phoenix galaxy cluster

The Phoenix Galaxy Cluster

The thirtieth chapter is quite different from the previous ones.  First, the author of these proverbs is Agur, son of Jakeh.  Who’s that, you ask?  Well, scholars don’t really know, other than to say that they do know he wasn’t an Israelite.  Besides that, there are some interesting sayings within this chapter.  If you have time, check it out, and see for yourself.

Here’s the proverb that intrigued me.

Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection.

Do not add to his words, or he may rebuke you and expose you as a liar.

If there’s one thing I am learning as I grow older, it’s the realization that I don’t know as much as I would like others to believe.  What has particularly intrigued me the vastness of the cosmos.  One of my side interests is astronomy.  I love learning about what astronomers and astrophysicists are discovering day in and day out.  The knowledge that is being gained is phenomenal!  However, even the vast majority of scientists will acknowledge that there is so much more that they don’t know, then what they do know.  I love that humility when I encounter it.  I am reminded again and again of just how little I really do know.  If scientists can make the admission that with what they’re able to see, there is so much they don’t know, then just how much of God, who I can’t see, do I really comprehend?  Like, really!!

I find it odd that us pastors/preachers talk like we know more about God than others. Sometimes I catch myself when I am speaking in that ‘all-knowing’ tone.  If I am honest with myself and with others, then all I can really tell you is what I discern from Scripture and how that speaks to us in the time we live in.  Outside of that, I really don’t know the mind of God.  His mind is infinite…mine is finite.  Sometimes I think it is better if I remain quiet.

And that is the whole point of this proverb.  Every word of God is truth.  Or perhaps another way to put it is, all truth is God’s…and belongs to God.  Most of the time I try to be aware of how I come across when I speak.  I never want to convey that I have the inside scoop…because I know that I don’t!

While there are many things that I don’t know about God, the one thing I do know is that it is always better to be with God, than it is to just talk about him.  As Agur writes, he is a shield from all that comes at us from life.  While we may not know and understand everything about him, the one thing God has made sure we do know is his passionate love for humanity.  At the end of the day, is that not enough?  If so, then let’s speak of that!

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Mind My Own Business? Nope!

GoodSamaritan

Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die; save them as they stagger to their death. Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.” For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve.   Proverbs 24: 11-12

I know, this proverb is a bit of a heavy, isn’t it?  Well, not all of it.  There are actually two nuggets of wisdom here that a wise person practices.

The first is that a wise person will put themselves in harms way if they see an innocent person being treated in an unjust manner.  But the question underneath that is “Why would a wise person become involved in matters of injustice?”  It’s a good question.  We are told to mind your own business, don’t talk to strangers, be careful who you associate with, and that it’s better not to trust people you don’t know.  In other words, people are to be feared, and so we have become adept at looking the other way, minding our own business and side-stepping the issue (sometimes literally).  But the wise person knows differently.

The wise person knows that every person has a story, every person comes from a family, and every person has the same needs as we do.  The wise person knows that they simply need to ask themselves, “How would I want someone to treat me if I was in that position?”  The wise person is more interested in others than they are with themselves.  They remember that God’s love extends to everybody, not just a select few.  They know that it could just as well be them that’s in that situation needing help.

Here’s a thought that crossed my mind, which I am currently pondering.  I wonder if just as every human being has the image of God imprinted on them, if also imprinted on every human being is a little piece of me.  I wonder if when I ignore a person in need, if in fact I am ignoring myself, and in turn, ignoring all of humanity and ignoring God.  If so, then that feels like a sin against you, me and God.

The second nugget of wisdom is that the wise person lives with the attitude and belief that for God to be God, then he must know our inner thoughts and motives.  If that’s the case, then it’s best to live accordingly.

“Lord God, help us to be wise and when we see a person suffering the injustices of this world, help us to remember that my fellow human being’s needs are my business.”

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’  The Gospel of Matthew 25: 40

Life is 3 Dimensional

Three-Dimensional-Spheres

I’m not a fan of ‘black and white’ thinking, simply because it leads to seeing life two dimensionally.  Life isn’t two dimensional, my friend!  If you’ve had any life experience then you know that life is more gray, then anything else.  In reality we don’t want to go for gray, either.  Gray is simply mixing black and white together…a compromise.  I would suggest that rather than aiming for black, white or gray, let’s aim for wisdom.  Wisdom is thinking three dimensionally.  Below are some examples from the 20th chapter of Proverbs.  If you’re a black and white thinker, then you’ll probably understand these incorrectly.  So here we go…

Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.

This is not saying that you shouldn’t consume alcohol.  Remember one of the predominant themes running through Proverbs is ‘self-discipline’.  The same applies for alcohol consumption: without self-discipline, here’s what you can expect!

Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable?

