Archive for the ‘devotional’ Category

Articles

Continuing with the animal theme

In Bible,Community,devotional,faith,family,generosity,home,leadership,mission,principles,quote,Spiritual,Theology,Uncategorized,work on November 13, 2012 by mstevensrev

ImageThis morning I read Geoffrey James article, The Power of Determinationand was inspired.  There are many challenging things happening in our world, both personally and to friends that are very close to me. “So, even if it feels like God has flushed you down the toilet, pick yourself up and keep going. As long as you’re alive and kicking, there’s always a chance that God will pick you up and bring you to a place of safety.” I recognize that my current challenges pale in comparison to the circumstance others are facing in this world.  While I may be able to do little to improve their life I can be faithful and determined in my circumstances, then live with an awareness of their plight so that if circumstances allow I may be generous with all that I have been give.  The scriptures tell us that we (people) are but a breath, therefore whatever challenging circumstances we face today are less than a breath.  Remember 1 Cor. 13:13, And now these three remain faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Articles

The (free-range) Chicken Theology of Work

In art,Bible,church,Community,culture,design,devotional,Evangelist,faith,familiy,food,Friends,Fun,Japan,Localization,mission,movies,Prayer,principles,Spiritual,Theology,Uncategorized,work on November 11, 2012 by mstevensrev


Image
My theology of work is forever changing and evolving, and one place that I journey with others on this path is at Kiros, once or twice a month depending on my travel schedule I attended the breakfasts meetings they put on where they often have a speaker share some perspective on living out their calling as a Christian in the marketplace.  As a side note I also had the privilege of speaking to the group last March, if you want to check that our it is here.  This last Friday Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary provided one of the best talks I have heard on the topic, his stories had us rolling on the floor, his theology was simple enough a child could understand while making thoughtful people think, and his love of the scriptures came through as everything was driven by the text.  The premise of Richard’s talk was very simple, you have been called by God to your work and you have the opportunity to examine that calling in this life to better understand your ‘responsibility’ to live out that calling in your fullness.

There were so many rich stories to share but my favorite was one Richard shared about a friend who is a chicken farmer who examined his role in the plan God has in raising chickens on his farm.  There is a tension when you come to farming or the role animals have on this earth and the tension is this: Animals are not people and animals have not merely been created to serve our purposes.  Another way to say this is a chicken won’t write Shakespeare, but a chicken is not merely a piece of meat.  Therefore this farmer thought deeply about the theology of raising chickens.  He came up with this, “God wants every chicken on our farm to have the opportunity to strut his/her chicken self infront of the other chickens.” In that theology I hear echos of the local farm movement as described to me by Mark Canlis, that the goals of these farmers is to have their cows (or other animals) only have one “bad day” in their life.  That day would be the day they are slaughtered. Though the image Richard provided me was so much more winsome because I see in my mind that chicken strutting around, rather than focusing on the bloody chopping block.

This can be a helpful premise for chickens, but I propose that people cannot think deeply about these issues because we don’t recognize that we have been created to strut the glory in which we have been created, theologians refer to this as being created in the image of God. Marianne Williamson was famously quoted in a speech by Nelson Mandela, she says,

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measureIt is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

The knee jerk reaction people, especially from my theological tradition have, to this kind of thinking is that we are sinful therefore pride and arrogance must be guarded against. This warning is fair but it sets up a false choice between humility and glory.  Jesus lived in the fullness of God and yet was extremely humble.  He accepted all people as equal, he did not use them as means to an end, the only part I would add to our responsibility in the area of humility is that we recognize that we are wrong intentionally because of bad motives and unintentionally whereas Jesus did not have this struggle because he was God…he was perfect. One friend of mine says, “I’m wrong 50% of the time, the hard part is that I don’t even know which 50%, but God is making me better.”  Live out in the glory that you have been created in, be quick to acknowledge when you fail at it, and in gratitude acknowledge that the source of every good gift in your life is not your own but rather a gift from God.

