Back Away from Blind Belief

“Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes.”

Proverbs 19:2 (NLT)

Have you ever pursued something wholeheartedly without stopping first to ask yourself why you were engaged in that pursuit or what that thing really is? In Proverbs 19:2, Solomon tells us that if we don’t understand the things we are passionate about, we will end up making mistakes.

While it’s easy to think we understand the things we’re passionate about and know why we pursue them, and dismiss the idea that we might be blind believers, instead let’s consider how we might live out this idea of being enthusiastic without having knowledge.

First, we can make decisions based solely on our feelings. Consider people you dated or wanted to date. Or maybe you pursued a career without considering its future implications or made an expensive purchase without researching it or considering the cost? It is always important to balance our feelings with reason.  Proverbs 25:28 describes the person who runs his life on emotions: “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (ESV).  This description vividly warns us that the person who does not seek understanding and only follows feelings could be left with nothing.

But, instead when we seek knowledge and understanding we can live effective lives as described in 2 Peter 1:5-9:

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (ESV).

Second, we can make snap decisions out of impatience. We’ve heard the saying, “Good things come to those who wait.” These are hard words to live by because we want what we want right now, but they are godly words and can keep us from making mistakes. We can be grateful that the Lord is patient with us (2 Peter 3:9). When we’re anxious and feeling impatient, let’s think about Psalm 130:5: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope” (ESV).

A third way we can be passionate about something without having knowledge about it is by “following the crowd.” We’ve heard the ideas that there is safety in numbers and everyone is doing it. When we follow man instead of God, we put ourselves in a dangerous place. Proverbs 14:12 warns us that the ways of man lead to death. Furthermore, we can be lead to follow false teaching because of our zeal and desire to justify the things we want: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,” (2 Timothy 4:3 ESV).

We can be zealous for relationships, jobs, our theology, material items, and any ideology (political, social, scientific, etc.). However, it is important that we understand those things and why we are for them. Do you understand the reasons for your faith? Paul tells us, “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” (Colossians 4:6, NLT). And Peter tells us, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it” (1 Peter 3:15, NLT). It is important to understand what you believe well enough to share it with another.

Back away from being a blind believer and pursue knowledge in the things about which you are passionate!

 

 

Tap Into the Wellspring

“The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; The fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.”

Proverbs 18:4 (NASB)

Do you enjoy being near water? For as long as I can remember, I have loved water. I don’t necessarily have to be in it, but I simply enjoy being near it. Cruising in a boat down the river, sitting on the beach while watching and listening to the waves roll in, feeling the mist blowing from a waterfall, and listening to the tinkling sound of a fountain are all favorites of mine. So when I came across the water imagery in Proverbs 18:4, I had to pause and let this verse sink in.

Before looking at the two images depicted in the verse, we must first understand that the verse describes a wise person, not just any person. Throughout the book of Proverbs we see that wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7, and 9:10). Wisdom is not man-made, but God-made.

The wise person’s words are described as deep waters. This image evokes the idea of profoundness, something that we, as humans, cannot generate on our own. Wise words come from the heart of God, rather than from our own shallow minds. Wisdom goes beyond what we can see. Consider the depths of the ocean where humans cannot go because of the crushing water pressure, complete darkness, and frigid temperatures. We cannot fathom what lies in this part of the ocean, just as the depth of true wisdom is more than we can understand.

The second image is a bubbling brook. While this brook is not deep, it remains in constant motion and its source of motion is a mystery. As long as there is water in it, a fountain continues to bubble forth and maintain life. Like a bubbling fountain, wisdom flows constantly from the heart of a wise person. Other proverbs including 10:11  and 13:14 depict wisdom as a fountain of life.

Can you think of a wise person you know, someone who speaks profound words and is a constant source of “speaking life” to you? Would you like to be that person who speaks life to others? Turn your heart to God and tap into the wellspring of true wisdom.

 

 

 

Peace Over Plenty

“Better a dry crust eaten in peace than a house filled with feasting–and conflict.”

Proverbs 17:1 (NLT)

Last week I played the “Would you rather…” game with a group of elementary kids at our church’s music camp. In this game we answered questions like: “Would you rather be an athlete in the Summer Olympics or the Winter Olympics?” and “Would you rather eat broccoli-flavored ice cream or meat-flavored cookies?” So, in the spirit of that game and the theme of this week’s verse, my question for us is:

Would you rather have poverty with peace or prosperity with strife?

It’s interesting that Solomon correlates prosperity with strife and poverty with peace since it is possible to be rich and still have peace. But, in this particular verse, Solomon is encouraging his son, and us, to remember what is important in life: peace is more important than prosperity if having, or pursuing, riches causes strife in our households.

