Christians and Alcohol

This is one of those “hot topic” moments where I’m going to address something that you might not like or agree with. You may have very strong feelings regarding alcohol and your feelings are totally valid! (Seriously!) I am, however, going to ask that you read this with an open mind and use respectful language when replying in the comments – or emailing me privately. Thanks! 

From time to time, I’ll see a friend or Christian news site post something negative on the topic of Christianity and alcohol consumption. While I completely understand why so many claim that to be a “good” Christian you must remain sober all the time, I just don’t agree. Alcohol and Christianity can and do mix, in my opinion. In fact, I believe you can be a very lousy Christian and still be sober. Alcohol has little to do with it. I believe that what so many are focused on are heart issues.

There are many people who use alcohol as a means to control behaviors or situations, whether it be their own or someone else’s. Alcohol can be used as an escape from reality or as a celebratory beverage. It can be consumed in moderation or excess and it can be consumed in a Holy way or a sinful manner. Many would concur that a sip of wine during communion is perfectly acceptable for most folks. Is that sinful? I don’t believe it is. What about a hardworking Christian coming home  from work and having a beer while preparing dinner for their family? Is that sinful? It could be, but it depends on the intent.

There are people – like my husband and I – that enjoy a beer every few months. We usually will crack open a Corona while making tacos. I’ll take a few sips, crack a silly joke and then hand off the beer to my husband to finish because I’m a light weight. We’ll crack open another beer in about a month in a similar fashion, usually while making tacos or chili. Our kids may or may not be paying attention to what we’re drinking. If they ask, we’ll tell them honestly that it’s beer. Beer is an adult drink and we enjoy it occasionally because to us, it tastes good. We’ll go on to explain that it’s not good to drink too much because it’s not God honoring to get drunk, but it is okay to drink a little beer sometimes. If our kids question further, we’ll answer honestly, but they usually don’t. Someday we’ll have a full, open and honest discussion about the effects of alcohol, however, right now they’re not even ten years old yet and show such little interest in it. If they had shown interest, we’d have had the full talk.

Anthony and I drink very responsibly, don’t drive afterwards and don’t rely on alcohol to “make us feel better” or to fix anything in our lives. It’s more of a festive, celebratory deal for us. We have maybe five or six beers total a year. And maybe one or two bottles of wine. Part of this is due to cost, but mostly it’s because we don’t crave it, don’t feel it’s an important part of everyday life and understand that it can be over consumed, leading to a serious breakdown of self and family. We know we’re responsible for taking care of our greatest blessings – our kids, and we don’t want to do anything or drink anything that will inhibit us from fulfilling our roles as parents. Consequently, I don’t drink during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, so in the last year, we’ve had maybe one beer total and no wine or other forms of alcohol. (If you are breastfeeding, please know that alcohol remains in your system for up to four hours after consuming it, so you’ll need to pump and dump your milk and use alcohol-free pre-pumped milk to feed your baby during that time.)

Children are susceptible to outside influences, of course. They can be tempted to try alcohol at a friends’ house or even by media such as television, movies, books, magazines and even social media. This is why Anthony and I feel it’s important to have an open dialogue with our kids, on their level. Since we rarely have alcohol in the house, we use other outlets to introduce the topic to our children, such as passing a bar or restaurant that is known to serve alcohol. One day our eldest daughter wanted to go into a bar because she saw that they were having a pool tournament and it looked like fun to her. We explained that she could not go in and that we weren’t likely to either. This prompted the usual “why” response from her and we launched into a mutual, informative discussion on why not. This particular bar didn’t serve food and Anthony and I don’t see a point in entering an establishment that only serves alcohol, especially since we never finish even one drink ourselves. We don’t enjoy the physical effects of drinking too much alcohol and we certainly have no desire to hang out in a place where everyone else is enjoying an activity that we don’t. We’d prefer to spend our time doing things with people we love – like our kids. This satisfied her curiosity for now. I’m sure she or one of her siblings will ask again and we’ll answer truthfully, in much the same way.

 

I’m curious to hear what God’s said to you all regarding alcohol. And if you’re not “religious” what do you feel is acceptable for Christians? There are no wrong or stupid answers!

 

The Root of Sin {My A-ha! Moment}

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about coming into a closer relationship with Christ. For years I’ve desired a closer relationship with Him, but haven’t really been willing to put in the work. You see, I really, really enjoy living in comfort. Pain isn’t all that enjoyable for me (who is it enjoyable for, really?) and I’ve worked hard to avoid it at all costs. This has included isolating myself from outsiders, hiding away in a closed room when I’ve sinned, refraining from prayer (what if God actually knew what I was thinking?) and running away from Christians whom I perceive as better than myself. (Afterall, I don’t need more reasons to feel bad about myself. I already know I’m a sinner!)

