Tim Challies

Young Man, Don’t Even Make that First Sports Bet

It’s impossible to avoid the advertising and impossible to miss the claims. Sports are great, they say, but do you know what makes them even better? Adding a little wager. Sports are exciting, they say, but even more exciting when you’ve got a bit of money riding on them. So why not enjoy them all the way? Just download our app and try it out. It’s easy. It’s harmless. And it’s so much fun.
In the past few years, sports betting has exploded into the mainstream. You can’t watch a game without seeing ads for it and, if you’re within their target audience, you can’t surf the web or visit an app store without seeing the banners. If you’re a man, and especially if you’re a young man, they’re after you. They want you. And they know you’re vulnerable.
But young man, I want to encourage you: Don’t consider it. Don’t do it. Don’t even make that first bet. I’m going to give you four reasons that betting is not only unwise but also sinful—four reasons that you should avoid it altogether.
First, betting is an expression of idolatry. We all understand what it is to have a discontented spirit and to want to have more than we do now. Yet God commands us to be content with what he has provided. And, even better, he also promises to provide all that we need. Ultimately, we are to be content in him, no matter what we have or don’t have. Betting is a sure sign of discontentment and proof that you have an idolatrous relationship with money—proof that you are looking to money to provide what God wants you to derive from your relationship with him. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
Second, betting represents an illicit form of gain, not one that receives God’s blessing. God means for us to work to earn money, not to gamble for it. “He who tills his land will have plenty of food, but he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty. A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 28:19-20). Betting is the ultimate form of “making haste to be rich” instead of laboring to have enough. God does not sanction gambling as a means of gaining wealth. He will not bless it.
God does not sanction gambling as a means of gaining wealth. He will not bless it.Share
Third, betting is a failure to love others. God calls us to love others and to always seek their good. Yet by definition, betting is a form of taking rather than giving. It is not the exchanging of goods or services for money, but the enriching of one person through the impoverishment of another. You can only win when somebody else loses. Hence, to win at betting may be a greater evil than to lose at it, for in losing at least you are only victimizing yourself. “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Betting is not loving, not just, and not merciful.
Fourth, betting is dangerous. All sin is progressive and all sin aims at the uttermost. The invitation to sin in a small and seemingly harmless way is actually an invitation to sin in the greatest and most substantial ways. Adultery begins with just a peek and murder begins with just an angry thought. In that vein, the invitation to make even a small bet is actually the invitation to theft, to addiction, and to financial catastrophe. “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent … For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors” (Proverbs 1:10, 17-19).
I don’t mean to deny the claims that betting makes sports more exciting. If you’ve ever participated in a really good fantasy league, you’ve probably experienced a kind of “enhancement” to sports that makes them all the more exciting. But what you need to know is that everything in this world is ultimately disappointing. The greatest thrills still fall short of what we long for. Hence, there will always be an element of disappointment or dissatisfaction. That’s true of sex, true of drugs, true of gambling, and true of everything else. You would almost think that God has purposely put dampers on even the greatest pleasures to help us understand that nothing in this world will ultimately satisfy our restless souls—and, of course, to cause us to look beyond this world. And should you win thousands or millions, even that thrill will soon fade and your heart will continue to be restless and discontent.
So, my friend, don’t listen to their lies. Don’t let them persuade you. Don’t make that first bet.
But if you are unpersuaded and choose to disregard me—if you go ahead and make that first bet—I have a hope for you. I hope that you’ll lose badly. Losing badly would be God’s grace in your life and his means of warning you away from much more dire consequences. As De Witt Talmage said a very long time ago, “The only man who gambles successfully is the man who loses so fearfully at the start that he is disgusted and quits. Let him win at the start, and win again, and it means farewell to home and heaven.”

A La Carte (June 10)

Good morning. Grace and peace to you.
Today’s Kindle deals include several books on prayer. Among them are Donald Whitney’s Praying the Bible and Mark Vroegop’s Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, both excellent reads.
(Yesterday on the blog: It’s Not a Life of Ease)

This is another very interesting article from CBMW. It looks at some of the “patriarchs” of feminism to consider the kind of men they were and what they really thought of women.

