The world seems terribly conflicted. Politics amuck, racial stress, rumors of global warming, threats of war, refugee camps, ethnic cleansing, opioid addiction, children starving… Is this the best that planet earth can expect under the stewardship of mankind? Probably. On second thought, make that a firm “Yes!” Reform theologians assert that mankind is mired in a condition of total depravity. Is this assertion true? In the words of a well-known idiom: “The proof is in the pudding.” That is to say that the corporate behavior of mankind is full of missteps, ineptitude, illusions of grandeur, cruelty, stupidity, self-destruction, ignorance, violence and short-sightedness. The prophet Jeremiah lamented, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
I would like to think of myself as a problem-solver rather than someone who complains about it all and does nothing. Although I was raised in the church, I have lived in a secular culture my entire life and too often find myself thinking as a secularist. I earnestly believe that politics must be the answer. Just get the right people in charge, passing the right laws, enforcing the rule of law; and surely all the ills of society will be fixed. (Only in the dreams of an ideologue or alternative universe) Maybe education holds the key to what ails us. We will tame the wild beast of humanity by flooding children’s minds with information. Surely knowing the year, the War of 1812 was fought will help squash the desire for war and conflict. (Please forgive my sarcasm) If peace was the preferred state of being, PlayStation and Xbox would have a different list of top-selling games, and Marvel would remain confined to comic books.
If my hope of a better world was invested in mankind’s ability to problem solve, I would throw in the towel. The solution to the problems that plague the world (most of which are self-inflected wounds) will never be solved by “us.” We are, without a doubt, too depraved, too ignorant, and too power-hungry to figure it out. We are a runaway train headed for a spectacular crash…and yet there is hope.
Two thousand years ago there was a group of shepherds who experienced an angelic visitation. The angel brought news concerning the birth of the Christ child. “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” …and there it is…the hope I have been searching for. Hope for tomorrow. Hope for all people. Hope for a planet shrouded in darkness.
“Merry Christmas” is a common greeting at this time of year; and the birth of Christ is cause for real merriment. The baby child grew up and fulfilled the ancient prophesies of the prophet Isaiah and became our Savior. He is the solid rock, the shelter, the shield, the strong tower. He is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the Good Shepherd, the Ever-lasting Father, the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is the hope of glory, our hope in times of stress, and the hope of the world. He is our friend, our brother, our high priest, our advocate, our salvation, our solution. So, “Merry Christmas!” That sounds so good, I’m inclined to say it again, “Merry Christmas!!”
by RJ Dugone
(Disclosure: I do not equate my opinion to truth. The following is an opinion based on my observations. I commonly associate with people who drink alcohol. I have close relationships with people who struggle with alcohol abuse; and I love and pray for them. This is also not an attempt to recreate a standard of legalism from the past, it is simply to call on Christians to be more careful and circumspect with regard to alcohol use. As in all things may we learn to be as “smart as serpents and as harmless as doves.”)
If I ever say or write anything about the issue of Christians drinking alcohol, I know that I am treading on dangerous territory. (This is almost as bad as talking politics) Alcohol use has moved from a place of Prohibition to prominence in the American Culture. As in almost all things, the Church has followed the lead of the culture. Alcohol is now the drug of choice both in the culture and in the church. Since the Bible doesn’t strictly prohibit the use of alcohol, you will probably never hear me preaching in the pulpit on the evils of alcohol consumption; on the other hand, I would rather that God’s people be filled with the Holy Spirit as opposed to wine. I grew up in a religious tradition that strongly opposed the use of alcohol. So much so that to be a member you had to pledge that you would abstain from its use. Over the years, as this denomination as become more secularized, the use of alcohol has become the norm, even among the clergy.
Is there any danger associated with using alcohol—even in moderation? The answer is “yes.” Before you become defensive, please know that this is the official opinion of many medical associations, rehabilitation organizations and psychologists. It comes down to this: Some people will be able to use alcohol in moderation with no negative effects; while there will be others that are inclined to become alcoholics.
Alcoholics don’t wear signs that identify them as such; but, in every church that I have ever been associated with, there have always been people in the congregation who struggle with an addiction to alcohol. It is a growing problem within the church community. If you personally have the freedom to drink alcohol in moderation, you need to be very circumspect in that freedom. Quite often the feeling of shame will cause an alcoholic to hide their problem, so we should not simply assume that “all” the people around us are unaffected if we drink alcohol in their presence. The feeling of shame may also keep an alcoholic from sharing their addiction with someone who can seemingly drink alcohol with no apparent problem.
Time for some truth: Alcohol is a depressant. According to WebMD, “Any amount you drink can make you more likely to get the blues. When you drink too much, you’re more likely to make bad decisions or act on impulse. As a result, you could drain your bank account, lose a job, or ruin a relationship. When that happens, you’re more likely to feel down, particularly if your genes are wired for depression.”
I made a decision long ago—I don’t drink alcohol. There are several reasons, but at the top of my list: I don’t want anything in my behavior to contribute to the addiction of another person. Secondly, I think that I might be vulnerable to such an easy addiction, and I’m taking no chances. My wife’s family was destroyed by an alcoholic father. My great uncle (Paul Donahue) was a rich inventor and his life was destroyed by alcohol. A good friend of mine (19 years old) was killed by a drunk driver who was a repeat offender. Another friend of mine lost his football scholarship when he seriously injured his knee in a one-car accident under the influence of alcohol. (In my time of ministry alcohol abuse has been associated with arrests, disorderly conduct, accidents, suicide and a host of dysfunction) I could go on and on… Maybe alcohol use enhances life for some, but for others…
Freedom always has consequences. As a Believer in Christ, I am free! However, there is a caveat. Not everything is “beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NIV) 12 "Everything is permissible for me"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"--but I will not be mastered by anything. It is my hope that my words are not offensive, but food for thought.
Final Words: If you don’t drink—don’t start. If you drink alcohol—be circumspect. If you have an addiction to alcohol—get help. Let me know, I’ll be your friend, which means, I will not judge you, but I will pray for you and be available to talk you through those times when addiction is putting pressure on you. Blessings, RJ
For further reading: https://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/298190-can-christian-drink-alcohol.html
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