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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God Is Safe

Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.  Proverbs 29: 25

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Do you fear people?  I think many of us do to one degree or another.  One way to tell is to ask yourself, “If I was having problems with my boss, would I feel comfortable going to her and airing my grievances?”  Or how about this one: your neighbour’s cat continually comes onto your property and does their business on your lawn.  Would you be comfortable in going over and talking to them about the issue?  I’m not saying that either of these situations would be easy, but would you be willing to do it if it’s the right thing to do?  You see, it’s these type of situations where fear can easily slip in and paralyze us.

It’s much like jumping off cliffs into a lake with your buddies or kids.  If you stand at the edge and ‘think’ about it, it actually becomes easier to not do it, than to jump.  And in the end, you walk away.  It’s the same when you need to confront someone, if you overthink it, it becomes easier not to talk to them and just walk away.

Solomon says that fearing people (regardless of the reason) is a dangerous trap.  I love that the word ‘trap’ is used.  One of the definitions given for ‘trap’ states: “…a literal or figurative contrivance for deceiving or catching an animal or person.”  Have you ever considered a trap as a tool used to deceive?  Isn’t that a lot like fear?  Fear makes you believe that it’s better to back away, to stop dead in your tracks, to doubt yourself.

When it comes to people, fear puffs the person up in your head making them look larger and more menacing than they really are…and so we back away.  It’s when we back away that fear bites.  Once we back away, we diminish and dishonour ourselves, and end up not giving the other person the opportunity to grow and mature.

Sure, by retreating I have avoided the difficult situation, but at what cost to myself?  And that’s where the danger lies.  In backing away, I am training my brain to respond to difficult conversations by avoiding them all together.  It’s that practice that is detrimental to my spiritual, mental and emotional growth.

Solomon says that there’s a way better way to deal with all of this.  Rather than putting my energy into fearing people, it is much safer and healthier if I simply trust God.  Trust means seeing myself as God sees me, and seeing you as God sees you.  When I look at myself, and when I look at you, I see the image of God.  It’s in that place where love overtakes all fear.  It’s in that place where honesty and honour rule.  God can be trusted because God is safe.

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall…

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Proverbs 22…

The rich and poor have this in common: The Lord made them both.

True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life.

As I’ve been reading through each chapter of Proverbs, there is one nugget of wisdom that I bump into every now and then.  It goes something like this – There is a way that seems right to a person, but God examines the heart, or looks at the motive.  One of the meanings behind that is we may have moral actions, but God sees what your real motive is behind that.  Ouch!  I don’t know about you, but there are many times when I read something like that I don’t even consider for a second that that could be me.  Moi??  Never!  But yes…my motives are not necessarily the best.  For example…

For the past couple of months, a friend and I go out every Thursday afternoon to prayer-walk throughout a neighbourhood near our church.  About fifty percent of this neighbourhood is lower income, where people live in substandard housing.  Our desire is to interact with the people, not just walk through their ‘hood’.  So today, we purchased fruit, bagged it, and went knocking on doors to bless them with bags of fruit and if they were open, to pray for them.  We had some great encounters with people and that made my day.

We returned to the church after we were finished and spent some time praying.  It was then I had this sense that God had a question for me: “Why are you doing this?”  That was it, but I could tell that the question was more like, “So tell me, why are you REALLY doing this?  Is it because you’re a ‘pastor’ and it’s your job?  Or is it because you want to get more people in the church?  Or it’s one of your programs?  Tell me something…would you do it if you weren’t a pastor and the church you attended didn’t hand out bags of fruit?”  That’s what it sounded like to me.  And yes…I was busted!  So when I prayed, I asked God to help me have a heart that wants to do this simply because they are people just like me, and giving out a little bit of sunshine never hurt anybody.

You see, that’s the point about the two verses for today, all of creation, and especially humanity, is dependent on God to provide for us.  There’s nothing wrong with being rich, unless it causes you to see yourself as better than other people, including those living in subsidized housing, the panhandler at the intersection, or the homeless.  ALL of us are dependent on God for our needs.  There is no such thing as a ‘self-made person’.  Every human bears God’s image.  Every human being stands on level ground.  Every human being is loved by God.

So whether you’re rich or poor, or somewhere in between…and because all of us are dependent on God for the very air we breathe, let us live our lives with humble attitudes and generous hearts towards one another.  Let’s journey together through this life.

Make Friends With Yourself

A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.  Proverbs 14: 30                 

The beauty of ‘maturing’ (getting older) is that you realize not everything is as it may seem. The things I was so certain of in my younger days…well let’s just say I’m not so certain anymore. The lines blur a bit for me. I think that’s just wisdom and the beauty of living through a few decades of life on this wonderful planet of ours ;).

One of those blurry areas is this whole thing about body, soul, and spirit. I understand where that comes from, and I also get that we like to compartmentalize just about everything. I’m not sure why we like to do that, but we do. Perhaps one reason for doing that is we ‘think’ we can understand it better. It’s more easily controlled. And it’s just so gosh-darn fun to label everything.

So along with my body, soul, and spirit, I also get that I have a mind, and emotions. All of these ‘parts of me’ are not pieces of a human pie…connected but separate. For me it’s more like pasta sauce – different ingredients all blended together; one enhancing the taste of the other. Take one out and it changes everything. By the way, this ‘pasta sauce’ analogy is just that, an analogy, but that’s what happens when the lines blur. So what does this have to do with the proverb I chose for today? Well…

This proverb is basically saying that a happy heart leads to a happy body. A jealous heart leads to a sick body. That’s what this proverb is saying. Yes, it’s speaking directly to jealousy, but as with all other proverbs, there is a general principle here, and a lesson to be learned.

Human beings today are frantically spending ginormous amounts of cash, time, and energy trying to not only fix those three areas (body, soul, spirit), but also trying to have them aligned perfectly with each other. The way I see it, we are becoming (and some of us have already arrived) a neurotic and unhinged people. I sometimes wonder if we are actually causing more harm to ourselves than the good we are desiring?

Again, the way I see it, it was me who asked Jesus to ‘save me’ because I couldn’t save me. If I’ve read my Bible correctly, God loves the ‘messed-up-me’ (Yes, it is possible to love a messed up person, just ask your parents). So if God can love the ‘messed-up-me’, then I think I can. It was a number of years ago that I decided to make friends with myself. Sometimes I’m not the way I’d like to be, and I don’t believe I will ever arrive at that place of perfection in this life (I’m not even sure what a perfect Scott would even look like). So I’ve decided to let Jesus work on me…in his time.

Today, why not make friends with yourself? Your body, mind, soul, spirit and every other part will thank you for it! And Jesus will thank you too!

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