Words to live by | Online journal of Marc Heriot

Better is he who is lightly esteemed and has a servant, than he who honors himself and lacks bread. Proverbs 12:9

The message Bible says:

Better to be ordinary and work for a living than act important and starve in the process. Proverbs‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭MSG‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

I like the way the Pulpit commentary frames it up:

“Has a servant” literally means a servant to himself. So the Vulgate has, “sufficing himself,” and the Septuagint, “serving himself.” And the expression implies attending to his own concerns, supplying his own wants. Hence the gnome means, “It is wiser to look after one’s own business and provide for one’s own necessities, even if thereby he meets with contempt and detraction, than to be in real want, and all the time assuming the airs of a rich and prosperous man.”

The contrast in this proverb is between individuals that both have the ability to work and produce something substantial to pragmatically help themselves in life. To provide a real need. The result of one is the ability to feed and take care of his own household. The result of the other is hunger. You will know a tree by the fruit it produces. The differentiator is their self view. In one of these individuals, something is out of whack.

Need speaks. Ultimately any need which I cannot meet, something out of my control to provide for myself, may be met in God. Abraham called him Yahweh Yireh, “I am the Lord your provider” in Genesis 22:14. God’s name “I am” is purposefully missing the object. He is… what we need him to be. And he is a good provider. Yet, there are many things he puts in my power to take care of. In fact he expects me to take care of certain things. If I have a sliver yet I believe in divine healing, why would I wait on God to pull it out if I could do it myself? If I have bundled my need in a self-honoring, self-affirming context and lobbed it in basket of faith claiming divine provision when it was in my power to do for myself what was needed, I act foolishly.

But why would I do that? What philosophy, ideology, makes my behavior, position or belief about a topic so important that I need God’s affirmation (or honor) to validate it at the expense of something very practical? From the very beginning he’s charged me to work for my food. “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” The Hebrew word for “honoring yourself” comes from a root meaning: to be heavy either in a bad sense (burdensome, severe, dull) or in a good sense (numerous, rich, honorable; causatively, to make weighty). Honor is interesting. It’s heavy. For someone else to offer it to me is kind. Affirming. It builds me up. And dangerous. Especially when I feel entitle to it. When I demand honor the very weight of it becomes unbearable, even deadly. That heaviness, when honor is self-applied, is actually pride. It’s an inflated view of myself that knocks perspective out of whack, even to the point of starvation and poverty — as Solomon says in this proverb.

Loving God and walking in faith is a precarious balance. The words, commands, and promises in the written word of God can only be fully understood by the Spirit. Jesus’ commands to “eat his flesh” or “hate our father and mother” or to “pluck out our eye” must be understood in context and intent. That includes the promise of “ask anything in my name and my father in heaven will give it to you.” I have rarely walked this balance perfectly. My heart is right, but my application often needs refinement. That’s why the feedback loop of life is so important. I must listen — to the Holy Spirit, to friends and counsel, to needs, to hunger and supply. What are they telling me?

My personal story: At one point my super-faith made some conclusions from the fact that Christ died and became a curse for me. At the time I was frustrated with my work and with what seemed like a silent heaven. I grasped in “faith” (and creativity) that not only did Christ conquer death, but also the other curses given to Adam in the Garden, including the need to work for food. So I believed that I could stop working and God would provide. To make a complicated story simple, God definitely provided and my family was fed, but my choices placed us on the fringes of poverty. When I finally realized that need was speaking to me, I embraced work again. I really do believe that Christ conquered poverty and death. And I believe God is deeply attracted to faith. But there is a timing element of his victory that I am not in control over. I must be aligned with the Holy Spirit. By faith I may grasp it… while I work. Now, as much as I’d like to be going about life as I want, I choose to embrace the work I do — whatever it is. I expected God to “honor” my faith, which ended up being, in reality, a form of self-honoring. It was much too heavy for me.

Whether I’m lightly esteemed, or not, is not up to me. But what I do control is how I honor my Father with all of my body, soul, mind and strength. Better fed, than hungry.

A Single Eye

One thing. I may focus on one thing. What is it?

