Drink But Don’t Get Drunk?

Is drinking alcohol a sin?

For the Christian, drunkenness is a sin and not to be pursued in any way. Period. It’s not expected of a man or woman to be under the influence of alcohol and be without self-control. Both the Old and New Testament are crystal clear on the subject matter so the problem isn’t so much as to whether drunkenness is acceptable or not; the issue really is whether or not it’s permissible for Christians to drink in moderation. Is it okay to drink but not get drunk? Well, let’s get on with it.

Nowhere in scripture are we told that drinking alcohol is sinful. However, there’s a lot of admonition on how we handle alcoholic beverages. King Solomon described wine as a “mocker” and a “brawler” because of the havoc it wreaked on people’s marriages, families, friendships etc. He was right. Alcohol is very addictive and can have disastrous effects on us. It has the potential to impair one’s judgment often leading to unrestrained behaviours. Already, it’s a struggle to keep ourselves in check even under perfectly sane conditions. MORE GRACE! *looking up to God*. Throwing alcohol into the mix, to me, is like trying to quench fire with petrol. Many people have suffered serious health problems, relationship troubles and premature deaths due to excessive drinking. In US alone, nearly 88,000 people die every year from alcohol-related incidents (check link). Don’t get me wrong. Alcohol isn’t inherently bad. As a matter of fact, God told the people of Israel that they could exchange their tithes with money and use it to buy whatever they liked INCLUDING wine or other fermented drink (see Deuteronomy 14). The Psalmist said that God brings forth food from the earth, and wine that makes glad the heart of man. As I said earlier, drinking isn’t sin but how we handle it determines whether it’s going to be beneficial or harmful to us.

It’s always been my fear that one may cross the line and do something regrettable in their attempt to drink in moderation. I feel like it’s the same story with the many alcoholics out there. They probably intended to drink only soberly but unfortunately became mastered by their booze. It’s one of the many reasons I for one prefer to stay away from alcohol because it’s very addictive plus I can’t really trust myself on staying within limits. But it’s not just about you or me. It’s not so much about knowing our alcohol intake limits. We need to be very mindful of how our actions affect the people around us. Jesus was really strict with the warning against causing others to sin. He said, “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come BUT WOE TO THE PERSON THROUGH WHOM THEY COME!” It means you’re not only responsible for your actions but also how your actions affect and influence others. Apostle Paul also addressed this same issue of causing others to stumble in most of the letters he wrote. In Romans 14, Paul spoke against eating or drinking or doing anything lawful in a manner that might cause another person to stumble. Oh yes! It’s very possible to do lawful things unlawfully. Eating meat was offensive to the new converts then even though meat in itself wasn’t sinful (they perceived meat as something sacrificed to idols). According to Paul, it was wise for the strong Christians to abstain altogether from eating meat if it was going to hurt someone’s conscience and by extension cause that individual to sin. Paul expected the believers who are strong in faith to apply this same wisdom in their dealing with alcohol. It makes a lot of sense considering the fact that we’re examining the lives of people who prior to salvation performed religious acts of worship to gods in a drunken state. It means most of them were probably drunkards and you sure didn’t want to in anyway reintroduce them to what once a heavyweight in their lives. There’s absolutely no greater love than this: that we do nothing to offend or weaken our neighbor’s faith no matter how permissible or lawful that thing in question may be.

It appears to me that there’s a lot of controversy over the subject of Jesus turning water into wine in the New Testament (see John 2). First of all, if you’re wondering whether Jesus drank wine or not, He probably did. In Luke 7, Christ Himself said He came eating and drinking and the religious leaders tried to launch sham attacks at him by calling him a glutton and a drunkard. In addition to that, wine was used during the Last Supper prior to Christ’s crucifixion. In all these occasions, you can say Jesus probably took in some wine. Ok, so you want to use those instances to excuse your drunkenness? Don’t get it twisted! Nothing about what transpired in any of those instances should endorse anyone to indulge in alcoholism. Wine in those times was quite indispensable in their culture. It was often served alongside meals at home and at ceremonial functions. It had a lesser alcoholic content as compared to what we have in modern times (the process of distillation we use today increases the alcohol content). And what amazes me is the fact that there was the strong urge to drink soberly in an era where drunkenness was a hard feat to achieve. Bruh! you had to chug down lots of wine before you could become intoxicated…an unfortunately easy achievable feat in our time. Anyway, it was pretty hard to do away with wine considering the fact that it was the best healthy liquid alternative they had in a community with little or no safe drinking water. Furthermore, wine had its healthful benefits in the past (as it does in modern times too). Do you remember when Paul instructed Timothy to no longer drink water but use a little wine for the sake of his stomach? Exactly! Paul wasn’t trying to contradict the bible’s warning against intoxication. He urged Timothy to use wine to treat the ailment in his stomach. The fact that Jesus made more wine available at a wedding feast or Timothy drank a little wine for the sake of his stomach doesn’t mean it’s license for anyone to be hooked on to alcoholic beverages. Bible frowns on drunkenness that leads to dissipation – uncontrolled speech and actions – and anyone involved in such illicit acts (according to scripture) would have no place in heaven.

