What are you asking?

Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die: Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God. ~Proverbs 30:7-9

PrayingThis passage is attributed in Proverbs 30:1 to Agur, the son of Jakeh. The writer declares that he has asked God for two specific things. But interestingly, he then asks for four:

  1. that God will not refuse his requests
  2. that the Lord would keep deception and lies out of his daily life
  3. enough financial resources to be comfortable, without being wealthy, and
  4. enough food to be satisfied, without going hungry

Was Agur right to ask God for these things?

Others in the scriptures have been invited to petition God, with the assurance that their prayers will be answered. In 1 Kings 3:5, for example, the Lord told Solomon to ask boldly for whatever he wanted:

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

And in Mark 11:23-24, Jesus explains to his disciples that when they approach prayer properly, they can ask God for anything:

“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Agur’s second request also aligns with the Lord’s will. In Psalm 34:12-13, the word teaches that lies have no place in the life of one who would serve and please God:

Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.

For his third and fourth requests, Agur focuses on two very practical matters: Food and finances. His prayer might be paraphrased, “Lord, please supply me with enough – not too much, and not too little.” In Ecclesiastes 5:18-20, Solomon muses about both topics, concluding that God does, indeed, supply people with their daily needs:

Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

Jesus, too, addressed the daily needs of people. In Matthew 6:11, as he taught his disciples how to pray, he encouraged them to ask for provision:

Give us today our daily bread.

And in Luke 12:22-31, Jesus explains that your heavenly Father already knows all your needs – and is prepared to meet them:

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

What is it that you are asking God for today? If your requests are similar to Agur’s, it would seem you have good reason to expect that your prayers will be answered in the affirmative.

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Are you enviable?

Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish; but he who keeps the law [of God, which includes that of man]—blessed (happy, fortunate, and enviable) is he. ~Proverbs 29:18 AMP

Prayer at DaybreakThis often-quoted verse begins by warning that people perish where there is no “vision” or “redemptive revelation of God.” But what does that mean? Author Adam Clarke observes:

Where divine revelation, and the faithful preaching of the sacred testimonies, are neither reverenced nor attended, the ruin of that land [or church] is at no great distance. 

There is a cause and effect relationship at work here. True understanding of God as he has revealed himself in the Bible is the cause. That results in the effect: a life of happiness, contentment, inner peace and obedience to the word of God.

Is your life marked by such traits? If not, it may be that your vision – your understanding of who God is – could be lacking. If you aren’t already experiencing the fellowship of other believers, you should explore how to connect among a community of Christians where the Bible is faithfully preached. You may also need to reserve a quiet time each day to ponder the scriptures yourself.

Hebrews 11:6 may be an encouragement to you in these areas:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

May the Lord honor your commitment to earnestly seek him with a life of contentment and happiness.

Do others see through you?

A rich man is wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has discernment sees through him. ~Proverbs 28:11 HCSB

XRay SpecsPerhaps you know someone who believes they are very wise because of the degree they earned, or the profession in which they are engaged, or the amount of wealth they have accumulated. Or even just because they have great intelligence.

There is nothing wrong with having a healthy self-image, or realizing that you have a talent for doing something well. But some people have a rather unhealthy inclination to hold a very high opinion of themselves. And too often, they enjoy telling others how superior they are.

If your wisdom isn’t coming from the One True Living God, it is of precious little use.

Financial success is of little consequence when it comes to spiritual perception. A person who has little in the way of worldly goods but possesses a good, working knowledge of the scriptures will always see right through the nonsense of a self-important wealthy person.

Consider 1 Corinthians 1:18-31:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

 

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

 

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

If you are well-spoken, your language intelligence is a gift from your Creator. If you have the ability to earn great wealth in business, God is the one who gifted you so. Wherever you have achieved worldly success, it is only because the Lord has blessed you. The scriptures declare this in Deuteronomy 8:17-18:

You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

What are you boasting about today? Your own wisdom, perhaps? Others will see right through that – and they won’t need a pair of silly 1960s x-ray specs to do it. Or are you bragging about the Lord, and what he has done for you?

It won’t last forever

Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds; For riches are not forever, Nor does a crown endure to all generations. ~Proverbs 27:23-24 NASB

SheepIn an agricultural society, knowing the condition of your flocks and herds is of great importance to the owner. Animals are expensive investments.

But they provide food by giving milk, or by being slaughtered. In the case of sheep, their wool can be sheared and either used or sold. The animals may give birth, multiplying the herd or flock. And, of course, the animals themselves can be sold or traded, as a last resort.

Despite having hired shepherds to care for the sheep or goats, it the owner who is ultimately responsible to ensure that his animals are healthy and accounted for. If the hired hands are doing a good job, the animals will be strong, and the herd or flock will be growing. But how would know, unless you check?

The general principle taught here appears to be that you should keep a careful watch on your financial affairs. Wealth has a way of dissipating, and it does not last forever. If your money isn’t managed by you, it tends to manage itself quickly out of your hands.

Controlling your finances well includes making certain that you give at least the first portion back to the Lord. Are you honoring God with your financial resources?

How do you see yourself?

Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. ~Proverbs 26:12 ESV

Read the BibleThis verse promises that a fool has a brighter future than a person who thinks too highly of their own human wisdom and insight. As dismal as life can be for a reckless person who pays no attention to God or his precepts for living, the person who relies on his or her own human wisdom has even more difficulties ahead.

Without condemning education or learning, this scripture exhorts you to seek godly wisdom, rather than godless wisdom. In Isaiah 5:20-21, the Lord offers an even stronger warning to those who are certain of their own wisdom:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.

In Matthew 23:12, Jesus explains that people who boast of their own importance will be humbled by God, while those who have a modest view of themselves will be lifted up by the Lord:

For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

The message of Proverbs 26:12 is to seek the wisdom that comes from meditating upon God’s word, rather than relying on your own intelligence or learning. How will you humble yourself today before the wisdom of the One True Living God?

Merry Christmas!

NativityAt that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

~Luke 2:1-16 NLT

May the Lord be pleased with you and your loved ones, and bless you with peace this Christmas!

Are you generous?

A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. ~Proverbs 22:9 NIV

Food DonationsDo you consider yourself to be a generous person? You are, this verse teaches, if you share your food with the poor. What exactly might that mean?

Sharing your food with less fortunate people in Old Testament Israel, during the time of King Solomon, meant literally giving food to others.

The emphasis here is specifically on helping people who are poor. Some people are very generous, but not necessarily toward those who have great financial need.

How can you apply this principle in your life? Perhaps you can answer this best yourself. Think about what you can do to give of what you already have to those who are in great need. It may be money, but it could also be your time, or a special ability you have.

In 21st century America, we are fortunate to have many wonderful Christian nonprofit organizations that provide all kinds of help for poor people. Whether you give a cash contribution, donate your time, or volunteer to assist with a special skill or talent you possess, all would be in fulfillment of this verse.

Be generous with your time, talent, and treasure. And when you do this to benefit people who are less fortunate than you, the Lord promises a blessing in return.