As Iron Sharpens Iron

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17)

I first met Chuck Solomon about ten years ago. He was this guy that would always greet me during the welcome time at church on Wednesday nights. Like me, when the season was right, he would wear shorts and sandals to this service. We joked about it sometimes. Not too long after I met Chuck, I took a class he taught through the book of Job. One night after class, he asked me about discipleship and our meeting together each week to study. I took him up on it. I’ll admit, Chuck’s commitment and his boldness about his faith and his call to discipleship sometimes made me a little uncomfortable. When we would meet at Panera Bread, I can remember sometimes wanting to talk a little softer and not have it be so obvious we were praying. I did, however, enjoy this time and it clearly was a period of growth for me as a believer. As believers, we are all walking the same path in our lives of faith; it’s just that we’re often at different places on that path as it relates to the outward expression of it. I wasn’t where Chuck was at that time and I’m not sure I am now. We met one on one for time before joining with some other guys he had been leading in discipleship. In these nine years, I’ve taken time away from our Wednesday morning group to do other things, but my contact and communication with Chuck has always been constant.

The primary purpose of the book of Proverbs is to instill wisdom in God’s people that will serve them in their day to day lives. This wisdom is rooted in the “fear of the LORD” (Proverbs 1:1-7). Proverbs 27:17 deals specifically with the issue of influence and the need for, and benefit of, interaction among believers. Just as two iron blades rubbed together become sharper and more efficient at cutting and slicing, constant fellowship among believers has a positive influence on one’s character, sharpening them to live out their faith.

There have been many people who have poured themselves into my life. I am thankful for all of them. I know their investment of time in me is a deep well that I will draw upon forever. I know Chuck Solomon came along in God’s timing, and for the last nine years he has always been there for me. He has taught me, challenged me, encouraged me and prayed for me. In other words, he has loved me. I appreciate his heart and his commitment to doing what God has called him to do. Although our salvation is individual, it is never meant to be lived out in isolation, but in fellowship with others. This is the means in which, by God’s grace, the Holy Spirit builds up the body of Christ. I am personally grateful that Chuck Solomon takes this biblical truth to heart. Thank you brother, I love you!

When Jesus Moves In, Prejudice Can’t Stay

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14)

The gospel has implications. We should expect that it would, but we are a stubborn people, set in our ways, molded by our upbringing and influenced by our surroundings. It has always been that way. Acts 11:1-18 tells the story of when the apostle Peter defended his acceptance of the Gentiles. The Jews and Gentiles had long been at odds and some of his fellow Jews found it repulsive that Peter would associate with them. They had put up walls between themselves and the Gentiles, believing Gentiles must follow Jewish traditions to be accepted. We know the dislike went both ways. The Bible expresses clearly the unity that exist in Christ. Ephesians 2:14-16 makes the point that in Christ, the Jews and Gentiles are no longer two distinct people, but one.

Our encounter with Scripture should always lead to application in our lives. We must see the walls (the barriers) that exist in our day to day lives as it relates to others who are different than we are. One of those areas is undoubtedly race. It’s hard to deny the racial divide that exists in our nation. The truth is, to some degree prejudice exists in us all. Unfortunately, there are people on all sides who propagate it for both personal and political gain, making it even worse. Fortunately though, we have a God who is not like us. When God looks at us, He doesn’t see color, He sees people, people created in His image, people tainted by sin, and people equally in need of His mercy and grace. God accepts all who come in faith. Salvation is for anyone who believes in the name of Jesus. We would not only do well to see others as Christ sees them, but we would honor God in doing so, while at the same time, give testimony to His work in our lives.

Let us ask the Lord to tear down the walls of prejudice in our own lives. The simple truth is, the more we see of Jesus, the less we’ll see of color, and for that matter, any other thing that makes us different. In Christ we are one! Let our relationship with Jesus be the one that unites us. Let His voice drown out the voices of division, no matter where they come from. Let our lives be challenged by the gospel, and let our hearts be open to His refining work. We might not readily recognize it as such, but part of God’s grace is the Holy Spirit confronting us in the deepest recesses of our hearts and shining the light that exposes our sin. Let our prayer be that God would do that continually and convict us when we dare see anyone any other way than how He does. Let our prayer be like that of the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Not Your Typical 4th of July Post

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead with be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. ” (1 Corinthians 15:52)

As I scrolled through Facebook on July 4th, I saw many acknowledgments of our nation’s independence. People posted all sorts of pictures and relevant sayings. The American flag became a popular profile picture for the day. Some people celebrated our nation’s current state, while others expressed a longing for a return to God. Eventually, I came across a post from an old friend of mine, Austin Maxwell. Austin and I used to work for the same company. I haven’t spoken to him in a long time, but for the last week, I haven’t been able to get him or his post off my mind. It read as follows, “Today is Independence Day for our country and it is Independence Day for our son who left us 2 years ago today. While we miss him every day, we know he is in a better place and is with our Lord and Savior. We miss his hugs, his smile, his jokes, and ever present sense of mischief. He had so much ahead of him but God had other plans for him. His death while tragic I know has impacted his peers, siblings and others to take different courses and actions in life. We love you son and we will see you again soon for in a twinkling of an eye we will all be transformed. Love you Mitchell Maxwell. See you soon bud! Love Dad, Mom, Matthew, Michael and Manning.”

At the end of Austin’s post, he quoted 1 Corinthians 15:52. 1 Corinthians 15 is the most comprehensive chapter in the Bible on the resurrection. Verse 52 specifically expresses the hope we have in Christ’s return and of how, in a moment, we will be suited for heaven (from perishable bodies to imperishable bodies) and reunited with others who have gone before us. Though the hurt never ends, this hope makes our pain and suffering more bearable. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)

Mitchell Maxwell died on July 4, 2013. As I read Austin’s post last Saturday morning, I read it through the tears. In fact, over the past couple of years, I have read most of Austin’s posts about Mitchell through tears. I have also shared his posts with my family. This is our ministry to one another. We can never know what God is preparing and carrying out in our lives that He will use to minister to others. I sense Austin’s embrace of this truth. And I am thankful for his and his family’s testimony of God’s grace and faithfulness through their pain. I can only hope my response to such pain would be the same. Though we  sometimes don’t understand them, God’s purposes are always good, and although this life brings hurt, His grace is greater. So Austin, thank you for sharing. Though we haven’t talked in a long time, you have certainly spoken to me this week.