A Biblical Understanding of Gambling

Throughout the years I have read several articles on why Christians shouldn’t be involved with any form of gambling. However, Dr. Albert Mohler’s article in the Christian Post entitled “When the Accounts Are Called: A Christian Understanding of Gambling” is one of the best I have ever read on the topic. As Christians we have a moral calling to Continue reading

The Perfect Investment

Graceway MediaI remember a few years ago when the stock market crashed.  Regardless of how much power, prestige, or prominence you possessed, it wasn’t going to help protect your investments. Each month I would get a statement showing what was happening with the small nest egg I had been putting back for my retirement.  It is not a lot of money, but it is my money, which I would like to see grow and not disappear. Everyone I talked to told me that I could move it into different accounts that would prevent or minimize the losses; however, they also warned that when the market rebounded the initial jump would get me the biggest gains on my investments, and that waiting it out would be best. As most of you remember, those where difficult months to just lose years of savings.

I have a great desire to be a good steward of all God has entrusted to me.  I want to take care of and properly use all that I have.  I want to make wise investments now that enable me to help others after I retire in ways which are not possible today. In order to do that, I have to be disciplined to dream of the future and not just live for today’s pleasures.

I think this principle was instilled in me way back in Sunday School. I still remember Jesus’ saying in Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (ESV).

“Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” is a concept most people struggle with.  We want our best life NOW! We want a new car and a bigger house every couple of years. We want fancier toys (boats, camper, Jet Ski, golf clubs, guns, video games, electronic devices, etc.) to play with. We even want an annual raise so we can get more toys, but if we don’t get the raise we can always count on VISA, MasterCard, Discover Card, or American Express to get us our wants. We have a strong desire to store up for ourselves treasures on earth, right?

There are many problems with this mentality, but the biggest is we only have a few years to enjoy these toys. Our life is but a vapor. We have maybe seventy years to enjoy these things, and we definitely can’t take them with us. How many times have you seen a hearse on the way to the cemetery with a U-Haul trailer in tow? The treasures of this life have to be protected, repaired, maintained, and insured. We worry about whether they will last, be stolen, break, or even fulfill our desire for fun.

This should make Jesus’ statement to store up treasure in heaven where they last for eternity much more desirable. You see, we may not be able to take our stuff with us, but we can send it on ahead! We can make investments that will last beyond time and throughout eternity. Personally, I have found that investing my God-given gifts according to His commands have resulted in greater joy than any material possession I could have purchased. I have seen families blessed with a car to get to work, groceries to get through another week, a meal after the loss of another family member, and training for job. I know missionaries who are taken care of so they can share the gospel in other countries, I know of villages that have received chicks, ducks, goats, cattle, and even had a fresh water well dug for them.  All these things happened because a group of people decided to think about storing up treasure in heaven. What is their gift in this life? Joy! Unspeakable JOY! Joy in knowing a child will get a meal, joy in knowing that a family has a roof over their head, joy from watching a soul come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

There are a lot of things I could do with the money I give to the church each year, but none of them would bring me the eternal joy and satisfaction which I have found by investing in the treasures of heaven!

Crisis in Christianity!

Graceway MediaIn late 1776, the Colonial army had lost battle after battle to the British forces. Soldiers began to doubt their ability to win the war and were not as quick to reenlist. Because of the people’s dwindling faith in Washington’s leadership, new enlistments had dropped off. Less than one year into the revolution, hope for victory was bleak at best. Truly the thirteen colonies were facing a debilitating crisis.

Author and Patriot Thomas Paine had been instrumental in rallying the citizenry to take up arms and fight for freedom. During the cold, dark days of war, he once again took up his pen and wrote:

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.  What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated”(Crisis).

Just as before the war, his challenge set in ink spread across the colonies, reigniting the fires of freedom which had grown cold in the face of strong opposition, defeat, and the harshness of winter. The people rallied and the war for freedom continued until its victorious end in 1783.

Today, Christianity faces a major crisis. Belief in Christ has been watered down to a faith with no requirements. People are asking, “What is the least I can do to be a Christian and still get to heaven?” Others are stripping away verses of the Bible to make it more palatable for those who just want to squeak their way into heaven. Truly, we are facing a crisis in Christianity.

We need true Christians to rally together even though “these are times that try men’s souls.” We must remember that sin “is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” If the sacrifice of Christ was for our forgiveness and victory over sin, death, and hell, we cannot continue in this conflict in the power of our sinful flesh. This conflict is difficult. Many have spent years feeding the lusts of the flesh, pursuing their every desire, and enjoying that which God sees as sin. Our human desires do not give us the freedom to change, deny, or re-write the Word of God.

My friends, our salvation came by the shedding of Christ’s blood. It was not just a prick of the finger, nor was it simple act. Our salvation came through the loss of Jesus’ life. He willingly hung on the cross in our place that we might have victory over sin. If we water down the gospel, if we allow respectable sins, if we remove that which offends others, then we cheapen the loving sacrifice of Christ Jesus!