I appreciate this appreciation of parents who commit to being at church despite the difficulties that come with having small children.

There is a world of difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. This article traces the distinctions.

“Faith in Christ by the power of His Spirit at work in us transforms our inward places. He works in those hidden parts of ourselves that require the deepest surgery; wounds that cut deep into the heart of who we are that only God can make whole. As God reveals Himself to us through opening our eyes to His everlasting love on the cross through Jesus, we are transformed from the inside out.”

Knowing we are all prone to unfairly critique our churches, John suggests that “perhaps we need to balance out our evaluation of our churches with some self-evaluation.”

“What words come to mind when you think of lament? Perhaps grief, loss, distress, oppression, injustice, conflict, suffering, affliction, or even guilt? It makes sense for sorrow-laden words such as these to be so closely tied to the term. After all, lament is the tongue of tribulation. And since Godward cries tend to be squeezed from our hearts by unwanted hurt and hardship, it’s understandable if words like praise or gratitude seem miles away when we think about the topic.”

It is embedded deep within our depraved nature to regard weakness as misfortune, feebleness as failure, lack of physical strength as lack of divine favor. But nothing could be further from the truth, for weakness draws the eye of God, the heart of God, the strength of God.

…we cannot receive what God has to give when our fists are clenched and our eyes shut, concentrating on our own moral exertion. We need to open up our fists and our eyes and lift both heavenward to receive his love.
—Dane Ortlund

It’s Not a Life of Ease

You can’t read the New Testament and fail to understand that the Christian life was never meant to be a life of ease. Each of us will encounter adversity and adversaries, and each of us will have to wage war against our fearsome foes— the world, the flesh, and the devil. Then, each of us will also have to labor to come to know God and to grow in our likeness to God.
For all these reasons, the Christian life demands a disciplined approach. The apostle Paul often compared Christians to athletes who must train diligently to have any hope of victory. “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things,” he said. “They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27).
The only way to win the match or to be victorious in the race is to discipline your whole life toward that podium, toward that gold medal. Similarly, the only way to prevail in the Christian life is to discipline your entire existence toward Christlikeness. Donald Whitney speaks for all of us when he says, “In my own pastoral and personal Christian experience, I can say that I’ve never known a man or woman who came to spiritual maturity except through discipline. Godliness comes through discipline.”

Weekend A La Carte (June 8)

My gratitude goes to TWR for sponsoring the blog this week. TWR is committed to reaching the world for Christ by mass media and wants to encourage you to bring your skills to the missions world.
There is a pretty good collection of Kindle deals today, including some general market titles.
(Yesterday on the blog: The Way You Walk)

Sarah tells us how important it is to fight for faith when doubts abound. “There’s a pervasive belief that subtly infiltrates my thought life. One that, deep down, still believes God would keep me from harm and rescue me from pain if he truly loved me. And if he’s truly in control, and a good, loving Father, why does he answer other’s prayers, but continue to seem silent to ours?”

This is a beautiful telling of a difficult time.

I appreciate articles like this one for the way they help us more deeply respect the task of Bible translation.

If you’re familiar with discontentment (and which of us isn’t?) you’ll find yourself encouraged and challenged by Justin Poythress’ article. “I’ve prayed about discontentment. I’ve confessed it. I keep a gratitude journal. But it was only this past year that I got a breakthrough as to the real problem. I don’t want to be content. I’m afraid of it.”

I’ve often been inspired by the life and legacy of Selina Hastings. If you’re not familiar with the name, be sure to read this short account of a small part of her life.

If you’re up for some slightly more involved reading on a Saturday, you should read Guy Richards’ thoughts about whether Jesus did miracles as a man by the power of the Spirit.

Hoarding wealth for ourselves gives far less lasting satisfaction than contributing wealth to God’s causes. Where we tend to associate joy with how much we get, higher joy comes from how freely we give.

