Monday, February 20, 2012

Poverty Alleviation

Devotional for 2.20.12 

Happy Monday! What a beautiful day in Jesus we’ve been gifted because “God is here. Wherever we are, God is here. There is no place, there can be no place, where He is not” (A.W. Tozer). May El Roi, “The God Who Sees Me” be your joy, peace, and provision today. Thanking God that each and every one of us is under His watchful eyes as we enter a new week. Shalom.

During the month of February we’re focusing on Wisdom about Money. Let’s turn to Proverbs to get wisdom that goes beyond the gold!

Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Proverbs 14:31

The book of Proverbs has much to say to the poor and about the poor. To those who choose laziness instead of labor, God warns, A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man (Proverbs 6:10-11). The Apostle Paul lived by the rule that he taught: The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

Laziness is a single facet within the multidimensional system of poverty. The book of Proverbs also acknowledges that being poor can stem from injusticeAn unplowed field produces food for the poor, but injustice sweeps it away (13:23), from oppression ­– Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God (14:31), or from exploitation Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court (22:22).

God is a Father to the fatherless, a Defender of the poor, and a Helper to the needy. Jesus’ justice mission of reconciliation included preaching good news to the poor, proclaiming freedom for the prisoners, recovering sight for the blind, releasing the oppressed, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19). We must follow in Jesus’ steps and obey God’s command to Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy (31:8-9).

We honor God when we are kind to the needy (14:31). Mercy to the needy is a loan to GOD, and GOD pays back those loans in full (19:17, MSG). Generous people will be blessed; those who give to the poor will lack nothing (22:9, 28:27).

To shut our eyes and ears to the cries of the poor comes with severe consequences (28:27). Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished (17:5). Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor, will also cry out and not be answered (21:13).

“Poverty alleviation is the ministry of reconciliation: moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation,” writes Brian Fikkert, Steve Corbett, and John Perkins within the must read book, When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself. “Because every one of us is suffering from brokenness in our foundational relationships, all of us need ‘poverty alleviation,’ just in different ways. Our relationship to the materially poor should be one in which we recognize that both of us are broken and that both of us need the blessing of reconciliation.”

Wisdom Step: What can you do to alleviate poverty today?

Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.
Bryant L. Myers

Monday, February 13, 2012

Little By Little

Devotional for 2.13.12

Happy Valentine’s Day (a day early)! Please know how much you’re loved and appreciated for being faithful channels of His love to the women and girls in your area. We thank God for you! Have a blessed week!  
During the month of February we’re focusing on Wisdom about Money. Let’s turn to Proverbs to get wisdom that goes beyond the gold!

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.
Proverbs 13:11

“Slow and steady, steady and slow. That’s the way we always go” is a quote from a Walt Disney Goofy book that I read to my girls often when they were little. It’s how Goofy made it across the finish line. It’s also one of the aspects to financial planning that God gives us in the book of Proverbs.

Little by little, slow and steady, when we’re diligent in earning money and managing it rightly, savings accounts can grow. Add patience and faithful stewardship to the principle of compound interest and the resources can greatly increase.

Throughout Scripture and within the book of Proverbs diligence is often associated with wisdom and wealth, and contrasted to laziness, foolishness, and poverty. Little by little is God’s economic wisdom for personal finance and His Kingdom. Steady diligence pays off (Proverbs 13:11b, MSG).   

In the Parable of the King’s Ten Servants recorded in Luke 19, Jesus tells of a king who gave his ten subjects ten minas. “Put this money to work,” he said, “until I come back” (v. 13b).

The first two servants were praised and rewarded for gaining more money than they were originally given, ten minas, and five minas, respectfully. The third servant was called wicked for laying his mina aside. The master replied, “Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?” Then he said to those standing by, “Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas” (v. 23-24).

What gifts of money, resources, time, and talents, has God given to you? He’s entrusted us with so much! Just think of three. Write them down:
  1. ________________________________
  2. ________________________________
  3. ________________________________

What does your investment portfolio look like? Are you using these things to store up treasures on earth or are you diligently, little by little, slow and steady, investing them in the treasures of heaven (Matthew 6:19-20)?

Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48b). Those who are faithful with what’s entrusted to them will be richly blessed, but those who are eager to get rich will not go unpunished (Proverbs 28:20).
Wisdom Step: Describe your investment in God’s Kingdom. Is it easy come, easy go or a steady diligence for His glory?

We measure our worth by what we have; God measures it by what we’ve left behind.
Bob Goff

Monday, February 6, 2012

Better/Than Statements

Devotional for 2.6.12

Happy February, friends! Hope your new month and week are off to a wise start as we together seek to get wisdom which is better than gold, silver, paychecks, and savings accounts. Have a blessed week!  
During the month of February we’re focusing on Wisdom about Money. Let’s turn to Proverbs to get wisdom that goes beyond the gold!

Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse.
Proverbs 28:6

A wacky icebreaker that gets girls giggling is the Would You Rather? Game.

Ø  Would you rather drink one gallon of ketchup or one gallon of mustard?
Ø  Would you rather be in a room with 500 spiders or 1,000 crickets?
Ø  Would you rather have a snake or a skunk for a pet?

The girls’ responses to those questions are as varied as their personalities. However, ask girls of all ages (and boys of every generation, too!) if they’d rather be rich or poor and the majority vote will probably favor wealth over poverty.

The wisdom found in the book of Proverbs always trumps popular opinion. When posed with the would you rather be rich or poor question, it’s considerations go far beyond finances, money, possessions, things, and stuff. It cuts to the heart.

In the book of Proverbs we learn that it’s better to be poor than rich if wealth . . .

√ Keeps you from being honest and trustworthy (28:6)
√ Becomes your fortress and protection (18:11)
√ Makes you surly and unapproachable (18:23)
√ Deafens your ears to the cry of the poor (21:13)
√ Causes you to forget and dishonor God (30:9)

The bottom line is that riches are not the problem. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil – this is a gift of God (Ecclesiastes 5:19).

The trouble comes when we love riches more than God and treasure things more than the Giver of all gifts. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:10). The book of Proverbs says that it’s better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil (15:16). How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver (16:16)!

There are two sides to every coin and two parts to what the book of Proverbs teaches us about money. Within this book of wisdom it teaches the positive side to earning, managing, and using our possessions, and warns that there is a negative side to gaining and maintaining wealth. Understanding God’s perspective on possessions and honoring Him with wise stewardship of all that He’s entrusted to us will keep us from the potential pitfalls that riches can bring.

Wisdom Step: How much do you treasure or fret about money? Would it be better for you to be poor than rich?

Some people are so poor they only have money!
Ivor Powell

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Word for Workaholics

Devotional for 1.30.12 

How are you today? It is good and pleasant to be unified in our love for the LORD, our work for Him, and our prayers for one another and all involved in the Titus 2 ministry of GEMS Girls’ Clubs. Thank you for your important part in helping girls everywhere meet the Savior. Have a blessed week!
During the month of January we’re focusing on Wisdom about Work. Let’s turn to Proverbs to get wisdom that goes beyond the gold!

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
but a man (woman) is tested by the praise he (she) receives.
Proverbs 27:21

In his book, A Proverbs Driven Life – Timeless Wisdom for Your Words, Work, Wealth, and Relationships, Anthony Selgavvio warns that there is a temptation toward two extremes in our attitude toward work. One extreme is the lure of laziness which the Bible calls being a sluggard. Today we’d call this person a couch potato. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep (Proverbs 6:9)?

“At the other extreme,” Selgavvio writes, “we can worship our work, finding the very core of our identity in ‘what we do.’ When I adopt this view, I become what the Bible calls an idolater – specifically, in today’s language, a workaholic.”

This extreme hits close to home for women who think “working nine to five” sounds like a vacation day. When work becomes our idol we reject the balanced pattern God gave us of work and rest.

The idol of praise. Do we do our work to praise God and make Him known? Or do we idolize the praise of people for a job well done? The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man (woman) is tested by the praise he (she) receives (Proverbs 27:21).

