Words to live by | Online journal of Marc Heriot

Proverbs 12:3 Roots

A man is not established by wickedness, But the root of the righteous cannot be moved. Proverbs‬ ‭12:3‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Or more literally:

A son of earth shall not be established by lawlessness, but the root of the righteous shall not be disturbed. Proverbs 12:3 Rotherham

Or more loosely:

You can’t find firm footing in a swamp, but life rooted in God stands firm. Proverbs‬ ‭12:3‬ ‭MSG‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Roots. It’s hard to move very far from metaphors in the kingdom that revolve around planting, growing, and fruitfulness. Jesus’ parable of the sower in Luke 8 likened the soil into which the seed was planted to the condition of our hearts in receiving his word, or any truth. Here, Solomon likens stability, peace, longevity, and even succession to a root. The way something grows, thrives, and the fruit it yields reflects a complicated ecosystem where nourishment, water, sun, heat, soil condition, and even the plant community in which it is planted have a bearing on success. Fruitfulness does not lie.

Foundations are important. People have an intrinsic need for stability and being established, or literally “standing erect or to be fixed, prepared, provided for…” When looking at a plant, it’s natural to focus on what its appearance, it’s beauty, and the fruitfulness it yields. Yet what is below ground and unseen is just as just as important. Just like the liver and intestines don’t look very pretty and are understandably hidden, so are the gnarly, far-reaching, spider web-looking roots. The seen and unseen are just as necessary for success. Roots literally ground the tree. They spread out seeking water and nourishment. And in the very act of identifying sources of vitality and life comes an underground support system that physically balances what is happening above ground. It’s no small coincidence that the biggest, most beautiful and fruitful trees and plants have well established roots. As a new believer I wanted maturity — and I wanted it now! I wanted to yield the same fruit as those I considered my mentors and models. Yet “now” was impossible. Maturity needs time.

As a side note, while I was contemplating a plant’s underground support system, it made me wonder about how communities of plants support each other. Although the idea has been around for a while that plants can hear and communicate, scientists are finding more evidence that in fact, this is happening. In 2013 Wired magazine published an article about a 1983 study that was originally discredited for a number of reasons, but now has new supporting evidence:

Two studies published in 1983 demonstrated that willow trees, poplars and sugar maples can warn each other about insect attacks: Intact, undamaged trees near ones that are infested with hungry bugs begin pumping out bug-repelling chemicals to ward off attack. They somehow know what their neighbors are experiencing, and react to it. The mind-bending implication was that brainless trees could send, receive and interpret messages. Wired Magazine, 12.20.2013

More on this may also be found in the Guardian.

Whether plant or human, getting the right balance for growth is not rocket science. It’s easy to tell when I am thriving and blooming, or when I’m not. One thing is certain, lawlessness or ignoring the rules and facts does not work. As depressing as it is to list, those who walk away from kingdom structure — suffer, whither, are cast aside for lack of value, and have no seed to offer or support to give. In a nutshell (no pun intended) they are not established. Memory of them is poof! gone.

But as a believer my roots, my source, are the rivers of life flowing from God’s Spirit. He’s providing me constant nourishment from an invisible place. It’s embedded in heaven. And the meal that flows to me daily is love, mixed with grace, possibility, hope, and a perspective that I could not create on my own. Going down is just as important as going up. From this root springs my person, that looks like any other person really, but is fundamentally different. I am a son of heaven, a son of God. And my root goes deep. The very promises and assurances that my Father gave to Adam, to Abraham, to Moses, the motley group of disciples, the adulterous woman, and everyone who believes are now mine.

I, Jesus… am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star. Revelation‬ ‭22:16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. John‬ ‭6:66‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Jesus is many things and one role I don’t often put him in is the winnower or the refiner — separating out the bad from the good. Yet, this is something essential in his kingdom and more personally, in my walk with him. Out with the old, in with the new. It’s one thing to dismiss entire populations of unbelievers — those atheists, Muslims, cultists, or self-gratified — but entirely another when two followers are walking shoulder to shoulder and the Holy Spirit knife comes between them. One trusts and believes, the other doesn’t and stubs their foot, stumbles, and departs to nurse his wound.

