Words to live by | Online journal of Marc Heriot

Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment. Proverbs 12:19 (NASB)

The Emphasized Bible says:

A lip that is faithful shall be firm to futurity, but only for a twinkling (while I wink) is a tongue that is false. Proverbs 12:19 (Rotherham)

When something is “established forever” it means it persists and remains, compared to those things that appears “for only a moment” or vanish quickly. “A lip that is faithful” is a heart and value for that which is true. Truth lasts. Why? Because it’s real. Present. Upon inspection it remains intact. A lie is not true (duh!) but something manufactured for a moment. For a particular and selfish cause. When you open your eyes and look for it, or shine a light upon it, it isn’t there.

This proverb is not just about truth or lies, it’s about the people aligned with them. Every day I may walk toward what is true, real, life-giving, or what is obscure, hidden, and self-serving. Clinging to “facts” doesn’t mean I have truthful lips. I may see a person with a face damaged in an auto accident. It’s a fact this one may not be magazine material, but to express that fact is not helpful. But the truth is: skin is only so deep. It is temporary. I must go deeper than what I see on the surface. Yet our heart, mind, and soul are eternal, which God finds extraordinarily valuable. Valuable enough to spend what is most valuable to Him to purchase something else that is of incredible value. Aligning with God’s heart allows me to interpret “facts” through the lens of truth.

The symbolism Solomon uses makes me smile. The expression “while I wink,” means, at the blink of an eye, or for a moment. I see a mischievous person telling a story or explaining something that is absurd, then winking, as if to say, “trust me.” Which to another means, you are pulling my leg and are full of it! Lies can be a playful way to communicate, or gravely misleading. Either way, it doesn’t last. It makes me think of the times I obfuscate my real motivation. Maybe I’m afraid to reveal what I really want, or I am intent on getting my way, even if it means I’m not fully truthful. And in this, I align with darkness.

So often “truth” speaks of things I cannot see. The only way I can speak it is if it has made its way into my heart. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” To know him, his heart and his kingdom, allow me to see what is real, even if it looks like it contradicts the facts. From difficulty, despair and death on this earth, Jesus tells me I have life, victory, and richness in heaven. He’s given me gigabit download speeds to the internet of heaven in the Holy Spirit. It’s a choice to align with truth and speak it.

If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. John‬ ‭7:17‬ ‭NASB ‬‬‬‬

These are incredible words: my understanding of the Kingdom of God and of his teaching is based on my personal willingness. It is a two-part equation: my will aligning with God’s will. But at the most basic level my grasp about Jesus, God, heaven, the Bible, and life begin with and depend on… me.

My will

My will is the first half of the equation. There are often times when my heart and mind explode with the light shining from his words. Understanding pours into my spirit. I sometimes wonder why others struggle to understand things that from my perspective make complete sense. Then I realize it’s personal. It’s what his Spirit is teaching me at the moment. It is what He is sharing as a friend and as a confidant. The more I press into His kingdom, the more He teaches, unfolds, and reveals Himself. He delights in me knowing all about Him. Asking tough questions, pursuing answers. None are too difficult for Him. As I open myself in vulnerability to Him, He opens Himself in vulnerability to me. Yet, I know He went first — for which I’m forever indebted and grateful.

In John’s description of Jesus’ interaction at the Feast of Tabernacles, people had ideas about his identity that were all over the map. Was he the messiah? a good man? or a deceiver? It’s easy to conclude that it’s impossible to know what is true when I approach a difficult topic with so many opinions. Sometimes the number of different views seems to give me permission to be lazy — throw up my arms and say, “How could anyone know?” Yet in the very confusion about a topic is God’s invitation to understand, to seek an answer. Jesus taught so that his disciples would know the secrets of the kingdom — while it was obscured from others.

He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

The reason there is a disconnect between people about what is true is because there is a God-created filter on our understanding — allowing only the willing to proceed—others are stopped abruptly.

As I read the Gospels, it’s clear that there is a qualification between those who believe and those who don’t. When speaking with the Pharisees who were challenging him, Jesus again showed how this kingdom filter worked.

Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. John‬ ‭8:42-43‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

You “cannot hear,” meaning, you won’t accept it. You are not willing to open your heart to the possibility it is true — and because of the impact it may have on your way of life, you reject it. In another situation a little later, a man was healed by Jesus who was born blind. Afterwards this man with fresh sight saw the true state of Israel’s leaders who were investigating what happened. They kept asking him the same question, getting the same answer. The man was exasperated and possibly a little amused that those who should see were really blind:

He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?” John‬ ‭9:27‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes more about the filter:

(We) are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭3:13-14‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Our understanding of the kingdom is unlocked, the veil over our eyes are removed — in Christ. He is the way, truth and life. I may only know the Father as Jesus opens him to me.