In my opinion, I wish everyone would go with abstinence. It isn’t because abstaining from drinking wine will draw one closer to God. No. Your abstention or involvement in moderate drinking will not make you less/more righteous before God. I just feel abstinence is a better choice looking at the rate at which drunk driving, homicide, sexual assault, violence and other alcohol-related incidents occur. It may not be you or I engaging in these dangerous activities but is it really worth it to lead someone else astray just so we can enjoy some few glasses of wine? We shouldn’t shrug our shoulders and whisper ‘well that’s their problem’ under our breath. If we’re really concerned about the well-being of others, it shouldn’t be a big deal to relinquish our right to do certain things. Not to spite you dear reader, but it’s not like anyone became deficient in vitamins or mineral salts because they did away with alcohol. All I’m saying is we shouldn’t be too keen on wanting to exercise our freedom to either satisfy our personal convictions or prove that we are at liberty to do lawful things. Paul gave up his rights to do so many things just so he could bring salvation to many. I believe it was very tough for him but he rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the propagation of the Good News of Christ. No matter what, love must always lead.

When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus said that the first was to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength. And that we ought to love our neighbours as ourselves. It’s my sincere prayer that whatever choice(s) we make with respect to drinking wine brings peace and mutual edification to the glory of God. May God grace us with the needed wisdom so that the exercise of our freedom doesn’t hinder the gospel of Christ. Let’s do what we do for the sake of the gospel, so that many may share in its blessings.

About Christians and The Issue of Music

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Conflicts over music is not a present-day struggle among Christians of today. From time immemorial, the church has been divisive over the issue of choice of music. Back in high school, I had a friend who vehemently protested against the use of musical instruments in the church because he believes it is paganistic and unbiblical. You probably know of folks who are deeply acquainted with old hymns that any other form of music appears to be ‘devil-inspired’ to them. In our time, many Christians divide mostly on 2 key things with respect to music and that will be my focus:

  • Should a Christian listen to “secular” music?
  • Are all music styles (focus is more on Christian Rap, Pop and Rock music) acceptable for a Christian to consume or not?

Music is not inherently bad. As a matter of fact, music is one of the good and perfect gifts from God to man. It forms an essential part of our human life and that’s the more reason I even decided to talk about it. But like any other gift that is susceptible to abuse, music is no exception. If a song can comfort a broken heart, produce a therapeutic effect in a sick individual or unite people from different backgrounds then I bet the effect of music on us cannot be overemphasized. As a Christian, it is just right to evaluate the songs we listen to using biblical principles. If God indeed gave the gift of music to man, it is only right for man to go back to God if he needs more information on what has been given to him. So let’s go ahead and examine music under God’s light.

The first thing I want us to look at is the reason behind any composed song. Every artiste surely has an aim for producing a particular song. I know of musicians whose songs inform and educate society tremendously on various issues of life. There are others who delight only in entertaining their listeners. In the Bible, music was used to achieve various purposes. For example:

  • Music was used to offer worship to God or idols
  • Music was used to announce wars as well as celebrate war victories (2 Chronicles 20:26-28)
  • Music was used during the crowning of kings (1 Kings 1:39-40)
  • Music was used in soothing troubled souls (1 Samuel 16:16-23)

My point is, music composition has never been coincidental, there’s always a purpose underlying its production. But the question deepens more for us Christians: Does the purpose of the music in question agree with the entire counsel of scripture? Does the song bring glory and honor or shame to God’s name? I don’t care about the quality of the song or the depth of info it’s got to feed people with. But it makes mention of God’s name and teaches me some good values in life. Good eh? John Bevere will be extremely glad to tell you that it wasn’t the EVIL side of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that Eve was drawn to but the GOOD side. My friend, whether God’s name appears a 100 times in the song or the music encourages you to be determined in life or be content with what you have, you must desist from songs that fail to please God’s heart. The fact that something looks good, feels good or sounds good doesn’t mean it’s submitted to God.