Jesus spoke unambiguously about the priority of the value of loving God first: it is more important than even the most sacred of earth’s relationships — our families:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew‬ ‭10:34‬ ‭NASB‬‬ ‬‬‬‬‬‬

In another place, Jesus spoke about the children of the kingdom being mixed with those who were not:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away… Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” Matthew‬ ‭13:24-25, 30‬ ‭NASB ‬‬‬‬‬‬

He spoke passionately about wanting to make this separation:

I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! Luke‬ ‭12:49‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

He is a refiners fire:

But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. Malachi‬ ‭3:2-3‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

When he sits in final judgement at the end of the age:

And He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Matthew‬ ‭25:33‬ ‭NASB‬‬ ‬‬‬‬‬‬

There are distinctions in the kingdom. But what is being distinguished? Those who believe and trust with those that do not. And what a subtle and often hidden line this is between us all.

In John 6, Jesus spoke some difficult words. Even today they cause many to scratch their heads. But there were those who were following for reasons other than real faith. They forcefully pushed their agenda. And in the timeline of Jesus life, he was about to be marched to the cross — where all the sheep would be stumbled and scattered. Timing is everything in the kingdom. And this was not the time for these self-designated unbelieving disciples to accomplish their agenda.

Everyone has a mixture of heaven and earth in their heart. Our Father and Refiner is extraordinarily measured and patient with the process. Sometimes the fire is gentle heat — a wise word that helps me see an area in my heart not yet yielded to him. Other times the fire is more intense — it’s a circumstance that I cannot understand and causes emotional pain and makes me question the love and faithfulness of my very good shepherd. Any time there is a distinction made, it’s a risk that my heart will lean away rather than lean toward Jesus. To stumble. To fall. Personally, I believe that our Father takes these moments very seriously and is fully intentional in the process.

On a personal note, this past week I was convinced of a direction I should be taking, believing that I had heard from the Holy Spirit specific encouragement. I was confident and assured that I heard from God. Sure enough, circumstances bore this out. Things were going exactly as I was expecting. Until suddenly — they weren’t. Abruptly I pulled to a stop. What had I heard? What did I have confidence in? If I hadn’t heard from God, how did I mix this up? If I cannot trust my ability to hear and act, what may I trust? I have been a believer for 40 years, so being able to hear my Father’s voice is pretty important at this stage in my life. Yet here I am, stumbled.

One thing is absolutely certain to me, God loves me and wants me to be a child of his kingdom. He wants to speak to me and he wants me to hear his voice. And He is absolutely trustworthy and good to me. Yet being a believer or unbeliever is not something determined magically — it’s a condition, a choice I make in my heart. Becoming a lover of God or an enemy of God is something that is nurtured. It begins as a seed in the heart an is watered and grows. I realize that I have allowed two ways of thinking in my own heart, and they grow side by side. So even though I may be stumbled at times as I endure this process, I forcefully take what I know and cling to the kingdom. I will not let go. Just like the three Hebrew children responded to the king who was about to kill them in a fiery furnace:

Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. Daniel‬ ‭3:17-18‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Fire separates. Purges. Refines.

If I want to be a son of the kingdom, I want the fire. No one wants a polluted mix of gold; a diamond that is blemished with coal; wine with the aftertaste of vinegar; or a warm garment with a gaping hole. If I’m afraid of the fire it’s most likely because I love something attached to my flesh. I owe my Father, my God, my Savior, a whole person and unmixed love. He will never change, he’s the refiner. But just like his disciples do here in John 6, I land on the rock of Jesus, “Where do we go, you have the words of eternal life.”

John 6:61 Stumbling

But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? John‬ ‭6:61 ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

There are significant obstacles to believing, to Christianity, and to faith. The biggest? Jesus himself.

Paul wrote:

But Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in him will not be disappointed.” Romans‬ ‭9:30-33‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Jesus knows that the one thing that qualifies me for kingdom life is belief in him — that he is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, the one sent to redeem me from my sin and set things right again. Not works. Not position. Not history. Not lineage. Nothing else.

Yet, he broke every mold and expectation that the Jews had for their deliverer. His response to John’s disciples when asked if he was the one, shows he was aware.

