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Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for January, 2015

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

HERE’S A CLUE AS TO WHY SO MANY OF US ARE DRIED OUT SPIRITUALLY :

Most of us reading this “Facts” are hard after knowing Christ. We work at taking regular time to meet with him. Well and good. This certainly is pleasing to him and necessary for victory and fruitfulness.

But there is another dimension and depth to knowing Christ that can only occur if we are in mission with him in accomplishing what is dear to the heart of the Father. Christianity, American-style often borders on a spiritual narcissism that focuses on my need for spiritual fulfillment; my incessant need for joy, my quest for happiness, my fulfillment in selectively choosing a field of Christian service that makes me feel fulfilled. In a word, my spiritual quest is all about me.

By way of contrast, Jesus’ passion, and very sustenance was about the glory of the Father through accomplishing his will: I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.My food…is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work…” (Jn. 4:34; 17:4). Thus united in heart with the Father, he could proclaim, “ I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:10). One in intimacy, and one in mission.

Paul, who was called and compelled to evangelize and suffer across the Roman Empire for Christ’s cause cried out from his prison cell that the passion of his existence was (1) knowing Christ at the deepest possible level: “…I want to know Christ”, and (2) accomplishing his mission: “ Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.” (Phil. 3:10a; I Cor. 9:16b) Thus, the relationship with Christ and the mission for Christ were inextricably fused together in the heart of Paul. And so it must be with us.

As Rick Warren famously stated, “It’s not about you.” (See Psa. 115:1) Therefore, we need to resolve to passionately pursue knowing Christ for his glory and selflessly give our lives for his mission. As we do, I suspect our spiritual lives will take on a depth and richness not previously imagined!

Therefore, God gives us opportunity, may I suggest three areas of mission as we dedicate ourselves to spiritual maturation through obedient intake of the word of God and a life of prayer (Eph. 4:13; Jn. 14:21, 23; I Thess. 5;17):

Commitment toward the accomplishment of Christ’s Great Commission. (Matt. 28:18–20)

Devotion to a community of Christ’s followers. (Col. 3:12-14)

Compassionate involvement with the least among us. (Matt. 25:31–46)

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

R. Dwight Hill

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

BUILDING A REPUTATION OR SEEKING OBSCURITY: WHICH IS IT?

In a world of self-promotion, and self-aggrandizement, the idea of “seeking obscurity” or “downward mobility” comes off as sheer idiocy.

Paul said of Jesus, “[He] made of Himself no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant…” (Phil. 2:7 NKJV). But isn’t that what it is all about? Reputation? The Master irritated the religious elites by befriending the lowlifes of society. “Why,” they asked of him, “do you eat and drink with such scum” (Lk. 5:30b – NLT)? Imagine: He had the dubious reputation of being “ a glutton and a wine drinker, a friend of tax collectors and notorious sinners” (Lk. 7:34 – Amp.).

Jeremiah cautioned Israel, “Should you…seek great things for yourself? Seek them not” (Jer. 45:5a).

And Paul admonished the Roman believers, “…Don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody” (Rom. 12:16b Msg.).

In these senior years, I have been deeply challenged by two men who lived large lives on the world’s stage, but in their latter years chose to minister for the glory of God to the unheralded in the back waters of society:

  • Henri Nouwen (1932 – 1996) taught at both Yale and Harvard and was widely acclaimed for his remarkable books on the deeper spiritual life. In 1985 at age 51, he left his high profile career in academia and ministered until his death in 1996 at Daybreak, L’ Arche in Toronto, Canada to a community of severely infirmed and handicapped young people. His goal was “downward mobility” for God’s glory.
  • Charlie Riggs (1916 – 2008) trained counselors for the Billy Graham crusades around the world for 50 + years, finally retiring in Canon City, Colorado. And why isolated, desolate Canon City of all places? Because of the Federal penitentiary. In his later years Riggs poured his life into prisoners for the cause of Christ. Certainly he exemplified the adage, “Seek obscurity.”

