A Humble Prayer

“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
    do not refuse me before I die:
 Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.”

Proverbs 30:7-9 (NIV)

Do you have a favorite prayer in the Bible? Maybe the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), or the prayer of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10), or Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel 1:10-11)? Prayer is our heart line to God, allowing us to praise him and make requests of him as we let him know our deepest desires and needs. Prayer is important.

In Proverbs 30, Agur expresses a humble prayer in which he asks the Lord for two things: to help him stay in truth and to give him only what he needs each day.

This prayer comes from a heart filled with wisdom and seeks to live a balanced life that honors God. With all the things that vie for our attention each day, a prayer like this one could keep us on track.

Agur’s first request is to be kept in truth, far from the lies of the world. He wanted to understand God’s word and obey it while living in a world that was filled with ungodly thoughts and ideas. If you prayed this request, how would your life change? Are there any lies of the world to which you subscribe? Consider your thoughts regarding possessions, money, appearance, your view of God, your thoughts on suffering and your definition of sin. Ask God for wisdom on these things, and seek his truths. He promises he will answer in Jeremiah 33:3, and this will keep you in truth!

The second request Agur makes is to not be rich or poor, so that he may live humbly before God. He wisely discerned that if he were rich, he might forget God because he was comfortable and didn’t think he needed anything. On the flip side, he didn’t want to be poor and feel like he had been abandoned by God and thus take matters into his own hands and steal. Agur wanted to live a life of complete contentment through closeness to God.

This request mirrors the Israelites wandering in the desert and receiving manna and quail daily from the Lord (Exodus 16). They could not save it for the next day – they could only expect God’s daily provision, and thus they relied on him and could be confident that he would provide. Are you confident in God’s daily provision for you? Are you willing to make Agur’s second request and find peace in the Lord’s daily provision?

Agur’s prayer is challenging for us today because we are inundated with worldly ideas through social media and television, and we are so accustomed to relying on our own strength to meet our needs. But, if we are willing to pray this humble prayer, joy and blessing are sure to follow. Be encouraged by Paul’s benediction in Romans 15:13:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)

 

Wading in Doubtful Waters?

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

Proverbs 30:5 (NIV)

Do you ever doubt God’s word? Or maybe you don’t believe that God can help your situation or that he even cares about you.

Because of difficult situations that happen to us and those around us, we sometimes rely on our own wisdom rather than trusting God and his promises. If you find yourself sailing in these doubtful waters, grab hold of Proverbs 30:5. This verse may be short, but it is packed with powerful truth: God’s word is flawless and he is our protection.

When we look at different translations of this verse, we get a fuller picture of the term flawless. God’s word is pure (CSB), tested (NASB) and true (ESV). When something is flawless, it is perfect, not having any error in it. There is no mistake to be found in God’s word. When something is pure, as in a metal being smelted and refined, it is 100 percent clean and whole, with all of the dross and junk removed. God’s word is perfect, exactly as it is, needing nothing removed or nothing added to it (Proverbs 30:6 and Revelation 22:18-19 are warnings to those who do not believe this). God’s word is tested, which relates back to the smelting process in which all impurities are removed. And, finally God’s word is true. Because it is pure and has been tested, it can only be true.

Not only does verse 5 say God’s word is flawless, but it says every word of God is flawless. We can trust all of God’s word! There is not a single word that is not true. In Psalm 119:151, David, who was pursued by his enemies for months, tells us, “You are near, LORD, and all Your commands are true” (CSB). Jesus prayed for the disciples, saying, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17, NIV). We can trust God’s word.

And when we believe the truth of God’s word, we are putting our trust in him, and the second half of verse 5 gives us a promise: God will be our shield and refuge. The Lord longs to protect us. We just have to run to him. Nahum 1:7 says, “The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him” (NASB).

If you are struggling to believe God’s word, pray for wisdom. Tell God how you feel and ask for his help. Seek to be like the psalmist in Psalm 91:

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

 I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’

Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” (verses 1-4, NIV).

 

Live Like Jesus

In this week’s post, I encouraged us to live like Jesus as we receive God’s wisdom through reading his word. My newest book review is a great resource if you want to better understand the life of Jesus.

The CSB Christ Chronological includes the text of the four Gospels and presents the life of Jesus in chronological order, using parallel passages that are color-coded and listed side by side. This format makes it easy to compare different passages in the Gospels, and it helps the Bible student see at a glance which events in Jesus’ life are presented in each of the Gospels.

In addition to the Gospel text, the book also includes study notes for certain passages. However, if you are looking for a study Bible, these notes are not comprehensive. This resource is unique in that it presents Jesus’ life in chronological order, beginning with John 1:1-18/Mark 1:1/Luke 1:1-4 and ending with John 21:24-25.

The CSB translation brings the Scriptures to life, and has become a favorite in my family, partly because it is new to us and partly because of its accuracy and readability. This hard cover book is square in size and actually looks like a coffee table book. The design is clean and appealing.

If you are looking for a refreshing way to study the four Gospels or for a nice gift book for a friend, CSB Christ Chronological is a good choice.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes and the opinions I have expressed in my review are entirely my own.

Incomprehensible God

“I have not gained wisdom, and I have no knowledge of the Holy One. Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in His hands? Who has bound up the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is the name of His Son — if you know?”

Proverbs 30:3-4

Have you ever tried to describe God to someone? If so, how did you do it? If you’re like me, this is a difficult task. I can’t even describe him to myself.

