Tuesday, February 21, 2006
It is becoming so common that most of us pay little attention to it. The "it" I speak of is the national lottery craze that garners such media attention. This time it was the largest lottery in history that gave Americans another opportunity to strike it rich to the tune of$365 million. Some "lucky" guy won it all.
Why are so many fascinated by the opportunity to strike it rich? Perhaps they believe the sweet promise of instant wealth because they think riches will satisfy the longing of their hearts. They think wealth will cure their current struggles. They believe there are quick answers to long term problems. They are deceived. In reality, the pursuit of riches robs them of the present in exchange for a distant and unlikely dream.
Consider what the latest study indicates: seventy percent of those who win these big cash prizes go on to lead anything but an enviable life. In short order, seventy percent wind up broke. They experience what Jack Whittaker, who won $315 million in 2002, experienced. He is now not only broke, he is in debt. He has had repeated run-ins with the law and tragically lost his granddaughter to a drug overdose. Bud Post calls the lottery he won "The Lottery of Death." His life turned sour after winning $16.2 million.
What happens to people who win the lottery? Often, families sue one another. Divorce becomes common. One discovers long lost relatives previously unknown. In fact, the best way to do a quick genealogy of your family tree is to win one of these mega-jackpots. Why does all this happen? It is too easy to label these winners as "poor suckers" or just bad money managers. Yet, I believe there is a deeper problem.
Jesus went straight to the issue. A few years ago, a pseudo-theologian claimed that Jesus never addressed gambling or lotteries. I beg to differ. In Mark 4:18-19, Jesus told the parable of the four soils. He described different receptions to the word of God. "And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." Spiritual growth is hindered by the deceitfulness and the desire for riches; an obsession for things chokes out the good seed, the word of God.
In all the hoopla about big jackpots, I wonder if anyone will study the impact of money used to purchase an extra lottery ticket rather than milk for a child. How many loaves of bread are not purchased because a ”chance” was bought? How many churches and charity groups will pay a power bill for a family in need due to lottery fever? The Bible is clear; a father is the chief provider in the home. A father must base his provision on honest work and faith in God when there is need. First Timothy 5:8 warns us, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
Things are important and even necessary, but they are also spiritual distractions when we cannot be satisfied. Jesus said that riches are deceitful. Give thanks for what you have and in many cases for what you don't have.
Monday, February 13, 2006
I recently attended a meeting in our nation's capital for pro-life, pro-family leaders. The organizers of the meeting had a noble goal. They wanted to find a couple of issues in which the various groups represented could unify in order to have some victories. One leader would announce an important issue they thought was worth attacking and had the possibility of regaining some ground, but almost instantly another would express why their group could not support it. It was a very long meeting, and while very little was accomplished, eventually some agreements did emerge.
As I traveled back home, my mind was in a wrestling match. More than the feeling that I had just wasted a day, I struggled with the idea that the best minds and most noted leaders could not agree on a few issues that could produce a victory. The meeting closed with a passionate appeal from a man who seeks to evangelize young people. "We are losing this war; we are losing this generation," he exclaimed.
A few weeks later, while studying for a sermon on the life of King David, I came to 1 Samuel 30. David was living in an extended period of spiritual drought. Running from Saul but tired of living in a cave, he began living among his enemies. This period of David's life is marked by spiritual dryness. He does not pray or write a song of praise for eighteen months.
David and his men were returning home to their families, only to find that their hometown has been sacked. They were shocked and demoralized. The sight of their homes burning and their wives and children taken captive caused David's men to weep out loud. The pathos of this moment was all too real, and soon the angry men considered killing David. This trauma kicked David out of his spiritual funk. He prayed and sought God. God told David to pursue those who stole their families, the Amalakites.
David pursued the ancient kidnappers and it appears that their pursuit was just in the nick of time. The pagan Amalakites were getting ready to rape the Hebrew wives and offer their children as sacrifices. David and his men attacked. (This is where it gets good!) Verse eighteen tells us that David recovered everything the Amalakites had taken." (NIV) When I read this verse I began shouting, "Thank you Jesus!" Sitting in a room in Washington D.C. with some of Evangelical Christianity's best minds who showed little consensus as to how we might win on a few issues had left me discouraged, if not depressed. Yet, when David prayed and turned from his own spiritual dryness and then acted, he recovered everything.
There is something powerfully motivating in seeing our home burning and our families carried away. It compels fathers to quick action. But I ask you, which is worse: seeing your community burning and knowing that your wives and little ones are in the hands of terrorists, or losing one family at a time? Either can be paralyzing. It must be similar to what the World War II Prisoners of War experienced on the Island of Bataan in the Philippines.
In 1941, 70,000 sick and starving American and Filipino prisoners were forced to march 100 kilometers by their captors. As they marched, many were beaten or shot. This is known as the infamous Bataan Death March. Knowing that someone will be lost every mile makes the thought of revolt suppressed as we reason that it might not happen to us. Fathers, wake up, find strength in the Lord, and move now to recover everything the enemy has stolen!