I often marvel at God’s ability to know and love everyone on earth. Thinking about my own story, the complexity of my life and feelings, the intricacies of my interactions with others, and the requests I make constantly to my Father, it staggers my imagination to multiply his intimacy to the billions on this planet. How does he do it? In contrast, I am human and I may only focus on one task, one person, one conversation at any time. Just one!

What if my ability to focus my attention on one thing is by design? What if God purposely limited my ability to multitask — at least while I was in this body? While I’m sitting here typing, my body is processing millions of transactions completely out of sight. The autonomous nervous system keeps me breathing, my heart beating, the temperature of my body constant, the hormone levels needed, and a host of other internal systems in balance — automatically. I don’t have to think about them. When there is a problem, for example when I get a sliver, the body reports in: “Mission control we have a problem. There is a sharp object causing discomfort near the big toe. What do you want to do about it?” My response, “Thanks command module, I’m driving in traffic right now and it’s not the best time to address this. It’s not too serious, it can wait till I’m home.” The executive in me has the privilege of making the high-level decisions. My attention, my focus, my ability to concentrate on one thing, is my reality.

Think about the eye. I may see everything in front of me, but only one object may be my focus. Yes, I see everything in the periphery, I’m aware if something suddenly is different that needs me to change my focus, and my eye adjusts (automatically) to the lighting, but still, I may only look at one thing. The personal computer has made the concept of “multitasking” a workplace term— the ability to run several processes with the same processor at the same time. But I can’t confuse “changing quickly between processes” as multitasking. And that is the best I can do, but I cannot call it multitasking. It’s not. My brain, my person, cannot focus on more than one thing. I may have many activities that need my attention going at the same time: the eggs on the stove, the coffee brewing, the toast in the toaster, the lawn being watered, a text message ding on my phone, and the clock ticking toward my departure for work, but like the vision aware of all the activity in the periphery, there is only one thing I may give my full attention.

By design. Our Father and our God wants our full attention. What an important transaction when we give another our undivided attention. It is affirming, connecting, and it speaks to the other’s worth and value to me.

At the end of our lives, the differentiator between all people will be what we each have chosen to focus our attention upon. That object of our attention will transform our character into its image. We become like the thing we observe. Think abut it. That’s why the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples AFTER Jesus rose from the dead. We stare and become like the risen Christ who is standing before the Father not the dead Christ who is subject to the grave. In our own body, the autonomous nervous system serves us to a particular end — so our minds are released from the mundane so that we may consider more important things. I have a certain capacity every day to apply myself. Will it be work? Family? A new relationship I’m interested in? A skill I want to develop? So many choices. My values distinguish one priority above another. Today, I may read a book or watch football. I can talk with my son or work on a project. I can exercise or sit on the couch and watch a good movie because I had a tough week. I can cling to my own time, schedule, or plans, or I can worship my Father and love him with everything within me. Knowing and pursuing a value and goal is transforming. Whether or not I acknowledge these values, they are there. Laziness, lethargy, and sleepiness only mask the self-focus and self-serving that I think will make me happy. Oh to kindle afresh every day the true value of my life and heart… Jesus and his kingdom!

God designed us to be this way. And He encourages us to “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul and might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things (that I need) will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33). He said “Let your eyes look directly ahead, your gaze fixed straight in front of you” (Proverbs 4:25). “Don’t turn aside to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them” (Deuteronomy 28:14). “And your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘this is the way, walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21).

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said:

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! Matthew‬ ‭6:22-23‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬‬‬

From Helps Word Studies the Greek for “(if therefore your eye is) good” is haploús meaning unfolded, single – literally, “without folds” (J. Thayer), referring to a single (undivided) focus, i.e. without a (secret) “double agenda” which prevents an over-complicated life (becoming needlessly distracted). Haploús is the antonym of the Greek term diplous meaning, “double.”

Immediately after this he also said:

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:24‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬

What is the “one thing” I will focus my attention on today? If I don’t decide, my flesh will be happy to decide for me. One way or another I will choose. One day when I receive my new body maybe it will have a capacity to connect on multiple levels at the same time. The future possibilities are limitless. But today I will be intentional, goal-focused, and use the capacity I have to stare into his incredible gaze and be changed into that same character… from glory to glory.

