Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bitter!



3 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil. And he has maintained his integrity, even though you urged me to harm him without cause.”

4 Satan replied to the Lord, “Skin for skin! A man will give up everything he has to save his life. 5 But reach out and take away his health, and he will surely curse you to your face!”

6 “All right, do with him as you please,” the Lord said to Satan. “But spare his life.” 7 So Satan left the Lord’s presence, and he struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot.

8 Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes. 9 His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.”

10 But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong."

What jumps out at me in this story is the opposite reactions to the same circumstances. Whether the death of a child, the loss of a business, the end of a dream...

Job's wife had been the beneficiary of a very nice life style. Prestige. Servants. Great family. Now suddenly, all that was gone.

Everything seemed to have no meaning, now. Where was God? I think Job's wife was American through and through. You know, "Bigger and better, bigger and better until we die"

That just got shattered. Now her husband, upon whom she relied for encouragement, was moaning and groaning. Writhing in agony.

She's saying, "what kind of a God would allow this?"

"If this is what God is like? - No thank you..."

Her reaction to this life meltdown has characterized her down through the millenia.

"CURSE GOD - AND DIE!"

The bitter life is an all consuming life. It sucks the lifeblood from you. The more you go over and over the wrongs done to you, the ills that have befallen you, the worse it gets.

Curse God - and DIE!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sudden and Complete Ruin


There is a man in Seattle who has been one of my heroes. His name is Mike Mastro. Back in 2005, when it was estimated he was worth 600 million dollars, I read this article in the Pget Sound Journal with interest and admiration...

Friday, July 22, 2005
The ritual: Father and son, Mastros share lunches and profits
Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle) - by Jeanne Lang Jones Staff Writer
"Every weekday except Friday, for nearly 20 years, real estate investors Mike Mastro Sr. and Mike Mastro Jr. have eaten lunch together at their favorite Italian restaurant near Pioneer Square.

At straight-up noon, the Mastros walk across the courtyard of Il Terrazzo Carmine in Seattle, with the younger Mastro often a respectful step behind his father. Their favorite waiter is so accustomed to their routine that just before the Mastros arrive, he sets out a pot of hot water for the son's mint tea.

The discipline and precision of the Mastros' daily routine flows into other facets of their lives as well: their exercise habits, their reading -- and perhaps most notably, their business. Says Bob Wallace, prominent Bellevue developer: The elder Mastro "is as astute an investor as there is in the real estate industry."

Over the years, Mastro Properties has built a reputation for staying ahead of the market, as when Mastro Sr. and another investor had the prescience to develop office buildings that The Boeing Co. eventually bought in 1989 for $211 million.

So where are the Mastros putting their money today? One word: housing.

The Mastros stepped into the residential real estate market more than five years ago, and they've only upped the ante since then. The company owns a substantial portfolio of raw land, which it prepares for resale to homebuilders after adding basic infrastructure such as streets and sidewlks...

"I'm not really concerned about a real estate bubble," Mastro Sr. said. Regarding Pierce County, where much of their investment is based, he said, "That area has seen a lot of escalation in pricing in the past 10 to 12 years, and the economy in the area continues to grow." ...

The Mastros' disciplined lifestyle has them both up at 5:30 a.m. to exercise and read the newspapers before work. But while the elder Mastro heads to a downtown gym to work out on a series of machines, followed by a turn in the steam room and a dip in the Jacuzzi, his son practices yoga and meditates.

Even though the Mastros have now eaten thousands of meals together at the same restaurant, neither would think of going anywhere else -- except on Fridays, when Mastro Sr. has lunch with his wife...

Both Mastros are firm believers in the time-honored principle that you make money only when you buy, not when you sell, real estate. They are careful buyers, and right now they like residential real estate. A lot.

Currently, the company has some 5,100 lots in its portfolio, mainly in outlying suburban neighborhoods in Pierce and Snohomish counties, where vacant land is more readily available and cheaper...