All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:27‬ ‭NASB‬‬ ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

It is simple to come to him and know the secrets of life, but we must walk through the gate — which is Christ.

I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.‭‭ John‬ ‭10:9‬ ‭NASB‬‬ ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

God’s will

My willingness is not the only qualifier, but my willingness: to do His will. And this is the second half of the equation. Unpacking what it means “to do his will” is important.

In the Greek according to Strong, the sense of this word means: his choice or preference. By implication, his wish, with an idea of something in which he delights in. Every person has a wish or preference and something that is intrinsically delightful. When my wife takes time to know me, and me her, we enjoy deferring to each other’s preferences. This picture of God’s will then is not that of an over-controlling despot willing to subjugate others at any cost, but rather a father, a friend, hoping you value him enough to pay attention to what he values and considers meaningful.

To better understand the distinction Jesus is making between wills, I must travel back to the beginning. God made this world and everything in it so that I may revel in it. Learn about it. Play in it. Joy in the minutia. In the process I learn about God, the artist who created it. He made it for my pleasure. And in this discovery my God enjoys the fellowship of the experience, just like a parent enjoys the child’s first encounter with snow, or a bug. Then came the fateful day when man stepped sideways and did the one thing he was told he shouldn’t: he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The adversary was fishing with doubt and mistrust on his line, and Eve bit. Then Adam. Satan generated enough mistrust that they questioned the very goodness and intent of God. The enlightenment they sought, through this act, became hidden. God would have offered them this knowledge—when they could have handled it—just like a parent waits to explain details of love and babies when the young adult is ready for it. Could you imagine a child pulling a gun on mom and dad and demanding it at age eight?

Is it any wonder that the first and most important commandment that God gave to Moses was to “love God first, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?” Another lover had caught man’s eye. So many loves tug on my heart every day. But the love God wants is singular, jealous. Why? Because there is a snake in the weeds, and without absolute devotion to him first—and to the exclusion of others—man will continue to be beguiled. Just like my eye may only focus on one thing even though I see many, my heart only has capacity to offer unfettered devotion to one, even though I love many. As I love him and follow my gentle shepherd, he turns me around and leads me away from the path I have travelled where my flesh and desire have run me ragged. There is a curse on my life and the only way to escape it is through death. Denying myself. Picking up my cross daily to follow him. Killing every competing love. The symbolism of baptism releases something very powerful in our lives. It marks a new beginning. Only when this death occurs in my heart am I able to hear, know, and follow the voice of my loving Father.

When contrasting God’s will with mine, it is important to know God is not a megalomaniac — He is not pulling my strings as though I am a puppet in order to accomplish a mysterious “will.” He is not mindlessly using me as though I am simply a body available to fulfill a calling which he pulls out of a bag when I sign up. On the contrary, he wants me to be redeemed and fully restored. Only when I am again whole, may I know the richness of life in him and his kingdom and the choices he freely gives to me to make. I’ve been born with God-given gifts and abilities. His plan and “will” is to see me fully living them out, integrated as part of the whole body of Christ, and contributing my unique and important part. When I do, I am allowing the light of God to shine through me and radiate his person in only the way I can. I am a piece of God. Not a puppet.

This Christian walk is similar to children growing up. We all start as babies, but in time we mature. We are transformed from one place to another. The do’s and don’ts given to children make way for more choices as teenagers, then independence as adults. A child’s relationship with their parent is nothing like a lover’s relationship with their spouse. But one precedes the other. And in his kingdom, it is no different.

Knowing his will is personal. And just as Jesus indicated in this verse, our understanding is based on personal willingness to follow it. No matter how many well-meaning people tell me what God wants for my life, I am the gatekeeper of what that is. No one knows or is responsible for my life but me. In my many years in fellowship with the church, I have seen individuals who have been impacted by their personal calling. Yet, in their enthusiasm, they loudly encourage everyone to follow the same path. Not everyone is called to be God’s salesman—the evangelist. Nor is everyone called to be God’s teacher—the preacher. And for those who are insecure about hearing God’s voice, it’s easy to accept another’s calling instead of hearing what God is speaking to them. There is one voice, and it is personal, and it is directed perfectly to my heart—if I’m willing to hear it. A quick scan of the New Testament and we see that God has given many gifts and ministries. Paul uses the analogy of the church being a body with many parts, with vastly different functions. How we fit in, what we do, is highly individual and based on one thing: his word spoken to me, personally.

