The Most Expensive Meal in History

A few years back George Beane of Palmdale, California, stopped at a local Burger King and ordered 4 sandwiches at the drive-through window. Total cost of his bill: $4.33. However, when he handed the girl at the drive up window his debit card she absent-mindedly punched in the numbers … and then punched them in again without erasing the original ones – creating a total bill of $4,334.33. He signed the slip without checking it… and the charge went through to George’s checking account leaving him penniless. It was eventually rectified, but the newspapers got ahold of the story and billed the incident as “The most expensive meal in history.”

So that got me thinking… What’s the most expensive food? So a simple internet search revealed these: $2,420 White Truffle and Gold Pizza at Margo’s in Malta; $5,000 FleurBurger 5000 at Fleur in Las Vegas; $25,000 Frrrozen “Haute” Chocolate at Serendipity 3 in New York City. (see Most Expensive Dishes in the World)

But no matter what meal a rich person might buy, the cost of what they’d purchase pales in comparison to one of the most expensive meal in history – the one we’re reading about today. It cost more than Adam and Eve ever wanted to pay. And it literally bankrupted them and has been handed down to each of us.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,  but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”  “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:1-8)

Eve made bad choices. She chose to add to God’s commandments. God didn’t say not to touch the tree. She chose to improve on God’s will. And that was all the wiggle room Satan needed to begin playing with her mind.

Why would that give Satan “wiggle room”? Because once you get used to the idea that you can improve on God’s Word then it gets easier to improve on other things God commanded. So Eve started out by making a bad choice – she added to God’s Word. And that’s the avenue Satan took to deceive her the rest of the way.

Satan told her that God lied to her. “You’re not going to die.” So Eve chose to disobey God. But at least Eve had an excuse – she was deceived. Eve was deceived… But Adam wasn’t. You look throughout the New Testament and you’ll never find Eve as being the bad girl in the story. Who gets the blame? Adam. Why does Adam get the blame? Because Adam made bad choices. He wasn’t deceived.

Where was Adam at? Adam was with Eve when Satan deceived her. He was there when Satan accused God of lying. He was there when Satan said they wouldn’t die. He was there when Satan implied that they’d have all kinds of advantages… if they just ate that fruit. And Adam was NOT deceived. He didn’t believe a word of what Satan was saying. But He chose disobey God.

They both failed. Eve failed because she didn’t trust God’s words. Adam failed because He deliberately chose to disobey God. And they both ended up eating one of the most expensive meals in history.

The wages of sin is death. Since the Garden of Eden, death has been a part of humanity for all time. To die in sins is eternal death in Hell. So the cost of Adam and Eve’s meal has been passed down to all of us.

But Jesus paid it all! On the cross, Jesus paid the sin for all mankind.

“… if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)

One man spoke of the contrast between the two trees: the tree in the garden of Eden and the cross of Jesus.

  1. The first tree was planted by God. But the second tree was planted by man.
  2. God forbade man to eat the first tree. But man is freely invited to draw near and eat of the fruit of the second tree.
  3. The eating of the first tree brought sin and death. But by eating of the second tree comes life and salvation.
  4. Adam, by eating of the first tree, was turned out of Paradise, while the repentant thief, by eating of the second Tree, entered Paradise.

Your sins have been purchased by the blood of Jesus. But you need to believe this and receive Jesus Christ as your own personal Lord and Savior.

You can read some of my similar articles: A Word of Suffering from the Cross, A Word of Salvation from the Cross, How Temptation Works.

Hypocrite Inventory – Questions to ask yourself.

It’s easy to deceive ourself. I’ve done it myself too many times. I convinced myself that I was doing the right thing for the right reason. But actually I had selfish motives. But for awhile I really believed what I was telling myself.

It’s kind of like those people who audition for American Idol who think they can sing, but everyone knows they can’t. All the positive thinking in the world can’t make a bad singer good. And all the optimism and good self image can’t make us any better than we actually are. As a matter of fact, we might be worse.

Because of our inflated ego, most of us are worse than we think we are. I’ve encountered too many people who think their life is going fine, when it’s about ready to come unraveled. We convince ourself that we’re okay, when the truth is we’re not okay.

