Monday, March 28, 2011

Year In Review: March

Now that "As Iron Sharpens Iron" is 1-year old, I thought it might be beneficial to highlight selected posts from the same month one year ago. I plan to do this on a monthly basis to bring to the forefront of this blog any inspirations that I feel are still relevant, though they were posted a year prior. I hope you enjoy the tour of the blog. From March 2010:

Thought for the day...


What if you lived as though you were the face of Christianity to those you encounter every day? As though they knew nothing of Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Would they be convicted to follow the god that they see you “following,” as shown by your behaviors?... (read more)

The Wealthy


...The gist of the message is this—if you’re reading this, you’re rich. Instead, to find any way that I am poor, I have to turn to my attitudes and weaknesses—if I am poor, it is spiritually. But even spiritually I have lived an advantaged life. Think about it... (read more)

SUNDAY, MARCH 14, 2010

...We hear things like “living sacrifice” or “perfect sacrifice,” but do we really grasp their meaning? I still have much to discover, but tonight I feel a small step closer to appreciating the wonder of the crucifixion, its impact on us, and why it was needed in the way that it happened... (read more)

Our Assignments

MONDAY, MARCH 29, 2010

...Think about yourself—who are you? When I first answer this question, at some point I begin to focus on and list the things that I do well and the things I don’t. Who I am as the sum of my abilities and limitations. Then I realized how obviously different that could be, or could have been. Why should I be good at this, and you good at that? It could have just as easily been the other way... (read more)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Guest Post: "We Have A _______ God"

In year two of iron sharpening iron on this blog, I thought it would be both appropriate and fun to have occasional guest posts. I was inspired to do this after an email conversation with a loved one yielded some inspiring thoughts that I wanted to share. So I asked that person to draft a "guest post" for this blog. I am pleased to bring you guest post #1:

We Have A _______ God

“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Mark 8:34b

“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” Matthew 12:31, 32

“And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” Matthew 5:30

“And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou has smitten me these three times?” Number 22:28

“And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulcher of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.” II Kings 13:21

What do these five passages of Scripture have in common? They are just a handful of dozens of passages that are evidence of this:

We Have A Radical God

Usually, in this day and age, radical has a negative connotation, so let me hasten to say that the definition of radical here does not mean ridiculous or outrageous, but rather, intense or extreme. And it is meant in the most positive way. Our God, the God of the Bible, is extremely good, extremely loving, extremely brilliant, extremely powerful. And because of these wonderful qualities, His words and actions, while always perfect, are, on occasion, no less jolting.

Thank God we have a radical God. We are living in radical times: we have a radical economic crisis, we are seeing an increase in radical acts of nature (most recently, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan), and most tragic of all, a radical moral crisis where Judeo-Christian values are being thrown aside like so much dirty laundry.

None of this surprises our radical God. He saw it all coming hundreds of years ago and has warned us about it in His word, both Old and New Testament.

He has proven Himself over the centuries to handle the most radical of problems. There was the parting of the Red Sea, Daniel in the lion’s den, Noah and the Ark, the Resurrection of Jesus, just to name a few. These were boldly radical events, but there was a lot of quietly radical living that went on in between.

Think about Noah. We remember that it rained for forty days and forty nights and Noah and his family were kept safe on the Ark. But what led up to that? We know that he built the ark, according to the Lord’s command. For a hundred years. Measuring and sawing and hammering. For a hundred years. Quietly, radically, obeying the Lord.

What about Jesus? He lived between thirty-three and thirty-six years on this earth, but He spent the first thirty, with the brief exception of his time in the Temple when He was twelve, being quietly radical. I can only imagine that, at age twelve, Jesus was like a race horse, chomping at the bit, anxious to break out of the stall and burst on the scene. He was teeming with knowledge of and passion for His Heavenly Father. But His parents chided Him, because they had been searching for Him for days. So what did Jesus do?