No matter what good truths you have to teach, no one will thank you if you do not speak kindly.
—C.H. Spurgeon

Free Stuff Fridays (TWR)

This giveaway is sponsored by TWR, also known as Trans World Radio, whose mission is to reach the world for Christ by mass media so that lasting fruit is produced.
TWR is looking for engineering, IT, maintenance and finance specialists to help us tell the story to God’s glory. Explore these and other opportunities here. 
TWR is offering a bundle of inspiring books, including works by New York Times bestselling authors Timothy Keller and Max Lucado.
If you are the winner, you will receive the following: 

Forgive: Why Should I and How Can I? by Timothy Keller. In what became his final book, the late Timothy Keller shows readers how to forgive and why forgiving is so important.  

Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine, by Max Lucado. Dive deeper into what it means to be changed by grace and how it has the power to radically rewire you.

The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent, by Erwin Lutzer with Steve Miller. Erwin Lutzer addresses the challenges and opportunities presented to Christians by the rapid growth of Islam in the West. 

God’s Hostage, by Andrew Brunson with Craig Borlase. Brunson, an American pastor formerly serving in Turkey, shares his incredible true story of imprisonment, brokenness and eventual freedom.

God’s Secret Listener, by John Butterworth. Berti Dosti was an army captain in the atheistic country of Albania when he happened across a TWR broadcast – and kept listening.

And a bonus: Learn about the story of TWR in Making Waves: TWR’s journey to reach the world for Christ through media. This 257-page, softcover book weaves together listener testimonies with reports and personal accounts by TWR staff and leaders to paint a dynamic portrait of how the Lord is using TWR, its partners, and media to transform individuals’ lives. 
Welcome to TWR’s free book bundle giveaway. Only one entry will be accepted per person. Entries will close at 11:59 p.m. EDT June 13. The winner will be notified by email on June 18. We are only able to ship the book bundle to North American addresses.
By submitting your email address, you understand that you will receive email updates from TWR. You may unsubscribe at any time.

The Way You Walk

You can tell a lot about people by the way they walk, can’t you? You can tell a lot about their physical health, their emotional state, and perhaps even their spiritual condition. You can often tell at a glance whether they are healthy or ill, joyful or sorrowful, delighting or despondent.
Consider a company of soldiers marching smartly together, their uniforms crisp and new, as together they march toward the field of battle. Their every step portrays competence and confidence. Consider that same company as they return weeks later, their numbers diminished, their uniforms battered, their feet shuffling rather than marching. It takes no great expertise to read their walk and understand their situation.
Or consider friends who pass through the doors of the church the week after suffering a grievous loss. Unknown to them, their sadness is expressed even in the way they walk, their grief manifested in their short strides, their hesitant steps, their bent backs. Their sorrow is displayed in their every step, their grief unintentionally visible to all around them.
Consider the walk of the bearer of good news versus the bearer of dreaded news, the groom versus the widower, the young woman versus the old, the the employee on his first day versus the employee on the day he learns his position has been terminated. Consider even the walk of the person who has determined to change sexuality or gender—a man now attempting to imitate the walk of a woman or a woman the stride of a man. In every case, the inner person is displayed in the outer person, the posture of the heart visible in the posture of the body.
You can tell a lot about people by the way they walk. And this is why it is so intuitive that the Bible offers admonitions like “Look carefully then how you walk” or “Let us walk properly.” Again, “I … urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” and “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Ephesians 5:15; Romans 13:13; Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10). The way we walk is a visible portrayal of who we are, of what we are like, and of who we claim to be.
The way we walk is a visible portrayal of who we are, of what we are like, and of who we claim to be.Share
The great challenge of the Christian life, then, is to match our walk to our talk, what we portray outwardly to what we claim inwardly. The two must be harmonious rather than discordant, they must display that we are being transformed to the image of Christ rather than conformed to the world around. To honor God, they must display our loyalty to him, our submission to him, and our dependence upon him. For our walk will either affirm or betray us, either confirm or contradict our profession, either display our consistency or our hypocrisy.
And so I ask: How are you walking? Because the way you walk tells an awful lot about you.