The question that Richard’s (free-range) Chicken Theology brought up for me is, how do you apply this in the darkest valley’s of your career and work? In the past two years before my current job I walked through a few of those valleys, the struggle of broken promises that would not reward me for my work, getting fired, and having a job where I felt lonely and hopeless.  How do you strut your stuff in those circumstance? I asked the question and Richard’s answer was twofold as I understood it, in thinking about it I think there may be at least third option as I understand it.

Richard said first your current circumstances may be preparation for the next step.  This rang true for me because I look back on the last two years and acknowledge that I would not be currently living in such glory without all that I had gone through.  The experience humbled me, gave me fearful experiences that I persevered through, and provided tangible knowledge that assists me daily in my current job.  Learn everything you can if you are going through a hard time, examine your character, life and work for there could be something on the horizon you are completely unaware of that will be a blessing.  This answer provides hope, but the truth is like a chicken we are completely ignorant if our future date is the chopping block.  And yes I know that even for the child of God the chopping block is not the end of the story because there is greater glory beyond, but I still find this answer a part of the overall answer rather then complete.

The second answer Richard provided is that your vocation could be less then the sum total of your calling.  Our callings are greater than our work, I sell therefore I am a salesperson yet I am a father, husband, churchman, and the list goes on and on.  Perhaps your work is merely a platform that provides you the freedom to pursue the other callings in your life with greater glory. I have met many people in my life that this is the circumstances they live in, they are lawyers but their passion is to see the gospel forwarded in particular countries in the world like China.  The short side of this answer as complete is that we were created in a garden where all aspects of life were intended to work for God’s glory, so when we set create an arbitrary distinction between our work life and home life, for instance, it is impossible to live as God intended…as a whole person.  I know for me personally when my work life was hopeless it was very difficult to enjoy my time at the park with my children, most of my conversations with my wife were in tears clouded by depression.  This is why I contend again that work as a platform merely for the rest of our life falls short in allowing us to live gloriously.

A third option I want to propose does not answer the question fully either. As a matter of fact I sense that used incorrectly it could be the most damaging of the the options as it is the most deterministic and could create an undeserved heavier burden on someone already struggling. This option is the most Taoist or Confucius of the options, and because of that I think it is the most practical (in touch with how the world really functions and how our role relates to that functioning).

A documentary came out recently titled, Jiro dream of Sushi “by David Gelb takes a look at the work and life of Jiro Ono, a Michelin three-star sushi chef who, at 85 years of age, continues to work on his craft every day at his tiny restaurant in a Tokyo office building basement opposite a subway station entrance. His colleagues, his country, and at least one very knowledgeable food writer recognize him as perhaps the greatest sushi chef alive.” This description is taken from an article on Lifehacker by Maximiliano El Nerdo Nérdez.  In the article titled Lessons We can Learn from Jiro Ono, Maximiliano encourages readers as his first point to fall in love with your work.

“Once you decide on your occupation,” says Jiro, “you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”

Deciding on your occupation is a challenge for we live in a society that provides the opportunity to live in reasonable comfort regardless of your job or if it is in line with your calling.  The hard work is not finding a job, it is discovering calling…once your calling is discovered or rather accepted (if you are a Calvinist) then the path of occupation is more clear though it may be a difficult path.  Part of my calling is as an evangelist, meant that for a time my occupation would place me circumstances to lead people to a similar vision of my spiritual practice though for most people I talked with they would not share the same vision.  So I became a pastor of a church in Oakland, CA.  The church had financial challenges from before I started there, attendance was poor, and it was in a city that was not necessarily supportive of the entire scope of work we were pursing.  The path for me as an evangelist was not easy.  Now that I am in technology services my calling as an evangelist has not changed, but the path is much easier in many ways, and the path still allows me to live out my glorious calling while dedicating myself in excellence to my occupation.