Thomas Paine’s quote is perfect for the crisis we face today: “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.” Do we as individual Christians esteem too lightly what Jesus has done? Has salvation been obtained so cheaply that its cost means nothing? I would ask you today to take up your Bible and read Luke 22:39-24:53. Think about what it cost Jesus for your freedom—freedom—not tolerance. FREEDOM! Freedom from the tyranny of sin, guilt, lust, envy, lying, stealing, and the like. Freedom to live the life God intended from the beginning of time. Freedom for a life of faith, hope, and love. Remember, sin “like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.  What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

All quotes from Thomas Paine “Crisis”

Stop Beating Yourself Up!

If you are like most people, you have already begun working toward fulfilling your New Year’s resolutions.  Most of our resolutions lead us toward being a better person this year than last.  I would like to share a little bit of my background hoping that it will help you achieve your personal goals.

From the age of eighteen until I was twenty-four, I made a mess of my life. If there was a bad decision to be made, I would choose it every time. I had been raised in church, became a Christian at age nine, tried to be a leader in the youth group, and was growing in my knowledge of Scripture and the Christian life. However, just after graduation, I started making foolish choices. Eventually, I found myself so far away from God that I couldn’t find my way back.

In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15.11-32), Jesus makes it clear that all we have to do is show our repentance, that is turn away from sin, by returning to God. He is always ready to restore us to a right relationship with Him, continue our Christ-like development, and use us for His glory. It is that simple.

I was too smart for all that. I knew I had been too wicked for God’s grace, and therefore, couldn’t accept God’s forgiveness, love, mercy, and grace. I couldn’t accept God’s gifts because I couldn’t forgive myself. I was beating myself up for my own sinful behaviors. I couldn’t hear what the Bible was saying about God because I was too busy trying to fix myself. Needless to say, I was miserable! No matter how frustrated I was with my backslidden life or how determined I was to make myself live the Christian life I continued down the wrong path. I was convinced that I was a hopeless case. I didn’t know it, but that was right where God wanted me—consciously aware of my inability to change on my own.

I realized that relief wasn’t going to come by my ability to control myself. In my own flesh I was always going to make the wrong decision.  My frustration was caused by trying to live up to the standards I thought was expected of Christians. However, in confessing my inadequacy to live out the Christian life on my own, God was then able to live through me. The only way I was going to be truly restored was to come to God broken and contrite. It was then that I was showered in God’s grace and restored into a right relationship with Him. Immediately, I realized I could never let guilt hold me back from enjoying my relationship with God.

Now when I fall short of God’s plan, I am quick to run to the throne of grace, admit my failure, thank God for His forgiveness, and joyfully move on with my life all the wiser. If guilt has driven a wedge between you and God, it is time to run to God, confess your sin and guilt, then enjoy His forgiveness, mercy, grace, and love. Trust me, as someone who has been there, living a life resting in what Jesus has done brings about your best life now!

My Favorite Christmas Present

Until my son was born, I never realized how much more fun Christmas is when you get to see the surprise on your child’s face. It was always exciting as a child imagining what new toys were under the Christmas tree; however, that excitement doesn’t compare to the joy of seeing Christmas through your child’s eyes.

Each year I have a list of things I would like for Christmas, but I am not really that excited about my gifts. I am thankful for those who cared enough to get me something. Never-the-less, I am always eager for Christmas morning and to see William’s excitement and joy.

This year, I was surprised at one gift I received.  It was by far my favorite gift and memory of Christmas 2011. My wife and son gave me a Hallmark Storybook.  It is entitled, “The Very First Christmas.” What makes it so special is that you can record your voice reading the story. As you turn each page, music plays followed by the recording of the person reading the book. My book was recorded by my seven-year-old, and I LOVE IT!  I have the book sitting on my desk at work so I can listen to it whenever I want.  I am not too sure how long the batteries will last, but as long as they do I will have a recording of my son reading to me about the very first Christmas.

Usually, my favorite part of Christmas is watching others enjoy the gifts that I have given; however, this year my wife and son gave me a priceless gift for which I am truly thankful.

What was your favorite Christmas present or memory?

Not By Bread Alone: Let’s Live on God’s Word in 2012

by John Piper

At Bethlehem we close prayer week with a focus on the value of  reading and memorizing Scripture in the new year. I preach on the value  of God’s word and the importance of reading and memorizing the Scripture  every day.

Justin Taylor has pulled together a list of possible ways to read the Bible in this new year.

I encourage everyone to take the closing days of the year to plan how you are going to read the Bible in the new year. Don’t leave it to  chance. One of the main reasons we don’t read God’s word is that we  don’t plan to.

This past year I used the McCheyne reading plan, reading it with the Olive Tree Software on the iPad. McCheyne takes you through the whole Bible once, and the  Psalms and the New Testament twice. It was for me a rich daily feast.

We also love to recommend the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan for one main reason. Few things discourage us more from reading the  Bible in a year than falling behind. This plan gives five catch up days  every month. This is absolutely golden!

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God. Those are the words of Jesus (Matthew 4:4).  Let’s take them seriously and live on the word every day in 2012.

You can read more by John Piper by going to Desiring God.

Can You Resist the Temptation to Watch this Video?

I have always enjoyed reading articles when people are creative.  In this article by Mike Anderson, we see a creative new way to look at temptation as well as how to better handle them.  I hope this gives you valuable ammunition in your spiritual battles.

To read Mike Anderson’s post and watch the video follow this link: “Bet You Can’t Resist the Temptation to Watch This…!”