BETA

Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for July, 2013

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

WHEN THE WHEELS START COMING OFF

Today, as I write, our Country and much of the western world is reeling in a deep economic recession. There is an unsettled feeling in the air that the wheels are coming off of our society, our lives, and our  future. 

In the midst of this present confusion, what are we to make of Scripture like Romans 8:28 which promise us 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). The question is what are the things of which God is speaking?  They are spelled out in the 10 verses preceding Romans 8:28, and can be summed up as lifes suffering, frustration, inward groaning, weakness, and confusion of not knowing  what to pray for.

Most of us are surprised to learn that the good that God works for those who love him does not refer to or personal comfort, but to our inward transformation into the likeness of Christ (verse 29).  Listen to Vernon Grounds on this:

If we are exempt from disease, if our bodies are never stabbed by pain, if we always have money in our pockets or reserve  in the bank, if we live in modern homes and enjoy the latest luxuries, if we can dress well and take long vacations at the seashorethat we consider good.  Unfortunately we find ourselves victimized by a materialistic civilization, and despite our Christian faith we subtly equate comfort and goodness. In the same way we tend to equate success with goodnessAnd yet such equations are a million miles removed from Pauls conception of the good, changes what ought to be a soft pillow for our hearts into a hard problem for our heads. 

But there are conditions as to who qualifies for this good work God is doing in the lives of His children. According to verse 28, it is for (1) Those who love God – which speaks of relationship, and (2) for Those who have been called according to his purpose – which speaks of partnership.

Josephs tragic life of being betrayed into slavery by his brothers, and being accused and unjustly imprisoned as a rapist,  serves as a powerful example of the good God was working out in his character in preparing him as God s instrument to save a nation.  Years later it became obvious that Joseph  had grasped the same principle embodied in Romans 8:18-29 when he stated to his brothers,  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives  (Gen. 20:50).

QUESTION: Do you believe at your very core that God, in his sovereignty arranges the circumstances in your life to chisel you into the image of Christ?  Perhaps you would join me in a prayer penned by Epictetus1 some two thousand years ago, Deal with me as Thou wilt from now on. I am as one with Thee; I am Thine; I flinch from nothing so long as Thou dost think that it is good. Lead me where Thou wilt; put on me what raiment Thou wilt.  Wouldst Thou have me hold office or eschew it, stay or flee, be rich or poor? For this I will defend Thee before all men.

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

R. Dwight Hill

1 Epictetus: GreekStoicphilosopher (AD 55 AD 135)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

ARE YOU A RISK TAKER FOR GOD?

God is looking for risk takers: People who step out of the boat, as did Peter to walk toward Jesus; people who take the Lords word and promises at face value whatever the circumstances; people who are willing to go for broke, whenever God leads. In calling people, Jesus severely interrupted their comfortable lives by:

 Offering them a vagabond existence. (Lk. 9:58)

 Disrupting their family obligations and responsibilities. (Matt. 4:19; Lk. 9:60, 61)

 Promising a life of hardship and suffering.  (Jn. 15:18-20; 2 Cor. 4:7-12; 6:3-10; 11:16-29)

Tragically, the motto of our generation is, Safety First.  Many young men [and women] are looking for a safe job in which they can feather their nest, secure their future, insure their lives, reduce all risks, and retire on a fat pension. There is nothing wrong in providing for your future, but this spirit pervades our lives until life becomes soft and padded and all adventure is gone.  We are so thickly wrapped in cotton, wool that we can neither feel the pain of the world nor hear the Word of God.  Jesus did not remain in the social immunity of heaven, or hid away n the safety of the skies. He entered the zone of danger, risking contaminationHow can we make safety our ambition.1 

When God calls us to total commitment He leaves no room for compromise.  Eternal love offers no explanations.  The Lord expects to be trusted.  He disturbs us at will. Human arrangements are disregarded, family ties ignored, business claims put aside. We are never asked if it is convenient. 2  

If changes from our soft, bland, me-centered brand of Christianity are to be made, where do we start? We begin with unrushed time alone with God and His word.  Truth is, getting and staying in Gods word is not something we do automatically. Rather it is the product of deep resolve and self-discipline.  It will not effectively be done on the rush, or on the backstroke.  In fact, our time with God must command first priority on a regular, sustained basis.  It takes time to read and ponder the Scripture as you turn its truths over in your heart and mind; as you jot down your musings, praying over your findings. resolving to apply these  truths to your life.

Is it any wonder Paul challenged Timothy:  Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim. 4:7b NASB)? No discipline spells no discipleship.

QUESTION:  Are you measured in offering your gifts to God, parsimoniously eking out each expenditure of time, talent and treasure for the work of His kingdom?  Surely, the heart of God longs that you and I abandon ourselves to the pursuit of knowing Him, resulting in deep commitmet to the furtherance of His cause. Tragically, the work of the King and His Kingdom languishes when our surrender and service to Him is impoverished.

