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

Tuesday Prayer: Forsaking Sin

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity. 

Proverbs 28:13-14

Gracious Savior, we are so very thankful that You are patient and merciful; slow to anger, always just, and perfect in keeping Your covenant loyalty to Your people. Thank You for making us Yours! We are honored to be considered Your children and grateful beyond measure at Your forgiveness.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Psalms 86:14

Lord, today we freely confess that we do try to hide our sin – either attempting foolishly to hide it from Your eyes by justifying it away or trying to hide it from others in numerous ways.

Sometimes we tell anecdotes in a way that paints our part in the best possible light. Other times, we merely conceal selfish motives or other sinful ways. We even try to hide our sins from ourselves, preferring justification to confession.

Please forgive us of such nonsense. Beginning today, let Your Spirit so work in our heart that we are unable to deny our sin when He exposes it. Drive us to live openly, freely confessing sin each time so that our habit becomes confession rather than hiding or excuse-making.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

Then, Lord, compel us to forsake our sin utterly. Make our transgressions abhorrent to us so that we rush to shun them. Train our hearts in appropriate fear of You; that we would each look to You as the measure of our behavior and desires rather than to mankind or culture.

May our hearts be aligned with Your will for us and our desires be in harmony with Your desire, Lord. Change our habits so that we can truly be a chosen race, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation who in every way gladly, freely, and honestly proclaim the excellency of the One who has brought us into the Light of Truth, amen. 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

1 Peter 2:9


Tuesday Prayer: Against You Only

Once again, I will be away for a week, so please be patient if I do not respond to comments or interact in the blogosphere…

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 

Psalm 51:4

YHWH our God, merciful and gracious are You and how great is Your Name in all the earth! We can search the depths of the sea, the most untamed wilderness, or even the vastness of space and never find the limits of Your power nor of Your steadfast love. You are truly Emmanuel; God With Us, and because You have chosen to dwell with Your people, we can come to You in honesty because You already see and know all things. 

Today, Lord, we wish to ask You to search our hearts, even to the most secret places and the darkest corners and shine Your light into them. Expose any sin we may think we’ve hidden, for nothing is hidden from You, O God. Lay bare our self-deceit and uproot our pride. Open our eyes to places we have allowed what is normal in our culture to become our excuses for sin. Because You love Your servants, do not allow us to remain complacent in sin but goad us to true repentance. 

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 139:23-24

Forgive us, Lord, and give us clean hearts and renewed minds! Cleanse our hearts from the taint of sin and rebellion. Heal our spiritual blindness and give us broken and contrite hearts. Let us not measure our sins against other people but against the perfect standard of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Renew in us the joy of salvation and make our whole being to long for You as a dry and thirsty land longs for the rain. 

Then, Lord, send us out in right standing with You so we may freely share the nature of our depravity and the greatness of our God who is mighty to save us from it. Let Your praise be ever on our lips and let our hearts overflow with gratitude for Your mercy and forgiveness. Make us into a people who are bold for You, who address our own sin with the greatest strictness and ruthlessness and who openly share the evidence of Your redeeming power in our lives with others.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

Psalms 51:12-13

Thank You, Lord, that Your hand is not so short that it cannot save. Thank You for patiently instructing us and for the fact that, as John wrote, if we confess our sin, You are faithful and just to forgive us. What a magnificent God we serve! May Your Name be honored on our lips, in our thoughts, by our deeds, and in our heart of hearts, amen. 

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Psalm 51:17


Tuesday Prayer: Love for Man

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

John 13:34-35

God who is Love, today we come before Your throne of grace humbled and contrite in heart. We are more grateful than words can express that You have chosen to open our eyes to the greatest Love of all; the Love of the Almighty expressed in the ultimate atoning sacrifice. By Your sacrificial love, all our crimes are forgiven and taken away as far as the east is from the west. 

