Bible

Should Christians Gamble?

In college, I went to the Kentucky Derby with my friends. The main reason we went was to socialize, not bet on horses. After watching a few races, we decided to put down a measly sum of money. $10 to be exact. Was that wrong for us to do? Would the Bible condemn that action?

While there are no specific references in Scripture that condemn gambling, betting, or lottery, the Bible does warn us not to be tempted by the love of money (1 Tim. 6:10; Heb. 13:5). Scripture also condemns receiving money without labor (Prov. 13:11; 23:5; Eccl. 5:10). All of us know the gambling industry personifies both. Therefore, I think gambling should be avoided by Christians. Let me explain why.

Anyone who gambles can develop addictions if they are not aware of the risks and do not gamble responsibly. Signs that indicate someone has a problem is when behavior hinders relationships, finances, and the workplace. Gambling addiction has been known to be a “hidden problem” because there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms like drug or alcohol addiction. Here are 4 things to ask yourself to determine whether you may have a gambling problem:

  1. Feel the need to be secretive about your gambling. You might gamble in secret or find ways to lie about how much you really spend on betting. For instance, you may go to the convenience store everyday to get a lottery ticket but tell people that’s not “really gambling.”
  2. You may have trouble controlling your gambling. When you begin gambling, is it hard for you to walk away from it? Are you compelled to keep spending your money until you bet the last dollar? Do you borrow money from others so you can win your loss back?
  3. If you gamble even when you don’t have money, this is a concern, especially if you have children and a spouse to take care of. When you feel pushed to borrow or even steal things for gambling money, you have a problem.
  4. People closest to you in life will share their concerns, eventually when you can’t hide it anymore. Denial keeps problem gambling going, but after a while it becomes obvious. When friends and family show concern, it’s best to get professional help.

If gambling is a struggle, I would encourage you to seek help. Get counseling from a Christian counselor who can remind you of the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome temptation. Remember, all of us struggle with sin. It’s when we admit it and are willing to repent from it that God will help us in our time of greatest need. I will end with this verse to remind you of God’s great love. God bless.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

God’s Law and Grace Are Harmonious

“To separate God’s law from grace is to misapply both law and grace.”

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). For all have sinned and stand condemned before God (Rom. 3:23). The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Thus, all deserve God’s wrath for breaking His law.

Thankfully, Jesus took our punishment on the cross in order to satisfy God’s righteous anger toward sin. Because God upholds His law, He must punish all sin, including yours and mine. To absolve us from the curse of the law, God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to become sin for us, so that we could be made right with God through Christ (Isaiah 53; 2 Cor. 5:21).

Not only did Jesus die for our sins, but he lived in complete obedience to the law. That’s why there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ. Why? Because what the law was powerless to do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us (Rom. 8:4).

Therefore, the only way to understand grace is in light of the law. The law says, “You are guilty.” But God says, “even though your sins are as scarlet, I will make them white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). Essentially, the law magnifies grace.

Jesus also makes it clear the law is everlasting. “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose (Matt. 5:17). And He did. He perfectly obeyed the law and that’s the only reason we are made righteous before a holy God.

Live for Jesus Now So You Will Be Prepared When He Comes Back

 

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25:13)”

I work at Costco. We found out a week ago that our CEO was going to drop by for a visit. This news changed the entire workplace environment.

For instance, all of the employees got extra hours to ensure the place was running smoothly. Also, our general manager has been cleaning every spot in the entire warehouse. Just yesterday I saw him cleaning a hidden corner where cobwebs were growing.

At first thought, it made no sense why our general manager was cleaning a hidden corner of cobwebs instead of managing his 100+ employees. But then it dawned on me how significant that spot really was.

The CEO is not going to look for the obvious. Most warehouses will have their inventory lined up, cash registers updated, and protocols for managing the safety of the store. So what the CEO is looking for is how well a warehouse does, even on the most minute of detail; hence, the cobweb in the furthermost corner of the massive building.

The same is true with us. As Christians, we know Jesus is coming back. He is going to visit us soon. And we must be sober-minded, vigilant, and living a godly lifestyle (Philip. 2:15) just like a bride prepares herself on the wedding day.

