Tuesday Prayer: Save

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:2-5

Blessed Savior, I am thankful for all You have done for me! When I was blind, held captive by sin and shame, alone in the darkness and without hope, You called to me. You opened my eyes to see my sin and my caused heart to long for the way back to You.

Though my crimes were against my Creator and deserving of death, You traded Your life for mine. By laying down Your life, You paid my debt. By taking up Your life once again, You gave me a hope and a future, a new life free from bondage to sin.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:8-11

Today, my Deliverer, my heart is heavy for the many who are yet enslaved, captives to fear or circumstance, to addiction, to despair. There are many lost, still blinded by the god of this world and imprisoned in deepest darkness. Some of these, I know. Some, I love.

Lord God, save! I plead for them before the Throne of Grace – have mercy! Open their eyes that they may see; soften their hearts that they may believe. Bless them with a Godly grief leading to repentance and salvation without regret and lead them in the Way everlasting!

Their names You know, Lord, for often I cry out to You on their behalf. Many of them live without any hope beyond the few years we are granted on earth. These groan beneath the weight of their chains. Please grant them freedom in Christ!

Others do not even know they are in captivity, having been lured into a cozy prison by the appearance of comfort or pleasure. Of those, some now grope in growing darkness, trying to remember the way out, not realizing what once brought enjoyment has become their prison.

For all of them – for all of us – You have provided salvation through Yeshua Messiah, Jesus the Christ who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Call to them, Lord, and draw them all to Him. Let them see by His light and lead them through that narrow gate which leads to life.

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 103:13-14

Please, heal what is wounded in their hearts and restore those who are broken in spirit. Remember that they are dust, Lord, and in compassion, have mercy on them as You did on me. Rescue them, my mighty God, and deliver them from death to life.

How I long to praise You for their salvation! I know that You are merciful and gracious, and I eagerly look for the redemption of those whose names I continually lift up to You. Break down their resistance, Lord, and save them even from themselves, amen.

O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations… For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act.

Daniel 9:18-19a

The Heartbeat of Worship

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ

Ephesians 4:11-12

My apologies for being out of touch once again. When it comes to running places, this is the most hectic season of my life to date. My older daughter is on the homecoming court for her school, and this is HOCO week. Such events are brand-new to this recovering introvert who never so much as attended a high school dance.

And let me tell you, when you live 30 minutes from the school and 30 minutes in the opposite direction from a collection of stores with the appropriate semi-formal gear, it is no joke getting this craziness wrapped up. Especially when one of your kiddos is so small that only 1 in 100 dresses fit her, and only about a third of those meet dress code…

But you’re not here to read about the crazy. Let’s talk about the Word, shall we?

Our pastor once made mention of the weekly worship services as a sort of pulse of Christianity, and the idea has resonated with me since. It’s a beautiful picture, really – the gathering together of believers to worship and encourage one another followed by the sending out into the various arteries of the world until we are once more drawn together again and the cycle repeats.

It all came together in a profound way for me this past Sunday as the pastor spoke about our identity in Christ (an excellent message, by the way, for anyone who’s struggling with identity issues of any kind. You can access it here.)

Just as there’s a purpose to our physical heartbeat, there’s a Divine purpose for this rhythmic flux of gathering in and sending out.

The gathering of the Church is meant as a time of worship; of refreshment, equipping, burden sharing, repentance – you name it. All that “churchy” stuff is supposed to go on during our meetings.

But primarily, the worship services are for just that – worship.

It’s where the Body of Christ comes together to worship the Lord who set them free. We sing. We serve each other. We hear the Word and exposition on the Word and we internalize it. We share one another’s burdens. We confess our sin to each other and pray for each other. Or that’s how it should look, anyway.

All of these things – song, teaching, confessing, praying – serve a purpose. This is where we are equipped to do the work God sends us out into the world to do. We learn and grow in Him. We cast our burdens on him.

We leave behind our junk – confessed sin, burdens for others, sorrow, shame. We pick up a fresh insight from the Word of God, a new sense of purpose or direction, or some encouragement to strengthen us. This we take out into the world around us to share.

It’s the pulse of Christianity. The heartbeat of the Body of Christ.

We are the blood in those vessels, surging outward to bring the message of hope and grace, the insight and encouragement we’ve received from our gathering to a world starving for the Bread of Life.

From them, we acquire burdens and sorrows and are drawn back into a gathering once more, ready to share these burdens and lay them at the feet of our mighty God. Once more, we take our nourishment – the Living Water, the Bread of Life – and we are again sent outwards to those who wouldn’t hear the Gospel otherwise.

This is the rhythm of Christian life as it ought to be. The great pulse of Hope and Love. It’s the purpose of meeting together and growing and loving, working through difficulty and learning together. Our corporate heartbeat.

