Doing Odd Things to Get Even

cvslooted  Have you ever heard of someone cutting off their nose to spite their face?  In an effort to get back at others, or teach somebody a lesson, people often wind up inflicting a lot of pain on themselves.  In recent news, we’e seen folks rioting and looting in their own neighborhoods to protest conditions in their own neighborhoods!

The ultimate example of the vindictive self-destroyer may be the suicide bomber.  The bitterness and hatred that could lead a person to blow himself up just to harm those that (he thinks) have harmed him, reveals human vindictiveness for what it often is: vengeance gone stupid.

But most of us don’t have to look at the headlines to find examples of the bitter pill that the world ironically calls “sweet revenge.”  If you’ve ever tried to take it, you probably already know how unfulfilling and damaging it can be.

  Vengeance just does not belong to men; it belongs to God.  “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19).

  One of the means God uses to exact justice is civil government.  God-ordained law enforcement “is God’s minister to you for good… an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:4).  And any injustices in our “justice system” will be rectified when the Lord returns “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

  There appear to be any number of reasons that God has not given individuals the right to avenge themselves.  For one, we aren’t wise enough to determine who deserves to be punished. Nor are we very good at deciding the appropriate degree of punishment to be inflicted.  This is especially true when we are personally involved in a situation.  Our judgment is imperfect at best, and it is often clouded by self-serving prejudice.  But another reason we haven’t been given the right to take vengeance for ourselves, and the main point of this article, is that our efforts to even a score are often so badly botched that they wind up hurting us more than anyone.

  Truly, “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him” (Proverbs 26:27).

  Let us give place to the wrath of God.  The Scriptures promise, “He will repay my enemies for their evil” (Psalm 54:5).   Let’s trust Him.

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Let’s Be Clear: Gambling is a Sin

lottoticketAs the Alabama legislature once again considers a statewide lottery as a means of funding state government, Christians need to clear on this one fact: Gambling is a sin.

Over the years, I’ve heard more than one person assert that “the Bible does not condemn gambling.” While it is true that there is no Bible statement which says, “Thou shalt not gamble,” it is entirely UNTRUE that the Bible is silent on the subject. Gambling is shown to be sinful by a number of general principles of truth found in the Scriptures. The Bible condemns gambling the same way it condemns racketeering, drug abuse, and pornography. None of these things is specifically mentioned in Scripture, but they can all be shown to be sinful by the straightforward application of Bible principles.

GAMBLING IS SINFUL FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS: 

1) It is an exercise in covetousness. People gamble because of a lust for money possessed by others. In Hebrews 13:5 God’s book says, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.” If gamblers are “content with” what they have, why are they gambling? They are looking for the big payoff! They are willing to risk what they’ve got out of a desire to get rich quick. “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Jesus said, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).

2) Gambling is poor stewardship. All that we have has been given to us by God and is to be used to glorify Him. The apostle Peter admonishes us to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).  Gambling institutions such as casinos, horse tracks, government lotteries and charity raffles design their games in such a way as to guarantee that players will lose much more money overall than they ever win. The odds of hitting the jackpot in a typical state lottery are about one in 12 million. Any investment firm that took such chances with its clients’ money would soon be out of business and probably facing criminal charges. Surely the Christian’s duty to be a “faithful” steward is greater than that of some Wall Street investment firm (1 Corinthians 4:2). How can Christians consider themselves faithful stewards of the finances God has entrusted to their care and gamble them away?

3) Playing the Lottery promotes addiction. Addiction is sinful because it places another master on the throne of a person’s heart. That throne should be occupied by the Lord alone. “No man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24a). A significant percentage of people (especially young people) who gamble will become addicted to it. It will control their lives.

4) Playing the Lottery is worldliness. Gambling is worldly in its origin and nature. In fact, one would be hard pressed to think of an activity that more people would identify as being worldly. When Hollywood wants to depict a character in a film as a man of the world, what activities do they typically have the character engage in? Three things immediately come to mind: drinking, smoking and gambling. In 1 John 2:15 the apostle John commands us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

 Other thoughts from Scripture could be offered, but these more than suffice to conclude that gambling is definitely a sin. “Whoever abides in Him does not sin.” (1 John 3:6).

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A Day in the Courts of God | A Home With God

I’m sharing this article I wrote on A Home With God.  Hoping it will be an encouragement to those who might not have seen it there.