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Psalms 103:11-12

Yet even with so great an example of humility and sacrificial love as Jesus demonstrated His life and death, even though the cost of our own sin is uncountable, we are prone to forgetfulness when it comes to extending that same love and forgiveness to other people. What a short-sighted and selfish people we are! Open our hearts more to understand the depth and breadth of Your love. Fill us with it so that we may love others just as selflessly as You love us.

Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’

Matthew 18:32-33

And Lord, please change our vision so that we do not interpret the actions and motives of others only by how they affect us or make us feel. Instead, help us see others as You do. For those who are unsaved, remind us that we, too, were once lost, deceived, and living in active rebellion to the Living God. Show us how to view others with humility, understanding that only by Your grace are we saved and that they, too, may be saved by Your grace. 

Shape us into a compassionate people, believing the best intentions of others no matter how they hurt us and willing to forgive no matter how deep the wound. Keep us mindful of the cost of the Cross and of the hurts we’ve inflicted on others and on You so that we can keep our own attitudes in proper perspective.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:7

Thank You for allowing us to be covered in the righteousness of Your Son, Jesus, for without His covering, we would be laid bare in our shame and filthy in our sin.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

And Lord, make us to especially love our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we are not actively living in love with each other, we have no draw to those on the outside of the church. Let us live out Jesus’s words and show the world we belong to Him by the love we have for each other. 

May it be, also, that we love others enough to tell them the truth about You, even if it is a difficult truth for them to hear. If any should die apart from Christ, may it never be because we neglected share the news of Jesus Christ with them. It is for Your glory and in His name we ask for this great overflow of compassion in our hearts and actions, amen. 

Tuesday Prayer: Set Free

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. 

Psalms 107:10-11

God our Savior, we exalt Your glorious name today! Thank You for saving us from our own slavery to sin; for treating us like Royal sons and daughters when we were no more than street urchins living in hostility to God and rebellion to Your ways.

When we were groping in the darkness, You brought us into the light of Your love and washed us by the blood of the ultimate Sacrifice, Jesus our King. Truly there is no god like our God who holds in His hand the power to save the most depraved sinner and turn us from death to life! 

Let Your praise never be far from our lips, O Lord. As we go about our days, show us how to keep in mind Your incredible deeds – the ones we read in Your word and the ones we’ve seen in our own lives. Teach our tongues to forgo complaint and instead express gratitude for the works of our wonderful and merciful God.

May we celebrate in our hearts the gift of being among the redeemed, and may that celebration spill out as words of praise for You to all we encounter. May our homes be monuments to Your glory where we share Your praises and thank You for Your blessings. 

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble…

Psalm 107:1-2

But even as we celebrate our salvation and Your awesome deeds, remind us of those we know and love who have not yet accepted the free gift of Your grace. To them especially, may our words be seasoned with graciousness, praise, and thanksgiving, and may the joy of  salvation be very real and evident in our lives.

Help us to be alert for the nudges of Your Spirit prompting us when to speak and when to listen. Grant us the humility to remember that we, too, once walked in darkness and were dead in our sins. Only by Your grace have we been made alive in Christ, so by Your grace help us to share the hope we have in You.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12

When those who are lost hurt us, remind us of how our disobedience hurts You. Just as we have been forgiven much, train our hearts to forgive much. May the grace and mercy You showed to us be the impetus for grace and mercy toward others.

As we speak and interact with a lost and hurting world, change our responses. Instead of anger, give us kindness; instead of agitation, patience; instead of harshness, gentleness; instead of self-righteousness, humility; instead of arrogance, meekness. May our lives reflect You and may the light of Your love in us draw the lost and hurting to You that they, too, may be set free; amen. 

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion– to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.


Isaiah 61:1-3

Dismembered

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Corinthians 12:26-27

I’ve been thinking a lot about bodies lately, specifically about one Body – the Body of Christ. Forgive me if I ramble, but it’s been a long week of migraine issues and this is the closest to coherency I can get my thoughts to be!

