Tag Archives: calling

A Change of Heart

San Antonio Riverwalk
San Antonio Riverwalk

Recently, the Lord has been working on something in my heart that surprises me. He does that from time to time—pointing out a problem or needed change of which I was previously unaware. One such experience has been weighing on me lately.

When I was about nine years old I went to the local theater where a new movie was playing—a kid could wander off to the theater alone in those days and no one batted an eye. I sat there in the dark watching Grizzly Adams. I was smitten with the mountains and forests. From that day forward I wanted to live at least near mountains, if not right in them.

The Lord allowed me to live in the Bighorns, the Rockies, and the Cascade mountains. I truly loved the mountains, When I came to San Antonio, I was sure God was calling me to the church here. However, I assumed by the situation and my heart that God was likely only going to have me stay here temporarily, and before long he would send me back to my beloved mountains. Now, years later I am feeling convicted of a terrible thing.

Over this last eight years, I fell in love with the people here. What I did not fall in love with was the city itself. Be honest! San Antonio is a huge, highly-populated area. Traffic is horrible. It is almost impossible to go anywhere without a crowd and even more difficult to find a place where one neither smells exhaust nor hears traffic. These have made it quite hard for me.

Yesterday, I shared with my church something of which the Lord has convicted me. I have made myself loathe this city itself—once again, not meaning the people. I find myself thinking negatively about the city and life here. I find myself distracted by thoughts of returning to a small town somewhere in the mountains. The problem is that I know he has called me here—and that he is not done with me here.

What I have done is similar to a spouse who despises his wife, not because she is a bad wife, but because he has fed his mind with negative thoughts about her. I have allowed myself to fixate on the negatives about life in San Antonio—traffic, crowds, etc. In that way, I have kept seeing myself as here only temporarily. God has me here. He wants me here. He is not done with me here. I need to come to terms with that and work on my attitude about living here.

Don’t get me wrong. Staying with this church has mostly been pretty easy because I love the people so much—that love has only grown since the beginning. It is love for the city that I need to develop.

I have been praying for the Lord to take care of my attitude and give me a heart for this city. As part of that, I have committed myself to a frame of thought and a practice. If a man came to me filled with bad thoughts about his wife, I would counsel him to find one good thing about his wife each day for the next thirty days and then come back to me. I have decided I need to do that myself about this city.

To do this, I will post one “thing I love about living in San Antonio” on social media, each day for the next month. Part of the exercise is not to qualify it, but to simply express my love for it. This morning I posted that I love the Riverwalk. I do this because the calling is God’s part; the attitude is impacted by him but is mostly my own part.

I want to love San Antonio—not only the people but the city itself. I am committed to spending the rest of my life in this city if that is God’s will. Now I need to seek the contentment to stay here the rest of my days.

Please pray for this transformation.

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My Lottery Winnings

Image courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With recent headlines and attention on the Lottery, I have been asked several times if it is a sin to take part in the Lottery. Many of us, myself included, have been brought up to believe: Gambling is a sin; the Lottery is gambling; therefore, taking part in the Lottery is sin. Actually there is one problem with this: nothing in scripture teaches gambling is a sin.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying one should gamble or that one should play the Lottery. If I trust in the Lottery or other gambling to make up for my own bad choices (“A winning ticket will wipe away all my errors of financial judgment”) then I am simply being a fool. If one plays the Lottery as entertainment, that is a very different story. Take scratch tickets as an example. If I enjoy the finer points of scratching foil off paper as an entertainment, and you created a set of such cards to sell me so I could enjoy scratching off the foil, would anyone think that to be sin? Of course not! That’s just paying for my fun, which is to be expected. Now, if I did the same thing hoping to uncover a pretty picture, would that be sin? No, again. The same would be true if I liked to see what numbers might be underneath. The only way any of these is sin is if I indulge my new entertainment to the point of taking money away from my family’s needs. That would be sin. But even then, it is not the purchasing and scratching of cards (the entertainment itself) that is a sin, but the overindulgence. Neither is it sin to buy a list of numbers to hang on my refrigerator, even in hopes of winning later.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many will say, but the difference is that you do it, not for entertainment, but for the chance to gain more money than the ticket cost. OK, is it sin to invest in the stock market? People don’t buy stocks because they like the pretty paper used to print stock certificates (does anyone even still receive stock certificates?). People invest in the stock market for the same reason, and no one calls it sin. Yes, I know some will say that one is investing and one is gambling. However, what is the true difference in these terms? The difference is risk. Gambling takes riskier chances promising a greater return. But funny, when you speak to the person who helps you with your retirement account she will usually asks about risk-aversion and how much risk you are willing to take, because a greater risk promises the possibility of greater returns (and greater losses). Now, I’m not saying investing in stocks is equivalent to buying Lottery tickets. But what I am saying is that once one begins to add rules to the words of scripture one quickly falls into the area of legalism, especially if striving for consistency in beliefs.

So, should a Christian buy Lottery tickets? The answer is far more complex and far more simple than it appears. If you can afford to spend a few dollars on Lottery tickets for entertainment purposes, then there is no sin. Is it foolish? Once again it depends on whether it is for entertainment or if this is making up for a lack of a retirement plan. If the latter, then it is the very definition of foolish.

My wife wanted me to buy a couple tickets this time. We could afford a few bucks, so I did. We had fun dreaming about all the things we would do if we won. Of course, there were the usual dreams: buy each of our children a home, pay off their debts, etc. But, we also dreamt of things many may not consider. I dreamt of endowing a chair of Theology at a seminary. I dreamt of using the funds to plant a Bible College in our city. We dreamt of gifting our church a nice new building. We dreamt of paying the salaries of several rural pastors in Montana, Wyoming and Texas as well as underwriting the costs of one or more mission fields. We also dreamt of being able to forgo any salary as a pastor of our church. Then we went to bed knowing we had already gotten all the value out of the tickets we would ever get—we were inspired to do some sanctified dreaming. Funny thing is, I was once asked by a class of young men, “How do we know what we are supposed to do with our lives?” I told them to find a career where they would still show up for work the next day after winning the Lottery. That is one way to know you are doing what you were meant to do. I know the Lord wants me to encourage biblical scholarship, to support local churches and missions. I already knew all of these things, but dreaming solidified them in my mind. We have our dreams and now to work at making them come true without the Lottery winnings. The tickets were an inspiration to holy dreaming. But these things will only be accomplished through faithful service.

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