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 14

Proverbs 14

In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.

Proverbs 14:23

As usual, plenty of good stuff in the proverbs reading today, but of course time constraints mean I have to be prayerfully selective. Today, as I prayed through the reading, this is the one which grabbed me.

It may be a bit of a no-brainer when it comes to working for a living. After all, it takes work to make a profit. No one gets paid to watch Netflix all day.

But… until God brought my eyes again and again to this verse, even as I tried to skip over it, I’d never considered it in a spiritual sense.

Today it occurred to me that we have a bad habit in the church in America of doing lots and lots and lots of talking. We talk about the Word, we talk about the teachers we love, we talk about being a light and all of that.

But what do we do about it?

Are we good about confessing our sin and exhibiting genuine repentance? Do we really “put our money where our mouth is” and demonstrate our love of Christ by our lifestyles and choices? Is our entertainment glorifying to Him?

Do we behave with Christlike love and patience when someone wrongs us? Are we open and honest when we wrong someone else?

I know we say we truly love the Lord, but do we live as though we truly love Him? Do we live as though eternity is real and that our time with God in listening, serving, and obeying Him is the most important thing we do each day?

Some food for thought. Let’s live in such a way as to profit the Kingdom by our work. Our labor of love for Christ. Even our sacrificial toil in humility and in doing justice and loving kindness as we walk before Him each day.

Father, show us where we need to make our walk line up with our talk, then don’t let us feel comfortable until we are doing it. Teach us to be consistent in word and in deed, and incline our hearts to loving obedience of Your commands in all things, amen.

Wisdom Seeker: Day 13

Proverbs 13

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Proverbs 13:20

A couple of these stood out to me today. I’ll keep it pretty brief.

First, this reminder that it truly does matter who we choose to surround ourselves with. Yes, yes, I know – Jesus was a friend of sinners. I’ve heard it, too – loads of times. More on that in a second.

For now, I want to state for the record that I am in no way suggesting you completely ditch your atheistic friends or refuse to ever go visit your former college roommate who has embraced New Age and is always going on about the energy of a place while waving around crystals and oils and stuff.

After all, if you truly love them, don’t you want to see them come to know and love our Lord? Doesn’t love want the best for the beloved, and can you think of anything better than eternal life in the presence of the Almighty?

Bringing the Gospel of salvation through Christ to those who do not know Him is our primary function here on earth, so share freely and liberally with them! Which reminds me – I have a phone call to make.

BUT… remember that to say, “Jesus was a friend of sinners” is the same thing as saying, “Jesus befriended human beings.” He is literally the only person whose feet ever struck the soil of planet earth that never sinned. So yes, He associated with sinners.

And all the while He talked, dined, and taught them about the Kingdom of God. He called some of them a “brood of vipers.” He taught that if we have two sets of garments, we should give one to someone in need.

He told us that to follow Him, we would have to take up our crosses, and He never flinched at saying, “Go and sin no more,” or reminding His followers that persecution would come. In fact, He said and did many shocking and uncomfortable things to those sinners He “hung out” with.

He also lived a sinless life, then willingly took on Himself the inconceivable heaviness and darkness of all our sin, then suffered the wrath of God on our behalf. He gave up His life in one of the most brutal methods of execution humanity has yet conceived to pay the price of our sin. My sin. Yours.

So if we are going to pattern ourselves after Him – and we should! – let’s just go all the way and not stop at “hanging out” with “sinners” (as if we are excluded from that group -haha!). Let’s love them enough to lay down our lives for them…

But I digress. The proverb is more a warning not to habitually surround ourselves with the foolish – those who choose the world over Christ. We may need to bear witness to them, but we need solid, Godly companionship to hold us accountable, to confront us when we stray from the Truth, and to pray for us and with us all the while.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

2 Corinthians 6:14

So much for brevity. Let me just say that verse 24 hits me every time, too. I’m so thankful my Father has never spared the rod from me. This is one way I know He loves me.

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

Oh my King, how thankful I am that You came to save me, a sinner! Never let me lose sight of the wonder of that. I welcome Your discipline, for though it may sting for a bit, in the end it is what keeps me from evil and corrects me when I stray from the path to eternal life!

Tuesday Prayer: Burden Bearer

…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 

1 Peter 5:7

Oh Father, today we are so thankful that You do care! You are good, and Your ways are trustworthy. This world continually stirs up anxiety and grief in our hearts. Some days, it seems that evil has the upper hand, and other days, it seems that the whole world works against us and nothing goes our way. 

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 55:22

Yet even in the midst of all of it, You remain perfect and pure; our Rock and our Shield. Thank You that Your word is truth and that You really do work all things for the good of those who love You. Thank You for caring for us as a Father who tenderly looks after His children. 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Today we confess every anxiety and all the burdens and fears we carry. Lord, they are too much for us to bear! We lay them at the foot of the Throne of Grace, casting them on You because You are strong enough to shoulder the burdens we cannot manage; casting them on You because Your grace is sufficient for us and Your power is perfected in our weaknesses and because we trust You. 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me

2 Corinthians 12:9

Thank You for allowing us access through Christ to Your throne where You provide the mercy we need and grace to help us. We confess a never ending need of You!

We need You for every waking moment, for each triumph, and to sustain us through every single tragedy. We need Your strength because ours is too small. We need Your wisdom because we have none in ourselves. And Lord, we need Your mercy for we have fallen short of Your glory. 