Jesus summed up abandonment to Him quite simply: Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple (Lk. 14:33).

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

R. Dwight Hill

1John Stott in Crusade Magazine; 2 J. Oswald Sandears, Spiritual Discipleship  Moody Publishers, 1994, pg. 30

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

DEFINING THE FRUIT IN JOHN 15

Jesus If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciple.  (Jn. 15:7, 8)

The Scriptures make it clear that there is no such thing as a fruitless disciple. (Matt. 7:15-20) So, just what is the fruit Jesus talked about in John 15?

1)  CharacterOur inner life with God: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22, 23 selected) 

Jesus stated that a tree is known by its fruit (Lk. 6:44).  That is, the fruit defines the tree.  Those wonderful nine engaging qualities represent the very character of Jesus, lived out through us.

2)  ServiceOur outward ministry for God.  Jesus spoke of harvesting souls  into His kingdom: Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. (Jn. 4:35, 36)

Thus, fruit is the winning of the lost and discipling people toward maturity: We proclaim [Christ], admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. (Col. 1:28, 29 – NLT)

Jesus made it clear that a condition for fruitfulness is dying to self:  Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (Jn. 12:24)

The operative words in the statement in John 12 are unless and if. The glorious possibility of much fruit lies in our own hands. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master (Matt. 10:25). It is as we apply the cross to our lives and die to the self-dominated life that the Spirit can make our lives fruitful. 1

In my 20s, God clearly spoke to me through John 12:24, and in effect said, Dwight, I cannot use you in my work of winning the lost and making disciples unless you die to your insufferable pride and self will.  After an epic struggle, I surrendered.  Whatever fruit we may have seen over these years is in part the result of the death to the life of self.

QUESTION:  How about you?  Are you truly bearing the inward fruit described in Galatians 5:22, 23?  Do you sense you are a channel through whom Gods Spirit is working to evoke Christ like change in others? If not, perhaps you should seriously pray over John 12:24.  (See 2 Timothy 2:20, 21)

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

R. Dwight Hill

1 Spiritual Discipleship  J. Oswald Sanders, Moody Press, Chicago, 1994,  p. 34

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

HOW ABOUT JOINING WITH ME IN A BIT OF SOUL-SEARCHING?

This morning in my time alone with God, I was deeply challenged from a discourse Jesus gave to his followers. (Jn. 6:25-59)  As I meditated on the passage, I posed questions to myself in response to the truths Jesus presented. Perhaps you would like to join with me in a bit of soul searching:

  Jesus:  Dont be so concerned about perishable things like food.  Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. (vs. 27a NLT) (See Isa. 55:2; Matt. 6:19, 31-33; Jn. 4:13, 14)

 

Prayer:  Lord, just where is my primary focus? On the temporal, or on things eternal?

  Jesus:  God the Father has given me the seal of His approval. (vs. 27b – NLT) (See Isa. 42:1; Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Eph. 5:10)

 Question:  Am I living conscience free, knowing that my life is truly pleasing to the Father?

  Jesus:  This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the One He has sent. (vs. 29 – NLT) (See vss. 35, 36)

 Question:  Do I have a clear understanding that the main work God wants from me is not my frenetic service for Him, but simply to believe and trust in Him? 

  Jesus:  I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (vs. 35 – NLT)  (See vs. 41, 48; Jn. 4:14, 15; 7:38; Rev. 7:16)

 Question:  Is Jesus in fact the One who is satisfying my deepest longings?  Or have I allowed other gods to creep into my heart as His replacement?

  Jesus:  Those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject themFor no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me (vss. 37, 44 NLT) See  Jn. 6:39; 17:2, 6, 8, 9)

 Question:  Do I understand that only God can draw people to Himself?  Do I comprehend that God, not I, ordains the people I am to invest in? 

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

R. Dwight Hill

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE TO WALK AS JESUS DID (Part 2 of 2)

In last weeks Facts we mentioned the fact that the Scriptures inform us that whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did (I Jn. 2:6).  In our quest to know what that should look like, we continue in our analysis of the life of Christ as found in Isaiah 52 and 53:

  Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed (Isa. 53:4,5).

 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked (2 Cor. 11:24-27). (See 2 Cor. 4:8-12)

QUESTION:  Am I gracefully embracing the inevitable suffering that accompanies true followers of Christ? (See 2 Cor. 4:7 – 12; 2Tim 3:12)

  He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth  (Isa. 53:7)

  "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Lk. 6:27-36) (See Matt 5:38-42; Phil. 2:5-8)

QUESTION:  When I am violated, exploited, oppressed, or misjudged, do I fight for my rights? Or do I choose to emulate Jesus who relinquished His?

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

R. Dwight Hill