In our American culture, materialism is emphasized and things are often sought after regardless of what it takes to get them. People climb the proverbial work ladder and max out their credit cards to keep up with the Joneses. More often than not, managing so many things at once brings nothing but strife and misery to a person and ultimately to a household.

In Proverbs 17:1, Solomon tells us that peace is often more attainable when there is not so much to manage, and he explains that peace is always the better choice. He repeats this idea in Proverbs 15:17: “Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred” (NIV). In both Proverbs 17:1 and 15:17, food is used to symbolize poverty and prosperity. Dry crust is simply a piece of bread with nothing on it (no butter like we enjoy today) and no wine to go with it as the people in Bible times would have enjoyed – remember Jesus and the disciples dipping their bread in wine? The fattened calf was used both for eating and for sacrifice. And meat was a luxury over vegetables, similar to today’s standards (just price it in any store). We can extend these food symbols to any material item: cars, homes, trips, electronics, furniture, etc.

Where do you fit into this scenario? Do you have peace or strife? Is your strife self-inflicted because of your “prosperity” or your pursuit of it? What would it take for you to find peace? I believe Paul gives us the best counsel when it comes to choosing peace over plenty:

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13, NIV).

So, follow Paul’s advice and choose to be content. Choose peace over plenty.

 

Loving Life

“Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.”

Proverbs 16:20 (ESV)

Last night, my daughter Caroline and I were privileged to attend a White Bible ceremony for our dear friend Kelsey who is getting married in August. This beautiful tradition was a new one for us and when it was over Caroline told me that she wanted to have a ceremony like it when she gets married. Of course, that will be YEARS away but when the occasion occurs, a White Bible ceremony definitely will be in our plans.

If you’re not familiar with this ceremony, it is a small gathering of a bride and a group of ladies who belong to her family and circle of friends. Different people light each of seven candles signifying an area of married life and explain what their candle represents:

White – faithfulness

Red – romance

Pink – sentimental days

Yellow – happy days

Blue – sad days

Brown – dark days

Green -growth

Each of the descriptions includes a passage of Scripture, and the ceremony is focused on remembering that God’s word is “a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path” (Psalm 119:105) . Someone then presents a white Bible to the bride and the ceremony closes with the group forming a circle around the bride and praying for her upcoming marriage.

This ceremony encapsulates Proverbs 16:20 because it illustrates a bride who seeks wisdom from God’s Word before her marriage. She is looking to the Bible for instruction and placing her faith in the Lord. The Bible she receives is meant to be carried down the aisle or placed on display at the wedding and then displayed in her home so that she will always remember that upon which her faith is placed.

Heeding God’s word is not just wise before a marriage, but it is profitable during every season of our lives. How often do you consider God’s word before making a big decision? We may not need candles to represent each aspect of our decisions, but we do need God’s word as our guide. The person who heeds what God says is blessed: “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him” (Jeremiah 17:7, NIV).

Don’t always trust your own “wisdom.”  Proverbs 16:25 makes it clear that when we think we know what is best, it will not end well. Instead, find your blessing by seeking and heeding God’s wisdom, or as Proverbs 19:8 puts it, loving life: “The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.” (NIV)

 

Bright Light and Broken Chains

“Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD evil is avoided.”

Proverbs 16:6 (NIV)

This summer I’ve been working through Steadfast Love, a study on Psalm 107 by Lauren Chandler. One of the points from this week’s lesson covered how we can find ourselves in chains and darkness but, thankfully, when we cry out to the Lord he will flood us with his light and break our chains: “He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains” (Psalm 107:14, NIV).

Even as Christians, we can often find ourselves shackled to a particular sin. But aren’t we glad that our Father in heaven won’t leave us in darkness and in our chains! Why? Because of his love for us: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,” (Isaiah 61:1, NIV). I’m so thankful that God’s love is stronger than my chains!

Solomon so wisely reminds us in Proverbs 16:6 that our sin can be forgiven because of God’s love and faithfulness. Notice that forgiveness is not based on our performance or best intentions to be perfect – it only comes through God’s grace, his free gift to us. We do not have to clean up ourselves before letting God’s light shine on us. It is only after we call to him to shine his light on our darkest places that we can begin to heal.

So, if you are afraid to bring your chains (anything that enslaves you to sin) into the light because of embarrassment or shame, consider that God’s love for you is his choice and much better than any sin you could hold onto. First we have to see and acknowledge our sin, and then our chains can be broken. Lauren Chandler puts it this way: “God does not uncover to shame us but to further cover us with His grace, love, righteousness, and glory.”

So let God’s light reveal your chains. Let his love and faithfulness atone for your sin.  When you do this, you are living out the second part of Proverbs 16:6 – you are fearing the Lord. Fearing the Lord is like walking in the light, meaning that you respect God and his word and rely on him for your strength. So, cry out for bright light and experience broken chains.