Archive for the ‘Proverbs’ Category

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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.

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Poetry instead of PowerPoint in the boardroom

In art,business,China,culture,faith,familiy,Friends,leadership,poetry,Proverbs,quote,Spiritual,Technology,Theology on December 22, 2011 by mstevensrev

A friend and inspiration of mine and many other Nigel Goodwin has an encouraging idea he shares with those creatives in the boardroom.  While spending a few days with Nigel and a group of others at a Kindlings Hearth Event, we had been discussing slippers and lingerie…which is probably an entirely different blog post unless you know Nigel because I’m certain you have discussed similarly unique things with him.  At some point he stops and says, Michael when I do consulting with companies I want to see the humanity brought back into their existence so “When I go into the boardroom I start with poetry rather than PowerPoint.”

While Nigel’s words were inspirational, there was a good part of my heart that sank.  Of course Nigel with his experience and maturity is able to bring those worlds together, he is a uniquely gifted GIFT from God to the rest of us.  As a young, inexperienced, highly ambitious and motivated sales monkey I could not picture that reality, but in that there was hope.  In the short term I embraced bringing the humanity back into those rooms, and noticed results.  With clients such as Google who treat vendors as nameless faceless units and make rational decisions upon the data that has been thoroughly scrubbed for accuracy, it is not easy unless you are intentional.  Though I noticed the more human meetings became, the more laughter there was, the more people longed to have lunch together afterward and there was a small patch of green growing in this area.

That would have been a miracle in mind and the truth be told only God could be responsible for bringing life and humanity to a Google boardroom:)  And yet I had an even bigger surprise yesterday and am grateful that I had the eyes to see what I had stumbled into.  This year has been filled with job transition and the turmoil related to that change.  Thankfully I am celebrating two months with a new company that I am really enjoying and excited about.  Yesterday I found myself in Cupertino at our office with the head of a Business Unit discussing recent shifts within the company and how we are to move forward.  We were setting out a goal for the next three months and clearly came up with the foci and metrics to measure success, yet we had not named our goal.  So I ask the Business Unit head what is mantra for the group.

A grin came across his face and he said that he has a slide on that which he presented.  While finding it on his computer his demeanor shifted from the confident young leader to shy.  He said that often these are the hardest ideas and seem really good in private but are silly in public.  I felt like I was on holy ground.  Then he presented this image to us. Thankfully he did not have the English translation because he was able to share with us more context which made the word so much more than the translation expresses!  It is a quote from Confucius which most people from China know very well, roughly translated it means, “To put the world in order we must first set our hearts to right thing, to then focus on craftsmanship, to then care for family and team, and then the world.”  I have begin to read commentaries and other translations of this proverb and needless to say it is very profound.

After listening to the explanation I was asked what I thought.  I said it was amazing, the full extent of why I think it speaks to me will take an evening and a meal together but in short is universal and human, capturing and relating what it means for us to be ourselves.  How beautiful to have the opportunity to start with ‘getting our hearts right’ with my co-workers, I desperately need people around me who are concerned with that because it has a direct effect on everything in my life, including my ‘numbers’.  I said, “It is deeply human.”  Then on a level even more deep my coworker asked me with an amazing amount of vulnerability in his eyes and voice, “Is it too Chinese?”  The weight of that question would be hard for me to describe in this blog post, but in short it felt like through this poem/proverb I was being asked if we were all people in a shared struggle with what it means to live in this world.  Again I said it, “It is human, and with roots from China it is perfect for our company.”  There was some more discussion but one of the action items we took away was to send out an audio file of the poem so that the American’s on the team can learn how to say it…as it is mean to be said.

We took a break and before we started again, I told the team about Nigel.  This wonderful friend who brings poetry into boardrooms instead of PowerPoint, and I said he would be very proud of the discussion we had around a poem.  In this I cannot express my gratitude….

P.S. For those of you who haven’t seen the TED Talk related to dance and powerpoint please check it out, this is very dear to my heart.

Dance vs. powerpoint, a modest proposal: John Bohannon on TED.com


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>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.

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>Proverbs 10:13-14, 18-21 The mouth

In Proverbs,Spiritual on August 4, 2010 by mstevensrev

>13 On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.
14 The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.

18 The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.
19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
21 The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.