“And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them….” Luke 2:51a

Quietly radical. For eighteen more years.

We, too, as Christians, will have many quietly radical days, and months, and years and probably just a few boldly radical moments.

We recently moved into a home that is much larger than our previous home. I was overwhelmed as how I was going to keep this house clean. But I prayed about it and the Lord gave me a basic plan that has proven very effective. I knew that, in order to be a good steward, I should take good care of the house, which of course involves keeping it clean. But I sensed that keeping the house clean had an even greater significance…it almost seemed like a godly assignment.

Still, I would have misgivings. I would watch the news and think “The world is going to hell in a hand basket, and I’m scrubbing toilets.” I wondered, “Shouldn’t I be doing something more significant?” But the conviction persisted: just keep doing what you’re doing.

Finally, the Lord’s vision for this house began to materialize: In December my husband and I hosted a meeting where a report on a mission trip with “As Our Own” was given. Then in March, we held a ladies mini-retreat for women from three different churches.

I have begun to understand that the Lord has some wonderfully radical things that He wants to do, but I must continue in quietly radical obedience until He is ready to do them.

In the cases of Noah, and Daniel, and even Jesus, (as well as many others) their quietly radical way of living led to boldly radical events that changed the world.

We may be tempted to think, “Well, I’m not a Noah or a Daniel, and I’m certainly not Jesus. What I do isn’t going to make a difference, one way or another.”

Have you ever had an ingrown toenail? An ingrown toenail can cause a great deal of pain. Pain usually distracts and can even be an energy drain. As your body compensates by favoring the foot with the pain, it can even throw your skeleton out of alignment, leading to knee, hip, and/or back problems.

So even if you think you are nothing more than a toenail in the body of Christ, what you do matters.

The day to day, seemingly mundane, living that we do as Christians are links to great things that our Lord wants to do. Every time we resist sin, every time we obey the instructions the Lord has given us in His Word, whether it be resisting gossip or resisting sexual temptation, wives choosing to reverence their husbands (yes, that’s in the Bible), being kind to neighbors, friends, and yes, enemies. These are part of a radical way of living that we call Christianity.

And it’s the way to be on the same page with our radical God.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Life Is Good

Life is good. My life is good. But I really mean that life itself is good.

Is your life good? It can be. Today.

Over the past several weeks, it seems like I have come to greater realization of the abundance of blessings in my life. Some were new ones that I am so thankful for, and some have been there all along but I’m just now starting to recognize and appreciate them. Truly, I thank God for these many blessings.

Adding to my thanksgiving is knowing where I’ve come from. If you know me or have read some of my blog posts, you’ll know that I went through a very difficult period in my life just 2 short years ago. In this struggle that was both emotional and physical, I nearly died. That is not an exaggeration—my body nearly failed me as I lost 40 pounds from a 170 pound frame that had only about 5 pounds to give. If you know me or have read my blog posts, you’ll also know that in the height of this trial and both the emotional and physical pain that coursed through my body on a daily, hourly, even on a continuous basis…in the worst moment, I prayed a very sincere prayer and asked if God would let me die and join Him in Heaven right then. He did not…He made me stay here. And through that I realized that He had purpose left for me, and that it was actually better for me and His kingdom for me to remain here for at least a little while longer. Additionally, I realized that He is my Father in Heaven and I am His son, and that if a son asks his father who loves him to come home, one of two things will happen: either the father will say yes and the son will come home, or the father will say no and come to where his son is. For me, it was the latter. I knew in the months that followed that my Father in Heaven had come to me in my cry to come to Him, that He was already there, and that He remains with me forever, on earth or in Heaven.

Life is good. In the land of the living.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. - Psalm 27:13

God has faithfully restored my body to health in the months and years since the days described above. I feel healthier now than possibly ever before. He has reached into the pit and rescued me. I pray that many will see and fear the Lord and praise His name (Psalm 40:1-3). I pray that many will seek not just His restoring hand, but His face…intimate relationship with a true Friend, Savior, Father, Master, and Creator.

