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Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for April, 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

FASTING FROM A CRITICAL SPIRIT

 

Recently my wife and I spent the evening with friends.  In retrospect, I found myself troubled by the fact that throughout the evening the conversation was sprinkled with negative comments about the church, our political leaders, certain authors, etc.  The next morning I picked up an  article by publically acclaimed author Catherine Marshall, who related how she felt God had impressed upon her that she was to go on a fast from criticism. [She] was not to criticize anybody about anything. Throughout the day, to her bemusement, she noticed that in several conversations with groups of people, her silence went unmissed.  The federal government, public education, the judicial system, etc. all came under the critical light. She kept silent.

As she continued on in her experiment to stop criticizing, here is what she discovered: Ideas began to flow in a way I had not experienced in years.  Now it was apparent what the Lord wanted me to see.  My critical nature had not corrected a single one of the multitudinous things I found fault with. What it had done was to stifle my own creativity in prayer, in relationships, perhaps even in writing ideas that He wanted to give me. 1

Mrs. Marshall came to the following conclusions as to why a critical spirit is so destructive:

 A critical spirit focuses us on ourselves and makes us unhappy.  We lose perspective and humor.

 A critical spirit blocks the positive creative thoughts God longs to give us.

 A critical spirit can prevent good relationships between individuals and often produces retaliatory criticalness.

 Criticism blocks the work of the Spirit of God: love, good will, mercy.

Therefore, she concluded: Whenever we see something genuinely wrong in another persons behavior, rather than criticize him or her directly, or far worse gripe about him behind his back, we should ask the Spirit of God to do the correction needed. 1

The Scriptures are unequivocal in prohibiting a critical spirit:

 Do not fret (literally: be vexed or hot with anger) because of evil men (Psa. 37:1).

 "Do not judge (in ones own mind as to what is right proper or expedient), or you too will be judged Matt.7:1).  (See Lk. 6:37; Rom. 2:1,2; 14:3,4, 10-14)

 Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may be blameless and pure (Phil. 2:14a)  (See Phil. 2:14b – 16)

  Don't grumble (groan, grudge, sigh) against each other, brothers, or you will be judged (Jms. 5:9a). (See Num. 16:11; Dt. 1:27; Lk. 5:30; 15:2; 19:7; I Cor. 10;10)

 Do not slander   (backbite; find fault, falsely accuse) one another… (James 4:11a). (See Jude 1:16)

PRAYER:  Lord, help me to understand that at the root of my critical spirit is my indomitable pride. Help me to recognize that only by pride cometh contention (Pro. 13:10a KJV).  I am aware that I am in big trouble because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Jms. 4:6a). Lord, in repenting of my pride I am asking you to transform my critical spirit into a heart of humility filled with Calvary love.  Amen.

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

R. Dwight Hill

1 Spiritual Classics, HarperSanFrancisco 2000, p. 59

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

DEALING WITH BITTERNESS AND FORGIVENESS TWO TESTIMONIES

 

Wesley Stafford, President of Compassion International, shares his experience with bitterness and forgiveness: 1

At age 17, I realized that those who hurt me would never apologize.  They werent even sorry.  But I could no longer bear carrying the pain of my past, so I chose to forgive them anyway. Get out of my heart. Get out of my head.  Get out of my life I remember saying.  What you did to me will not define me.  You stole my childhood, but you cannot have the rest of my life.  Get out I forgive you!

Since then Ive learned that while God always requires us to forgive, forgiveness isnt saying that what happened was okay.  It doesnt release someone from the consequences of their actions.  And it doesnt require letting someone back into your life.  It does mean giving up the right to seek revenge. 

So, here is my counsel to those who have suffered: if you have never been able to forgive, you are allowing the person who hurt you to live rent-free in your heart. Its costing them nothing and costing you everything. Perhaps its time for you to evict him through forgiveness.

