Life & Learning

Alcohol & The Christian

DSC_0272We are too often incoherent in our treatment of alcohol. I delayed writing this for sometime as I have friends on all sides of the issue. More frequently I see posts of articles decrying alcohol in a way that is frankly void of biblical thinking. Being asked about this question often, I suppose publicly stating a position is important. What, then, is a Gospel centered approach to alcohol? Simple: discern how, when, and if you should drink or not drink. Simple enough…

Alcohol is not sin
It is not a sin to drink alcohol. It is a sin to get drunk. Period. Too much preaching points to alcohol as being sinful, which is unbiblical. Some even hedge this a bit by saying strong drink is a sin, also unbiblical. Why? Because God allows for it and he also drank and will drink. At this point my abstaining friends are thinking “yeah, but…” The problem is unbiblical preaching is inherently unstable, and frankly for my pastor friends, poor preaching. There are clear benefits to drinking supported by both science and Scripture.

Getting drunk is sin
The Bible EXPLICITLY states that being drunk is sin. There is a line clearly drawn in Scripture. I am all for preaching against drunkenness for it has firm biblical handles from Genesis to Revelation. There are even groups of people who shouldn’t drink based on certain passages, and there is practical application to those in our modern context.

Preach broader than alcohol
The fruit of the spirit lists self-control. This issue is much broader than alcohol, but I’d submit includes alcohol. If one is predisposed to lacking self-control, or specifically lacks self-control in a particular area, that area should be avoided. Lack of self-control in playing video games can have a similar appearance to a person on drugs. In the Gospel we are free, but not free to sow to the flesh, but to the spirit. Preaching on self-control nails everyone and has the benefit of being biblical.

But…but…but…
1) Wine is different… People got and get drunk Genesis through Revelation. Whether it takes 1 drink of 10 drinks to get drunk does not matter. Drunkenness is the sin. Also, the relationship of water to wine is such that one based on sermon on the topic a doctor told me a person would drown in their own tissue for consuming too much liquid, yet people got drunk in Bible times.

2) The Bible says to avoid the appearance of evil… This is a mistranslation (sorry KJV only crowd.) The issue is to avoid any form of evil. This is a BIG deal. Meaning, a pastor walking into a bar may appear evil but it may very much be a holy, missional thing (counseling, removing someone who is drunk, graciously attending an event, etc.) Taking a drink is not evil for it is not a sin. (Preaching wrongly on alcohol is a form of evil.)

3) We are not to cause stumbling… Causing someone to stumble means causing them to sin. It is sin for a Christian in their freedom to place a shot or a pint in front of an alcoholic. At times it may even be a sin to drink in the presence of those who struggle with self-control or who think one shouldn’t drink. Much preaching based on the stumbling is illogical. Based on many sermons I have head people should not eat based on people’s struggle with gluttony. The issue of stumbling makes many issues full color and not black & white.

4) I think it is wrong… Then if you drink you sin for you are not doing it in faith. It is OK and biblical to, in your conscience, believe drinking alcohol is wrong. Based on those who destroyed their lives because of alcohol, taking a strong stance against alcohol is not unbiblical. In some instances it is even prudent. But, in doing so, be biblical.

5) No good comes from a Christian drinking… I read this all too often in articles arguing for abstaining. Yes, good can come from a Christian drinking. For instance, there are many medications I cannot take, so alcohol helps prevent traumatic medical events from occurring. Meaning, it is helping me maintain health and the temple. I would submit that is a good thing. At this point what people say is “oh, for medical reasons that is ok.” But, in the Bible alcohol is consumed for worship situations as well. A person drinking in self-control and with discernment can and does bring out good things. Paul likely told Timothy to take a little wine because Timothy was probably over reaching on qualifications of a pastor. Alcohol doesn’t help an upset stomach.

The bottom line:
The Gospel sets us free. In living for more than ourselves, we bear fruit of the spirit, which includes self-control. We should seek to demonstrate this in all areas. We all struggle with sin. Whether, how and when to drink should be carefully discerned. The answer will change as your ministry context changes. For sure getting drunk is sin, and the Bible gives clear warnings about the potential dangers of alcohol, but the Bible does not declare drinking a sin.

