Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Thought For A Busy Summer Afternoon

Hello everyone .. this has once again been an insanely busy weekend.  Even now as I write this brief post, I am late leaving to the next thing on my list of things to do.  So today once again I am just going to leave with a passage from Scripture.  I know what I do is to explain Scripture, but it is even more important that each of you take the time to ponder what the Word says on your own, or at least on your own in terms of human help.  Sometimes it is best to just read, study, pray, and allow the Holy Spirit to show you what God is speaking to you.  God bless you all!
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward [man] is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen [are] temporary, but the things which are not seen [are] eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NKJV

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

Today I turn the odometer of my life one more notch.  Yes, indeed it is my birthday.  Today I am 37 years old.  I remember last year, my wife treated me to Hershey Park for my birthday.  She took me to a Pennsylvania Dutch smorgasbord for breakfast and I ate until my stomach felt like it could explode.  We then went to Hershey Gardens and admired the beauty created by God and unmatched by man.  We also went to Hershey Park and had a good time on a variety of rides and eating more chocolate than any diabetic should ever eat.  If you have not had Hershey's chocolate right from the store at the park, you have not had Hershey's chocolate.  Two years ago, my wife and I were at Disney in Florida for my birthday. We stayed with my aunt and I took full advantage of the Disney "Celebrate" promotion they had that year wearing my big birthday button and receiving free desserts and singing at every meal and random well-wishes and singing from various cast members around every corner.  It was quite an experience! 

Birthdays are also a great time of self-reflection.  It was just about a year ago that I began this blog and so on this birthday I am going to spend some time reminiscing on this thing I do.  I do not know how many posts I wrote, but it is literally hundreds of pages if it were a printed book.  Just from July through December last year, it worked out to be between 300 and 400 pages in the book of my blog I ordered.  I never thought of myself as an author, but I suppose I did write a book.   It began as shorts posts on Facebook and when that quickly became too cumbersome to type from my cell phone on breaks at work, I moved to this site.  It all began with a Psalm.
Blessed [is] the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight [is] in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly [are] not so, But [are] like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish.  Psalm 1 NKJV
I still stand on that Psalm.  I still think the call to write this blog is just as strong today as it was a year ago. I still believe our church needs this message.  When I consider the feedback (especially the negative), I have come to the conclusion that a large part of our church has shifted from using the Word of God to define our behavior to using the Word to justify our behavior.  That is a huge problem.  You see, when you study the Word with the heart of conforming yourself to Christ, you will end up with a much different product then if you have a behavior you like and use the Word to justify it.  One way is about submitting yourself to God,  the other is about conforming God's Word to suit your needs.  What we do should be the result of what we read in the Word. We should not take snippets here and there from the Word to justify what we do. 

I have also learned over the past year just how offended people can become when you pick on their pet sin.  I have had one people who one month tell my wife what a blessing it is what I write, but then those same people accuse me of teaching half-truths and legalism when I touch on an area that is near and dear to them.  People seem to love the spotlight of Scripture, except when it shines upon them.  I have offended Christians and unbelievers alike.  The unbelievers who take offense at a Christian blog are no surprise to me.  I expect them to be offended and to not understand the things I write about.  How can they accept the things of the God they have rejected?  What does bother me are the Christians who would rather lash out at me then they would examine themselves.  I have had many people speak about me or my blog to other people, but very few speak to me.  Those who have, rarely use any Scripture to justify their disagreement.  For the most part, it seems that those who have disagreed with me are more offended by my writing about sin then the actual sin surrounding what they are offended about.  Perhaps my blog was offensive to some, but those some are living lives and doing things that are an offense to God.  I stand behind what I write and if that offends some people, there is the choice not to read it. 

What I have also learned is accountability.  I do keep an eye on statistics for the visits to my site, but it can only tell me how many people from which towns and countries visit my site.  Even with that, it is not entirely accurate.  I really have no idea who reads this site unless they tell me.  That means I need to live what I write.  That only makes sense as the Bible tells us that teachers will be held to a stricter judgment.  It is also a good thing because I believe everything I write.  I know I am not perfect, but I know I desire to grow more and more like Jesus every day.  Writing this not only gets me into the Word, but holds me to being an example of the things I write.  I do get things wrong sometimes, and I hate those times.  I hate my failures, but I know God has grace enough for my failures and so I get back up and continue on in my walk.  Where I live and go to church now, I do not have any accountability and so writing this blog has kind of taken that role in my life. 