Through the trial, my spiritual restoration is eternal. And although I was physically restored, today I got some bad news from my doctor. It appears that my body has received irreconcilable damage from the disease that riddled my body 2 years ago, a non-communicable disease that is now under control, but that it appears I will never fully recover from. I don’t have to tell you that this was very hard to accept. But I can also tell you that even if the worst comes to me, life is good because of my Savior. In fact, the terrible news has inspired me to write to you today.

Life is good. Everlasting life is even better.

Adding to my thanksgiving is knowing where I’m going. Heaven. A place with no more crying, no pain (Rev 21:4). A place of absolute oneness with our fellow man, and absolute oneness with our Savior Jesus and Father God (see John 17). A oneness well beyond our imaginations of physical splendor with gold streets and perpetual sunshine and everything we love on this earth.

Life is good. Life with my Savior Jesus Christ is good.

It’s easy to see at this point that there is one common reason why life is good in the dichotomy of circumstances described above: Jesus Christ and a relationship with Him. Not merely knowledge of Him. Certainly salvation. But it doesn’t stop there—it is knowing Him and being with Him that makes life good. Knowing Him and being with Him makes us rejoice in great trials (James 1:2-5). Knowing Him and being with Him makes us rejoice in thanksgiving and praise in times of great blessing. Knowing Him and being with Him is the essence of anything and everything good in my life, in your life, and in our lives to come.

Life is good. In all circumstances, in all things.

I submit to you that life is good in and of itself, as it is the breath of God breathed on you and me. We live with His blessing of life everyday and don’t even realize it. Do you know that by being born and made alive by His hand, you now have the opportunity of eternal life in perfect love and oneness with an almighty God? That by being made alive, regardless of your choices thus far in life, you have the opportunity to choose Him right now and have an everlasting relationship with Him? That by being made alive, simply being born onto planet earth, you can now be a son of God? Life is good. In the worst circumstance, life is good. If you have a Savior.

There are 4 types of people:
- those without a relationship with a Savior who have terrible circumstances
- those without a relationship with a Savior who have great circumstances
- those with a relationship with a Savior who have terrible circumstances,
- those with a relationship with a Savior who have great circumstances.

For the latter two, life is certainly good. I have been in both situations and can attest that life with my Savior is good.

Now for the arguments about two different types of people. First, those who have no relationship with the Savior, but their circumstances are great. You might say, “Life is good for them. You just said their circumstances are great.” Indeed. So you are measuring the goodness in life by circumstances alone? Think about a man who is traveling down a river in a boat with those he most loves. It’s a beautiful day, perfect temperature, they have every type of food and drink they would like, and the mood is fun. But what this man doesn’t realize is that there is a waterfall a half-mile downstream, and if he doesn’t start rowing to shore right in this moment, he will never be able to overcome its current before reaching the falls. Would you say that life is good for this man? His immediate circumstances are certainly good. But in being so caught up in the immediate good things, he has failed to take care of himself or his family by looking ahead and mapping out the river…and he is leading all of them to their death. Now imagine that this man had been told of the falls by others and was even offered a map…maybe he even took it…but he never read it. Maybe he even flipped the map open once or twice, but never really studied it at all such that he could see the dangers ahead of him. We might call this man irresponsible. But the fact of the matter is that we are this man for most of our lives. We have been told of Heaven and Hell, we’ve been offered a Bible. Have we ever opened it to read it…have we studied it? Or are we so content with our “good lives” that nothing else seems to matter so much?

For the man who rejects God’s Word and Jesus Christ, life is not good. Life led to the eternal death of Hell. And once there, he would trade every good thing he ever had in this otherwise “good life” in order to avoid that final outcome. He would curse his life as being worthless and the cause of every eternal torment.

