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

safegirl

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.

The Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

The first to speak in court sounds right— until the cross-examination begins.     Proverbs 18: 17

I can say a hearty AMEN!, to this proverb. When I was a police officer I spent many a day sitting in court, and sitting through many a trial. I found trials quite intriguing. Trials follow a very specific and detailed process, while slow, actually allows the judge and/or jury to have a more rounded picture or what really occurred. It’s one thing to hear one side of the story, but it’s quite another thing when you hear the other side’s version. What you thought was the truth turns out to be a part of the truth – but not the whole truth. It’s when you hear the whole truth that you are able to come to a right conclusion…most of the time.

Now, in case you think that is all this proverb is about…allow me to unpack it for you. This proverb speaks to a much deeper issue, and that is what we think we understand/know about a situation, person, or what we think we observe, is generally not a full understanding.

Here’s the problem. How we view people, any given situation, or even what we observe, is not necessarily the true reality. Let’s take something that we have all observed. Have you noticed when the moon is close to the horizon that it appears much larger than usual? The natural tendency is to think that the moon must be so much closer to the earth – hence, why it looks bigger.

The truth of the matter is the Relative size hypothesis. Huh?? Simply put, objects in the vicinity of the horizon moon exhibit a fine detail that makes the moon appear larger (Wikipedia). Okay, to make sense of what I’m saying, it’s the same thing as the Ebbinghaus Illusion, where a circle appears larger when surrounded by smaller circles, than it does when surrounded by larger circles. Really? Well check this out.220px-Ebbinghaus_Illusion.svg

Bottom line, not everything is at it appears at first glance. And that goes with everything. So next time you’re itching to jump to a conclusion because, “I just call it as I see it!”, remember the Ebbinghaus Illusion.