Sin can easily deceive you. It will convince you that it’s not so bad. You won’t get caught.You can always stop if it ever does get out of control. You can always ask forgiveness. So, often we continue in a pattern of destruction without reflection on where we are headed.

We are often told to follow our ‘heart’ or listen to our ‘heart.’ But the Bible tells us that our “heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9). Your own heart can so easily deceive you, convincing you that your walk is your talk, that you actually live what you profess. We can begin to drift in a bad direction, but convince ourself that we’re still going in the right direction.

Too often I don’t live my faith. But I really want to shorten the distance between what I believe and profess and how I actually live. And I bet you do too. No gaps between our ‘talk’ and our ‘walk.’

No one wants to be known as a hypocrite, but are we possibly showing hypocrisy in the way we live out our faith? If I can easily be deceived by sin and my heart, how do I know if I really am who I think I am?

A great exercise in personal accountability is to ask yourself personal questions. Back in the 1700s, Pastor John Wesley came up with several questions. He did it as a kind of self evaluation test. These questions are are very good. Be honest to yourself as you answer them…

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I’m a better person than I really am?
  2. Do I laugh at the mistakes of others, reveling in their errors and misfortunes?
  3. Do I insist on having my own way?
  4. Is there a tendency for me to put others down so that I’ll be thought of more highly?
  5. Do I pass on to others what is told to me in confidence?
  6. Am I thoughtful in expressing ‘thanks’ to people for what they’ve done for me, no matter how insignificant it seems?
  7. Am I a slave to dress, a slave to friends and their opinions, a slave to work or habits?
  8. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  9. Did the Bible live in me yesterday?
  10. Did I disobey God in anything yesterday?
  11. Did I insist on doing something about which my conscious was uneasy?
  12. Did I handle discouragement well or did I have to be coddled?
  13. Am I enjoying prayer?
  14. When did I last speak to someone about Christ?
  15. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize or hold resentment toward?
  16. If so, what am I doing about it? Is Christ real to me?

So, what do you do now? Do you notice a gap between what your walk and your talk? Do you see where you need to change some areas in your life?

James tells, Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:23-25).

So, here’s the cure for hypocrisy. Spend time with Jesus in prayer and His Word. Recognize where you have not lived up to His standards, and just spend more time with Him. As you do that, you will discover you will change from the inside out to become more like Him.

“No matter how educated, talented, rich or cool you believe you are, how you treat people ultimately tells all.”

You can read some of my similar articles: What are you hiding? How to get the love backWalk vs. Talk.

Finding the Hypocrite in the Mirror

  1. It is almost impossible to see hypocrisy in the mirror. We can see inconsistencies in others. But we often have a higher opinion of ourselves.

It almost seems the more religious we become, the more we excuse the ‘white’ sins of pride and arrogance in our life. It is so easy to see the moral failures in the lives of others and yet neglect our own spiritual pride that allows us to think we’re better than most.

Throughout His life, Jesus was confronted by religious hypocrites. They thought they were doing God’s work. The majority of the public looked up to them. However, Jesus could see through their mask and warned His disciples.

“Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.” (Mark 12:38-40)

Do you notice some of the things Jesus noticed?

  1. They wore long robes. These were to be used for religious duty. But many began to wear them in public so people would notice them.
  2. They loved long greetings. They wanted to be called by many titles and complimentary names.
  3. They made long prayers. They wanted others to notice how much they talked with God.
  4. Best seats & rooms. Among others, they thought they deserved the best and wanted to be first.
  5. They destroyed the destitute. Perhaps the worse thing they did was that they took advantage of people in society who should have been cared for. They used their position to take money from widows.
  6. They will receive greater damnation. Jesus condemns these religious leaders who used their sacred office to hurt others.

We may not be religious leaders, but I think as we are wise when we can see some of the same tendencies toward this kind of hypocrisy. So I want to warn you of 5 attitudes that need to be checked in your life before it leads you into danger…

  1. The Desire for Respect

Everyone likes to be treated with respect. Yet true humility is to sacrifice self rather than exalt it. It is dangerous to accept a position because of the respect which will be given.

