As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 NIV
As I type this message, Worldmeters.com reports the world’s population to be 7,003,342,136 people and counting. The number changes almost as quickly as the eye can comprehend it. Amazing…
I have to believe that these numbers are merely speculative. I mean, how could an organization keep up with all of the births and deaths in the world as this very moment? No one is that good. No one that is, except for God. He knows everything about every one of us.
Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Luke 12:7
Consider this: God could have created 7,003,342,136 different universes instead of the one that we have. Each one of those seven billion universes would have a total population of 1. He could have stopped with Adam, and then created another universe for Eve. And so on, and so on. Sounds a bit absurd, doesn’t it? You know what? If it had been His plan to create all those universes, we wouldn’t have known the difference, and we would’ve been perfectly happy in our own little worlds.
Just think about it for a moment…
We’d have no enemies. There’d be no prejudice. No envy. No greed. No bragging. No competition. No murder. No rape. No robbery. Hmm… Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
We’d also have no friends. No dads. No moms. No husbands or wives. No sons or daughters. No mentors. No confidants. No one to love. No one to love us back. We’d have no one at all. Hmm…
I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t sound good to me at all; no, not good at all.
This notion kind of changes your perspective a bit, doesn’t it? Aren’t you glad that He decided to create one earth with over seven billion people in it? I thought so. J
Here’s the thing: There are several reasons that God carried out His plan for us the way that He did, including family, friends, and companionship. I feel though, that there’s another reason that we either forget about or never realize at all…
We can’t make it in this world by ourselves.
No offense intended, but I don’t care how smart, or strong, or courageous, or determined you are. You just can’t do it by yourself.
Yes, I believe with all that is in me that God can provide us with everything that we need. In less time than the blink of an eye, He can enlighten us, comfort us, provide for us, and make everything just right. Still, He chooses not to. He wants us to turn to others for help because it’s part of His plan for us.
Wouldn’t you agree that seeking others for help is an instinct that we’re born with? We look to our parents for food, shelter, and guidance. We love to them for love. We look to them for protection.
As we’re growing up, we’re encouraged to think for ourselves, to do for ourselves, and to take responsibility for our own lives. This is a good thing, right?
The problems arise when we think that we have to do it all on our own. We have to solve our problems, ease our hurts, and work through our “issues” all by ourselves. We have to, or we choose to, “figure it out” alone. We can’t let anyone else in because it’d be too embarrassing, or a sign of weakness, or because our dignity or pride would suffer.
It’s the day before Thanksgiving. For the past few days I’ve been reflecting on the amazing people that God has placed in my life, and I’ve been truly overwhelmed during the process.
Tomorrow I’ll give thanks for the blessings in my life. I’ll thank God for His presence in my life, for filling me with His Spirit, and for sacrificing His Son for me. I’ll thank Him for my incredible wife Jackie, for our amazing family, our friends, and all the others things that I traditionally give thanks for at Thanksgiving.
Today, as I write this, I’m reflecting on all the people that God has placed in my life before this moment. I’m offering thanks for every individual who has loved me, nurtured me, cared for me, helped me, inspired me, been honest with me, taught me, encouraged me, challenged me to be more, and led me towards Jesus. I’m grateful for the iron that has sharpened my iron.
I’m ever so thankful that His plan was to create one earth with seven billion people (and counting) on it.
I’m thankful to be.
When opportunity knocks is an old saying that basically conveys the message that we shouldn’t pass up a chance to improve ourselves or our situations in life. Could it also mean that we shouldn’t turn our backs on opportunities to help someone else?
Three months ago I was given the opportunity to lead a group of young ministry students from Highlands College in LIFE, a Bible study/life walk course. I accepted the invitation, and for the last nine Friday mornings I’ve had the blessing, honor, and privilege of doing exactly that.
Willingness and Obedience
About a month ago, I closed one of our meetings by assuring the guys that when it comes to serving the Lord, if you will walk with willingness and obedience in your heart, He will give you amazing opportunities to reach others for Him. In other words, be willing to take advantage of each and every opportunity to share with someone, even if doing so is a little out of your comfort zone. That’s where the obedience comes in.
“Be willing and obedient,” I urged them. “You’ll be amazed at the opportunities you’ll have to make a difference.”