They were asking Jesus, “How do we know that what you are teaching is from God? How do we know that you are the Messiah? Can we really believe in you?” And Jesus answered, “Yes, you may believe and know if you are willing to accept the truth and will take the needed actions.” There are many examples of those who knew exactly who Jesus was without lots of debate: when he was dedicated in the Temple at eight days old. Who told Simeon (Luke 2:25) or Anna (Luke 2:38) that he was the Messiah? When Jesus called his first disciples, how did they know he was the Messiah (Matthew 4:20-21)? They clearly were willing to follow. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to be baptized and said, “Here is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:35-37) how did he know? They knew when they were full of the Holy Spirit.

Today, regardless of the issue with which I am confronted or how complicated the choices which perplex me, I may know God’s heart, mind, and direction. They are my invitation to know. We know, because we hear. And if I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m unwilling to hear. Which brings me to the key to the secrets of the kingdom: I must start at the most basic point of humility, lowliness, picking up my cross with a willingness to love and follow him. No matter how obscure my way forward, he directs my steps. Hears my requests and is willing to answer.

Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people. But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders. John‬ ‭7:12-13‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬

Even at the time of Christ there were red and blue opinions — wide gaps between people’s perspectives. Is he good or not? How can two opposite perspectives both have validity—or both be wrong?

From a natural perspective, those that thought he was good may have affirmed: He healed he sick. Taught with authority. Loved the children. He hasn’t spoken badly of anyone. He has respected the law and our nation. There is something unique in his lack of self-promotion. He seems genuinely humble. Even if he does not yet smite the wretched Romans ruling our country, he seems like a good man.

Those who objected could have contended: He deceives the people! All the good things you listed may be true but underneath is something more sinister. People’s allegiance is swinging to him and yet he is not one of our leaders. We must have a united front against the outsiders and he threatens to divide. In fact, he wants us to love our enemies and do good to our neighbors! Not only is he soft, he’s taking down our walls. I even heard he spent time with those half-breeds, those mixed-up infidels the Samaritans. The more he wins people’s hearts with his ‘goodness’ the more he leads them astray.

Today’s political spirit would want us to be white or black, right or wrong, good or bad. The way we express our view on an issue is how we disclose our values — something of worth that is neither right nor wrong. My values are personal and private and as a result may be obscure. At times they can be a mixed bag — I value freedom of expression, unless yours differs from mine. And sometimes I’m a poor communicator which requires time and patience to understand each other as we slog through supercharged words that may mean entirely different things to each of us. I may call myself a Christian, but if I ask my friend the atheist what “Christian” means, he has a different definition. But there is a way to get to the heart of the matter: fire exposes that which will endure.

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Luke‬ ‭12:49-53‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

As I have read about the American Civil War, I’m impacted by the deep the divide between people — to the extent that brother would fight against brother. The rancor and vitriol expressed on the political stage feels very similar to the public debate I hear today in America. At that time the fire of war, death, and destruction came upon our country — separating. When the storm clouds cleared, all agreed: hating each other was not the answer. From the soil plowed with destruction emerged tender green shoots of humility. Fire is not fun for the flesh, but it did its job.

But if I dig deeper in the heart’s soil I find the values that create such differences. How can these two competing views at the Feast of Tabernacles come up with wildly different versions of who Jesus is? What people want from life, from relationships, spouses, employers, and those who govern make up our values. If our heart is set on physical peace, personal prosperity, predictability, on a life we have built for ourselves — then Jesus is a threat. He instructs us to lay up our treasure in heaven and hold lightly to earth’s goods. He puts that very desire at risk, let alone the political consequences of diluting Israel’s hard line. On the other hand, if our heart is set on the peace that comes from a relationship with the Prince of Peace, his forgiveness, and the hope of a life beyond this broken world, then Jesus is speaking my language. In fact, I feel a strangely compelled in my spirit to listen, follow, emulate and love him. What if he is the messiah?