  1. The Craving for Prominence

Many times we may look at where we have arrived in life, what we are doing for God or others, and think we have earned it, rather than seeing our position in life as a greater opportunity to serve God and others. Even if we have not arisen to the position we think we deserve, the craving for prominence can spoil us. It is important to look at our position, not as a privilege, but as a responsibility.

  1. The Pride of Privilege

It is easy to be trapped by our own conceited, inflated view of ourselves. When we have more than others, we often think we are better than others. Climbing to a higher position may lead to pride which will soon lead to our destruction.

  1. The Hypocrisy of Holiness.

Being set apart from sin can lead us to think we are better than others. Since we don’t do what others do and we do what we ought to do, we often look down at those who are not at our level. However, though we may appear on the outside to have it all together, we may have a worse sin in our heart.

  1. The Attempt to Traffic Religion

It is possible to use our religious connections for self-gain and self-advancement. This is a warning to all of us not to use our church or religion for what we can get out of it, but what we can put into it.

Are you a hypocrite? Are you trying to pretend that you have it all together, when deep inside you know you can’t keep up the act much longer? Or maybe your sin is pride which is as ugly as any moral sin?

The cure for hypocrisy is not to change anything on the outside. It’s not a matter of doing more things, of trying to get more religious. That just perpetuates hypocrisy. If you want to change, if you want to truly become someone you’ve never been before, the change has to take place on the inside.

I know of only one person who can affect that kind of change. His name is Jesus Christ. Stop playing Christian charades. Stand before Him and admit that you’re a sinner. Implement the important and intensify the internal. When you do, He’ll forgive you and set you on your way to becoming all that He created you to be.

You can read some of my similar articles: What are you hiding? How to get the love back, Hypocrite Inventory.

The Murderer In Us All

“Thou shalt not kill!”

A popular TV series is “Making a Murderer.” If you haven’t seen it, it’s a documentary about Steven Avery, who served 18 years for attempted murder, then exonerated. But 2 years later he was arrested again for another murder. The story has been surrounded by controversy.

I think murder may be the most universally acknowledged sin in the world. Nobody likes a murderer. It’s easy to hate a murderer like Adolph Hitler or Ted Bundy. But can we recognize a murderer in the mirror?

Sometimes people can get into a discussion about whether the definition of murder would include abortion, capital punishment, or war. All of these involve taking a life, but people do disagree if it’s murder. Though important, this post will not delve into this dialogue.

Rather, I’d like to look at Jesus’ treatment of murder (killing) in the Sermon on the Mount.

Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. (Matthew 5:21)

The prohibition not to murder was God’s idea from the beginning (Genesis 9:6). Why is murder wrong? Because people are made in the image of God. To take a life is a disrespect to the God in whose image they are made.

Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. (Genesis 9:6)

But many of the religious people in Jesus day, and in our day, commended themselves for not committing murder. Yet, Jesus revealed other actions that are considered murder.

But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:22)

1. Anger

Not all anger is sinful. Even Jesus got angry (John 2:14-17; Matt. 21:12-13). This is a deep-seated, selfish anger. The Greek word Jesus uses (orgizo) means a brooding, simmering anger. Do you hold a grudge against someone or can’t stand to even think about someone?

2. Slander

The Greek word, raca, means empty-head, airhead, idiot, dummy. Do you call people names or put down someone with your words?

3. Condemnation

A ‘fool’ is translation from moros (English ‘moron’). In Greek it is used of one foolish in the moral issues of life. Do you make moral judgments about someone based on your limited knowledge?

Who isn’t guilty of anger, slander, or condemnation? Jesus has just condemned me of murder (killing) because I will admit I am guilty of anger, slander, and condemnation of others. I didn’t physically kill them, but the same emotions and attitudes that lead to murder are the same that lead to anger, slander, and condemnation. Jesus is dealing with our heart. We may not have killed them, but we probably have destroyed their spirit, soul, and reputation.

As much as the sins of anger and hatred affect our relationship with others, they also affect our relationship to God.

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

What is more important than our worship of God? Jesus commanded us to interrupt our worship with something more important. Worship is not enhanced by music, prayers, architecture, or preaching as much as better relationships between those who go to church.

First things first! What is most important, our relationship with God or with others? You must settle the problem between you and your brother before you settle it between you and God. If you have not attempted to make peace with others, you will find it difficult to find peace with God.