One of the biggest a-ha(!) moments I’ve had lately is that I sin because I don’t fully trust God. I want to do a lot of things on my own in order to earn my own salvation and please God. In his award-winning book Jesus Is, Judah Smith tackles this very subject. After relaying the story of the prodigal son, Smith reminds us that we’re often like children who want to earn our salvation, but we are never able to. Smith likens this attitude to a child who walks up to his father and says that he suddenly doesn’t deserve to be his son anymore. How asinine! The son has never been able to earn his place in the family. He did not choose his position in the family. The father did. Can you see the correlation between us trying to earn salvation and God having already chosen it for us? There is nothing we can do to earn it. God has already provided it for us. Why shouldn’t we trust Him and show our gratefulness to Him through obedience and trust? God has done nothing to harm us.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in the book of Romans, chapter 14, verse 23 that “Whatever is not from faith is sin.” (John Piper has an excellent sermon recorded on the website Desiring God on this very subject. I suggest you read it as soon as you’re able. It’s very compelling.) Paul is correct. When we’re not acting out of faith, we’re going to sin. When we trust ourselves to make “good” and “moral” decisions, we’re often caught in the throes of sin. Even the best of us make some pretty poor decisions sometimes. This grieves God, yet He’s not surprised by it.

Beth Moore has written a fabulous, life changing book entitled When Godly People Do Ungodly Things. In it, Moore discusses the spiritual battle behind our sin. I’ll admit I’m not yet finished with the book, as I’m reading it slowly and intentionally. I’m often so moved by her words that I find myself setting the book down and picking up my Bible to pair the passage with corresponding scripture. This has led to a deeper relationship with Christ and understanding of my own human nature. I’ve also come to understand the spiritual war behind sin and just how deceitful Satan is. God is so much more powerful, thankfully.

As I come to understand how Satan knocks us down and brings the seduction of sin to us, I find myself becoming more vigilant, more repentant, more eager to enter into deeper relationship with Christ. I want to trust Him more because I see, finally, how much more He has done for me than I could ever do for Him. I see the folly in trying to please a God that has given me everything I could ever and will ever need. He has already defeated Satan. He has already promised everlasting life. He has already promised victory over sin. I simply need to obey.

There is so little that I feel I can say on this subject because Christ has said and done it all. He came to earth as a little child to live among us and minister to us. He sacrificed His life for us. He conquered death for us. He rose to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I did none of these things. What more could I possibly say to persuade you or even myself to repent from sin and trust Christ with your life and your witness? He has done it. He has spoken. He was walked the walk to match the talk. I’m just working on it. Still.

Falsely Accused

These are just some quick thoughts and encouragement for anyone currently undergoing persecution due to false allegations brought against them. I know it can be tough Brothers and Sisters. I have been falsely accused of many things and each time God has brought me through the trial stronger and better equipped to stand tall the next time someone gets a bee up their bonnet about something. False accusations are never fun and it’s easy to become angry and outraged. The world tells us we should become so! But the Lord has other plans for us.

We cannot be concerned with what others think about us. When we do that, we become the worst versions of ourselves even though we’re attempting to please others.

If you have a problem with someone, take it up with God. I do this often in my own life, as there are many aspects of my own personality I know need God’s cleansing. Abrasive people in our lives are doing God’s work, even though it may not seem that way sometimes.

False testimony against your neighbor will not achieve the desired effect. Liars will be found out. When this happens to you, remember: you don’t need to defend yourself. There is One who has already promised to do that. Just ignore them and walk away.

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. + Romans 12:19 (NIV)

It can be hard to love our neighbor or even know how to in the face of persecution. This is why we must rely on Jesus and trust in Him to guide us. Sometimes we just need to ignore our neighbor and act as though they are not there. Sometimes we need to embrace our neighbor and love them with kindness and respect. Sometimes we need to move. But always, Brothers and Sisters, we need to follow Jesus and never allow others to dictate the strength of our faith.

Let’s pray.

Dear Jesus. Love us to do good. Love us to do no harm. Love us to love our neighbors even when they persecute and revile against us. Silence the lips of those who seek to silence us when we ask for Justice and Mercy. In Jesus’ Name we boldly pray. Amen.