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

Romans 3:23-24

Thank You today and every day that in Christ, we can find every single need met in perfection and completeness. To You be the glory, God, for the great things You have done! It’s in the name of Jesus we confess our need and offer our praises, amen. 

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: Joy

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 

Psalms 16:11

Our God and King, You are our salvation and our very great reward. What a gift You’ve given us in Jesus! Of all the legends of other gods spoken of by man, only You cared enough to step down from Your throne, laying aside Your glory to confine Yourself to the limitations of Your own creation.

You alone, Lord, not only gave us commandments but kept them, living as man was designed to live – in perfect accord with and obedience to his Creator. Only You not only call for humility, You’ve shown us what true humility looks like.

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

John 13:14-15

Among all false gods who require a price from mankind, only You deserve one. And only You paid the price Yourself. 

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Romans 5:9

Forgive us, Lord, for taking lightly the awesome and unbelievable acts that You have done for us. Forgive us for forgetting whose presence we stand in when we enter the holy place to bring our prayers and supplications before the Throne of Grace. Where we have been careless, give us reverence; where we have been anxious, remind us of Your power and might. 

You are the Almighty God, the Most High who deigns to look upon us and listen to our childish babble because You love us as Your children. Let us never lose sight of the wonder of that fact.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

1 John 3:1a

Because of the sacrifice of Your Son, we may approach You with confidence in Him. If we approach in arrogance, teach us to approach You with respect and humility,  in trust and not in worry, knowing that Your promises stand forever.

As we draw nearer to You, teach us to love Your word as the very greatest gift alongside our salvation – the actual words and guidance of the Creator of the universe and the Author of our faith. Plant a deep and insatiable hunger for Your word within us and our families, and let us long to search its pages for the answers we seek.

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.

Psalms 119:92, 97

And as we grow in faith and trust, praying and thoughtfully reading Your word, let it be that we honestly find joy in Your presence and pleasures forevermore at Your right hand. Expose the temporary nature of worldly pleasures and fill us so with Your Spirit that our joy is nothing more than Your joy filling us and spilling out.

May it be that joy will spill out on others who need it today, bringing light and laughter into lives filled with darkness and weeping, amen. 

A New Year Invitation

Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls…

Jeremiah 6:16a

I rang in the New Year with a migraine.

But I rang it in after a leisurely morning in the Word of God. I also rang it in at midnight with my husband and all three kids present, including our almost-18-year-old who went out to see some friends and came back in time to toast in the New Year with our family tradition: sparkling grape juice for them and water for this old girl.

So I managed to be awake(ish) at midnight with a heart full of joy despite any pain. Maybe even joy in defiance of pain. But not only because of my family.

I’m still nursing the same migraine today, medicated enough to keep me out of bed but make my thoughts rather difficult to string together. Still, even today I am filled with joy.

This is an abiding joy which would have been with me even if I’d rung in the New Year alone with my migraine and cut off from medication, family, friends, or any friendly face. It’s a joy I’ve been granted, which I’ve found buried in the Scripture records of ancient paths and growing in me as I’ve followed in the footsteps of those who have traveled the Good Way before me.

For this reason, perhaps, as I read in Jeremiah this morning, verse 6:16 captured my attention. However, there is a bit more to the verse:

…But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Jeremiah 6:16b

My friends, I don’t know what you are facing on the first day of 2019. None of us know what we may be facing tomorrow. In fact, we are never guaranteed tomorrow.

But we have today. We have right now.

Today I invite you to a journey of joy. It isn’t a pain-free journey, nor it is a fool’s journey though you may be called a fool for embarking on it. I invite you nonetheless. Come, ask for the ancient paths where the good way is and find rest for your souls. Walk it, and do not refuse.

I know some of you are dealing with the slow decay of cancer. Others deal with the no less malignant cancer of anger, envy, unforgiveness, self-exaltation, or even the twisted egoism of self-loathing. Leave them by the wayside and find rest for your soul.

Others deal with pain rooted in an unhealed childhood wound. Many have addictions of one type or another, whether to food, entertainment, alcohol, drugs, sex, or something else. If you’ve lived long enough with any of these, you’ve experienced already the law of diminishing returns. The fun is gone, only the endless grind of need remains and grows like its own ruthless, devouring cancer. But you can lay those aside, too. Find the good Way, the One you were meant to be addicted to, and find rest for your soul.

Some have rejected the very idea of God so bitterly you think you can never turn to Him now. People would laugh. He would laugh and refuse to accept you now. He won’t.

You are not the first mocker to find that His way is the one you’ve been seeking after all. Peter, Jesus’s disciple, denied Him at His arrest. I once did, too. But the Lord had mercy on us both. So join me in searching the ancient paths like Peter’s and the paths of our lives today for signs of the God we once denied and like me, find rest for your soul.

The Peter who denied the Lord later received the gift of His Holy Spirit and spoke with enthusiasm to a crowd in Jerusalem. You can read about it in Acts 2. But what is remarkable to me is this: The joy I speak of, the rest for your soul that is promised along the good way, is part of what is called by Paul “fruit of the Spirit.”

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

Galatians 5:23-24a

This fruit grows along the ancient paths and nourishes those who choose the good way, even when the way is hard and the night seems long.

But even on the darkest night in the midst of the most horrendous pain, joy can still light your way and peace be your comfort because you will never walk the good way alone.