And, finally, I have learned encouragement.  I am greatly encouraged by those I know and love encouraging me on the things I write.  What is even more encouraging (and no offense to my dear friends), are those who I do not really know who come up to me at a party or something and tell me they are encouraged by what I write.   Knowing I am in the Word everyday and sharing on the Word everyday makes this all worthwhile, but knowing that others I do not even know about are encouraged by it is icing on the cake.  I thank you all who have reached out to me.  God has used you in ways you do not even know.  You see, what you do not know, is that when you encouraged me, it always happened at a critical time or as the result of a critical situation.  Your encouragement has always come in the right way at exactly the right time.  It is usually after someone is offended and sometimes your encouragement to me is in the presence of the person who was offended.  God works in marvelous ways and I want to thank you for being a part of God's work in my life. 

So thank you all for taking the time to read this.  You have seen a variety of things that I have gone through in the past years.  Whether it be the trials of the snow storms last Winter, coming to our decision to move, struggles with people angry at me or what I write, or any of the other things that have made their way into this blog.  I am so glad that I have been able to bless and encourage you.  I hope that I was also able to challenge you.  When I began writing this today, the song "Jesus, This is Your Life Now" by Neal Morse was playing on my iPod.  What an amazing attitude to have.  The Bible tells us that we are not our own, that we were purchased with a price.  That price was the blood of Jesus and what it purchased was our salvation.  In return, we give our lives to Jesus.  We submit our will to His will and we give up our desires and ask Him to fill us with His.  Give your lives to Jesus, not just in word but in everything you do.  The stress you feel is that little bit self holding onto the flesh as tight and hard as it can.  Break free and learn what freedom really is.  If you are offended by anything that I say, please search the Word and tell me where I am wrong.  If I was wrong, I will correct myself.  And if my error made you crack open that old dusty Bible for the first time in years, then God is even using my errors and praise God for that.  A few weeks ago, I foolishly posted something on my Facebook wall.  I said "When you stand for righteousness, oftentimes you stand alone."  It was a discouraging day.  The truth is, though, that when you stand for righteousness, you stand with God and with God you are never ever alone.  I also know God has a remnant and God is stirring up the hearts of many to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow after Jesus.  I know I get frustrated, but I have not given up on the church yet, nor has God.  While the condition of things may get me down sometimes, I rejoice when I think of revival.  If the Lord should tarry, my prayer is for a revival like the world has never seen.  I don't believe in birthday wishes, but I do believe in prayer and that is my prayer this 37th year of my life, that if the Lord should tarry until I am 38 that I may see revival now.
God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, "LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life"? But what does the divine response say to him? "I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.  Romans 11:2-5 NKJV

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Confronting Being Non-confrontational

Confrontation is uncomfortable.  It is not something that anyone should like to do, but it is something we all need to do.  Whether it be someone who does not know the Lord thinking they are going to "a better place" despite their decision to reject the grace offered through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ or if it is someone in the Lord and not living like it and thinking that God accepts their sin, we are called to make our stand for truth and that oftentimes involves confrontation.  Our failure to confront wrong beliefs or wrong behavior allow them to thrive because our lack of confrontation is default approval.  And that has helped the church along as it slides into apostacy.

First let us take a look at confronting other believers.
For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,  but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.  Titus 1:7-9 NKJV
I know the first reaction for many would be that this is specifically for a bishop and not for the "regular" Christian. There is too much made out of the whole idea of lay and professional Christians.  It leads to arrogance on the part of some of the professionals and it gives lazy laypersons an excuse to not do more.  The requirements for a bishop are nothing special and they are things we should all aspire to.  A bishop, in the true sense of the word, is not some special and separate kind of Christian but an example of a model Christian.  They are our examples and those requirements they succeed in are things we are all required to do.  For our purposes today, we need to focus on "holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict."  That is something we are all called to do.  We can not just laugh off Christians who believe something wrong.  If they come to us with some strange doctrine and we just smile and listen and say nothing, then we have just endorsed their error.  I believe many errors start this way.  It begins with one person who is not corrected and confronted before he or she is able to convince enough people to turn that error into a large problem for the church.  We must confront others on their error otherwise the error ignored today can become the heresy that leads many astray tomorrow. 

