Tag Archives: lotto

How To Win The Lottery Without Doing Anything

Last month, Joan Ginther of Bishop, Texas purchased a $50 scratch-off lottery ticket at a local convenience store and won $10 million. Pretty cool, huh? But most amazing of all is that this is the fourth time—fourth time!—that she’s won the Texas Lottery jackpot, totaling $21 million in winnings.

The chances of that occurring are 1 in 18 septillion—that’s 18 followed by 24 zeros.

Strangely enough, she should know better than to play the lottery. You see, she earned a doctorate from Stanford University in 1976 and spent a decade on the faculty of several colleges in California…teaching math!

What did she do to deserve a life like this? Nothing. She’s a relative recluse and hasn’t lived an abnormally exemplary life. But she did display an amazing amount of faith.

Please join me today to discover  how you can win more than Joan Ginther without doing anything!


1 Chronicles 24:1-27:34
Romans 4:1-5:5
Psalm 13:1-14:7
Proverbs 19:15-17


1 Chronicles 24:1-27:34. Long lists of Levites, priests, and temple musicians may seem irrelevant to you and me. Considering that this book was complied approximately 500 years after David, it may appear that the list was irrelevant when it was completed as well. But foundations are important. The Chronicler was not only explaining the genealogy of their current leadership, but he was also connecting them to their spiritual roots. This, then, became the model Israel would follow as they sought to return to the glory of their past.

Romans 4:1-5:5. Scripture repeatedly drives home an important message: pain isn’t always bad. Paul writes in Romans 5:3-4, “But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Psalm 13:1-14:7. In Psalm 13, David expresses his feeling of abandonment by God. “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” But rather than allow himself to wallow too long, he concludes this short psalm/poem with these words: “I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.” Rather than define God by his present feelings, he brings perspective by remembering God’s faithfulness in the past.

Not-so-coincidentally, Psalm 14:3 was quoted by Paul in yesterday’s reading (Romans 3:10-12). While lamenting the depravity of humanity, David writes, “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!

It did!

Proverbs 19:15-17. Two of these proverbs really stand out to me…

Verse 16 says, “He who obeys instructions guards his life, but he who is contemptuous of his ways will die.” Obedience isn’t much of a value in our society (unless you’re raising kids). Everyone wants to live as they please; the rebel without a cause has become our hero. But in the kingdom of God, obedience—especially to God—can save our lives. The Message paraphrases the beginning of the verse to say, “Keep the rules and keep your life.”

Verse 17 tells us, “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.” The kindness we show to the needy is equivalent to a loan we give to God. Best of all, God pays us back with interest. It may not come back in the form of money, but we all receive more than we give. Generosity lies at the core of our love for God.

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Joan Ginther’s string of successes playing the Texas Lottery is pretty amazing. Although I know better than to play the lottery, I do admire the fact that the game is no respecter of persons. Anyone can win—young, old, educated, uneducated. No one earns their winnings…they just play.

In the same way, Paul explains in our reading from Romans 4 that God is no respecter of persons when it comes to establishing a right relationship with him. It’s available to anyone—young, old, educated, uneducated, upstanding citizen or career criminal.

Did you get that? Paul makes a pretty bold statement: God even justifies the wicked (verse 5). In other words, some people with extremely sordid backgrounds enjoy a much more solid relationship with God than some pretty good people.

The point Paul is driving home is the fact that none of us can do anything to earn a good relationship with God. If we can be good enough, then God is obligated to reward us with eternal life with him in heaven. But up to this point, Paul has shown that no is truly good.

That means all of us need help.

The only thing we can do is place our faith in God to save us. In verse 21, Paul defines faith as “being fully persuaded that God [has] power to do what he [has] promised.” Later in Romans, Paul explains that this is only possible because of Jesus’ death on the cross.

Giving to the poor guarantees nothing. Nor does volunteering for a worthy nonprofit organization, going to church, praying every day, paying your taxes, demonstrating your patriotism, or living a “good” life. Only one thing brings us into a right relationship with God: faith.

