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Facts of the Matter

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

Archive for December, 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

SIX IMPORTANT TRENDS IN AMERICA THAT BELIEVERS NEED TO UNDERSTAND (Part 5 of 6)

SIX IMPORTANT TRENDS IN AMERICA THAT BELIEVERS NEED TO UNDERSTAND (Part 5 of 6)

(5) The gutting of the middle class . Did you know?

The number of Americans on welfare is higher than the number of Americans that have full-time jobs. 49.2 percent of all Americans are receiving benefits from at least one government program.

1.2 million public school students in the U.S. are currently homeless. That’s one out of every four children in the United States is enrolled in the food stamp program.

Median household income in the United States has fallen for five years in a row . Median household income in 1967 was $43,000; in 1999 it was $56,000, and that in 2012 it was $51,000.

How are followers of Christ’s to respond to this crisis ?

In the Old Testament, and historically from the time of Christ to the present, God has used difficult times to discipline and shape his children into his image. “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (C. S. Lewis)

Here are three ways we can act in response :

  • Ask God to use the current catastrophe to shape our character and conform us into his likeness :

“…We…rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast ” (Rom. 5:3, 4; I Pet. 5:10 – selected). (See Rom. 8:18 – 30)

  • View the crisis as a magnificent opportunity to minister to our hurting world through our compassionate involvement, that we may in time win a hearing for the gospel:

“L et your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). (See Eph. 2:10; 1 Tim. 6:18).

  • Ask God to use the calamity to discipline our Nation and bring it back to God :

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11). (See Heb. 12:5, 6, 10)

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

R. Dwight Hill

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

SIX IMPORTANT TRENDS IN AMERICA THAT BELIEVERS NEED TO UNDERSTAND (Part 4 of 6)

SIX IMPORTANT TRENDS IN AMERICA THAT BELIEVERS NEED TO UNDERSTAND (Part 4 of 6)

(4) The vilification and marginalization of Evangelical Christianity ,

In warp speed, conservative Christianity is losing ground in America . The Barna Group reports that almost 60 percent of young people, ages 15-29 have left active involvement in their church. If you are identified with the conservative “right,” you are viewed as out of touch with our culture, shrill in what you are against, rigid, dogmatic, uncaring, and judgmental.

We must ask the question as to how we got to this point ? But before we do, let me assure you that we celebrate the untold numbers of faithful, godly spiritual leaders who are fulfilling God’s calling on their lives. Following, however, are several possible causes for the weak state of conservative/Evangelical Christianity in the U. S.:

The dearth of godly, visionary spiritual leaders who [“understand] the times and [know] what [America] should do…” (1Chron. 12:32 – my adaptation). A dearth of leaders who preach the life of the cross.

The failure of many church leaders to follow and obey Jesus’ example of discipling and equipping their flock for life and ministry. (See Matt. 28:18-20; Eph. 4:11 – 16)

The spiritually weak churches that are numbers driven; seeker friendly churches when they substitute biblical substance for style. ( Suggestion: Google “Seeker friendly church”, and “Emergent church”)

The milquetoast spiritual leaders who tickle our ears with “nice” sermons; refusing to address such critical issues as sexual promiscuity/adultery/fornication, greed, pride, the self life, et al, thereby abetting the current movement of American culture away from historical Christian values into a soup of pluralistic and relativistic philosophies where “everyone [is doing] what was right in his own eyes” (Jud. 17:6 NKJV – my adaptation). (See Matt. 5:13; 2 Tim. 4:3-5)

How do we turn this sinking ship around ?

Rick Warren once purportedly stated, “For too long we (conservative Christians) have been known as a ‘big mouth’. Isn’t it time we become known as a ‘big heart?’” Pope Frances: “Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility…the culture of prosperity deadens us.”

Jesus observed the broken people of his troubled word. Rather than condemning them, “he was moved with compassion” (Matt. 9:36). Said he of too cold hearted religious leaders, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners ” (Matt. 9:12b, 13). Clearly, Jesus’ heart mirrored that of his Father who is “kind to those who are unthankful and wicked” (Lk. 6:35b). (See Matt. 5:45)

CHALLENGE : May God empower us to exemplify Jesus who “went around doing good…” (Act. 10:38b), wrapping the Gospel in his compassion, as he bound up the wounds of the hurting and confused. (See Matt. 25:31-46) Perhaps by such Christ-honoring action we will no longer be known as a “big mouth” but as a “big heart,” and win back the opportunity of winning our lost world of friends and associates to Christ.

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

R. Dwight Hill

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

SIX IMPORTANT TRENDS IN AMERICA THAT BELIEVERS NEED TO UNDERSTAND (Part 3 of 6)

SIX IMPORTANT TRENDS IN AMERICA THAT BELIEVERS NEED TO UNDERSTAND (Part 3 of 6)

(3) Materialism is an imbalance in priorities that inordinately focuses our attention and affection on the acquisition of the temporal at the expense of the eternal. The rich are obsessed with getting and keeping their wealth, while the poor are worried about acquiring their share. Thus, Jesus warned us:

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you… Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Jn. 6:27a; Matt. 6:25)

In our relentless quest for financial security and an increasingly higher standard of living, materialism plagues, seduces, and enslaves us. Not to mention the collateral damage it has on the relationships of those most important to us. Living with less rarely occurs – much less, appeals to us. How true Proverbs 27:20 is: “Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man.”

In truth, the materialist does not believe Jesus’ promise that if we will “ seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…all these things will be given to [us]…” (Matt. 6:33a). Thus the materialist lives in a perpetual state of bondage to fear, acquisition, and greed.