That same weekend my wife Jackie and I hit the road for a weekend trip to Charlotte, North Carolina to attend a NASCAR race with a good friend who had excellent seats in a reserved area of the speedway.
We arrived at our hotel at 11:00 A.M. on Saturday, well ahead of check-in time of 3:00 P.M. Much to our surprise (and delight) our room was available and the gentleman at the hotel front desk graciously gave us the room key.
So there we were, sitting in Charlotte a full five hours before we were to meet our friend Scott and his father in the hotel lobby. Jackie commented that we had driven by a shopping mall on way in, thought that she might go and do a little shopping, and asked if I’d like to go.
At first I politely declined, telling Jackie that I’d just hang around in the room and watch some college football. Then I thought, “What the heck. We haven’t taken a weekend trip in a while, and I can watch football any time. I’m gonna spend some time with my wife.”
We wound up in Nordstrom’s, a huge department store located in the shopping center. Upon entering the store, Jackie made a beeline for women’s shoes (her favorite department) with me in tow.
As we entered the sprawling shoe area, four different salespersons approached Jackie to offer assistance. Her reply to each was a polite, “Thanks, but I’m just looking.”
The fifth salesperson, a young man in his twenties, walked right past Jackie towards me, and as he approached asked “And how are you today sir?”
“I’m awesome!” was my immediately reply. But then God nudged me a bit, and without missing a beat, I added, “Actually, I’m better than awesome. You see, I’m blessed and highly favored.”
What transpired during the following twenty minutes (during which Jackie tried in several pairs of boots) was a Spirit-filled and emotional conversation between a shoe salesman from Boston and a salon owner from Birmingham. We talked about God, Jesus, and ministries. We also promised to stay in touch.
Willingness + obedience = opportunity
Nine days later, on a Monday night, I was given the opportunity to share my testimony with a group of teenagers at a Church of The Highlands campus in Tuscaloosa, which is about forty minutes south and east of Birmingham.
As with the Highlands College group, I urged this gathering of young people to walk with that same willingness and obedience, adding that “Sometimes we just have to get past ourselves and get out of the way to let God work through us.”
The very next night Jackie and I had planned on taking Brooke (our live-in ministry student from Minnesota) and Cam (Brooke’s boyfriend who was visiting from Minnesota) out to dinner. It was Cam’s last night in town, and we wanted to do something special to cap off his visit.
At the last minute, and upon Cam’s suggestion, we decided to visit a nearby Japanese Hibachi grill that Jackie and I had been meaning to try for some time. If you’ve never experienced Hibachi cooking, it encompasses sitting around a huge flat-top grill as a chef prepares a meal for each person at the “table.” The entertainment value of watching the talented chef performing his craft is sometimes better than the food itself!
The four of us were flanked on the right by a mother and her high school aged daughter. To our left was a couple that was accompanied by their teenage son.
As the chef began preparing dinner, and as is so often the case, everyone at the table became engaged in one big laughter-filled conversation. At some point during our meal, the lady to our right asked if Brooke was our daughter. After chuckling a bit and proclaiming Brooke to be our sort-of-but-not-really-adopted-daughter, we explained why Brooke was with us. From that point on, the conversation turned to not only the ministry program, but to our church, and of course, to God.
When all of the food had been prepared and the chef had moved on to his next station, things quieted down a bit as we finished the last of our meal. It was during this time that the gentleman to our left said to no one in particular, “Hey, I’d really appreciate it if you guys would mention Nancy in your prayers.” (I won’t use her real name out of respect for her privacy)
As Nancy’s eyes began to fill with tears, her husband explained that Nancy had undergone a hysterectomy on the previous Thursday, and that while in surgery her physician noticed that her appendix didn’t look “quite right”, so they had removed it. They had just gotten the lab results back that afternoon, and the results weren’t so good; Nancy’s appendix, though contained, was malignant.
While Nancy’s husband was still talking, Brooke and I took a knowing look at one another. We both knew what was going to happen…
After I had paid our check, I excused myself from the table to get something from the car that I wanted to give to Nancy. It was a small bracelet inscribed with Philippians 4:13:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I stood outside the door of the restaurant, anxiously waiting for everyone to come out; I knew what I was gonna do, and I have to tell you that I wasn’t really comfortable with it.