A La Carte (June 7)

The God of love and peace be with you today.
In today’s Kindle deals you’ll find Al Mohler’s The Prayer that Turns the World Upside Down.
Westminster Books has the tremendous Focus on the Bible series of commentaries on sale. They are ideal for sermon preparation or personal study. The volumes by Dale Ralph Davis are typically considered especially strong. You’ll find discounts on individual volumes with deeper discounts on sets.

This article will take a measure of time and concentration but will prove rewarding, I think. “With cultural conversations increasingly centered on the radical proposals of critical race theory and queer theory, discussions of gender and feminism seem almost obsolete. However, a deeper analysis reveals that contemporary feminism is a critical social theory which shares the same basic framework as its more extreme ideological cousins.”

Travis shares some of what the Lord taught him through an extended Job season. “I yearned for answers that did not always come and prayed for relief that often seemed long delayed. But there were also plenty of ways in which I saw God’s hand clearly at work, and I want to share just a few of them.”

Denny Burk suggests that we may not have properly translated a well-known passage. “There is one detail in Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well that caught my attention this time because I think it may be rendered incorrectly in most English translations.”

I’ve often thought about the way Abraham haggled with God. “At first glance, Abraham’s conversation with God in Genesis 18 may seem like one of the oddest stories in Scripture. Abraham haggling with God over the destruction of Sodom—and God negotiating the terms of judgment with a mere man? It’s a story I’d never have been bold enough to make up.”

Kim Riddelbarger writes and records lots of interesting material. Yesterday, on the 80th anniversary of D-Day, he took a pause from writing theology to share an account of another consequential invasion.

Patrick Miller writes about the problem (or one of the problems, at least) with livestreams. “A digital ministry, if you’re going to have one, can’t be skeuomorphic. It must be native to the digital platform. And the minute you go native, you must reflect on the nature of how that medium changes the message and the content itself—lest the medium become your message.”

Though torn from this world and separated from their bodies for a time, they are not torn from who they were.

…the only way to be productive is to realize we don’t actually have to be productive (our goal is to please God, not appease God).
—Matt Perman

A La Carte (June 6)

With today being the 80th anniversary of D-Day, you may be interested in this brand new oral history of that momentous day: When the Sea Came Alive. It is a brilliant telling of the day’s events.
Today’s Kindle deals include Stephen McAlpine’s excellent Being the Bad Guys which helps Christians know how to live in a world that sees Christianity as a force for evil rather than good.
(Yesterday on the blog: The Least of My Children’s Accomplishments)

Brad Littlejohn has written a very interesting and very helpful article about pronatalism (which is to say, about the goodness of bearing children). “As of 2024, the only developed country on earth with births above replacement rate (2.1) is Israel (2.9). The US has fallen to 1.7 per woman, which is near the upper end of the spectrum for European countries, which range as low as 1.3 (Italy and Spain). This number, which if maintained would result in a population halving every fifty years.”

Another very thoughtful article is this one by Samuel C. Heard. He writes about the rise of “hyperpleasures.” “If we take a broad look at our history, the pleasures associated with the ordinary activities of life have often been capped. Humans have always had access to pleasure, of course, but our capacity to remove discomfort from pleasure has basically always been nil.” But today some new forms of pleasure are available.

I tend to agree with this: That only pastors should be able to baptize. Also, under normal circumstances, baptisms should only happen within the context of a local church!

“We are living with these sins, and we don’t have a problem with them. Not really. We have become desensitized to them. Perhaps, we have come to justify them.”

You’re probably aware of the discussion (or is it a debate?) about whether a person who has been sinned against can forgive someone who isn’t repentant. Mike Wittmer brings helpful balance to the discussion by drawing some important distinctions.

Just like the title says, here are some good questions for a young man to consider as he prepares to make a marriage proposal.

Our task is to trust him—to trust him in what he will give and what he will refuse, in what he will grant in a moment and what he will grant only in time. 