Today I want to encourage everyone, strut your stuff in front of us other chickens. If you are in a dark valley, remember your current occupation (or lack of occupation) could be a learning step, a platform for other work, or the place you have been given to dedicate yourself.  Even as I write that I believe the answer is all three not merely one or another.  When I worked in a church we began each service with a call to worship, and I would frame the call to worship and the entire service with these words, “The good news for those God loves is that he has the first word to us and that first word is always blessing. God loves you and has made you in his glory! The good news does not end there rather God has the first word and the last word.  The last word of those God loves is also blessing, you have been delivered.” So regardless of your circumstance remember you have been created for glory and you will be delivered unto glory. Amen.

Articles

Sharing life together, though complete and utter strangers

In art,Community,culture,devotional,faith,familiy,home,music,poetry,politics,Prayer,Spiritual,Uncategorized on November 10, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: ,

Moments in this life take on a forever quality that I would have thought could only be reserved for heaven.  Last night was on of them.  This month I turn 36 years old, still a kid I know, and Karin and I went to a house concert of a music hero of mine name Bill Malonee who I have have been listing to for twenty years.  There are many times that Bill’s path has crossed mine and each has been significant and meaningful to me, some directly others indirectly, some glorious others painful. I’ll start with how I ‘met’ Bill and then I’ll tell you my favorite story about him.

I moved back from living overseas my first to years of high school.  The transition back had it’s challenging chief among them was I got cut from the varsity basketball team of my new school after having played varsity for two years overseas previously, thanks Coach Brotias.  Suddenly my plan to be the next Bobby Hurley and start at Duke was looking like it was in jeopardy. In addition I had not registered for a beach trip a group of my new friends were going on with my church because it conflicted with basketball.  I was left discouraged and going to be alone in it, until this small group of young guys (5 of them) made sure that I was going to the beach with them. That was a long way around the barn, so I’ll get to it.  On the three hour ride to the beach instead of riding on the huge bus, where all the girls were which should have been motivation for us, my group of guys piled into a small van, probably the worst smelling van in history.  There we had our own boombox to control the music we listen to on the way.  Erik Crown brought his Jimmy Buffett tapes.  Being new to the group and from a family of teetotalers this was highly offensive and I struggled with listening to ‘drinking’ songs while going on a church retreat.  Little did I know these young men were setting me on a journey more theologically rich and challenging then I could ever imagine and they were using music.  This is the same group of guys who introduced me to Bill Malonee, the story would only be better if his name were Bill W:)

ImageBill Malonee was the writer and frontman for a group call Vigilantes of Love, or for fans like us VOL. They were a gritty thoughtful theological rock band with folk influence from Athens, GA.  VOL and Bill’s lyrics became a soundtrack for my life, one learning to love mercy, seek justice and walk humbly. My soul was fed and challenged with lyrics like:

I’ve been trying to negotiate peace 
with my own existence. 
She’s gotta stockpile full of weaponry; 
she breaking every cease-fire agreement.
-Welcome to Struggleville

Now look if you’re gonna come around here 
And say those sort of things 
You gotta take a few on the chin 
You talking about love and all that stuff 
You better bring your thickest skin 
Sometimes you can’t please everyone 
Sometimes you can’t please anyone at all 
You sew your heart onto your sleeve 
And wait for the ax to fall
-Skin

It’s amazing what you’ll buy if you think last chance went buy
You weave a new set of lines to cover yourself
‘Cos love is just a plea at the deepest point of need
We take the reasonable facsimile most of the time

-Reasonable Facsimile

If Bill approached faith with gloves it was not the white gloves I was used to it was boxing gloves, and he seemed in my mind to be on the receiving end of the punches…most of the time.

