Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Is 21 a Random Number, God? Drinking Series: Part 2

Because of my job, I am constantly praying for teenagers. One of my biggest prayers is that they would live in a trusting relationship with Jesus Christ. My prayer is that they would believe that God has a perfect and life-giving plan for their life. I believe when we settle for anything less than God’s best for our life, we are missing out. I don’t want them to miss out on God’s best for their life. I am constantly trying to drive home the truth that I will not judge them for the decisions they’ve made, nothing they’ve done can disappoint me, nothing they’ve done will surprise me, but if there is an area or areas in their life where they are selling themselves short of God’s best for their life I can encourage them to look to Jesus. I can pray for them to not settle, but to save themselves for only God’s best. God’s best is laid out for us in His word. Here is one particular text that speaks to an area of getting after God’s best for us. And one way he does this is through people in our life – namely – authority.

Romans 13:1-5 (NLT)
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.

The past couple of weeks HUB has been focusing on drinking. Two weeks ago, Angie Ammon shared her heart with us. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Molly and how she died from drinking too much. My prayer along with Angie’s is that lives would be saved because of Molly’s story. Last week we looked at Ephesians 5, a passage that told us we can’t be filled with Christ when we are filled with alcohol. You can’t have both – you can’t live for God when you are living for yourself and consumed by drinking and partying. So this past Sunday night we looked at a passage about authority. How authority comes from God. We learn that the authorities are God’s servants, sent for our good. It all goes back to God’s best for our lives. There is a reason why the drinking age is 21.

Why 21? Is it just a random number the government decided? Through my research, I thought it was cool to see that this law was just another way of God protecting us and of God desiring what is best for us. The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 made the legal drinking age 21 in the United States. Before this was passed, researchers discovered that the human brain continues to grow and develop until the age of 21. Alcohol, therefore, has a more dangerous affect on these developing adolescent brains than it does on adults 21 and older. You see, it isn't some random law. It is all apart of God's good plan for our life. (Want to read more? Here's a website with easy take-away points http://www.legalflip.com/Article.aspx?id=20)

CBS did a report on this, too. Check out the difference in brain activity between a 15 year old non-drinker and a 15 year old heavy drinker. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-1778434.html

Here’s the thing with submitting to God. It’s an act of trust and a leap of faith as we let go of our way and grab ahold of his way.
Our lives are a reflection of our response to God. We are either choosing to love him and follow him or we are choosing to love ourselves. God has put in place people of authority to help guide us. People in the government, our parents, our teachers, our pastors…all of them are there to help us. The authorities are God’s servants – sent for your good. When we rebel against those in authority, we are ultimately rebelling against God.
It’s a heart thing. At the core of who we are (our sinful nature) we have a heart of rebellion. But Christ was sent to overcome our rebellion. So we can choose to rebel against God and live a life that is consumed with me. Or we can submit our lives to God. The thing that is incredible about God is that he doesn’t force us into submission. The choice is left up to us. That’s how much he loves us – he doesn’t force our hand – but allows us to decide for ourselves which of the two paths we want to take in his gift of free will. So we can either choose the road that leads to life with our Savior, life in a trusting relationship with the one who knows us best - or we can choose the road that leads to life away from God, doing things our own way, and living through the consequences of life separated from our loving God.
The choice is up to you. But I can promise you, living life loved by our Savior is the ultimate life path.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What's the Big Deal with Drinking? Drinking Series: Part 1

Last week, Angie Ammon courageously shared her heart with a room full of 300 people at First Pres as she told the story of her daughter Molly who died from alcohol poisoning. Working with teenagers, the topic of alcohol is always on my mind. I am constantly having conversations with high schoolers about drinking - either they are personally struggling with it or they are struggling with watching their friends do it. I am especially thinking of it, though, in the weeks following Angie's talk and with Gasparilla coming up this Saturday. 

Ephesians 5:15-20 (NLT)
So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In conversations with my high school and college friends, the main questions I hear from those who drink before they're 21 are - Why is it bad? What's the big deal with drinking? Why does it really matter?  

Note how this passage in Ephesians isn’t just a list of dos and don'ts...Do say yes maam and no maam to your Mom, don’t cheat on exams, do be nice to your little brother, don’t get drunk....

No, it’s a word on how to live our lives the best way possible. Don’t be a fool, live intentionally, live with purpose. If you want to do this – if you want to make the most of every breath and every day God has given you - it won't happen if you are filled with alcohol. This will steal life away from you, and ruin this life God has offered you.

So often, people think God is just trying to take away the fun. But that is a false understanding of who God is. At the core of God’s character, he is good, loving, and faithful. Everything he has to say about our lives comes from this foundation of his good, loving, and faithful character. Also, if we are drunk and filled with alcohol, how can we be filled with the Spirit? If our mind is taken over by alcohol, how can we live for him?  I can tell you from personal experience, that filling my life with anything but Christ’s love for me leaves me empty and unsatisfied. It leaves me feeling anxious and agitated. Only when my life is filled with Christ’s love do I feel confident, secure, and alive. But I can tell you that about myself all I want…what will make a difference is if you can acknowledge what is truly going on inside of you. Take anything that you fill your life with other than Christ and put it to the test of these three questions:
Does it fix your problems? Does it love you back? And does it last?

I don’t think it is a coincidence that people see a contradiction in those who call themselves strong Christians and yet they get drunk every weekend. I also don’t think it is a coincidence that people begin to drift away from things like church, bible study, etc. when they are in the midst of that lifestyle. I've heard many express how distant they feel from God when their life is consumed with drinking. And why? Because your life can’t be filled with the things that God opposes and be close relationally with God. I truly believe the only people who will be able to stay away from drinking before they’re 21 are the ones who are focused on living for Christ. Those with a heart after God and a desire to share the life-giving truth of Jesus Christ with others are so consumed with their purpose, they don't have time to let anything drag them down.

So, I don’t want you to think to yourself OK, I’m NOT going to drink. Saying that is like saying you’re going to give up sweets entirely: how long will it last? Instead, I hope you will decide to pursue Christ. Truly pursue him. Spend time in conversation with him, spend time in his word, spend time with others growing together and talking through life. A commitment like that will transform your life to where your eyes are so fixed on him, that the temptation to do things that he opposes will no longer be a temptation. You’ll see how that doesn’t fit into your life filled with purpose and intentionality. Soon his desires and your desires start to become one – and that my friends – is how life was intended to be.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Parent/Student Night at HUB with Angie Ammon: A Parent's Testimony About Alcohol

I want to invite you all to a very special evening with HUB on Sunday, January 13th from 5:30-6:30pm. Angie Ammon will be speaking to teenagers and parents about the dangers of teenage drinking. Angie and the Ammon family suffered the loss of their daughter Molly during her freshman year at the University of Florida from complications connected with alcohol. Angie wants to share her story and her heart with all of us. I have already had Angie speak to my senior girls bible study, and God used it in such an incredible way that we have asked her to come and speak to all of HUB. This evening is for middle schoolers, high schoolers, and parents. I can promise that Angie's precious heart and heartbreaking testimony will have a huge impact on both parents and teenagers.
I am looking forward to seeing how God will continue to use Angie and Molly's story to transform our lives.

Our evening will take place in the sanctuary at First Presbyterian Church (412 E. Zack St. in downtown) on Sunday, Jan. 13th from 5:30-6:30pm.

Here is a link to watch Angie speak on the Today show last spring.