But Jesus is also going to look at the not so obvious things in our life. How did we treat the person in the car in front of us during a traffic jam? What was our attitude when we got a bad grade in class? Did we smile or even say Hi to our neighbor before rushing off to work?

I would encourage you to think about the small details in your life and do all you can to bring glory, honor, and God through it. The good news is that our righteousness doesn’t depend on us. Jesus already died on the cross for our sins.

We are now free to live for Him any way we want, but don’t you want to make him proud? If I work tirelessly to make my supervisors impressed at Costco, how much more should I work tirelessly to live a holy and blameless life? May God give you the strength and power to do so today!

 

 

Responding Biblically to Common Atheist Arguments

Here is a conversation between an Atheist and myself. He brought up 9 common arguments against the existence of God. His concerns were legitimate, but I believe the Bible has the answers to these emotional statements.

1. Objective Morality? Please. Rather, please explain the strange sense of whimsical morality and justice within the Christian tradition. First, I am born guilty and deserving of eternal punishment because of something someone did 6000 years ago – the original sin.

This statement presupposes the imputation of Adam’s sin on the whole human race. I don’t believe Scripture teaches in total depravity or being born as sinners. Psalm 51:5 is the most common verse used: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me (ESV).” The English Standard Version and NASB both have the most literal translation from the Greek. Other translations say “I was sinful at birth.” This is not what Scripture is teaching here. His mother conceived him out of wedlock. The other verse commonly used: Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned (Rom. 5:12). The last phrase “because all sinned” reveal that each individual is personally responsible for their sins. Have you lied? Said the name’s Lord in vain? Coveted after something that doesn’t belong to you? I know I have. Therefore, our own sin condemns us, not the sin from Adam.

2. Even though babies are sinners based on Adam, they will still go to heaven if they die before their age of accountability.

Once again, I don’t believe your examples are consistent with what Scripture teaches. Babies and children don’t have the cognitive ability or moral framework to understand right from wrong. When they take something that doesn’t belong to them, it’s not considered stealing. They are exploring the world and learning their boundaries. However, if an adult steals money from their employer, no one would ever say, “He is still exploring his environment.” The individual would be fired and put in jail for embezzling money.

3. Someone receives the death penalty for what I did as I go free – the vicarious atonement.

The vicarious atonement of Christ is a gracious gift to you and I. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might receive the righteousness of Christ. While I was reading John Loftus’s book “The end of Christianity” I came across this statement: “So as a Christian, it seems one ought to believe it is wrong for the innocent to suffer in the place of the guilty on the basis of his implanted sense of right and wrong and the clear teaching of the Bible (p. 185).” Absolutely. John Loftus is exactly right. And it parallels with what Jesus said in John 10:18, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” The greatest injustice that ever happened on this planet was for the sinless one, Jesus Christ, to die for us, who rebelled against Him by our own free will (not determinism).

4. Jesus paid it all – really?

God’s eternal being can take on the eternal weight of God’s wrath. Jesus confirms this connection in Gethsemane when he prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus drinks the cup of God’s wrath, a cup that has accumulated the fury of God against sins of all types. Heinous crimes, adultery, careless words, dishonoring thoughts, lies — all of it will be punished by God.

5. Someone deserves eternal torture by burning because of 70 years of sin – eternal torture in the lake of fire.

Personally, I think Hell is locked on the inside. People love their sin more than they love God. People worship self rather than God. They would rather burn with their lustful thoughts than transform their mind to what is holy and good and righteous. They won’t want to enter a place where all attention and focus will be upon Jesus Christ. They would rather gnash their teeth in defiance forever than bow their knees to the holy one of God. As Desmund Tutu said: ‘I’d rather go to hell than worship a homophobic God.” There is a book entitled: Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment. They may be able to address some of your emotional concerns on Hell.

6. I have the power to save the whole world, but I don’t want to. I’ll save a few because I want to – The Calvinist tradition and its understanding God and election.

Once again, you are assuming a Calvinist position. I don’t follow Calvin, but the Bible. Read these words from 2 Peter 3:9. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” The same can be said in the Old Testament. “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel (Ezek. 33:11).”