Another thing we must do is to confront others on their sin. 
Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.  Matthew 18:15 NKJV
I think this is an area we fail in the most.  We hate to strain relationships and so we accept without confrontation much sinful behavior in our presence.  If a Christian tells you a dirty joke, do you confront him?  It a Christian gets drunk in your presence, do you just laugh at it and let it be?  If a Christian friend or relative is dating, moving in with, or marrying a nonbeliever do you just smile and say how "perfect" you are for each other?  I know I have failed in this, and I know and have seen many others fail as well.  Yes, a relationship may be strained and yes they may reject what you have to say, but if you they hear you, you have gained your brother.  In other words, if you confront and that person repents, you have just made that relationship better.  We should not just laugh and accept sinful behavior in the life of another believer.  Our failure to confront that sin makes it acceptable.  Please understand that sin is never acceptable to God.  God had to send His only son to die for that sin.  God hates sin. 

And what of unbelievers?  We should never leave them with the impression that their rejection of Jesus Christ will lead them to a "better place." 
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. John 3:36 NKJV
The fact is no matter how good they think they are, no matter how much you pray for them, and no matter how much you love them, if they do not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, they will not go to heaven.  Let me put it more bluntly, they will be sent to Hell for all of eternity.  If you love that person, you can not let them think anything other than that.  I am not saying to clobber them with the Gospel every time you are together, but they should not be allowed to think they are destined for anywhere other than judgement.  I know talking about Jesus can cause confrontation even among unsaved friends and family, but the stakes are too high to not take that risk.  Their eternal soul is at stake and your word and witness may be all that separates them from Heaven or Hell.  You must live the truth and speak the truth.  You must show the work of Jesus in your life.  Please do not ever think it is loving to let someone think they are going anywhere other than Hell for the sake of that relationship. 

With a post regarding confrontation, I would be remiss if I did not mention an important aspect of Christian confrontation.  We must do it in the spirit of love and grace.
[Let] your speech always [be] with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. Colossians 4:6 NKJV
Confronting others must be done in love and humility.  You can not just go up to them and hit them over the head with your Bible and expect them to hear anything you have  to say.  We must go to them in love and share with them in the the truth of God's word.  The goal is not to drive them away (even though that may very well be the end result), but it is to bring them to repentance or salvation.  You are trying to gain your brother and sister and not lose them.  You are trying to restore a relationship (or create one where there is none with God) and the way to do that is with love.  You must also do so with a clean heart.  People are much less likely to listen to a hypocrite.  If you are not living the life you are preaching then your words are meaningless.  If you live like you love sin then how can you share with another that sin is wrong?  If you do not study your Bible than how can you share legitimately with others that they are in error?  If you do not live like Jesus is the most important thing in your life, how can you expect to convince an unbeliever that Jesus is the most important thing in your life.  Words are empty without actions.  Confrontations are meaningless if you do not model the behavior you are trying to correct. 

I know that confrontation is a scary thing.  None of us like to see relationships broken and often we accept without confrontation many bad things in the lives of others.  We have a wrong belief in the idea of being loving and peacemakers.  The fact is that being a Christian will mean the end of some relationships.  The Bible is clear on that.

If you think that it is better to maintain a relationship with someone spreading destructive heresies in the church without confrontation is right, the Bible says differently. 
Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.  Romans 16:17-18 NKJV

Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.  Titus 3:10-11 NKJV
Give someone a chance to repent of their heresy, then have nothing to do with that person.  They have no interest in truth. 

If you think that it is better to continue to allow a brother or sister in the Lord to sin without confrontation in order to maintain a relationship, the Bible says you are wrong.
Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' And if he refuses to hear them, tell [it] to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.  Matthew 18:15-17 NKJV

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.  1 Corinthians 5:11 NKJV
Again, give them plenty of space to repent, but if they refuse then it is not a relationship you are supposed to have.  We are not supposed to allow the brother or sister living a life of sin to enjoy the fellowship of the church.  That only serves to comfort them in their sin and will not lead to any ultimate repentance. 

And, finally, our families and loved ones can not be led to believe that they are going to heaven without accepting Jesus.  I know they will reject you.  I know they will call you "judgmental" and many other negative things.  Sadly, this is a reality we must live with as Christians.  In some parts of the world, your family may even kill you for proclaiming the truth.  This is not sad for our own sakes, but for the sakes of those who reject the truth we share with them out of love.  In the end, we must never put any relationship above our Lord or the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We must also get over the worldly idea of what loving is.  We seem to have come to the idea that being loving is about protecting feelings.  With that attitude, we will continue to "love" people right into Hell.  We must put truth above personal feelings and we must put our love for Jesus over the love of even our dearest of loved ones. 
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his [own] household.' He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  Matthew 10:34-37 NKJV

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Cult of the Celebrity Christian Personality

