Monday, February 1, 2016

Casinos, Lotteries & Online Gaming – All a Pack of Lies

Gambling is a worldwide activity that has been around for much of human history.  However, in modern times it has scaled like never before due to technology and public acceptance.  Elected officials see the financial benefit of gambling, making it more accessible, and the church has muted its opposition.     
  
The gambling industry in partnership with government and business have conspired together to produce a masterful public relations strategy.  It promotes gambling as a fun recreational activity that also provides needed public funding for education or other worthy causes.     

On the surface it all seems innocent, but at its core gambling is a wretched vice.  This evil is built on a flashy, well-orchestrated scheme of stealing.  Except, rather than doing it secretively, players willingly fork over their cash hand over fist.  They give the card dealer, the grocery store clerk or the online website their hard earned income in return for a false hope of a jackpot rarely seen.      

This devilish vice has been destroying lives for centuries and now more than ever.  According to a Gambling treatment organization, over 80% of Americans have gambled on some level foolishly giving over $500 billion to these crafty thieves.  On top of that it costs our economy over $40 billion, which comes from credit losses to businesses due to a gamblers unpaid debt and for the expense of social services to get them help.  Additionally, gambling can lead to job loss, bankruptcy, fraud, depression, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse and much, much more.  Get the picture?  Every time I watch a TV add extolling the virtues of gambling I yell “It’s a lie!”  Ask any family member of someone who has a gambling problem if they think it is just a “harmless recreational activity that is for the good of the economy and jobs.” 

The Scripture is spot on when it comes to gambling saying, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10).  The love of money drives this evil and its misplaced love has caused people to wander away from their jobs, families and God. 

Yes, our businesses and families need to make an income to survive, but let us do it with a moral conscience.  Do what is wise, right and good.  Start by turning to God for His help in providing answers where there is financial need, no matter if it is in the hundreds or millions of dollars.  Then let us patiently wait for His answer, turning from relying on our own wisdom.  Real hope is not found in dollars and cents but in Almighty God who is Creator and Owner of all.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Islam is no Peaceful Religion

 Former Republican President George W. Bush stated less than three weeks after America was attacked in 2001 that “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.  That's not what Islam is all about.  Islam is peace.”  Current Democratic President, Barrak Obama, agrees along with many other elected officials.  Is it true?  Is Islam a religion of peace?

 I respectfully disagree.  Yes, the majority of Muslims are peaceful but Islam itself is not.  Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, declared that “Muslims must kill non-believers wherever they are unless they convert to Islam.”  Where does Mr. Gomaa and other scholars get such ideas?  Their teachings come from Islam’s sacred text and the example of its founder, the Prophet Muhammad.  The Quran says, “Slay them (the infidels) wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out, for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter” (2:191).  Some Muslim’s may choose a moderate approach and ignore this, others may counter it with an opposing Quran teaching, but others obey this command.     

If someone is a non-Muslim, albeit an atheist, Christian, Jew, Hindu or Buddhist, and refuses to convert to Islam, they are an infidel and vulnerable to confrontation, especially if they live in an Islamic nation.  If someone abandons their Muslim faith, tries to evangelize Muslims, speaks out against Islam, or violates Islamic Sharia Law, their lives are at risk.      

Islam itself, not fringe groups or leaders, provide the foundation for the appalling Islamic-motivated atrocities we have witnessed in breaking news stories.  It is just too wide spread to deny.  One expert found that since 9/11 there have been over 20,000 of these attacks, averaging about one every five hours, somewhere in the world.   

The stark contrast between Christianity and Islam is found in Jesus’ own words when He stated that “In me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  How did He overcome?  It was not done with a sword but with His cross.  He voluntarily laid His life down on that gruesome and torturous cross that others might live.  Then, He rose again showing His power over evil and death.  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, His goodness and peace is available to all – Muslims, Jews, and people of any or no religion.  His kindness and compassion is heralded across the globe with His words “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas: The War on Jesus

Every Christmas we do the “Holiday Hustle and Bustle Two-Step” and may experience the “Christmas Blues” along with a good mix of some “Christmas Family Conflict.”  But there is one more feature to the “most wonderful time of the year”, the war on Jesus.  Some may say the war on Christmas, but if we are honest, it is really about Jesus.