As a guilty murderer, we need the forgiveness of God. Just as Jesus forgave the thief and murderer beside Him on the cross, He will forgive you and save your soul. Now, go and sin no more. Treat others with kindness. Pray for you enemies and do them good. And by all means, treat others better than yourself. Treat them like Jesus.

You can read my other Sermon on the Mount articles: Life Redefined: Sermons from The Sermon on the Mount.

 

What does the Ascension of Jesus mean?

The last action of Jesus on earth was His ascension. It is the climax of the story of Jesus and connects the story of Jesus with the story of the church.

The early church recognized the significance of the ascension. It is found in every major creed. For example, the Apostles’ Creed: “He ascended into heaven. He is seated at the right hand of the Father.”

Jesus referred to His ascension prior to His crucifixion…

David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: ‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’  (Mark 12:36)

What is the significance of the ascension? Why is it so important?

1. It means that Jesus finished His work on earth

God sent his Son into the world on a mission. He sent him here to save the world from sin. He sent Jesus here to rescue us for heaven. The fact that Jesus ascended back into heaven to be with his father at his right hand means that Jesus completed his mission.
If there had been something left undone, if there was something that had to happen to complete God’s plan to save us, Jesus wouldn’t have ascended into heaven. It’s finished. He’s sitting down.

2. It means that you have a friend in high places

Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)

Can you picture in your mind’s eye how Jesus is pleading your case before the throne? In your evening prayers, you have come before God’s throne to make a confession of your sins. There are so many sins you must confess. Many of these sins you also confessed the night before. Won’t God in heaven run out of mercy? Haven’t you had your last chance a thousand times already? Only there is Jesus, at God’s right hand. “Father,” he says, “This sinner who has come before you is pleading for mercy. He makes no excuses. He pleads no merit or worthiness. And he has asked in my name, for my sake. I bore this man’s sins on the cross and paid for them. Therefore, Father, I will add my plea to his. Have mercy on him. Forgive his sins.” Do you think our Father can turn down the pleas of his one and only Son? Because Jesus has ascended to the right hand of God, you have someone who speaks to the Father in your defense.

3. It means that Jesus will come again

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.  “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:1-6)

So our ascended Savior speaks tenderly to you, today, as well. “Don’t be afraid. I know the world is a hard place. There are many sorrows and dangers. I will always be with you. I will never leave you alone. I am getting a place in heaven ready, just for you. When I come again, I will take you home and we will be together forever.”

Will We Know Each Other in Heaven?

IMG_2821Both my parents have passed away. I miss them and would love to talk with them again. I will see them one day because each of them trusted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. I often wonder what they’re doing. And I often wonder what it will be like when I get there.

Do you ever wonder what our relationships will be like when we get to Heaven? Will we still have the same kind of relationships in Heaven? Will we still be mom & dad, son & daughter, husband & wife? Will we even know each other?

In Mark 12:18-27, Jesus had a conversation with some religious leaders (Sadducees) about this very subject. But their question was was not honest. They were trying to trick him. Here’s their conversation starter…

Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.  Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed.  And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise.  And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also.  In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. (Mark 12:19-23)

This Jewish custom (Levirate marriage) from Deuteronomy 25:5-10 ensured that the family name continued and the property remained within the family. If a husband died, his brother would marry his widow. It may have had its flaws (for example, lack of personal feelings) but it was benevolent measured alongside customs of pagans (widow’s possessions plundered and left desolate; buried or burned alive with deceased husband; Hindu widows shunned by family and friends).

But it is interesting that the Sadducees asked the question. Sadducees were a religious group who did not believe in immorality, spirits or angels. They rejected the resurrection and afterlife. The Sadducees knew more about what they didn’t believe than what they did believe.

This hypothetical woman had 7 legitimate husbands throughout her lifetime. The question is who will be her husband in Heaven.

We sometimes have the same problem of the Sadducees. We assume that Heaven (if there is one) is a continuation of life on earth. Jesus said their error due to their misunderstanding of God’s Word and God’s Power (Mark 12:24). Almost all theological error can be traced to one or the other.