The idol of pride. Do we do our work in dependence on God? Or do we go about our responsibilities as if everything depends on us to get the job done right in our homes, churches, and the workplace? The wise walk and work humbly with their God. They get rid of their pride and stop depending on themselves and start trusting and depending on God. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).

The idol of greed. Do we work to store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20)? Or are we pursuing the idols of earthly treasures, pleasures, and power? 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 30:8-9).

In Luke 10 Jesus chides Martha (perhaps a workaholic?) and praises Mary (perhaps a sluggard?) In his must read book for the overworked and exhausted, The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan, he writes that Jesus’ response was that “Mary’s choice is only better. What would be best? My guess: Martha’s industry joined to Mary’s attentiveness. The best is to have Martha’s hands and Mary’s heart.”

Wisdom Step: What choices can you make today to follow God’s pattern of work and rest?

Sit with Jesus until you hear from Him what He would have you do. Then put your hand to the task, Martha-like, and do it with all your heart, Mary-like.
Mark Buchanan

Monday, January 23, 2012

Striving for Excellence

Devotional for 1.23.12

Hello, dear sisters! How are you? I pray well. What joy it is to connect, pray for one another, and co-labor in His Kingdom. Thanks for all you do. Have a Christ-centered week!
During the month of January we’re focusing on Wisdom about Work. Let’s turn to Proverbs chapter 28 to get wisdom that goes beyond the gold!
He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.
Proverbs 28:19
Winning the lottery, making a million dollars on a reality TV show, gambling, having rich parents or marrying rich, are just some of the tips you’ll read when you Google, “Get rich fast.” Get-rich-quick schemes promise high rates of return with little risk, skill, time, or work.
It was my father who first taught me, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” The book of Proverbs, which my dad reads from every day, agrees.
Proverbs 28:19 contrasts hard work to chasing the fantasies of get-rich-quick schemes. A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies ends up in poverty (NLT). The hard worker is diligent in her tasks. The person who chases fantasies is always looking for an easier way. One leads to abundance, the other to poverty.
The point of the verse is not to elevate manual labor over desk jobs, or tasks that cause us to break a sweat in comparison to jobs that can be accomplished in high heels. What counts is the motive behind the responsibility at hand.
Is our motive to give our very best or do we seek to get by with the least amount of effort possible? Be warned: One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys (Proverbs 18:9). Within Aesop’s fable, it’s the diligent effort of the Tortoise, not the dreamy, nap-taking Hare that crossed the finish line first.
How do you and I approach the work of lesson planning, leading devotions for GEMS or Bible study, or preparing for a large group event like camp, theme night, or fall workshops? Do we do the hard work that bears abundant fruit for the Kingdom? Or do we cut corners and hope no one will notice?

In his book, Excellence, Andreas Köstenberger writes, “Far from being optional, excellence is in fact a divine mandate that applies to every aspect of our lives, for God Himself is characterized by excellence. Mediocrity, sloppy workmanship, and a half-hearted effort do not bring glory to God or advance His kingdom.” 
We must pattern our work after God’s work! He is the Rock, his works are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4). Throughout His story of Creation He would look at what He made and see that it was very good (Genesis 1).
Wisdom Step: If God would grade the work you’ve done for Him today, would it read excellent, good, or poor? Seek to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Doing a few things well is better than doing many things poorly. When we are on the job, we are to give 100% effort, not the minimum we can get away with.
Kenneth B. Wingate

Monday, January 16, 2012

Employee Benefit Packages

Devotional for 1.16.11

Happy Monday, dear sisters! Hope you’re well! As we focus on wisdom about work this month, we don’t want to miss an opportunity to thank you for your work within the GEMS ministry. Whatever your role(s), accept our heartfelt thanks! Together let’s always give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because we know that our labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Have a blessed week!

During the month of January we’re focusing on Wisdom about Work. Let’s turn to Proverbs chapter 27 to get wisdom that goes beyond the gold!