Years later one of my closest friends played bass in a band, The River, from Eastern College in Philadelphia. The River found their inspiration from bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival, in your face Southern Rock with a great lead singer who’s voice clearly woke you up.  The River’s first big show was to open for Vigilantes of Love and they were honored at the opportunity.  Nervous and extremely excited they took the stage, played their set, during and afterward they knew there was something terribly wrong. Later that night while hanging out with Bill, he showered them with complements about their potential and asked, “Would you like some advice for the future?” Receiving wisdom from an artist that had made it was a great opportunity so my friend said yes and in all humility and graciousness Bill said, “You guys have some real talent, for the future I would just invest in a tuner.” The River is no more but the story lives in rock and roll lore as one of the most gracious and hilarious moments, on par with anything that was scripted in the movie, We are Spinal Tap.

ImageSo last night I had to opportunity to experience a house show with Bill Malonee and his wife Mariah. Time has not stood still, Bill has a son only ten years my junior and I have three daughters who did not exist when I was introduced to Bill.  As I sat on the floor at Bill’s feet, he poured out his soul, challenging me to remember those who have died as a result of corporate greed in West Virginia coal mines, wooing me with lyrics of songs that have transformed my soul from the past, and introducing me to a new friend Seth Martin. In a world that I have information on anything I want, Bill reminded me that there will always be those who are called to be prophet. Whether they are riding in boxcars like Woody Guthrie or playing Madison Square Garden like Bob Dylan, I need a prophet to speak or rather sing into my life reminding and rekindling my soul as to what is important.

Today my soul is rekindled, may you take a moment yourself and listen to one of my favorites of Bill’s called Double Cure.

ImageThanks Bill.

Articles

Growing into the person you have been created to be

In art,Bible,Books,business,church,culture,devotional,Evangelist,faith,familiy,Friends,Fun,fun video,leadership,Lord of the Rings,movies,principles,Proverbs,Reading,Theology,Uncategorized on November 4, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , ,

During the past week I have been thinking through many of the experiences of my life that have been used to bring me to where I am at. This morning as I am reading I came across a passage in 1 Samuel 21, that clearly reminded me of something out of Lord of the Rings, and it was a passage of scripture that I never have remembered reading.

In a previous post I spoke about King Saul, who had been chosen the leader of God’s people Israel really for no other apparent reason other than God chose him by placing God’s Spirit upon Saul.  Later in the story a new King (a different King) is ordained and the Spirit of God leaves Saul, only returning temporarily in the story.  The kingship essentially is passed on to a young boy named David.  Now just about everyone in western culture knows of David because of the story of David versus Goliath. In a battle between God’s people and their most brutal enemies, the Philistines,  a bet is made to decide the war, instead of all the warriors fighting the Philistines make an offer that if an Israelite warrior can defeat the best of the best of the Philistines it will settle the dispute.  Sounds like a good way to spear blood shed the only problem is the Philistines have a weapon of mass destruction named Goliath. He is essentially an indestructible giant that leads God’s people into fear and cowardliness. Except for one pre-pubescent boy named David, who as everyone can remember defeats Goliath by relying on God and using a slingshot an one stone.  This is often used culturally as a parable on bravery, when it is actually a story of relying on the work of a powerful God in impossible circumstances. Through the event David is thrust into popularity that creates almost constant tension between the old King, Saul, and the newly ordained not yet King, David.  Multiple times Saul tries to kill David, and the story I’m about to share takes place after one particularly intense attempt on David’s life by Saul where David flees.

While on the road David and his men are starving so he stops in to see Ahimelech the priest for some food. The part of the story that gets most of the attention is Ahimelech the priest allows David and his men to eat the holy bread, a big no no.  Then Ahimelech realizes David has no weapons:

8 Then David said to Ahimelech, “Then have you not here a spear or a sword at hand? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste” 9 And the priest said, c “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you struck down ind the Valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it, for there is none but that here” And David said, “There is none like that; give it to me”

The sword that David won in battle during his youth, is only given to him once he becomes a man.  There is no explanation as Ahimelech just provides it.  The part of the story that is not mentioned other then not being given a reason that David didn’t know about this sword beforehand or already have it, is that it appears David is now ‘big’ enough for the sword.  Going back and reading the story of David and Goliath reminds us that Goliath was a giant, therefore Goliath would have possessed a sword worth of his stature.

