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Archive for the ‘Devotionals’ Category
Does the Bible Mention Gambling?
Although the words “gambling” and “gamble” do not appear in the Bible, we cannot assume that an activity is not a sin simply because it is not mentioned. Looking at pornography on the Internet and using illegal drugs are not mentioned either, but both violate God’s laws.
While casinos and lotteries promise thrills and excitement, obviously people gamble to try to win money. Scripture gives very specific instructions about what our attitude should be toward money:
Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 5:10, NIV)
“No servant can serve two masters. [Jesus said.] Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13, NIV)
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, NIV)
Gambling is a way to bypass work, but the Bible counsels us to persevere and work hard:
Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. (Proverbs 10:4, NIV)
One of the key principles in the Bible is that people should be wise stewards of everything God gives them, including their time, talent and treasure. Gamblers may believe they earn their money with their own labor and may spend it as they please, yet God gives people the talent and health to carry out their jobs, and their very life is a gift from him as well. Wise stewardship of extra money calls believers to invest it in the Lord’s work or to save it for an emergency, rather than lose it in games in which the odds are stacked against the player.
Gamblers covet more money, but they may also covet the things money can buy, such as cars, boats, houses, expensive jewelry and clothing. The Bible forbids a covetous attitude in the Tenth Commandment:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17, NIV)
Gambling also has the potential to turn into an addiction, like drugs or alcohol. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, 2 million U.S. adults are pathological gamblers and another 4 to 6 million are problem gamblers. This addiction can destroy the stability of the family, lead to job loss, and cause a person to lose control of their life:
…for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. (2 Peter 2:19)
Some argue that gambling is nothing more than entertainment, no more immoral than going to a movie or concert. People who attend movies or concerts expect only entertainment in return, however, not money. They are not tempted to keep spending until they “break even.”
Finally, gambling provides a sense of false hope. Participants place their hope in winning, often against astronomical odds, instead of placing their hope in God. Throughout the Bible, we are constantly reminded that our hope is in God alone, not money, power, or position:
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5, NIV)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NIV)
Happy Holidays much love
A passionate prayer
A traitorous arrest
A trumped up charge
A false trial
A denying disciple
A Place called Skull
A remote crossroads of the world
Between two thieves
A repentant robber
A new mother and her new son
A worshipping Centurion
Three hours of darkness
The earth shakes
Some living dead
A criminal’s cross
A sealed stone
Salvation? How can the salvation of all mankind happen in this way? In this ignominious, inglorious way? How can this be? That all of the sins of all who have ever lived or are living or will live are paid for on a criminal’s cross? Aren’t criminals most in need of forgiveness? Can criminals even be forgiven? How can a Man who hung on a criminal’s cross pay for all the sin of all people?
And in Jerusalem of all places. Why not Rome, the political capital of the world? Or Athens, the cultural capital of the world? Or Alexandria, the educational capital of the world? Or Ephesus, one of the economic capitals of the world? Or Corinth, certainly one of the sin capitals of the world? Yes, that’s it, why wasn’t sin paid for in one of the greatest sin centers of history?
It just doesn’t make sense. How can this Friday be Good? And how could salvation happen in this way?
No blaring trumpets, no glorious angels, no parades of power and purity, just another Friday crucifixion in the ancient Roman empire. Amazing. Excruciatingly painful, but almost ho-hum for the Roman soldiers. Just one more criminal to throw on the trash heap of history and off we go for a few drinks and a good time of gaming.
Yet salvation did come this way. Yes, it did!
Jesus died for you and me….. CHOOSE HIM CHOOSE LIFE
The National Weather Service advises that if you’re ever caught out in the open during severe lightning storm, you should kneel down, bend forward, and put your hands on your knees. Then, if lightning strikes nearby, your body will be less likely to serve as a conductor. Maximum safety depends on keeping a low physical profile.
The same applies to Christians caught in life’s storms- we must assume a low spiritual posture. This means we must humble ourselves before the Lord, because pride and rebellion can harden us. I speak truthfully, depart from evil, do good and seek peace. Our heavenly Father wants us to stay close to Him when our hearts are hurting so He can impart His renewing strength and healing love.
Yes, we’ll get drenched in the driving rains of adversity, and sometimes its fierce winds will buffet us so severely that we’ll almost be swept off our feet. With each blinding flash of lightning we may be strongly tempted to get up and run. But keeping a low spiritual profile of humility and fear of God is the surest and safest way to weather the storm. David assured us that those who trust in God in life’s storm will not be condemned.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
I’ve observed a principle: The pathway to leadership almost always takes us through the valley of adversity. We see this principle not only in the story of Joseph, who endured thirteen years of adversity, but also in the lives of many other leaders in both the Old and New Testament.
