Saturday, November 9, 2019

Golden Coins

I recently dreamed that my husband Richard and I were performing our dance ministry at a hotel in Las Vegas. On our way out of the hotel, Richard grabbed some loose change from his pocket and threw them into a slot machine before I could protest, as neither of us gamble. To our surprise, he not only hit the jackpot, but the payout was in gold coins. 

These appeared to be of several denominations, but on closer inspection, they looked more like subway tokens. A taxi would be picking us up in a few moments to go to the airport, and I was concerned about where to hide the coins so that no one would see them or attempt to steal them. I slid them inside my sock, where they made a painful lump under the ball of my foot, causing me to wince with every step. 

Once in line at airport security, I worried that they would not let us pass with the coins. But it would be even worse to try to hide them, so out from my sock they came. As I placed them in a small tray to go through the conveyor belt, I was relieved when the inspector just waved me through. 

Back in my sock they went, but after a long flight and finally arriving home, I realized that all the coins had vanished! 

I awoke in a panic and considered the symbolism of the dream. The world promises us an easy return on our investment – quick profit from a hot stock tip, winning the lottery, or even finding fame and fortune through a “lucky” break. The trouble with these get-rich-quick schemes is that often they attempt to circumvent hard work, playing by the rules, trusting God to provide for us, and honoring Christian ideals (Psalm 37:25, Matthew 6:8; Galatians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:10).

Gambling is legal in some states and international waters, and seems to hurt no one. Yet by participating in gambling, we are indirectly supporting an industry that preys on the addiction of some to this compulsive behavior, often leading to their financial and emotional ruin. The gambler may at first seem to hit a lucky streak, but in the end, the house always wins. The callous soldiers gambling for Jesus’ garments at the foot of His cross, while He suffered and died, may be a poignant illustration of how God views this behavior (Matthew 27:35). 

Satan may dangle shiny objects before us to get our attention, appealing to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16), just as he did with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:6). He minimizes the risk of what seems to be a trivial act of disobedience, convinces us that we are strong enough to handle it, and maximizes the imagined gain, for he is the father of lies (John 8:44). 

In the dream, the impulsive act of gambling with a small amount of money led to a huge gain, but at what cost?  The sense of elation over the win quickly disappeared, just as we may enjoy the pleasures of sin, but only for a season (Hebrews 11:25), before we must face the consequences (Romans 6:23). First there was the constant irritation and physical pain involved in hiding the coins, then the anxiety that they would be stolen or cause us to be harmed, and finally the sense of loss and disappointment when they vanished. 

And was the profit even worth the risk in the first place? The coins appeared to be gold, but may have actually been mere subway tokens. These are of little monetary value, and have only one use. They work to get us from one station to another, but in the end, we are still underground and far from the light of day. We can’t use them to stay in a hotel, board a plane, or engage in any transactions in the “real” world above ground. 

Satan may deceive us into thinking we are getting ahead, but if we accept his rewards and follow his schemes, we are still trapped in an endless maze of tunnels that ultimately leads only to hell (Luke 12:5). Why do people gamble with their own soul? What reward of monetary gain, fame, or power could possibly be worth risking your eternal destiny? (Matthew 16:26) 

Satan may distract us from following God’s true purpose for our life (Hebrews 12:1). Even once we are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we can lose out on eternal rewards by seeking earthly gain instead of eternal treasure (Luke 12:16-21). 

Job was a man of great material wealth who feared God and trusted Him in all circumstances. When his wealth disappeared in an instant, he realized that God is not only the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17), but the One Who can redistribute it according to His purposes (Job 1:21). 

Money is a gift that God entrusts to us to provide for our needs, the needs of our family and community, and especially to return to Him through our church and through supporting missions (Genesis 14:20; Malachi 3:8-10; Philippians 4:10-17). If we are poor stewards, no longer faithful to God’s plan, He will reapportion that money to better stewards (Luke 12:42; 1 Corinthians 4:2). Even worse, the love of money, meaning to desire wealth as an idol we hold dearer than God, is the root of all evil, causing some to wander from their faith and to pierce themselves with many sorrows (1 Timothy 6:10). 

How much better to store up our treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:20), devoting our time, talents and treasure to serving God rather than to foolishly chase earthly gain! We know God rewards us richly through spiritual blessings on earth and watches carefully over our heavenly treasure. 

The worries attached to financial responsibilities, the anxiety over changes in fortune, and the sorrow of monetary loss can be replaced by the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), the joy in sharing God’s love with others, and the sure hope of eternal rewards (1 Corinthians 3:11-15) as Jesus says, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21)

© 2019 Laurie Collett


Saturday, November 2, 2019

Without Form, and Void

Photo by Going Down 2014

When Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution became widely accepted after publication of his book in 1859, despite the lack of supporting evidence according to Darwin himself, it caused a panic in some Christian circles. Surely adhering to the Biblical, six-day account of God’s creation of everything from nothing would make the church look ridiculous in the world’s eyes, especially among scholars. 

