The horrible social costs of gambling

I’ll never forget the one time I visited Las Vegas. I was in town for a wedding and was awed by the amazing architecture. It seemed to me, at the time, that no expense was spared by the developers. But while Christians can admire the beautiful architecture of Vegas, we must admit that there is tremendous social cost to the seemingly innocent vice called gambling. When I was a pastor, I saw first-hand who the gambling industry preys on: the poor. Sure you have your high-stakes wealthy who drop lots of money, but mountains of social research have documented the troubling social costs of gambling. Really the only ones who win, when a casino comes into your town, are the business-owners and the local governments. And sadly, those local governments end up paying out more in social benefits over the long haul. Families, the poor, and communities suffer greatly.

Recently, the Institute for American Values has released a report titled, “Why Casinos Matter.” My ERLC colleague, Joe Carter, has put some of the best of this info in an article “9 things you should know about casinos and gambling.” He also created a handy infographic that I’ve pasted in below. If you are interested in speaking on this topic in your church or community group, this would be a great resource:

 

ERLC-casino-infographic

The courage to be civil

Today, on the ERLC blog, I continue my series on civility and courage:

How do Christians navigate the tension of civility and courage?It’s easy to grow discouraged by the way we often get it wrong, but rather than embracing cynicism, we should do our part to model civility through engagement, humility and prayer.

In an interview with Christianity Today, ERLC president Russell Moore said: “I hope to speak with convictional kindness. I hope to speak of a holistic vision of human dignity and human flourishing rooted in the kingdom of God—and to do so in a way that is grounded always in the gospel. I don’t view people who disagree with me as my enemies or my opponents. I hope to speak with civility and with kindness and in dialogue with people with whom I disagree.”

We can’t stop every instance of incivility, but we can begin by setting a good example for our friends, family and anyone in our sphere of influence. I’m particularly sobered by the way my own children watch the way I engage issues and the words I use when talking about public figures. What am I teaching them about respect and dignity? Extending this out to our social networks, churches, community groups and small groups, let’s use our platforms, however big, to demonstrate a gospel-centered approach to truth-telling.

Read the whole article here:

Don’t Offend One, Don’t Despise One, Don’t Lose One

Today for Leadership Journal I speak with Larry Fowler, the executive director of global networking for Awana and Kidzmatter. I’m a huge fan of Awana, having grown up in it and now seeing my children through it. It’s a powerful ministry that helps ground the truth of Scripture into the hearts of children.

Today I talked with Larry about children’s ministry.

Your newest book talks about seven principles of effective children’s ministry, and they are all based on Scripture. So give me an example—what would change if we used Scripture as the designer?

If we did children’s ministry according to Scripture, then parents would be primarily responsible for their child’s spiritual growth, and we would assist them, not the other way around. Parental spiritual leadership is pretty much on everyone’s radar right now. A concept that ministry leaders aren’t thinking about is what I call the significant “one”. Jesus, in Matthew 18, repeats the word “one” in this passage about children: don’t offend one, don’t despise one, and don’t lose one. Individuals were always important to Jesus, and if we are not careful, we can minister to groups of children and think we are doing okay, when in fact we are not.If every single child is significant, and we are concerned that we don’t offend or despise or lose one, then our registration and record-keeping processes will not only be used to see who comes but are used as tools to follow up with those who stop coming. Our structure will provide opportunities for our teachers and leaders to develop deep relationships with children (they come for the fun, but they stay because of a relationship). And we will train our volunteers to have a shepherd’s mindset toward every child they minister to.

Read the rest of the interview here:

Peter, Revolutionary, Sellout, Champion of Grace

Yesterday on the ERLC blog, I continued my series on speaking with grace in the public square: 

For several hundred years, basic Judeo-Christian values have held a dominant place in Western culture. But things are changing. While the Church is experiencing explosive growth in the Global South, the West is rapidly becoming post-Christian. For many followers of Jesus, this new reality is unsettling. Suddenly, long-accepted views on issues like marriage and sexuality are now viewed as intolerant, even bigoted.

Though the post-Christian paradigm is new in America, it’s not new in the history of the Church. There are very few moments in history where the surrounding culture affirmed the Church’s values. God’s people have always been a counter-cultural movement. Jesus, in his final discourse on the night before his arrest, warned his disciples about the possibility of social marginalization and physical persecution:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:18-20).

“If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” –these words are as relevant to us as they were to the disciples. But they are words that don’t exactly go down easy. It’s human nature to want to be liked and yet, the call of Christ is, at some level, to embrace the role of a subversive, an outsider, a revolutionary. The gospel upends the dominant social order, always confronting and provoking.

So the question for followers of Jesus is not if we’ll face opposition or why we’re facing opposition, but how should we react when the culture winces at our message?

In my view, we typically adopt one of two equally misguided attitudes. We are tempted to worship at the altar of acceptance and willingly jettison core Christian teachings. The last several years have seen the rise of novel interpretations of Scripture, hoping to align shifting sexual mores with biblical values.

At the other end of the spectrum there is an equally dangerous posture. This is the temptation to proudly wear the badge of cultural provocateur. In this worldview, controversy is king and no rhetorical weapon is left unsheathed in the war of ideas.

But are these the only two choices for a follower of Jesus? I believe there is a third way, a more biblical approach to engaging culture. We see this modeled in the life of one of the most enigmatic characters in Scripture: Simon Peter.

In a 24-hour space of time, Peter was both the provocateur and the culturally timid. He pledged undying loyalty to Jesus and in a fit of defensive rage, lopped off the ear of a Roman soldier. And yet it was also Peter who sheepishly denied the Lord, not once, not twice, but three separate times. He was both a zealot and sellout in the same night.

Read the whole thing here:

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