Now for the second argument: “What about those who have the worst circumstances, even if they have this “Savior” you claim to know? What about those who are utterly beaten, broken, raped, or any other worst thing you can imagine, but are still living through it. Is life good for them?” Indeed, their circumstances are far from anything good. My heart feels anger and it breaks for those in situations like that. This one is tougher. I’ll let you know that my heart has recently been stirred for those in just that situation, especially those who do not yet know my Savior. There are literally millions of children as young as 7 years old around the world who are slaves to sex-trafficking. These girls are taken captive and initiated through daily beatings, starvation, and daily raping by multiple men. Once their will to fight is broken, if they do not kill themselves first, they are placed into life-long sex-slavery, receiving multiple gruesome abortions per year until they are rendered barren or ultimately die of an AIDS related disease before reaching middle-aged adulthood. This is one of the worst circumstances I can think of. For them, life turned bad. But what if they come to know a Savior who gives everlasting life in Heaven, and beyond that, He brings His presence to them right where they are in this moment? What about the children of these women who escaped abortion and have been rescued out to live abundant lives with this Savior? When these women see their daughters rescued, and even moreso when they themselves come to know a real Savior, in Jesus Christ, I tell you wholeheartedly: life is good again.

You may still argue with my paragraph above. But I want you to know that I have worked with an organization called As Our Own that rescues the daughters of such enslaved women. We have seen great transformation in the lives of these precious little girls who have been rescued from the same plight of their mothers into a loving family and into the body of Christ. I cannot convey to you what that looks and feels like…I am not capable of describing to you the joy of seeing it with your own eyes. And these women still enslaved have light in their eyes again, if only a glimmer at the start. I have seen the eyes of many enslaved women—as part of our work, I have been to the brothels! I can tell you that death looked back at me as I made eye contact with the vast majority of these women. But in the eyes of a woman with a little girl being cared for by As Our Own, there was the only light I could see in that terribly dark place.

And even for those who have not come to know our Savior, life in and of itself in the beginning was good. For they were born into the opportunity to have eternal life in Heaven, regardless of circumstances here on earth. Even for the man in the spiritual boat who rejected and refused to listen to God’s word—the map—whose life turned into a road to Hell…even for this man, life was not the bad thing. His life was originally good…not because of circumstances, but because of his opportunity to choose to be with God forever. So we see that circumstances do not change the goodness of life. The goodness of life is found only in our Savior Jesus Christ. While we were innocent children, life was good, the opportunity still in front of us to choose Him. Once we have chosen, life then becomes supremely good or life becomes our curse to Hell. However, so long as we are still alive, we have that choice! We can choose for life to be good, and for our lives to be good, this very day. Even the man who was trapped in the current and only feet from the falls could cry out to a Savior. Not a common savior or simply a good Samaritan—no, he could not be helped in the physical world at that point. His salvation would require a supernatural event…the river would need to stop flowing or he would need to be plucked out of the boat by some supernatural force. The blood and resurrection of Christ, the Son of God, has this supernatural power that we need in order to be saved by grace into oneness with a perfectly holy God. There is no natural antidote to our sin. There is no logical path. We require something supernatural, something beyond ourselves to be able to be one with our holy God and Savior. The fact is this: all of those other people who tried to hand this man a map and tell him of the waterfall—they only know because they themselves were in that same boat. They know because they themselves had to cry out to a Savior with hope of rescue, supernatural rescue. Not one of them were in a situation in which by their own strength they could overcome the current of sin. No, each one of us has come to the point of the waterfall, gripped in sin, hopeless of rowing our way to Heaven’s safe haven. Once there, those who called on the name of Jesus have been saved, and in reply we now seek to tell those who have not yet come to know the fierceness of the current of sin, the depth of the fall to Hell, or the glorious relationship with our Savior when we do call upon Him.

This is your opportunity. This is your future. This is your present. You have the choice. I pray that you choose the good life right here and now, and the good life that is everlasting. I pray that you come to know the life that is good with Jesus our Savior. Amen.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Iron Sharpening Iron - 1 Year!

