Wisdom Seeker: Day 24 – An Open Letter to S.S.

Proverbs 24

My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

Proverbs 24:13-14

OK, I’ll confess that a part of this exercise of writing a bit about a proverb each day is to get me back in the habit. After taking July off and since I’m now getting paid to write (not here – an entirely different project), I need the accountability to write some words each day, even if they aren’t perfect.

So here I am. But today I have something else on my mind. Really, I have a person on my mind.

Mr. Sparkman, I doubt you’ll ever read this, but know that I’m praying for you. Seriously. I pray that you will know the goodness and peace of the Lord. I’m praying for you to find this wisdom that is sweet for your soul so you may find a future and your hope will not be cut off.

The thing is, none of this hope and future apply to your life here on earth. Horrible things have happened to you. There’s no denying it. And I know you believe God turned His back on you and you’re angry.

Well, today I invite you to let Him have it. You’re in yet another horrible place, so lay into Him. Yell to the heavens, fling all your anger and accusations into His face. Scream, rant, rave.

Because the thing is – He already knows it. Getting it out can be cathartic, like lancing an infection. And God – He is big. Huge. More than you can imagine. He can handle it.

Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

Psalms 139:4)

And what’s more, He knows what you are made of. He knows your weaknesses, your insecurities, your strengths, the good, the bad, the ugly. He knows you better than you know yourself. All of it.

And I know you don’t believe this, but He loves you anyway. He really, truly does. He’s given me a glimpse of that love which is why I continue to call you when I can, why I continue to pray for you when I can’t.

I want you to be free from the prison of deceit the enemy of our souls has locked you into. I want you to be able to experience the joy of repenting of sin and knowing that it is forgiven because God Himself came as a man to suffer pain – on purpose – so that He could pay the actual cost of that sin.

You can continue to pay it. Or you can surrender to Him and accept His forgiveness instead.

Yes, I know you’ve been sinned against. Atrociously. Horrifically. But the thing is, those people are accountable for their actions. If they didn’t face the consequences here on earth, they will face them in eternity. Some of them are already paying that price. I shudder to think about it.

It would have been better for them to pay it in this life and repent. Believe it or not, I’m sad for them. Eternal suffering is no joke, and once you get your mind around it, it’s hard to wish it on even the most evil person you know.

Forever, S. Forever suffering. The hell of this life multiplied by a million and extending for time out of mind.

You don’t want that. So please, please, please – let me talk to you more about my Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Let me tell you how good He is – even though bad things happen. Let me tell you of the freedom of forgiveness and the joy of knowing your eternal future is secure – free from pain and sorrow forever and ever and ever.

Because although I know you have been sinned against, you also know you’re no saint. None of us are outside of Yeshua. You know I wasn’t. Those who embrace Him are given His righteousness to put on as a cloak. It isn’t our goodness we wear – it’s His. Can you see that? I am not saved from my junk because of anything I did. It’s what He did for me that saved me. I simply surrendered to it.

And nothing can take that away for those of us who are in Christ. Nothing. No matter how bad life on earth gets – and it can get worse, believe me – nothing will change the future of the believer. Our hope is not in this world – it’s in eternity. Forever free from pain and sorrow and despair.

That is why I can have joy in the middle of severe physical pain. That is why I can smile even when I am rejected by other people. That is why I can love people who don’t love me back.

You see, Yeshua – Jesus – did that for me. He loved me when I ridiculed Him, when I hated Him, when I rebelled against Him. He loved me until I wrestled with Him and shrieked at Him until I finally lay spent at His feet, weeping.

And I surrendered.

He loves you, too. He really does. Please consider him.

Your old friend,

Heather

Wisdom Seeker: Day 23

Proverbs 23

Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

Proverbs 23:17-18

Perhaps because I’ve recently been thinking, reading, and studying about eternity and the end times, these two verses were what grabbed my attention today. Really, just one word caught me: future.

My initial reading was the ESV. But my habit lately has been to to grab my Hebrew Bible and take a peek at anything that stands out, and today I needed to satisfy my curiosity about the word translated as “a future” in the ESV.

Glad I did. A more literal translation is below:

Do not let your heart envy sinners, but only be in the fear of Jehovah all the day. For surely there is a hereafter, and your hope shall not be cut off.

Proverbs 23:17-18 (LITV)

That word rendered as future in several translations is a Hebrew word meaning, “end, outcome, outcome of a matter, future, posterity, or descendants,” according to Holladay’s lexicon. The root of the word comes from a preposition meaning after, behind, after death, etc.