The one who guards a fig tree will eat its fruit, and whoever protects their master will be honored.
Proverbs 27:18

If Employee of the Month recognition were given in Joseph’s day, year round he would’ve had his picture hanging on the lunchroom wall and printed in the company newsletter. With God as his Helper, whatever he did prospered. His boss Potiphar took note of Joseph’s success and honored him by promoting him to his attendant. He rewarded him by putting him in charge of his household, and entrusted everything that he owned into Joseph’s care. Thanks to his exceptional employee, the only thing Potiphar had to think about was what he wanted to eat for dinner (Genesis 39:1-6).

Honor and reward are part of the employee benefit package for those who give their best to their work. Whoever protects their master will be honored (Proverbs 27:18b). Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank (Proverbs 22:29). That’s true on earth and will be true in heaven, too!  Jesus said, “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:21)

Sometimes our work brings the immediate satisfaction of a job well done, the praises of our family (Great meal, Mom!), the approval of an employer, or the heartfelt thanks of a Club Coordinator.

At other times, we may feel unappreciated, devalued, and misunderstood. Joseph identified with that, too. He was a poster boy for unjust treatment at the workplace. He was a man of integrity who fled from Potiphar’s wife to honor his God and his boss, and his reward was a grim prison cell. Where’s the honor in that? Some honor only comes from our Master, not our employers. Some honor is delayed so that God’s good purpose may be achieved. Joseph rightly understood that when he told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

Whether our work takes place at home, on the job, or within volunteer positions, there is a chain of command. John A. Kitchener writes, “If we attend to His honor, He will care for ours. Our first charge is to find the person or people under whom God has placed us and, then, to serve Him by serving them.”

Wisdom Step: Check out the benefit package that is ours when we honor God with our work: Matthew 25:21, 23; Luke 12:42-46, 19:17; John 12:26.

A life of honoring God and others means you graduate to heaven with honors.
Boyd Bailey

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Ways of the Sluggard

Devotional for 1.9.12

During the month of January we’re focusing on Wisdom about Work. Let’s turn to Proverbs chapter 26 to get wisdom that goes beyond the gold!


She works with eager hands.
Proverbs 31:13b

Sluggard. Webster defines it as a habitually lazy person, synonymous with a couch potato and loafer. Proverbs chapter 26 gives word pictures to what it looks like on the street:

The sluggard works harder at making excuses than doing the task at hand. The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets” (v 13)! Really? In general, lions prowl at night and sleep during the day when people should be at work. Yet that’s the ridiculous mindset of sluggards; they dream up excuses for why now is not a good time to start a project or give their best to their work. Do you have a lion’s share of excuses for not doing the hard work of sticking to a budget, fixing nutritious meals for your family, cleaning the shower, or memorizing scripture?

The sluggard moves, but goes nowhere. As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on the bed (v 14, TNIV). Like a door that moves, but goes nowhere have you ever spent a day at work within your home or at the workplace and accomplished nothing? You were busy, busy, busy, but not on task to the things He called you to do. Are you running aimlessly or running in such a way as to get the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24, 26)?

The sluggard is too lazy to feed herself. It’s one thing not to feel like cooking tonight, the height of laziness is not feeling like feeding yourself. Sluggards bury their hands in the dish and are too lazy to bring them back to their mouths (v 15, TNIV). The sluggard got the food to the plate, but then didn’t follow through by getting the food to her lips! Did you make New Year’s resolutions? Did you get your goals to the paper? Great! Now do the hard work and follow through, moving it from paper to action, from good intentions to accomplishments.

The sluggard rationalizes her laziness. Sluggards are wiser in their own eyes than seven people who answer discreetly (v 16, TNIV). Her laziness makes sense to her. She’s convinced herself that she doesn’t have self-discipline, and she never will. This is just the way she’s been wired. When foolish thinking is coupled to laziness, and the wise counsel of others is rejected, a person is without hope. Do you see people who are wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for fools than for them (v. 12). Reject foolish thinking about your gifts and abilities and focus on truth: God gave YOU a spirit of self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)!

Wisdom Step: Think about your work. Do you work with eager hands or are you a sluggard?

Being a sluggard is the fool’s way of responding to God’s call on our lives to be productive and diligent for His glory.
Anthony Selvaggio