John 6:70-71 Betrayal

Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him. ‭‭John‬ ‭6:70-71‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

There are so many lessons and themes in John 6, they are miraculous, dramatic, confrontational, separating, about becoming, and then the chapter concludes with the real life, present day lesson being lived out directly in front of them: Judas.

I personally have not spent much time on Judas Iscariot. His life did not end well. To be the face and name of the most notable betrayal in history is truly a place of infamy no one should aspire to. Yet, the lessons he offers are significant.

One of the most important is about becoming: every day our heart leans in or leans away from our passionate God. We are getting warmer or cooler. There is no middle ground. The mystery of godliness is incredible — but just as impacting is the mystery of iniquity. We are becoming like him or like our adversary. We become what we behold. That’s the incredible thing about Judas. He had the model of human perfection living out his life in front of him. It would be a feast to the normal man. And to the disciples, it was. Their hearts burned yet were enlivened with his words, even these difficult words. Yet somehow, Judas’ attention was focused on something else. He was with Jesus and the other eleven, but not really. He started with the same promises and opportunity that all the disciples had, yet there is a differentiator: where he chose to look. Not with his eyes, but with his attention, heart, and focus. It makes me ask myself, where will I look today? Which well will I drink from?

Another lesson may be found in the separation taking place in John 6. Differentiation is an important process in biology, chemistry, farming and in relationships. Is it a heart cell or a liver cell? Is it an oxygen molecule or CO2? Is it wheat or a weed? Jesus was deliberately creating separation at this point — distinguishing the good from the bad, faith from unbelief, human motivation from heaven motivation, the love of God from the love of self. The crowd that was about to crown him king left him. The hungry zealots who chased him across the lake decided to follow no further. And even many of Jesus’ disciples (beyond the 12) couldn’t reconcile his words any longer and departed. Yet, even at the conclusion there is still one who has not left, and he should have. One tenacious cancer cell that the radiation missed. One tare that was not pulled. One fly in the soup. The process of choosing to part ways is very personal. The refiner’s fire. The gardener pruning the plant or pulling the weed. The surgeon’s knife will cut off our very flesh and blood to save us from betrayal. It is difficult but necessary. I pray I have the courage to make these tough choices.

And what about the lesson that success may not be possible even if I do everything right? One of Christ’s missions was to keep all 12 disciples and engender faith within them. Sustaining, life-giving faith that would keep them in the most challenging times… even in untimely death. And yet he lost one. Jesus lost one! If the perfect Son, the perfectly-connected-to-the-Father Son of God failed at winning a heart, what about me? What he asks me to do, I will do with all my heart, but I must let go of my success and failure, leaving it in my Father’s hands. The result I get from my effort, may not have been the goal anyway. I assume much. And even if a failure is because of me, he will work for good in it — just like he does everything.

Jesus said earlier:

For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father. John‬ ‭6:65‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

This sounds like those who follow are mysteriously predetermined. Mysterious, yes. Predetermined, no. The granting is to the qualified. The lesson in front of us is that Judas was selected and qualified at one point. The Father and the Son selected him. Jesus spent all night praying about his choice of disciples — talking to his dad about it. He was one of the twelve, the “in crowd.” Yet when all was said and done, he disqualified himself. The Father “granted” that Judas come to Jesus. But something changed and the “granting” was revoked. The granting was faith. And action. I believe and I follow. And Judas started well, but chose not to finish. He chose, so the Father also chose… to separate him. He got a heavenly pink slip.

So what is the lesson for me today?

What is the point at which I will stumble and fall backward? What is the circumstance, the words, the life event that will cause me to question the intent and love of my God? On earth, what possibility, what lottery of events or what one in five million chance will happen to me that will make me stub my foot? It’s no accident that people follow Christ. It’s a choice. One that I must make every day. I’m either hot or cold. Anything in between makes me a target for my adversary. He will leverage every misstep I make, and accuse God before me, just as rigorously as he accuses me before God. This walk with Christ is no summer stroll, it’s a life and death battle. Daily.