What intrigues me most is when Christians ask if it is okay to listen to songs filled with swear words. Like how do you for a second think swear words are acceptable in God’s sight? It doesn’t matter if the song expresses godly values such as purity, honesty, integrity, forgiveness, love, etc. Dirty, silly talk doesn’t fit the Christian lifestyle. It’s not our dialect! The Bible admonishes us to be gracious in our speech so that we can bring out the best in others. I don’t even have to waste more space explaining to you why it is wrong for believers to entertain songs laced with swear words. They’ll set you off a downhill slide into more filthiness and eventually leave you pretty messed up.

Don’t listen to music for listening sake. Scrutinize the content of the message it carries across. I’ve reached a point in my life where I ask myself these questions: what is there to learn from this song I’m listening to? How does it stir my emotions? What does it make me worship? What kind of mood does it create for me as a child of God? Does it stimulate pride or humility within me? Does it make me calm or aggressive? Does it encourage me to engage in social vices? Does it make me yearn more for a closer relationship with God, friends, family and loved ones? You see, music is a strong force (positive or negative) that moves the listener to dance to its tune so it’s important to figure out what exactly the song is trying to communicate to you. I was in this group chat with a friend and he made an interesting comment concerning this ‘music issue’. He said that you may come across a very powerful, inspirational song about a guy fighting every battle to win the heart of the love of his life…and then you look at the music video and it’s the total opposite. He’s besieged by naked women dancing all around him and you’re left in your own small corner to wonder if he’s the same guy who promised another lady to be his one and only. Don’t take music for granted. Unfortunately, some believers have retrogressed to immorality because of the kind of songs they entertain in their lives. You can’t blame them. Like I said, music can shape the thought patterns of an individual, affecting how they perceive and live life. Music engages your entire faculties and that’s why it makes sense for us to saturate ourselves with songs rich in noble, reputable, authentic and gracious things.

Now, let’s turn our attention to music forms. It just so happens that some genres of music invoke an unpleasant atmosphere in certain parts of our world. But does that make that music style in question bad in a general sense? The fact that an open palm, fingers-up gesture is offensive in Greece and not in Ghana or any other country in West Africa should tell us that the gesture is never the problem – the interpretation of the gesture rather is the issue. Greeks find that particular gesture offensive because it reminds them of how people smeared the faces of criminals with faecal matter as they marched them through town. However, an open palm gesture has no such connotation in Ghana. Nobody needs you to be careful to hand-signal the number 5 to someone in Africa because you won’t be offending anyone with that gesture. All I’m trying to say is there may be nothing wrong with the song style in question, but its mere connection to an awful historical event can make it unsuitable for consumption by an individual or a group of people. I know people who eschew Gospel rap music. Their reason for not patronizing Gospel rap is that rap invokes scenes of violence and profanity. They’d rather feel comfortable listening to another music form – and that’s totally fine. I do understand them because majority of the rap music out there propagates very nasty images such as immorality, language perversion, vengeance, egotism, racism, sexism, glorification of drugs and so forth. Does it mean rap music is entirely wrong because of its past association? Not at all! You cannot accept or reject a claim by basing your facts solely on someone’s/something’s history or source and overlooking its current meaning or context. It’s illogical to presume that all who continue with the rap tradition are promoting violence just like it’s illogical for anyone to shun a VW beetle car just because Adolf Hitler was the one who ordered its development. Please understand this: A genre of a song is different from its message. A genre of a song is like a blank canvas waiting for a picture – it’s what you paint on it (your message) that matters most. The likes of Andy Mineo, Trip Lee and Lecrae equally preach the gospel and speak against negative cultural attitudes contrary to the principles of Christ using this same rap form and make great, positive impact in people’s lives. Why? The answer lies in the painting (message) they put on their canvas (rap music). As someone said, the point of music is not that you have music and you want to adorn it with words, but rather that you have a message and want to adorn it with music. A musician can decide to adorn his/her song words with any music style of his/her choice. It’s the message that counts. However, not all of us are at the same level of understanding in this. Of course, perceptions don’t change overnight so I’m not expecting anyone to embrace this truth within a space of 10mins or 24hrs. It’s a gradual process. In the meantime, don’t try to force a particular style of music in a place where it is unwelcoming just because it glorifies God. No matter how truth-honoring and God-pleasing the message of the song is, it can still create a negative environment for people who haven’t come to the realization of that truth yet and you’ll make it extremely difficult for them to express true worship to God. Be very sensitive so you don’t end up sending the masses away from God. Understand your audience, choose the suitable music style and allow yourself and everyone else to worship God in spirit and in truth. After all, your abstention or involvement in a particular genre of songs does not change God’s attitude towards you, it changes your attitude towards God (positive or negative).