I am going to perform a little bit of thievery today.  Yesterday, a friend and sister in the Lord of mine posted a blog on the Scripture premise modeled by John the Baptist when he said that he must decrease so that Christ must increase.  I thought of that verse and how many self-serving teachers are in the church today.  Sadly, these pastors are increasing while Christ is decreasing.  They are not interested in showing people Jesus, they are interested in their own name recognition.  Instead of pointing people to Christ, they have become their own cult of personality with their own pet theologies where they become known more for their on-stage antics than for the Christ they are supposed to represent.  They forget the example of John the Baptist. 
He must increase, but I [must] decrease. John 3:30 NKJV
Christ needs to be magnified in all that we do.  We are not supposed to point people to ourselves or our own ministries but to Jesus.  We are called to make disciples of Jesus, not of ourselves.  Sadly, that is not what we have today.  Sadly, today we have ministries that are all about elevating their leader.  They become about the man and not about the Lord they claim to serve.   A great way to tell this is that they usually name the ministries after themselves.  We have Creflo Dollar Ministries, Benny Hinn Ministries, Joseph Prince Ministries, Joel Osteen Ministries, etc and so on.  These are not just small ministries either, but ministries that take in millions upon millions of dollars with offices and infrastructure all over the world.  What would happen to any of these ministries should their leaders be gone?  What is Benny Hinn or Joseph Prince ministries without Benny Hinn or Joseph Prince?  They are nothing.  It is the personalities and theologies of those leaders that define those organizations. 

Another way we can tell that they are about magnifying themselves is that not only are those ministries named after their leaders, but they are named after the made up name of their leaders.  Benny Hinn is really Toufik Benedictus "Benny" Hinn.  Perhaps not quite as blatant, as at the very least it is a viable nickname, but it is still a little disingenuous.  It is easy to create a cult of personality around a nickname, sort of like many tyrant have done throughout history.  A more egregious example of Joseph Prince, or should I say Xenonamandar Jegahusiee Singh.  In his defense, he did change his name before he was a full-time pastor.  When asked about changing his name, he responded on how God changed peoples names in the Bible.  Apparently, when God did not give him a new name right then and there he took it upon himself to do it.  It is also curious that his chosen last name of "Prince" really does fit in with his theology.  His chosen name has become his trade name and he has built his whole ministry around this newly created persona. 

And that is what all of these ministries really are.  They are cults of personality surrounding the created and marketed persona of the namesake of those organizations.  They sell their books, CD's, and DVD's.  They sell T-shirts and other marketing paraphernalia.  Some even sell special memberships where your are a part of that leader's "circle."  It is all about the leader.  Even if the leader makes some attempt at pointing people to Jesus, every other part of their organization points people to their leader.  If you read their websites it is Benny Hinn did this great thing or Joseph Prince did that amazing thing.  It is all about promoting their leaders.  It is all about making people think just what an amazing teacher and man of God that leader is.  Sadly, you never really get to see who that leader is.  Their pictures are staged and carefully selected to portray a certain image of the leader.  This does not even include the majority of pictures after their stylists and makeup artists are done with them.  You never get to see the real man, you only get to see the marketed persona.  It is the absolute epitome of a cult of personality. 

What all this does is takes eyes off of Jesus and onto those leaders.  It ceases to become about what the Lord says through His word, but what the teachers say about the Lord only using bits and pieces of the Word usually way out of context.  When no word can be found, they resort to prophesy because all of them are prophets and/or apostles.  When you talk to their followers, you never hear about what the Bible says, you only hear what Creflo Dollar, Joseph Prince, Joel Osteen, or Benny Hinn said.  They have fallen under the spell of a cleverly marketed charismatic leader.  Instead focusing more of Jesus, they see Jesus through the eyes of the teacher and only through the eyes of the teacher.  It is no longer about the Lord, but it is about what that leader says about the Lord. 

So why does this happen?  How do people, even Christians, become zombies following a dead theology?  The answer is simple.  These preachers preach what people want to hear.  Ones like Creflo Dollar plays on the desire for wealth and prosperity.  Joel Osteen plays on the desire to not worry about this things like accountability and sin.  Benny Hinn tells you that you can have perfect health and even promotes the many false healings at his events.  Teachers like Joseph Prince play on all of them.  They stoke the desires of our flesh leading their victims to believe that they can have all of those things.  They teach a "You can have it all right now" Christianity and the only time you your life you have to be sacrificial is when you give sacrificially to their ministries.  Apparently, the only thing God cares about in terms of giving wealth and prosperity is how much money you send them "in faith." 