Bullying From Both Sides {Homosexuality Debate}

It is possible to disagree with someone and still respect them. The “homosexuality is OK” camp is really deep into bullying anyone who disagrees with them, slinging names like “bigot” and “ignorant”. Conversely, the “homosexuality is a sin camp” tends to do the same.

Folks:  no one can hear you if you’re screaming and bullying. It defeats the purpose of the discussion. In the end, what does it really teach our kids anyway? That they no longer have to mind their manners and be respectful of others because their personal agenda is too important? How sad.

We can separate all sin from the individual person and love them anyway. My kids have told lies to me and I hate the lies, but I love my children. God feels the same about sin. We don’t need to bash each other for our beliefs.

If you’re placing your identity in your sexuality, think about this: have you ever told a lie? Well, then you’re a Liar. Do you want to go around with that label hanging over you your entire life? No? Then why would you walk around with the label of homosexual hanging over you? You don’t need to carry that sin on your shoulders.

Labeling ourselves by our sin is dangerous. Even Christ does not do that. He has taken our punishment and in turn He calls us Beloved. That is our identity. Turn from your sins and repent. There is One who is waiting to receive you.

Liars in the Church and Gossip from the Pulpit

Have you ever had a really negative experience in church? One that left a bad taste in your mouth and caused you to run away, never to look back? I have. Many times. In fact, as I’ve been doing research on this topic, I’m finding many resources that suggest as much as 74% of the population currently doesn’t find church a satisfying or necessary use of their time. That’s 3/4 of our population. What is happening, folks?

Speaking from personal experience, there have been several churches and at least 5 major denominations that I’ve closed the door on in the last ten years. I’ve simply not found the Pastor’s sermons to contain the Truth or shed Light on any darkness in the world. In fact, many times, the behaviors and preaching of the Pastor, elders and deacons have perpetuated it, leading me off the path that Jesus intended me to be on.

If we’re speaking the name of Jesus and the Word of God, we’re bringing Light into the world, as God intended us to do.

For more than 23 years, I attended what is now openly touted “liberal and accepting churches where all of God’s people are welcome.” Except that you’re not really welcome unless you’re willing and able to denounce any portion of the Word of God that causes any member of society to feel uncomfortable. What you’re left with is just a few vague ideas that Jesus is a nice man, in a group of other nice men who did nice things for many people as often as they were able to. And oh, by the way, the name “Jesus” is now expected to be interchangeable with Buddha, Allah, and any other god that someone might want to worship. We can’t allow anyone to feel left out, can we?

In many churches, calling anything other than murder and adultery a sin is a serious offense. You may be asked to leave the church entirely. I was asked to leave a church last year because I called homosexuality a sin during a Bible study. I’d explained that we are called to love sinners, but hate sin. This was a major no-no in their eyes. (I’m glad I left, and I wish I would have done so sooner. I’m in a great church now.)

In a few churches I’ve attended, it’s openly believed (and preached!) that there are “in fact” at least 18 genders, which “explains” the varying degrees of homosexuality. When I’ve asked for an explanation from the Bible in regards to this belief, no one has ever been to offer one. There is no explanation for this belief. It’s an outright lie.

I’ve heard it preached many times that all religions come from God, converging neatly “somewhere in the middle”, though it’s never been clearly explained where or how. The services in churches who preach this idea consist of a meshing of practices from Buddhism, Islam and Judaism. Christianity and preaching the Word of God is lost in this tangled mess of “one world religion.” The idea of  one world religion is preached often in liberal churches as a means to bring about unity and peace amongst the community, but turning from God’s Word can never bring true and lasting peace. Jesus made it clear that He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Light. All other gods are false.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Matthew 10:34 (NIV)

In other churches that I’ve attended, weekly sermons consist of openly discussing the trials and tribulations of local law enforcement, clergy from neighboring churches, and community members with whom the preacher is acquainted. You need not wonder whether or not the preacher is talking about someone you know. He or she will be glad to give names, and freely does during his/her sermons. You may be persuaded to stand against certain people or to take action against a particular political stance “in the name of God.” Don’t drink the Kool-Aid, Brothers and Sisters. You’re being deceived.

Brothers and sisters, this type of behavior is deplorable and it has got to stop! I’ve personally experienced this type of behavior from Pastors and Priests in more than ten different churches in three different states and have heard stories from more than a dozen people who have had similar experiences.  Many more testimonies are readily available online that corroborate what I’ve laid out here today. What I want to know is why are we still burdened with this inappropriate and offensive style of preaching? Can we even refer to it as preaching?

