media and other powerful forces in our culture create an atmosphere of chronic emergency, false expectations and continual needs.  A recent Time Magazine article informs us that we have become Crisis Junkies. In the Christian arena certain forces, if left unchecked will eschew our priorities to the effect of putting us out of touch with God. Oswald Saunders in his classic work Spiritual Clinic has a section on the over sensitive conscience that can easily be exploited by a false feeling of guilt, and an unrealistic standard of ministry performance.  This overly sensitive conscience can become unduly burdened with a sense of obligation to fix everyone and everything. Left unchecked, the pressure of these forces upon our lives can and will stifle the Spirit of God from freely flowing through us in order to renew and empower us in order to use us.  In time we can easily feel manipulated and exploited by people, and by forces outside our control. Increasingly, we may experience a sense of resentment, a paralyzing feeling of disconnectedness, isolation, fragmentation, loneliness and anger.  Left unchecked, we will become depressed, lose heart and grow cynical.  And probably withdraw from a life of fruitful ministry.

What is the answer to the external pressures of the world and our own (often self-imposed) demands upon ourselves to overtake us?  Well, Jesus intends that we move from bowing to the many voices and demands of our ageand of our heart, to focusing on the One Thing:  Knowing Him.  (Phil. 3:7; Matt. 6:33; Lk. 10:41)  The sweet pursuit of knowing Him must possess us.  It must intoxicate us. It must become our magnificent obsession.  At the center of truly knowing Him, of developing intimacy with Him is learning to listen to the voice of God in an atmosphere of unrushed solitude, only made possible by creating space in our lives from the noise and pressure of the world and ministry. The fundamental nature of the ministry must be born out of the One Thing, rather than the One Thing being relegated to a supplementary place of relevance to our busyness and ministry.

In the Western world we tend to be highly cognitive, systematic, and rationalistic in our thinking and in our approach to spiritual formation/growth.  There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these patterns of thought.  But when they are out of balance in relationship to the contemplative life, they rob us from experiencing a deeper level of intimacy with Jesus.  It is importantNo, it is imperative that we learn the delicate balance between the cognitive processes of the mind, and the sensitive response of the heart to the Spirits prompting.  I am suggesting to you that there is a Spirit guided intimacy a mystical intimacy if you please, with Him that He desires for us, but we must put ourselves in a position where He can lead us into that experience with Him.  Information based as we are, we run the risk of gathering too much information/knowledge, and thereby choking out the Spirit and the quiet voice of GodChoking out the sweetness of His healing and loving touch that needs to reach us at our very core of our being.

When we approach the study and meditation of the Scriptures, we must invite the quiet voice of God to lead us. There are times, I have discovered when He gently impresses upon me to put the Book awayturn off the light, and be still before Him. (Psa. 46:10). Perhaps just listenand wait. Or simply allow Him to love me. Or engage my heart in worship.

In summary, are we being released from the internal and external forces that would rob and restrict us from experiencing the free movement of the Spirit of God that will woo us into a deeper intimacy with Him?  I believe it is the Fathers heart to draw us toward new levels of relationship with Him. Beyond anything we could to this point imagine?

But [now] I am fearful, lest that even as the serpent beguiled Eve by his cunning, so your minds may be corrupted and seduced from wholehearted and sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Cor. 11:3 Amp.)

This week, may you experience His grace, peace, and protection.

 

R. Dwight Hill

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

PRACTICAL STEPS IN PRAYER

Spending meaningful time with God in prayer requires a significant measure of effort. Its all too easy to succumb to the forces that seduce us back into a worry-filled existence. A deeper life with God simply cannot be achieved without discipline.  Thus, discipline and discipleship go hand in hand in terms of spiritual maturation.

Through the practice of spiritual disciplines we become responsive to the Spirits gentle voice, followed by a willingness to respond to Him.  It is important for us to recognize that our loving Father is actively engaged in our lives, eagerly seeking to awaken us to Himself. Thus prayer becomes a form of cooperation with God in His sovereign purpose, both for our lives, but also for others.

Let me suggest several disciplines in prayer, and the order you might want to practice them:

Adoration is loving back. For in the prayer of adoration we love God for Himself, for His very being, for His radiant joyThe most fundamental need, duty, honor, and happiness of man is not petition or even contrition, nor again, even thanksgivingbut adorationIn adoration we enjoy God.  We ask nothing except to be near Him.  We want nothing except that we would like to give Him all.  Out of this kind of prayer comes the cry Holy! Holy! Holy 1

Thanksgiving is a natural element of worship and is to characterize all of Christian life. 2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Col. 4:2). (See I Cor. 14:16, 17; Col. 2:7)

Listening: If we are to learn to listen for the  unobtrusive voice of Jesus, it will not be  in the noisy traffic of our cluttered lives, but in disciplined solitude, alone with Him. Said Isaiah of the Messiah, He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets (Isa. 42:2a). "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LordMy sheep listen to my voice (Isa. 51:1; Jn.10:27a). (See Psa. 46:10)

Repentance: We now come to God to search our hearts. If the Holy Spirit pinpoints sin, we confess it. Understand: Satan condemns us in general terms, while the Holy Spirit convicts us in specifics. We might pray, Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psa. 139:23, 24). (See Psa. 51:2-5; Pro. 28:13; Isa. 30:15; Dan. 9:4-20 Matt. 3:2)

Cleansing: After his sin with Bathsheba, David prayed, I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord– and you forgave the guilt of my sin (Psa. 32:5).

Petition/ Intercession: Petition is imploring God to act.  Intercession is beseeching God on the behalf of others.  This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of Him (I Jn. 5:14, 15). Jesus taught us this prayer that includes petition:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (Matt. 6:9-13).

This week, may you experience His grace, peace, and protection.

R. Dwight Hill

1 Douglass V. Steere. Devotional Classics (NY, NY: Renovare, Inc. 1990) pp 90, 91 2 Holman Bible Dictionary Trent B. Butler, General Editor