Wisdom

The wisdom of humility

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The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom and whatever you get, get insight. (Proverbs 4:7)

Wisdom starts with a conviction that you need it.  Foolishness is to think the opposite, to think your knowledge or perspective is enough.  Wisdom therefore requires not just knowledge applied correctly but a heart orientated correctly, for wisdom requires humility.

The context of this particular proverb is vs1-6 of the same chapter where a son is being exhorted by his father to “hear…a father’s instruction”, to “be attentive…that you may gain insight”, to “not forsake my teaching”, to “hold fast my words” & “keep my commandments and live”

Wisdom starts with a humility that opens the ears, opens the heart to others in this life, who are further down the journey of following and serving God or who might have a perspective you don’t have but need.

Wisdom starts by getting it, from others.  “Get wisdom” is not a command you can heed without the help of others, it’s not like a command like “be self-controlled/patient” where we can work harder at obeying.

So the question surely is twofold;

  1. How is your heart?  Are you humble, teachable, willing to learn from others?
  2. Who are you learning from?

By Gareth Bowley

 

 

 

Understanding Proverbs

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These guidelines below are based on chapter 12 from the book; “How to Read the Bible for all its worth” by Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart.

  1. The Proverbs are often short pithy memorable statements of truth that do not state/teach everything there is to know about an issue but point towards the fuller truth regarding that thing. An example in English is the saying; “Look before you leap”.  That is easier to remember than “Before you commit yourself to a course of action you should always consider all the circumstances, consequences and options.  The second statement says it much more completely, the first points to the general idea/truth/teaching.
  2. Proverbs are not specific legal guarantees from God of cause and effect so avoid extreme literalistic interpretations but look for the meaning that applies in your life situation.  For example Proverbs 15:25 says; “The Lord tears down the house of the proud but maintains the widow’s boundaries”.  We would have no neighbourhoods left if this was a cause and effect specific statement, no the idea is that God is opposed to pride and the protector of the vulnerable. So, don’t be proud!
  3. Proverbs must be read as a collection that balance each other and in the context of the whole bible.
  4. Some Proverbs need to be “translated” to be appreciated.  Many of the proverbs express their truths according to practices of everyday life that no longer exist.  Therefore, unless you think of these proverbs in terms of their modern day equivalents they may seem irrelevant to your life.
  5. Proverbs are often figurative and or even exaggerated to make their point, they are also intensely practical statements that are not meant to be technically or theologically precise or complete.
  6. Used right, Proverbs will provide practical life-advise for how to live in such a way that pleases God and results in a life that is blessed.

By Gareth Bowley

Have you seen it?

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The magnitude of our response reveals the extent of our comprehension.

Jesus tells two parables in Matthew 13:44-46, that both have something of great worth which is hidden. The treasure was hidden in the field, the pearl is hidden within an oyster’s shell in the ocean.

In both parables the object of great worth is found, is discovered, is uncovered and it’s true revealed value then dictates what happens next…

The value of the discovery of the treasure/pearl is so great that it is worth selling everything in both instances!  More than this it is worthy of great joy even in the sale of everything in the case of the treasure in the field.

So, the two individuals who sell everything when they discover the item of great value are not being sacrificial they are being prudent and wise because they have truly comprehended the value of the item in question.

Imagine you somehow knew with absolute certainty that if you bought a certain numbered ticket in a very very prestigious competition in which the tickets cost R500 000 each but the prize was 5 Billion rands, you would not be unwise to sell your house to afford the ticket, you’d be unwise to not act on the certain information you had at your disposal.

Similarly, the magnitude of our response reveals the true extent of our comprehension regarding God and His kingdom.

Those who have not seen the infinite value of following Jesus wholeheartedly will not lay down all other things, will not prioritise the church and God’s mission, will not relinquish their own agendas in this present and temporary life so as to lay hold of God’s greater and eternal plan for their lives!