If you lean towards getting drunk and/or alcoholism runs in your family, abstaining is the prudent choice. If you work with minors and others who struggle with drinking, abstaining in public is a prudent choice and perhaps in private as well. If in the presence of those who struggle with alcoholism, abstaining is a prudent choice. If you drink in the privacy of your home and/or in public because the previous situations are not in play, God bless. But for both sides, do not use your freedom or abstaining as a measure of superiority or holiness for the Bible argues strongly against you both. For those who drink should be commended for self control and those who abstain should be commended for their sacrifice. Both of these are demonstrations of a thirst for holiness.

This may not be a clean and simple answer, but neither is life clean and simple until we see Jesus face to face.

Life & Learning

More guns, more play

  The latest news of squirt guns being unkind, of nerf darts causing near expulsion, then reduced to 5 days suspension, is beyond ludicrous. It is plain stupid. Two things boys need: more guns and more play. Period.

 It’s called sparing. It’s boys being boys. They wrestle, the fight, they like to blow things up. It’s cool. It’s amazing. It is how they learn justice, empathy, problem solving, values, fun, relationships, reading, math, resiliency, processing anger, and most importantly, how to be a great dad. Less guns and less play robs boys of their education. Less guns and less play dehumanizes boys.

Guns are a tool. Through a gun one learns respect, how to think, the value of life, the importance of justice, and how to be friends. Growing up guns move from toys to the real thing. They move from carefree playing to cautios respect, for each gun is to be treated as if it’s loaded. Tales of fighting bad guys become parental heart wrenching stories of our boys in the military, law enforcement, or defending our grandkids. A mere toy becomes a means to provide food for their family, bonding with other men, and relationships with our grandchildren.

Play is a canvas. Through Imagination and sheer stupidity of boyhood, play paints radiant pictures of failure to victory, from curiosity to mad scientist. Through play life happens and learning takes root. Play unlocks the doors of once bullies becoming best friends. Boys do stupid things. They’re naive. Play is a critical part of whether they will choose become a fool or wise. With less guns and less play, sadly the choice of foolishness is increasing. I am not saying that because boys do stupid things it’s therefore ok. We learn from our mistakes. Rob boys of failure and you ultimately rob them of success. Play opens the door of adventure.

It is not a crime to be a boy. The crime is not letting boys be boys. The crime is not teaching boys when they fail and do stupid things. The crime is we’re robbing boys of their success and their humanity.

Life & Learning

5th year of blogging & learning

IMG_1916It is hard to believe I started this blog 5 years ago! For all those who regularly read this, that you! Here are key lessons learned over the last 5 years in relation to writing:

  • Writing is hard work. Even harder when leading a church. I wanted to write a couple of times per week, but a few times per month is a challenge. Writing is worth it because it narrows your thinking and your focus.
  • No matter how hard you try, people will misunderstand or take something differently then intended. Write anyway. Conversation and conflict is good.
  • It is hard to avoid writing about something you’re walking through. Ron Edmonson advised to not write about current leadership situations until they are well in past. This is VERY prudent advice, and hard to follow. The practice of self-control is worth it. (Oh, and so is Ron’s blog!) That said, many articles were not written because it would not be wise.
  • Controversy spikes, humility does not. We gloss over topics concerning character, especially humility. Topics on a controversial topic will swoon with ratings. Perhaps the problem with the state of media is us.
  • Skepticism is real, and I think we as the church can do a better job interacting with those challenged with skepticism.
  • There is a deep yearning for classic church. In a real sense, I wonder if the church’s focus on reaching the unchurched has missed something. People expect church to be church. Tradition is not the problem, apathy is.
  • Educators feel like they’re in a corner and not many speak out for them. As a culture, we are very detached from public education even though we use it.
  • My Boyz are MUCH bigger now, and being a dad is simply awesome. (As is the stock value in Advil.) On a serious note, my kids bring much joy and it’s fun giving a small glimpse into their silliness at times.

Again, thank you for being a reader! I look forward to what the next 5 years will bring as we learn, dream and live.

Blessings,
T. Woznek

Life & Learning

Lessons from St. Patrick

Coffee-LoveIt is the day we celebrate all things Irish. With all that said, here are some key life lessons we should reflect on this St. Patrick’s day:

  1. Life is hard and not fair. He was taken from his family and put into slavery. He went back and suffered severe persecution for sharing the Gospel to the nation that enslaved him. Even the church was against him, deeming Druids unworthy of being saved.
  2. Patrick prayed. He prayed often. He prayed a lot.
  3. Patrick was admittedly opposed to idols and he WENT to people and shared the good news of Jesus.
  4. Patrick taught in ways that people could understand. And, while we knock the object lessons he used today, the point is he taught in meaningful ways.
  5. Patrick put others before himself. As Jesus took the bread and said this is my body which is for you, Patrick did the same by serving sacrificially.
  6. Patrick demonstrated love and forgiveness and it cost him.
  7. The Irish, deemed less than human, saved western civilization. Much of this is to the work of a man who accepted that life is hard and not fair, took the harder path of forgiveness, and preached Jesus to all who would hear.
  8. Slavery, persecution, and idol worship are alive and well today.  And, they are equally unpopular to discuss or push against.
The Church, Theo...

