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Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for November, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

SELF-ABSORPTION OR SELF-SACRIFICE?

 

In my recent interactions with Christian collegians, I have been struck with how spiritually dull, vague, intrepid, and self-serving many of them are.  It seems that the majority is consumed with their fulfillment, their future, and how they feel.  Coupled with this self-absorption is a rather dull vagueness about the future and how they hope to muddle through it.  Whats missing is clear thinking, a sense of mission, courage, and an air of optimism that God has a plan for their lives.

Recently, in meditating through the Book of Mathew, I was stopped dead in my tracks by Jesus Gethsemane experience.  In His time of agony the night before the cross, two powerful dynamics unfolded:

  Jesus asked Peter, James, and John to stay with Him in prayer. The reason?  "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" (Matt. 26:38).  Sorrowful and troubled, He needed them to be with Him in His hour of darkness (Matt. 26:37).  Tragically, their pampered desire for sleep took precedence over their willingness to minister to Him.  Imagine:  They indulgently slept through the prayer meeting that was to prepare them and Christ for the two greatest events in human history:  The cross and the resurrection.

 

The disciples slothful dullness and their subsequent cowardice relative to Jesus arrest, trial, and death reveals their callow spiritual condition, which is analogous to the state of modern day Christianity (the Christian collegians?) and its stark contrast to Christs Gethsemane experience of selfless obedience to the Fathers will. Their cowardly response to the authorities is directly linked to their lack of spiritual discipline at Gethsemane with Jesus.  Little wonder He instructed them, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the body is weak" (Matt. 26:41).

 

  Jesus fell with his face to the ground and prayed,my Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will" (Matt. 26:39). In that one statement Jesus summarizes His mission in life:  Obedience to the Fathers will, whatever the cost.  And that is to be our life mission as well.

 

This is significant for us today because in this era of self-centered, experience orientated, narcissistic Christianity, Jesus calls us to a life that includes sacrifice, suffering, and obedience for His Kingdom and Glory: 

Weare heirsof God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His gloryWe must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Rom. 8:17b; Act. 14:22b). (See 1 Cor. 4:9-13; 2 Tim. 2:3, 9, 10; 3:12).

QUESTION: Have you settled the fact that the life of a disciple is not about meeting your narcissistic needs, rather, it is primarily about living for His Kingdom and glory?  If you are struggling in this area, what practical action steps do you need to be taking now to turn the tide?

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

R. Dwight Hill

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

GREED (Part 2 of 2)

 

In last weeks Facts we defined greed as an excessive or reprehensible desire to acquire; a passion to possess more than you have.We also shared several examples of biblical characters who capitulated to greed.

 

How can we discern when greed has seeped into our souls?

 

  When we are chronically dissatisfied with what we possessThose who love money will never have enough.  How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!…  Human desire is never satisfied (Ecc. 5:10a; Pro. 27:20b).  (See Isa. 56:11; Ecc. 1:8; 6:7;  Lk. 12:15; 1 Tim. 6:6)

 

  When we are willing to acquire wealth at great personal perilPeople who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Tim. 6:9, 10).  (See Lk. 16:14; 2 Tim 3:2)

 

  When our financial dealings with people are tainted with dishonestyMy people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice.  With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain (Ezek. 33:31).  (See Gen. 34:23, 24)

  When we become indifferent toward social evils or the needs of others.  (See Jer. 5:27, 28; Amo. 8:4-6; Hab. 2:9-11; I Jn. 3:16-18)

Three practical suggestions to help us overcome greed:

1. View shopping as a spiritual discipline.  Avoid impulsive buying. Eschew the ever-present screeching of advertising.  To avoid impulsive buying, make up a shopping list before shopping. Only include your needs, not your wants.

2. Become a generous giver, emulating John Wesleys famous dictum, Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.  Paul reminds us, Dont give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7 NLT).

3.Choose to live under your means. If you have excess, cap your living standard and determine to give much, if not all of it away.

