Question 1: What does the Bible say about gambling or playing the lottery?
Answer: The Bible does not directly condemn gambling or the lottery, but it does warn us to avoid the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10; Hebrews 13:5). Scripture also encourages us to stay away from attempts to “get rich quick” (Proverbs 13:11; 23:5; Ecclesiastes 5:10). Gambling is an easy way to become addicted to the love of money. A simple game can take over our minds and hearts and lead us down a road of never being satisfied.
There are other biblical principles at stake too. Gambling is driven by greed, which God hates (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Gamblers hope to gain money through the losses of others, but the Bible condemns coveting other people’s possessions (Exodus 20:17; Romans 7:7). Gambling, even for small amounts, is not good stewardship (Luke 16:10). Gamblers often rely on superstitions or luck. God views such beliefs as a form of idolatry, which is incompatible with his worship (Isaiah 65:11). Rather than promote a desire to get something for nothing, the Bible encourages hard work (Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ephesians 4:28). Those who follow the Bible’s advice and work earn the right to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).
Question 2: Is practicing yoga compatible with Christianity?
Answer: Yoga is a mind and body discipline dating back over 5,000 years from India. In more recent years, practicing yoga has become popular in physical and mental wellness. It is low impact and helpful in keeping physically fit. It is used by children in gym classes and professional athletes alike, but what really is yoga?
The word “yoga” means “union.” It is a union of physical, mental, and spiritual practices. Many refer to yoga as the "spiritual body language of Hinduism." It was developed as a spiritual practice to unite man with Hindu gods and, as a religious rite, to worship them. Contrary to western understanding, Hindus do recognize one creator god, Brahma, as the creator. Brahma is not worshipped the same way as the other gods because his work has been completed in creation. Hindus worship other expressions of divine energy of Brahma called “Brahman,” but this should not be confused with Brahma himself. Hindus are often classified into three groups according to which form of Brahman they worship:
Those who worship Vishnu and his incarnations in Rama, Krishna, and Narasimha.
Those who worship Shiva (the destroyer).
Those who worship the Mother Goddess, Shakti, also called Parvati, Mahalakshmi, Durga, or Kali.
Hinduism has over 33 million gods and goddesses (demigods) under these main gods that work together in their respective duties keeping the universe in balance.
How is this related to yoga? Hinduism recognizes human beings are not simply fleshly beings because we also have a spiritual nature. The true purpose of yoga is connecting to inner spiritual energy to be at one with the universe. One way to illustrate this concept is to compare human life to an orange. Most people dwell on the physical nature of human life. This is the peel of the orange. By itself, the peel has no purpose. The peel is thrown away after the fruit is eaten because it is insignificant. Yoga teaches people how to reach the inner, spiritual fruit, and the divine energy around them. The orange came from a tree. What is that tree communicating and saying to the fruit? The orange can learn much from the tree because they are part of one common, divine energy. Therefore, yoga is one Hindu path that connects a person to the concept of "God."
Yoga maintains that “chakras” are center points of spiritual energy in the physical body. Chakras determine the way people experience reality through emotions, reactions, likes, dislikes, levels of confidence, fear, and many other things. When energy becomes blocked in a chakra, it triggers a physical, mental, or emotional imbalance that manifests in emotional and physical symptoms, such as anxiety, lethargy, poor digestion, etc… Yoga's “asanas” (physical positions) free the clogged energy and stimulate an imbalanced chakra so the blocked energy is released. Each physical position is important because it serves as a tribute to a particular Hindu god, hero, saint, or sage who allegedly possesses the qualities needed to cleanse a blocked chakra. When a pose is achieved with meditation, the pose is calling into the spiritual realm to employ help from the god, hero, saint, or sage of that pose. Yoga combines the physical pose with meditation so spiritual energy is understood. To Hindus, separating the poses from the meditation is ludicrous because yoga is one of the six Āstika (orthodox) schools of Hindu philosophical traditions. Yoga accepts the authority of the Vedas (sacred scriptures of ancient India); the superiority of the Brahmans (a class of priests), who are the expositors of the law (dharma); and a society made up of the four traditional classes (vara).
Since the early 2000’s, Western civilization has attempted to borrow the poses and meditation of yoga without the association of Hinduism by focusing on health and mental benefits. In recent years, some have attempted to build a bridge from yoga to Christianity by replacing the gods behind the Hindu poses with “Christianized” ideas like chants to Jesus, images of the cross, and Bible verses.