Mastro Properties typically acquires raw lots for roughly $50,000, then resells them for between $120,000 to $150,000, after preparing the land for development. Mastro Sr. declined to say what his profit margin was after improvement costs but said, "It is a profitable business."

Earlier this spring, the company said it planned to sell about 1,300 lots this year. At an average lot price of about $122,000, that would add up to about $160 million. Sales have been a bit slower than expected, but the elder Mastro isn't worried about his investments and firmly believes Pierce County will remain a strong residential market for the foreseeable future."

A series of articles have been written about him in 2009. Here is one...

Friday, July 10, 2009
Developer Mike Mastro’s troubles mount
Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle) - by Kirsten Grind and Jeanne Lang Jones Staff writers
"A longtime, prominent Seattle developer is facing a mounting string of legal actions as he struggles to pay off millions of dollars in loans at dozens of banks across the Pacific Northwest.

Michael Mastro Sr., for years among the most successful commercial developers in the Puget Sound region, is quickly becoming a source of concern at banks — both because of their direct exposure and because of what his troubles say about the potential pain still ahead in the commercial real estate market, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mastro, and his company, Mastro Properties, owe about $500 million to more than 25 banks in Washington and Oregon, including local banks, such as HomeStreet Bank, and national lenders such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America, according to a Mastro company associate and other people familiar with the matter.

Mastro values his assets at more than $600 million — more than enough to cover his debts — and he expects to recover. But court documents and people familiar with the matter indicate he presently appears to lack the cash flow to make loan payments...

Mastro’s enviable portfolio, sterling reputation and relationships with many financial institutions through a long, successful career, helped him amass millions of dollars in loans and assets, according to people who have worked with him.

“He always paid you back,” said a person familiar with the situation. “That’s also why everyone got in bed with him so much — he’s always been true to his word.”

But in recent months, Mastro has raised alarms by indicating he is unable to keep up with all of his interest payments, according to court documents and people familiar with the issue.

Some banks already have taken action against Mastro, filing a number of lawsuits and winning court judgments of $1 million or more after he allegedly failed to make payments on loans. Others have recently moved their Mastro loans and credit lines to a secured position, by insisting the developer back up his loans with property."



October 9, 2009

GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES

"Mastro made false statements to investors and omitted important information, the state Department of Financial Institutions' securities division said...

The division began investigating Mastro in February. In the charging papers, it said it intends to fine the developer $100,000 and order him to stop accepting any more money from individual investors...

Over the years, Mastro raised more than $100 million from more than 175 investors he referred to as Friends & Family, using the money to buy and develop property and make loans to other developers.

The charging papers say he provided the investors with little information when they loaned him money, failed to adequately disclose risk, and kept them in the dark when his empire began to crumble last year.

Mastro's 40-year real-estate career came to a halt this summer when three banks forced him into bankruptcy involuntarily, charging he was not paying his debts. After initially resisting, Mastro, 84, agreed to enter bankruptcy.

In documents filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Court last month, he reported $249 million in assets against nearly $587 million in liabilities, most of that owed to banks whose debt is secured by the properties that Mastro bought or developed with their money.

The Friends & Family investors are listed mostly as "unsecured" creditors, the last group to be paid when Mastro's assets are liquidated. It's highly possible they will get nothing."

To me it is a very sad story of a man who has worked all his life, then lost everything.

Here is Job's story...

Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”

8 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”

9 Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. 10 You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! 11 But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!”

12 “All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence.

13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger arrived at Job’s home with this news: “Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 when the Sabeans raided us. They stole all the animals and killed all the farmhands. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

16 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

17 While he was still speaking, a third messenger arrived with this news: “Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen your camels and killed your servants. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

18 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home. 19 Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

20 Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. 21 He said,

“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!”

22 In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God."

Disaster. Ruin. It tests your mettle. And your character.

Job is famous for the troubles he faced.
And for his response to his troubles...

There once was a man named Job


There once was a man named Job.

The book of Job comes early when reading the Bible chronologically. It is said to be the oldest book in the Bible.

The events of the book may not have taken long. We don't know. Maybe several months. Maybe several years. Interesting, isn't it?