Jesus said, “For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage” (Mark 12:25). When a person goes to Heaven, the old physical life no longer reigns. Jesus made it clear that marriage is an aspect of this life, but not the next. We can’t tell much about marriage in Heaven from what Jesus said here. But Heaven is not simply an extension of life as we now know it. Our current relationships are limited by time, sin, and death. We don’t know everything about our future in Heaven, but Jesus says it will be different. My relationship with my wife will not be worse in Heaven, it will only be better.

So, what can we say about our relationships in Heaven?

We will recognize each other and share memories of our lives together.

We know that Christ’s disciples recognized Him as He walked around in His glorified body (John 21:7). Moses and Elijah were recognizable during the transfiguration of Christ (Luke 9:29-33). In addition, Scripture gives us no indication that God will wipe away our memories, so it seems that will keep them. We are told that we will be like Jesus (1 John 3:2) and Jesus knew His disciples and remembered His life on earth (Mark 16:14). Why shouldn’t we?

We will pursue and develop new relationships.

It is inconceivable that we, as a part of the family of Christ, will not have the opportunity to get to know our brothers and sisters better. It seems we will be able to meet new people and develop new friendships. Won’t it be something to be able to spend time with Abraham or Moses or Elijah or Peter?

We will be as close to each other as we are now to our spouses.

The one-flesh relationship we currently enjoy in marriage is a signpost pointing to our relationship with Christ, who is our bridegroom. Once we reach our final destination, the signpost will no longer be necessary. The purpose of marriage is not to replace heaven, but to prepare us for it (Ephesians 5:31-32). Does this mean that we will not be as close to our husbands or wives as we have been in this world? Not at all! We will be closer knowing that God chose us for each other so that we might sample what life will be like with Him in Heaven.

Heaven will be so much better than our lives on earth. I hope you have made your reservation.

You can read some of my other articles about Heaven: A Peek at Heaven, Do Children Go To Heaven When They Die?, What is Heaven Like?, A Glimpse of Heaven

God Over Government

In our culture, politics and religion divide people. Everybody has their opinion and most should keep their opinion to themselves. The idea of ‘separation of church and state’ has become a cardinal doctrine within America that many will not cross. But often, these two powerful principles knock heads.

Are you squirming yet? Everyone knows that one never discusses politics or religion in polite company. However, whatever your political persuasion, Jesus lays down a very basic principle that remains applicable in every culture and in every time and in every place. Here’s the story…

And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.  And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?  Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.  And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s.  And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him. (Mark 12:13-17)

The topic of this Bible passage focuses on an issue that has pertinence in every era and every culture… the Christian’s relationship to government.

“The Pharisees & Herodians”

These two groups were not friends. The Pharisees held to all the religious traditions. The Herodians were the extremely liberal political party. The Pharisees desired complete independence for the Jews and were against taxation. The Herodians were a minor nonreligious party made up of supporters of Herod and Rome and were all in favor of taxation. Two opposite powers bound together by hate. The Pharisees and Herodians were cemented together by their mutual hatred of Jesus. The Pharisees did not like Jesus because He exposed their hypocrisy. The Herodians did not like Jesus because He was a threat to their political control. They both wanted Him dead

“Should we pay taxes?”

Taxes was a hot topic in Palestine. The Jews hated paying taxes to Rome because the money supported their oppressors, symbolized their subjection, and supported the pagan religions.

The question was brilliant. If Jesus said ‘yes’ He was in trouble with the people because it could be interpreted He was against God. If Jesus said ‘no’ He was in trouble with Rome. Even silence would have been disastrous.

 

“Bring me a coin.”

A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer. It was a silver coin with Caesar’s portrait on side with the words ‘Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus’ and on the other side a portrait of a Caesar on a throne wearing a crown and clothed as a high priest with the words ‘Chief Priest.’ It was the amount paid to the Roman treasury by all adult men and women just for the privilege of existing. It could only be paid with this coin.

“Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

This statement by our Lord was not only astounding the instant it was uttered, but is even today universally acclaimed to be the single most influential political statement ever made in the history of the world! It was decisive in shaping Western civilization.

Using a Roman coin revealed an obligation to Rome. Jesus and the New Testament teach an obligation to government. Paul’s exposition of this in Romans 13 expands that government is ordained by God. Paul emphasizes that no one can accept all the benefits the state gives him (like peace and safety) and then opt out of all the responsibilities. If Jesus commands us to render to a king who thinks he is God and Paul commands us to obey all authority, like the persecutor Nero, surely we cannot justify our neglect of our civic duty.

