Wisdom and Faithfulness

The early light is filtering through the window. This is clearly a sign of the change in seasons. Spring is on its way. This morning I’m feeling really emotional. Tears are very near the surface.

Is this self-pity I wonder to myself, as I let them flow? No – its joy, a deep and real awareness of the presence of my Father God. His nearness and – yes I have been mulling over all the ways he has been demonstrating His love in my life. I grasp how much He cares for me and I’m overwhelmed by a sense of complete belonging. I feel He is saying to me that my tears are the passage to His heart – every one is counted and collected into a bottle. He is not punishing me. He is preparing me for something so great and wonderful it can’t even be imagined.

He shows me that, as I hold Emily up and support her on her shaky legs to strengthen them, He is doing the same for me. Only without the uncertainty and fear of her falling. He is totally faithful and can hold and will support me.

And this theme of faithfulness runs through my readings to-day:

Prov. 6:27-35

Isaiah 54:1-10

Hoseah 2:16-31

Genesis 6:5,6.

These all point to His faithfulness to His covenant promises, but shockingly, also the pain He feels at our unfaithfulness, when we break His precepts, with our unfaithfulness. He led Hosea to marry a prostitute so that he would experience some of that pain of unfaithfulness. But unfaithfulness by me when I look at another woman with lust in my eyes is merely a tiny part of what unfaithfulness to God means. Anyone else, anything else that I love and treasure more than Him – hurts Him and is a sign of unfaithfulness and that again is a sign of a flaw in our love for Him.

“Love Me with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your mind and with ALL your strength”.

Can I do this? Well listen to what I heard Him say to me today. “My God My God why have you forsaken me”. No this can’t be from God, that’s not how He encourages me, put it out my mind. Yet there it is again. Then I wake up and hear what He is really saying. Those words were Jesus’ words on the cross, in those awful moments when He was separated from God His Father. But, and here is the real joy, worth shouting about! He said them once so that we may never, never say them. God will never forsake us. Jesus has taken that separation on Himself and He stands in our stead ready to pour His love into us so that we can love Him and the Father in return. He understands our weakness and easily slipping into unfaithfulness but He has lavished us with His grace so that in Him we can progress in our complete love of Him.

Hallelujah! a thousand times over!

Where is Your Heart?

Its Sunday, the Lord’s day, He is speaking to me and here is a precis. “Receive My love – as I receive you. Remember the cloud – My love completely surrounding you – absorbing you into My grace? Receive that and live with delight in Me (Psalm 37) – the difficulties you experience are loving corrections to bring you closer to Me, because I desire your whole heart and soul and body and mind. But Ian, enjoy your life – enjoy what I have given you just see it as that, gifts from Me – not an end in itself. Remember Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and I will give you the desires of your heart. But, be careful, don’t look at those who have much and find satisfaction in things – your satisfaction is to be ONLY in ME”.

I share this with you dear readers because today’s reading focuses to a large extent on the heart Prov 4:10-27.

It starts with words about guidance vv 10-15 and ends again on that theme 25-27. But wait a bit, Perhaps he is not talking so much about what direction our lives should take, what plans we should be making, a sort of road map of life, no he is talking about what sort of person you are guided to be as you go along the path of life . He speaks about the path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining brighter till the full light of day. Compared to the path of the wicked full of violence and debauchery vv 18,19.

So how are we to find this path and follow it? Well the emphasis is on keeping your heart right. vv 21,23. The heart is the wellspring of life, he says, above all else guard your heart. We have spoken several times about this. It is from the heart that our lives are directed, the correct decisions made. But here’s the thing: How do we start making sure our hearts are in the right relationship with Jesus?

I suppose you can figure that out by now. Vs 10, LISTEN, my son, accept what I say.

V 20 My son, pay close attention to what I say. LISTEN closely to my words.

It is only when your heart is moved by God’s word, when your heart is fixed on Him through it that your life will be ordered right – your eyes looking straight ahead (v25), with your gaze directed before you.