“Oh, Lord in Heaven, give us fathers who will ride through the night and recover everything. Small battles, winnable and otherwise must be fought, but we are in a battle of a lifetime for our families. Raise up men who see this and who will not be satisfied with a few small victories, but only with the recovery of everything.”
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Historical revisionists have gone to great lengths to assert that most
of the founders were deists, agnostics or atheists. While researching
another subject this week, I stumbled onto something that challenges
this claim. The two founding fathers considered to be most
influenced by “rational thought” are Benjamin Franklin and Thomas
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress appointed these men, along
with John Adams, to design a national seal for our new, freshly declared
independent nation. Their personal notes, held in the Library of
Congress, indicate that Franklin wanted a depiction of the Biblical
story of the crossing of the Red Sea, while Jefferson thought that the
pillar of fire and the cloud that led Israel through the desert was a
more fitting symbol. It wasn't a heated debate. As a matter of fact,
they agreed to show the crossing of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army
being carried away by the sea and the pillar of fire in the background.
The first great seal of the United States of America had the
inscription: "REBELLION TO TYRANTS IS OBEDIENCE TO GOD." Not bad for a couple of agnostics and deists.
It seems the truth, which sets people free, can also ruin a lot of unsubstantiated claims. One thing is obvious; these great fathers of our Republic knew the Bible and its clear message that God does intervene in the affairs of men. Maybe all fathers should be founding fathers who create symbols for their children that recall the faithfulness of God and give a vision of Him moving in our lives.
Rebellion to tyrannical ideas is still obedience to God!
Monday, February 06, 2006
When we face a trial, it is quite natural to wonder and even question, “Why me?” In fact, if you are a father or mother, let me suggest that your trial has more to do with your children than it has to do with you. Why would God allow a trial of faith for our children’s sake? The short answer is that they may see real faith exercised in a real God. Why is this important? Because this is one way real faith is transferred from one generation to the next. It is estimated that eighty percent of churchgoing young people leave the church after they graduate from high school. They leave regular church attendance never to return. No business could tolerate eighty percent losses each year and survive. There are some biblical patterns from which we can learn that demonstrate for us how faith is successfully passed from one generation to the next. That is the purpose of this blog.
First, it is important to make a point that pertains to our everyday experiences. When we face trials of any kind we often desire to face them alone. It is instinctive to protect our children from the harsh blasts of difficulty. This may be the instinct of a parent, but it is not wise to assume this is how God wants us to respond. Relax! I am not suggesting that we throw our children into danger. I am suggesting that God intends that we shepherd them through trials together.
The People of God, after watching the Death Angel pass over them in Egypt, moved out from under Pharaoh’s grip, and it did not take long before they were standing at a narrow impasse. They faced mountains on both sides, a huge sea in front of them, and an army bearing down behind them. The people were terrified and cried out to the Lord (Exod. 14:10). It is important to point out the obvious. The Israelites were in a fix, and they were in it with their children. Families were facing the real possibility that they would be slaughtered. They cried out to God.
With a very real and serious danger upon them, the people of God cried out for God’s deliverance. God’s answer was amazing. God opened a path through the Red Sea. Dads, moms, and children walked across on dry land. If you saw the Cecil B. DeMill film, The Ten Commandments, you know that Pharaoh’s army went in after them. The Children of God made it safely across, and then the army was swept away by the closing sea. The Bible closes this story with these words in Exodus 14:30; “ That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore.”
The Israelite families stood on a distant shore watching as the dead bodies of the dreaded Egyptian army floated and bobbed along the shoreline. Overwhelmed, they looked on in amazement at the supernatural deliverance of the Lord.
As an Israelite father standing with his family, there might have been countless, stunning thoughts that crossed his mind. If he had spared his child from seeing this, he would have spared them seeing the hand of an awesome God. He would have prevented them from one of the single greatest moments in history. He would have spared them from realizing that God is great and is greatly to be praised. He would have created a safe, sterile, and dispassionate new generation who may or may not have wanted to carry on the faith of their parents. Instead, there was shepherded a new generation who knew firsthand that God is real, that He is powerful and that He delivers those whose faith is in Him.
In this kind of situation, it is natural for us to first consider how we might protect our children in the midst of it. It weighs heavy upon a father and mother when we think of trauma coming to our little ones. I do not think for one moment that God delights in traumatizing children. However, I do think that one of the reasons He gave them a father and mother is so that they might have a shepherd to guide them through life’s traumas.
The goal of our parenting needs to change from raising kids who are nice people to raising Christians who have a radical view of life. This view needs to be based upon faith in a real God who delivers and guides us through the crisis of life. It may begin when we stop thinking our trials are about us. God may, in fact, be producing a new generation that knows from experience that He exists, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.
Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”