I love what one of the patriots at the time of the American Revolution penned:

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Thomas Paine, Common Sense, December 1776

To end on a lighter note, when thinking about Judas, I love how the de-motivational poster produced by Despair.com puts it:

It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others

But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” John‬ ‭6:61-62‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

In other words, if you are stumbled over my words, my parents, this teaching, the contradictions you see, then you will be flippin’ out if you see man’s real, fully lived-out identity.

In the context Jesus had related himself to the manna which came down from heaven, which God provided miraculously for Israel in the wilderness. In the same way he too “came down from heaven” — the Father provided him as food for the life of world, mysteriously, out of obscurity, his origin was mostly unknown. Just like the bread which fed the 5000 was multiplied out of sight, so the bread in the wilderness which seemed to come from the sky every morning, was a provision provided from the bakery of heaven — we don’t see where it came from. The whole concept of “descending” or “ascending” to and from heaven is lumping it into the category of being “out of sight,” just as the baby that is formed in the womb, or the seed is transformed into a living plant. There are some things that are not observable. Yet the possibilities Jesus opens up when he says this are incredible.

Digging deeper, after Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples saw him literally ascend:

He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. Acts 1:9 NAS

It was amazing to watch, I’m sure, like when Elijah whisked off in a whirlwind, or Enoch or was taken. Any time the physical laws of earth are suspended, it pushes the boundaries of the imagination. But was Christ’s ascension stumbling? Was it faith-shaking, possibility-opening, and mind-altering any more than the miracle of the bread, or the walking on the water? It sounds odd to be categorizing something that I can barely wrap my mind around, yet in the context of what he was saying in John 6, he inferred that “ascending to where he was before” would be more stumbling than the words that already caused many of his disciples to leave him. To me, this is no more stumbling than any other sign the disciples saw.

I don’t believe Jesus was referring to his coming and going on earth, but something that is more relevant to each person alive: “What if you see a mortal, a person in flesh and blood, the son of man, return, go up again, to the place he was before, previously, at the first?” In other words, if you were to see a man, return to the original context, splendor, glory, power and authority that God created him to inhabit. A place that all men were intended to occupy before the tempter sabotaged God’s original intent so that he could claim that place for himself? It would not only seem unreal, but it causes me to pause, and potentially stumble me even more than being told I need to eat his flesh. Understanding what God intended for Adam, all men and women, and me, is something I feel is just beginning to re-emerge for his kids to feast upon.

Jesus had spoken about this same topic of his — and our— identity earlier with Nicodemus in John 3 under similar circumstances — Nicodemus was stumbled at the concept of being “born anew.” It was another impossible physical requirement of something that Jesus intended to be spirit, and life. And Jesus responded in a similar way:

If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. ‭‭John‬ ‭3:12-13‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Identity. Who I am matters. There was something intrinsically stumbling about Christ and who he was. It looks like he was born from Mary and Joseph, a poor family in one of the most despised cities in Galilee. He was! Yet he was also born as the perfect son of God. Just like Adam. He had an unobstructed, unclouded view of the perks and privilege of being a son of the most high God. Our Father initiated this story of man in the Garden and it went horribly wrong. In Galilee, at great risk, is starting it again in Jesus. Jesus embodied great majesty in great humility. Why would this be so stumbling and what was at stake? It was the kingdom itself and who maintains rights and access. It was something so incredible that brightest one in heaven (Lucifer) coveted it for himself at the beginning and wanted to snatch it from man, and then spit on him.

Who Jesus is in the flesh could be described in the most muted terms at the transfiguration. Pure light. Effulgence. Access to heaven’s courts. A man, again walking in the halls of the kingdom with access to the king, the throne, the heavenly angels, the administration of heaven, the myriad of possibility that exists in heaven and earth, the secrets of the universe, knowledge, wisdom, power, might. While in this body, Jesus occupied this place of wonder, possibility, and most importantly, relationship with the one who started it all. Instead of starting the school of Astrophysicists in the Time Warp Temple of Possibility, he focused only on one thing. He muted that majesty and appealing to broken and fallen man in order to win his heart back to the Father. Restoring God’s love on earth. Of course, all the fun creation stuff, and playgrounds of possibility would follow, but first thing first. Restore man. Jesus is who every man should, and could, be. And that mission is accomplished through one means: faith.