Take a breath. Now think: As the Body of Christ, where does our hope lie? In the wealth of this world or the wealth of God in Christ? In the here and now or in eternity? What is more real – this life that seems so concrete and long to us at the moment, or forever and ever and ever, time out of mind?

Which will matter more in the long run?

Believer, do you understand that your hope is in Christ alone; that you have died and your life is tied up in Him now and forevermore? Do you honestly believe that after death is when your life truly begins?

Do your daily actions and priorities demonstrate this belief? Or is it lip service?

It’s a humbling and important question.

It’s tempting to envy those who have all the world’s pleasures at their fingertips and for whom financial woes are not a reality. But dear one, if they do not have Christ, then they are still in their sins and soon enough all that material goodness and gain will be a distant memory.

Stuff will not affect our eternity, but only what we do with it. Am I using the stuff God’s entrusted to me to bring glory to Him and aid to others who are suffering? Am I wasting time envying those who have lots of stuff – trips, nice cars, etc. – and forgetting that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow?

The richest and most powerful among us is still subject to the same bodily failures or catastrophic accidents you and I are. All the world’s goods cannot keep a person whose heart fails out of eternity. An earthly lifetime without a single moment of need will do nothing to protect a body if a car is crushed while it sits inside.

And if the Lord comes again later today or in the morning, then what? For He is coming again, and who knows when? Am I ready for that eventuality? Are you?

Let’s not bother with worrying about what the rich and powerful do. Our hope, if it is in Yeshua Messiah (Jesus Christ), will never be cut off. Never.

But if our hope is in a comfortable lifestyle, an annual vacation, financial stability, good health, or any other earthly circumstance, well… no promises there. All circumstances can change in the twinkling of an eye.

That’s a lesson I learned the day I woke up at 4:00 am with meningitis. It changed my physical circumstance for the rest of this life, and not in a good way.

But you know what? My hope isn’t in an earthly future but a heavenly one. And it will never be cut off. Thanks be to God!!

For further thoughts on stuff and earthly luxuries (like breathing), check out Bill Sweeney’s blog: https://unshakablehope.com/2019/08/23/breathing-and-other-luxuries/

Wisdom Seeker: Day 22

Proverbs 22

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.

Proverbs 22:24-25

Confession time.

I was once an angry little homeschool mom. I’m not proud of it, but there it is.

In truth, I struggled with anger for most of my memory. I’m pretty sure when I was young, I stuffed a whole lot of hurt down along with a good bit of resentment and anger until it reached a critical mass of pressure hot enough to cook it into a roiling, seething pool of fury that would occasionally erupt into sounds. Loud ones.

I remember reading this passage in the Proverbs at one point – maybe to my kids, maybe by myself – and realizing, “I am that wrathful man (well, woman, technically, but you get the drift).”

Ugh. As a homeschool mom, my responsibility was to teach my kids. And that’s just what I was doing – teaching them to respond in anger. Teaching them to blow their top. Teaching them impatience.

None of these things were in my preferred curriculum. What I wanted was to teach them to love the Lord our God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

But what I modeled was letting small irritations pile up until a final one broke the proverbial camel’s back – or at least the sound barrier. I was a bit of a yeller.

What did I do?

Well, I tried to control my temper, but it just didn’t work well. I tried to talk myself through it. Finally, I realized that I was helpless in the face of this decades-old mess inside me.

Then I made my first fruitful move. I hit my knees.

I began crying out to God to destroy the anger in my heart. I confessed my dire need of Him. I tearfully begged Him to destroy this thing before it destroyed my young.

And He did! Over time, bit by bit the stinking hot pool of wrath was siphoned off until finally a day came when I handled fifteen irritations without loosing my cool.

Then twenty-five. Then forty.

Then more and more and more. And as my patience grew, my anger diminished until only a puddle remained where a vast sea had once been.

Oh, I still get angry. It isn’t dead yet. However, I no longer fly into a temper over small things. I’ve learned better ways to use the energy of anger – prayer. Reciting Scripture. Physical activity to clear my head.

Not one bit of this can be attributed to anything I’ve done. It is very literally the fruit of God’s Spirit working in me and showing up in my life.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. . .

Galatians 5:22-23a

What is something you struggle with that you’ve seen God show up in?

Wisdom Seeker: Day 21

Proverbs 21

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.

Proverbs 21:31

This last verse is a great reminder for me today, especially as a parent of teenagers. Some days, I am keenly aware of the spiritual battle all who are in Christ are constantly engaged in.

