Sharpening the Ax

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”

This quote is attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Whether he actually said this or not is immaterial, the concept is sound. If you are given a task, using the best tools you can to do the job helps you to perform the task more efficiently and effectively. A dull ax will take longer and require more strength.

Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed. — Ecclesiastes 10:10

Over the years, I’ve often questioned what my true mission is. I’ve received revelation from God over that time, yet I still question and wonder if I’m following the right path. Is my ax sharp enough to do the task that God has put before me?

Before heading out on mission from God, sharpen your own ax by getting yourself straight with God, praying and reading the Bible.

I find that often I’m looking for how to best serve God and I realize that I don’t take time to read the Bible. I find that I struggle to start the day with prayer and I’m too tired at night to end the day with prayer. Throughout the day, I’m way too busy with too many things on my mind, that taking the time for even a short prayer in the midst of my busy day is beyond my thoughts.

Martin Luther is rumored to have once commented, “I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend the three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.

Are we so busy that we can’t take the time to pray? How much time do we spend on needless things? Could we cut out an hour of television? God wants us to enjoy life,

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. -James 5:16

How can we be the most effective tool for God, if we don’t allow Him to sharpen us? God sharpens us through the reading of his word. We find out his mission for us through reading and prayer. God has given us the tools to do the job he set out for us wherever we are, whether on the mission field or at work.

God has given all of us the tools, but so many of us (myself included) don’t bother to pick the best tool for the job. We choose a dull ax to chop down the tree. We strain ourselves to do the job God has put before us. We work so hard at His mission for us, that we fail to sharpen our tools.

Prayer and reading of His word will sharpen us. If we spend the time sharpening our tools, we will be able to do His work so much more efficiently and effectively.

 

Prayer from 17th century House of Commons

Saint James the Greater, by RembrandtI found this prayer in my readings this morning that really stood out as it would be so foreign to hear something like this in our current political arena. But what if our leaders did pray like this? And truly meant it? How would it change our nation and how it was governed?

Almighty God, by whom alone Kings reign, and Princes decree justice; and from whom alone cometh all counsel, wisdom and understanding; We thine unworthy servants, here gathered together in thy Name, do most humbly beseech thee to send down thy heavenly wisdom from above, to direct and guide us in all our consultations. And grant that we, having thy fear always before our eyes, and laying aside all private interests, prejudices, and partial affections, the result of all our counsels, may be the glory of thy blessed name. – House of Commons prayer, circa 1661

I found this prayer in a book I’m reading on prayer and the author referenced this. It take a great leap of faith sometimes, especially for this persecuted for their faith, to realize that God is exalted amongst all nations. This prayer shows a few key points that jumped out at me.

Everything comes from God

“…by whom alone Kings reign, and Princes decree justice; and from whom alone cometh all counsel, wisdom and understanding”

We are put in our positions by the grace and desires of God and God alone. Whether we are heads of states, leading a company or simply heads of households, that “power” comes by the grace of God.

We are unworthy of this grace

“We thine unworthy servants…”

There is nothing we can do to earn this grace and favor from God. No amount of prayer, actions, charity or ‘being good’ can earn us grace from God.

We ask and through His grace, God provides

“…do most humbly beseech thee to send down thy heavenly wisdom from above, to direct and guide us in all our consultations.”

We simply ask God to send us wisdom in any and all situations and God will provide graciously this wisdom. He loves us enough that the wisdom is always in our best interests, even if we don’t understand it. But we in a humble position, receive this wisdom from Him.

We set aside our own agenda

“And grant that we, having thy fear always before our eyes, and laying aside all private interests, prejudices, and partial affections…”

We all have our desired outcomes that we want to see occur. But do they align with God’s purpose? The willingness to set aside these personal interests, to achieve God’s purpose allows God’s grace be manifest in us.

All is for the glory of God

“…the result of all our counsels, may be the glory of thy blessed name.”

All that we do, when done with the consultation and wisdom from God, will work to glorify His name.

What an incredible prayer, especially for the political arena. But this is something I can incorporate into my own life as well.

Jesus Prayed for Me

Jesus prayed for me. It seems like every time I read the Bible, I discover new things. Yes I know the stories and essentially know how it flows from Genesis to Revelations, but when you dig deep into verses and really think and pray about them, new avenues open up.  Always!