And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me. Matthew‬ ‭11:6‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

It wasn’t Jesus that set their misaligned standard, yet over time many of God’s kids walked so far away from the Father’s heart and then let imagination and and their minds fill in the blanks with ideas that did not originate in the kingdom. I can imagine a dialogue with his disciples where he pleads:

“I know I don’t fit the part! I’m not the man that is head and shoulders above everyone else. I’m not riding into Jerusalem on a white stallion with light pulsating around me or a halo on my head. I’m little. Meek. Lowly. Yet, I know who I am and who is in me and with me. And you too can see it. You see the love, the miracles, the evidence of God and his anointing on me. You know in your hearts that I am the one. And I tell you what I hear and know. He is love, and his intent for you is nothing but good. I am telling you in no uncertain terms that by believing on me you will live forever. I am the resurrection and will raise you up. I am your bread, your food, your drink, in fact everything else you have need of. But one other thing is true, it will be very difficult for you to believe this, particularly in the coming days when I am captured and killed. But let me assure you… believe in me, and you won’t be disappointed.”

So fast forward to today. The names have been changed, the circumstances altered, but the situation is the same — can I believe in him? Is he really my bread? My life? My resurrection? Does he really give me what I ask for? Heal my sickness? Whatever I’ve established as a test of authenticity or whatever is my benchmark for the reality of the Christian faith, consider it violated. Why? Because he still requires belief. As assuring as the things are that I have personally seen, I must still choose belief over everything else.

This is personal.

The kingdom of God at it’s core is about identity, privilege, position, being accepted and loved. And the lofty place from which man fell (and by extension was intended for every person alive) is hardly recognizable today — or in Galilee when Christ walked about. If I were to sit and have someone explain to me the glory and magnificence that my Father intended me to live within and become, I would begin to understand the fierceness of my adversary at wanting to snatch it from me. When people saw Christ, they saw a man. And as you drew nearer to him, you saw a man authentically living out an identity that staggered the imagination — if it was true. Ah, the catch. If. It was either true, or not. He was either the Son of God or he was delusional — and surprise, I’m the judge. The difficulty with accepting comes in many flavors. For me, if what Christ claims is true, it reflects equally on my identity and the possibility for me. Believing in him means that I must accept what he says about me. Ouch! My foot just hit a rock.

During my lifetime there will be one point (or many) when everything sacred in my heart will seem violated, just like the disciples experienced in John 6 and again when Jesus was crucified. But just like Jesus told John’s disciples in Matthew 11:6, “the blind see, the deaf hear” and his own disciples concluded in John 6:68 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” I must base my faith on context, on what I see and know. But at the very same time, not be stumbled by what I see and know… Him.

I hold my faith in a very precarious balance.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John‬ ‭6:35‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Never. No. Not. Ever.

What is it that is negated, cancelled, denied?

Hunger and thirst.

For whom?

Those that have come to him.

Simple. Profound. Powerful. True.

Jesus demonstrated this integration of the physical and the spiritual when he was traveling with his disciples through Samaria. The disciples went to buy food and when they returned, encouraged him to eat. His reply to them: “I have food to eat that you do not know about. My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” John‬ ‭4:32, 34‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬

Real food. Real drink.

Eating, drinking, breathing, and sleeping are about the most basic physical needs I have. I will not survive in this body if I take a bite once a year, possibly on Easter or Christmas. The rhythms and cycles of my body demand regular care. It’s no small coincidence that I was created to need — demanding daily, moment by moment need — and my Father declares that he is the one that fulfills them all. They reflect a spiritual reality that is just as demanding, needy, and which He sustains just as readily. But it is very difficult for the natural mind to make the journey to the spirit. And it is easily stumbled. At the end of this confrontation with the Jews, Jesus makes a statement to his disciples which contextualizes the entire conversation:

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. John‬ ‭6:63‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬

But make no mistake, his life isn’t reflected in a chasm between the flesh and the spirit. He just gave them physical bread. And now he is giving them spiritual bread. It’s the same transaction. He is the source. Jesus is that bread. The physical and spiritual are intertwined. It’s our adversary who would like to segregate them, then point to the flesh and encourage us to demand food or healing which is isolated and apart from the real feast of Jesus and his forgiveness.

My family had the privilege of being involved in a Christian relief organization called Food for the Hungry and we traveled to Nicaragua for a summer as part of their outreach. The idea was to deliver physical food supplies, while also providing spiritual bread to a hungry people. I love this approach because it’s integrated. It’s real. It satisfies tummies while placing the source of supply in the center of the transaction. As we open our heart to the true bread, the physical bread will follow. It’s impossible for the spirit of life in Christ to visit me without becoming a source of bread, water, and breath that springs up and feeds not only me, but those near me as well.