It’s no surprise that our values and views differ from each other and create lively debate. And the debate is good, especially when mixed with a heart to love truth. Is it possible to know which position is right? To know what is true? Jesus says it is. A little later in verse 17 he says:

If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. John‬ ‭7:17‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The ability to know truth is connected to the will. The will is connected to what I value. I endeavor to value God and his people above everything else. Whether by choice, or by fire, the substance of my values will eventually emerge.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭133:1-3‬ ‭NIV

For even his own brothers did not believe in him. John‬ ‭7:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Imagine those closest to Jesus — his mom, dad, and brothers. Although they initially did not choose to follow him like the disciples, they had a unique front-row seat to observe Israel’s messiah. Jesus’ public ministry to Israel began when he was about 30 years old. But the presence of God was dwelling in him since his birth. Israel had the Ark of the Covenant in the temple. Mary and Joseph’s family had the real Ark in their living room. They observed the presence and goodness of God every day in the innocence, vulnerability, and authenticity of a family member who had not experienced sin or personal shame.

There are so many things I could imagine about his childhood years. Family life for Jesus must have been unique in a few ways. His brothers were younger than he was and played with friends the same age in their neighborhood. Jesus’ potential playmates had been murdered by Herod. I’m curious how his siblings processed the stories their family and friends told of this slaughter—how they made sense of it, and why Jesus was one of the few survivors? And from another perspective, what did Jesus do with it? He was perfect in empathy — did he grieve over how many lives were lost because of him? Even in these odd circumstances, the family stories, the honesty, kindness, and goodness seen in him, it was still a leap for them to consider him the messiah.

The gospels do not say much about Jesus’ childhood other than at twelve years old he unexpectedly stayed in the temple in Jerusalem as his parents journeyed home. Luke adds: “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” But the one thing that stands out to me is that he was normal enough, looked enough like everyone else that they were not convinced enough that he was the messiah.

His brothers lived and breathed around the living Word—they were physically the closest—yet they still missed seeing him! If they were not persuaded, what should we expect of others? There is something about familiarity that inhibits faith. Even Jesus acknowledged it. After recounting a parade of miracles to John’s disciples, Jesus said:

And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling (or taking offense) at me.
Matthew 11:6 NASB

Yet, many were still stumbled. In John 6 after the miraculous sign of food being multiplied, others said:

Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” ‭‭John‬ ‭6:41-42‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

When he returned to the town in which he grew up and spoke in the synagogue in Nazareth:

And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” …and He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭4:22‬, 24 ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

The crowds then promptly took him to the edge of a cliff to throw him off!

There are many things which color my personal view of Jesus today — most notably my self-appointment as a connoisseur of all things Christian. (Does such a position even exist?! — Not really, but it’s easy to set myself up as judge of the good and the bad in the church.) If I were to travel back in time to Palestine, I’d surely be able to identify Jesus and see him for who he is, right? The challenge I have every day is to cease projecting my view of Christ into all that I read and encounter and instead allow the Holy Spirit, the family of God, real-life experiences, and fellowship with the living Son to inform me. Although my new Spirit DNA compels me into his image, sometimes I get this backwards and fashion him into mine.

The Jews’ view of the Messiah fell into this same trap. Here was the actual Messiah, yet few could recognize him. Why? They wanted him fashioned into their image and to meet their lofty expectations.

Familiarity breeds contempt. Or as someone famous once said: A prophet does not receive honor in his own town or country. Today, the same is true.

What if in reality I am touching, tasting, encountering the divine every day? What if I am experiencing the supernatural, the signs of God, the proof of his existence, the promise of my future, today — but miss it because — it looks so familiar? At my core, I consider myself ordinary. Oh, maybe I’m slightly more achieving and capable in some things, and much less in others, but the degrees are really inconsequential. And in the old man’s ongoing quest to cast everyone and everything into my image, I come to the conclusion that that which I am encountering could not be any more significant than plain old ordinary me. What if instead, every morning I wake up and hit the reset button and I see the sunrise as a miracle? My body and its marvel of organization and complexity as a wonder as I take every breath? The planets, seasons, ecosystems, depth of emotions and joy that I feel as traits which reveal my Father? When I look at my wife, I see in her the love and tenderness that my good God has given as a gift to me every day. Holding hands as we fall asleep, I feel the presence of God close in this woman. We reflect the image of God as the body of Christ. So many ordinary yet extraordinary things. I heard a preacher once say, “When you eat a chicken dinner, don’t swallow the bones.” In other words, there is good, and nourishment aplenty, the breadcrumbs of his presence everywhere, but don’t be stumbled if you have to distinguish between what nourishes and what doesn’t. Just remove the bones. Don’t disqualify Christ because he must use the restroom like the everyone else. Or if he sneezes and you are annoyed at the way it sounds. Or dislike his hair because it isn’t groomed very well.