"It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas . .  Mythicism’s in the Air” was the title of a column that caught my attention, written by Dr. John Dixon.  He is a professor at the University of Sydney teaching a class on the Historical Jesus. 

Mythicism or the Jesus Myth is a teaching that advocates Jesus never existed.  The majority of religious scholars reject the legitimacy of their arguments since there is such wide spread consensus for His existence.  However, this arena of thought is growing in influence and fighting for an academic spot at the table.  During Christmas and Easter we often see these mythicist-driven attacks on Jesus. 

When looking for evidence for the historical Jesus, eye witness accounts are the most valuable.  They are prized above second-hand testimonies, of which there are several in and outside of the Biblical record.  However, the only place that contains first-hand accounts of Jesus is the Bible itself. 

Matthew wrote of meeting Jesus in third person saying, “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’  And he rose and followed him” (Matt. 9:9).  Paul records his statement writing, “[Jesus] appeared to me also” (1 Cor. 15:8).  And Peter recounts his experience saying he was “a witness of the sufferings of Christ” (1 Pet. 5:1).

For centuries skeptics have put these eye witness accounts on the anvil of doubt. Yet examination after examination has proven their testimonies were reliable.

There is another kind of testimony that also proves the existence of Jesus.  How do you explain the millions of people over the last 2,000 years who have given testimony of being transformed by Jesus?  Most have never met each other, lived in different centuries and on different continents and spoken different languages.  How could they have conspired together?  I argue that every soul who has been born again by the living Christ is a legitimate and definitive source of evidence that proves Jesus is real and alive!

Come on, all doubters and skeptics!  Come to the empty manger, cross and tomb.  You will not find Him there but you can find Him on your knees when you cry out from the depths of your soul to know Him.  There you will see Him in all His glory and be able to give your own eye witness account.                   

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

God & Drinking Christians

Does God’s Word teach that it is okay to drink?  Churches and fellow Christians have divided over this question.  Saying it is a hot topic is putting it mildly.  I would not be surprised if well over 50% of Christians believed it would be okay to have an occasional drink.   
    
Where do many believers get the idea that God has no problem with drinking?  1 - Jesus’ example.  “If Jesus drank then it is okay for me too.”  2 - The use of the word “wine” in the Bible.  It is shown in a positive light in various passages.  3 - The absence of a statement condemning drinking (aside from drunkenness). 

I oppose the teaching that God permits us to drink.  Here are my reasons.  1 – The use of the word “wine” in the Bible.  It does not always refer to alcohol.  The meaning can refer to both, fermented or unfermented.  This is according to the secular and biblical usages of the word in Greek and Hebrew, Latin and old English definitions.  Biblical context often determines if wine is defined as simple grape juice or alcohol.  2 – Ancient biblical culture’s making of wine.  It was a common practice to mix water into the wine to dilute its alcohol potency.  At the least people drank grape juice, and at the most, a non-alcoholic beverage.  3 – Common sense.  When we say the only rule is not getting drunk, it leads to some odd conclusions.  This means bottoms up for all alcoholic beverages beyond wine such as beer, vodka and whiskey.  This means no limits on how often, just how much.  This means, as long as we do not cross that line, God has no problem with the long-term health effects of alcohol.   

In the midst of my opposition let me also state that I do not believe God views drinking as a sin.  The Bible clearly lays out drunkenness as a sin, not the same with drinking.  There is no “Thou shalt not drink.”  Like many subjects in the arena of Christian living it often comes down to biblical wisdom and our personal motives.   

Let me ask you an honest question?  When you pick up that glass of wine, beer or shot of whiskey what is your motive?  Are you drinking because of the flavor, you are plain thirsty or you want the effect of alcohol?  Experts say that after 1 to 3 drinks (or shots) the alcohol begins to have some effect with feelings of relaxation. Sometimes that is our intent, just to relax.  That is a dangerous place to be with alcohol at our side.  Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). That thief can be alcohol and it starts with one casual drink.  Turn to Jesus and instead of seeking relaxation, seek His abundant life.  May Jesus be your hope for today.