Monday, September 29, 2014

Should Christians Gamble?

Gambling for Fun
Barbara Henderson

Mortimer and his wife Carlotta were at a good place in their lives. They owned a very successful manufacturing business filled with contented employees who considered themselves blessed to have such generous management. Well, they didn’t exactly own the business. They still ran the business, but they had actually sold or partially ‘gave’ the business to the employees.  The employees bought them out a price much less than the company was worth. It was written into the selling contract that they could control the business until they were 95 or dead.  Not that they actually planed to run the business that long, but it seemed like a good idea to write it into the contract just in case they wanted to.  Mortimer and Carlotta actually had plans that did not include running a business.  They wanted to travel and see the world. They were never blessed with children, so they were not worrying about leaving an inheritance for their children. The people who had helped them build up the business now owned the majority of stock in the business.. They still had a very fine house on some acreage, but they planned to leave that to the church. 

Mortimer and Carlotta had been members of the same church ever since they got married more than 40 years ago. Mortimer was a deacon, and Carlotta was on every committee in the entire church. They loved the church, gave generously to charities, and were good Christian examples on almost everything. Although they enjoyed their life they were sincerely looking forward to eternity in heaven. They took their relationship with Jesus Christ seriously. That meant once they realized a sin was in their life they repented and turned from it.

They did have one small vice they considered harmless. They liked to gamble. They were both very disciplined people, so gambling for them meant taking a set amount of money, spending that much money, going to dinner, and going home in time to get a good night’s rest because they always went to church on Sunday. (There gambling night was Saturday) Mortimer and Carlotta considered the money they spent gambling as miscellaneous funds. It was a small amount of money considering their income and their net-worth.  They had been gambling for about 10 years, and they had never increased the amount of money they spent. The money spent on gambling had no effect on any part of their lives. They could’ve spent more had they gone to an expensive theater production and restaurant. For all those years they had never thought about gambling as being a sin. They enjoyed it.  They counted it as luck on the nights they won.  On the nights they lost ‘luck’ was not with them, but they had a good time anyway.

Then one day a missionary came to their church. He spoke of exploitation of the poor in the country where he worked. Goods and services were not available to the poor without paying extra money and higher rates of interest.  Even worse the missionary commented, the church was also exploiting the poor by promising them wealth if they only give more to the church. This put the church and the government run businesses in the dreadful place of exploiting the poor and helpless instead of helping them.  Mortimer and Carlotta were both appalled at the things the missionary told them.

The next week a great deal of their time was occupied thinking of exploitation of the poor. It almost seemed like their eyes were opened to see the poor where they had never seen them before. Both Mortimer and Carlotta had taken it very seriously to care for their employees during their time building up their company and running it. They firmly believed that business could balance making a profit with providing benefits and a good salary to employees. That was why they eventually sold the company to the employees. In some ways they saw their employees as the family they never had. They knew that some people would mismanage funds no matter how much money they earned. However, their employees were always paid wages that would allow them to have a level of financial stability not available to those who worked for businesses that cared only for profit.

After the missionary left Mortimer and Carlotta spent the week patting themselves on their backs for their good behavior toward their own employees. They also patted themselves on their backs for their generosity to the church. They were also happy to note that while their church always had a fund raising campaign they did not place the burden of funding the church projects on the poor of the church. Their preacher lived on a modest budget. He had even refused raises and other benefits because he thought it would not look right for a pastor to live above the majority of his church members. From their point of view they were in the clear when it came to exploiting the poor.

Their gambling night arrived.  They did start at the usual time, but they did not stop at the usual time.  This Saturday was no different except for one thing. They both kept winning far more than ever before. First the more they won the happier they were. Then they began to notice how many poor people were actually in the casino. Everywhere they looked there were people obviously far too poor to be spending money gambling. And the house was packed. 

At first Mortimer was appalled that so many people who obviously could not afford it were wasting money on gambling. ‘Carlotta,’ he said.  ‘I never noticed how many poor people were here.’  Carlotta replied, ‘neither did I.’
‘Of course we really can’t help what they do with their money.’ Said Mortimer.
‘No we can’t,’ Carlotta replied. ‘The real issue is that we are part of exploiting the poor.’
‘What are you talking about.’ Mortimer said.
‘Well, it looks like 80% of the people here gambling are poor to very poor. That means 80% of our winnings come from the poor. We are definitely taking advantage of the poor.’
‘Well I’ll be.’ Mortimer said. ‘Who’d a thunk it?’

Mortimer and Carlotta realized that gambling was participating in exploitation of the poor.  What they did about it was up to their conscience. I hope they remember that the Bible says Christians are to come out from among them and be separate.