7. I had the thought of enjoying a bad action, so I am just as guilty as doing the bad action – the excessive application of Matthew 5 and a personal favorite in the repertoire of Christian preachers wanting to make sure that not even one person sits in the pew feeling innocent from sin.

All evil actions start from a thought. Just because one doesn’t carry it out doesn’t mean they are innocent of it. In fact, read through some documentaries by serial killers who started out with an evil thought that led to their action of murder. It’s all about the intentions and attitude of the heart. Someone may be bitter and angry against their friend and never incite violence. However, their relationship will always be in question until they get rid of that thought or try to reconcile back. Restoration is the key to why thoughts should be good, pure, and holy. God is concerned about both the heart and the action.

8. Sin is sin – how most American evangelical and fundamentalist Christians think.

I never said all “sin is equal.” Good verses you alluded to. Here is another one that Jesus said in Matthew 11: “But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to heaven? No, you will descend to Hades! For if the miracles that were performed in you had happened in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

9. One more example for free. Most Christian traditions will not touch this one. Noah gets drunk. One son sees him naked and makes fun of it to his other brothers. The result: Noah is allowed control the destinies of people for the next 4500 years and sets up systems of slavery and oppression. The black skin descendants of Ham and Canaan are cursed to live lives of slavery, slave trades, slave ships, oppression, cruelty, rape, etc. because Ham saw his naked drunk father and made fun of it? Huh? Strange sense of justice.

 

If the type of slavery that happened in Africa in the 19th century was in the Bible, the Mosaic Law would sentence that person to death. Exodus 21:16 reads: “Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death.” Africans were rounded up by slave-hunters, who sold them to slave-traders, who brought them to the New World to work on plantations and farms. This practice is abhorrent to God and they would have been put to death for it. Contrary to popular belief, God did not condone antebellum slavery in the Bible.

 

 

Evangelicals, Bring Baptism Back to the Gospel

When I did a grammatical-historical exegesis of Mark 16:16; Jn. 3:3-5, Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:4-6, 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-27; Eph. 5:25-27; Col. 2:11-13; Tit. 3:5; and 1 Pet. 3:21, I came to the conclusion, all presuppositions from Southern Seminary aside, that water baptism is indeed part of the gospel. This led me to a dynamic transformation encounter with the living God.

I no longer view water baptism as an outward sign of an inward grace that has already happened in the past. For Scripture makes it clear there is only one faith, one lord, and one baptism. Not a spirit baptism first and then a water baptism later.

For even Dr. Schreiner makes it clear in his Romans commentary concerning 6:4-6: “Christians would have inevitably thought of water baptism since it was the universal initiation rite for believers in Christ. Moreover, Paul probably loosely associated baptism with water and baptism by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13), since both of these occurred at conversion. Thus any attempt to distinguish between Spirit baptism and water baptism in the Pauline writings goes beyond what Paul himself wrote. Thomas Schreiner, Romans: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic Press, 1998), p.306-307. Stott is also correct in saying that Paul was thinking of water baptism here, but it would never have occurred to Paul that baptism in water could be separated from baptism in the spirit (Contra Stott, 1994, p.173).

I no longer view baptism as an ordinance or an act of obedience, but as a working of God through faith according to Colossians 2:11-13. Thus, baptism is not a work but an act of faith. And since it’s an act of faith, it harmonizes with justification by faith in Christ alone. In fact, Martin Luther makes it clear when he said: “that faith must have something in which it believes, that is, something it clings to, and something on which to plant its feet and into which to sink its roots. Thus faith clings to the water and believes baptism to be something in which there is pure salvation and life, not through the water, as I have emphasized enough, but because God’s name is joined to it…It follows from this that whoever rejects baptism rejects God’s word.”

When I view Acts 2:38 as “repent and be baptized” for the forgiveness of sins, I no longer explain it away in a convoluted manner. I simply look at the Greek word eis, which means motion toward, and infer from this passage that both are necessary conditions for the forgiveness of our sins. When you examine Arndt and Gingrich’s Greek lexicon, they devote two full pages to motion toward rather than five lines devoted to the causal use of eis or other attempts to argue “because of.”

