BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for May, 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

HOW DO I KNOW I AM ON TRACK IN MY APPROACH TO DISCIPLING? (Part 1 of 3)

A careful look at Jesus prayer to the Father the night before the cross regarding His discipling of the Eleven might be a good place to start. Following are principles of discipleship Christ implemented, gleaned from His prayer to the Father in John 17:

#1  Keep in mind that all our efforts  are to focus on Gods glory, not ours[Jesus] looked toward heaven and prayed: Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you  (vs.2). (See John 17:5; Ps. 115:1)

#2 Understand that we are engaged in Gods work under Jesus authority.  He is the One  who grants eternal life to those of His choosing: You granted [Jesus] authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given Him (vs. 2). (See Jn. 10:28; 11:25, 26; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; 1 Jn. 5:20)

 #3 Helping your disciples develop intimacy with the Father and Son must be a primary focus in your discipling efforts: This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ (vs. 3).  (See Jn. 17:6; Matt. 7:21-24; 1 Cor. 3:10, 11)

#4 We glorify God by completing the work He has assigned us to do.  In the context of John 17, the work was the discipling of the Eleven: I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do  (vs. 4). (See Jn. 4:34; Act. 20:24; I Cor. 15:58; 2 Tim. 4:7)

#5 Recognize that an important indicator of your disciples growth in the knowledge of God is evidence that they are obeying His word:  "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word  (vs. 6). (See Lk. 6:46; Jn. 8:31; 14:21-24; 1 Jn. 2:3-5)

#6 Understand that the people we are to disciple are given to us by the Father: "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me (vs.6). (See Jn. 6:37; 10:27-30; 17:2, 9, 10, 24)

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

R. Dwight Hill

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

DOES GOD ALWAYS ANSWER OUR PRAYERS?

Matthew 21:22 certainly says just that: If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."  As do a host of other Scriptures  (Matt. 7:7, 11; 18:19; Lk. 11:8-10; Jn. 14:13; 15:7; 16:24; Jas. 5:15)  Yet how many prayers seem to go unansweredat least according to our desired outcome?  How many truly godly people do you and I know who prayed for healing from cancer or for the return of a wayward child, without receiving evidence of Gods positive response?

So what is going on here? Are Gods reassurances of answered prayer a sham?  Clearly, we need to humbly pray according to Gods will: This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, He hears us (I Jn. 5:14).  Jesus demonstrated His understanding of this truth the night before the cross when He cried out, Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Lk. 22:42). Certainly we must reflect Christs humble approach as we pray. 

St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) said, Dear brothers, you should never doubt your prayer, thinking that if might have been in vain, for I tell you truly that before you have uttered the words, the prayer is already recorded in heaven. Therefore you should confidently expect from God one of two things: either that your prayer will be granted, or, that if it is not granted, the granting of it would not be good for you.

Observe the whining demands of insolent Israel in the desert, They soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His counsel. In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. So He gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them (Psa.. 106:13-15).  Literally, He sent leanness into their souls.  That is, God satiated them with quail, but with little spiritual nourishment. (See Num. 11:18; Isa. 10:16)  James warned us, When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  (Jms. 4:3)

Martin Luther sheds light on this issue in stating, Faith makes the prayer acceptable because it believes that either the prayer will be answered, or that something better will be given instead.  This is why James says, Let him who asks of God not waver in faith, for if he wavers, let him not think that he shall receive anything from the Lord.  This is a clear statement which says directly: he who does not trust will receive nothing, neither that which he asks nor anything better. 1

Luther continues, The one who prays correctly never doubts that the prayer will be answered, even if the very thing for which one prays is not given.  For we are to lay our need before God in prayer but not prescribe to God a measure, manner, time, or place. We must leave that to God, for He may wish to give it to us in another, perhaps better way then we think is best. Frequently we do not know what to pray as St. Paul says in Romans 8, and we know that Gods ways are above all that we can ever understand as he says in Ephesians 3. Therefore, we should have no doubt that our prayer is acceptable and heard, and we must leave to God the measure, manner, time, and place, for God will surely do what is rightThose who set times, places, measures, and limits for God sintempting their God. 1 (See Jms. 1:6-8; Rom. 8:26, 27; Eph. 3:16-20

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

R. Dwight Hill

1 Richard Foster and James Smith – Devotional Classics (Harper Collins Publishers, San Francisco, 1989) pp. 133, 134

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

FIVE WAYS ON HOW TO KEEP THE JOY THROUGH YOUR WORK DAY 1

#1  Acknowledge your abject dependence on God before you put your foot on the floor in the morning:  Lord there is only one person who can live the Christian life in this world.  And it isnt me. Would you live your life through me today? My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20a NLT) Determine, that by His grace your first thought in the morning will be of your dependence on Him. Why?  Because the moment you awake, the Enemy of your soul is ready to pounce on you with confusing thoughts, and a rush of emotions about the pressure of the day ahead, or of yesterdays frustrations; thoughts that pull you away from your rest in the Lord. You can neutralize these powerful forces by mentally declaring your utter dependence upon God. By humbling yourself you are inviting His enabling: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (Jms. 4:6b)

#2  Begin your day with a spirit of thankfulness: Michael Ramsey informs us, Thankfulness is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.2  Our lack of thankfulness discloses our pride, as we fail to  humbly acknowledge Gods sovereignty in our daily affairs.  Thus, we have a huge problem: Gods opposition to us and our efforts (Remember Jms. 4:6?).