But trying to adapt God’s Word to changing times was then, and will always be, a grave error. Jesus Christ, Who died for the sins of the world (John 1:29) and rose again to prove His divinity (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), so that all who trust Him as Lord and Savior would have eternal life (John 3:16), is unchanging. He is the Word (John 1:1), and He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

The heaven and earth will one day pass away, but God’s Word will never pass away, for it is unchanging and everlasting (Matthew 24:35). No wonder Scripture warns of a terrible penalty for anyone who adds to, changes, or takes away from the words of this Book (Revelation 22:18-19), yet that is exactly what all the new translations and revisions have done. 

After evolution had become the catchword of the day, Cyrus I. Scofield wrote notes in his 1909 study Bible that he perhaps thought would help reconcile Darwinian and Biblical accounts of how the world came to be. His thoughts, often referred to as the gap theory, interposed a long, event-filled period of time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2: 

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 

The rest of Genesis 1 describes an overview of what God created, by the words of His mouth, on each of the six literal days of creation. Scofield proposed that God had at one time created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1), but that something terrible happened between verses 1 and 2, presumably Lucifer falling from heaven (Isaiah 14:9-14) and destroying the earth as Satan, so that the perfect universe God had made was now shapeless, empty, and dark.

Would God allow Satan such complete power to annihilate His beloved creation? When He did destroy the earth by flood to judge mankind for his wickedness, it was by His own hand (Genesis 6:13), after preservation of a faithful remnant (Noah and his family) and representatives of His animal creation (Genesis 7:7-9). God Himself formed the earth and made it not in vain, but to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). 

This undefined, presumably long, time period Scofield implied between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 could theoretically allow time for the processes of evolution to occur, thus not offending the Darwinian “scientists” while still tipping the hat to God overseeing the whole process.

But God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). Why would He spell out in specific detail what happened on each of the days of creation, emphasizing that each of these was a literal, 24-hour day (each framed by an evening and morning, as is the Hebrew tradition), and then leave out so many vital details between the very first and second verse of the Bible? (Genesis 1:5,8,13,19,23,31) 

Is it not more reasonable to assume that Genesis 1:1 is a summary statement, known in English composition as a topic sentence, giving us an overview of what the rest of the chapter will describe, namely how God created everything from nothing? And that Genesis 1:2 describes the very first step of the process, namely that God first created the space to which He would add all good things comprising His creation? 

Critics of this theory say that God would have simply created a finished product, rather than going through an amorphous phase. But Genesis 2:7 gives us further insight into God’s creative process. He did not speak Adam, the first man, into being as a finished product. Instead, He formed Adam from the dust of the ground – an amorphous, empty, drab material, much like the earth when it was shapeless, empty and dark.  

Just as the power of the Spirit moved across the waters to transform the earth (Genesis 1:2), God breathed the Spirit into Adam’s nostrils to make him a living soul (Genesis 2:7). God made man in His (plural) own triune image, reflecting the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in man’s soul, body, and spirit (Genesis 1:26-27)

So perhaps we can draw some inferences about God’s creative processes from those of artistic geniuses in the human realm. An artist such as Leonardo da Vinci begins with a blank canvas, then fills the space with line, shape and color to transform it into a glorious painting. A sculptor such as Michelangelo begins with a seemingly shapeless, rough, drab mass of marble, then frees from within it a polished, dramatic, evocative sculpture reflecting light and emotion.

The producer of a play begins with an empty, dark stage and populates it with sets, lighting, props and actors who tell a meaningful, gripping story where once there was nothing. A major difference between the creative process of these human artists and the ultimate creative genius of God Himself is that He alone supplied even the raw materials – the blank canvas or stage – which He filled with all things that are good (John 1:3).

We see many examples of this in nature, such as the caterpillar that completely dissolves within the chrysalis to an amorphous soup to emerge as a butterfly, an entirely new creature. In the spiritual realm, God can take the shapeless, drab fragments of clay that represent the life of a sinner, and add meaningful form, utility and light, representing a sinner saved by grace to become a new vessel suitable for His use (Isaiah 29:16; 64:8; Jeremiah 18:4; Romans 9:21).

Only God could transform the darkness, chaos and abject failure that seemed to permeate the death of Jesus on Calvary’s cross into eternal light, hope and victory over sin, hell and death as Christ rose again! (Matthew 27:45-53; 28:5-10).

Praise God that He alone can make something from nothing, and beauty from ashes! (Isaiah 61:3) Praise God that He does not stop there, but adds light, purpose, and design to accomplish His purpose through His creation and through each one of us who trusts Him!

© 2017 Laurie Collett 
Reposted from the archives