Let me say something real quick here. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 8 that God does care a lot when we use our freedom carelessly in a way that leads a vulnerable person to be thrown off track completely. I say this in relation to the argument we make concerning secular music. Well, I won’t deny the fact there are very good, inspirational secular songs out there. This is my major problem with listening to those songs. Most of the artistes who compose these wonderful songs also compose profane songs. Now tell me, if you heard someone listening to a profane song by one of these artistes, on what grounds will you stand to tell that person that it’s wrong to listen to that artiste or song in question? Do you get my point? It complicates everything. All things are lawful but not everything is spiritually appropriate so if I were you, I’d be willing to give up anything that creates a stumbling block for people. Don’t let your personal preference prevail over your love for your neighbour. 

Never ever underestimate the power of music. It reaches your inner being, stirs your emotions up strongly and eventually molds you to become whatever it constantly feeds your senses with. AS A MAN THINKETH, SO IS HE. Let’s be very discerning when it comes to the songs we entertain in our lives. If it in no way glorifies God, please do away with it. It’s that simple! Stay away from songs that glorify what God opposes and opposes what glorifies God. A word to the wise is enough!

 

 

 

Dealing With The Fundamental Problem of The 21st Century: Plan Your Future

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Photo credit: http://www.typorama.com

 

Who will you be 5/10/15/20years from now?

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Photo taken from http://www.digitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, I want to share with you some very important lessons I gathered from listening to Dr. Mensa Otabil preach a message entitled ‘Developing a 20-year Life Plan’. First time I heard him speak on this subject was early 2014 after he had declared ‘ORDER’ as the church’s theme for the year. As usual, the church was overflowing with so many people since it was – yes you guessed right – the first Sunday of the year. No one intends to miss the first Sunday of a new calendar year. I left home earlier than usual that day (I’m always on time but this was a special ‘on time’) because I didn’t want to give up my usual sitting spot. I have a special preference for seats close to the stage. The reason being that at the end of the service I would have siphoned large chunks of Otabil’s anointing into my spirit man. Just in case you didn’t know, the closer you are to the stage and by extension the man of God, the greater the chances of your supernatural breakthrough. Aha! ‘Too much play’ a typical Ghanaian will say. Alright, let’s get to the crux of my message. I want to start with a quote by Myles Munroe:

“The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without a purpose.”

 

Just recently, the clarion call to plan my future rang so hard in my heart, it felt like a high-voltage electricity had zapped me. I had been prompted a few times but I guess the notifications weren’t strong enough to make me leap to their summons. This ‘electric shocker’ was no joke. I took a sneak peek into the future with my mind’s eye and I didn’t like the outcome. I was confused and somewhat terrified. I’m in my mid-20’s (early 20’s to be precise) and the question I keep asking myself is ‘what have I successfully achieved up until now?’ I can’t even recollect some of the goals I put down some 5 years ago (that’s if I put any goals down in the first place) so how do I possibly go ahead to evaluate myself. This is probably the reason for the tension build-up within me. You don’t leave anything to chance in this life because if you do, life will gladly put you in a place you never asked for – and you sure wouldn’t like it. This is why I felt the need to dig through the internet and feed my soul with this thought-provoking message again. I needed to wake my lazy self up (you probably need to do same too) and get back on track. Frankly speaking, when I listened to the audio again, it felt as though it was only yesterday he spoke those words of wisdom (no exaggerations here). I don’t plan on wasting further ‘typing ink’ and space so let me go ahead to share some of the lessons I learnt.

