Iron Sharpens Iron

Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

It really made me think and so I meditated on it for a while. Back in ancient days, a black smith would work iron ore into useful tools. He would take raw iron, and heat it up in a furnace to mold it into a spongy mass of iron. The furnace was not strong enough to melt the iron, just enough to make it pliable, even when using bellows (an instrument that forced air into the furnace to increase the heat). Once the iron was removed from the furnace, it had to be pounded into wrought iron and have the slag and air bubbles beat out of it with a hammer. Then after the piece was beaten into a shape against an anvil by the smith, it was sharpened into a useful tool as an axe or knife.

Application

When we as men come from the ground as a lump of useless blob, we are then heated up by the fire of the Holy Spirit, and then molded and shaped by the maker or craftsman for His use. The combined heat and beatings work out the slag (sin) out of our lives, and then heated up by the fire of the Holy Spirit and beaten against the anvil (Word of God) until we are molded into the piece we are to be made (axe or knife). The anvil is never effected by the beatings and always retains it’s shape. Thus the Word of God is not effected by us at all. Same with the fire of the Holy Spirit. It is not effected by the piece being molded. The only thing being effected is the piece of iron being molded. God molds us through the fire of the Holy Spirit and the beatings of the Maker against the Word of God. Then we are made in the image of the tool we are supposed to be. An axe or letter opener. An axe is designed to cut trees down so it is blunt and heavy. A letter opener is used to make precision cuts to open up mail, so it will be small and light.

You wouldn’t use an axe to open up mail, and thus you wouldn’t use a letter opener to cut down trees. Each tool is made with a purpose in mind. They are going to look different, feel different, and weigh different. (Isaiah 64:8; Romans 9:21)

The next step is to then sharpen the piece to make it even more useful, and to help make it cut even better. They are sharpened together, or by a whetstone. Small pieces heat up and are blasted across the room and removed, and then chipped away to give the tool a nice sharp edge. So are we to be sharpened by one another, to help us be even more useful for the master. How much easier would it be for a sharp axe to cut a tree down. Much easier than a dull one. It takes less work when the tool is sharp. We need each other to sharpen our own usefulness, and help us sharpen our gifts to help us become the best tools for the Masters work. It’s painful at times, and we feel like we’ve been made into sparks, and pieces of us ignite, and thrown across the room. It hurts to be shapen, but it’s profitable in the end. To help each other, and when we each do according to the gifts we are given, we work together in harmony with other tools to achieve a common goal.

But…axes and knives that became dull, unable to be sharpened again, or unable to be shaped were cast back into the fire and recast, to be combined with other pieces that became useless. So are we as tools of God, when we become useless are cast into the fires to be consumed. (Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43)

Thus, as iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Hold Fast

What does it mean to hold fast?

According to Strong’s Concordance, it means to hold literally or figuratively; direct or remote; such as a possession, ability, contiguity, relation or condition. It comes in a variety of tenses and moods, which depends on the context of the given verse. As I was meditating on God’s Word of the verses that pertain to hold fast, I thought of only two types of objects they talk about. Before I get to that, come with me and think on these passages to see if you can guess.

Job 27:6 - My righteousness I hold fast and will not let go; My heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.
Proverbs 4:13 - Take fast hold of instruction, let her not go; keep her; for she is thy life.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 - Prove (test) all things; hold fast that which is good.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 - Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
2 Timothy 1:13 - Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
Hebrews 3:6 - But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
Heberews 4:14 - Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
Hebrews 10:23 - Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
Revelation 2:25 - But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
Revelation 3:3 - Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
Revelation 3:11 - Behold. I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

So, what are the two types of things you hold fast to (or grasp)? Things that are firm or solid, and things that are precious in the eyes of the person holding it. Think about some of the things mentioned.

  • Righteousness.
  • Instruction.
  • That which is good.
  • Sound words.
  • Profession (of faith).
  • Salvation.

Things that are firm

Think about it. When people go mountain climbing, what do they hold onto? The mountain. The mountain doesn’t move. Now what if they grab onto a branch, or weed growing on the side? They may fall because it’s not a firm foundation.