Believing these things about Jesus, about myself, about the kingdom seem like too much. It’s unreal. And just like “eating his flesh” requires trust and faith, so does understanding what man is when he ascends to the place we first occupied. Add to the mix an enemy fiercely determined to hide this from me, and I understand the question better.

My challenge today is to accept the identity he is unfolding about the sons of God. Not only believe it, but to live it. The same flesh that Jesus walked in, I am called to walk in to. What Christ is, I am to become. The food he ate then became, I am to eat then become. There is an invading force of God’s kids ready to be assembled and reoccupy our homeland after being so abruptly exiled.

And there was war in heaven … and the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. Revelation‬ ‭12:7-12‬ ‭NASB‬‬

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” John‬ ‭6:53-56‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Eternal life! That’s the offer on the table. And it’s an incredible one. I receive life that will never end in exchange for my choice of food. It’s that simple. If I can only make my way past the gate. That narrow, limiting gate. The gate that acts like a kitchen strainer: filtering out big chunks of unbelief, while letting pass those believing hearts that are hungry and desperate for something they refuse to let their natural mind and sensibilities limit.

Eating his flesh and drinking his blood, taken literally, seems absolutely offensive. So for Jesus to say this, it catches our attention. It was spoken to Jews who were fastidiously observant of the law. The Levitical code precisely defined which foods Israel may eat. Even if they could get past the morbid suggestion of cannibalism and do what Jesus asked, it was forbidden. It’s a difficult statement on so many levels. In the church we eat bread and drink wine as a symbol of consuming his body and blood. As much as I value the sacrament of communion, interpreting these words in this natural way is similar to how zealous Jews interpreted Moses words when he told them to bind God’s words on their hands and their forehead in Deuteronomy 6:8 — they created phylacteries, little boxes literally tied to the hand and forehead. To them it not only fulfilled the requirement, it also served as a symbol of their outward devotion.

But Jesus’ words are Spirit and life. They apply to the heart and core of our inward man (John 6:63). My natural mind will always have difficulty grasping them. And Jesus said frankly, “no one can come to Me unless it is granted him [unless he is enabled to do so] by the Father.” John‬ ‭6:65‬ ‭It’s the Spirit which breathes life into them.‬‬‬‬

I can’t move far from what is at stake — life, in exchange for our choice of food.

While Jesus walked the earth, kicked up the dust in Palestine, and shared time with those whose lives he intersected, he was that flesh and blood that they ate. It is significant that the conversation in John 6 is about a contrast between the physical and spiritual. During the time of the Exodus, God fed his people with physical bread from heaven every morning. Manna (literally, “what is it?”) Yet, as Jesus and Paul reference these events, we understand that they are shadows of the real. The law is a schoolteacher that brings us to Christ. That bread which fell in the wilderness was a symbol of the real bread — Christ. Physical bread keeps the body alive. Spirit bread keeps the soul and spirit alive.

While on earth, Jesus lived out his intersection with heaven. He was the very image of the invisible God. His behavior, his character, that which he laughed and cried over, the correction, the friendship, the conversations, care, nurturing of the disciples, compassion for the sick — all of it expressed in human flesh the exact heart of God. When you looked at Jesus, you were looking at the Father. (John 14:9). When others found and followed him, listened and watched, he became that meal. When the disciples fellowshipped with him, they drank deeply of his spirit, fed at his table of teaching and understanding, they were encouraged, built up, emboldened. The sheep follow the shepherd. Men become what they observe. We are what we eat.

Fast forward to today. As a member of his body I become that same meal. We feast on Jesus in each other. It’s both a requirement to eat, and an offering to be available as the meal for others.

