Alcohol

This post is not about alcohol. I will not pretend to think that I can properly answer all of the questions that arise in the context of this topic. Allow me to simply state that, if I am completely honest with the timeless witness of Scripture, I would say that I cannot find anywhere that drinking alcohol in and of itself is a sin. However, drunkenness is. And I would guess that if some believers who drink regularly were honest enough with themselves they would admit that they can sometimes drink too much or too often or for all the wrong reasons. Then there is the whole issue of when is someone drunk? Where is the line? Who is to decide?

That being said, drinking alcohol is not a sin (except for the case of underage drinking which would reveal a lack of submission to authority, lack of self-control, etc.). Those who choose to abstain from alcohol for various reasons ought to be very careful that they do not impose their personal choices on others which only tends to lend to a legalism that lacks love and a false sense of personal holiness that absolutely does not flow from that given graciously from Christ. I am fully aware that there are many incredible Christ followers who drink alcohol – some are in my church or in churches that are doing phenomenal works for the Kingdom.

Now that this has been explained, allow me to share some of my personal convictions, choices, and frustrations that stem from the whole alcohol issue. I do not drink. No exceptions. I have various reasons for this stance. First, I cannot and will not drink out of moderation. There was a short period of my life, before I knew Christ and at a fairly young age, that I drank. And I did so for all of the wrong reasons and I did it far too often. Abstaining from alcohol was a decision that I made at age eighteen and I have not wavered in my stance since. I know that I struggle to do anything in moderation – hence my struggle with gluttony and weight gain (which has been an incredible discipleship process for me over the past nine months). I know that alcoholism is alive and well in much of my family tree and I want nothing to do with it. I hope that the generations beginning with me and following me stay fast and far from the stuff and thus have the opportunity to rewrite my family legacy. It is just plain not necessary and is not worth it for me.

My other reason happens to be due to my affiliation with the Assemblies of God. As a credentialed minister with this particular denomination, I have voluntarily cooperated with their call to abstain. Emphasis must be placed with the word “voluntary.” No one made me do this. I chose the AG as my denomination. Their stance on drinking was no surprise to me. I know that most of the leadership in this Movement would say that the stance to not drink alcohol is an ethical one rather than a biblical one. One of culture. None of these arguments are too hard to swallow. Drinking is not necessary and in some cases quite destructive.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience–I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?” (1 Corinthians 10:27-30, ESV).

Eating the meat that was dedicated to idols was not demonic. Paul had all right to do so. However, there were times that he chose to abstain out of respect to those who struggled. He gave up his rights to do right for others. Spiritual maturity. Leadership demands sacrifice. There are moments that we do not do what we want or what we can for the sake of another. Think of the time that he called for Timothy to be circumcised. This had nothing to do with his salvation – Paul was quite clear that circumcision was of the heart. And yet, he called Timothy to a higher standard so that he would go above and beyond in protecting his integrity and influence as a pastor in Ephesus. Talk about pain. Sacrifice for the cause. Likewise, Paul would never call entire congregations to circumcision – he went above and beyond to protect the purity of the gospel from heresy. Timothy’s issue was not about circumcision – but one of sacrifice.

It seems to me that the church has wavered between two extremes since her inception – legalism without love and liberty without accountability. Our generation has revolted, for some very good reasons, at the legalism that we have witnessed – but we have in many ways gone so far in a different direction that we have now neglected holiness – the authentic type that flows from the heart. We do have liberty. But that does not mean that we should do whatever we want whenever we want.

Allow me to be quite frank . . . my issue is not with alcohol. My issues is with the heart of my generation of leaders. I am speaking of those in our affiliation – those who have elected to be a part of a denomination that calls for voluntary cooperation and yet we instead selectively submit. That is anything but submission. I am speaking of those who drink in secret when they have agreed not to. I am speaking of those who claim that we have to drink in order to be relevant or missional. Sorry, we don’t. I can tell story after story of times that I have set with those who drank and talked with those who drank – and I did not drink – and yet I still managed to bridge the gospel with the culture. I am not saying that we avoid people or places who drink – I am just saying that we drink something else. Is that really that difficult?

I would go as far as to say this . . . if you have such a hard time with the position of the AG, why do you stay? Can’t you plant a church by yourself? Or is it that we enjoy benefiting from an affiliation but we don’t want the added baggage of accountability and humility? Is it that we take too much pride in being the black sheep? What frustrates me to no end is that the issue of alcohol in the name of relevancy has hijacked our time and energy from what is really urgent and necessary – that is how do we pastor people who will be about the mission of God in word and deed (rather than in strategy and preference)? How will we really be the church in these postmodern times? Alcohol or no alcohol is not the issue nor the answer. I am convinced that there is a silent majority of emerging leaders who, like me, have no problem whatsoever with the policy of the Assemblies of God. We just want to be people of creativity and conviction – but the squeaky wheel seems to get all of the attention.