When I’m correcting a teenager who is never wrong (at least in her eyes) or trying to inspire or encourage one who’s embraced apathy towards God or praying for breakthrough for one who is at perpetual war with anxiety, the battle can seem hopeless.

But it isn’t. Victory isn’t mine. It was never meant to be. Victory belongs to the Lord.

I’ve seen it in my own struggle against sin. I arm myself, dress in my Father’s armor, and prepare myself for battle. Temptations, distractions, discouragement all lie in wait. Sometimes I stand firm, other times a temptation trips me up and I fall.

But ultimately, when victory comes, it’s undoubtedly by the Lord’s hand. It’s in my broken prayer for help, asking Him to change my desires, admitting my own helplessness and my own sinful proclivities. It’s in surrender that I’ve found victory.

Let me say that again.

Surrender brings victory. Death brings life. Dying to self brings life in Christ. A strange and wonderful paradox.

And so I surrender my children up to Him as well. I will continue to correct, to guide, to intervene, to pray. But I know that when victory comes, it will come only by the mighty hand of God. May He be forever praised!

Wisdom Seeker: Day 20

Proverbs 20

It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.

Proverbs 20:3

Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.

Proverbs 20:22

As usual when reading the proverbs, there are several potent verses I could focus on. Today, however, I really want to look at two that caught my attention as related and highly relevant in the tense climate propagated on social media.

Maybe especially with another Presidential election campaign looming like a seedy circus freak show, I see the wisdom in verses 3 and 22.

Goodness, people. Please, please let’s not have another embarrassing repeat of 2016. I’m not talking about the winner or loser or any of that; I’m talking about the way we behaved as a nation.

The fact that our “debates” have denigrated into a sideshow where candidates primarily take cheap potshots at one another and at their opponents’ follow ought to mortify us. What happened to gentlemanly disagreement? To actually and intellectually covering the issues we face as a culture? To reality, for Pete’s sake??

Then the behavior of the supporters of Clinton – throwing a real-life, honest-to-goodness pity party complete with “cry rooms” in colleges and mourning as if a 4-year term was a harbinger of the world’s end!

What in the world have we come to? Playground politics? Do we need to re-institute nap times and snack times? Revisit the preschool days where we learn not to pull Sally’s hair, to share with Billy, to take our turn on the slide?

OK, enough of my little rant. Sometimes I just gotta say something, I guess.

But in reality, is there any actual use for a rant? Probably not. My words aren’t likely to change anyone’s mind or behavior. In fact, they could potentially incite a quarrel.

And that’s what I want to address today.

When it comes to social media, it behooves those of us who know Christ not to enter into the fray of social media vitriol.

Oh I’m not saying we should say nothing. Far from it! After all, I did have my little rant, did I not? However, when it comes down to it, before we type any words, we need to think first.

Does what I’m about to say honor God? Does it dishonor Him in any way? Is it useful to others? Does it need to be said? If it does, am I saying it in a truthful and modest way? Is my interest in defending the Lord’s honor or mine? Am I more interested in justice or in being right?

There are a million other questions we can ask, but all in all, keep verse 22 in mind. It reminds me of another passage:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:19-21

Ultimately, justice will be done. It is a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. Where there is evil in the world, we ought to expose it – especially if it dwells in our own hearts. So have your little rants (like mine) in an appropriate forum. But for heaven’s sake, don’t enter into a quarrel or controversy over them!

If there is truth in your words, the Lord will bring it out. If He compels you to write something, be obedient by all means! But if it’s just you speaking, well… keep it behind your teeth (or off the screen, in the case of social media).

If some point or bit of Scripture you speak about brings the sting of conviction to someone else, let the Lord handle it. After all, that is His job.

Sometimes, the backlash we hear and try to defend against is nothing more than a fellow human being wrestling under the weight of conviction. If that is the case, have compassion, Believer!

Remember how it feels to be under conviction and keep silent. Don’t offer a distraction by entering into a squabble. Just let the Holy Spirit do His glorious work and pray for those who threaten or curse you. It really isn’t about you and me, after all.

Remember, our enemy is not the other political party or the guy on the other end of the social media commentary war. Our enemy is the one who deceives and hates, the one who thrives on division, strife, and conflict.

Let’s not be party to the old snake’s devices, ‘mkay?

PS: I felt it necessary to add a post script to this one. Concerning my rant, do I really think and feel those things? Absolutely, yes. Do I normally spout them out on the internet? Rarely – and more and more rarely as the Spirit of God convicts me to stick to His truth and keep my opinions to myself.