Loyal friends are out there.  Generally I think we expect too much from a friendship with others.  There’s a tendency to have too high expectations, and when we do that, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.  Unfortunately too many friendships have crashed and burned because of that.  As with any relationship, we need to put into practice the prayer of St. Francis. Make me an instrument of your peace…

16 Get security from someone who guarantees a stranger’s debt. Get a deposit if he does it for foreigners.

Someone who would guarantee a strangers debt is not to be considered as someone who lives wisely.  Lack of wisdom bleeds into every area of a person’s life.  Buyer beware!

19 A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers.

Wanna kill a relationship?  Hop on the gossip train and you will definitely derail any relationship.  RUN from gossip.  It’s deadly.

29 The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old.

Those gray hairs that you’re seeing in the mirror are a blessing…seriously!  The fact that you have lived long enough to have gray hair says that you have experience, and with experience comes wisdom!  C’mon gray hair!!

30 Physical punishment cleanses away evil; such discipline purifies the heart.

This has nothing to do with strapping or hitting your kids.  So don’t even go there.  This is about physical punishment meted out by king’s officers for a criminal offence.  However…this approach was seen as wisdom from that time and that culture.  We know differently today because humanity learns and develops over the centuries.

Let’s choose to live 3 dimensionally!  Enjoy your day 😉

A Club or an Umbrella?

umbrellaKeep the commandments and keep your life; despising them leads to death.  Proverbs 19: 16

So here’s an experiment you can try at home. Find the Ten Commandments, Levitical laws, Jesus’ commandments, or any of the commandments in the Bible, for that matter. But to keep it simple, let’s stick with Exodus 20 (Here’s a link to the 10Cs – http://tinyurl.com/m7zxmbv).  Now close your eyes and think of a person who loved you and had a positive influence in your life. Now read the 10 Cs as if you were hearing it coming from that person. Read it again, but this time, close your eyes and think of someone in your life who was very strict and stern. Now read the 10 Cs as if hearing it from that voice.

Did you find that ‘hearing’ it from a different ‘voice’ changed how you received it? If so, realize that we subconsciously read everything, including Scripture, from that ‘little voice’ that’s inside our head. That little voice has been formed over a number of years or decades as a result of our personality makeup, the people in our lives, and the various situations that we have experienced. Just sayin’…

I try to the best of my ability when I am reading scripture to be cognizant of the voice that I am using. So, I tend to read Scripture from the lens that the central core of who God is, is love. I’ve never heard an angry voice, with a wagging finger threatening me, at least almost never. And so when I read the 10 Cs, I picture a God who has provided us with an umbrella of protection, to help us enjoy the best life that we can. If I step out from underneath that umbrella, then I am vulnerable and an easy prey just waiting to be picked off by the enemy.

Now I get that rule and commandments can be seen as restrictive – that I’m not ‘free’ to do whatever I please. It’s funny how some think that they should just be able to do whatever seems ‘right’ to them. It’s as if freedom to do what you want, when you want, and how you want equals a happy and fulfilled life. But that’s just nonsense, and here’s why.

The universe we live in is designed to work in harmony with everything else. Individual things thrive when they are in sync with the rest of life. When something goes awry, chaos, destruction and ultimately, death are sure to follow. Our solar system moves together and is held into place because everything is dependent on its neighbouring planet/moons doing their thing. We would be doomed if Earth didn’t follow the path at the speed it’s set to follow, or if the it decided to tilt ten more degrees, or spin just a wee bit faster.

Wisdom is telling us that God has even set in place a trajectory for us to follow, and if we go awry (or out from under the umbrella), then chaos, destruction, and ultimately death are sure to follow.

Next time your driving through a city, just imagine the drive with all the laws, signs and lane markings removed. Welcome to the dystopian world of Mad Max!

 

Who Controls Your Life?

Proverbs 16

I really do love and admire the attitude and perspective of young people.  They can be bold, confident, self-assured, and a belief of invincibility when it comes to living life.  Unlike me, they haven’t been banged around too much, nor have they experienced too many failures or disappointments in life.  Now I’m sure if you asked them they would have a different opinion on that.

Whenever I look back on my young adult life, I chuckle at the almost arrogant and brash self-confidence that I had.  I had goals for my life and no one was going to stop me from attaining them.  If I wanted something and believed that I could have it, then I went for it.  But then something has happened over the decades.  By the time I reached twenty-five, I started to experience the bumps and grinds of life.  Not everything was going my way.  There were people that I knew well who died, others who disappointed me by their actions, and no longer was life a sure thing.

As I watched those who were older than me navigate life, my attention was drawn to those who lived life with humility and had this uncanny trust in God.  They didn’t just believe that God would look after and provide for them, they knew that God would!  Somehow life had taught them that in the end, it wasn’t them that was in control of life, rather, it was God who was in control of their life.  Life, age, and experience had taught them that surrendering their lives into his control was the wisest thing they could do.