The thing is that disciplined gambling may not be seen as a vice because the spender is not spending more than they can afford. They are not in charge of who is allowed to gamble.  If the poor want to gamble, then they have the right to do so.  If their families suffer, then it just what happens when family bread winners make wrong choices.  It is equally true however, that anyone who gambles is aiding and abetting in exploitation of the poor. In gambling the American dream of financial security through hard work and planning is replaced by ‘I want to win the lottery’.  They pray they will be ‘lucky’ the next time they pull a slot or roll the dice. 

In Gambling the gambler is trying to take what others lose.  Is it legal?  Yes it is?  Is it moral?  No, it is not.  Does God want His children to spend the money He has given them chasing ‘luck’ instead of honoring Him?  Of course not. 

By the way, who is ‘luck’?
‘Luck’ is a figment of your imagination just like mother earth.  If either luck or mother earth existed they would both be evil.  They only smile on people accidentally.  Both luck and mother earth are cruel masters.  Remember that when David faced the giant he did not ask luck to help him. He put his trust in the Almighty God of creation.

There is also the point that the apostle Paul made when he pointed out that he was free to do all things that are legal. However, he restrained himself from doing many things that are legal because he realized that some things appear as sin to younger brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul did not want to be a stumbling block to any fellow believer.  If a Christian is able to mentally distance themselves from the fact that gambling is a vice by rationalizing the evil that goes with it, they still cannot change the fact that many young Christians or people under conviction to become Christians do consider gambling a sin.  There is no way gambling can help you.  It can only hurt you and many others.

It is positively true that those who gamble their salaries away will gamble whether you gamble or not.  They will lose their money.  They will get another paycheck and gamble that away too.  But you do not have to participate in enabling them to keep their lives in the gutter. 

PS.  I want you all to know that I have never been in a Casino unless you count the airport at Las Vegas.  There was also a close call at a K-mart also in Las Vegas.  They had slot machines everywhere – including in the ladies bathroom.  I was taught not to gamble, but my real conviction came when Texas got the lottery and those scratch cards at convenience stores were everywhere.  The Convenience stores are really what opened my eyes.  I used to pick up ice for our auto repair shop every morning at a convenience store.  After the scratch tickets became available I saw the poorest of the poor buying scratch tickets early every single morning.  They were filthy, in poor health, and obviously mentally lacking in some way.  They would get to the counter, fill their coffee cup, buy tickets, and go back to sit down.  Then they scratched off their tickets, and went back to buy more.  I don’t know if the laws have changed, but the clerks should be able to refuse to sell more tickets after a certain amount.  At a different convenience store one evening I was paying for gas.  There was a woman with a car that was broken down and in need of major repair sitting in the parking lot with her hood up.  She was trying to borrow money to ‘get her car fixed’.  Some people gave her money.  She immediately went in and bought scratch tickets because she needed more money to actually get the car fixed.  The clerk begged her to stop.  She threatened to call the police if the clerk refused to sell her tickets.  It was horrible to watch.  We saw things like that all the time. I mean – where else can you get gas except at a convenience store?

As our economy shrinks and times get harder for everyone, I look to see the gambling industry grow – because people will become desperate as they see their chances of becoming ‘rich’ grow slimmer and slimmer.  Don’t encourage them by joining them.  They need help.  They-need to know Jesus Christ.  We all need to rely on the directions and promise in Psalm 37:3-5 which says:  
3Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Gambling is trusting to ‘luck’ instead of trusting in the sure promises of Jesus Christ.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

How to Thank a Veteran

How to Thank our Veterans
Barbara Henderson

Once again, the military of the United States of America is on the front lines of a major battle.  They are fighting the battle for quality medical care to which they are entitled due to the service provided to the United States during their personal service to this nation.  God have mercy on them during this fight.  It is of major importance to the veterans; but it equally important to the rest of the USA due to the impending government run healthcare.  If something isn’t done to stop it, this is the sort of healthcare every single American can look forward to receiving.

So, while I sincerely regret their treatment at the hands of the government, I also sincerely thank them for speaking out and demanding competent and timely care.

All the guardianship of American freedom cannot be left to the military.  Every single citizen has a part to play.  When injustice rears its hideous head, everyone who loves freedom is obligated to speak out and do what they can to right a wrong, prevent a wrong, and stop habitual wrong doing.

We have a duty to speak out and act when duty calls.  Right now it is calling loud and often.  However, there is a seldom considered duty of those who enjoy freedom. 

It is the DUTY and the PRIVILEGE of Americans to USE THEIR FREEDOM.  I am sick of people being pushed around, or letting themselves be pushed around by political correctness, social acceptability, and peer pressure.  Christians are obligated to live within the laws set by God.  The laws of man that do not conflict with the laws of God must also be obeyed.  But that is the absolute end of what ‘must’ be done.