To my beloved readers, consisting of family, friends, acquaintances, curious strangers from my country and around the world, and those who accidentally ended up on this page. To the seekers of Christ, to the secure in Him, and to those who reject Him, as well.

Today marks the 1-year birthday of this blog. It has been a real joy to be able to write to you and for the purpose of serving my God in the past year. In fact, it just almost never got started.

A lot has changed in 1 year. I told my family members just one or two years ago that "you just never know what is going to change in one year and what transformation God may do." The year previous to that statement was one of severe decline in my health. I was in a battle that we almost didn't win, as I came very close to death. As I've mentioned in a post or two, this is the source of my true testimony--the time in my life that I came to recognize my NEED of God, when He became first in my life for the first time, and where I came to realize with greater magnitude than previously imaginable the power of His true presence in the life of one who calls out to Him in sincerity, and the life and power in His Word, the Bible. Most of all, though I was baptized at 6 years old and kept many of the "rules" throughout childhood and early adulthood leading up to this year of trial, for the first time I came to realize my NEED of salvation through Jesus, a full dependence on Him, and the joy of intimate serving friendship with my Savior and God. I will never be the same, and I am so thankful.

Additionally, as my body has been restored and the next year of my life became one of exceedingly abundant blessing, I was tentative to share the things that I began to write. I felt overzealous, consciously pious or at least afraid of presenting myself that way. I felt that I was either completely underqualified to share any word of wisdom or instruction or inspiration rooted in God, or that I was overstepping my bounds and would certainly show myself a fool in a lack of real knowledge of God's principals if I shared the thoughts that have peppered my blog and the 92 posts since then. These were my fears. Do you see how the Evil One will take you to either side, not caring which way you are leaning, so long as he can get you to fall?

Soon, the conviction of the Holy Spirit was too much to bear. In reading Brother Andrew's book "Secret Believers," I was so moved by the thousands dying without knowing Christ each day that I felt I had to risk all the bad things in my worry, risk being exposed as an immature Christian, risk being thought of as overly-pious, and just write what I felt was true from both my years of casual Bible study and the current inspirations that seemed to strike daily. And so it began.

I am convicted at this moment that my blog is the simple writing of one common man. It is the commentary on life and Scripture from one man's perspective. And though I fall short of God's glory daily, I write as one that seeks His face. I seek Him first, by His grace, through His grace, and for His grace. "...apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). Amen. Apart from Him we can do no good thing...yet with Him, we can do infinitely good things. My point is this: anything I've written or continue to write that is rooted in Christ and is good and meaningful in your life, whether it be for conviction, correction, instruction, encouragement, celebration, strengthening, revelation, inspiration, or anything else from God--it is just that--from God, only passing through these fingers as I type. And anything that deviates from God's perfection--that is my own personal human touch. Nevertheless, God uses us and our weak vessels, working through our imperfections in perfect ways. I pray that His grace abounds in your life. I pray that it abounds through this simple blog. I'm looking forward to what God brings next. You never know what the next year may bring. My life is a testimony to that. This blog is a testimony to that. I have a suspicion that you know it, too. I don't know what's next, but I'm excited to experience it hand-in-hand with our God, and I hope you are, too. May God's love and grace fill your heart this very day. Amen.

Friday, March 4, 2011

"What do you want the Lord to do for you?"

Well, I’m on lap 2 of “My Utmosts.” This one is a bonus…this isn’t a leap-year, but this is the Feb. 29 devotional. I think it’s pretty awesome.

"Lord, that I may receive my sight." Luke 18:41

What is the thing that not only disturbs you but makes you a disturbance? It is always some thing you cannot deal with yourself. "They rebuked him that he should hold his peace . . . but he cried so much the more." Persist in the disturbance until you get face to face with the Lord Himself; do not deify common sense. When Jesus asks us what we want Him to do for us in regard to the incredible thing with which we are faced, remember that He does not work in common-sense ways, but in supernatural ways.