Now outwardly (homes, jobs, wealth, etc) their life didn’t look like anything spectacular, but something about them oozed peace, contentment, and a deep sense that their life was very secure in God’s hands.  That was the gold that I wanted and continue to long for in my life.  I think I’m getting there, and while I may not have the self-assured confidence of my youth, I find lately that whenever anyone asks me, “How ya doing?”, I can honestly answer that in spite of the stresses of life, and the swirl of activity that goes on from day to day, I’m at peace.  I have learned and am learning that God has and is proving that he can be entrusted with my life.

The proverbs that follow speak to the fact that a life surrendered to God is a life that is secure, stable, and at peace with the world and with God.  Who better to care for and direct the affairs of your life than the One who created you?

We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer.

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.

20 Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the Lord will be joyful.

33 We may throw the dice,but the Lord determines how they fall.

 the-beloved-disciple

What’s Your Bulls Eye

Bullseye (1)Better to be an ordinary person with a servant than to be self-important but have no food.

A life of wisdom always trumps a life of greatness! Always!

There, I said it.

As I was slowly reading through the 12th chapter of Proverbs, I was intrigued by today’s passage. It was so refreshing to read the words, “Better to be an ordinary person…”. Ya see, that’s what I love about the sacred writings found in the Bible, they speak the truth.  No air-brushing, no glossy images of people, no superstars. Scripture tells it the way it really is. So where am I going with all of this? Let me explain.

Every time that I read or hear the words, “You too, can discover your destiny!” I feel some joy leak out of me. Here’s why. Those words are telling me that where I currently am in life is not my destiny. What it is telling me is that a life well lived is one of greatness, fame, wealth, brains, beauty, popularity, ad nauseam. Then what gets added to that phrase are examples of people who have made it in one or several of those categories, and more joy leaks out. Throw in a dash of glossy photo’s and then you know that your life is completely boring. This is a bit of a rant because I believe that this is a set up for disappointment and discouragement. I’m ranting because this is not the Kingdom that Jesus taught about.

Secondly, we really don’t want every person in this world to be some stellar superstar, do we? As I’ve said to many people time and time again, when I’m stranded on the side of the highway because my car broke down, I want a tow truck driver. I don’t want a famous brain surgeon, or a pastor. Look… we need servers at restaurants, custodians, hotel clerks, cashiers, truck drivers, sanitation workers, people who empty septic tanks…and the list could go on and on. Yes we need entertainers, CEOs, prime ministers, presidents, rock stars, sports stars, etc., but we also need the people in the background because they are the ones who make it all happen!

What Solomon is saying in this verse and throughout all of Proverbs is that wisdom, character, sound judgment, self-discipline, and the fear of God are the bulls eyes in life that we need to be aiming for. The beauty of making those the bulls eyes is that everyone can aim for it and hit it, not just the top 1% of the population. You see, everyone is created in God’s image and have God’s DNA imprinted on them.  It’s why Jesus recoiled whenever people wanted to make him famous or a superstar. That would have missed the mark.  It’s why he said that if you want to be famous in God’s kingdom, then become a famous servant to all.  And that is everyone’s destiny!

Free Speech…But to What Degree??

powerofwords1So yesterday was one of those days that was jammed packed from morning til late into the evening. Had I tried to write my post when I finally got home, I would been babbling and not being very coherent. I don’t sweat it. My goal is to write everyday, but I realize that ‘life happens’ and at the end of the day, it’s all good. But I do love setting goals for myself, as it gives me something to aim for. But I’m digressing once again…

We’re now into the part of proverbs where each verse or line is a short nugget of wisdom, and they can vary from topic to topic. My post will just reflect on one of the topics. So on to chapter 11!

With their words, the godless destroy their friends, but knowledge will rescue the righteous.

12 It is foolish to belittle one’s neighbor; a sensible person keeps quiet.

13 A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.

So I am a supporter of ‘free speech’. What I mean by that is that people should be allowed to state their beliefs, thoughts, opinions and their point of view on a variety of matters. I don’t believe that any one group of people should be policing what others can or cannot say…sort of. Let me explain.

Words are powerful. They can inspire, build ones courage, inform, educate, comfort, and love. Words can also destroy, hurt, annihilate, crush, suck joy, isolate, hate and kill. If you’ve been around this beautiful world of ours for at least a decade, then you have no doubt experienced both healing words and hurting words. You know their power.

Solomon is correct when he says that it’s the ‘godless’ who destroy their friends with their words. To use our words to hurt, belittle, or gossip is, in fact, ‘godless’. It’s godless because God doesn’t kill people with his words. With words, God uses words to build us up, love us, heal us, restore us, and secure us. Humanity is created in God’s image, and so Wisdom knows that to live life as it was meant to be lived means we live as creative beings, not beings of destruction.

Our world longs for peace in our homes, our communities and among our nations, and that all starts with our words, my friends.

I’m all for freedom of speech, just not undisciplined speech.

A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!                   James 3: 5  The Message