Just as God’s Word, righteousness, and our salvation are firm. We don’t move it…it moves us. We hold onto it tightly, so that we are always strengthened by them. But not only hearing the Word of God is enough…but hearing and doing what God’s Word says is likened to a house build on the firm solid rock (Matthew 7:21-23).

Things that are precious

Before I was a Christian, I wanted to make my engagement to my wife very special. It was so memorable I can still remember it to this day. With the ring in my hand, we went to an Alice Cooper concert at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. We got there early and were 10 rows center from the stage. It was a great position…even though there were no seats. The bad thing is that we were almost on top of the mosh pit. Not good when you are carrying a $2,000 diamond ring. So what did I do? Instead of putting it in my pocket for fear of loosing it, I grasped onto it so tight I had the indentions (and the bloody marks) of the ring cut into my hand. Then, I knelt down during the guitar solo of “Eighteen”, and asked her to marry me and put it on her finger. It was safe at last because she was looking at it throughout the rest of the night, and would not let it go because it was precious to her as well.

God’s Word, righteousness, and salvation are precious to us. A Christian can’t live without them. God’s Word is likened to milk for newborn babes (1 Peter 2:2) and Jesus said that men shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). Not only that, but the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, and a pearl of great price, which a man found and hid, and sold everything he had to buy it and claim the treasure (Matthew 13:44-45).

Sin…precious to unbelievers but shifting sand

But there is an inverse of this meaning to the wicked.

Jeremiah 8:5 - Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.

Backsliders love their sin, and their wicked deeds more than God. They too look at their sin as precious to them. Read Jeremiah 8:4-12 and look at the heart of the people who turn from God to serve themselves.

May it not be so for us Christians who love God more than our very lives. May we always look to God and His Word as a firm foundation, precious and worth more than gold.

The Focus of Discipleship

There are many verses in the gospels from Jesus’ own mouth that talk about the cost of discipleship. In this article we will be looking at the focus of discipleship. There were three types of people that want to follow Jesus, or are called by Jesus and the excuses that they make in the wake of the asking.

In Luke 9:57–62, Jesus and His twelve disciples were on the road to Jerusalem where Jesus would ultimately be tortured, crucified and buried. When they went went through Samaria the people did not receive them. This was probably meant to say that they did not give Jesus or His disciples a place to stay or take care of their needs. Instead, they went to another village. It was probably in this village, or just outside this village where this takes place.

Too quick to follow Jesus

Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” (Luke 9:57 NKJV)

This is the person who is too quick to follow Jesus and not counting the cost. As Inigo Montoya said in the movie, The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” The man who asked to follow Jesus had a different definition of “follow” that Jesus had. To this person their definition of follow was one of receiving and getting their needs met. Healing the sick, raising the dead, and feeding people out of thin air can be looked at as a glamorous life, and one that comes with many benefits. “Follow” to him could have meant, to come along for the ride.

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:58 NKJV)

But Jesus had a much different definition of “follow.” To Him it was one of complete surrender and total obedience and service. Not only that, but the act of following carries a great deal of weight in which most would give up and quit. They were constantly on the move in a different place all the time. It was a hard life. Even though you were healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and spreading the gospel, it didn’t mean that they were reciprocated for those gifts. This was Jesus’ meaning of follow. It comes with a price, no rest, and no place of ownership in anything. Foxes have holes, and birds have nests. But Jesus didn’t even have those things.

Imagine if Jesus turned around and said to this person, ‘Wherever? Really? ‘Cause I’m on my way to Jerusalem where I’m going to be tortured and killed. I don’t really know what will happen to my disciples either. You in now?’

Long delay to follow Jesus

This next person is personally called by the Lord to follow Him.

Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” (Luke 9:59 NKJV)

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60 NKJV)

This man was personally called by Jesus to follow Him, but he was too slow in deciding to do that. It wasn’t that the man’s father was dead and needed to bury him, but that he was taking care of his father until he died. This could have gone on for an infinite amount of time, and no one knows how long it would have taken. When Jesus calls us, He wants us to go NOW, not later.