The amazing thing about grace, is that in it, God extends to me something I am completely unworthy of. He says I’m forgiven. No longer is my sin counted against me. Period. It’s absolute. If that were not enough he then calls me a son of God, an heir, and co-heirs with Christ. Christ was the firstborn of many sons. The body of Christ has many members, and I am one of them. Christ is the head. All that Christ is, I am called to become. The very Spirit of God that was in Christ, now abides in me. The body, every member, is in Christ. Is Christ. And is that meal. Now I am the one walking the earth. I am the one with real flesh and blood to offer. Although the Holy Spirit is invisible, people may see me. I am the “flesh” that the Spirit inhabits. But not me alone, that flesh is also my sister and brother in Christ. Those that share the same journey as I do. And when we are together we offer each other our “flesh and blood” or the life that we live out daily and our own personal intersection with heaven.

When was the last time you sat down with another over a coffee or a meal and shared heart and soul? You were vulnerable and expressed your journey and your experiences with heaven. While you were interacting you felt a dynamic interface with the other that was not only nurturing but it felt like a real meal for the soul. Relationship. Friendship. Trust. Giving. Receiving. Together we are called to be a temple for his presence. It’s hard to deny that when believers assemble with one heart and purpose that his tangible presence is obvious in that place. The body and blood of Christ is that meal. We need each other.

Daily when I venture out into my world, I have begun to recognize that I may choose to offer myself as a meal to others. It’s a place of vulnerability and authenticity to live my kingdom identity transparently. There is great, great power and authority given to the sons of God, yet who may see it as it really is? Who may stare at the sun and see anything? So, we clothe ourselves in humility and venture out, serving, preferring, and loving others just as Jesus would.

What is the price of eternal life? Our choice of food.

My personal challenge

This morning I hear the Spirit say, I cannot be drinking from two fountains. If I drink from the same source as the world, I get the same nourishment and frankly, the same side effects from the poison offered. — Yet even when I do, he said, “If you eat any deadly thing, it shall not harm you.” Another declaration of grace for death-riddled man. — If I drink from the fountain of heaven, I feed on Christ. I eat his body, drink his blood. It is life to me. And what Christ is, I become. You are what you eat.. except when grace must supersede some stupid choices.

As I think about this, it feels frightening to live solely from the food served at his table. Why? Because it will make me different. I won’t appear to be the well-rounded, integrated Christian that many in the church value. I could become a little more black and white. This is good, this is not. A little more convinced. God heals — as opposed to “let’s see what happens” or “who knows God’s will?”

He’s called me to life. Abundant life. Eternal life. Eating at his table. And becoming that table for others to feast upon.

Proverbs 12:8 Two Trees

A person is praised according to their prudence, and one with a warped mind is despised. Proverbs‬ ‭12:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Or another translations says:

In proportion to his prudence is a man to be praised, but the perverse in heart shall be an object of contempt. Proverbs 12:8 Rotherham

This morning, does my source of life originate from my understanding or my spirit? What an odd question that seems completely unrelated to this proverb. But let me connect the dots…

There are two people. Both have something to offer. Yet once they have delivered their goods they receive entirely different responses. One receives praise. The other, contempt. In this verse, the word for prudence carries the meaning of wisdom, insight, and inward knowledge. Something that has been learned from life experiences, contemplation, prayer, and the Holy Spirit. We need wisdom for life and when someone offers me something that hits the spot and meets a need, I am deeply thankful. But what is the source? Someone who has opened his heart to tangible, actionable, real-world wisdom from God. The Father has hidden something and this one has found it, then shared his treasure with me. Is it odd that I shower this person with appreciation and esteem? Of course not!

The perverse, on the other hand, experience a different result: contempt. The Hebrew word for perverse carries the meaning of a warped mind. Literally to crook, meaning to do amiss, bow down, make crooked, commit iniquity, pervert, to do perversely. It refers to an inward disposition — a perverse heart. It comes from something that has been twisted, bent in a way it was never intended. But the real identification of the perverse comes from the contemptuous response of the hearers. It doesn’t sound right. In fact its repulsive. Not just bad, but very bad. And the natural response is to despise and distance.

Solomon is speaking of two trees which have very different fruit. So how does this happen?

Connecting to my Father and His river of life combined with the good DNA he’s placed within me at my new birth produces good in me. So what happened to the other tree?