Jesus made many “I am…” statements. Just like God said to Moses at the burning bush when he said “tell them that I am… has sent you” Jesus is the “I am” in the flesh. What do I need today? He is… what I need him to be.

Cross references:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” John‬ ‭6:48-51‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John‬ ‭4:13-14‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John‬ ‭7:37-39‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; Revelation‬ ‭7:14, 16‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬

Pray, then, in this way..Give us this day our daily bread. ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:9, 11‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

On other occasions the Lord said, “I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12), “I am the good Shepherd” (John 10:14), “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25), “I am the veritable Vine” (John 15:1).

So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John‬ ‭6:30-33‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

If I’m keeping count, this is round 3 of this boxing match of words. Round 1, “How did you get here?” Round 2, “what are we to do?” And now this. So far it is Jesus that has landed the heavy blows. Now they stop pulling their punches. “Our forefathers ate from the miraculous in the desert, so if you are who you claim to be, what else are you going to give us so we may be convinced?”

Just like those in the wilderness, they kept coming back to the miraculous and ceased being convinced by it. They forgot it’s source. It didn’t come from man, it came from God. The question itself is crazy. The reason they were pursuing him in the first place according to John 6:2 is that they were observing the supernatural signs. And just like those in the wilderness, they were not being trained by their experiences. Faith was not being produced by all that they saw and tasted. It’s uncanny the similarities that John 6 has with the story of the manna in the wilderness — and Jesus makes sure to link the two.

Take a little journey for a moment back to that time. The Israelites were in terrible captivity in which they cried to God for help. Even as they expected a deliverer, they resisted Moses. Yet God still did incredible things: the plagues, the passover, the release from Egypt with their arms full of treasures, the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, the opening of the Red Sea, the crossing on dry land, the sea closing on the Egyptians. It was a parade of the miraculous and today is still a reference point of supernatural for believers. After all that, then… they were hungry. After all they saw, and experienced, they did not trust that “I Am” would be food for them. Then in response, on top of all the miracles of deliverance God gave them bread from heaven. Yet, their hearts still did not see or believe. Amazing.

Fast forward to Capernaum and this showdown. The circumstances are much the same. They (and mankind) were oppressed, expecting a deliverer, and even as Jesus shows up, they resist him. Yet God still did incredible things through him. He even fed them with bread and just like in times of old their hearts were unwilling to believe. In response, Jesus chisels at their rock-hard hearts to see if he can get in. It’s not time for tenderness now, only the sledgehammer will work.

If my heart relies on the mind alone I will be stumbled.

In the garden, Adam traded trust for knowledge. It resulted in death. The mind is a weary member of our body to place the lofty responsibility of my well-being into its care. Jesus is purchasing back the real path to the kingdom — a healed spirit which may trust and and believe. The result is life!

The impacting message for me in these verses is this: when will the miracles that I have experienced become — commonplace, forgotten? When will I cease to be amazed at the smallest of signs and require more and greater? When will my need and my appetite supersede my worship and delight? The flesh is always hungry and will always want more. Without a conscience, friend, or Holy Spirit, I would be a very heavy man, immobile at the the dining room table… but still asking for another serving. Rather than sitting in unbelief asking for proof, I may bask in the delight of simply being! I’m a miracle. He put life in me! Where did I come from? How did my soul begin? I am from him, for in him is life, and the life is the light of man. Yes, the mind would like to interrupt and tell me — “I have seen many births and understand the biological process well” — trying to highjack the miracle of it all. Fortunately, I may choose what I hear. And these disciples in Capernaum may choose as well.

Jesus sets the ring for the final rounds of this match: “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” He is linking the experiences — the bread that miraculously appeared then has also miraculously appeared now, in him. Jesus is saying, I am that bread. Just like the manna’s source was God, I came from that same source. Just like you didn’t see when the manna appeared, you didn’t see when I appeared. Just like the manna nourished, I nourish. The biggest difference is that when I eat bread, I am hungry again, but when I eat the true bread, Jesus, I feast on the source that isn’t eaten up.

The result of accepting, embracing, believing, trusting, loving… and eating Jesus, is life.

Proverbs 12:2 Good

A good man obtains favor from the LORD, But a man of wicked intentions He will condemn. Proverbs‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

What is good, except that it is a reflection of our Heavenly Father? To stop long enough to realize that everything that I have, everything that makes me what I am is because of favor or grace. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Good or favor? The fact that I may consider something good, even myself, means that I have received his favor already to be able to see it. But there is a promise in this proverb: the intention and action toward good, the activity that makes me good, result in even more favor. There is a multiplication of favor.