I can imagine that some of my friends are laughing because I do the same thing, or at least did in the past. There were many times that I was given opportunities to move forward and for whatever reason I “chickened out.” Other opportunities came up, I was distracted by other things, or I was worried about what would happen if I failed. The previous man didn’t think enough about the cost, this man might have thought too much.

Case in point. I felt as if the Lord wanted my wife and I to sell our house and travel the United States by RV preaching the gospel. We prayed about it, sought the Lord, and then it was time to look for a rig. Then we found one. But my wife and I saw the opportunity right before us, and we got scared. Then, her mom was wanting to move and needed all her Hallmark Christmas Ornaments sold. Before you know it, I was opeining an Ebay store to sell these (which I’m still doing) and never got that RV. Sure, I’m serving the Lord in other areas like Got Questions, as an Elder in my church, and sharing the gospel as an evangelist; but I’m not in that RV. Was it a test? Was it the Lord’s will? Don’t know. I know that I never had 100% peace about the RV life, but I read verses like this and wonder if I made the right decesion.

Going back to the verses, it was a noble thing to take care of the father; even one of the Ten Commandments is to honor your father and mother. So when wavering between the Lord and a good and noble thing we should side with the Lord. What we don’t know in this situation is how many siblings the man had. It could have been just him, or part of a family of twenty. We just don’t know the situation. But I believe the reason why we don’t know the situation is that it just doesn’t matter. It is the Lord who should take precedence above all things – even good ones.

Short delay to follow Jesus

The first man was too quick to follow Jesus without counting the cost; the previous man offered to follow Jesus after an infinite delay; this next man offered to follow Jesus after a relatively short delay.

And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” (Luke 9:61 NKJV)

But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62 NKJV)

Saying goodbye to your loved ones is not a terrible thing. Jesus is not saying that we cannot say goodbye to the ones that we care about; but that our loved ones: friends and family, can have a tendency to talk us out of things, and discourage us to serve the Lord.

When plowing a field there are two things you need to do to be successful: keep your eye forward on what you are plowing, and hold on tight.

Following Jesus takes direction, focus, and a ton of work. When you are plowing, you are always moving forward. There is no “reverse” in a plowing team. It’s all forward motion and the plowman directs the team in the direction he wants to go.

But there are distractions I’m sure in plowing. Looking around and not focusing on an immovable object in the distance ahead of you to aim for, the cuts in the ground will not be straight. For the Christian, our immovable object and goal in the distance is the Lord. The paths we cut in the ground is our walk.

Not only is it important to hold on tight, but also to keep your feet firmly planted. Several years ago I helped a friend rototill a plot of land. It was really hard work. The machine occasionally has a mind of its own, unexpectedly jumping out of the ground like a whale breaching the surface of the ocean. If your feet weren’t planted, it would drag you several feet. We need to be firmly planted in Christ and concentrating on the work He has called us to do.

When all things are said and done, whatever is produced out of the ground is the fruit of our walk. We don’t look at how hard it was, but have joy knowing we served the Lord with focus and intentionality as He is our goal and focus.

What are your thoughts?

So what about you? Are you too quick to serve the Lord without thinking, or do you have things that easily distract you from doing the Lord’s work? Is there anything you feel the Lord is asking you to do and you are just unsure of or having second thoughts? Please share in the comments below.

120 Questions – 120 Answers

When the pandemic hit mid March 2020, we all were caught off guard. I had been brought on board on the leadership team of my church in a training mode to be raised up as an Elder. There were no books on the subject of how to run a church during a pandemic. There were no strategies on how to evangelize the lost during an uncertain time in which people did not want to be near each other for safety’s sake. In every sense of the term I was frustrated. One after another my evangelism events were being cancelled, starting with the Des Moines St. Paddy’s Day Parade. By June I was at wits end and was stir crazy; I needed an outlet to share the gospel.

A friend introduced me to GotQuestions.org and they were looking for writers, in which I always wanted to write professionally. It wasn’t a paid gig, but really needed to get my feet wet. More importantly though, I needed a space to share the gospel and disciple anyone who would listen. I sent in my application, a few magazine articles I had written, and answered a few of their questions. By the middle of October, I was in.