Yet, we are reminded that there is a limit to the state. Caesar was not God. Jesus recognized only one God. In the event of a conflict, God rules over Caesar (government). There are at least three areas in which a Christian must resist authority: 1) When he or she is asked to violate a command of God. 2) When asked to do an immoral act. 3) When asked to go against their Christian conscience to obey government.

Just as a Roman coin has the image of Caesar on it, you and I were created in the image of God. We belong to Him and must obey Him first. In order to live as citizens of heaven on this earth, we must give back to the government the things that belong to it (i.e., taxes), and give ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, knowing Him and loving Him with the totality of our being.

You can read some of my other articles about God and government: Authority Issues, The American Trinity, 3 Things Every American Can Do For America Today.

The Danger of Selfishness

We all have a certain degree of selfishness. We start out life by screaming “Mine!” if anybody tries to take our toys. Even as adults, we are constantly reminded by the commercial, “It’s my money and I need it now!”

But Jesus told a parable that reminds us that everything we have belongs to God and its dangerous to be selfish. In this parable, the man represents God; the vineyard, Israel; the husbandmen, Jewish leaders..

Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place.  At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.  But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed.  Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully.  He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’  So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” (Mark 12:1-9)

This was a story Jesus wanted His hearers to understand what they were doing to God. God blessed Israel. But as God sent prophets and messengers to the people, they refused to listen and even killed some. Finally, God sent His Son and they killed Him.

Though this was historically a message to the nation of Israel, there are things we can learn that will help us with our own selfishness.

What can we learn about God?

  1. The generosity of God. God has been so good to all of us. For most, we can look at our family, our job, our country, our health, and especially our salvation and recognize that we have way more than we deserve. Life is good! Eternity is better!
  2. The trust of God. Though all we have ultimately belongs to God, He has trusted us to take care of it. Our lifelong responsibility is to care for those things that God has trusted us to take care of. If He didn’t think we could do it, He wouldn’t have let us have it.
  3. The patience of God. Our problem is we treat our possessions as if they belonged to God. They don’t. He’s just letting us use them. But many times He requires something from us – possibly our time, our treasure, or our talent. Too often we say ‘NO!’ and keep it all to ourself. We refuse to listen but God continues to plead with us through people, circumstances, and our own conscience to give Him what He requires. He is very patient with us. Martin Luther once said, “If I were God and the world had treated me as it treated Him, I would kick the wretched thing to pieces.” Aren’t you glad God is God.
  1. The severity of God. In sending His Son, there was nothing more God could do! Jesus was God’s ultimatum! In consequence, nothing remains when Christ is refused! Hell is a deserving place for those who refuse the love of God through Christ. Please turn to Him now, before it is too late.
  1. The ultimate triumph of God. Sometimes it looks like evil is winning. And maybe in some circumstances it is. But God will get the ultimate victory. Make sure you are on the winning side.

What can we learn about Jesus?

  1. Jesus regarded Himself not as a servant, but as a Son. To refuse servants (prophets) was bad for Israel. But when they refused and killed the Son (Jesus) that was tragic. You might be able to say ‘No’ to a preacher, your parents, or another person in authority, but don’t say ‘No’ to Jesus. He is God’s Son. Give Him whatever He wants.
  2. Jesus knew He would die. Jesus came to earth to die for the world. He knew that. As much as He pleaded for people to hear God through Him, He knew His message would be rejected. Yet, it was His death that brought eternal victory to all who would believe and receive Him.
  3. Jesus was sure of His ultimate victory. He knew that His death would not be the end. After the rejection would be the glory forever.

What can we learn about people?

  1. People think they can act against God and get away with it. Just because God doesn’t punish immediately doesn’t mean He’s oblivious to our rejection. God is always watching us. A future day of reckoning is coming. Live today like you will have wished you had lived when you finally standing in front of God.
  2. If a person refuses privilege and responsibility, they pass to someone else. You might say no to God, but He will get His will accomplished. You will just miss the blessing. I have never given something up for God that He has not replaced it with something better. And even if I can’t recognize His goodness, He will make sure all accounts are settled in Heaven.