In my minds eye I never picture David as a large man, actually after reading this morning I realized that most of my images of David depict him as a handsome late teenager or twenty year old of average stature.  I’m uncertain of any descriptions of David’s stature later in his life but there are many details that provided this picture for my mind: in spite of being a successful warrior David was a musician and poet, David had a way with the ladies, and David had a deeply intimate emotional relationship with Saul’s son Jonathan.  All these details combined with being introduced to David when he is a boy have lead me to always picture him as a smaller man, until now.  In this story he is handed Goliath’s sword without concern that he is ‘big’ enough to yield it when necessary.  David has physically grown into the great manly character he demonstrated as a youth when he defeated Goliath.

This morning I am struck with the connection to the story line in The Lord of the Rings, where Aragorn the misanthrope ranger, who is a human son of the king of Gondor destined to lead the Kingdom of Men into prominence in Middle Earth, receives Anduril.  The sword that defeated Sauron in the ancient epic battle of middle earth that freed the ring of destiny from the possession of the evil King Sauron. Embedded in this post is the scene where Aragorn is given Anduril.  This is a picture I have of David receiving Goliath’s sword from 1 Samuel.

One other brief note on this is related to David’s use or lack there of use of the sword.  After being handed it I would be very excited to go out and yield it at the first opportunity.  Yet David does not, he understands that God has given him many ‘swords’ at the moment and in the next conflict he is faced with he does not use Goliath’s sword as justification that God intends him to go and start a fight with all those who oppose him.  David understands that just because you have the sword doesn’t mean that you are meant to use it.

12 And David g took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard. 14 Then Achish said to his servants, “Behold, you see the man is mad. Why then have you brought him to me? 15 Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”

David when faced with conflict while holding Goliath’s sword at his side, uses his cleverness to avoid getting killed by Achish by acting crazy.  It reminds me of a friend’s explanation of wisdom, “Wisdom is not merely knowing the correct action to take, but rather the correct action at the appropriate time.”  Everyone has a destiny, something that you have been created to do, embrace it.  When you are given a physical reminder of that destiny use wisdom because possession of the great gift does not necessarily mean that you are meant to use it in that circumstance.

Articles

Not another blog post on leadership, ugh

In Bible,Books,business,Community,culture,devotional,faith,leadership,principles,Theology,Uncategorized,work on October 30, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , , ,

Leadership is such a popular topic that for me it is beginning to lose any meaning.  Organizations that I respect like Amazon.com use it as core to their hiring practices, just check out their values and Jeff Bezo’s ten leadership principles that never go out of style.  Over the years I have spent a ton of time learning and studying the topic, I have The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell and other books on the topic right next to my desk in the office.  Continually I go back and forth with embracing these ideas as a rule of life and going contrarian to the popular thinking.  Needless to say I am still learning and somewhat tormented with the concept of leadership.

This ambiguity increased when I read a story this morning from 1 Samuel 10 about the anointing of King Saul:

10 1-2 Then Samuel took a flask of oil, poured it on Saul’s head, and kissed him. He said, “Do you see what this means? God has anointed you prince over his people.“This sign will confirm God’s anointing of you as prince over his inheritance: After you leave me today, as you get closer to your home country of Benjamin, you’ll meet two men near Rachel’s Tomb. They’ll say, ‘The donkeys you went to look for are found. Your father has forgotten about the donkeys and is worried about you, wringing his hands—quite beside himself!’3-4 “Leaving there, you’ll arrive at the Oak of Tabor. There you’ll meet three men going up to worship God at Bethel. One will be carrying three young goats, another carrying three sacks of bread, and the third a jug of wine. They’ll say, ‘Hello, how are you?’ and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept.5-6 “Next, you’ll come to Gibeah of God, where there’s a Philistine garrison. As you approach the town, you’ll run into a bunch of prophets coming down from the shrine, playing harps and tambourines, flutes and drums. And they’ll be prophesying. Before you know it, the Spirit ofGod will come on you and you’ll be prophesying right along with them. And you’ll be transformed. You’ll be a new person!“When these confirming signs are accomplished, you’ll know that you’re ready: Whatever job you’re given to do, do it. God is with you!“Now, go down to Gilgal and I will follow. I’ll come down and join you in worship by sacrificing burnt offerings and peace offerings. Wait seven days. Then I’ll come and tell you what to do next.”Saul turned and left Samuel. At that very moment God transformed him—made him a new person! And all the confirming signs took place the same day.