The first time I heard a sermon that shook me to repentance, I was in Lake Stevens, Washington. The moment I stepped out of my car and onto the pavement outside this church, I knew I needed to pray. Something big was about to happen. I was right.

As soon as the sermon started at this new church, I pulled out my Bible. I was going to catch this Pastor in a lie and prove that there was no good church anywhere. If this sermon didn’t work out, I was going to leave church for a while. I’d attended more than 10 churches in three years, trying to find the right one.  Pastor “M” had me flipping through my Bible all throughout that amazing sermon. He did not stray from the Word of God once. I was blown away. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I got chills. I can’t remember exactly how many times Jesus’ name was spoken that day, but I do remember that it was more times than I’d ever heard His name called out in any other church I’d ever been to. I stayed at that church until Pastor “M” left a year and a half later. I still miss his preaching. He was the real deal. Our souls were fed and nourished. Sin was called sin, mercy was administered. Healing happened faster than we were prepared for it to. We called on the name of Jesus because He was alive and working through our church family, especially our Pastor.

Pastor “M” isn’t the only Pastor I’ve met who has preached this way, but he was the first in my then twenty-six years of attending church. I’d almost given up, but then I found the Light being shone through the darkness. I share this with you to encourage you, Brothers and Sisters. You can not only walk away from a Liar and a Gossip, but you can seek the Truth and you will find it. Do not lose heart. Do not weary of doing what is right. God has not forsaken you and He has never left you.

We cannot stand idly by while those entrusted to lead congregations spew lies and spread Gossip from the pulpit. We have to call it out as we see it, Brothers and Sisters. We have to leave bad churches in search of better ones. 

Benefits

The Many Benefits of Praying Without Ceasing – Part 1

Pray without ceasing

1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NASB)

Recently, Anthony and I had a quick discussion about praying without ceasing, especially in relation to times of trial, but this applies to all times in life. There is never a time in our lives when consistent and continual prayer is not beneficial. Afterall, you would not take a sentry away from his post for extended periods of time, especially if there were precious jewels behind the door he is guarding, would you? Then why would you remove the first and most easily accessed line of defense from your own life?

Praying without ceasing can be defined in many ways, eliciting different responses from each person. For me, praying without ceasing is defined as praying as often as I need to, even if it means praying every two to three minutes. It means giving thanks for blessings as well as intercessing for others, asking forgiveness, and praying for supplication.

When I sat down this morning to brainstorm the benefits of praying without ceasing, I found the list to be long, and wrought with hope! For example, in considering my own sinfulness, I reflected on the importance of the timing and consistency of prayer in regards to sin. First I considered the implications of sin transforming from mere inward thought to an outward action, and then onto the logical sequence from a singular action all the way to an actual lifestyle wrought with sin, seemingly devoid of hope. Is there still a reason to pray without ceasing when all you’re living for is a series of sinful actions that lead to your own ruin, both outwardly and inwardly? The answer is a simple and emphatic yes! There is always hope, because there is always Jesus, and He died for the very sin you are considering right now. The one that tears at your soul, destroys relationships and makes you want to run and hide. God has already overcome that sin! You can stop and pray right now! In fact, you can pray for those who have already died, as a result of engaging in sinful activity, because God has not only overcome sin, but death as well! So there is no reason to ever resolve to give in to sin, or to death. There is always hope and you can be reminded and strengthened of this vital truth through prayer! Pray without ceasing, especially in regards to sin.

Next on my brainstorming list, were the emotional benefits of praying without ceasing. When you are sad, lonely, discouraged, or frightened, God is always near you and it is simple to reminded of this through prayer. I have often heard timely promptings of the Holy Spirit just when I am most depleted of positivity and energy. As a mom, I am tasked with the same or similar things each day and this can wear me down spiritually, emotionally and physically, when I am not pouring Truth into the situation.  I do not like washing the same dishes every day, but it is necessary in order to eat a meal with my famiy. I do not like to correct certain behaviors each day. I want them to be gone the first time, but just as it can take a gardener years to finely prune a prosperous fruit tree, so it may take time to finely prune my daughters and myself of unwanted sin, and on the list goes. Prayer helps to fill me with hope, encouragement and Truth. What I am doing makes a difference, not only to myself, but to others as well.

What are some of the benefits you have found from praying without ceasing? How has it impacted your life and your ability to pour Truth into situations that aren’t so positive? Share in the comments! And come back next week for more on this subject!

In Christ,

Mandy Tirado