I would say to my brothers and sisters who are frustrated with the policy – and those who have unfortunately not submitted to the position – to be very careful to examine their own hearts. I am afraid that we might be as in danger of being the hypocrites and frauds that we saw as children – those who we had complaints with in the first place (as they were legalistic – so we are libertines). After all, aren’t you guilty of not being who you said you would be?

Again, voluntary cooperation goes far beyond the issue of alcohol. We have all been guilty at one time or another in reaping the rewards of being a part of a Network without wanting to contribute ourselves. For example, our denomination asks that each church give a percentage back to their particular District in order to collectively assist with resourcing, benevolence, church planting initiatives, etc. (referred to as Shared Ministry). And yet, I know of very few churches who actually give the full percentage that is asked of them. We justify our selectiveness in many ways – we can’t begin to afford it, we give more than most give, or we believe that they are asking for too much. The funny thing is that most of us are frustrated or disappointed with those in our own churches who hold to similar issues in regards to tithing. I guess we can’t really demand more from those whom we lead when we fail to lead ourselves. In regards to the alcohol issue, to those who drink when they have agreed not to – how would you respond to leaders who claim to submitting to your authority and secretly do not? Isn’t that a form of rebellion? Can rebellion be controlled?

I pray that my words, as incomplete and imperfect as they are, would be heard and received in love. I love the church. I am proud to be Pentecostal. I believe in the history, vision, and future of this movement. I am committed. My Network and denomination are priceless to me. I want to protect her. I want to transform her from the inside-out. And I pray for our leadership in the coming days that they will have wisdom and courage – that they will know what is right and that they will do what is right. I pray for my peers that we might honestly examine what we believe and what we practice and be willing to change when necessary. I pray for a spirit of humility and understanding. I hope that the discussion brings us closer to Christ and to each other – that we might be about connecting people to the love of Christ, the life of the church, and the need of the world.

Alcohol

Kaleo

One of my favorite parts of going on vacation is that I am able to go to other churches. I love to see how others worship together. The variety. The creativity. Today I joined Justin Bryeans and the Kaleo Church of Spokane (). Going through the Book of Acts, he happened to teach on the importance of Christ followers recognizing that everything they are and everything they do as being a part of God’s Kingdom. He said, “There are no small moments – just thin spaces.” He used the narrative of Tabitha as an illustratation of this truth. She was best known for her sewing abilities – but it was how she used that stitching talents that made all of the difference. She was famous for doing good and caring for the poor. She used what she had to do what she could.

The bible reads, “Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord” (Acts 9:39-42, NIV).

It was in this context that Peter was a part of a miracle – raising her from the dead. But make no mistake, her work was just as important as his. The simple was just as spiritual as the supernatural. But how many times do I focus on the big only to neglect the small? Do I see every act, every location, every encounter as a God-directed moment? Hardly.

Bryeans suggested, “We invest way too much effort in being someone else rather than becoming ourselves.” I see way too much of that statement in myself. How do I focus on being the person that Christ has designed me to be? How many times have I been caught up in chasing that which I thought I should be? Or what others wanted for my life? What do I make of the moments of change? When I am being asked to go into another direction? How might I check my motives? Making sure that they are pure? That I am being obedient rather than self-seeking?

Kaleo

Lucado

I would recommend Max Lucado’s “Out Live Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference.” I was fortunate enough to be provided a copy in a special pre-release directly from Thomas Nelson Publishers for review purposes. You can purchase a hardback copy for under $17 at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Outlive-Your-Life-Were-Difference/dp/0849920698/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284091310&sr=8-3) or directly from the publisher at http://www.thomasnelson.com/consumer/product_detail.asp?sku=0849920698&title=Outlive_Your_Life&author=Max_Lucado.

To be honest, I have not been much of a fan of Lucado in the past few years. Though I highly respect his ministry and writing ability, it seems that most of his books are targeting a different segment of the Christian population. For one reason or another they just do not resonate with me all that much – but I recognize that they do greatly influence others. That is one reason I could not be more pleased and excited that he chose the subject of a holistic gospel and the need for all disciples of Jesus to be about social justice as the subject of latest bestseller. The fact that Lucado is talking about this, along with other Boomer legends such as Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, tells me that this shift in the Evangelical church is anything but a fringe movement or another theological fad. God is calling his church to love others with word and with deed. I hope the average Lucado reader will lead the way in this new era.