Earlier Solomon established the path to this favor, and goodness:

My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man. ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:1, 3-4‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬

Goodness and favor are contrasted with “wicked intentions.” The Hebrew word is interpreted elsewhere to mean: wicked device, witty invention, mischievous device, from zamam; a plan, usually evil.

Preplanning schemes or devices that serve myself, no matter how clever, are misdirected. Motive matters. On the approval scales, these activities tilt toward “condemned.” But they serve to color the good person even more clearly. Ingenuity and creativity are also tools for good. Yet they flow from a different source, a different motive: a heart to serve and honor Yahweh, and to love others. I don’t need to plan or scheme for my good, my Father has already done that for me. Yet now, from me may flow the very good that I observe and have become. Spending myself for others that God loves is … good.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid. Proverbs‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Love and hate. Knowledge and stoopidity. Hot and cold. Black and white. Opposites. Except for discipline and correction — it is the one item in common between those that are stupid and those that aren’t. The difference between them boils down to the attitude about making adjustments. Solomon doesn’t actually make the distinction about changing behavior, but rather, he has a spotlight on our relationship to the information we are confronted with.

The word stupid, means dull-hearted, unreceptive. From a word meaning to kindle or burn up, with the idea that one will be consumed, for example by fire or or by eating. Brutish, like a dumb animal who is incapable of contemplation, reflection, improvement.

Let’s be honest, who loves being corrected? Or even worse, punished? Yet in it is something marvelous. Feedback (correction) is a gift. I’ve always considered it the breakfast of champions. My response to feedback determines whether I get more or less. It takes energy, and sometimes risk, for someone to tell me what’s not working. It’s instinctual for parents to do so, vocational for teachers, an obligation for police, but friends and neighbors make a choice (or not) to discuss something with me.

Receiving feedback and embracing things as they are, not as we wish them to be, is essential every day. It’s an active process of keeping someone or something aligned with a goal or purpose. It reflects absolutes. Absolute right an wrong. Fixed or broken. Good or bad. Lawful or illegal. Upright or splayed across the floor. And it provides the information needed to realign me to a desired course.

There are guard rails on roads with precipitous curves. There is a warning light in a car for overheating. Teachers put red marks all over the test I just completed. Someone gets very angry with me and storms off. These are all indicators, clues, information that come to me every day. The act of standing on two feet is an amazing feat of balance and is only possible as I listen to the feedback loop of balance within. A basketball player shoots and misses, quickly logs what every muscle was doing, adjusts and shoots again — swoosh.

For me, there are two parts to loving discipline. The first is the invitation I am giving it. Using a traffic analogy, do I “red light” it or give it a “green light?” Do I wince, or appreciate? Do I defend and justify or do I explore, ask questions to understand better? If I truly love correction, not only will I have a welcome mat out, but the invitation will have been sent (and on fancy paper!), the table set, and the meal prepared. I’m ready for it. Expecting it. Thrive on it. I need honesty and the reflection in my soul of what only the mirror of those that love and value me can provide. The second is my response to the information once delivered. Let’s be real… people are corrected every day and in many ways, yet we get up and move along without doing anything about it. I daily pass the “your speed is 45” sign flashing in bright LEDs coaxing me to consider 25, only to see it again the next day. Real action begins in the heart. And what I allow in my heart is what defines me and produces real action.

Solomon gives us one little proverb. Yet from it I unpack a mystery that consumes my life. All babies begin in nearly the same way, but at the end of life our differences are profound. There is a process that God set in motion at the beginning. He said, “Let us make man in our image, and after our likeness.” When Christ appeared, he showed us the gold standard of the kingdom — the exact representation of our God. Then he said, “follow me.” Like sheep, we imitate what we observe. And this is where the grand separation comes — what I choose to observe, and then, what I choose to do with it. I may be like him. Imagine! This correction, discipline, smelting process is one that allows me to be refined to kingdom standards. All of those who have set their heart on his kingdom are privilege to the blessed boot camp of his correcting process during our 70, 80, 90 years on this earth. What is produced is my gift to him.

I love how the Message Bible paraphrases Hebrews 12:

My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. Hebrews‬ ‭12:4-11‬ ‭MSG‬‬‬‬

And again in James 1:

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭MSG‬‬‬‬