For the Christian, failure to follow Christ leads to loss of spiritual gifts and a sense of His presence and power. God may give our responsibilities to others who will use them appropriately. To the unsaved, putting God off leads to spiritual deafness or hardening. Soon they can’t hear God’s Word at all.

You can read my other articles about selfishness: The Day Jesus Got Mad, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, 7 Truths about Love.

18 Reasons Why I Don’t Play The Lottery

Today will be a big lottery drawing. The Powerball is estimated to be at least $1.5 billion. It is not only the largest payout in United States history, but in the world. The odds of winning are one in 292.2 million. The current Powerball game began November 4, 2015 and has continued to roll over since nobody has won.

The jackpot is so alluring that many people who have never bought a ticket are taking the chance. Some are buying multiple tickets.

I am sorry but I haven’t bought a ticket and don’t plan to. I don’t play the lottery. I have my reasons and thought I’d share a few with you.

  1. The odds of me winning are pretty slim. Today’s drawing has a 1 in 292.2 million chance of winning. To put this in perspective, there is better chance of being killed by lightning (1 in 2.5 million), being struck by falling airplane parts (1 in 10 million), and dying from an asteroid (1 in 74 million), than winning today’s lottery.
  2. To win many more people have to lose. Even if I win, somebody loses. I’d rather be involved in a win-win situation.
  3. Gambling (including the Lottery) can be addictive. Gambling can stimulate the brain’s reward system much like drugs and can lead to addiction. Even a near loss can encourage players to come back for more. Compulsive gambling is a serious condition that destroys lives. Beware if you hide your behavior, deplete savings, accumulate debt or resort to theft or fraud to support your addiction.
  4. The lottery denies the realty of God’s sovereignty by promoting and affirming the existence of luck or chance.
  5. The lottery is built on irresponsible management of wealth by tempting people to throw away their money. On average, lottery ticket buyers lose 47 cents on the dollar for every ticket bought.
  6. It violates the Golden Rule. (Do unto others as you would have others do unto you – Matthew 7:12)
  7. It is a poor investment of my money. The money spent on the lottery is hard earned money that can go towards something useful, instead of the government’s pockets.
  8. It appeals to my lowest motivations – greed, materialism, and selfishness.
  9. It violates a good work ethic. The lottery promotes getting money for doing no work.
  10. The money won’t last. The ‘lottery curse’ shows that 70% of Americans lose all their money within a few years of experiencing a sudden windfall.
  11. Many who win end up worse than they were before. 70% of lottery winners actually end up going broke in the first seven years. It seems the more money you win, the more likely you are to lose it. Many go bankrupt, lose friends, attract scam artists, create friction in their families, and become addicted to other vices.
  12. The lottery tends to appeal to the poor, making them even poorer. Households earning less than $12,400 a year spend 5% of their income on lotteries.
  13. The advertised jackpot is wildly inflated. After taxes, the take-home from today’s $1.5 billion lottery will be about $500 million to the winner. It’s still alot, but not as much claimed. Government wins even when you win.
  14. If I win, my relationship with my family and friends may change for the worse.
  15. Winning really won’t make me happier. It really doesn’t. If you’re not happy without riches, riches will only drive you faster to depression and discouragement. No amount of prize money will ever give you the sense of accomplishment and success earning it yourself will. Even if you’ve never played the lottery you know that money does not buy happiness, peace of mind, or personal fulfillment.
  16. Almost any other investment is better than the lottery. If you invest in gold, at least you have gold after 10 years.
  17. The lottery is the state’s way of getting rich at the expense of its citizens. People spend more money on the lottery than almost anything else. Compare these annual revenues: Music ($6.8 billion), Movie box office ($10.7 billion), Video games ($13.1 billion), Sports tickets ($17.8 billion), Lottery tickets ($70.15 billion). Stats from CNN Money.
  18. Nowhere in the Bible is gambling (including the lottery) a legitimate means of gaining money. The Bible promotes gaining money by inheritance, by hard work, and by wise investment. The lottery is not a legitimate or safe way to make a living or invest in the future.