I have merely scratched the surface, but this has helped me understand why there are a diversity of views concerning the gospel. Some include faith only and Grudem has rightfully denounced this doctrine in his book “Free Grace Theology” 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel. Also, MacArthur has done a good job to defend Lordship salvation instead of the Savior only model you see in many organizations, such as Campus Crusade for Christ. Platt has adequately addressed the doctrinal issue concerning the sinner’s prayer and how Jesus never told anyone to ask him in their heart.

All of that said, unless baptism is brought back into the gospel, the SBC will always be confused about the “timing” in which conversion occurs. Does it happen during the moment of faith? Does it happen at faith and then during one’s “calling on the name of the Lord”, which would refer to repentance. Or, as the Reformed Baptists would argue, regeneration precedes all of this. Without a foundation for conversion, the whole salvation process will become spiritualized. And I am convinced it will lead to a gnostic theology similar to praying a sinner’s prayer into the heart rather than “repenting and being baptized” for the forgiveness of sins.

I think Scripture makes it clear in Colossians 2:11-13 and especially 1 Peter 3:28 the “timing” in which God saves us. Hear me out. I am not teaching baptismal regeneration as the Roman Catholics define it. One must have the cognitive ability to understand the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Thus, water doesn’t bestow any magical grace to the individual.

When Peter said baptism now saves you, he makes it clear not to focus on the water, but your appealing to God for a good conscience. Now that word appeal is vitally important. It’s not a pledge. It’s not something you do. It’s a promise that God has said. He will save you! He will redeem you! He will apply his atoning work on the cross for your sins when you call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. Just as Noah entered the ark to protect him from the flood of judgment, so then baptism is the mode by which God separates the unrighteous from the righteous. When we enter into baptism, we are united with Christ. We are buried with Him in baptism (Rom. 6:4-6).

This is not to be taken figuratively or allegorically. Let me explain. Before I got married, I thought about Olya as my future wife. I repented of all other women because I knew she was the one for me. But it wasn’t until I came into union during marriage that her and I became married. During our physical ceremony, the spiritual reality occurred simultaneously in that the two became one flesh.

Similarly, when we enter into the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ by baptismal immersion, the physical reality demonstrates the spiritual reality, not in the past, but at “that moment.” This is not a theologically awkward understanding. In fact, the visible church is a true representation of the invisible church. Jesus Christ was not just a spirit, but took on human flesh. God always unites the physical and spiritual realities. It wasn’t until the Protestant Reformation, with the influence of Zwingli, that water and spirit baptism became separated. Many commentaries on John 3:5 from the early church Fathers indicate water baptism was taught when regeneration occurs.

Brothers and sisters, its my hope you look into the meaning of baptism yourself without any preconceived notions. Just ask yourself a simple question. If my local church requires baptism by immersion in order to be a member of the church, then why would your requirement be any more than the universal church? Basically, some of the SBC churches agree in this ordinance as a necessary component for church membership, but not for salvation? How is this the case? I will be praying for you to seek God in this manner. Have a great day!

As a Christian, I can’t Vote for Clinton or Trump.

 

As a Christian, I can’t support Trump’s misogynistic worldview, Clinton’s age-based discrimination of the unborn, or Johnson’s extreme view of limited government, which is borderline anarchy. Thus, I have decided to vote for a write-in candidate for President, Evan McMullin. He is a conservative leader with conservative values. You can find out more about him here. 

When I told my Facebook friends I wasn’t going to vote for Donald Trump, this is what one individual told me: “You will be handing the future of the Supreme Court, our boarders and, sanctity of life over to Hillary Clinton…..simple as that.”

Here is how I responded: I will not be handing over the sanctity of life, our borders, and the future of the Supreme Court over to Hillary Clinton. The Republican party bears that responsibility.

I am deeply concerned with the sanctity of life, but the way to win this battle is not solely through the political process. If conservatives are deeply concerned, then the way to combat it in Kokomo is to follow your local pro-life board. They are always looking for help. Call them up and ask to take a lead.