Show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology.
—Gordon Fee

The Least of My Children’s Accomplishments

I sometimes think about David—King David who longed to be the temple-builder but who learned he would need to content himself with being the temple-preparer. He had the vision, he laid out the plan, he gathered the material. But he did not live to see as much as one stone laid upon another.
David’s motives were good. He knew that while he lived in a fine palace of cedar, the ark of God was still in a plain tent of skins. He was grieved by this, and rightly so. The prophet Nathan saw it too and said to David, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.” But God immediately intervened and laid out a better plan. “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:12–13).
God’s plan was that David would be a man of war who would destroy the enemy, subdue the land, and establish the monarchy. When that had been accomplished, David’s reign would give way to the reign of his son and Solomon would be a man of peace who could focus on building and consolidating. Solomon’s greatest work would be the temple in Jerusalem.
I sometimes think it must have been hard for David to learn that he would not be the temple-builder. It must have been disappointing when his idea was sound and his motives were pure. He longed to build a house that would display the glory of the Lord, a temple befitting Israel’s God. It must have been hard to know that he would never build it and that he would never see it.
But then I also know what it is to be a father and to take pride in the achievements of my children. I had not been a father for long when I learned that the least of my children’s accomplishments by far outshines the greatest of my own. Their smallest victory generates more delight than my largest and their smallest feat proves more significant than my greatest. Any joy that comes from my own achievements pales in comparison to the joy that comes with theirs.
I had not been a father for long when I learned that the least of my children’s accomplishments by far outshines the greatest of my own.Share
Any parent knows this, which is why we so easily pull our own diplomas from the walls to make room for our children’s and why we relegate our old trophies to the attic so we can display theirs. Our albums fill with pictures of our children and we recount to others their every accomplishment and their every victory. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth,” wrote John. And we intuitively understand this. We have no greater joy than knowing our children are walking in the truth, walking in love, walking in competence, or merely walking at all!
And so even while David may be been sorrowful that he would not be the one to build the temple, he must have been overjoyed to know that the task would fall to his son. Even while he grieved that he would never see it, it must have warmed his heart to know that his son would not only see it but build it. The least accomplishment of his child must have counted for infinitely more than the greatest of his own. For that’s simply what it is to be a parent.

A La Carte (June 5)

This week at Westminster Books you’ll find a deal on a book titled The Good Gift of Weakness. Be sure to scroll down to also look at their collection of New and Noteworthy books that are also on sale.
I dug up some new Kindle deals today. Some of them are a dollar or two higher than the sweet spot, but they are still worth a look.

While he necessarily needs to simplify matters a bit, Trevin Wax does a good job of tracing three waves that have shaped evangelical churches today. He proposes a fourth that could now be on the way.

What is it that makes a marriage? Is it a certificate? Is it the act of consummation? Is it the assent of parents? Robby Lashua looks for biblical data to answer the question.

“In vitro fertilization (IVF) is not mentioned in the Bible. Some Christians have concluded that this means the Bible is agnostic on IVF, a reproductive technology where sperm fertilizes an egg in a petri dish. While it is true that the words ‘in vitro fertilization’ do not explicitly appear, the Bible has a lot to say about infertility, technology, and the value of life from the moment of conception.”

It’s important to imitate those noble Bereans all the way (and not, as we may be tempted to do, to imitate them only halfway).

“The mature are those who have powers of discernment, trained. The wisdom to tell the difference between true and false, right and wrong, wise and foolish, requires training. What kind of training? Training through constant practice. We aren’t talking about going on a course to be wise, we’re talking about wisdom developing over time by using it. It takes time.”

What a joy and a comfort it is to know that our earthly bodies are to our resurrection bodies what a seed is to a mighty oak tree.

People fail to live up to our standards because it’s impossible for them to live up to our standards. And neither should they, for we have no right to call people to live to any standard other than God’s.

In the pain of life there are hidden treasures. God does not call us to be masochists who enjoy suffering, but he does call us to be grace-hunters—people who see glimpses of his glory in the mess of life and let our hearts sing.
—Helen Thorne

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