Wisdom Seeker: Day 27

Proverbs 27

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Proverbs 27:6

There’s quite a bit of wisdom in the reading today, as usual, but verse 6 is the one that stood out to me. Why? Well, I guess because I have been blessed with true friends – friends who are more concerned with my eternal good than my present comfort. Friends who will not hesitate to speak difficult truths if I need to hear them.

They are not harsh or hateful -far from it! But I greatly appreciate people who are unafraid to tell me I have broccoli in my teeth. How much more, then, when they are unafraid to point out where my feet have strayed from the Way?

Thank You, Lord, for friends who love You enough and love me enough to keep me accountable to You on this journey! They are a gift I am definitely grateful for.

How about you? Do you have friends who will say the hard things? And are you humble enough to receive it when they do?

I know that part is hard – I struggle with it myself. But I’ve asked the Lord to keep me humble and teachable, and He is always faithful to answer. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel the sting of a well-placed bit of conviction. It simply means I can see the need for it, repent, and move into that sweet spot of joy and gratitude.

He will do the same for you. All you have to do is ask … and cooperate. It’s worth it.

Tuesday Prayer: Glory to God

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Psalm 115:1


Oh Lord our God, You are the Almighty; the Holy One whose patience is beyond imagining and whose compassion knows no end. Thank You for loving us enough to step down from Your throne and walk in the midst of the mess of humanity. Thank You for paying the price of a sin debt we could never hope to repay and setting us free from slavery to sin! We owe You everything, Lord; may it be that we cheerfully give all to the One who gave Himself for us.

As we minister to others here on earth in Your name, we confess that often our pride creeps in. At times, we begin to do a work for You, yet we secretly hope for recognition or praise for the thing we have done. Other times, we trust in our good works rather than in Your grace, not remembering that the best we have to offer You is nothing more than rags stained with our own self-righteous conceit.

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Isaiah 64:6

We confess that sometimes we forget apart from You, we can truly do nothing of eternal value.

Forgive our pride, Lord! Forgive us when we seek glory for ourselves or when we serve others for accolades from man rather than from a posture of humility and gratitude for the undeserved gift of salvation. Teach our hearts true humility. Change our hearts to love serving You for who You are and not for applause and accolades. Let the love of You be motive enough for us to do all that You call us to do. 

May it be that if any amount of recognition or praise falls on us, we shift the burden of it to You. In truth, glory is a burden too heavy for mortal shoulders to bear. You alone are able to carry the weight of glory without being warped or twisted by it. When we seize glory for ourselves, we become distorted by it and our pride advances like a cancer infecting all we do. Thanks be to You, our King, that Your grace saves us from our own self-importance!

Open our eyes to places where pride has encroached on Your grace, then uproot our pride and destroy it, Lord. As we repent of pride and reject it, make our lives into an accurate a reflection of Your glory. Purify our motives by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Teach us to delight ourselves in You, doing justice and loving kindness all while walking humbly with You, our God.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

Then, O Gracious Lord, use us as ministers of Your grace, love, and truth everywhere we go. May our changed lives be evidence of Your redemptive power, and may we glorify You in all we do so everyone we encounter will hear and see the goodness and excellence of our mighty God. In the name of the Son we pray, amen.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Jude 1:24-25

Tuesday Prayer: The King’s Birthday

I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts.

Psalm 119:93-94

My Lord and King, today is the day we celebrate Your birth as a human child. Though we don’t know the hour or the date, we do know that our almighty and eternal God did something incomprehensible: You stepped down from Your throne of glory and clothed Yourself in the flesh of Your own creation – not to proclaim Your might as Sovereign but to set us an example of humility and service by Your death. Truly, You are Immanuel – God with us.

Lord, no act of humility or service I can offer You will ever come close to matching what You’ve already done for me. Nothing in creation is worthy of wrapping up and giving to You. I have nothing to offer You on Your birthday; nothing to give that You haven’t first given to me.

All I have is my love for You and my will, such as they are. Though it may be a feeble thread of what ought to be, I offer You my love. I surrender my will to Yours and pray for the grace to remain in a posture of surrender forever.

I give You my adoration, my mind, body, and soul. These are the only gifts I can give my King, and even those exist only because You created them in me. And so as I celebrate Your birthday this year, I give You back what You’ve already redeemed as Your own. I am Yours, Lord; save me. Amen.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

Tuesday Prayer: Communication

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
(Colossians 4:6)

Mighty Creator God, You fashioned mankind after Your own image, bestowing on us the blessings of creativity, of sight and hearing and speech so that we may see Your good works, hear Your voice, and lift our voices in praise to You. Yet we have fallen. From the first man down through the generations and spanning the billions of lives in human history, we have all fallen and soiled Your glorious image with the dirt of this earth.

All men but One, that is.

Your Son alone walked this earth as a man, redeeming mankind and presenting the perfect Image of God. He was Man as mankind was meant to be, walking in humility and love, honoring the Father and obedient to His will. It is through Him alone that we  can cover our rags once more in the resplendence of the Light of the world, the spotless garment of righteousness offered us by our King.

All of us who are in Christ now bear the privilege and the responsibility of bearing Your image well; of representing Your name and Your Kingdom accurately to a lost and dying world. For this reason today, Lord, we ask that You will set a guard over our lips and keep watch over the door to our mouths.

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!
(Psalms 141:3)

In all our communications with others – verbally, over social media, via body language, in our commute, around our tables, in our homes, in the marketplaces, or wherever we find ourselves – teach us to use gracious speech. Where firmness is needed, show us how to be unyielding and yet gentle as we not only proclaim Your truth but exemplify it in our lives.

Lord, when controversies arise as they so often do in this era of information overload, remind us that the Lord’s servant is not to be quarrelsome but kind to all, able to teach, and correcting those in opposition to Your truth with gentleness.

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth…
(2 Timothy 2:23-25)

Instead of seeing people with viewpoints that oppose Your truth as our enemies, remind ourselves who our true enemy is – the accuser and father of lies. As we wage war against his forces on this earth, remind us to do battle with humility, always leaning on You, the Lord of Hosts who fights for us.

Remind us, too, to pray for those who are ensnared by the devil so that they may be set free by Christ. And as we pray for them, remind us to pray that we do not become entangled in sin ourselves but instead pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with a pure heart, amen.

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
(2 Timothy 2:22)

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?