Chapter 30 of Proverbs features the sayings of a wise man named Agur. (While some Bible scholars believe Agur is another name for Solomon, there are many who believe he was another wise man at that time, since the writing style of Chapter 30 is much different than that found in the rest of Proverbs.) As Agur begins this chapter, he notes in verses 2 and 3 that he does not have the wisdom of God and then he questions his two students, Ithiel and Ucal, (Proverbs 30:1) if they can name any person who has this wisdom.

Of course, the questions in verse 4 are rhetorical because no human can truly understand God, our Creator. God is infinite, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent… all things that we are not. Therefore, how can we wrap our heads around the idea that God has no beginning and no end? That he is not bound by time or space?That he can know everyone’s thoughts – past, present and future? That he created the universe and everything in it?

The only time we can begin to understand God is when we he grants us wisdom through his word. The Bible gives us glimpses into God’s character. For example, we see God’s sense of compassion when he talks to Hagar in the desert (Genesis 21:17-20 ). We see his sense of justice when he allows enemies to capture the Israelites after they’ve repeatedly turned their backs on him. We see God’s love for his people when he sends his only son to die on a cross so that they could be forgiven (John 3:16). These are just a few of the characteristics of God. To define him completely would be impossible.

Agur describes the greatness of God in Proverbs 30, just as Job did in Job 38:4-11. This poetic passage in Job richly illustrates the true magnitude of God’s majesty as Creator, something we can never fully comprehend. This is what Agur wanted to convey to his students, and to us.

Even though we can never fully understand God, he does allow us to see facets of his character so that we can be more like him. This is most evident through his son, Jesus. As you read your Bible this year, make a list of the characteristics of God and challenge yourself to learn to live like Jesus.

My Friend, Patience

“A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.”

Proverbs 29:11 (KJV)

“She took my Band-Aid!!!” screeched the three-year-old girl, in the middle of preschool story time at the public library, as she pointed her finger at the Band-Aid stealer. The story teller simply told the irate girl to sit down. Reluctantly, the little girl sat down, crossed her arms and waited until the end of the story to demand justice.

When we’ve been wronged, it is easy to vent our anger quickly and demand our rights at once. Yet, throughout the book of Proverbs Solomon encourages us to be patient in our anger and to think before we speak. I have to admit I don’t always heed this advice. Many times, I have spoken in haste and demanded justice quickly, just like my daughter did during story time in the library several years ago. After all, the Disney Princess Band-Aid was a treasured possession to her – it not only covered the scrape on her arm, but it also had her favorite princesses on it. When someone took it off her arm, she wanted it back… immediately.

Children are likely to blurt out exactly how they feel, but as adults we are more responsible for what we say – and how and when we say it. The way we handle anger can be the difference between wisdom and foolishness. Proverbs 29:11 tells us that it is wise to consider the reasons for our anger before we speak, and to consider our words carefully when we do. Proverbs 29:20 reinforces this: “Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” (NIV) Impatience and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind are foolish.

Why is it so hard for us to truly live the command in James 1:19 and consider our words before we speak? I believe it is because of our mindset. What do we really believe about ourselves and our rights? Our anger usually arises in situations in which we feel someone or something has infringed upon our rights. But truly, does it say anywhere in the Bible that we are owed anything? In lieu of rights, we are asked to love God and to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). When we keep these commands in mind, it changes our mindset from being self-focused to other-focused, which should help us to think before we speak.

If you struggle with impatience that results in angry outbursts, pray Psalm 141:3: “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (NIV) When it comes to words and anger, remember your friend, Patience, and leave Folly behind.

A Look Back… A Look Forward

Happy New Year 2018!

As I close the books on 2017,  my mind is flooded with memories of this year: In May, we bought our first pet, Cookie, the Guinea pig, and she has enriched our lives with her quirkiness, especially her tweeting like a bird every time we open the refrigerator door. In the fall, we felt God’s leading us to seek another church home, and that has been an amazing adventure. We have reconnected with numerous friends as we visited their churches, and even enjoyed seeing what life is like in other denominations. We have been blessed by hearing so many different pastors and have enjoyed the search process as we patiently waited on the Lord’s direction. Also, in the fall, our family went to Washington, DC, for the first time and we rank that vacation higher than Disney World! This year, we were blessed to attend five weddings – four for former college students whom we taught in Sunday School, and we were saddened to attend funerals for friends’ parents and spouses, and a young girl from our former church.

One main highlight, though, is that I began this blog site last January as a resource for a Bible study I wrote and taught in the winter. Teaching that class was an amazing experience, and I treasure the women who shared their lives with me on those Tuesday mornings. A year later, I am still enjoying reading and studying Proverbs, and sharing my thoughts with you. For 2018, I hope to continue sharing how Proverbs applies to our lives, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts, too!

As you begin 2018, do you have any goals in mind? If you like to make resolutions, I have a few for us all to consider. These actually come from the original idea upon which my Bible study, Solomon Says, is based. Back in 2011, I was working with my friend Gwynn Schneider and our Education minister Mike Davis on our church magazine, and I wanted to write an article about resolutions with a spiritual twist since the issue would come out in January. In our brainstorming session, Mike said Proverbs had a lot of good counsel, and it hit me! I had recently read the Bible in 90 days (as part of a Bible study) and for the book of Proverbs I had made notes of overarching themes I kept seeing as I read. Those themes became the resolutions in the article below, and those resolutions are now the chapters of Solomon Says.

Solomon Says article