Here is this guy. Hugely successful. Highly respected. Large, happy family. He was all that before the events of this book. And he was all of that AFTER the events of this book.

But he would have passed into history anonymously, if it were not for the trouble he experienced.

Does that frame these last two years for you? It does for me.

Let's read...

1 There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil. 2 He had seven sons and three daughters. 3 He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys. He also had many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area.

4 Job’s sons would take turns preparing feasts in their homes, and they would also invite their three sisters to celebrate with them. 5 When these celebrations ended—sometimes after several days—Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular practice.

Here he is - a righteous man.

The scene changes. Now we get a glimpse into heaven, and what happens in the spiritual, unseen realm. It is like a new set in a play. Act II.

6 One day the members of the heavenly court[a] came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan,[b] came with them. 7 “Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan.

Maybe the power of the story of Job is all contained in verse 6.
1. Satan is the accuser. He is no friend. He does not want what is best for you. His entire bent is to accuse - to demean - to reduce - to destroy.
2. God is in charge. Satan and all the angels have to report to God. Nothing happens that God does not allow. Does God CAUSE evil? - no. Does God ALLOW evil - yes.

I don't know your situation. But I do know mine. It hasn't been pretty these last 3 years.

Yet God is in control.

Nothing happens that He does not allow.

He can use the worst circumstance to work toward good.

The Perfect Murder


Why are we so drawn to murder mysteries?

Agatha Christie made a fortune selling books called murder mysteries. For a long time there was a TV show called "Murder She Wrote". I love shows like CSI and others that narrate how someone almost got away with murder. Or in rare cases - did get away with murder.

Today is the story of a perfect murder. The FIRST one, in fact.

1 Now Adam[a] had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced[b] a man!” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. 3 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, 5 but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

6 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

8 One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.”[c] And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

There you have it.

Abel annoyed Cain. Cain got rid of Abel.

There's no FBI, no police. It's a big wide world. Dump him in a field. Mom and Dad won't ever find out. It's over.

9 Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”

“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”

10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! 11 Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. 12 No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”

13 Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment[d] is too great for me to bear! 14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”

15 The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him. 16 So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod,[e] east of Eden.

God knew.

This story is for us.

No matter how heinous our sin - there is forgiveness if we repent.

No matter how secret and hidden our sin - God knows, and we all stand before Him one day...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

War of the Sexes


In the grand plan of creation, God makes male. And God makes female. They are both in the image of God.

27 So God created human beings[c] in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

29 Then God said, "Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food.30 And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened.
31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!
And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.

And God saw that it was good. Very good!

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” 19 So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man[f] to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. 20 He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him.

21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs[g] and closed up the opening. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.

23 “At last!” the man exclaimed.

“This one is bone from my bone,
and flesh from my flesh!
She will be called ‘woman,’
because she was taken from ‘man.’”

24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

25 Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.

God creates woman. (The final creation, and the masterpiece)
The design is that there be harmony.

Then the temptation. The sin. The fall.

6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. 7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man[h] and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”

11 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”

12 The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”

“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”

14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this, you are cursed
more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
groveling in the dust as long as you live.
15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike[i] your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

16 Then he said to the woman,

“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,
and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband,
but he will rule over you.[j]”

17 And to the man he said,

“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you,
though you will eat of its grains.
19 By the sweat of your brow
will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
and to dust you will return.”

The beginning of the war of the sexes.

God's design? Harmony.

Sin's result? War!

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Beginning


Today we start reading through the Bible. We start at the beginning.

1 In the beginning God...

In the first four words of the Bible, atheism is dealt with. God is. God was. God was at the very start of things. No argument. No proof. He was. In my profession of real estate, we would call this the assumptive close. He is. No more to be said...

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

In the next six words evolution is dealt with. God created. By an act of his will. And power. No we did not originate as a speck of slime in a primordial soup. We are the product of creation. Later we will find out what kind of God created us. What is he like? What relation does he have, does he want, with the creation he created.

But for now - God created it all...