Moses was raised in the royal splendor of Pharaoh’s household in Egypt, but he was forced to flee and spend 40 years in desert exile before God spoke from a burning bush and called him to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery. Joshua spent the years of his youth as a slave in Egypt and his middle-aged years wandering in the desert at Moses’ side. He was well acquainted with adversity when God called him to lead Israel’s armies in the conquest of Canaan. The prophet Daniel was thrown into a den of hungry lions before he could reach a place of power and influence in the Babylonian courts. And we see this same pattern played out in the lives of David, Isaiah, Amos, Hosea and other Old Testament leaders.
Turning to the New Testament, we see that even Jesus had to face adversity in the desert, suffering hunger, thirst, temptation and opposition from Satan. Only then could He begin His public ministry. The Lord’s disciples had to endure the loss of their Master, the failure of their own faith and character, and the dark days of despair between the cross and the empty tomb before they could become the founding leaders of the Lord’s church.
It’s hard to find anyone in Christian history who became a great leader without earning an advanced degree at the “University of Adversity.”
â??Then the LORD did exactly what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant, and she gave a son to Abraham in his old age.Â It all happened at the time God had said it would.Â And Abraham named his son Isaac.Â And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter!Â All who hear about this will laugh with me.â? – Genesis 21:1-3; 6 (NLT)
gods-humorFor years, Iâ??ve subscribed to the belief that God has a sense of humor.Â How else would you explain things like the multi-cultural church that now meets in a place that used to house KKK meetings.Â Or what about the lady that prayed to find a new jaguar in her driveway?Â She found it alright . . . it just drove off after the person in it realized he was at the wrong house! (By the way, these are both true stories.)
Even in the Bible, God shows us His sense of humor.Â Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 years old when God honored a promise He had made 25 years earlier.Â Notice that the scriptures did not say that Sarah conceived from the Holy Spirit, like Mary did with Baby Jesus.Â So you know what that means!Â Abraham took care of his â??husbandly dutiesâ?!Â The thought of a 100-year old man and his 90-year old wife going through the motions of procreating is quite laughable!Â Â Even Sarah laughed at the thought of having a child well beyond the normal child-bearing years (see Genesis 18:12).Â This promise from God was a manifested in the form of a son named Isaac.
Many people refuse to see God as having a sense of humor because they view Him as one who keeps a checklist of rights & wrongs committed.Â But the notion of God being a compassionate Father who loves on His children is one we need to wholeheartedly embrace.Â If you have a God that you cannot have a relationship with, eventually frustration sets in.Â Consider this: a believer in the Muslim faith cannot even call his God â??Fatherâ? because itâ??s considered blasphemy!Â Thatâ??s no laughing matter.
If God, in His infinite wisdom, would allow us to benefit from laughter, do you think Heâ??d prevent us from having access to it?Â Think about this:
On average, children laugh 300 times a day, but adults laugh only 17 times a day.Â Laughter decreases blood pressure.Â Laughter calms the nervous system.Â Laughter strengthens your midsection muscles.Â Laughter burns calories.Â Laughter is one of the greatest builders of your immune system.Â Laughter increases your capacity to fight disease.Â Laughter relaxes the body.Â Laughter reduces stress.Â Laughter elevates your mood.Â Laughter improves brain functioning.Â Laughter gives you energy.Â And last, but definitely not least, laughter makes you feel good!
And if, by chance, you still have doubts about God having a sense of humor, please consider the meaning of Isaacâ??s name (â??He laughsâ?).Â Take a wild guess as to who the â??Heâ? is.
“If you’re not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there.” – Martin Luther
Living a life of faith often requires us to leave certain things alone.Â When we choose not to, we inevitably self-destruct.Â One great biblical example of such can be found in Samson (see Judges 13:1-25 & Judges 16:1-31).
Samson was a Nazirite with great physical strength who had been set apart for God’s service.Â His accomplishments included tearing a lion apart with his bare hands (see Judges 14:5-6) and single-handedly destroying a thousand Philistine soldiers with the fresh jawbone of a donkey (see Judges 15:14-16).Â But like a man trying to grasp oil with his hands, Samson failed to see that lasting contentment ultimately escapes all who seek it outside of the Lord.Â The inner loneliness that so often follows great victory pushed him into the clutches of a Philistine woman named Delilah.Â She enticed Samson to reveal the secret of his strength, thus causing him to lose all of his vigor.Â Often in the Bible, a person’s name was indicative of an aspect of his/her character.Â Delilah literally means “languishing” or “to be or become weak or feeble; lose strength or vigor”.Â Samson tasted the sweetness of bitter fruit by languishing with Delilah.