Watch how we limit the Lord by remembering what we have allowed Him to do for us in the past: I always failed there, and I always shall; consequently we do not ask for what we want. "It is ridiculous to ask God to do this." If it is an impossibility, it is the thing we have to ask. If it is not an impossible thing, it is not a real disturbance. God will do the absolutely impossible.

This man received his sight. The most impossible thing to you is that you should be so identified with the Lord that there is nothing of the old life left. He will do it if you ask Him. But you have to come to the place where you believe Him to be Almighty. Faith is not in what Jesus says but in Himself; if we only look at what He says we shall never believe. When once we see Jesus, He does the impossible thing as naturally as breathing. Our agony comes through the wilful stupidity of our own heart. We won't believe, we won't cut the shore line, we prefer to worry on.

When I considered the question about the thing that disturbs me and also makes me a disturbance, I initially thought that the point was going to be to “grin and bear it.” Quit whining and disturbing others and know instead that “my grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9). Indeed, His grace is sufficient for you and me. And indeed, if we are continually complaining to others about our situations, perhaps we should take stock of our salvation and instead of casting our cares upon humans, “cast your cares upon [Jesus], for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) However, the message here is to persist in our cries to God.

I love the blind man in the passage above: after being told to quiet down, instead “he cried so much the more.” I think this is the response of someone who truly believes in the power of Christ, the Son of God. Or at least someone who was so hopeful of healing, combined with just a mustard seed’s worth of faith, such that he abandoned all sense of himself—other’s perception, dignity, emotional letdown if this was yet another failure, etc—and took the risk in order to get closer to Jesus, to be heard by Him. We can take a lesson there.

Are you in need, either small or great? Is there something that hits your thoughts weekly, or even daily? Cry out to Jesus. If you start to feel a force that beckons you to be quiet about your distress before the Lord, and that you either should not concern Him with it or He will not hear it—cry out so much the more! Cry out to Him and dare to have the hope that does not disappoint:
Rom 5:1-5 –
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

I am reminded that this hope is in Jesus Christ, not in the things that we desire from Him. There is a difference. For more thoughts on this passage, click the following link to read a blog post from last April, when I discovered that my hopes were somewhat errant and what true hope that does not disappoint looks like: Hope and Loss.

However, if you find yourself doubting in the midst of your desire to be hoping and believing, you are in good company. In Mark 9:14-29, Jesus encounters a man who’s son is possessed and may be near death:
Mark 9:21-27 –
“And Jesus asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. 22And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." 23And Jesus said to him, "'If you can'! All things are possible for one who believes." 24Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!" 25And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again." 26And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, "He is dead." 27But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.”

“I believe; help my unbelief.” What honesty, sprinkled with just a little belief in Jesus. What might God do in your life if you had that smallest bit of faith and pure honesty before Him?

Ask Him not only for help with “the thing that disturbs you,” but also for belief in Him in the first place. Tell Him that you desire to believe. Splay your soul out for Him, keeping nothing back. I think you’ll be encouraged at His response as you feel His presence with you. In fact, I can testify to this truth. Sometimes the worst thing that we try to hide from God is our secret doubt and less than 100% faith in Him, whether in specific circumstances or in general. He knows your every doubt. When we confess our desire to believe, acknowledging our yet to be perfected faith, we open to Him to come in and make sure of our faith where it was once unsure. He is the “author and perfector of our faith,” after all (Heb 12:2).

Believe in Him. Ask Him for help with your unbelief—cry to Him all the louder, as the blind man who then received his sight…as the father who’s son was healed. Look with desperate need and with expectancy to receive His help. He is already here with you. He is ready to reveal Himself to you in this very moment. Are you ready to behold Him? Have you asked Him? “Ask…seek…knock…” and “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask!” (Luke 11:9-13) Amen.