A Day in the Courts of God

Is there somewhere you long to be more than any place else in this world?  Think about it.  Maybe it’s a favorite vacation spot, a cabin on the lake, a concert by your favorite entertainer, or just an easy chair in your living room surrounded by family.  Most of us have that ideal place that stirs within us a wonderful mix of feelings — joy, excitement, peace and contentment.

For the Psalmist, that ideal spot was the tabernacle of God.  He longed for it with every fiber of his being.  “How lovely is Your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints For the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalms 84:1-2).  He’s a bit obsessed, isn’t he?  But what a magnificent obsession!  In verse ten he sounds like a kid talking about getting to go to Disney World when he says, “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.”

Heaven is God’s eternal tabernacle.  Just one everlasting day in God’s presence will be better than any day you’ve ever spent on earth, even if you could live a thousand lifetimes.  As the apostle John is about to be shown heaven’s splendor in the book of Revelation, he writes. “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God’ ” (Revelation 21:3).

For those who love God and long to be with Him, there could be no better place than God’s eternal tabernacle.  May it be our life-long obsession.

 – Steve Klein

Deflected Scriptures and Ricochet Sermons

 New Life crime scene images for POOL At the end of a sermon, how often have you said out loud or to yourself,  “There are a lot of people here who could use that sermon.”  Or, “I hope brother _______ was paying attention to that.” Or, “I wish sister ________ had been here to hear that lesson.”  For most of us, it’s easy to see how the Scriptures apply to others, but it’s not as easy to understand how they apply to us as individuals. This was one of the main shortcomings of the Pharisees.  Jesus said of them, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matthew 23:4).

  I’ve heard old time preachers talk about preaching ricochet sermons.  They would preach a lesson aimed at convicting a particular individual, only to have that individual remain entirely unaffected, but someone else in the congregation would holler and complain about how that sermon had been aimed right at them.  Apparently, the lesson bounced off one person and hit someone else!  A ricochet sermon!

  A bullet won’t ricochet off butter.  It has to hit something hard.  That’s true of God’s word too. When hearts and minds are hard, even God’s word cannot penetrate.  The person who rejects and deflects the Scriptures will not be changed by them and cannot be helped by them. The seed that falls on the hard wayside soil can’t penetrate, so it doesn’t germinate, and it never has a chance to bear fruit (cf. Matthew 13:18-19). In those whose hardened hearts deflect God’s word, “the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them'” (Matthew 13:14-15).

  My friend, the truth of God’s word is for you.  It applies to you.  It will help you.  Receive it and examine yourself to see how.  “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:15).

— Steve Klein

Of Pigs and People

pigs Anyone who has dealt much with domesticated animals has probably observed the following: Dogs look up to people.  Cats look down on people.  Only pigs see us as equals.  It’s rather humbling to think that pigs may be correct in their assessment of us. In many respects, people really are like pigs.  Even our anatomies are similar!  For instance, the heart valves in pigs are so like ours that surgeons use them as replacement parts for human heart valves.  There are thousands of people walking around today with pig parts in their hearts!

  Whatever similarities we humans may naturally share with pigs, there at least three ways we should strive to be different from them.

Pigs are Gluttons
  I have been told that pigs only overeat if humans over-feed them. But they certainly do have a reputation for being gluttonous animals.  If we say that somebody “eats like a pig,” or that they “pigged-out” at a restaurant, we mean that they have over indulged! 

  In our land of plenteous food and expanding waistlines gluttony is ever a temptation — and I mean “temptation” in the Biblical sense — an enticement to commit sin!   Yes, gluttony is a sin. It is a failure to control a fleshly appetite.  In Titus 1:12-13, the inspired apostle Paul says that “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” and then he tells Titus to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.”  Obviously one cannot be “sound in the faith” and be a glutton, any more than one can be “sound in the faith” and be a liar, lazy or an evil beast. 

  Like other temptations, we must guard against and strive to overcome the temptation to commit gluttony (Matthew 6:13; 1 Corinthians 10:13).  If the places we eat or the people with whom we eat are leading us into temptation, we need to make changes.  Proverbs 23:20 instructs, “Do not mix with wine-bibbers, or with gluttonous eaters of meat.”

  Pigs don’t control their appetites. God’s children must!

Pigs Wash, then Wallow
   People do not really sweat like pigs, because pigs don’t sweat.  They cool themselves by wallowing in the mud.  Describing Christians who fall back into sin, the apostle Peter stated that “it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire'” (2 Peter 2:21-22).  When we have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus, and then return to wallowing in the muck of the world, we are like pigs.