#3  Begin your day with prayer, meditation on His word, and worship: By this discipline we are signaling to God our utter dependence on Him. C. J. Mahaney observes, By quietly pausing to read and pray before launching my workday, I can be confident that Ive taken a step to weaken pride and strengthen humility. 3

#4  Utilize your commute time by meditating on Gods word (IPod, etc), working on Scripture memory, or praying.  Did you know that the average daily commute is about twenty-five minutes to and from work. Most of us waste it on worrying, or complaining about the traffic. Back in my 20s I was living in the Los Angeles Area and commuting 45 minutes to and from work.  Five days a week I was able to spend 1 hours a day on Scripture memory! That discipline of hiding Gods word in my heart forever changed my life.  William Wilberforce, the prime mover in eliminating the slave trade in England was a member of the British House of Commons in the 1700s.  Wilberforce  daily walked the one mile to and from Parliament while memorizing and meditating on Psalm 119. In that one mile walk he could recite the entire psalm.  Thus he wisely seized the opportunity to speak the truth of Gods word into his life as he started his day.

#5  Cast your cares upon HimHumble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.  Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you (I Pet. 5:6, 7 NLT). By humbling ourselves in this manner we become care free.  If, in our pride we fail to acknowledge our need for Him amidst the pressures of life, we are silently announcing our self-sufficiency and independence from God. Thus, we are left on our own without His help. (Remember James 4:6?) The result?  Fretting and anxiety. Even anger.

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

R. Dwight Hill

1 Many of the seed truths of this Facts can be attributed to C. J. Mahoney in Humility True Greatness  (Multnomah Publishers, Sisters, Oregon, 1995), p. 73 – 2 Michael Ramsey, The Christian Priest Today (London: SPCK, 1972) 79-81; as quoted in John Stott, Pride, Humility & God, in Alive to God, eds. J. I. Packer and Loren Wilson (Downers Grover, IL.: InterVarsity, 1992), 112 – ; – 3  C. J. Mahaney, Humility True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, Sisters, Oregon, 1995), p. 73

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

JOY IS IT POSSIBLE TO EXPERIENCE IN MY WORLD?

You are pressing your way through the day, negotiating contracts in a business environment that takes no prisoners, that increasingly knows no ethical boundaries, and at best promises a hazy financial future. It is exactly here that you are commanded by St. Paul to  Rejoice in the Lord! (Phil. 4:4). 

Right. Ill put that on my check list and will choose to be joyful, starting tomorrow, since today I am too wrung out to even think about it! James gives us no room for whining and excuses,  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. (Jms. 1:2)

How, in my rough and tumble world is this joy remotely possible?  Well, we know from Scriptures that joy can reign in our lives amidst trials and sorrow. Jesus , for example said to his grief struck disciples, I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (Jn. 16:20-22) (See Rom. 5:3-5; Heb. 12:2; I Pet. 1:6-8)

What exactly is this joy I am supposed to experience?  Certainly there is little around me that produces joy.  For starters, joy is not to be confused with happiness, which is based on circumstances. Nor is joy an emotion we can conjure up.  We err if we confuse joy with pleasure.  Actually the Greek word for pleasure is hedonism the prevailing philosophy of our self-centered, pleasure seeking culture. A hedonist is a person who is a lover of pleasures more than [a lover] of God. (2 Tim. 2:4)  

Joy is not an emotion we can rev up.  Rather it is centered in our choice to obey God.  The result? A supernaturally produced emotion which is the fruit of walking in the Spirit: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace  (Gal. 5:22a)  But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvationBut may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, The Lord be exalted!Be joyful always. (Psa. 13:5; 40:16; 1 Thess. 5:16)  (See Psa. 32:11; Lk. 10:20; Jn. 15:11; 17:13; Rom. 15:13)

True biblically based joy produces in us a settled confidence in the future, grounded on our trust in Gods purposes and power.  We know we possess this joy when our lives are liberated from fear because of our abiding relationship with God who is eternal and unshakeable.  Consider: You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.  (Psa. 16:11) (See Jn. 16:22)

While joy is the fruit of a Spirit-led life (Gal. 5:22),  sin will rob us of his joy. Note King Davids desperate cry to the Lord after his adulterous affair: Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.  (Psa. 51:12)

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

R. Dwight Hill

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

THE CORROSIVE EFFECTS OF WEALTH (Part 4 of 4)

The danger of having idle time on my hands without accountability.  

Our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly bodyWait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from GodGod will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ  (2 Cor. 5:9b-11; I Cor. 4:5b; Rom. 2:16b)  (See Ecc. 11:9)

Prayer: Lord, I commit to structuring my life in a way that insures that I am accountable to another person or group.  Help me to keep ever before me the fact that I will indeed give an accounting to you.

 We can easily become de-sensitized to the suffering of the common man because with wealth we  often possess greater options to ease the pain of life.

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.  The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.  So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us (Lk. 16:19-26). (See Lk. 12:48; Rom. 12:15

 Prayer: Lord, I confess my inclination toward turning a blind eye to the suffering around me.  Grant me a servants heart to engage with the suffering people whom you place in my path.

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

R. Dwight Hill