The background of the story is rich, the nation of Israel had a long string of bad leaders called judges, the people began to bitch about wanting a king like other nations because they though that would be best, finally God relented giving them what they asked for, and Saul a really tall good looking young man is anointed king of the nation. This morning as I read the story I was struck with how little Saul did to become their leader.  He was lost looking for his father’s donkey’s when the prophet Samuel finds him and anoints him, Saul did nothing. Then God orchestrates a number of signs for Saul to confirm the anointing: finding the lost ass, people giving him bread, and even an ancient rave with a bunch a prophets where Saul prophesies as if he is a holy man.  All of this happen ‘to’ Saul but most striking to me is, “When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart.

Saul had nothing to do with getting into leadership and this flies in the face of popular theory I have studied and the theological concept of servant leadership.  Saul was neither a great leader nor a servant, rather Saul’s life (and heart) were consumed by a powerful and living God in order to lead.  Even as I write this I know that I should not be surprised as David, the greatest leader ever to live, was nicknamed a man after God’s own heart.  God raises up leaders as fit for God’s plans. As a side note it is no wonder that followers of God are admonished to pray for our leaders, if God has placed them there we are to pray whether they are a blessing or a curse to us personally they are part of God’s greater plan.  This is key to have in mind during this election process in the United States, more prayer and less banter.

To borrow some of the best thoughts I have heard recently on leadership I want to share a sermon from St. Pauls Church Seattle, Rev. Melissa M. Skelton is one of the best leaders inside or outside the church I have ever had the privilege to meet.  Her sermon two weeks ago said this:

Robert Greenleaf, a retired AT&T Executive, championed a similar model of leadership during a time when more authoritarian models of leadership dominated corporate life. In his thin little pamphlet entitled The Servant as Leader, Greenleaf, consistent with his title, wrote not about the Leader as Servant but about the Servant as Leader—a crucial distinction for him. Greenleaf says this: “The servant-leader is servant first… Becoming a servant-leader begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first… The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and the most difficult to administer, is this: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?” Check out the entire manuscript of the sermon here.

Personally I will continue to wander through the waters of what it means to lead.  I will pray for leaders, I will pray that God will ‘change my heart’, and I will evaluate my life through the lens of whether those I serve are more likely themselves to become servants.

Articles

No one said leadership was easy….

In devotional,mission,principles,quote,Reading on December 23, 2011 by mstevensrev

…though I have often thought if you are gifted it must be.  This last year has taught me so much more.  First,  I always knew that I did not like pain but this year I came to face how the many blessings in my life had left me spoiled.  Therefore instead of being grateful and positioned for leadership, I lived with resentment.  Releasing this has provided momentum to live a free life, with utter gratefulness for every moment whether easy or hard.  Second, the world is much harder then I every imagined.  I am an eternal optimist, hence why I can survive in sales.  The truth is the world is fundamentally more broken then I feared to imagine, it is hard and not for the faint of heart.  As an aside this may be one reason why so many people medicate themselves into a life of mediocrity through debt and comfort.  Recognizing this for me has provided courage to move forward and joy when things do work out!  It is no small thing when this happens…honestly just took it for granted that it would happen that way which is naive.

All these thoughts were sparked by a great article I read this week called The Risk of Leading with Character, by Daniel Newman .  Daniel outlines both the traits of leading with character and the risks.  Then he inspires me with the challenge that if we only live for the ‘now’ there is no way that we can actually Lead with Character because (and this is my thought) it is just too hard and risky.

