Sharpening The Saw

Screenshot (1474)

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  (Mark 1:35, NIV 1984).

My Musings – The above verse is just one among many where Jesus withdrew to a solitary place to commune with the Father.  Why was this so important?  “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” (Abraham Lincoln).  So what’s so important about having a sharp saw?

Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.  “What are you doing?” you ask. “Can’t you see?” comes the impatient reply. “I’m sawing down this tree.”  “You look exhausted!” you exclaim. “How long have you been at it?”  “Over five hours,” he returns, “and I’m beat! This is hard work.”  “Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?” you inquire. “I’m sure it would go a lot faster.”  “I’m too busy sawing!” (Dr. Stephen R. Covey, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”).

Sometimes we get so busy going about the work we have to do, that we neglect the things that would make those things so much easier.  Jesus understood this about His ministry.  For example, one of the times He withdrew by Himself to pray was immediately before He chose the twelve disciples.

My Advice – Time spent in prayer and in the Word is crucial in as we journey through this life.  How about you?  Does your saw need sharpening?

Lying, and Testing, and Baiting, Oh My!

Screenshot (1472)

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.  (Matthew 4:1–11, NIV 1984).

My Musings – We can learn a lot from how Satan came after Jesus, and how Jesus responded.

  • Lying – While it is true that Satan is a liar and the Father of lies. He is also a master at it.  Rather than a direct “frontal attack” bald-faced lie, he used a subtler indirect approach.  He did not claim that Jesus was not the Son of God.  He attempted to plant doubt in Christ’s mind when He was weakened from forty days of fasting. “If you are the Son of God?”  And how did Jesus counter the lie?  With truth – “every word that comes from the mouth of God.
  • Testing – Similar approach. “If you are the Son of God?”  Kind of like, “since you are the Son of God, He’ll take care of you right?  Make Him prove it.”  More seeds of doubt. And the response. “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”  God has nothing to prove, and we shouldn’t need Him to prove it.  The cross says it all.
  • Baiting – “Here’s an easier way.”  Not true.  Remember, Satan is a liar.  The old bait and switch.  “Isn’t this what you want?”  Not that way.  bow down to someone other than the Father.  Being “given” kingdoms instead of building His Kingdom?  Being “given” subjects in these kingdoms rather than the subjects voluntarily entering into His Kingdom?  Hollow deceptive promises that result in just the opposite of what was offered.  Abdication of the Kingdom.  What is Satan trying to get us to abdicate?  How should we respond?  “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.

My Advice – Learn from the Master.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”   (Hebrews 4:15–16, NIV 1984).   Confidence, and mercy, and grace.  Oh my!

 

The Road Less Traveled

Screenshot (1328)

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.”  (Genesis 1:26, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Humans are distinguished from the rest of the God’s “creatures.”  We have self-awareness (conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires).  We have imagination (the ability to form ideas, images or concepts that are not observable by our senses).  We have a conscience (an inner prompting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior).  We have an independent will (the ability to make decisions and choices and to act in accordance with those choices and decisions).  We have principles (fundamental truths or propositions that serve as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior). To name just a few.  This is, in part, what it means to be made in God’s image (not to mention the fact that we are more than just a physical creature).   The animal kingdom, for example, when confronted with a stimulus, can only respond to that stimulus (based on instinct, urges, conditioning, fight or flight, etc.).

Stimulus ——-> Response

Humans are different.  Because of things such as self-awareness, imagination, conscience, will, and principles, we have the freedom to choose how we respond to the stimulus.

Stimulus ——-> Freedom to Choose ——->Response

While we may be pre-disposed to certain “determined” responses due genetic determinism (your DNA or nature), psychic determinism (your upbringing, or nurture), and environmental determinism (something or someone in your environment that influences  you one way or another), in the final analysis we still have the freedom to choose.  Our choices cannot ultimately be blamed on these factors.  Our choices, our behavior (response), is a product conscious decisions that we make and that we are responsible for.

Despite all of this, from the very beginning, and all too often, our lives are characterized by so many wrong choices.

Stimulus – When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom,

Freedom to Choose

Response – she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

(Genesis 3:6, NIV 1984)

My Advice – Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some “magic” eraser that would let us start over with a clean slate?  The truth is, that there is.  There is a choice we can all make that will make up for all of our poor choices, as if we had never made them at all.  “In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (Ephesians 1:7, NIV 1984).  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12, NIV 1984).

Stimulus – “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8, NIV 1984).

Freedom to Choose

Response – “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  (John 1:12–13, NIV 1984).

The Choice Is Yours.  Choose Wisely.

______________________________

Adapted from “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen R. Covey

______________________________

Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”

 

 

 

 

 

This Little Light of Mine

Screenshot (1324)

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.”  (Acts 11:19–21, NIV 1984).

My Musings – The Western world has largely been spared of such persecution, but it is interesting to note that while the devil intended to obliterate the Church, his devices were thwarted by God and actually served to grow the Church.

What are some of the things we encounter in the Western world that can also serve to spread the Gospel of Christ?  Have you ever lost your job?  Did you ever consider that God might be moving you to a new one to serve such a purpose?  Has your family ever had to relocate causing you to enroll in a new school, forcing you to make new friends?  Did you ever consider that these new friends might need to hear the Gospel and God has chosen you to be His herald?  Did your first choice for college not work out and you had to “settle” for another?  Did you ever consider that there might be those there that might only be receptive to the Gospel from someone like you?

My Advice – Persecution like that experienced in the 1st century is breaking out around the world at an increasing rate.  It may soon be where you live, if it is not there already.  Light is more noticeable the darker it gets.  Don’t hide it.  But even if it is not yet quite that dark where you live (where God may have moved you), does not mean that you cannot shine for the Master.  You have the best news that anyone could possibly share with another.

Do Not Turn From It

Screenshot (249)

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  (Proverbs 22:6, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Thanks Dad, for the Godly training that you provided.  I hope I am a good reflection of you, and the Lord you served.  I’ll do my best to not turn from it.

In memory of my Dad, who would have been 88 years old today.  I miss you.

The Third Strand

Screenshot (1244)

My Musings – Throughout the passage it speaks of two.  Two are better than one.  This can include marriages, business partners, or friendships. Regretfully, marriages do fail, partnerships can be dissolved and trust between friends is often broken.  But note, the passage ends with three.  Marriages, partnerships and friendships are not easily broken when God is the third strand.

My Advice – Whatever or wherever you venture, make sure that you include God.

Get Back To Where You Once Belonged

Screenshot (1220)

My Musings – Elijah had just faced down 400 prophets of Baal.  Both a symbolic and a literal mountaintop experience.  Perhaps the zenith of his ministry.  An awesome display of God’s power and presence.  Yet here he was, on the far side of the desert, cowering in fear over the Queen’s threats to his life.

Sometimes, after an exhilarating mountaintop experience of boldness and ecstasy, we  find ourselves plunging deep into a valley of fear and despair.  But most of the time, when we find ourselves in a place that we should not be, it follows a period of  unguarded complacency.

Whatever the occasion, we need to listen to God’s voice saying “what are you doing here.”  It is a call to bring us to our senses and see the height from which we have fallen.  Like in the garden (Adam where are you?), He knows exactly where we are, what we are doing and how we got there.  But He want us to know it too.  Until we do, it would be fruitless to command us to go back the way we came.

My Advice – Watch the “road signs” to keep yourself on track.  If you do get off track, realize how you got there so you can know how to “go back the way you came.