  As God’s children, we are to be the sheep of His pasture, not the pigs of His pen.  And, as a friend of mine often says, “sheep don’t wallow.”

  Pigs don’t keep themselves clean.  God’s children must! 

Pigs have no Sense of Value
  Pigs have no concept of the value of pearls.  In Matthew 7:6 Jesus said, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”  When people show no regard or respect for the Word of God, they are like pigs — they have no sense of what is truly valuable.  Disrespect for God’s word can be shown by lack of interest in it (failing to study, prepare Bible class lesson, or attend worship).  Disregarding and disobeying what the Word says can also show it.  When we follow the ways of men and listen to the counsel of worldly friends instead of heeding God’s word, we are like pigs.

  Pigs don’t value God’s word. God’s children must!

  Let us lay aside our hoggish hunger, our swinish sins, and our porcine priorities!

Steve Klein

Domestic Violence

Guest article by Joe R Price

Men hitting women. Such violence is deplorable, yet a reality in a world where selfish impulses take precedence over self-control, patience and kindness. The video of Ray Rice knocking out his fiancée (now wife) with one punch gave graphic confirmation of what was already known: He physically assaulted and abused her.  As The Boston Globe staff writer Chad Finn noted, men must be willing to be educated on how to view and treat women. Here is some of what God teaches on this subject. Men (husbands), are we willing to learn?

     1) Do no harm. “Love does no harm to a neighbor” (Rom. 13:10). Spousal abuse displaces a number of things that are the very opposite of love (see 1 Cor. 13:4-7). If you are doing anything that harms your wife, you are not loving her; you are sinning against her.

     2) Do not be bitter toward your wife. “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Col. 3:19). Bitterness is a selfish attitude. Lashing out toward your wife is bitterness on vivid, sinful display.

     3) Be understanding and honor your wife. “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the wicker vessel…” (1 Pet. 3:7). Men, women are different than we are! Husbands must be willing to learn about their wives and show them honor; not ridicule, belittling and battery.

     4) Treat your wife as your own flesh. “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it…” (Eph. 5:28-29). Spousal abuse is often followed by extreme remorse and vows of “never again”, all too often to see the same abuse repeated. You are “one flesh” in marriage. Abusing your wife (physically or emotionally) is an act of hatred against her, yourself and God who joined you together.

Husbands and wives must respect each other, not only in public, but also privately. This begins by respecting God

–Joe R. Price

‘Fraidy Cats

  I was driving on Mascaredcatrket Street in Athens, Alabama, when a yellow cat pranced across the street in front of me.  I slowed.  The cat slowed too, and then with regal bearing continued its leisurely stroll across the street.  When it got to the edge of the road, I hit the accelerator and went by, at which point the cat bolted in fear, took off like it was shot out of a canon, raced cross a yard and dove into some bushes on the far side.  Hysterical.  While in the middle of the road and in real danger of being smacked by a vehicle, the cat acted as if it could not care less.  But when it made it to safety at the edge of the road, it suddenly became terrified of my car.

  It reminded me of another time a cat crossed the road in front of me.  Years ago, I was the passenger in a truck being driven by a brother in Christ. A black cat darted across the street in front of us.  The brother hollered, “Whoa,” slammed on the brakes, did a U-turn and took a long detour.  Looking back, his fear seems to me to be about as reasonable as that of the yellow cat in Athens.

  Cats and men often fear things that pose little significant threat, while failing to show concern for real dangers.   Lots of folks are more apprehensive about their favorite ball team losing, or their favorite NASCAR driver wrecking, than they are about losing their souls.  Some are more concerned about getting wrinkles or the color of their hair than they are about living life in the beauty of holiness.  Some care more about who wins an election than they do about being elect of God, called to be saints.  We worry about how the acts of evil men and terrorists might impact our lives on earth, but give precious little thought to how our own actions will impact our lives for eternity.  To be sure, there are things that men should fear, but they seldom are the things that men do fear. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

  For those who have learned to trust God, there is little in this life to be afraid of. The Scriptures are clear:

  • “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2).

  • “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?  When the wicked came against me To eat up my flesh, My enemies and foes, They stumbled and fell.  Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, In this I will be confident.” (Psalm 27:1-3)

  • “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)

  • “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

  Friends and brethren, let us love what we should love, hate what we should hate, and fear only what we should fear.  God’s children are creatures of courage, not ‘fraidy cats.

Steve Klein