The solution to not being sucked into their lies is simple.  Read you Bible.  Read your Bible and test against Scripture all things that they say.  Do not let them get away with just telling you what it says, but read it yourself.  More than that, read its context and compare it to other Scripture.  Do not let your flesh cheat your spirit by seeking after those desires of the flesh that they promote.  And, finally, submit to God in all things.  These teachers always teach (and very subtly so) that God is under our authority.  We are taught to come to God with a sense of entitlement to claim (another word for demand) our prosperity and health.  We are told to cast off the conviction of the Holy Spirit as the work of the devil (I fear for them when they have to stand before God and explain that one).  Do not be the Pharisee who stands feeling entitled of God, but be like the tax collector who knew how unworthy he was.  Joy does not come from trying to make God obedient to you, but by submitting your will to God. 

In the end, if I can borrow a phrase from a friend of mine, it is all about Him.  It has to be all about Him.  It can not be about a teacher or ministry.  It can not be about clever twists of Scripture to cater to your own desires.  It must be about Him and our submission to Him.  Any teacher or ministry should ultimately point you to Jesus.  Do you let yourself be persuaded by these apostate teachers.  Do not forsake the Lord for a caricature of a man you do not even really know.  Do not ask yourself what Benny Hinn says or what Joseph Princes tells you, but seek what the Lord is speaking to you.  Do not seek Creflo Dollar or Joel Osteen to teach you about the good life on earth, but seek after God to learn about the amazing life to come. 
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, [because] they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn [their] ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  2 Timothy 4:3-4 NKJV

Monday, July 25, 2011

For Those Who Would Rather Party in Hell

First of all, I am sorry that there was no Saturday post.  I was busy from when I woke up until when I went to sleep and quite honestly just did not have even a few minutes to sit down and write something.  Today's post is along the lines of what I was thinking about writing this weekend.  A few days ago, I heard the news that Amy Winehouse was dead.  I am not an Amy Winehouse fan, nor am I surprised at her early demise.  She is but one of many who died way before their time after destroying their own bodies through hard living.  I have seen too many lives destroyed by such living.  I wonder, as they stand before God and face their eternity, if they think it was all worth it.  They learn the true meaning of the following passage.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.  Galatians 6:7-8 NKJV
This is truth that can not be denied.  If you sow to the flesh, you will reap corruption.  What that means here is destruction.  This destruction is not just a spiritual destruction, but also a physical one.  We want to live the party lifestyle, but we do not take the time to understand the ramifications.  There is no part of this current life or eternal life to come that can not be affected through hard living.  This is even true for Christians.  

When I heard of Amy Winehouse this weekend, I thought of all those others who are now dead after their party lifestyles.  We have those who are now dead from drug overdoses.  We have sports stars who ruined their careers due to drugs and alcohol.  We have those who try to clean themselves but live in the perpetual struggle of addiction and generally relapse time and time again.  We have those may have survived their partying but whose bodies are ugly and destroyed from years of hard use. 

Moving past all those stories everyone has heard of, I know many others not-so-known.  I know a successful restaurant owner who get addicted to drugs and ended up selling his life off piece by piece to satisfy his addictions.  The last time I saw him, he a prisoner in his own empty for-sale house because he sold his car and his furniture and all he had left was the home that was on the market.  Everything he had went to satisfy his habit.  I know of a young girl who was infected with AIDS before she was even 21 due to a loose lifestyle inspired by drugs.  I know of a young man who was in his early 20's and in the prime of his life.  One Friday night, he overdosed on drugs.  I was his manager at the time, and I never want to have to hear a grieving mother calling her son out "dead" again.  I used to do prison ministry and there I met those who are spending their entire lives in prison because they committed murder while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  That is the reality of the party lifestyle.

Maybe you are thinking you will never get that far.  Maybe you are thinking that those things will never happen to you or your children.  But there are other ramifications that are much more common than those.  How many have had their judgement impaired by drugs and alcohol (for many even on the first try) where the compromised or even lost their purity?  How man have endangered themselves?  You hears news reports all the time of drunk or drinking girls who end up missing, raped, or dead.  Remember Natalie Holloway?  She was out drinking and went alone with someone she barely knew and no one has heard from her again.  There is currently that missing girl in Indiana who after a night of wild partying (the accounts were that she was falling down drunk), vanished into thin air.  Who knows if she is even alive or dead.  I am not saying those girls deserved what happened to them or that the perpetrator is any less culpable, but the fact is that they made themselves a target by wild partying.  We also hear of drunk driving accidents all the time and even if you do not get into an accident, there is a good chance you will get caught and arrested. 