Is practicing yoga compatible with Christianity? I believe “Christian Yoga” is an oxymoron. It is like “Christian Haj” or “Christian Reincarnation.” There are no such things as Christian Islam, Christian Buddhism, or Christian Hinduism. Christian yoga attempts to calm the mind to tune out the world’s frequency so God’s frequency can be brought into tune. One Christian yogi said, “Being quiet with God allows us to create enough psychological and spiritual space that God can truly create an inner sanctuary in us. Being quiet enough to hear our Lord’s voice is not optional—it’s essential for growth” (http://inquisitivechristianity.com/index.php/what-does-the-bible-say-about-yoga). There are multiple problems with this statement and the practice of yoga.
Our God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:12-16; 1 Corinthians 10:20-22). Why didn’t Josiah simply scrub the Valley of Hinnom and the statue of Molech that received child sacrifice instead of tearing it down? Josiah could have given Molech a facelift, a phylactery, and called it a day. Christian Yoga is no different. Why didn't God accept worship through the golden calf? God said there cannot be other gods before him and idols must not be worshiped. God will not accept blended worship designed for other gods. The principle is the same in the Old and New Testaments. 1 Corinthians 10:21 says. "Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils." Yoga does not lose its 5,000-year intent because Christians want to scrub it up or tame it down. Hinduism is a demonic religion that uses yoga to worship its gods. Good intentions are no substitute for Biblical obedience.
Biblical meditation is not centered on calming the mind (Romans 12:1-3; 1 Peter 5:8). It is focused on action and change. We are told to engage and renew our minds through Scripture with sound doctrine. The purpose of Biblical meditation is to consider how we need to change our lives to be in compliance with God's law. In turn, the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of peace. This peace is not obtained through finding an inner voice from the divine energy of the universe. In this Dispensation of Grace, God speaks through the Bible alone and not meditation, contemplative prayer, or special revelation. God's Word is sufficient for all things in life, faith, and practice.
God commands us to be different (2 Corinthians 6:17). The Christian's purpose is lost if it is reshaped by the world into something that God never intended. Harmony can never be found between Christ, false religion, and Satan. "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you."
Final Answer: I believe yoga and Christianity are incompatible. Yoga is based on the Hindu concepts of God and man being united as one, God being in everything (pantheism), and self-worship as a way to make this unity happen. Changing some words or definitions of poses does not sanctify the pagan worship yoga represents. I do not believe the physical aspects of yoga can be isolated as a method of exercise without paying tribute to a blatantly anti-Christian philosophy. The Bible clearly tells the Christian to think on godly things (Philippians 4:8), and not empty the mind to seek the answers to life’s difficult questions within one’s own consciousness.
Question 3: At what time of year was Christ born?
Answer: The Bible says that Jesus was born when the fulness of time was come (Galatians 4:4-7). Beyond this, the Bible does not state a definitive time, but there are some clues to consider.
The shepherds were watching sheep in the fields (Luke 2:8-9). Most commentators suggest that Jews sent sheep to pasture from early spring to late fall. During the winter months, the sheep were brought in from the fields for shelter and warmth. In the Bethlehem area, this was typically done by late October.
Jesus’ cousin was John the Baptist. Luke 1:24-28, 31 says John’s mother, Elizabeth, became pregnant after her husband’s, Zacharias, days of service in the temple. Jewish priests were divided into 24 groups and ministered throughout the year in the temple. The order of Abijah served in the temple during the 10th week of the priestly cycle (1 Chronicles 24:6-19). The beginning of the 10th week coincided with the second Sabbath in the month of Sivan, which runs in mid-June on our calendar. Six months later, Elizabeth was visited by Gabriel informing of Mary’s conception (Luke 1:26). If we add six months to June, Gabriel visited Elizabeth in December. If we add the nine-month pregnancy of Mary to this, it means Jesus was born in the range of August-September. Babies, of course, do not care about the exactness of nine months. They come early and late.
Luke 2:1 says that Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem for the census ordered by Augustus. Because temperatures often dropped below freezing and roads were in poor conditions, the census was not taken in winter. The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 70 miles. Mary may have been able to ride 10 miles a day by some estimates. Would Joseph and Mary have set out on that journey if they had thought Mary could have given birth at any moment? Did they think they had plenty of time to make it to Bethlehem and back? Was Jesus what we could consider “a preemie?” Regardless, Micah 5:2 says that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
On a final note, some have attempted to pin down the identity of the Star of Bethlehem. God did not state in Scripture if the star was natural or supernatural. Some have pointed out that on September 11, 3 BC, Jupiter came together with Regulus at the top of Virgo’s head while the Sun was at the center and the moon was below. This is an attempt to match Revelation 12:1-2 to astronomy. I am not educated enough to form an opinion on this, but some of the work is fascinating.