Articles

>Proverbs 10:15, benefits of wealth

In devotional,Proverbs on August 16, 2010 by mstevensrev

>15 A rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin.

Wealth matters. Wealth determines how you are effected by the world. The severity of this might be lost on us because even the most poor in our culture are not completely ruined by their poverty. This is not how it has been in the history of the world nor is it the way it is in the most poor parts of our world. Just look at the recent earthquake in Haiti.

A strong city can protect, there are walls, water, homes, roads, trade, the sum of it’s parts is greater than the whole.  The city is also a refuge for many. For the rich man wealth is a blessing to his family but how many cities do you know where only one family lives there?  Many are gathered and cared for there.

There is the possibility that a strong city can become an idol, the story of Babel makes this very clear to us. Beware of placing our hopes in anything other than the living God.

Immediately upon reading this verse my mind makes the connection.  The strong city is just the place the poor need to reside in order to avoid ruin. Spiritualize this and we know that the Lord is a strong tower, he can provide this for us. Yet after living in poverty and working with the poor I recognize there is a need for the wealthy to commit their resources to these people.  It is our duty but it is also our blessing. The grace that we have been shown spiritually as well as financially should be shared with gratitude, one beggar sharing bread with another.

Articles

>Proverbs 10:6-11

In Bible,devotional,Grace Seattle,Proverbs on July 12, 2010 by mstevensrev

>6 Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
7 The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.
8 The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.
10 Whoever winks the eye causes trouble, but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Verses 6, 7, 11 give us some good news for the righteous which is then clearly set against the wicked. A blessing upon your head if younger righteous. This is kingly imagery, for your head is where your crown is placed. You will be honored, or seen as royal. Also there is another beautiful blessing upon the head and that is oil. Oil provides fragrant smell, cleanliness, and even healing for your scalp and skin. These publicly visible blessings are in contrast to the mouth of the wicked which is concealing violence. Hidden and dark.

Also the righteous are thought about favorably. The older I get the more I think about hiw I will be remembered, by my children, family, friends, and others I have known. Could it be that the memory will be a blessing? Can I live In such a way tomorrow that will leave others with a memory of blessing. Wow, through our mouths this can pour out like a fountain. I picture a vast fountain of wine for many compared to a garbage heap that is filled with rot from the wicked.

Babbling and secretive the wicked contribute to their own ruin. They are playing games in secret and trying to be smooth. I love to wink at my daughters in affectionate love, but this is a picture of a cheater at the card table signaling to his partner. Receive God’s commandments, walk with integrity. These will bring about security.

This morning I was wonderfully reminded where my security is supposed to come from, when It comes from anywhere other then God, I will live as a violent insecure self protective man. When my security is based upon the promise of the Gospel, that God loves me and has given himself for me and all his gifts are mine, then I can be gentle and secure. The Proverbs push us to a love of God’s law which is only attainable with the understand from Jesus of God grace. Yes I see my failure constantly in the law, but I know it is good, and I also know that God is making me more and more in it’s image I am his failful one. How deep is the broken that is constantly present in my life and yet how much geater is the love of God who has rescued me not leaving me to rot!

Articles

>Proverbs 10:1-3

In Bible,devotional,faith,family,Proverbs,Translation Services,work on July 4, 2010 by mstevensrev

>1 The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.

Families are connected. Even when I was younger I could tell that my actions as a son had deep effects upon my parents. Now that I am a parent I see the hopes I have for my kids and how their good and bad decisions effect me.

Proverbs was written to young business men, used to help train them in how to be successful in the way God would want. Perhaps it is because I am in my thirties or even because I’m not earning my living through working at the church, regardless I am amazed at how many men live for the approval and acknowledgement of their father. This drive is at the core of most men. They either receive it and know they are okay or are continually driven frantic in the pursuit of it.

That is not the same for men and boys with their mom. Mom will say “he was a nice boy” even while he sits on death row, approval is not the issue. Deep sadness and sorrow is though. Men and fathers will mask or remove themselves from the heartache, mom’s will never escape it.