This morning I was just flipping pages in the Bible and started to skim across John 17. What really caught my eye at the time was the human added section headers, which read “Jesus Prays for Himself”. Then a little later on in the chapter, “Jesus Prays for His Disciples” and then the one that caused me to pause, “Jesus Prays for Future Believers

I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony. – John 17:20

He prayed for all of us. He prayed for me, for you, for our parents, and grandparents. He prayed for our children, our grandchildren, and our great-great-great-great grandchildren to come. He prayed for the rich and the poor, for the healthy and the sick. He prayed for those that were believers their entire lives, to those who only believed moments before their death. He prayed for all believers even though we are all sinners.

This simple sentence, became so profound to me today. I’m sure I’ve read it before, but today I really noticed it. Jesus went to His father in prayer for me, 2000 years ago. Pretty cool stuff.

You Can’t Take Prayer Out of School

A hot topic around the country is the thought that they government are taking prayer out of the schools.  Let me make a bold statement right here at the top of this post…… No one can ever take prayer out of school.

What do I mean by that?  As long as there are students in school, there can be prayer.  As long as there are parents then send their kids to school, there can be prayer.   As long as there are Christian teachers and administrators, there can be prayer.  Prayer is nothing more than praising God and lifting our thoughts, if  not our voices, up to God in praise, thanksgiving and supplication.  Nothing, not the government, not the administration, not some leftist group, no nothing can stop you from doing that.

I can’t take credit for this thought.   No, I was up until last night one of those that thought it was awful what our schools have become in many ways.  Places devoid of God, but full of worship for self.   A place where tolerance and diversity is taught and encouraged, unless it involved Christianity.  But last night, I had my eyes opened at our church service.   Our former lead pastor, Greg Nettle (now president of Stadia), came back to speak to the congregation on what Stadia has been doing and the lives they (and we) are impacting around the world.  During the talk, he mentioned three very practical things we could do to help spread the good news of Jesus.

  1. Disciple our own children.
  2. Disciple the children of our church.
  3. Disciple the children of the world.

As part of the expansion on #1, disciplining our own children, he mentioned that prayer could never be taken out of the schools and I felt led right then to write this post.

So let me throw out some specific ways that we can be sure that prayer can never be taken out of the schools?

Pray for your children.   Pray for them when the leave to get on the bus, or when you drop them off at the school doors.  Pray that they learn what is taught, but not be influenced by the unwholesome lessons that come in and out of the classroom.  Pray while they are at school throughout the day that they are healthy, that they are happy, that they can be a positive influence on others.  That other children can look at your children and see Jesus.   Pray at sporting events, band concerts or whatever activities your children participate in for the safety and health of all the participants and fans.

Pray for the teachers and administration.  Pray that the teachers can share a positive influence on the children.  Teachers have a very powerful pulpit that they are on every day, let them realize the importance of their role and that they should take it seriously.  Prayer that the children can see Jesus in the teachers.

Pray for the bus drivers.  Many of us, every day, place the most precious gifts that God has ever given us on a big yellow vehicle and send them off without another thought.  Let’s pray for the bus drivers for their safety, health and attentiveness to their jobs.  Pray for the bus mechanics that keep the buses running and for those other drivers on the roads to take extra caution around the school bus and around the school itself.

Pray for ourselves as parents.  We as parents are the most influential teachers our children will ever have as I believe that most of the education that children receive, happens right at home.  That we are the primary teachers of our children and the schools help us with that education.  When we pray for ourselves to be the best parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles or whatever the situation may be, but pray for yourself, that you can be a positive influence on your children and they can see Jesus in you.

Teach our children to pray.  When we teach our children to pray, we are teaching them to be a blessing to others.  Teach them to pray for their teachers, for their friends, for that kid that sits behind them in science class that perhaps comes from a bad home, or is always getting in trouble.  Teach them to pray for their friends who are in a bad relationship or are experimenting with drugs.  Teach them to pray for others, so that others can see Jesus in them.

Prayer is a powerful tool that we have, whether it’s spoken out loud or just lifted up silently, we have the power of the Holy Spirit at our disposal and the ear of God himself.  With that, no one can ever take prayer out of the schools.

 

God Speaks to us to Deepen Relationships

This was the message recently at our church, that God speaks to us not to impart some special wisdom or knowledge, not to just tell us what we need to do….but to deepen his relationship with us.  God speaks to us in so many ways, but he will find the most effective way to communicate with you at the time he wants to.

For me, the main ways he has communicated with me in the past is through Scripture and during my private prayer time.  However, at this church service, he really spoke to me through the message and through the worship time….in fact, this has been two weeks in a row, that the message has spoken to me in such a profound way, that it could only be God driven.   I won’t got into details, other than to say that I’m excited about what God revealed to me.