The degree to which we wholeheartedly unreservedly give our lives for the cause of Christ through His church reveals the degree to which we have truly seen or not seen the infinite value and treasure of Jesus and living for His kingdom and His will in and through our lives.

May I, may we, keep seeing with greater and greater clarity the inexpressible value of our relationship with Jesus Christ and may we therefore live lives that are worthy of what we have seen! Amen.

By Gareth Bowley

Life is hard!

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As I grow older I realise more and more that nothing on this earth has true security.  Time is constantly changing, money easily loses value, property prices are unpredictable and if the political situation in a country is perceived to be unstable, all the securities in terms of investment goes out the window.

Families often drift apart as siblings grow older – whether emotionally or, in the case of many South Africans, many people emigrate and then families are literally torn apart.  Friends can be a great source of comfort and encouragement, but even this can be lost through misunderstanding, conflict or a change in one or the other’s circumstances.

In this life we are constantly challenged to find a firm foundation, an immovable rock on which to stand. A place of security and rest.

How easily we become distracted from putting all of our hope and trust in God.  This one thought is like a repeated chorus in Psalm 62:

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress, I shall not be shaken.”

David reminds himself and us, that there is only One who can fulfil that role.  There is only One who can give us hope, who can be a fortress of true safety in the midst of uncertainty, who can be our Refuge when the storms of life are raging all around us. God alone!

“Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.”

by Lise Oosthuizen

Anger, sense and a restoration project…

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Do you ever envy other people?  I do.  

Now I know that envy isn’t what my Father wants from me but not all envy is that bad.  

I sometimes wish I could be the guy in the line at Home Affairs/Bank/Traffic licensing office…who isn’t getting riled at the inefficiency or the seeming absence of any commitment to serve others – I envy that guy who’s just calmly sitting there even seemingly enjoying the time away from tasks!

I sometimes wish I could be the guy of the squash who is playing top squash but just seems to be having fun and isn’t affected by dodgy referring calls – I envy that guy sometimes.

Scripture is so life-giving and practical.  Just yesterday I read again that;

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11 ESV 

Now although I am who God’s made me and that includes all my physical, mental & personality attributes, Scripture also teaches me that who God made as Gareth – was tainted, marred by the Fall.  I am created in His image but that image needs restoring/re-moulding which is what happens daily as I listen to God through Scripture and obey the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

So when I say I am envious of someone else’s calmness in certain settings I am not expressing dissatisfaction with who God made me but rather dissatisfaction at the particular effect of sin in my life.  I see something of the image of God in that other person (regardless of whether they are a believer or unbelievers) and it draws me into the Holy Spirit inspired restoration God wants to do in me!

Hence, when I read this verse it doesn’t condemn me but calls me into what I know the Father wants to be in me by in terms of restoration.  As I read and listened to the Holy Spirit these were my personal reflections from this passage:

Anger that is ‘in-the-moment’ is bad sense because:

1) Anger clouds my vision  

2)Anger predisposes me to making rash assumptions regarding motives, meaning…

3)Anger makes me the focal centre rather than making God and others the focal centre

4) Anger is a slippery slope towards me sinning even when I have been sinned against

So how can I apply this to my life?  

Step 1: Identify the emotion (anger) early, report it to yourself

Step 2: Pause, count to three (seriously do it Gareth)

Step 3: Consider – What is making me feel this way? Have I misunderstood? Is God’s perspective and the other person’s perspective being valued by me? Is this worthy of godly anger?

Step 4: Is this something I can overlook?  After all to do so would be to my benefit. Or is it necessary confront but doing so slowly and in love, full of grace and truth?

For me, being quick to anger has been one of the old sin patterns God has been remounting me in making me more like the most incredible man who ever lived – Jesus.

As a son of God, I want to be like my Father who time and time again is described as follows; 

“…you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.” (Jonah 4:2)

Father, today I want to be more like you, I want to identify, pause, consider & overlook where that is truly possible or confront in love full of grace and truth where necessary. Amen.