Jackpot!

Pastoral Messages | February 8, 2016

A Powerball official told this Munford, Tennessee couple that they’d have to be content with an immediate check for a couple million dollars until the lump sum payout can be processed. That processing requires about 10 business days. It’s hard to imagine the delay posing a serious problem for their weekend grocery needs.

Lottery winners often share the distinction of leading ruined lives after they win the jackpot. Friends easily exploit their windfall. Financial crooks and conmen (and women) swoop in. The illusion of spending the rest of life on easy street quickly disappears as winners discover that large sums of money do not provide any guarantee of happiness.

The Robinsons may fare better than many other winners. They’re off to a strong start, by way of perspective, at least. The couple speaks of having no desire to alter the rhythm of their current life. They love their modest one-story home. John is a supervisor in a local warehouse. Lisa works in a dermatologist’s office. Both of them returned to work on the Monday after their winning ticket came to light.

“That’s what we’ve done all our lives,” said John. “We’ve worked. You just can’t sit down and lay down and not do nothing anymore. Because how long are you going to last?” He’s right, if by work he is implying that meaning comes from doing one’s best on the job. One gets the sense that Robinson is not thinking of take-home pay as the sole reason for going to work.

As for sharing from his now fattened wallet, Robinson speaks of wanting to give to the Children’s Research Hospital in nearby Memphis. He also has a strong desire to donate to the family church. “I’m a firm believer in tithing [10 percent of household income] to my church,” he said. Since the $327 million prize is the after-tax sum this couple received, the volunteer treasurer at the church may want to recruit an assistant or two to help with the books. The church’s mission committee can now make plans to buy up every piece of available real estate in Detroit, should they be on the hunt for an urban outreach project.

I know of Christians who launch an all-out assault when they hear the very words lottery or Powerball. They see the purchase of a ticket as morally reprehensible. As far as they’re concerned, it is the epitome of living in sin and failing to trust God for daily sustenance. The Bible verse, “Love of money is the root of all evil,” proves a favorite for these critics.

Many of us who have never bought a Powerball ticket still love money more than we should. And even though I’m no fan of the lottery, my disfavor is mostly due to the misshapen hope of ticket buyers with limited means who hold on to the dream of a windfall. I can’t find a verse in Scripture that reads, “Do not gamble.” There must be plenty of jackpot wannabes who are less worried about getting rich quickly than simply paying off immense medical bills.

More than anything else, though, the fanaticism generated by the large Powerball is striking. To stake so much on such infinitesimally small odds – one in 292 million – is humorous. The odds of getting struck by an asteroid sometime this week exceed the chance of winning the next big Powerball. Then too, what an interesting phenomenon that larger jackpots drive greater ticket sales, as if a paltry $300 million payout isn’t worth it, but a $1.6 billion one is.

If given the choice between cultivating faith in luck, and being inspired by the constancy of God, I know where I tilt. Maybe my trust in the Lord is too serene. Yet to rely on the steadiness of God in all circumstances of life strikes me as a better bet than leaning into the lottery, at least when it comes to that deep happiness we all want.

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Daniel 12:1-3

The Time of the End

1“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.2“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.3“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Psalm 16

1Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.

2I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;

I have no good besides You.”

3As for the saints who are in the earth,

They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.

4The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;

I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,

Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

5The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;

You support my lot.

6The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;

Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

7I will bless the LORD who has counseled me;

Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.

8I have set the LORD continually before me;

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;

My flesh also will dwell securely.

10For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

11You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Hebrews 10:11-25

11Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,13waiting from that time onward UNTIL HISENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.14For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,

16“THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM

AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:

I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART,

AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,”

He then says,

17“AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS

I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”

18Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.

A New and Living Way

19Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,20by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,21and since we have a great priest over the house of God,22let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Christ or Judgment

Mark 13:1-8

Things to Come

1As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”2And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,4“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”5And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.6“Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.7“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.8“For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Daniel 7:9-14

9“I kept looking

Until thrones were set up,

And the Ancient of Days took His seat;

His vesture was like white snow

And the hair of His head like pure wool.

His throne was ablaze with flames,

Its wheels were a burning fire.

10“A river of fire was flowing

And coming out from before Him;

Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,

And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;

The court sat,

And the books were opened.

11“Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.12“As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.

The Son of Man Presented

13“I kept looking in the night visions,

And behold, with the clouds of heaven

One like a Son of Man was coming,

And He came up to the Ancient of Days

And was presented before Him.

14“And to Him was given dominion,

Glory and a kingdom,

That all the peoples, nations and men of every language

Might serve Him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

Which will not pass away;

And His kingdom is one

Which will not be destroyed.

The Vision Interpreted

Psalm 93

1The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty;

The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength;

Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.

2Your throne is established from of old;

You are from everlasting.

3The floods have lifted up, O LORD,

The floods have lifted up their voice,

The floods lift up their pounding waves.

4More than the sounds of many waters,

Than the mighty breakers of the sea,

The LORD on high is mighty.

5Your testimonies are fully confirmed;

Holiness befits Your house,

O LORD, forevermore.

Revelation 1:-4-8

John 18:33-37

33Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”34Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”35Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”37Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”