To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘The Word’ Category

Should I Do The Lottery?

The National Lottery is now well embedded within our culture. Millions each week participate in the lottery by choosing their numbers. But should the Christian participate in the National Lottery? Before we get specifically to answering that question let us attend to two matters which bear upon our subject.

The first is a question of definition. Is doing the lottery gambling? The word gamble means “to risk something of value on an outcome that depends on chance.” Given that definition and the fact that the outcome of a lottery “depends on chance” and playing it involves “risk,” we can conclude that playing the lottery is gambling.

The second involves the practice of casting lots in biblical times; was this gambling? Very often in biblical accounts lots would be cast so that the people knew what to do in a certain instance. In Acts 1:21-26, for example, we read of the use of lots so as to help in deciding who would replace Judas as an apostle. Lots, though, were cast simply to make a decision. And the fundamental principle was The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. (Prov. 16:33). It had nothing to do with risking something on an uncertain outcome. Therefore, it was not gambling.

Having considered these preliminary issues let us examine whether or not Christians should be doing the lottery.

The Way Of This World. The way of this world focuses on money. The general mantra is that the more money you have then the better things are for you. This thinking is expressed in Ecclesiastes 10:19 like this: A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything. That is how the world operates. So what better way to get to “the answer” in the fastest and easiest way than by doing the lottery. This is the way of the world; it is not the way of God.

Covetousness. The tenth commandment of our God says that ‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.’(Ex. 20:17). However, the lottery feeds covetousness and covetousness drives the lottery. The two have an unpleasant union glued together by greed. It is all built on the lie that I will be happy when I have a hefty bank balance and plenty of possessions. This is not the way of God.

Focus On Eternal Riches. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle (Prov. 23:5) is the pertinent observation of Solomon. As Christians we are to be focusing on eternal riches. Our Saviour said: ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:19-20a).

Hard Work. The principle of Scripture is for us to gain our resources through hard work ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ (2 Thess. 3:10). is how Paul expresses it. Our resources come as a legitimate reward for work this is the general principle of Scripture. They do not come through the risk of the lottery.

Love the Poor. The lottery is known to take most money from those who can least afford to spend it. Christians are to love the poor and do good to those in need. There is a sense in which the lottery exploits the longings of the poor. And then you must remember that if you do win that most of that money has come from the poor. The lottery exploits the weakness of the poor.

Stewardship. Proverbs 31:10-31 tells us of the wise woman who takes care of her household well. Her attitude towards her resources is summed up in v 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. There is no thought of bolstering her income through risk and chance. Rather she is working hard, acting shrewdly and giving generously. And in all this she is honouring the Lord.

We Do Not Live By Chance. The Lord’s hostility to us living by chance is seen when he says ‘But as for you who forsake the Lord and forget my holy mountain, who spread a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you for the sword, and all of you will fall in the slaughter; (Is 65:11-12b). The Lord detests us casting our resources out to the gods of luck and chance. We need to take heed to this because it does not just apply to the lottery.

Misery. Some of the most miserable people are those who have won the lottery. Winners tend to leave their jobs and hence lose structure to their lives. Winners realise that life does not consist in an abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15b); they have seen that the possessions of this world do not bring lasting pleasure. All the happiness they envisaged that they would enjoy through a lottery win has not materialised.

Satisfaction. The lottery thrives off dissatisfaction with my lot and estate. The Bible says though that we should cultivate an attitude of contentment. Paul puts it like this. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 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 Tim. 6:9-10).

So let us shun the lottery and get on and live trusting in the Lord who kindly provides for His children. We are not a people who risk our resources to the gods of this world. But we are those who believe and thereby trust our sovereign Lord to work all for the good of His children.

Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of March 2016

 

Hope (or Help) For The Desperate

Here is a sermon I recently preached at Feltham Evangelical Church. It did me a lot of good in the preparing and the preaching. Here is the outline:

Introduction

A.. Finding Your Feet (vv1-3)

B.. Stabilizing (vv4-5)

  1. In the presence of God
  2. Fellowship with God
  3. The goodness of God

C.. Looking Forward (vv6-8)

  1. Purpose
  2. Praise
  3. Practice

Conclusion

Have a listen if you wish.

A Happy Soul

Here is George Müller giving us profound wisdom about what we should concentrate upon at the beginning of each day: 

“I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished…I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it.”

this is a great reminder about what our priorities are to be in our devotional time at the beginning of each day.

I have written further about this here.

Understanding God’s Word.

All Christians are geniuses! True or false? The reason we might suspect that Christians could all be geniuses is because they seem to ask so few questions about the word of God. Does this mean therefore that they understand everything? Do they have no need to any engage in discussion/questioning in order to seek out the meaning of the Word of God? Are they all in the genius category?

An answer starts to emerge if we turn to some words of the LORD Jesus and we realise that this lack of questioning does in fact raise some very serious issues. The passage that gives us much help in this context is Mark 4:10-12.