 

God has a plan for each one of us. You are not a miscarriage of nature. You are not here by accident. Your parents might have not planned your birth, but God did because He has a project for you. You need to live each day with the mindset that there’s a reason for your existence here on Earth. Quick question: Do you know how the first car came about? It all happened one stormy night in the year 1807 when violent winds spiraled into an old politician’s garage. First, nails, screws, old newspapers and empty flower pots were swept up into the air where they began to collide with one another. As the winds got stronger old paint cans, pliers, dustpans and four basketballs joined the collision process. This random bumping took place over a long period of time until the various automotive parts – bonnet, doors, battery, headlamps,etc – appeared and rearranged completely to form the car. Absolutely ridiculous you say? Yes! Never in history did a car pop out from someone’s garage. There was a plan for its amazing invention. In the same way, God fearfully and wonderfully created each one of us with a unique purpose. This is why Jeremiah full of the Holy Ghost  said that God had holy plans for him even before he was conceived. ‘We are not here filling space’ as Otabil said. We need to discover God’s plan for our lives (not OUR plan for OUR lives). And until we find our true purpose, we’d never be able to appreciate who we truly are and function adequately as we are intended to.

 

God gives us necessary tools to design ourselves according to the plan He has for us.

Not only do we carry specific tasks in our hands, but also we have the ability to tailor ourselves to suit our God-given assignment. I feel this is where many of us fall short. We are struggling to make great strides in certain facets of our lives because the plan and the design is a total mismatch; no points of connection whatsoever. Let’s look at the example below:

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Sumo wrestler (left), Gymnast (right)

Sumo wrestlers are clearly different from gymnasts. You can tell by simply comparing their physique. The gymnast has a slender body and light muscle mass and this helps her to obtain the right balance, agility and strength to pull off a performance successfully. The Sumo wrestler on the other hand is heavy with muscle mass for a reason: the heavier he is, the more difficult it is for his opponent to push him out of the ring. If we should look into their lifestyle habits, I can bet their diet and recommended daily exercises are different. Why? Because each one has to “design” his/her body according to the specific task ahead of them. If you’re a ‘hawk’, you don’t swim; you fly. That’s your build. The plan must influence the design. Spend enough time to understand your God-given plan so you can obtain the fruition of your assignment by choosing the right design.

 

God’s plan for us is time-bound. You don’t have ETERNITY to accomplish anything on Earth, you only have TIME and that time is finite. Do you realize that in life, the only time you have is the time you make use of? Every other minute, hour or day that goes unused is a part of your life flushed away. Gone never to be regained. It is said that procrastination is the thief of time but I want to push it further by saying PROCRASTINATION IS THE THIEF OF LIFE. Yes. A waste of time surely is a waste of life. Really, we need to stop treating time as though we were playing a game of soccer. There’s no fourth referee to signal any ‘TIME ADDED ON’ here.  Work diligently with the time you have because there’s no more time other than what is already set out for us. Sometimes we need that little nudge to remind ourselves that it’s 24 hours in a day, not 29, 7 days in a week, not 15, and 52 weeks in a year, not 1000. If you want to be the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, you begin your search for a mentor during your teen years. You don’t wait till you are past 25 years before you get moving. No. You should have read several books on Entrepreneurship and Leadership, attended very important training workshops and networked with business-minded individuals by now. You don’t wait till the last minute. Also, don’t expend unnecessary energy on so many things at the same time. Like I said, the clock is ticking. Rather, learn to do a few things WELL because that is what will bring the best out of you. I don’t know about you but I sometimes wish I had received these tips a bit earlier. But not to worry at all. At least, I’ve learnt that what needs to be accomplished today needn’t be accomplished 5 or 10 years from now. I need to do what needs to be done now, NOW because time and tide never wait for any man or woman.

 

 

And finally…

 

Do what God has designed you to do to have fulfillment in Life. Don’t waste your life trying to fulfill your friend’s or parent’s desire. Life is already too short to waste it chasing after someone else’s dreams. Find what is yours. See it. Embrace it. Breathe it. Love it. OWN IT and live life to fulfill YOUR God-given desire. God bless

 

NB: I’ll be writing a second and final part to this post soon. In the meantime, you’ll find attached to this article a link to a guide on how to draw a personal 20-year life plan. It’s the exact guide I received in church the first time the message was preached. I want you to download and PRINT a copy for yourself. To say what he said on that day, you are free to make changes to the original document. This is just to guide you on your journey to draw an effective personal 20-year life plan. God bless once again!

 

 

 

Click on the link below to download:

 

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