Genesis 3 Remember the garden? Eve looked and SAW that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye and desirable for gaining wisdom Gen 3:6. You see this is the path that Satan uses.. Sin starts with the eyes. To prevent that, our hearts must be right and for that to happen we must listen and hear what God is saying to us in our hearts.

Its been a sort of jolting revelation to me that God really does not want us to live a life of self-denial. He has created the most magnificent world around us. He has given us the most delicious food to eat and lovely wines to drink. But because of sin these things are often regarded as necessary merely for survival or by the way, as it were. But food is to be enjoyed, only don’t make a god of your stoumach, Wine is to be enjoyed but don’t allow yourself to be tempted to drunkenness.

It is when we desire and delight in these and other “things” of this world more than we delight in Him that we step into sin.

So as we read and meditate on His word, let us focus on the joy of knowing Him and enjoying all the gifts He has given us remembering that is what they are. And most of all let us stay close to Him through reading, listening and meditating on His word.

More on wisdom and integrity.

Its raining outside and a cold wind is stirring the branches as I snuggle down to spend my favorite time of the day. As I become quiet I picture myself sitting on my Father’s lap – His arms wrapped around and holding me – holding me securely. A love which is in one way unseen but revealed and promised in His Word in so many ways, but in another way is experienced through the love of all those around me – Thank you again Lord, I worship you from the bottom of my heart.

My reading is Prov 30:1-9. Opening with some words reminiscent of Job chp’s 38-41 of God’s amazing, supernatural power, wisdom and omniscience, reminding us of how much greater He is than us. Against that background is the assurance of the absolute dependability of God’s Word. His creative power and His flawless word are so often coupled, I find. Against this background the writer calls for God’s help with two things.

  1. To keep him honest. To help him not to speak lies or bend the truth in any way.
  2. To provide for him, just enough. Too much will lead to him forgetting God and too little may lead him to steal. A further reading is Psalm 119:25-32. Vs 30 tells me that honesty is a choice, just as we have seen with trust and wisdom. But wait a bit, we said that the choice to trust and the choice of wisdom has a supernatural element to it. In other words although we are called to choose these, we are absolutely dependent on our relationship with Jesus through His Spirit to make this choice. So here we are confronted with that same truth concerning integrity and honesty. Now I stop to consider. Honesty and integrity are such a given in the Christian life. Do I ever even give it much thought, except where others have been dishonest to me? I realize with a stark shock that – yes, my heart, not theirs mine, is deceitful above all things. I need to examine the very motives behind my speech and actions and bring them constantly to the foot of the cross so that I can reflect the real truth which is only pure in Christ Himself. So can I challenge every one of you reading this blog today to do the same? It is so easy to measure ourselves against the background of all the dishonesty that we are experiencing around us, it is so easy to feel a smug self satisfaction. Yes? T.he challenge is not to measure ourselves against anyone else but Jesus Himself.

Choose to Listen to Instruction and Gain Wisdom.

In the quiet of the early winter’s morning the rain sifts down gently onto my patio. The word comes to me “You will only be truly free when you really believe in the extent of my love for you and know and allow yourself to experience that love” (Ephes 3:18,19). In my mind’s eye I see a great cloud beneath me and I am being invited to let go and launch myself into that cloud which represents God’s love, where I can see no end to it. Scary but hugely inviting.

My reading is from Prov 8:1-11. . Wisdom is calling out to me, inviting me to receive it. The call is (vs 5) “gain wisdom, gain understanding”. It is an instruction, but how does one obey that simple instruction, especially seeing that true wisdom only exists in a relationship with the source of all wisdom – Jesus?

Well friends here it is again vs 6 “Listen……..I have worthy things to say, I open my mouth to speak …. Then comes the thing that really surprised me vs 10 choose ……..Choose my instruction, ……knowledge, wisdom, rather than the most valuable of jewels.