Who turned out the lights for a brighter future?

Stained Glass Window
by Hauki-

Every once in a while an article or articles you post online blows up your feed. Clearly, lighting in a worship center is a sensitive issue. In the ground swell of discussion there are a few concerns and patterns that need to be addressed. The lighting issue is a symptom of a greater issue within the North American Church, issues we do need to repent of.

One God, sneaky idols…
Churches worship methods as Christians worship preferences. While churches decry consumerism, Christians can point out the out of balance focus on methodology. Shedding light on modern idols is essential. We should operate from our theology and not our methodology. Methods change, who God is does not. On the individual side, church is not a commodity or business, it is a family. Being the church via one’s preferences misses a major point in the Bible: It’s not about you. Let us be frank: method worship and preference worship are major idols we the church need to remove.

One family, many discussions…
We are too quick to end discussions, as if the truth is already clearly known or understood. We are too quick to take offense. For example: The no light crowd pounces on the non-biblical issue with a side of evangelism. The all light all the time crowd brings out the design and Bible issue. Boom. Then there are people on the entire spectrum who say we shouldn’t discuss such things as there are more important issues. All three shutter discussion that is healthy and important. As Christians we stop discussion way too often and to our hurt. Cue the passages that talk about listening.

One creator, numerous stories…
Design communicates. Design matters. How we act as a church communicates our message as much or more so than what we say. For instance: Try communicating about Jesus’ birth in a brightly lit room, or discuss heaven in a dimly lit dark one. In both these scenarios the environment is antithetical to the story. Both these stories also need to be communicated with utmost clarity. We must stop treating the arts, such as design, as a non biblical, minor issue. Our mission to clearly communicate and proclaim who God is requires that such be brought under the light of our theology to reach a darkened world. After all, artists are a part of the body of Christ.

One church, open back doors…
In the last few decades there is a price the church paid: the de-churched. The idolatry, shuttering of discussion, and schizophrenic views on the arts cost the church too much. After all, we are family. Perhaps church growth would improve if our back doors were what we shuttered and not discussion, if we valued the glory of God more and our little kingdoms less. We can open our front doors more with artistic brilliance as more darken the seats of our worship centers. That is a worthy discussion, but there are sins we as a church family must repent of first. We’ve already paid too high a price.

The bottom line:
How we light our churches is not a big deal. How we discuss it shines a light on a dark stains the blood of Christ can easily wipe clean. While lighting may not be significant, there is too deep a price we paid. So, why not have the discussion and let the grace which God lavished on us and predestined before the foundations of the world conform us to the image of His son. Why not focus on the long-suffering and patience aspects of love found in 1 Corinthians 13. As a family we can and must do better.

Life & Learning

Becoming a dad is the solution

DSC_0754What would a world without dads look like? Here are some surprising statistics from fatherless children:

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes
  • 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
  • 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes
  • 85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home

Fatherless homes make up nearly 22% of American children. A father in every home will not eliminate crime, but it would not hurt. An involved and time invested father in every home, that would radically change the country. A life without fathers would be catastrophic, and the issue is growing not shrinking. So, here is the solution, if you’re a father, work hard at being a dad.

First step to being a dad is to find a good, godly dad and learn from him
Modeling is critical as being a dad is something that is caught. Just being in the presence of a dad who is active in the life of his children will give one great insight. Interact with this dad and learn all that you can from him. There is no such thing as the perfect dad, but there is such thing as godly examples. By networking with other dads, a growing dad can gain insight, accountability and skill in raising children. Dave Simmons, in his Dad the Shepherd Series, calls this an e-team (Encouragement- team). This is a group of three to five dads who hold each other accountable and learn from each other as they work through how to be a dad. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Second step to being a dad is to be a part of the body of Christ
The family and the church should not be at odds with each other. My dad’s three goals in my life made church a natural connection to meet those goals, where else could I effectively learn the Bible, discernment and service at the same time? Serving the Lord was the highest ideal growing up. My parents had missionaries over, pastors over, speakers over, ministry teams over, Christian musicians over, Bible studies, etc. They did this to serve Jesus. People from all over the world that call Christ their savior celebrated Christmas at one time at my parent’s house. The mission of the Woznek family was to serve the church because that meant serving God. Get your family to serve together.