I will talk to something else though, how God has deepened my relationship with him today through his message.  What he showed me today was that he really does care about me and what I do.  He is a very personal God, not one that is distant or scary, but one that I can have an honest chat with, one that I can find comfort in, one that I can rely on.   God wants to be a part of our daily lives.  He wants to come to work with us, to spend our day together.  He is not satisfied with us just spending time with him on Sunday for an hour.

Imagine the time spent with your parents, or your spouse, your children or a best friend.  It would be almost impossible to have a meaningful relationship if you only interacted with them for one hour per week.  My wife and I interact throughout the day.  She’s the first person I see and speak to in the morning and usually the last at night.  We often communicate in person or electronically (if we’re not physically together) often.  And she’s always on my mind, when we are apart.

What if we had that kind of relationship with God.  What if he was the first person we spoke to in the morning, “God, thank you for this new day!”  What if he was the last person we spoke to at night, “God, bless us with a restful night.”  What if he was always on our minds throughout the day?  Just as with your spouse, when you spend more time and communicate more, the relationship deepens.

And the beautiful thing is, by including God more in your day, it doesn’t come at the exclusion of others.  In fact, I feel that the more I speak with God, the deeper my relationship with my wife and children becomes.  The more I spend time with God throughout the workday, the more productive worker I become.  It’s not a zero-balance scenario where you add more time with God but have to take away time from others…..no I feel it’s an exponential growth scenario.  Spend more time with God and the rest of your life explodes with his grace and blessings.

My one bit of advice this day, is to spend more time with God, speaking with him and reading his word and you’ll be amazed at how he responds.

Decide to Believe

So often I read things on how I should act or think or believe and it makes perfect sense.  I know that if I just reacted a given way, my thoughts and feelings would move in the direction I should be moving.  Always easier said than done.

I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do the very thing I hate. -Romans 7:15

As Christians, we need to decide to believe.  We want to understand everything, but God doesn’t always give us understanding, our mind then refuses to believe what it doesn’t understand.  I think that our minds are often bound up by the enemy to keep us from believing what we know to be true.

But God provides us help here too.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress.  For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray.  But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. -Romans 8:26

I’ve talked about this verse before in one of my Bible Study Minutes.  It’s amazing to think that we have someone praying for us even when we don’t know we need prayed for.  Remember James 1:2-8 where we see we can ask God for  wisdom in trials and he will give it to us and show us what to do.

Expect an Answer – James 1:5-7

When you pray, do you ask God for something.  Perhaps an answer to a problem you’re having, or for a blessing you may need?  Do you ask God a question on why God has allowed something to happen? Have you asked him about what you are supposed to do next in a situation?  I’m sure we all have, that’s a natural part of prayer.  In fact, in the book of James, we see that God actually wants us to ask him, He wants us to seek his wisdom.

If you need wisdom — if you want to know what God wants you to do next — ask him, and he will gladly tell you.  He will not resent your asking.  -James 1:5

God will give us answers, he will answer your prayers.  That doesn’t always mean we will receive the answer we want, but He will answer and we can be assured that the answer is the right one, the one that is best for us and fully within God’s nature and will, even if we disagree with him or don’t like it.

Let me point out something else that I believe we often forget.  It comes from the very next verse in James.

But when you ask, be sure that you really expect an answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  -James 1:6

So when we ask, do we really believe that God will answer?  Again, I don’t mean just a disagreement in the answer that we do receive….but do we really believe he will answer at all?  I find myself often praying for direction from God and then as soon as my prayers are done, go back to stressing, worrying and trying to figure out an answer to that which I just asked God to answer.   I laid my burdens down at the feet of God, which he says in so many places in the Bible that we should.  And then I pick them right back up when my prayers are done as if to say….”OK God, I’ll take those back since I’m not sure you’ll take care of it for me.”

People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  -James 1:7

God promises to answer our questions and petitions we pray about in a way that fulfills His holy will.  We just need to believe that He actually will answer.  Just think of how much stress and anxiety we could be rid of if we simply believed.  I know I seem to be ending this post on a bit of a bleak note…so let’s go back to James 1:5, see God’s promise and then believe that he will provide answers.  The joy will be unending if we simply believe.

If you need wisdom — if you want to know what God wants you to do next — ask him, and he will gladly tell you.  He will not resent your asking.  -James 1:5