This means that within the boundaries set by God you are free to do whatever you please.  Do you want to know God’s will for your life?  His will is that you obey the commandments, be kind to others, and treat others the way you want to be treated.  Within the confines of those boundaries you are free to do whatever you want to do.  That is absolutely correct. 

The Bible does say to live at peace with others as much as possible, but it does not tell you to spend your life trying to avoid offending everyone.  If you are employed it is your duty to be a good employee.  That means you do the very best you can do and then you do a little more.  If you are part of a family, thank God.  Never offend anyone on purpose or through lack of caring.  But you are not required to live with ‘appeaser’ tattooed on your forehead.  Appeasement does not work in families, in the work place, in the church, or in governments.

Always remember you are not required to ‘think’ any specific way.  You are not required to believe in global warming, or any other political social hot button.  You are not required to save the planet.  You are not required to sacrifice your own way of life so someone else can keep their way of life.  Within the boundaries of love and kindness you are free to make choices, live with consequences, strive to achieve, set goals, and choose your own way of life.  Do not make these ‘boundaries’ larger or more difficult than they actually are.  Jesus said, ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light’.  Compared to the tyrants running the government who put burdens on other people’s backs which they themselves will never bear, the burdens of good Christian behavior and duty are easy.  (If you are wondering what burdens – think ‘Obamacare’.  The working people are stuck with it, but government officials are not.  How wicked is that?”

The way you thank a veteran is to make use of the freedoms for which they sacrificed so much.  Never forget the cost of freedom.  It was paid it blood and personal sacrifice.  It was paid by the soldiers themselves.  It was paid by mothers and fathers living without their children so you could live with your children.  It was paid by moms and dads who did not stop their children from fighting for freedom for others.  It was paid by widows, widowers, orphans, and friends of those who sacrificed.  It is being paid every minute of day. 

Are you wasting your gift of freedom?  Are you spending your life trying to fit in and avoid the ill will of your peers instead of setting a goal and working to achieve that goal? 

Even worse than not having freedom is wasting freedom.  That is what many people are doing today.  Veterans have given their all to give freedom to people around the world, but especially here in the USA.  How would you feel if you had paid a dreadful price for a gift to someone – and they wound up leaving it in the gift box and never using it? 

I am personally sick of those who bash America. A great many American’s are giving loving people with a Christian work-ethic.  There are some power hunger thieves and murders who are currently in political office and others who are given undue influence because of who they are.  It is time for the backbone of America to speak up.  Fight for the good things of America.  We can currently do this without being shot or put in jail.  That is how you thank a veteran.  You appreciate their sacrifice by doing your part to keep the freedoms that have been so expensive to gain in the first place. 

Don’t waste your gift of freedom.  Don’t leave it in a box on the shelf.

God Bless America, and God bless our soldiers!

Barbara Henderson

Ps.  Of course, the ultimate freedom is found in Jesus Christ.  As Americans, we are doubly blessed.  We are free to speak out and tell others that Jesus is the way to life everlasting.
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever beliveth on him should not perish but have everlasting life.’  John 3:16

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What to do When You are Facing Trouble

Where to Go When You Are Facing a Dark Night of the Soul
Barbara Henderson

In the Bible we are told of a man who needed food in the middle of the night to feed an unexpected guest.  He went to a neighbor and persistently banged on the door and asked for food.  Finally the neighbor realized he would not get any sleep until he got up and gave the man some food for his guests.

When thinking about this story I notice that there are at least two very rude people.  First, the unexpected guest who arrived in the middle of the night and demands to be fed!  Second the homeowner who goes to a neighbor and demands that he get up to give him some food for his rude guest.  If that happened often the neighbor probably listed his home for sale the next morning. 

This is sort of a complex story when applied to the lives of everyday Christians. 

First, the man had an unexpected ‘guest’.  In our lives we often have unexpected ‘visitors’. These visitors could include financial difficulty, illness, family strife, job loss, accidents, and many other unwanted things. 

Second, the man dealt with the unexpected guests by looking outside his own abilities and resources for help.  He went to his neighbor.  For Christians, when these unexpected circumstances and events come upon us, we also need to go outside our own abilities and resources.  We need to run to the Lord for help.  It is time to beat on His door until He gives us help. 

That does sound simple doesn’t it?  Feed the unexpected – and probably uninvited - guest – and then get on with your life.  Unfortunately, that dreadful ‘guest’ will usually overstay his welcome.  That is especially true when you are unhappy about the visit in the first place.

So, what do you do when the problem visitor moves in?  You keep knocking on the neighbor’s door.  However, Christians are not really ‘neighbors’ when it comes to God Almighty.  They are family.  I mean they are actual legally adopted family members.  When you pray to God through Jesus Christ the Son you are not banging on the door of a neighbor.  You are directly asking your adopted Father for help. 