The Psalmist cried, “For You have been a refuge for me, A tower of strength against the enemy.” David found his answer in God’s presence; Samson never did and it killed him.Â The seduction of Delilah appealed so greatly to Samson that he stayed too long, shared too much and lost everything.Â The end result of many of our choices may not be obvious enough at first for us to recognize how damaging they’ll be in the long run.Â Â Are you in danger of that happening to you?
Your Delilah can be anything that attempts to derail you and deplete you spiritually.Â It can be a career you work at around the clock, a bad relationship or a destructive habit.Â It’s what you turn to when you need escape.Â Don’t be fooled.Â Delilah may delight you tonight, but she’ll destroy you tomorrow because there is no right way to do a wrong thing.Â Get up while you can and run!Â Don’t walk – run to the arms of Jesus before you lose everything!Â If you think it can’t happen to you, consider this your warning sign on the road to destruction.
“The more a man was in the Devil’s power, the less he would be aware of it, on the principle that a man is still fairly sober as long as he knows he’s drunk.” – C.S. Lewis
A mother wakes up during a thunderstorm and hurries to her son’s room after a particularly bright flash of lightning.Â She’s convinced he’s going to be terrified.Â To her surprise, he’s standing at the window. “I was looking outside” he said, “and you’ll never guess what happened. God took my picture.” This little boy was convinced (and so should we) that God was at work; therefore his world is a perfectly safe place to be.
Ask yourself this question: “What would my life look like if I lived with a heart-deep conviction that because of God’s unchanging character and care, this world is a totally secure place for me to be?”Â Your anxiety level would go down.Â You’d have the assurance that your life is in the hands of Almighty God, so you wouldn’t be tormented by your own inadequacy.Â You’d be an unhurried person.Â You might be busy, but you’d possess inner calmness and outer poise.Â You wouldn’t say many of the foolish things you now say because you speak without thinking.Â You’d trust God enough to risk obeying Him.Â That means you wouldn’t have to hoard.Â Worry makes us depend on ourselves.Â It robs us of joy and energy.Â A person in whom the peace of Christ reigns would be an oasis of sanity in a world of pandemonium.Â Can you be that person? Better yet, do you want to be that person?
Such a person does exist.Â “The LORD will keep you from all harm.Â He will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:7-8).Â What else do you need?
“I am warning you ahead of time, dear friends, so that you can watch out and not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people. I don’t want you to lose your own secure footing.”Â â?? II Peter 3:17 (NLT)
There’s nothing more dangerous than going forth in the name of the LORD, but in error. That’s why teaching and learning are so important. For the student, it involves discerning truth from error. For the teacher, it involves sound communication. What a student learns becomes ingrained in the heart and soul. Therefore, if information presented is incorrect, the student comes to accept untruth as something valid. Simply put, lies distort truth. And when that happens, it is hard to convince the student otherwise.
In the preceding text, Peter cautions believers to beware of falling victim to the seductive practice of straying from orthodoxy. He also illuminates a very subtle truth: most people that are being deceived are not even aware of it because they never go beyond face value. The “wicked” spoken of here are those unprincipled, double-minded people whose devotion to God is less than total. As a consequence, their attention is divided between God and other things. Those pulled into this web of fraudulence are subject to failing steadfastness & no spiritual balance.
So what’s the remedy against such deceit? How do you know if one’s teaching is on point and someone else’s has missed the mark?Â Check out Acts 17:11 – “And the people of Berea were more openâ??minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to check up on Paul and Silas, to see if they were really teaching the truth .” (NLT)
The Bereans were open to Paul’s teaching, but not content with simply hearing the message and taking it at face value. They continually (“day after day”) examined the Word and personally sought to investigate and measure the accuracy of Paul’s message against Scripture. Their motive was not to find fault; they were eager to believe truth. In its proper context, the idea conveyed is that these men and women were unbiased and characterized by a willingness to learn and evaluate fairly. They listened to the words of Paul, not with an already made up mind, but with a readiness to let the passage change their thinking if that’s what needed to occur.
There are 2 key aspects we can learn from the Bereans:
1. We must not place absolute trust in the stability of that which can be seen or felt. A savvy communicator can use the Scriptures taken out of context to teach almost anything. Just because it sounds true and it feels right doesn’t mean it lines up with the Bible. The opinions of the Bereans were in no way influenced by Paul’s persuasiveness or their own emotions.
2. We must labor daily to increase in our knowledge of Christ. Until you know Christ authentically, you will always run the risk of being duped into accepting a counterfeit faith. The Bereans model the appropriate response we should have when the Word of God goes forth. They were familiar with God because they regularly spent time interacting with Him through His Word.
When was the last time you went beyond face value to make sure you weren’t being misled?
“The purpose of education is to reduce the seduction of eloquence.” â?? Dr. Michael Eric Dyson
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