If you’ve spent your life trying to earn God’s love or trying to be good enough to be welcomed into heaven, STOP! All you need to do is acknowledge that you can’t be good enough and that you need him to save you.

Then believe it.

If you do, then you’ve won something far greater than Joan Ginther’s riches.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. In your opinion, do most religious people believe they have to do something to win God’s approval? Why or why not?
  3. Has this ever been true of your life? How?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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The Problem With Wishes

“Wish fulfillment?” Aladdin asks the magic genie in the Disney’s Aladdin.

“Three wishes to be exact,” the genie answers back. “And ix-nay on wishing for more wishes.”

If a genie popped out of a bottle and promised to grant you three wishes, what would you wish for?

What would you wish for if you were limited to only one wish?

Good looks?

Good health?

Limitless riches?

Your answer reveals a great deal about who you really are inside.

Today, we’re going to look at a man who was given a similar offer.

Please join me as we look at his answer.


1 Kings 3:3-4:34
Acts 6:1-15
Psalm 126:1-6
Proverbs 16:26-27


1 Kings 3:3-4:34. The New American Commentary explains the nature of Solomon’s request:

Given this personal dilemma, Solomon requests “a discerning heart.” This phrase literally means “a listening heart” or “an obedient heart.” In the Old Testament “hearing” and “obeying” come from the same word, a linguistic trait with practical implications. Only those who obey authority figures have really heard them. Solomon must obey the Lord by keeping God’s commands in order for his heart to be prepared to lead others. This listening to God will also enable him to listen to others.

Following this exchange, we watch Solomon’s newfound wisdom in action when he judges between the stories of two prostitutes who claim the same child as their own. The one woman probably lied because she wanted a son to provide for her when she was old.

Acts 6:1-15. Yesterday, Eugene commented that the early Church had problems just like we do today. Building on that theme, we read that the burgeoning church was wrestling with growing pains. The Hebraic Jewish widows were receiving preferential treatment over the Greek Jewish widows. The Bible Background Commentary adds some interesting details that explains what caused the problem:

Because it was considered virtuous to be buried in the land of Israel, many foreign Jews would come to spend their last days there, then die and leave widows.

In the end, deacons (which means “servant” in Greek) were organized to distribute the food to people in need. But also, the 12 disciples recognized the importance of giving their attention to “prayer and ministry of the word.”

One of the deacons appointed by the 12 disciples was Stephen. We read in verse 8 that Stephen “did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.” This is significant because he was wasn’t one of the 12 disciples. At various times I’ve heard respectable teachers proclaim that signs and wonders were performed only by the twelve, and since they died out, the possibility of working signs and wonders died out with them as well.

But it ain’t necessarily so. This leads me to conclude that God’s ability to perform signs and wonders through his followers hasn’t died out.

Psalm 126. This obviously wasn’t written in David’s day because it begins with the words, “When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion.” The context is likely

Verse 4 reads “Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev.” The Negev is a desert south of Jerusalem. Like many deserts, it contained dry creek beds so that when a rainstorm finally hit, the creeks were overflowing with water. In the same way, the psalmist is asking God to suddenly overwhelm them with blessing.

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If God were to grant you any wish, what would you wish for? The answer to the question reveals your deepest-held values. Solomon could have asked for a long life or wealth, but instead made this request: “Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

A discerning heart isn’t the “right” answer for everyone, although you can’t go wrong with wisdom. But as king, Solomon’s response obviously made God extremely pleased.

But what was it about Solomon’s answer that pleased God?

Solomon could have asked for something that benefited only him (i.e. long life or wealth). Instead, Solomon desired something that benefited others.

This follows Jesus’ law of love: to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31).

It seems to me that God is intent on pulling us out of our self-absorbed world.

With only one wish to fulfill, I could benefit me or I could benefit the people around me.

The most fulfilled people in the world aren’t the ones who live for themselves or mortify themselves so they live miserable lives. The people who live the most fulfilled lives are the ones who forget about themselves.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. If you could have one wish granted to you, what would it be?
  3. How does it reflect your values?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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Your One And Only

Greek mythology tells us about a young man named Narcissus. Shortly after his birth, his mother realized her young son was exceptionally beautiful and was advised by a prophet that Narcissus would live to a ripe old age “if he never realized how beautiful he was.”