Third step to being a dad is to be intentional
My dad had set three clear goals for me, and he held vigorously to them. The goals set for me were simple and guided the decisions he made. My dad did not sub-contract my life to other institutions; he used them to accomplish the goals he set. I wanted to serve at a camp I spent much time at during my summers, but dad would not allow it. This was a great frustration to me. Serving every summer at one camp would limit other experiences I could have. That decision was invaluable. While serving in various ministries, I had multiple experiences to draw wisdom, far more than had I only served at one place. It fit in with my dad’s goal, and it enriched the times I did serve at my desired camp. The way dad used other institutions in my life to reach certain goals produced another attribute to my life.

Fourth step to being a dad is talk talk talk
De-briefing was a regular part of my life. If a dad is not intentional in how he builds his children, debriefing is a very difficult thing to do. The de-brief is the ultimate indicator that involvement is taking place. My dad and I talked about everything. This happened because my dad started when I was young. In my later years I would voluntarily talk with my dad about the days events, there was no “How was school today.” Joys, victories and practical jokes were all shared. De-briefs, however, were also hard when dealing with failure. Without fail a discussion would occur as to why discipline measures were taken. Discipline was talking. Dad would walk me through the choice that was made, and the consequences of that choice. This taught me how to think and how to think biblically.

The bottom line:
The fifth step is the most joyful and the most painful: my dad let me go and became a cheerleader and resource to me. While his goals were met, it is never easy to let one graduate to adulthood. The fifth step would never have had happened if the others were not followed. If I need advice, or to bounce things off someone, dad is there.

Life & Learning

Avoiding politics is laziness

DSC_0010A growing trend are those who disdain discussions of politics. Sadly, this is why politics is caustic. I am asserting that the avoidance of politics is a major problem, for Christians as well. This mindset costs us liberty and truth. Political avoidance allows us to chuck our discernment, life of thought and even empathy in exchange for the illusion of a good life. We need to be more politically astute.

If people knew…
While attending a leadership conference in Washington DC a democrat chief of staff stated, “If the American people truly understood how things work we would not get away with all that we do.” The purpose of the conference was to educate and help people to better understand. The implication at the conference is there is an inherent system of corruption. Playing off the ignorance of people should be unsettling to us.

Politics is truly local
The complexities of getting something done is profound. The hoops to jump through at various levels of government at times is absurd. We invest too much focus on national or federal politics and not enough on state or local politics. For example, much issues people have with Common Core is actually a state vs school board issue, not a Federal take over issue. Often what frustrates educators and then parents is changes made in state capitals, not DC. Who are your state representatives? Don’t know who they are? There is a key problem.

Character matters
For civil government to work, character and morality are essential. The result of losing character is the mess we have today. For example, many are against vaccinations. Much of this comes from a distrust of various institutions and government itself. Another example is the litigious society that we live in. Much of the vitriol in politics is a result of a loss of character. This is where religion plays a critical role in the life of a society. It’s presence in the public square is essential. A secular society in inherently unstable, as is state run religion.

Justice matters
Politics is determined by those who show up. Top down approaches rarely do well. Top down is great for emergency management, but it is lousy for societal change. Again, politics is profoundly local. Much of the injustice we see stems from not showing up where it counts. Politics is a reflection of us and the reflection of injustice demonstrates out absence. Protesting is a sign of laziness where we didn’t show up. Mobs rarely lead to justice.

Liberty matters
God created man to be free. While I orient my life on the Bible as the way and truth and life, that should not be forced on anyone. In a free society there will be many and even opposing views. This also means that those from a secular viewpoint should not impose their views as well. Too many people are trying to get the government to do their bidding. This inevitably leads to tyranny, whether state religion run societies or fully secular societies. (Even secularists have their fundamentalists.)

The bottom line:
We need to be engaged in politics. A professor drilled into out heads the process: Think. Judge. Redeem. We need tor read and study issues more broadly. Judge the issues on their own merits. Finally, see if the issue should be discarded or redeemed for good. If, like many, you hate politics, remember this: We the people, we the problem. It’s time we show up, for politics at best is living at peace with our neighbors. That can only happen if you show up.