Don’t be fooled by the lottery fever. The best way to escape poverty and gain money is to earn your own money, trust God with what you have, and ignore scams like playing a game that’s almost impossible to win.

You can also read other related articles on money and stewardship: If God owns it, what am I doing with it?, 7 good reasons to tithe, Good Debt?

18 Reasons Why I Don’t Play The Lottery

Today will be a big lottery drawing. The Powerball is estimated to be at least $1.5 billion. It is not only the largest payout in United States history, but in the world. The odds of winning are one in 292.2 million. The current Powerball game began November 4, 2015 and has continued to roll over since nobody has won.

The jackpot is so alluring that many people who have never bought a ticket are taking the chance. Some are buying multiple tickets.

I am sorry but I haven’t bought a ticket and don’t plan to. I don’t play the lottery. I have my reasons and thought I’d share a few with you.

  1. The odds of me winning are pretty slim. Today’s drawing has a 1 in 292.2 million chance of winning. To put this in perspective, there is better chance of being killed by lightning (1 in 2.5 million), being struck by falling airplane parts (1 in 10 million), and dying from an asteroid (1 in 74 million), than winning today’s lottery.
  2. To win many more people have to lose. Even if I win, somebody loses. I’d rather be involved in a win-win situation.
  3. Gambling (including the Lottery) can be addictive. Gambling can stimulate the brain’s reward system much like drugs and can lead to addiction. Even a near loss can encourage players to come back for more. Compulsive gambling is a serious condition that destroys lives. Beware if you hide your behavior, deplete savings, accumulate debt or resort to theft or fraud to support your addiction.
  4. The lottery denies the realty of God’s sovereignty by promoting and affirming the existence of luck or chance.
  5. The lottery is built on irresponsible management of wealth by tempting people to throw away their money. On average, lottery ticket buyers lose 47 cents on the dollar for every ticket bought.
  6. It violates the Golden Rule. (Do unto others as you would have others do unto you – Matthew 7:12)
  7. It is a poor investment of my money. The money spent on the lottery is hard earned money that can go towards something useful, instead of the government’s pockets.
  8. It appeals to my lowest motivations – greed, materialism, and selfishness.
  9. It violates a good work ethic. The lottery promotes getting money for doing no work.
  10. The money won’t last. The ‘lottery curse’ shows that 70% of Americans lose all their money within a few years of experiencing a sudden windfall.
  11. Many who win end up worse than they were before. 70% of lottery winners actually end up going broke in the first seven years. It seems the more money you win, the more likely you are to lose it. Many go bankrupt, lose friends, attract scam artists, create friction in their families, and become addicted to other vices.
  12. The lottery tends to appeal to the poor, making them even poorer. Households earning less than $12,400 a year spend 5% of their income on lotteries.
  13. The advertised jackpot is wildly inflated. After taxes, the take-home from today’s $1.5 billion lottery will be about $500 million to the winner. It’s still alot, but not as much claimed. Government wins even when you win.
  14. If I win, my relationship with my family and friends may change for the worse.
  15. Winning really won’t make me happier. It really doesn’t. If you’re not happy without riches, riches will only drive you faster to depression and discouragement. No amount of prize money will ever give you the sense of accomplishment and success earning it yourself will. Even if you’ve never played the lottery you know that money does not buy happiness, peace of mind, or personal fulfillment.
  16. Almost any other investment is better than the lottery. If you invest in gold, at least you have gold after 10 years.
  17. The lottery is the state’s way of getting rich at the expense of its citizens. People spend more money on the lottery than almost anything else. Compare these annual revenues: Music ($6.8 billion), Movie box office ($10.7 billion), Video games ($13.1 billion), Sports tickets ($17.8 billion), Lottery tickets ($70.15 billion). Stats from CNN Money.
  18. Nowhere in the Bible is gambling (including the lottery) a legitimate means of gaining money. The Bible promotes gaining money by inheritance, by hard work, and by wise investment. The lottery is not a legitimate or safe way to make a living or invest in the future.

Don’t be fooled by the lottery fever. The best way to escape poverty and gain money is to earn your own money, trust God with what you have, and ignore scams like playing a game that’s almost impossible to win.

You can also read other related articles on money and stewardship: If God owns it, what am I doing with it?, 7 good reasons to tithe, Good Debt?