Dwight Hill: A close acquaintance deeply wounded me for several years during my formative years.  After 18 years with no contact, I realized that I had been harboring bitterness all that time toward him. In my judgment I felt I had caused about 5% of the trouble between us in reaction to his incredible and sustained unkindness, and that about 95% of the problem was caused by him.  So I called him and asked his forgiveness for the grief I had caused him. His immediate response was, No, I am the one who should be calling you and asking you for your forgiveness.  In that moment I was freed from the bitterness that had plagued me all those many years.

The Scriptures instruct us, Get rid of all bitternessBe kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave youSee to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (Eph. 4:31a, 32; Heb. 12:15). (See Gen. 50:20; Matt. 6:15; 15:21-35; Col. 3:13; 1 Pet. 3:9)

PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, somehow in your Sovereignty you allowed these hurtful experiences into my life. While they were murdering you on the cross, your response was, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. In this moment and with your help, I choose to follow your example in forgiving those who have offended me.  Amen. (Lk. 23:24)

 

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

R. Dwight Hill

 1Wes Stafford, Christianity Today, July 2010, p. 43

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

DEALING WITH SUFFERING (5 of 5)

 

In last weeks Facts we dealt with the question, How are we to respond to suffering?  (1) Dont blame God, (2) Rejoice in our suffering, and (3) Grasp the fact that Gods presence is with you  amidst your suffering. We continue:

 

Exercise patience and perseverance:

We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Rom. 5:3-5). (See Psa. 37:7; I Pet. 2:20)

View your afflictions in light of eternity

We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor. 4:16-18). (See Job 19:25-27; Matt. 5:12; Jms. 5:7, 8)

Use your present affliction as an opportunity to develop a deeper relationship with God:

The Lord is inviting you – and me to come home, to come home to where we belong, to come home to that for which we were created.  His arms are stretched out wide to receive us.  His heart is enlarged to take us in.  For too long we have been in the far country; a country of noise and hurry and crowds, a country of climb and push and shove, a country of frustration and fear and intimidation.  And He welcomes us home: Home to serenity and fellowship and openness, home to intimacy and acceptance and affirmation. 1

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young  Jesus:  "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate (Isa. 40:11; Matt. 23:37, 38). (See Psa.  46:1; 62:8; 91:1-9; Pro. 18:10; Lk. 13:34)

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

R. Dwight Hill

 1 Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Hearts True Home (San Francisco,: HarperSanFradisco, 1992) p. 1

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

DEALING WITH SUFFERING (4 of 5)

 

In the last three Facts we have addressed the question as to why we suffer. We now turn to the question,  

 

How are we to respond to suffering?

 

Dont blame God:

Upon learning of his cataclysmic loss, 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. When Jobs wife told him to curse God and die, He replied, You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? In all this, Job did not sin in what he said As his illness progressed Job stated, Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him (Job 1:20-22; 2:10; 13:15)  (See Job 23:8-10a; Isa. 40:27; Rom. 9:19, 20; Jms. 1:13)

Rejoice in our suffering

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love himHowever, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name (Jms. 1:2-4, 12; I Pet. 4:16). (See Lk. 6:22, 23;  Act. 5:40, 41; Rom. 5:3-5; 8:35-37; 2 Cor. 12:7-10; Eph. 3:13; Phil. 2:17, 18; I Pet. 3:14)

Grasp the fact that Gods presence is with you amidst your suffering:

[God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!] The first time I [Paul] defended myself, no one helped me. Everyone left me. I pray that God will forgive them. But the Lord stayed with me. He gave me strength so that I could fully tell the Good News to the non-Jews. The Lord wanted all the non-Jews to hear it. So I was saved from the lion's mouth (Heb. 13:5 Amp.; 2 Tim. 4:16, 17).  (See Psa. 109:31; Isa. 41:10; Jer. 15:20; 20:11; Act. 18:9-11; 23:11; 27:23)

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

R. Dwight Hill