With spirit eyes I may see the amazing. And rather than mold what I see into a perspective that is purely mine (my box seems like a very nice box) allow the Holy Spirit to unfold what my vision by itself is unable to. When John was baptizing and saw Jesus approach, his spirit eyes saw, “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!” But later in prison, he sent his disciples to ask, “Are You the One?” Jesus still called him the greatest born among woman. If John suffered lapses in his vision, then I should expect that I will as well.

The reality is that I am unable to see clearly until the Holy Spirit clears up my vision. Just like Jesus’ brothers could not see what Peter saw (“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” Matthew 16:16) I cannot see unless my Father opens my eyes. The good news is:

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. John‬ ‭16:13-15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬

There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18 NASB

I can feel the deep emotion reflected in this verse. A wounded spirit is not in the same category as a broken limb or a cut finger. “Speaking rashly” according to Strong, is from batah; a primitive root; to babble; hence, to vociferate angrily — pronounce, speak (unadvisedly). I have vented these one-sided conversations with, or on others, working hard to authenticate myself. I’m human. But Solomon takes it further to say, “… like the thrust of a sword.” The speaker’s intent is to damage and hurt. Words are powerful and no one wounds like the wounded. I have been on the receiving end of another’s outburst. Once the words start rolling off their tongue, it is like a dam breaking—there’s no way to stop the flood of emotion, hurt, and misunderstanding. I can live with a one-sided conversation, but when the sword strikes my person, it feels violent. Cruel. Using words thoughtlessly and without control is like a highly pressurized hose that someone turns on without holding it… it flops and flails wildly and everyone nearby gets soaked. Getting wet is one thing, being sliced and diced is another.

The words that come from my mouth reflect the experience of my soul and spirit.

For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. Matthew 12:34-36 NASB

My heart and mind is often the battlefield, the violent intersection of bad or good, sickness or health, poverty or prosperity, darkness or light, or even demonic or angelic. How my soul processes the taunts, bullying, and belittling of others, or their subtle nod, praise, or recognition defines who I am. Since Adam’s fall in the Garden, the odds have been substantially tilted toward my adversary’s goal of damage and irretrievable well-being of my soul. Until Christ.

Words which scar and mar, may also be used for health and wealth (of soul). Solomon makes the connection earlier:

My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. Proverbs 4:20-22 NASB

The word “wise” is from chakam; meaning Intelligent, skillful or artful — cunning (man), subtle, wise (hearted). The picture of intentionality. Purpose. Assessing a situation and responding in a way that brings out the best good.

I need healing. We all do. The head on collision I had with sin caused internal injuries I am still recovering from. Yet, I receive grace as I sit at my Savior’s feet — a great love he pours like a stream of oil into my heart and mind. Even into my memories. Although healing is my Father’s gift to me, I may clothe myself in his wisdom which becomes a bubbling fountain of refreshing that I may share with others at the perfect Spirit-directed moment. When I hear your pain, see the expression of your loss or confusion, or even despair, I may pull from the treasure he’s placed again and again in my soul and share it with you. And you with me.

“The wise” are those that are skilled, observant. Healing others’ wounds could be a full-time job, if I opened my heart to it. Starting my day at His throne helps me center on and receive from my source of life for the day. Rather than be a consumer, I want to be a producer. Rather than be an observer, a player. Field rather than sidelines. Action rather than inaction. In the morning I aspire to have my needy old man nailed to a cross and buried six feet under. My new man hears words such as “You are a mighty man, a warrior, nothing can snatch you from my hand, you are chosen, I knew you before you were born, everything you need is yours for the asking” and on it goes… When I’m not consumed with myself, I notice you. I hear and see just what you need. I speak the word, and you are healed. Yes, you’re beautiful. Capable. I understand the pain you feel, but let’s get over it and experience something else now.

Although the tongue may be weaponized, my God uses it to heal and make whole:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NASB

He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.
Proverbs 12:17

The Emphasized Bible says:

He that whispers faithfulness declares righteousness, but a false witness is a fraud.

A witness comes from the Hebrew root meaning: to return, go about, repeat, do again. Only recently do we have iPhones and the instant ability to record events. A recording takes away the interpretation, bias, perspective, and time — which affects a person’s memory. When a court is establishing an account of what happened, the judge or jury must rely on those who saw and recorded it in their memories to recount the event. A witness is someone who “does again” and repeats what he or she saw.