Serving in this ministry has been a huge blessing. They reach millions of people with thousands each year coming to Christ. Each month I receive a status report of how we are impacting the world, and the end-of-the-year reports will blow your mind. Since then, my personal writing and answers have touched people in every continent. The questions I receive range from the simple to the extreme. Many of them are from people who are genuinely hurting and in pain emotionally and spiritually. Some are funny but many have brought me to my knees in prayer with tear-filled eyes.

Even though I really get pumped up when my notification pops up that I have received a question and I enjoy every minute answering them, but I would also agree that 90% of the questions I have received could have been answered through a neglected practice in the church — discipleship.

In Christianity, a disciple is someone who adheres and disciplines himself in the teachings of Jesus and the Bible. He or she is a follower, a learner, and a student of Jesus Christ and the Bible — God’s Word, encapsulates his entire life. Therefore, discipleship is the process in which God’s Word is taught and modeled from the discipler and applied to the disciple. It is also the process in which that information and model is absorbed to the student and lived out in his or her daily life. This is not simply teaching and receiving, but growing, bonding, nurturing, entrusting, and living what was taught and applied where both parties are working in unison. As the disciple entrusts himself to the teacher, the teacher entrusts the information to the student. It is not only a transfer of information, but committing and surrendering of oneself to the other and vice versa through the laboratory of transparent relationship and mutual accountability. There is an unbreakable bond and a trust that forms.

God did not command us to seek converts, but to make disciples that will make disciples.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, [even] to the end of the age.” Amen.

[Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV]

Discipleship is important to the life of not only the disciple, but Christianity as a whole. It is how this thing we call faith is not only lived out, but passed on from generation to generation. It is how we are to function, grow, and strengthen each other in God’s Word.

Many of the questions that I receive from GotQuestions.com could have been answered by a discipler or even someone from the questionnaire’s church. With that being said, how are we doing living out the command of our Lord in Matthew 28:19-20? Where I see the failure is in both parties…the student and the teacher. Why? Because it takes both to intertwine and work together. You cannot have one without the other. They need each other.

It is only through impactful discipleship along with the Holy Spirit of course, that made me the man I am today. The day I got saved, I walked into the church an enemy of God, and walked out His child. But it wasn’t until I surrendered myself to another man, who was committed to pour out all this person has learned to me, that the process really got started. I was like a racehorse out of the gate, and I wanted to learn as much as I could. But not just information, but living and applying what I was living.

Soon, my discipler and I would go out into the streets and share God’s Word with the Lost. I first watched him as he shared the gospel and really paying attention. Then I would jump in to the conversation when I felt confident to. After a while, I would start conversations with strangers and ask for help from my mentor when I needed it. But the real test would be sitting in a restaurant; without warning as we were enjoying a meal, he would take a tract out of his shirt pocket, slide it over to my side of the table, and point to a person he wanted me to give it to and strike up a conversation. I have to admit, I failed some tests. But passed even more.

But these blessings were not just one-sided. I joined ministries by myself, and went on missions trips to share the gospel to Africa and Utah, without my mentor. One day, a fellow Christian who I met on an evangelism social forum invited me at the last minute to the Des Moines Downtown Farmers Market to open-air preach. The first person I called was my discipler, and I could only leave a message.

About an hour later it was my turn to get on the box and proclaim to thousands of people. I was terrified, but I needed to do it. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my mentor and teacher. Like a proud father he was recording video and encouraging me to press through and “break the sound barrier”. But, in that moment, he was more blessed than I was; he saw with his own eyes the culmination of years of hard work, effort, and especially love being poured out onto the streets of downtown. And you know what? When I got finished and after he hugged me tight, and told me how proud he was, he got on the box and preached his heart out too.

It was through this relationship, and others in the church that I learned about Mormonism, Inductive Bible Study, and acquired a love for reading. I learned how to share my faith and teach others how to as well. I got saved 19 years ago, and the relationships I have with these men are stronger than ever. I am hoping and praying to do the same with someone else; to take a younger man under my wing and teach him all that I know and live it out. We need to keep this thing going and finish well in the race that is set before us.

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