To me both these pictures are found in the Gospel. In Jesus we have the full acceptance of the Father. So whether your dad is dead or alive, whether you have his approval or not, you can still know that you are fully accepted by your heavenly Father. Second he finds joymor delight in you. There are no step children with God, he chose you and you a his. You can completely blow in and his heart does not lose joy for you. He is on your side and with you.

2 Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.

When I started in my first sales job there were many lessons. On important one was that the ends justified the means. When it was at the end of the month you forced through everything you could in order to get that larger check and keep your numbers up. At the end of the day everyone was looking at profit. God’s accounting does not work that way. He wipes that line clean. Sadly it took years for me to see that my work and how I do it matters, not just what position I am in at the end of the quarter.

There is a death that comes along with seeking profit at all cost. We see this all the time in our economy with these business that go down this road. Most recently the real-estate collapse, where tons of folks who could affording mortagages we sold them, now many are jobless and have lost their home. There is allittle bit of death we all experience with these events. Can we create, support, and work within business models that deliver from death raher then create it. These can be profitable world changing business and ideas, I mean why wouldn’t God want to make these service thrive! This is what his kingdom is about, Jesus did it through preaching and healing, and yet he said that after him we will do much greater things, what does that mean? I don’t know but do not limit your I imagination when it comes to the kingdom of God.

3 The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.

These three verses have a connection to me. How righteousness effects the family, how righteousness plays out in work, and how God cares for the righteous. Though we are encouraged to not solely focus on profit, we can have peace that God is focus on our bottom line! He will not let you go hungry, so go for it. Let your hope and imagination run wild.

One of my favorite quotes is from Bill Gates who was asked how much money is enough, his response “one more dollar”. You can judge for yourself whether Bill Gates is wicked, he’s done more to effect the world for probably both good and bad then most people who live so I’m uncertain how to even judge. His statement though express a desire and drive that i find in my own heart. That craving that regardless of what I have a little more will satisfy. God can thwart that craving, his plan undermines these folks.

Dreams, one of my favorite recent stories is about the dream Karin, my wife, and I shared at the end of my first year of my current job. I had just gone through a major transition from full time vocational ministry into selling localization services. It had been a great year and we decided to let it ride in this direction, before that there was always a thought in the back of our minds I’d try to get a church job again. So we prayed and we dreamed. I made a list of all the clients I wanted to have within technology to sell localization to, I talked about being the top salesperson in the entire industry. Within one year every company I had named I was working with. I’m in a position that people work their entire career to secure, and God deserves all praise. Even as I share that story I am left wondering when was the last time I dreamed that way? What is the next exciting only attainable through the work of God hope that I have? The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry!

Articles

>Proverbs 8:32-36

In devotional,faith,Proverbs on June 20, 2010 by mstevensrev

>32 “And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.
34 Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.
35 For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD,
36 but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.”

This is the close for Lady Wisdom, probably going to be very costly right? Listen. That’s all. Listen to her, wait, find her. Everyone knows this is the hardest thing to do at times. We have agendas, passions, important things that others must be made aware of or else they will never know. Wisdom requires we set that to the side and give an attentive heart or ear.

To me this is a clear connection with Proverbs and the Gospel. The Gospel is good news and calls that we also listen. 95% of what Christians believe is similar to any other moral code from the existence of civilization. Yet the 5% that is based on set aside what you are driven by and listen, wait, find Jesus is very different. In Proverbs wisdom is personified by Lady Wisdom, in the New Testament Wisdom is incarnated in Jesus, who was fully God and fully man. That which is still fuzzy in Proverbs is made clear in the person of Jesus Christ.

This instruction to listen is followed by a promise (or blessing) and a consequence (or a curse). Favor comes along with watching and finding. If you are too busy talking, not looking, distracted you injure yourself and you love death. To me this is one of those places you should not over think, the message is clear life or death.