I am intrigued to discover that I seem to derive the greatest joy from those I invest in who have the least ability to give back. Why am I surprised? Did not Jesus instruct us, “… When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Lk. 14:13b, 14). (See Jms. 1:27)

God help us to possess the compassion of Jesus toward the neediest among us: “ …What pity he felt for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn’t know what to do or where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36b – TLB).

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

R. Dwight Hill

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

THE REDEMPTIVE VALUE OF ALONENESS

Over the years I have had periods of time in my life where I felt a crushing sense of aloneness. To counter it I would instinctively overload my calendar as an escape mechanism. In recent years I have come to realize that a sense of aloneness in my soul can be a tool God can use to accomplish depth of Christlike character.

Job, Jesus, and St. Paul experienced deep periods of aloneness:

Job: “…If I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:8-10).

Jesus : ”…All the disciples deserted him and fled …Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood…About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice…’My God, my God, why have you forsaken me’” (Matt. 27:46; 26:56b; Heb. 13:13)

St. Paul : …Everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes…Demas…has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia…At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them” (2 Tim 1:15; 4:10, 16). It was amidst Paul’s pain of isolation in prison cells where he penned four of his letters: Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon.

Francis J. Roberts reminds us that “t he soul that has been enriched by communion with God will not be dismayed by isolation but will welcome solitude. He will seek not the crowd but the closet, and emerging will never walk alone for he has unseen companionship.”

The primary psychological drug of the 21st Century seems to be our obsession with and absorption in the electronic media. Almost every possible waking moment, it seems, we invite the unbridled clatter of the noisy world into the inner sanctum of our soul. In so doing, we have become strangers to silence and solitude, producing in us a callow and parched spirituality.

Note the Father’s invitation to Israel to experience inner rest and quietness of soul: “ This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” And Israel’s rebellious and tragic response? “You would have none of it” (Isa. 30:15). In similar fashion, Jesus stated that Israel’s house was left desolate because of her rejection of God’s invitation to solitude with him. (See Matt. 23:37,38)

QUESTION : It is axiomatic that you and I will not know God at the depth to which he is calling us without a concerted effort to steal away with him in quietness and isolation. The world is in desperate need of spiritual warriors that only this caliber of disciplined priority and hunger can produce. Are you up to the challenge?

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

R. Dwight Hill

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

WEAK FATHERS…AND THE TRAGIC CONSEQUENCES (Part #3 of 3)

Ely, Hophni and Phinehas

Eli, the over-stuffed, indulgent priest of Israel lost control of his selfish and lusty sons who seduced temple women and greedily gorged on meat sacrifices. The Scriptures state that Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord.” Ely weakly confronts their sexual sins by asking, “’Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours.’ His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke…”

Later in the narrative, the Lord challenges Ely, Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?”

God then forewarns Ely, “The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your father’s house…Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you–they will both die on the same day.” And die they did. (See I Samuel 2)

CONCLUSION : What I see in many men today is a lack of authority, and confusion as to just whom they are in Christ, and the role and responsibility God has placed in their hands. The only way they can regain that God given authority is by absorbing the Biblical truth on these critical issues into their bloodstream: Praying over it, meditation on it, claiming it for their life, and then acting on it. And deciding that whatever the culture is or is not doing has nothing to do with their commitment to obey God. They must join Paul when he said, Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. ” (Gal. 1:10)

Hey Dude, you are the head of your home, whether you like it or not. And you will be judged accordingly. Dude! You are the leader of your family! Take it from Nike: “Just do it!” Firmly, but gently of course. (See Gen. 3:16; I Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23; I Tim. 3:4, 5; Col. 3:18; I Pet. 3:1-6)

Yesterday my wife was reminding me of a severe confrontation we had 3 months into our marriage. Basically, she was waffeling on her commitment to me as the head of the house. I stood my ground, thinking this could be the end of our marriage. After much soul searching, she stood down. Yesterday, forty eight years later, she thanked me that I stood my ground. She intimated that it set the foundation and course of our marriage which is the joy of our lives.

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

R. Dwight Hill