“The trouble with materialism is that it’s rich in things and poor in God; rich in this life and poor in the eternal life to come. It serves the wrong master (Matt. 6:24), sees life through the wrong lenses (Mt. 6:22, 23), seeksstores up in the wrong place” (Matt. 6:19). 1 the wrong satisfactions (Matt. 6:25-32), and

CHALLENGE : If you are caught in the vice of materialism, you may want to consider the following actions:

Choose to eschew hoarding, put a cap on your spending and lifestyle, and give the excess away. (Pro.27:20; Mk. 10:17-21; Luk. 6:38; 12:13-20; 21:1-4; 2 Cor. 8:9)

Move toward simplicity. (Phil. 3:11-13; 1 Tim. 6:6-8)

Help the needy. (Isa. 58:6,7; Jms. 2:14-17; 1 Jn. 3:16, 17)

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

R. Dwight Hill

1Stephen Crotts,

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

SIX IMPORTANT TRENDS IN AMERICA THAT BELIEVERS NEED TO UNDERSTAND (Part 2 of 6)

SIX IMPORTANT TRENDS IN AMERICA THAT BELIEVERS NEED TO UNDERSTAND (Part 2 of 6)

(2) Secularism is the belief that religion should not play a role in government, education, or other public parts of society…1 Increasingly in our society, religious rights are being trampled on in such areas as abortion,embryonic stem cell research,same-sex marriage, and sex education.

Oppressive injustice is to use power for one’s own advantage in depriving others of their basic rights in the community or failing to correct matters when those rights are not met. (See Job 29:12- 17; Jer. 5:26 – 28; Mk.12:40) To do justice then, is to correct that abuse and to restore those rights. (See Isa. 1:17) Consider James 4:17: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (See Pro. 3:27)

From Scripture we know God is deeply concerned about justice toward the powerless: Orphans, widows, aliens, the poor, prisoners, slaves, the infirmed, etc. (See Deut. 10:18; Job 29:12-17;Psa. 146:7-9; Isa. 30:18; Mal. 3:5 )

In both testaments, being in relationship with God means taking up the cause of the lowly and poor. With Jesus as our example we cannot separate faith from doing justice. “…The doing of justice is not the application of religious faith, but its substance: Without it God remains unknown.”2

So, the question arises as to what our responsibility is as Christ’s followers to work toward justice when the rights of the powerless are violated: 3

a) “To ignore it reveals we are not truly His. (See I Jn. 3:16, 17)

b) To misunderstand it can lead to depersonalizing and compartmentalizing those made in God’s image. (See Lk. 10:30 – 37)

c) To rationalize away its demands hardens our hearts toward God. (See Dt. 15:7-11)

d) To seek to live out the demands of God’s justice is risky and goes against the grain of normal behavior and cultural norms. (See Dt. 15:7-11; Matt. 19:21)

e) To pray for God’s justice calls us into involvement with those who need justice.” (See Isa. 58:1-7)

QUESTION : “Are we courageous disciples? Are we brave enough to be God’s light and justice to those in the shadows? If we are to know God fully through his Son Jesus Christ, we must live justly. If the world is to know Jesus Christ through us, we must risk entering into the dangerous waters of God’s justice and righteousness.”3

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

R. Dwight Hill

1Free Mirriam-Webster Dictionary2John R. Donahue, ”Biblical Perspectives on Justice” – John C. Haughey (New York: Paulist Press, 1977), pg. 76.3 Dangerous Waters of Justice and Righteousess, Ruth Ann FosterIssue 24, pg 11 –

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

SIX IMPORTANT TRENDS IN AMERICA THAT BELIEVERS NEED TO UNDERSTAND (Part 1 of 6)

SIX IMPORTANT TRENDS IN AMERICA THAT BELIEVERS NEED TO UNDERSTAND (Part 1 of 6)

Sagacious old Solomon cautioned, “ A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences” (Pro. 22:3 – NLT). Thus, it behooves us to be aware of trends in our culture that can negatively affect our walk with Christ. Let’s start with the first trend:

(1) Idols of Modern Culture: 1 The Enlightenment period (late 1700’s through the 1800’s) replaced religion and age old traditions for modern science, philosophy, reasoning, and individual freedom. Human reason “informed by the scientific method”2 became king. Previously held moral norms no longer prevailed. Individuals were now free to choose whatever standard they deemed right for themselves. The only moral absolute was to not impose on others a standard that was not of their choosing. The highest moral code and cause in life was to make decisions that led to one’s personal happiness and fulfillment. The sacred mantra became the right to personal choice and freedom. In our modern world the individual was “now the center of the universe, and the creature beyond all else, entitled to absolute respect.”2 “In other words…man…had replaced God.”3

Is it any wonder that today we are adrift in a sea of moral confusion as we mirror ancient Israel: “In those days…everyone did as he saw fit” (Jud. 17:6a, c). We can identify with the angst of Pilate, who wistfully asked, “What is truth” (Jn. 18:38)? Or Johnny Cash who sang, “The lonely voice of youth cries, ‘What is truth?’”

The Scriptures clearly warn believers, “ See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (Col. 3:8; 2 Tim. 4:3). (See Matt. 7:15; Act. 17:18, 32; Heb. 13:9; 2 Pet. 3:17)

In unequivocal terms Jesus stated, ” I am…THE truth …If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 14:6b; 8:31, 32).

Solomon again warns us, “ Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment ” (Ecc. 11:9).

As always, the choice is ours as to which path we will choose to embrace .

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

R. Dwight Hill

 

1The phrase is adopted from“Every Good Endeavour”– Tim Keller, Penguin Group, USA pg 140 ––2Ferry,Brief History of Thought, 1223 “Every Good Endeavour”– Tim Keller, Penguin Group, USA pgs. 140, 142 –