Friday, October 15, 2010
There is no such thing as organized religion. The Biblical definition of religion is found in the simple phrase "visit the widows and orphans in their time of need..."- James 1: 27 Why this phrase ignores this may explain much about the person using it and the intent to discredit the authority of Churches in their lives than it serves as an indictment of churches. The use also implies that some organization has done something to the person or at a minimum left a bad taste in their mouth.
Since we know that the phrase is NOT an accurate description of biblical churches, we must look at the lack of understanding that many have concerning the role of churches and the people that are actually a church.
People make up the church. It is people who either do the will of God or go against the will of God. Sometimes those people do go against the Word of God and the Will of God as an organized body. But it still comes down to people.
What is needed now more than ever is for people who claim Jesus as Lord of their life to actually lived surrendered to His Will. The following questions may assist us in living out the greatest need of our day:
1. What would Jesus do?
2. Is my life clean before the Lord?
3. Do I base right and wrong on my opinions and preferences or ...?
4. Do I base right and wrong solely on the Word of God?
5. Do my actions cause people to stumble?
6. Is Christ being lived out in all I think, say and do?
7. Am I being honest with God?
The above will help all of us to put an end to the confusion of those who do not understand and lead us to reach the lost in our world! Can we try it together?
More thoughts later!
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Written by Dr. Akin
I readily confess to a personal bias when it comes to the issue of alcohol. My wife Charlotte grew up in the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home because her parents were alcoholics. Her father died a lost alcoholic. Her mother, by God’s grace, was saved on her death bed. Her body had been ravaged by the twin killers of alcohol and tobacco. Today her sister and brother are lost alcoholics as is most of the rest of her family. My sister Joy and her husband Kevin King adopted a daughter born with fetal alcohol syndrome. She began life with two strikes against her through no fault of her own.
Today there are more than 40 million problem drinkers in America. Alcohol is the number one drug problem among teenagers. One in three American families suspects that one or more family members have a drinking problem. Misuse of alcohol costs our nation $100 billion a year in quantifiable cost. Because of these experiences and many more, I have often said that even if I were not a Christian I would have nothing to do with alcohol. There is simply too much sorrow and heartache connected to it. Avoiding this devastating drug is simply the wise thing to do.
This year at our Convention we again passed a resolution calling for abstinence from alcohol. The resolution passed overwhelmingly, but it did generate significant debate both during and after the Convention. Some have accused those supporting the resolution of being pharisaical and legalistic, traditionalist and anti-biblical. It is said that we fail to understand Christian liberty and freedom, and that we even stand against Jesus. These are strong accusations from fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. However, are they correct? Are those like myself who believe abstinence to be the best lifestyle choice really guilty of these charges? Let me respond as graciously and kindly as I possibly can, explaining why I hold the position I do. I share my heart with no malice or ill will toward anyone, but from a desire to honor the Lord Jesus, and to protect others from the evils alcohol has visited on so many.
We should remember from a Baptist perspective that there are historical precedents for affirming abstinence. In 1886 Southern Baptists issued their first resolution on alcohol. Since then there have been almost 60 resolutions that in a united voice have addressed the risk of alcohol and the wisdom of abstinence. For 120 years Southern Baptists have made clear their stand on this issue. Individual Baptists no doubt continue to take a drink as they had before 1886, but the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole has been crystal clear on where it stands for a long time. I am confident that our forefathers understood the issue of Christian liberty as they passed these resolutions. I am grateful for this tradition. I believe we should continue it.
There are moral reasons for affirming abstinence. John Piper teaches the wisdom of abstinence because alcohol can be a mind-altering drug, and it can be addictive. It does not help one in doing the will of God and can genuinely be a hindrance. Further, he notes “the carnage of alcohol abuse” and therefore chooses to boycott such a product. He then adds, “is it really so prudish, or narrow to renounce a highway killer, a home destroyer, and a business wrecker.” Some questions are in order and deserve an answer. Does alcohol make me a better person? Does alcohol draw me closer to God? Does alcohol help me run the race faithfully to the end (Heb. 12:1-2)?
Some respond by saying the issue is not abstinence but moderation. They draw an analogy to both eating and sex. There is however a significant difference. We must eat to live. We must engage in sex to procreate. Alcohol is not a necessity for life or good living.
I am in total agreement with my spiritual hero Adrian Rogers who said, “Moderation is not the cure for the liquor problem. Moderation is the cause of the liquor problem. Becoming an alcoholic does not begin with the last drink, it always begins with the first. Just leave it alone.” My friend James Merritt wisely says, “It is impossible to be bitten by a snake that you never play with.” Alcoholism cannot strike unless it is given the opportunity. That potential becomes real with the first drink that one takes.
There are biblical reasons for practicing abstinence. Let me quickly note several. 1) It is consistent with the principle of edification (1 Cor. 6:12). Alcohol does not build you up or make you better for Jesus. Avoiding it ensures you will not harm yourself with it. 2) It is consistent with the principle of refusing that which enslaves (1 Cor. 6:12). Alcohol is a drug that can impair the senses and has a potential addictive element. Like addictive pornography, it should be avoided at all cost. 3) It is consistent with the ethic of love for believers and unbelievers alike (1 Cor. 8:13; 9:19-22; 10:32-33).