As I consider this I am feeling an empathy for the one whose life has taken him sideways or backwards. Like so many things, you may trace its origin back to the Garden. The temptation that the serpent offered to Eve stands in contrast to what the Father offered. Satan offered the hidden and secret that were off limits, claiming enlightenment if we only grasped it for ourselves. Yahweh offered life and peace, based in trust and obedience When coercing her to eat the forbidden fruit he said, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.” But what happened when Adam and Eve took the bait? They disconnected from the source of light and life. The very wisdom and insight they were promised (and had) was snatched from them. Yes, they now knew good and evil — God is good and Satan is definitely evil. But they were beguiled. They lost the connection to the life-giver. It’s like the internet signal was taken out or the power lines were cut. It’s dark and quiet.

From that day forward the mind of man was darkened. Is it any wonder that there are so many religions? So many wildly different views on a topic? Uncountable unstable and deranged people whose minds are twisted and warped? As I am reading my own words, I realize I must process them with my mind. Yet I’m fully aware that my mind is not the source of life, the Spirit is. My mind is only a tool and may not be trusted in and of itself. “Pure science” offers this temptation — offering answers to all of life’s questions — if we only have enough data and unbiased observers interpreting the data. Yet every person alive has walked in the darkness which originated from our first father Adam. And depending on the influences in our lives to which we have been exposed (completely outside of our control, by the way) we each have different degrees of alignment to both light and dark. Yet how do I personally regain the true goodness and prudence (using Solomon’s word) that God intended from the beginning? It is through an intentional connection with the light source. A DNA transplant within me that happens at my new birth. And daily it’s a choice I must make to return to trust of my Father — the thing that was broken in the Garden. The intentional feeding at his table, drinking from his streams. His body. His blood. His life in me. My mind and understanding will surely be fruitful, but that’s not where my source originates. It comes from His Spirit.

It’s no wonder how far men have journeyed into warped and unhelpful thinking. We see it every day. Yet real beauty, transformation, wisdom, life-changing fruit, comes from being nourished at my Father’s sources.

There are two choices, two trees, and two results. Prudence or perversity. Praise or contempt. My mind or my spirit. Doubt or trust. As far as I’m concerned, my source of life will be his Spirit.

The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand. Proverbs 12:7

I like how Rotherham translates this: Overthrown are the lawless and they are not…

It’s easy to read through the words about the lawless and think, “yeah, they get what’s coming to them” and move on. Yet for a lawless one to be overthrown means they are in a position that must be unseated. They are in power. It’s ironic that one who is lawless is in power — doesn’t the definition of being in power include subjugation and rule and law? Now it may not be a just law or fairly applied, but the fact is, they live a lie. What applies to others does not apply to them. Just because someone has authority and leadership today, doesn’t mean they are the picture of righteousness and goodness and that God has given them the place they have. We live in a fallen world and things are not always as they appear to be. Likewise, our adversary roams and romps for a season, he looks like “Lucifer” the shining one, but in reality he is “Diabolos” the one that is desperately accusing me every day. Although he’s had so many years to make his case against mankind, there will be a day that he and his kingdom are… no more.

Strongs Hebrew for overthrown means: to turn about or over; by implication, to change, overturn, or return. Whoever the wicked are, it’s like the Lord puts a shovel in the ground and turns the soil upside down. Whatever was growing is now buried. “Let’s start over and turn this earth under. Something new may grow in its place.”

The righteous do not always appear to be the picture of stability and longevity. We are not always the ones with the biggest house, or any house at all, the biggest portfolio of assets, or any material wealth at all, yet his words declared over me is that “I will stand.” The Hebrew word has a mixture of meaning and includes both taking a stand and enduring. The point being, I am here to stay. Contrasting the outward, the wicked looks at me an laughs! “But you do not look like you have any staying power. Who has the position, power, the advantage on earth now?” But the sons of the King have a promise, and it will not fail. I will stand. I will endure. I will be here when the boastful one is not. Mercy and justice will prevail, regardless of the outward appearances for the moment.

This proverb is simple, but profound. Things are not always as they appear, but the goodness of God will have the last say.