You Will Lose!

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We live in Illinois. Grandma and Grandpa live in California. So, we make consistent trips to see them each summer. It’s a long drive on I-80, but a pretty drive as we see our beautiful country.

Along the way, we pass through Reno, Nevada. The skyline of the city is dotted with towering hotels and casinos. Their shear size is amazing; their glory is spectacular. But where did they come from? How have they come to be so nice?

Much of their revenue has come from those who gamble in their casinos. To be more precise, the beautiful buildings have been built by the losses of those who have gambled in their casinos. For when the gambler loses, the casino wins. It should be a lesson for all who walk into a casino to gamble: “Your losses have funded our grand buildings!”

The lure of gambling is that sometimes you win. But the glitz and glamour of the casinos should teach you that most will lose. And over time, if you gamble a lot, you will certainly lose. It’s how the gambling industry works.

Thus, the lesson of the nice casino buildings is this: “Enter this place and you will lose!” My counsel for you is to stay away, unless, of course, you want to lose your money and donate to the casino building fund.

Let God Work

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Above is a picture of my driveway shortly after I shoveled the snow that fell last night. It looks like I didn’t do such a good job, as there are patches of snow still left on the driveway. Given the time (and effort), I could have scrapped the driveway clean, so that no snow would remain. However, today is one of those cold, sunny days in the Midwest where the sun sparkles off the snow to create a beautiful scene. I know that the sun on my black driveway will melt the snow and do a far better job clearing away the snow that I will ever do. Here’s a picture of my driveway I took about two hours later.

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Notice how the sun has done it’s work! My driveway is practically snow free! Look closely and you can see the water draining down the driveway. By the end of the day, I’m sure that all of the snow will be gone, without me lifting a finger. The lesson is clear: let the sun do the work.

There are many times in this life when we try to do all the work ourselves, as if all depended upon our effort. But God is working in our lives far more than any of us realize. It is better (and more efficient) (and more glorifying to God) to let God do His work. Sometimes we simply need to “be still, and know that [He] is God” (Psalm 46:10).

When the Egyptians were pursuing Israel by the Red Sea, Moses said, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will work for you today. … The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13, 14). Jesus said, “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6:31, 32). When worried come your way, “Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Give your cares and concerns to God and let Him work.

 

Count Your Blessings

I recently counseled with an individual who was going through a very difficult time in her life. A portion of my counsel to her was to look at the ways that her trial has brought good things into her life. As we brainstormed together, we wrote them all up on a list. I encouraged her to keep this list with her and go over it often, remembering the ways in which God has shown His mercy to her.

This is the counsel of the hymn-writer, …

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Refrain:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

Staying Involved

I know that many children who grow up attending church will end up leaving the church at some point in their lives. I have heard that one of the major ways to help prevent this is to get the children involved in serving the church in some way.  I also believe that it’s important that they feel the joy of serving and the happiness in making an impact.

This week, our church has hosted a Vacation Bible School. In order to pull this off, we have needed the help of many of the youth of our church. Some have enjoyed it so much that I have been told, “I wish that we could do Vacation Bible School twice a year!” I trust that the LORD will use this to help ingrain in them a heart to serve Christ and His church when they grow older.

In the Presence of My Enemies

I just finished reading Gracia Burnham’s book, “In the Presence of My Enemies.” She and her husband, Martin, were New Tribes missionaries serving in the Philippines. The Burnhams were spending a much needed holiday away for their anniversary in May 2001.  In the middle of the night, they were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim terrorist organization with connections to Al Qaida.  They spent the next year as captives in the jungle, as their captors hoped to get a large ransom for their reward.

The book tells the riveting story of the hardships of living on the run in the jungle with no bed or hot water or electricity or many of the basics of life.  Furthermore, they were constantly lacking food and ducking for cover in the crossfire of many gun battles between the terrorists and Armed Forces of the Philippines.   I really couldn’t put it down.

The Burnhams are a great illustration of leaving all for the sake of Christ. They had left all behind to serve those in the Philippines. In their captivity, they were forced to leave all behind, including their three children. One of my favorite quotes is this:  “I realized that when everything is stripped away from you and you have nothing, you find out what you really are down deep inside. What I was starting to see was not pretty.”  That’s why we need Christ.

A Great Invitation

One of my friends on Facebook wrote, “was able to see a special friend from college, ____________, who was the first Christian I met as college 25 years ago. She invited me to go to Bible Study where I heard the gospel for the first time. God has used so many people to bring about my salvation and growth in Him.”