Read Matthew Chapter 7:7-11.  The entire chapter is good, but these verses are especially helpful in this.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
And there you have it.  God is going to answer your prayers.  What often happens is we have a specific answer and a specific order in which we want things to happen.  Instead, God answers our prayers in a manner and order that is most beneficial.  It is like sewing a garment, or repairing an automobile.  For everything to work properly everything must be done in order.  For instance you can’t pour the oil into a new engine before all the gaskets and hoses are put in.  Sometimes, when we are pouring our heart out to God for help in one area He has to get things in order in another area before our particular prayer can be answered in a way that will actually  work. 

Remember the man who went to his neighbor kept beating on the door until the neighbor got up and gave him what he needed.  However, when going to God Almighty with a request remember that you do not have to wake God up.  He doesn’t sleep or slumber. 

Remember Psalm 121 which says:
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Verses 2 & 3 both tell you that God does not sleep.  You don’t have to wake him up.

It has been said, and I believe correctly, that prayers are not answered because people give up and stop praying.  Don’t let that be your story.  Keep praying.  Remember Luke 18:1-7 which says;
And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?

Keep praying.  Don’t give up on God.  He IS working on your behalf.  No matter how dark the night; no matter how deep the sorrow; or even no matter how trivial your request may be, God is with you and He will help you.

We have the tragic story in the Bible of Abraham and Sarah who had a direct promise from God regarding the birth of a son.  They grew impatient and took matters into their own hands.  Abraham had a son with his wife’s maid.  The entire world is currently reeling with the sorrow of that lapse of faith!  Of course we are to do what we can do, but we are not to manipulate a situation to make things come out in a manner that seems good to us.  God does not need us to manipulate a situation, or to take matters into our own hands on a large scale like Abraham or a small personal scale.  Also, none of us actually know what a small scale happens to be.  I am positive Abraham had no idea of what was going to happen to all the earth because of his impatience in waiting for the promised son.  God wants us to be obedient and patient in everything whether the matter is great or small.  He wants us to believe Him.  He wants us to trust Him that His blessings and His time table is the best for everyone concerned. 

Keep on praying. Pray without ceasing.  Keep on knocking on God’s door.  As you pray do not forget to give thanks.  The Bible says in everything we are to give thanks.  He doesn’t say to give thanks for terminal illness, heartbreaks, deaths of loved ones, financial disasters, or any other dreadful situation.  He says to give thanks during these times as well as during good times.  When my sister died unexpectedly at age 33 one of the first things I remember doing is to thank God that she was in heaven.  Giving thanks to God for His daily benefits is obedience to God, but it is also to our benefit as well.  Thankfulness gives order to things when the entire world may seem to be spinning out of control.  Do not discount the benefit to you personally of giving thanks and praising God during difficult situations. 

Do your best to listen to God as you pray.  You don’t want to miss your answer, or you don’t want to miss the first step in getting your prayer answered.  God is not going to speak to you from a burning bush.  He speaks through His word.  Read your Bible.  Bible reading does two things.  First, and possible most important during a difficult situation, reading the Bible provides a distraction from your problems!  Yes, that is right.  You can get so caught up in the story that you forget for even a few minutes that you have a problem or sorrow at all.  I definitely know what I am talking about.  Second, sometimes when you are prayerfully reading the Bible something will almost seem to speak to you personally.  It is usually a word of comfort or a word of hope that was written by God thousands of years ago, but the message is absolutely timeless.  It is inerrant, relevant, and it is enough!  You don’t need a sign or wonder outside God’s word and the comfort that it can give you if you are willing to look for it and accept it.

You can also find help and comfort in the written word of sound preachers and Bible commentaries.  These do not supersede the Bible in authority, but they are helpful.
Solid Christian friends are also helpful.  You do have God with you all the time, but a human shoulder to cry on can also be very comforting. 

In all this, pray without ceasing. Don’t stop.  Don’t doubt.  Don’t despair.  Unfortunately, we are all prone to stop praying, to doubt, and to despair.  Fortunately, the Bible tells us that ‘if our hearts condemn us God is greater than our hearts’.  How wonderful is that?  If you fall into despair like Elijah did when he ran to the cave God will seek you out and speak to you again in that still small voice.  Read the Bible.  Don’t give up. 

Another thing to do when in the sucking blackness of despair is to pray for your friends.  I know, that really sounds impossible.  After all, isn’t that when your friends are supposed to be praying for you?  Well, yes it is; but that is their job. If they fail you that is on their record.  The Bible tells us that when Job was in the middle of sorrow, loss, and a discussion with God regarding exactly why everything had happened to him, Job’s so-called friends asked Job to pray for them.  Job did what a true friend would do.  He prayed for them.  THEN, the Bible tells us that God turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends’.    So, from a selfish point of view, pray for others.  It will help them, but it could help you more.  Once again, pray without ceasing.

God bless you.