Let’s not neglect it, brothers and sisters. The world outside the heart of Christ needs to hear the message of hope and forgiveness in Him. Let’s be diligent to bring it to them…

Wisdom Seeker: Day 31

Proverbs 31

Well, we’ve reached the end of Proverbs and the final day of my semi-sensical ramblings. I’ve enjoyed this exercise and it’s definitely helped me think through the wisdom found in Proverbs as well as practice writing whether I love what I have to say or not… So thank you for putting up with me!

Now, on to today’s thought:

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:30

The final proverb has good advice for young men and for young women both. Definitely read it all. What I want to focus on today, however, is the second to last verse.

I am 45 years old. As I write these words (a day early due to an extremely early cross country race on Saturday), my youngest – my baby – is 15 years old.

Fifteen years ago, I gave birth via C-section to my last child, a young lady who attempted to come into the world feet first and so defied my plans of natural child birth. She’s been her own person ever since, and I love her tons. She is a rare and unique delight – as are all three of my children.

Thinking back, fifteen years ago, I was still young. My body looked completely different. My face bore less wrinkles, my head boasted more hair (and none of it gray), and my energy still kept up with the the daylight hours.

Now, youth is fading – fast! I don’t struggle with weight like some women my age do, but I still struggle with the arrangement of the weight I have being entirely different from 20 years ago. The scale reads the same but the clothing from then does not fit the same.

TMI for you fellas here, but I seem to be nearing the finish line as far as the capacity for childbearing goes. I am not young anymore.

But I am more joyful than ever before in my life. Finally, I have a stronger grasp of the extent of God’s grace. Finally, I feel the burden of having to be and do to be lifted. All I have to do is follow Him. That’s it.

It’s not that I feel I’m above the laws and commandments – far from it! The longer I’ve walked with Yeshua, the more I’ve loved Him. The more pain I’ve suffered, the more I’ve appreciate the pain He chose to suffer for me – on purpose.

And the more I love and appreciate Him, the more I find that to obey Him IS joy.

Charm? Not sure I ever had much of that. Beauty? If I had it, it’s definitely fleeting – and I see it fleeing faster and faster these days!

I do fear the Lord, though I prefer all the praises to go to Him. He is worthy!!

Wisdom Seeker: Day 28

Proverbs 28

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

Proverbs 28:13

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper…

It doesn’t always seem like that, does it? There are times when it seems like people who hide their junk get away scot-free and go on to do just fine. Especially if they are already wealthy.

The thing is, though, it just isn’t true. Who knows the destruction a single secret sin can wage within the human heart? Even if outwardly they do seem to be all smiles and handshakes, what darkness eats at them inside like a cancer? What is it like to be all alone in the dark of night with nothing but self and sin?

Well, I’ve been there, and it wasn’t pretty in my case. It drove me to greater depths of escapism until I finally realized there is no escaping – only continuing to hide ineffectively or facing my sin head-on and confessing.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:8

I chose confession, and as scary as it was at first, it was freeing. Truly, honestly freeing.

No secrets means no foothold for the accuser to hook his stupid little chains of guilt and shame to. No secrets leads to genuine repentance and to humility – to understanding that I am no better than the most vile sinner alive, possibly much worse.

And best of all, no secrets means no sin can keep its grip on me. It’s public, it’s exposed, and it’s days are numbered.

But what about those whose consciences are seared, who seem to feel no guilt or shame and hid their sin only because it’s not – yet- socially acceptable? Especially those who are rich beyond imagination and live seedy, secret lives behind closed doors. Aren’t they prospering?

Well, in a sense. But would you believe it if I told you that all the wealth of this world is illusory at best? It’s insubstantial. Transitory. It can be gone in a flash.

And some day, sooner or later, the grave will claim the wealthiest and most powerful members of humanity. At that point, their fame, fortune, and power will mean exactly squat. Not a single penny can pass from this life to what lies beyond the grave.

If that person has left their lives in the mastery of a secret sin rather than surrendered to the Lordship of Yeshua Messiah (Jesus Christ), I’m afraid they will not prosper. Over the unfathomable stretch of eternity, all thoughts earthly prosperity will fade from even the strongest memory.

So if some secret sin has possession over you, friend, confess it. Certainly confess it to God, if possible, confess it to a friend you can trust to help you and hold you accountable not to fall back into it. Then pick up a Bible, explore the Scriptures, see what true prosperity looks like.

It will blow your mind – that I promise. In Christ, we don’t find a comfortable and easy life on earth. We find something better!

Joy – real joy that no circumstance or suffering can steal away.

Hope – a hope for future prosperity that makes this world’s wealth look like cheap, tarnished gold paint.

Peace – the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding.

Love – the breathtaking and undeserved love of the Creator God, more fulfilling than any created thing, more intoxicating than any substance, more profound than the most powerful human emotion.

And God. Best of all, you will find God and discover that He truly is enough.
You’ll find genuine satisfaction and rest for your soul.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Revelation 22:17

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?