Last nite which watching Shark Week on Discovery Channel I heard once again about the huge amount of bacteria in a shark’s mouth, often the first challenge is a lack of blood after a shark bite, but a close second is the infection from the bacteria in the wounds. It has bee said that the mouth is the most dirty part of the Human body, hard to believe when we all have butts, so I’m not sure how true that is. Proverbs warns us against the spiritual bacteria that is within our mouths; lead to the rod, bring ruin, make you a fool, leads to transgression, reveals a wicked heart, and starves you.

Most people who know the bible know the story of Isaiah the prophet who is taken before the throne of God, and asked to deliver prophecy to God’s people. His response is “I am a man od unclean lips from a people of unclean lips.”. And God provides a burning coal to cleanse him for the job. This is a great example of confession before God of these failures on our part to control our lips/mouth, but also demonstrates the the resolution to our unclean lips is not easy. I still find myself enjoy ping aimless talk and speculation. Only recently thogpugh I am realizing that I am regularly wrong about things I am convinced of and convincing others of, also I’m finding that people listen to me. That is a bad combination, a man of unclean lips from a people of unclean lips.

Oh wretched man that I am, what do I have to look forward too? Great gifts that are the desciption of wisdom in Proverbs are to be found on my lips; wisdom, knowledge, prudence, worth, and nourishment. This comes from a few places, from God to our silenced heart, through His word, through others especially our spouses, and through those who have gone before us in glory that have experienced God in their time. My heart needs to be silenced though before those other means can crack into me. When I have the answer before me and I’m going to God for confirmation, God often let’s me continue to be fooled by myself and later whe I’m smacked upside the head and humble can I hear from Him. His word sometimes only convinces me of what I’ve already studied, without every being anything I truly KNOW. It took me awhile to write this post for that reason, God just needed to let these verses stew in my heart and mind.

There is one of these Proverbs that really stands out to me because it has to do with a lack of words rather than an excess of them: 18 The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool
. Though silence is helpful in discernment it should not be used as an excuse to sin. I regularly find my hedging how I say things especially with my wife, there is no need. We love each other are committed to each other and should talk freely and fully with each other. So root out the injustices you are troubled by and use that hatred to speak for change, change for the good. This is a big oart if forwarding the Kingdom of God, His people using their voices for the good when it comes to injustices against those God loves!

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>Proverbs 10:12, offending

In Proverbs on July 21, 2010 by mstevensrev

>12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

There is no doubt that we will sin or offend each other. This is a big relief to me, I try not to sin or make mistakes. I go to great lengths to not offend or disrupt people, especially those close to me especially my wife and daughters. They are the ones who I often get in worse messes because I don’t want to offend. Therefore this Proverb is a good word for me…love.  

When I used to preach it was impossible for me to receive honest feedback and criticism from my wife. How does it apply, well I had hatred and it stirred up strife, my love for her was so weak I  could not hear here whether she was right or wrong. She loves me well, and between my personal wounds and general self centeredness I am just now beginning to love her in a way that offenses are covered.

God hates sin, but he does make provision for sin. The greatest love demonstrated to the world is that of God sending Jesus his Son for us. Have you ever wondered if you are love, the answer is yes. God’s love did not cover a multitude of his sin, because he has none.  Rather the offense he covers is ours, the multitude he erases is mine. How sweet the grace that I have received when I who have offended and created a multitude of sin entire on my own, I am forgiven with no penalty for me to bear.    

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>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!

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>Laziness, Proverbs 10:3-4

In family,Proverbs,Spiritual on July 5, 2010 by mstevensrev

>4 A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
5 He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.

Appropriate rest is a big part of the Bible’s story, we are called to enter into God’s rest which is also known as Sabbath. The other side of sabbath is our calling to be diligent, which is a word I really like. This means regular attending to these things which need care. We are not entitled to things, which is a mistake many people make. As a Christian I believe everything we have, every good and perfect gift, is by God’s grace and here are some of he implications of that on our work:

Grace is a free gift…
You can’t earn it through your work.
You are not entitled to it because of your belief, birth, or knowledge.
You are now free to use what you have been given to it’s fullness, however much or little that might be, no hedging.
You can seek out work to be done without the pressure or weight of it all being dependent on you.
You can find blessings where they are expected (harvest) and where they are unexpected (summer).

One of my favorite Gospel illustrations is related to the myth of Sisyphus We live like Sisyphus cursed to push our rock up the hill never to satisfaction day after day. Through the cross of Christ Jesus takes our rock for us, therefore we are free! Able to assist pushing the rock, dance, run and play. We are complete free to risk and be diligent in all that we have been called to do.