I suppose the topic is on my mind because of some teens I know and love. Though they have been raised in the Word of God and in the church, here at the very cusp of legal adulthood, these things have fallen out of their routines. Despite the fact this lack of Christian connection has leaked into their language, values, and worldview, at least some of them consider themselves to be Christian.

I find this disconcerting, and part of the reason all goes back to Paul’s most excellent analogy in 1 Corinthians 12. As I’ve thought over all the benefits of belonging to this great Body, I’ve realized how even the difficult parts of church are good.

Now when I say, “the difficult parts,” I really mean “the difficult people,” for it’s by having our feelings hurt that we learn to forgive; by being jealous that we learn our own selfish tendencies; by being overlooked or marginalized or mocked that we learn whether we serve God or ourselves, and so on.

If we are never hurt, how can we be healed? In the Body, interconnected as we are with the other parts, we all learn and are strengthened and heal together, just as a living body does.

But should we decide we love Christ, the Head, but don’t have any real use for His body and so we remove ourselves from it, I have to wonder… is it possible to be thus removed and be a healthy part of the body? Unlikely.

Oh I know church can hurt. I get that; truly I do.

I know people – even Christian people – can be mean and hateful and horrible. I’m as guilty as anyone – perhaps more so – but I also experience sorrow, regret, and repentance when I allow this ugly part of me to show. I’m ashamed when I misrepresent my Lord so.

However, if we remove ourselves from the Body of Christ because it isn’t “working” for us, we are really removing ourselves from the chance to grow or to heal (and don’t get me started on the “working” tangent…). 

I guess the way I am imagining the thing is as a sort of surgical excision. If my left arm were to be removed, could it still be considered a healthy part of my body? Would it continue to be nourished by my blood flow, heal when it is wounded, or be affected by my diet and exercise levels as the rest of my body does? Food for thought…

So while Lone Ranger Boulevard may be the place where you feel the most loving towards your fellow man, remember that Jesus loved the ones who flogged Him and the ones who clamored for His crucifixion. The church is His Body and it’s because He loves it that He doesn’t spare it from every little discomfort. Because not all things that feel bad are bad.

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

2 Timothy 2:3-4

Why not? Because it’s in sharing in suffering as a good soldier of Christ that we can learn some of the most Christ-like lessons of our lives. And that, my friends, is how we grow up and become mature.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:15-16

Lord God, I pray for my son and for all Believers who have chosen to become disconnected from the Body of Christ for whatever reason. Stir hearts to see the need for Christian community, even with all its flaws and failings. Keep us humble no matter where our place in Your Body is, and teach us to fulfill our given role wholeheartedly, not out of a sense of duty nor for what we get out of it, but out of sheer love and devotion to You, amen.

Hurt by Church? Me too. Let’s Chat.

My turn first.

It’s true. I have been hurt by church – even hurt by a church whose stated purpose is to provide a safe place to connect to God for those who have been hurt by church. A trifle ironic, you might say, and you’d be right.

However, I’m not here to drag the leadership of this church through the mud. There will be no character assassination attempts, no ranting or railing against the injustice of it all. In fact, there will be a shocking deficit of details about my experience.

What I want most to express is this: I am glad it happened.

No, you didn’t misread. I have a genuine, heartfelt, sincere sense of glee and relish because I have been  hurt by church. Sorry if that isn’t what you expected to hear. Yet bear with me and hear me out…

I admit I wasn’t always glad about it. To the contrary, there were years in which I was downright bitter about the thing. I was in pain. I was angry. I licked my wounds and sulked. I threw a huge pity party and invited me, myself, and I, and we sat around and placated one another’s tender little ol’ feelings.

Basically, I hopped on the crazy train without even looking at the itinerary first. And I have to say I didn’t really like where it left me when the time came to disembark.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11

Yeah, there I was, alone and lacking the proper attire in a wasteland echoing with the sounds of my  sniveling self-pity with naught to eat but the acrid fruit of my own sharp tongue.