So yes friends, just like trust involves a choice we make and obedience is a choice we make, So Wisdom is also a choice we make. But here is the rub, we don’t gain wisdom in a vacuum. We gain wisdom within the relationship we have with Jesus. He invites us first, He instructs us first, He empowers us first, yet in a miraculous, supernatural sort of way we still have to make that choice. It starts with that relationship and the important part, which is the backbone of my blog, starts with true listening. That in turn, as we have seen before, starts with humility, being prepared to hear, recognizing our need to hear, asking for the grace to be teachable.

Have you ever felt, when you start reading a passage in the bible, “oh I know this so well” and your mind takes off at a tangent and soon you are thinking of something completely different?

Seems to me that we have to continuously make the choice to listen and obey, because change is so hard and takes so long to come about. That, of course is why God sometimes shakes the very foundations of our faith by some crisis or other, to soften our hearts and help us to be more teachable.

According to Selwyn Hughes, the second pillar of wisdom is integrity. Remember the first one was trust. We will now see how closely integrity is associated with trust. But suffice to say today that, like trust, integrity is a choice you make. And, yes I was patting myself on the back about this till I allowed The Spirit into my heart and He turned up a few thoughts and actions, which pulled me up short and made me rethink.

So friends, practice listening. Decide before you start your reading to listen and obey. Ask God to speak into your heart. Reflect and meditate on what He has said to you and stay close to Him as you go into the day, because wisdom is more precious than silver, gold or precious rubies.

May He bless you as you “hear” Him speak.

More on Wisdom and Trust

The silence in my house settles like a blanket, as I clear my mind to hear the Lord. “Keep…..” I hear, But Keep what? Then it all comes out: “Keep running the race with perseverance, marked out for you, Fix your eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…….” and I turn to Hebrews 12:1-13. “Yes Lord I needed that”. A picture of running the Comrades marathon comes into my mind’s eye. (I’ve never done that). The discipline and constant reaffirmation of the value of the prize to finish. I find it tempting to feel sorry for myself as I face every day with the goal so far in the future. Maybe I’m only at “Polyshorts”. Prov 4:26,27 seems to affirm that: “Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or to the left.

But what about the idea of trust and wisdom? After our prayer meeting yesterday Ludwig sent a link to a talk by Tim Keller on Jeremiah 17. If you look back you will see I was speaking about that chapter last blog. His message was an eye-opener, however. I can’t give the whole message but he focused on vv 6-8, where God compares the one who trusts in man and turns away from the Lord to a bush in the desert. He described such a bush, struggling and ugly with few leaves, no nourishment for its roots and even when a storm pours water on it, can scarcely benefit. To the one who trusts in the Lord who is like a tree planted by a river, where its roots reach out into the stream. It faces the fear of heat and the worries in the year of drought, but never fails to bear fruit.

But here is the interesting thing.Vs 7 says (better translated in the ESV) Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. So the difference is the one trusts in the Lord and the other’s trust is the Lord. Splitting hairs? Not at all.The one who trusts in the Lord is trusting the Lord for the result or rewards he will get from placing that trust. So there is an expectation that if you trust in the Lord He will answer this prayer, or will provide that solution etc. The problem with that is that if your expectation is not met then your whole ability to “trust” gets a major knock and you will have less and less confidence in trusting Him next time.

The one whose trust IS the Lord however has placed his love and trust completely upon the Lord. He has placed the Lord central in His life. He is like the one whose roots reach down into the water and there is no fear or worry when the heat or the storms come because He knows the Lord is in ultimate control. Thought provoking!

Wycliffe the famous bible translator is reputed to have said you can measure who/what anyone is trusting and loving the most, by asking what do you spend most of your time thinking about in your unguarded moments? Last time I suggested that the measure is who do you run to in the moment of crisis?

My friends I share these thoughts with you because I find myself on a roller coaster sometimes – moments of supreme trust and confidence and then something unexpected and challenging happens and suddenly doubts flood in. Tim Keller reminded of Ephesians 3:14-21 and the importance of vs 17 where Paul prays that the reader may be rooted in God’s love.

So where are you rooted? I will keep praying for all of us that we will be rooted in that love which is immeasurable and promised completely to each one of us in Christ.