Just as I had hoped, my threesome stepped out of the restaurant accompanied by Nancy, her husband, and her son. As they did, I nervously yet boldly walked up to Nancy and asked her to extend her hand. When she did, I slipped the bracelet onto her wrist and told her that it would serve as a reminder that with God all things are possible, and that with Jesus she could indeed beat the cancer that was in her body.
Nancy began to cry, and fighting even harder to maintain my composure, I turned to her husband and said, “You asked us to pray for Nancy. Well, how about right now?”
Still standing in front of Nancy, I took both of her hands in mine and stepped in closer. Everyone else formed a circle around us and put their hands on us. As they did so, I began to pray out loud for Nancy to be healed. At the same time, I was aware of the others praying too, and I could feel God’s Spirit with us. You see, He always shows up if you call on Him; even if it’s a small group of believers huddled up in prayer standing just outside the doors of a Japanese Hibachi steak house!
When we’d finished praying, we hung around for a few minutes in conversation. I don’t think that any of us wanted the moment to end. The feeling of God in and around us was palpable. Amazing. Humbling. Numbing. Filled with promise and hope.
As I type this, I don’t know if it is in God’s plans for Nancy to be cured of cancer. I told her husband that very thing. None of us knows what God has planned for us.
There’s one thing that I do know. God will give us opportunities to stand in the gap for someone and believe for them that with God all things, even healing cancer, is possible. We just have to act on those opportunities. That night, God gave us the opportunity to plant one small seed of hope in that family, and we made the most of it.
I can’t speak for Nancy and her family, but I feel safe in saying that it was a moment that Jackie, Brooke, Cam, or me will ever forget.
Be willing and obedient. You’ll be amazed at the opportunities you’ll have to make a difference.
I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. 1 Timothy 2:8 NIV
Prayers. They’re powerful things aren’t they? Many believe that prayers move mountains, heal the sick, win battles, avoid catastrophes, and save relationships. The truth is that all these things are answered prayers. We offer them. God answers them. We ask. God acts.
What do your prayers look like? Eyes closed? Hands folded? Head bowed?
Paul instructs us through 1Timothy 2:8 that men everywhere should lift up “holy hands in prayer.” The notion of hands raised towards the heavens while in prayer may seem out of the ordinary, if not downright strange, to many of us. Why is this? As children, our natural instincts are to reach up to our biological fathers when we need help, or just to be loved. Why wouldn’t we do the same with our heavenly Father?
What do your prayers sound like? Are they silent offerings or barely audible murmurs? Are they only faint echoes in your mind?
When you’re in prayer in a private setting, when it’s just you and God, do you pray out loud? If not, perhaps you should try it next time, for two primary reasons.
· When we pray in silence we have a tendency to be distracted, not by outside influences, but by ourselves! How many times have you gone into “mental” prayer for one particular thing, only to find yourself praying for everything other than your primary intention? You’ll find that praying out loud will keep your attention drawn to the need that is greatest on your list.
· There’s something about hearing ourselves offer petitions to God that give them more credibility, not for His benefit, but for ours.
What do your prayers consist of? Do you pray for your personal needs? Do you offer prayers for your family and friends? How about the sick? The lost? Do you ever include church and government leaders? Your enemies?
Well, do you pray for the needs of others? It’s easy for us to remember and to pray for our own needs, for our family and friends, and for the sick. Sometimes we forget to include our leaders, and unfortunately, the lost who don’t know Christ. Do you pray for your enemies? Yes, it’s hard to do. Be that as it may, there is selflessness in praying for all of God’s children, even the ones that you don’t like, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by God.
Do you pray with expectancy and boldness?
When you pray, are you bold enough to petition God, not only for your needs and the needs of others, but for the desires of your heart? Do you pray to Him for miracles? Do you believe that He hears all of your prayers? Do you pray to Him with unwavering, audacious faith, not knowing if He will answer all of your prayers, but believing with all that’s in you, that He can?
2:1 The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. 3 This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. 1 Timothy (The Message)
Prayers are our direct connections to God. Prayers are one of the ultimate forms of worshipping Him. They are an expression and validation of our belief in God. They are invitations for our real Father to work in our lives. Prayers are powerful expressions of our love for God, for others, and for ourselves. And of course, answered prayers are yet another visible sign of God’s immeasurable love for us.
Prayers. They’re powerful things, aren’t they?