“Today also my complaint is bitter; my hand is heavy on account of my groaning.
Job 23:2

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Proverbs 18:21

Not fun. Still, I am truthfully glad it happened. Not because it hurt, but because God uses all things – pain and pleasure alike – to shape His people for eternity. Maybe especially pain.

The thing is, God did not leave me to whine forever in that wasteland. Oh He let me endure it for a bit. Gave me my head, saw how far I would run astray from the Master I love. He allowed me the natural consequences of my sullen response to pain.

But He didn’t leave me because the wasteland was nothing more than a pit stop down the broad path which leads to destruction. And destruction was something I was embracing while I nursed my hurts as if they were dear, beloved friends.

Meanwhile, I was allowing something foolish like hurt feelings to build walls between me and my actual dear, beloved friends.

The stupid part is, I knew better.

In the logical part of my brain, I knew the decision which wounded me was made at a time when we were all worn thin, church leadership and laymen alike.

It was a difficult season in our church’s history, and each one of us was exerting an enormous amount of energy just to keep our heads above water and make each Sunday happen. And I also knew the decision had not been made as a personal slight.

I knew that. Yet for some reason, my pride still felt a sting and I allowed it grow. And fester.

But my Father is good. He knows when I have had enough of my own way, and He is faithful to bring me back to the narrow path by His side. And to be honest, that part hurt, too.

… He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:10-11

My God disciplined me for my own good, so I can share in something better than approval from man, or praise, or whatever it was I felt robbed of at the time. I can share in His holiness. 

Wow. Seriously, wow.

But I have to tell you, the discipline part hurt. Maybe even more than the original wound.

Because of my bitterness, I was forced to take an honest look at myself. I was compelled to assess the situation, what I knew to be true about it, and continue in God’s word.

Then once I had reconciled reality with my faulty perception, it was time to slay the monster. But it wouldn’t die.

Each time I believed it dead and moved on, the vile thing would pop its ugly head back up in a new location. Despite my best efforts at extraction, a root of bitterness coiled around my heart and continued to send new shoots piercing through my words at most inconvenient times.

It was humbling. It was horrible. And frankly, as a woman who spends so much time with her Father in His Word and in conversation throughout the days, it was embarrassing.

But it was also good.

You see, God used that one event, that one perceived slight to show me something I had overlooked. He used it to expose my selfish tendencies, my desire for approval, my propensity to “accidentally” allow my left hand a peek or two at what my right hand was doing.

He used it to expose my pride. My tendency to harbor bitterness. My inflated self-importance. And more.

But in exposing these things, He also began a long and painful work of removing them. And He prompted me to do something I can hope will be the proverbial stake through the monster’s heart.

He prompted me to confess my bitterness to two friends who in some ways represent the church I write of because they are the pastor and his wife. But as I said before, they are also my friends. And I confessed to them the bitterness I wanted gone from my life,  knowing they would accept my confession and pray for me.

It was humbling, sure, but it was also liberating. By confessing, the ugly monster no longer lurked in the depths of my heart but was brought out into the sunshine where it can wither and die. May this be the final nail in its coffin.

And so, in being hurt by church, I was able to discover and address my own junk.

There is no church on earth where people will not, from time to time, hurt one another. We are all selfish at heart. We can all be thoughtless. We respond to one another out of fatigue or pain or a myriad of other problems. And not a single one of us can read the minds and hearts of others, and so we never know if what we say or do might inflict some unintentional wound.

But my friends, that’s the inherent beauty in the church. It’s called sanctification, and it means dealing both with our own hideous monsters and with the hideous monsters of others. It’s how we learn to confess, to forgive, to grow in Christ. To become more like Him in His holiness and humility.

I am thankful for friends I can confess my sin to who will listen and hear my heart then pray for me. And I pray the stupid rift caused by bitterness will truly be healed.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
James 5:16a

And I’m even more thankful for a God who loves me enough to show me the nasty bits breeding beneath the surface of my soul, then rip them out before they squeeze the life from my heart and relationships.

So what has God wrought in you through times of being hurt, by church or otherwise?