Second, build relationships with broken sinners who see the value of parenting a precious child. Visit them before they walk into an abortion clinic. If they already performed an abortion and regret it, buy them lunch and pray for healing.

Third, create a website and blog about the problems relating to abortion and how to bring awareness. Speakfortheunborn.com is a great example of a blog you can mimic in your local area. Crowdfunding is a great resource to use in order to generate funds to expand.

Fourth, continue to support local agencies like the Pregnancy Resource Center. I know your church has done a great job supporting this great agency, but maybe there is an opportunity to do even more. You can always write a letter to the Editor and share your heart on these issues.

As Christians, we are called not only to show up, vote, and stand for our convictions, but also pour our lives into hurting people who desperately need the grace of God. That includes everyone! In the end, each one of us will give an account for how we responded in this election. I won’t tell you who to vote for and I think there are good arguments on both sides. But as for me, this is what I have chosen.

Another friend of mine told me that not endorsing Donald Trump is like a neighborhood pal that wanted to play baseball with the rest of us but his team lost badly, he became upset and went home even though we said we were playing.

Here is how I responded to this argument. Good thoughts. I agree with you that loyalty is important. However, what if you found out the rest of your baseball team was bullying other kids in the neighborhood without your awareness. Even though you made a pact in the beginning to play until the end, would it be right for you to stay loyal to these friends? The only way to remain loyal is to ask your friends to apologize and change their behavior. But after the second presidential debate, I believe Trump made it clear he hasn’t changed. I hope he does, but at this point, the trajectory only looks worse for him. Surely I will pray for him, but he should have been removed from the team to protect the Republican party’s reputation. The Republican party will never be the same again.

I understand the emotional difficulty it has become to choose the right president for this year’s election. I still believe it’s vital you vote for somebody, but remember. As Christians, Jesus is our President. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. While we serve this great nation America, it’s not our permanent home. Therefore, let’s be good citizens of the United States as we continue praising Jesus as the King of our hearts. God bless you all.

The Fear of the Lord Produces Wisdom

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy one is understanding (Prov. 9:10).”

In the Bible, the word “fear” has many connotations. For instance, fear can mean respect in the way an employee views his or her boss (Josh. 24:14). It can refer to a scary or dreadful situation (Deut. 5:25). Lastly, fear can be associated with a deep sense of reverence or awe (Isa. 6:5). Fearing the Lord is a mixture of all three.

Jesus explicitly said in Matthew 10:28: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Of course, the one who has authority over our eternal fate is God.

When I got in trouble as a kid, my Mom would send me to my room until Dad got home. My room was right above the garage so when I heard it open, I waited in anticipation for my Dad to call me downstairs.

“Chad, get down here now!” he would yell. I would slowly walk downstairs into the kitchen. “Sit down,” he retorted. When I would sit down, he would always say to me with his index finger tapping the table, “Look at my eyes. Did you disobey Mom? Were you being disrespectful to her?”

“Yes,” I nervously responded. He answered back, “You need to change your attitude and apologize to her right now.” I ended with, “Yes sir.” And that was the end of our discussion.

That moment of fear made me change my attitude and led me to ask Mom for forgiveness. Immediately afterwards, our relationship was restored. Thus, discipline from my Dad was a good thing because the goal was reconciliation. It also gave me wisdom to resolve this situation in a positive way.

This analogy is true with our Heavenly Father. When we disobey Him, he gets upset. Sin is really distorting God’s creation. For instance, when we lie, we distort God’s law of truth. When we lust, our minds pervert it’s original intent for marriage. Since God is holy and good, He must hate what is unholy and evil.

While God hates sin, He desires all people to repent and believe in the gospel. Scripture says God is not slow in keeping his promise. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).

Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of action. Instead of lying, we tell the truth. Instead of falling for the temptation of greed, we act generously towards our neighbors. Healthy fear, knowing that God will judge us for practicing evil, motivates us to do what is “good, true, and noble” (Philip. 4:8).

God’s whole goal is to transform us into His image so He would be magnified on the Earth. Will you let him do that? Then fear God and you will begin to grow in wisdom and holiness that brings honor and glory to Jesus. Have a blessed day!