Throughout his life, his mother kept Narcissus from seeing himself in the mirror. By the time he reached 15 years of age, every girl in town was in love with him—but all the attention resulted in a very cruel, self-absorbed boy.

One day while hunting in the woods, he approached a pool of water. Thirsty from his long, hot day in the woods, he bent over to get a drink. And as he leaned over, he saw his reflection.

Immediately, he became transfixed with his beauty. What stared back at him from the water was so mesmerizing, so magnificent, that he couldn’t pull himself away.

So enamored he became with himself that he couldn’t eat or drink and he eventually died of thirst and starvation. Because of his utter and complete self-absorption, Greek mythology tells us his soul was sent to the “darkest hell.”

And where he died, the narcissus flower grew—to serve as a reminder of the boy who fell in love with himself. Greek mythology tells us that Narcissus still keeps gazing on his image in the waters of the river Styx.

Following Narcissus’ example, many of us struggle becoming self-absorbed. You could say we’ve made idols of ourselves…which is the subject of today’s daily conversation.


Deuteronomy 4:1-49
Luke 6:39-7:10
Psalm 68:1-18
Proverbs 11:28


Deuteronomy 4. The book of Deuteronomy entails the covenant God established with his people. In the first three chapters, God established the basis of their relationship. Chapter 4 consists of the prologue. In verse 1 we read, “Follow [God’s commands] so that you may live.” God doesn’t grant us salvation because we follow his ways, but following his ways do bring us life.

God sought to perpetuate the faith for generations to come. In verse 10 God tells his people, “Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” The primary location where our faith is perpetuated is not in church but at home. This brings a degree of responsibility on every parent (me included!). This keeps parents honest, because our children can compare what we say with what we do.

Verses 44-49 comprise the introduction to the covenant God entered into with Israel.

Luke 6:46-49. What’s the rock in Jesus’ parable? Many people refer to this parable and say Jesus is the rock—and while he is our rock, he isn’t talking about himself in this parable. The rock is obedience to his word. Jesus said the one who “hears my words and puts them into practice…is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock.” Obedience isn’t sexy. It rarely serves as the point of movies that break the box office. We gravitate to stories about the “rebel without a cause.” But in God’s economy, obedience is important. Doing what we know is right.

Psalm 68. Notice the object of God’s concern in this psalm: the fatherless, the widow, the poor. If you count yourself as one of these, be encouraged because God has special concern for you. If you don’t, pay attention to these people. If you’re interested in joining God in his work, then help them, too.

Proverbs 11:28. “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” Following the theme of our study in Deuteronomy, trusting in riches is a form of idolatry. Sometimes I dream about what it would be like to win the Lotto and never have another care in the world. But that wouldn’t be the case because rich people have struggles, too. Most importantly, I think I would struggle with trusting in my riches rather than God. Maybe God knows it’s best for me not to be rich.

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The single most important aspect of the Jewish faith that set Israel apart from the other nations was that it allowed no image to be made of God. God didn’t want us worshiping his creation…he wanted us worshiping him. Unfortunately, we still struggle with this temptation today. We look to creation—relationships, activity, stuff, ourselves—to fill the hole in our heart. Looking to anything or anyone but God for our identity and fulfillment is idolatry.

Worshipping a God who we cannot see requires faith. Hebrews 11:1,6 tell us “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see…And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists.” All too often, we place our faith in something or someone we can see, knowing full well that the object of our faith will do little or nothing to fill the hole or meet our need. But it’s easier to place our faith in what we can see over what we cannot see.

My point is this: God wants to be the only one in whom we seek purpose, provision, fulfillment…everything. He doesn’t want to be the best version among a pantheon of gods. He wants to be our one and only.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What or who is your idol of choice? Why does it appeal to you? How can you live in such a way that he is your “one and only”?
  3. Why do the stories in our society gravitate toward rebels?
  4. What do today’s readings tell you about God?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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