The LORD has been teaching in parables. The meaning was not immediately discerned and so a group; “the twelve and the others around him” asked him about the parables. In doing so they expressed an interest in the teaching. They do not immediately understand it, but they were curious to know the meaning. It is to such a group that the LORD reveals the meaning.

He specifically says in v11 that it is to those, who ask about the meaning, that he will make known the mystery of the kingdom of God. A mystery, in the New Testament understanding of the word, is the revealing of something that was previously hidden. In a sense, the seekers after truth would have the secrets of the truth revealed to them.

At this point it might be useful to clarify what a parable is. It has been quaintly said that it is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. And this really gives us the crux of the meaning. By implication therefore it is a method of teaching where the meaning is not immediately obvious, it has to be sought out. A certain determination is required to ascertain the meaning.

Our Saviour then goes on to say that to those who ask no questions, who ave no interest in enquiring after truth, “everything is said in parables” (v11b). He seems to be saying that all truth becomes like parables to them. He then quotes from Isaiah 6:9-10 to indicate that their lack of questioning reveals that they are still outside, with no perception, no understanding and no sins forgiven. These people just see the outside of the parable. They see it and say “we don’t have the foggiest idea what all that is about and we can’t be bothered to ask; it is just all irrelevant nonsense to us”

This of course contrasts with the first group who have a desire to know the meaning of the Word of God. We might say that as we interact with the Word of God those who want to know get to know more and those who do not want to know, get to know nothing. In a sense, everyone gets what they want.

Let us emphasise at this point that this does not give any excuse for slovenly preaching of God’s Word. Rather, we should have suitably gifted people doing the preaching and these should seek to make the meaning clear. We see this exemplified in the preachers referred to in Nehemiah 8:8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.

However, we must be aware that there are many things in God’s word which are hard to understand. Even Peter found some things in Paul’s writings hard to understand (see 2 Peter 3:16) and so we should not be surprised if we have a similar problem!

It is at this point though that we hit the nub of the matter. When we come across things we do not understand how do we respond? When we hear things in the preaching that we do not grasp how do we react? Remember it is to those that want to know the meaning that the LORD reveals the meaning. So our response should be to go to the LORD and ask Him about the matter. He may help you directly. However, His normal way is to use others who have knowledge of God’s Word to help you. So let us ask one another about the things we don’t understand.

The implications of not being bothered to ask are actually very serious. We say this because from our Lord’s teaching we would conclude that our lack of desire to seek out the meaning of His Word we place ourselves in the camp of the outsiders and perhaps even prove that we at not Christians at all.

Let us, therefore, be helping one another to understand God’s Word. And let us seek to emulate the blessed man of Psalm 1 who has “but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:2).

(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Newsletter June 2004)

Quiet Time.

Here is another quote from the interview with Victor Jack that I quoted from yesterday I have always maintained a regular time of Bible reading and prayer in the morning. For me this is indispensable; for my own spiritual growth and often this prepares me for situations and individuals I meet during the day.

So taking our cue from these observations may I take the liberty of asking you how it is with your ‘quiet time’? How are you getting on with seeking the Lord? Now I know you may be an owl and are freshest later in the day. But it is a good practice to get the pump of your life primed in the presence of the Lord. I have written about personal devotions here and that may be of some use. Whenever you approach your drawing near to God the most important thing is that you actually do it.

If you are too busy to do it, then you are too busy.

The full interview is on pp14-17 of the June 2018 Counties Ignite magazine which can be found here.

 

Bible Overview – The Pattern

I want today to seek to elucidate how, right at the beginning of the Bible, the pattern I outlined on Friday is operative. Let us look at Genesis 2.

  • God’s People. Here we find Adam and then Eve being added, by his side (see Gen. 2:22-23), So we have the original people of God.
  • God’s Place. In Gen. 2:8 we read The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He placed the man He had formed. The Lord God could have given Adam the whole planet as his place; after all it was within His gift to do so. But rather, he just gave him a garden in Eden. He wanted Adam and Eve to have a specific place in which to live for and experience God.
  • To be for God’s glory:
    • Obedience was the foundation to the joyous experience of God’s people having fellowship with God, And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” (Gen. 2:16-17
    • Service. Adam is called to serve the Lord by working the garden and watching over it ((see v15). Moreover Eve is called to his side to be a complementary helper (see v18). Eve was to help Adam in serving the Lord.
    • Worship. When all the forgoing is happening then is fulfilled the worshipping of Romans 12:1. There we read: brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.

Bible Overview.

As we study scripture it is good to have an overarching frame within which to develop our understanding. So easily we get mired in the detail of books and passages and lose any sense of a coherence to the biblical message.

I want to suggest to you a certain frame which reasonably gives a means of understanding the whole of Scripture. When we understand the Bible to be about the following then we have a handle on helpfully and healthily studying scripture:

  • God’s people
  • In God’s place
  • To be for His glory (and that means obedience, worship and service)

If you start thinking about scripture within that frame, I am convinced your appreciation of the Lord and His ways and your involvement therein will start to progress.

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