No young child dreams of growing up into a strung out junkie, a teen mom, or dead from drugs at a young age.  Please do not think that your child is above any of this from happening to him or her.  I thought of this over the weekend watching our VBS kids sing praises to the Lord.  I thought of it and thought that all those we hear about from Amy Winehouse to any other person I wrote about today and I realized that each and every one of them was once an innocent child.  Maybe they had broken homes (but that is not by any means universally true) and maybe they had some issues when they were children, but they were at one time just like any of the other young children I saw this weekend. They dreamed of growing up and being great things.  They may have gone to church and learned something about Jesus.  They played with children's toys and did children things.  They had no thoughts in their mind of losing their virginity at 12 and having their first child by 13 by some older guy who got them drunk and took advantage of them.  They did not dream of being in their twenties and dying of a drug overdose.  They did not dream of their bodies sick and destroyed through years of drug use. They did not think of killing another person in drunken rage.  They did not think they would give up everything they had to satisfy an insatiable addiction.  They did not think  they would be kidnapped, raped, and killed after getting drunk or high with some friends.  Their parents never imagined those things for them either.  Those are things we hear about on the news and do not happen in real life, right?  Those are things that happen in "bad" families, right?  Sadly, that is wrong.  Sadly and tragically, they can happen to any family. While it may not have been drug or alcohol related, I know of several babies that were conceived at church youth group events. 

So what is the point of this rather morbid post?  Simply. that parents and adults must be careful in the behavior we model for our children.  Do we drink or get drunk in front of our children? If so, please know you are glorifying that kind of life and leaving an impression on that child that can lead to disaster.  Are you watching movies or television or listening to music in front of children?  If so, you are again exposing them to influences that glorify that kind of lifestyle.  Drugs and drunkenness must be exposed for the vile wretched things that they are.  Children will receive enough influence from the world telling them that these things are fun, let us not contribute to it but rather expose it for the horror that it is.  Furthermore, if you see your child starting to head in that direction, the response is not to put your head in the sand and pretend it is not true.  It also does not help to go around telling everyone what a good child you have if it is not true.  Pretending will not make it better.  Pretending will only allow things to get worse.  I know of one teen who grew up in a Christian family, but got himself into drugs.  While his family pretended all was fine with him and the world, he got himself into trouble with the wrong person and now has permanent brain damage.  Do not ever let pride get in the way of availing yourself of the prayers and help of all your brothers and sisters in the world if your child goes prodigal.  Prodigal children do not always come from bad parents, but prodigal children can make bad parents if those parents choose to ignore their downward spiral.

And for those who may be tempted to partake in the party lifestyle, let this be a warning.  What seems like fun is actually slavery.  An addict does not get high on drugs, but alleviates the pain of not having the drug by taking more and more.  You will become a slave to that thing you think looks "fun."  It will destroy your body and your life and you may even end up dead.  It will never lead to the good life.  It will never lead to happiness or contentment, but only to a miserable kind of slavery as your entire life becomes about satisfying something that can never be satisfied.  Sowing to the flesh with drugs and alcohol leads to destruction, in this life and next, and even for the Christian.  First for the Christian, you can become just as addicted and enslaved as an unbeliever.  Never think you are above being enslaved in that way.  The Bible is clear that you are a slave to whom you present your members to.  If you present your members to drugs, you will become their slave.  In terms of eternity, you will have destroyed your witness and have no fruit when you stand before God.  You may be saved, but that salvation will come with loss.  You will have Heaven with no rewards and let me tell you that no "high" on earth can compare to the rewards awaiting for you even on top of your salvation.  It will not be worth it.  As for those who reject God in order to live your party lifestyle, for you I am the most concerned about.  If you end up dead at 27, never knowing the Lord, and realizing your eternal judgement, can you say it was worth it?  Is any high or any party so good that it is worth your eternal soul?  If any so-called joy from drugs worth eternal suffering with no hope of it ever ending?  Maybe you think you will settle down someday, but you do not even know if you have a someday.  Did Natalie Holloway know she would be most-likely dead right after graduating high school?  Did that actor from that show whose name I will not mention know he would die in a fiery wreck at a young age while driving drunk?  Did Amy Winehouse know she would be dead at 27?  You need to get serious with God today, because you may be standing before Him tomorrow, and the most sober moment of your existence will be the realization that Jesus was real and you rejected Him. 
'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, [and] be merry." ' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'  Luke 12:19-20 NKJV