Today I used my unvarnished opinion to (hopefully) elicit an emotional response and lead into my point. Truth is truth, and I’ll stand behind the truth of God’s Word if it costs me my life. My life is His, anyway. But my stuff? Well, that’s just mine. Take it or leave it. 😉

Wisdom Seeker: Day 19

Proverbs 19

Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.

Proverbs 19:2, ESV

Also, without knowledge the soul is not good, and he who hurries with his feet sins.

Proverbs 19:2, LITV

I’m low on time today, but thought I’d nerd out for a quick sec.

Perhaps because I’m in a hurry, the second verse stood out to me as I re-read the Proverbs chapter today. Let me confess that I was re-reading due to the fact that I breezed through it the first time since I’m low on time.

And whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way… Yeah, that.

My hurry is actually costing me time because I’m having to go back and do things twice or dropping them and adding a mess to my already-stacked agenda. Funny how God directed my attention to this verse, huh?

Anyway, nerding out now…

I’ve seen this verse in various translations and they are all a little bit different. As part of forcibly slowing myself down, I went and read it in Hebrew.

And it isn’t super-clear.

The truth is, the first word of the verse could be yet, even, although, also, or even. It can be used to emphasize or associate items, or when combined with a negative particle like it is here (kinda), it can negate.

The second word consists of a negative particle prefixed with a preposition, usually translated in, at, with, by, against, into, or within.

Next there is the word for knowledge and a word variously translated as soul, life, living thing, neck, or throat.

The second translation I put above is the more literal one, but without trying to make it sound smoother in English, you could also read it as: Yet (or even) with no knowledge, a soul (or living thing) is no good.

There really is no Hebrew word that corresponds to our English is or was, so you have to dive into context a little when you have a verbless clause like the one that occurs at the beginning of verse 2.

Either way you slice it, the import of the phrase is that a lack of knowledge is kind of a soul poisoner. It’s interesting that it is paired with the bit about hurrying with your feet (which, by the way, is far simpler to translate).

I don’t know about you, but when I hurry off on my way, I tend to do it without the knowledge I need. I tend to jump in without first looking where I’m jumping when I’m in a rush. Not good. Well, there’s an understatement.

So this girl is slowing down today. I guess I’ll get done what I can and not worry about what I can’t (like reading other lovely blogs – sorry!!).

And I’ll try to remember that knowledge of where I’m heading is pretty critical to actually arriving there, whether figuratively or literally speaking.

Wisdom Seeker: Days 17-18

Proverbs 17 and 18

There is so, so much in both of these chapters that I hope will prayerfully read through them! I don’t normally blog on Sundays but I had to take a moment to share two verses today – one from each chapter.

Though it’s hard to narrow down in such rich chapters, there is a single verse in each one I want to focus on. First, from chapter 17, let’s peek at verse 3:

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.

Proverbs 17:3

Now I’m not sure how much you know about assaying, but it’s the process of testing a metal ore to determine its purity and quality. It’s done by application of either heat or chemical solvents which break down the metal or ore and separate any impurities.

This is the idea behind the phrase, “The Lord tests hearts.” It isn’t like some spiritual ACT test or college placement exam. He’s applying the heat or solvents needed to break us down into raw parts in order to determine what is actually in our hearts.

This process is often painful, but well worth it in the end. A person whose faith has been broken down into its fundamental parts and assayed is a person who knows what he believes and why.

And that, my friends, is where the going gets good. One reason this verse grabbed me, though, is that it reminds me of the very first passage that ever leapt off the pages of Scripture and pierced my heart:

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

Isaiah 48:10-11

Early in my walk with God, He showed me that all the affliction I had endured to date, whether self-inflicted or circumstantial, was meant by Him to draw me to Himself. It was a refining, a revealing of the impurity of my heart, and a stone-cold reminder that glory is due Him, not me. It gave me hope, perspective, and purpose all in one.

Now that’s a rather long story, but I promised to address another verse so it will have to wait. Time is short, so let me just say the following verse was one of the early ones that followed the passage from Isaiah in stabbing me with conviction and beginning the process of sanctification in me.

It’s these powerful, convicting, purposeful, and personal words from the Scriptures that make this book a Living Word. It’s what I love, even when the process hurts my pride. Who am I kidding? It kills my pride, but the thing needs to die anyway.

Oh, how I love my God! And He continually reminds me how I need to be vocal about it. Why? Well, let’s look at today’s verse:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Proverbs 18:21