My favorite chapter was titled, “Team Up.” In this portion of his book, Lucado tells the story of the time that he spent in college. Like most students going to a University, they thought that they knew everything – or at least they knew more than their parents. They loved the sound of their own voices and the depth of their own ideas. He recalls, “We were young enough in our faith to believe we knew all the answers . . . . We bantered about a covey of controversies . . . charismatic gifts, end times, worship styles, and church strategy . . . I’d discerned the faithful from the infidels, the healthy from the heretics. I knew who was in and who was out” (Lucado, 43). Then something miraculous happened. They were forced to work together. The group went on a short-term missions trip to Guatemala. He went on to say, “The destruction from the earthquake dwarfed our differences” (43).

The Scriptures read, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” (Acts 2:44, ESV). Maybe the reason that so many churches have continual conflict and constant friction is that the people are not doing next to nothing for the mission – let alone doing it together. Maybe if we were investing our time and energy in the disasters outside the church we would have none left to make one of the inside?

We forget that so much of the New Testament was written to groups of believers – not individuals. We read “you” as the singular when in all reality in the Greek it is most often in the plural. Anyone can claim to be a Christ follower when all they do is spend time with themselves. How hard is it to love yourself? You cannot love Jesus and not love his bride. You want to really be a Christ follower? Pray for your pastor even (especially) when you don’t agree with him. Join a small group with the one person who drives you the most crazy. Find someone to serve out in the community who shares the complete opposite political views that you do. Then, and only then, will you be shaped and sharpened by the Spirit of God.

Lucado ends the chapter by praying, “O Lord, I have been called to be part of a holy community. You did not call me in isolation but placed me in the body of Christ, along with every other believer in Jesus throughout the world in every age. Let us grow as a team, work as a team, worship as a team, weep, laugh, and live as a team. Grant me the wisdom and the strength to partner with you and with my brothers and sisters in Christ. For Jesus’ sake and in his name I pray, amen (50).

Official Book Description: These are difficult days in our world’s history. 1.75 billion people are desperately poor, natural disasters are gouging entire nations, and economic uncertainty still reigns across the globe. But you and I have been given an opportunity to make a big difference. What if we did? What if we rocked the world with hope? Infiltrated all corners with God’s love and life? We are created by a great God to do great works. He invites us to outlive our lives, not just in heaven, but here on earth. Let’s live our lives in such a way that the world will be glad we did.

Official Author Biography: Max Lucado is a minister who writes and a writer who preaches. He and his wife, Denalyn, serve the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas. They have three grown daughters, Jenna, Andrea, and Sara; one son-in-law, Brett; and one sweet but lazy golden retriever, Molly.

Lucado

Busy

In regards to being a leader who manages one’s time wisely, I love the quote that reads, “God does not give us too much to do. Either we are doing too much or we are allowing someone else to give us too much to do” (Author Unknown). Often I find it incredibly frustrating to hear people complain about how busy they are – especially when they pay little to no attention to how busy others happen to be.

After eight years of vocational ministry, I happen to find the following to be true:
• There are busy seasons in every ministry. For example, lead pastors seem to be busy during Easter and Christmas while youth pastors have more demands placed upon them during the Fall and Summer months. One has to be aware of that. Accept that to be a reality. Plan and prepare for that. Help others when you can. But realize that just as you are unable to be a part of everything – everyone else cannot be at everything you lead or a part of either.
• If we happen to be overwhelmed with our current schedules it might just be because we have neglected our responsibility to build teams, to entrust ministry with others, and to plan accordingly. Other people should not be expected to always have to rescue us when procrastination or micro-management becomes a pattern.
• Our identity and importance as individuals are not equal to how hard or how often we work. Jesus rested. He removed himself. He prayed. He sent others out. He even left the mission with the church while he returned to heaven. The bible reads, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, Everyone is looking for you. And he said to them, Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out. And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons” (Mark 1:34-38, ESV).
• Communicate those busy seasons with your spouse and family as they arise. There will be weeks where working late or workings on our days off are required. They are, at times, very necessary (but should never become the norm). Likewise, there should be weeks where we as leaders needs to take compensation days, vacation weeks, or even prolonged sabbaticals so that we might be refreshed and refocused as well as times where we take moments to intentionally invest in our families.

John Ortberg, in his bestseller titled “The Life You’ve Always Wanted,” suggests that one’s lack of sleep is actually a lack of faith. A sin. By not sleeping, one doubts the world will go on without him. How many of us think that our church will not go on without us? But we don’t seem to think that our children will have any problem without a parent? Effective leaders rest. Effective leaders trust enough to walk away at times. Being busy is not a badge of courage . . . but quite possibly a lack of leadership altogether. Have any of you had to work with or for those who worked way too much? What did you do? How about working with someone who did not work nearly hard enough?

Busy