An iPhone has no motive to lie about what I recorded. People do.

Is it any wonder that when qualifying a witness an attorney will explore a person’s biases, motivation for coloring an incident a particular way, their history at telling the truth, and try hard to poke holes at their account? The honesty I choose to live every day and my commitment to the truth affects the way I observe my world. And when a person is more committed to an outcome (that they desire) than to honesty, it too affects his perception of what happened. It’s incredible to consider, but if I rehearse something enough in my mind, I will believe it, even if it never happened.

Take the sunrise, for example. One man will yawn and slowly breathe in the smell of coffee, sit back and enjoy the incredible miracle of the color palette adorning his sky. Not only is it a thing of great beauty, it represents a new day. A fresh start. While looking, he hears a chorus of voices within singing of the majesty of his Father who created this moment just for him. In another city a few miles away, another man looks up and sees the clouds overhead. Tired, weary, and bitter, he curses the city he lives in. How can there be a God in this hellhole? Today is another day to get ahead of others before they get ahead of him.

Whose version of the sunrise would you believe?

As if by repetition in order to make his point, Solomon says later:

A faithful witness will not lie, but a false witness speaks lies. Proverbs 14:5

I desire my eyes and memory to be open to the reality of what is happening in my world today. For all the bias and hurt I carry, I want the incredible interaction with my good God to be that which comes out of my lips, telling all who will listen to: do again.

Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult. Proverbs‬ ‭12:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Rotherham’s translation says:

A foolish man on the same day lets his vexation be known, but he that conceals an affront is prudent. Proverbs 12:16

Annoyance is universal, my agitated response doesn’t have to be.

Vexation is such a visual word, meaning: to irritate, annoy, provoke, to torment, trouble, distress. From the Latin to annoy, harass, shake or jolt. The Hebrew is translated: to provoke or anger. A fool’s response to it is immediate or “on the same day.” The word comes from a root meaning to be hot; a day (as the warm hours). When I express annoyance, it is often without a filter, on my timetable, and with little regard to its appropriateness or affect.

In contrast is the person with the discretion to overlook or conceal a matter. The Hebrew means to cover, or to clothe, from a primitive root meaning, to plump, i.e. Fill up hollows; by implication, to cover (for clothing or secrecy). When I’m insulted or ridiculed, the natural gut-level response is for me to strike back, but putting a lid on that emotion is a choice. It’s deliberate.

It’s natural for a child to grow and develop both physically and emotionally, but unlike the body, which matures on its own, the soul grows by my choices. I must learn how to feel deeply and express those thoughts in a way that is a benefit to those close to me. A newborn feels the pang of hunger and bellows his displeasure. The cry finally stops when mom fills his tummy. Eventually that cry matures to words, “Mom, I’m hungry.” And even later in life, “I’m pretty hungry now, but let’s keep working a bit longer till we finish.” Our feelings and emotions are complex. Translating hunger, nausea, dizziness to words takes practice, the same as communicating the feelings of friendship, acceptance, betrayal, and mistrust. Gaining a mastery over my emotions takes a lifetime.

When I am vulnerable and expressive, it is a gift — from me to God, and to others. When I express my emotions, they are a window to my soul, and when shared with those that are close to me, it connects us more tightly. My adversary would like to shut down any expression, yet Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Light, filling my person, must escape! Rivers that flow in must flow out. Expression is a kingdom virtue and my Father wants me to live out loud.

Discretion is also a kingdom virtue. I know some extraordinarily emotionally intelligent people. They are able to discern theirs and others feelings and navigate the soul like an ice skater circles the rink with grace. I want to be like them when I grow up. I want to better be able to distinguish between the nuances of what I express and the impact it has. As I do, I may more easily navigate this world, make friends, diffuse situations, and build relationships. Connecting with heart and emotions to my spouse is like having emotional sex that fuses our lives like molten metals making the perfect alloy. To excel in this emotional intelligence often means I need to slow down the natural, gut-level response to insult, or even legitimate complaints, and respond with grace.

As I navigate my world, I see how vast the spectrum of sensitivity and discretion is between people. Yet, no matter where I start in Christ, he gives me a promise: the fruit of the Spirit includes patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23). Even if my natural disposition is to show my irritation, and attempt to control or manipulate others with it, the Spirit invades this space and covers me. He conceals the things that would embarrass and belittle.

Annoyance may be universal, but so is my Father’s grace which enables me to choose a better way.