Because I am an example to others, I will make certain no one ever walks the road of sorrow called alcoholism because they saw me take a drink and assumed, “if it is alright for Danny Akin, it is alright for me.” No, I will choose to set an uncompromising example of abstinence because I love them. 4) I will seek my joy and filling in the Spirit not in alcohol. I love the Phillips translation of Ephesians 5:18 which reads, “Don’t get your stimulus from wine (for there is always the danger of excessive drinking), but let the Spirit stimulate your souls.” Psalm 4:7-8 adds, “You [O Lord] have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” 5) It is true Jesus drank wine, and I am sure I would have had I lived in the first century. However, there is no evidence that he ever partook of “strong drink.”
As Bob Stein has carefully documented, “The term “wine” or oinos in the ancient world, then, did not mean wine as we understand it today but wine mixed with water… To consume the amount of alcohol that is in two martinis by drinking wine containing three parts water to one part wine [a fairly common ancient ratio], one would have to drink over twenty-two glasses. In other words, it is possible to become intoxicated from wine mixed with three parts water, but one’s drinking would probably affect the bladder long before it affected the mind.” It should also be noted that children would have drank this diluted mixture of water and wine. It seems clear that there is no one-to-one correspondence with first century wine and twenty first century distilled liquor. Concerning the latter I believe the Lord Jesus would have no part.
Let me conclude with some practical considerations. Should those who practice abstinence look down on those who do not? The answer is an unqualified no. That is pride and therefore is sin. It is true that alcohol has contributed to many going to hell, but pride, no doubt, has done so in even greater numbers. A smug, prideful abstainer without Jesus is just as lost as the poor drunkard who is always in search of another drink. Those who believe in abstinence should be gracious and humble, kind and caring, loving and patient.
As a pastor or church leader, would I demand abstinence for church membership? No, I would not. Would I demand it for leadership? Absolutely! The principle of Proverbs 31:4-5 is appropriately applied here, “It is not for Kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.”
I agree with John MacArthur. Can I say it is always a sin to take a drink? No. Can I say it is almost always unwise? Yes, because it violates the biblical principles of wisdom and witness. One of America’s leading pastors is Andy Stanley. He wrote a book entitled The Best Question Ever. That question is this, “What is the wise thing for me to do?” I challenge anyone to show me the superior wisdom of drinking “in moderation,” as opposed to not drinking at all. This is not legalism but love. This is not being anti-biblical but pro-brother and sister. This is not working for evil but for good. Given the world in which we live I believe such a lifestyle honors the Lord Jesus. I believe it pleases Him. Without question it is the wise thing to do.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
The story of Nehemiah is awesome. How God used this little man to do God size things is so encouraging. This current series has brought home how easy it is for God to work and how purely apathetic we American Christians have become. When I think of the task Nehemiah accomplished and then look at what little we do today - it is pathetic for us. And yet Nehemiah had challenges.
The past two weeks we have been hanging out in chapter 4. What a chapter it is. It dawned on me tonight as I prepare to close out chapter 4 and move in to chapter 5 next weekend that Nehemiah faced discourage rs like so many of us do every day. It also hit me that the leaders of the discourage rs were the "religious" leaders. How ironic.
I think it is time for us today to call out the people of our day who discourage and wreak havoc on the work of God. I understand that things in life and ministry need the critique of others - it can be helpful if done correctly. But what is NEVER helpful is when people attack and attack some more just to take cheap shots at some person or group. And there is much of this taking place today.
Our families are plagued with the sin of discord. Our churches are becoming crippled by discord. Conventions and Denominations have more than their fare share. Discord is growing without an end in sight. Just read the blogs! I wonder when if ever on earth, we will finally realize that this type of petty human focused griping NEVER accomplishes anything spiritual at all. It spreads the sin of discord more rapid than a forest fire and it exalts self more than it exalts the one true God.
So here is my challenge: Call out the sowers of discord in your life. Label them and stay away from them. Spend your time encouraging and exhorting those who God places in your life's path. Build up the people you encounter each day in person and electronically.
Proverbs 6 reminds us that God hates the sowers of discord among the brethren. In fact, he calls those people an ABOMINATION! I do not want to end up in that group!
Monday, October 4, 2010
According to emails and phone calls just this weekend and today, the average increase in medical premiums is between 31 to 40% per month. Yes you read that correctly. Mine was over 35% and no options appear as of yet to assist this increase. Either way I go, I will be taking a major pay cut this year.
In a conversation with one insurance man today, it was clear that what was sold to America was totally wrong. Premiums are up to stay and then taxes will be up after that. The options for my family are few and far between.
In the coming days I will be exploring alternatives and sharing some of the information if I can find any worth sharing. The real question is simple - what will churches do when they see the increase that hits January 1 for their staff?
This ain't gonna be pretty!