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

R. Dwight Hill

1Taking Your Soul to Work R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 2010  p. 21

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

GREED (Part 1 of 2)

 

Is the issue of greed as vexing an issue in your life as it is in mine?  How, for example do we find balance in  our response to the ever-present financial needs of people around us while responsibly providing for our family –  without a spirit of greed? How do we determine whether we are being generous or self-serving when it comes to the stewardship of money? Are we unwittingly caught up in the trap of upward mobility, or are we truly content with what God has allowed us materially?  (See I Jn. 3:16-18; 1 Tim. 5:8; 2 Cor. 9:7, 8; Prov. 27:20; I Tim. 6:6-10)

 

Greed is an excessive or reprehensible desire to acquire; a passion to possess more than you have. 1 (See Lk. 12:15)  I John 2:16 describes greed as the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] (Amp. N. T.).  The Scriptures inform us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10a). Hebrews 13:5 cautions and comforts us:

 

Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [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!] (Amp) (See Lk. 12:15)

 

One reason greed so insidiously creeps into our lives is that in our culture it seems okay to be greedy, as long as youre not crass, arrogant, or grossly insensitive to other peoples feelings.Much of unrecognized greed stems from noble intentions to build a safe and secure financial base for loved ones. 2

 

We observe greeds seductive power in:

  Ahabs willingness to commit murder to obtain Naboths vineyard. (I Kin. 21)

  Achens obdurate disobedience in stealing the spoils of war. (Jos. 7)

  Solomons rapacious acquisitions. (Ecc. 2:10, 11)

  Judas cold-blooded betrayal of Jesus for a pittance of a reward. (Matt. 26:14, 15) (See Act. 5:1-11; Num. 22:4-20; 2 Pet. 2:15;  Jude 1:11)

In next weeks Facts we will (1) discuss how we can discern when greed has seeped into our souls, and (2) give three practical suggestions to help us overcome greed. 

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

R. Dwight Hill

1Taking Your Soul to Work R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 2010  p. 21; 2 Ibid p 23

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

BUT IF NOT 1

 

There are three men in my life who make me stand a bit taller, dream a bit larger, and infuse in me an intense passion to pursue Christ and His Kingdom with every ounce of energy within me.  One of them is Joe, a friend in Christ for over 50 years.  Hes sick, and the doctors cant find out what it is.  The other day on the phone he said, Dwight, I dont like this illness. I am praying God will heal me, but if not, I will accept with thankfulness whatever He chooses.  (See 2 Cor. 12:7-10)

 

After I hung up, I recalled several men in the Bible who grasped the goodness and sovereignty of God in adverse circumstances reflective of Joes perspective:  Dear God, remove this adversity, but if not, I will entrust my future to your loving and wise sovereignty.  For example:

Abraham, was instructed by God to offer up his precious son.  When asked, where is the lamb for the burnt offering, Abraham in effect answered, God will provide a lamb, but if not, I know He is able to raise him up even from the dead (Heb. 11:19). (See Gen. 22:8)

Job lost all home, livestock, family, health, even his wifes sympathy.  In his time of darkness, his faith prevailed:  He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold (Job 23:10).  But if not, though He slay me, yet will I trust Him (Job 13:15).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, captive exiles in Babylon, refused to bow in worship to an image of King Nebuchadnezzar. In reaction, the king threatened them that if they would not comply with his decree they would be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace (Dan. 3:15b) Their response? "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Dan. 3:16b-18).

John the Baptist languished in prison, having received no messages or help from Jesus to set him free. So he sends his disciples to inquire, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else" (Matt. 11:3)? In effect he was saying, but if not, my faith is undaunted and I will look for another. Shortly thereafter his head was cut off. (Mk. 6:14-29)

Jesus agonized in Gethsemane to the point that bloody sweat forced its way through his pours. In his distress  He cried out, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.  But if not, not my will, but yours be done  (Lk. 22:42). The next day, He was executed.

QUESTION: In the final analysis, we must decide whether the Christian life is about our comfort or His glory? So, my fellow pilgrim, does the quality of your walk with God today give you good reason to believe that in your moment of severe testing you will choose the high road of trusting and obeying God over acquiescing to your fears and self-serving inclinations?

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

R. Dwight Hill

1 Credit for the key ideas of this Facts to Spiritual Maturity, J. Oswald Sanders, Moody Press, 1994,  pp73, 78, 79