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Is Smoking Marijuana a Sin?

Is smoking marijuana a sin?

Well, it used to be that you could say, “Yes, because it’s illegal.” And that would be that.

But now that marijuana is legal medicinally and recreationally, is it still sin?

Yes.

All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

Often, marijuana is compared to drinking alcohol or caffeine, but they are not the same. You can drink a glass of wine and not get drunk; or have a cup of coffee and still operate heavy machinery. But, if you take one puff on a joint or a bite of “Aunt Mary Jane’s Special Brownies”, you get high. The whole point of marijuana is to alter the consciousness, which diminishes your thinking and functioning.

While God does not put an absolute prohibition on drinking alcohol, it is always sin to be intoxicated. Drunkenness, whether by the vine or the weed, is not of the spirit but of the flesh. Those who do it will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-20)

But marijuana is a plant, and it was made by God, so that makes it good for us!

Yeah… there are plenty of poisonous plants you don’t apply that logic to.

Adam and Eve ate of a forbidden plant. How did that turn out for them?

1 Peter 4 says:

Live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they’re surprised when you don’t join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:2-5)

The Bible says, Be sober minded. (1 Peter 5:8); and Have the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5); Set your mind on the things of God. (Matthew 16:23). You mind should not be mastered by anything else…

…when we understand the text.

(This video is by WWUTT. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central.)

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God redeems broken things if we allow Him to work

Born addicted to cocaine into brokenness, Chris’ dad left, so his mom moved… he got saved at seven and truly believes God was with him ever since… even though he walked away from God.

Chris found brotherhood in youth football and followed that as long as he could. He was raised in a church that made him feel church was all about “Perfection or Punishment”. At 12 he realized he wasn’t perfect so he gave up on church.

At 12-years-old, he moved into a tent at his aunt’s house and started smoking speed. He justified drug use by thinking “at least I’m not drunk like my family”.

Bitter and angry about being poor. And mad that his father left him, Chris left football and dropped out of high school. And when he lost sports, he lost his identity.

At 18-years-old, he stole two cars and went sent to prison. Prison gave him the path and brothers he thought he needed. He was taken into a White Power gang and told who he was going to be and what he was going to do.

At 25, Chris looked in the mirror and hated who he had become. He got out of prison, got a job, got married and thought life was good. But when things got bad again, he thought smoking speed would fix it. He lost his home, cars, kids… everything. He even found out his wife was cheating on him. So, he dropped his kids off at his mom’s house and binged on drugs & violence for two whole years.

Chris then moved to Arizona to get clean. But instead, he relapsed, was arrested and ended up back in prison. However, according to Chris, “It was the best thing that ever happened to me”.

Chris “Came to the end of himself” and cried out to God. He was sent to a new prison, where he was called out by an older inmate. This guy told Chris that he was not living right, so he started getting mentored by the old guy.

After his sentence, Chris got out of prison for the last time and joined Along Side Ministries. He was mentored and walked with for a full year. Along Side helped transition Chris from prison life to civilian life. He was challenged to do the right thing after doing the right thing. “Don’t ever forget what chased you up in here.”

Then, he moved back to California and moved into his mom’s house – finally back close to his sons. Chris ended up living in the house of a friend that he had actually robbed years earlier. The family friend told him, “You are forgiven and we can see the change in you.” This family showed true grace, forgiveness and love. Chris finally found the church that would love him and accept him.God redeems broken things if we allow Him to work

Today, Chris wants to go into ministry and started pursuing his ministry degree. He volunteers at his church’s high school ministry. Also, he is working as a drug and alcohol counselor and a detox technician.

Chris’ life verse should be no surprise for someone who has faced death like he has: My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

As Chris puts it: God redeems all broken things as long as we allow Him to work. God is doing something with your past pain. And, God is a Good Father, if you have no dad… God can be that Father you desperately need!

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The Weight of Two Worlds

The Weight of Two Worlds

Shawn Martinez took a glass from the cabinet and set it on his kitchen counter. He grabbed a bottle of liquor, twisted off the cap and filled the glass. He picked up his headphones, put them on and turned the music up. It was 2:00 AM, and he walked out the door of his apartment. He wandered around the complex, carrying the weight of his mistakes. He couldn’t tell his fiancée Amber the truth. I’m taking this to my grave, he thought.

Shawn kept walking, and drinking, contemplating the choice ahead of him. I can go one way, or the other, he thought. He peered down the destructive route, the path toward more lies, more deceit, and he knew it was the easy way out. It was the path he longed to take.

Blinking away fiery tears, he deliberated the other path. For the first time, he considered telling Amber the truth. He knew it was what God wanted of him, but he also knew it was the harder road. I’d have to change a lot of things about myself, Shawn thought. He wondered what it would be like to lay his burden down. He doubted he could do it – he didn’t have the strength.The Weight of Two Worlds

For as long as he could remember, Shawn chased the attention of women. He also sought approval through money and possessions, going so far as to steal from others. He pursued happiness and fulfillment in one night stands. He lived for the moment, seeking contentment in money and sex, while displaying another life to his family and friends. For years, Shawn kept his two worlds apart.

Shawn met Amber at a gym where they both worked, and they were immediately drawn to each other. They started dating, and Shawn fell in love with Amber – but he continued his other pursuits in secret. The weight of his two worlds grew heavier.

After meeting Amber, God brought another person into Shawn’s life, Ronnie Smith. Ronnie came in to the gym looking for a personal trainer and, from looking at him, Shawn knew it would be a hard sell. But Ronnie surprised him by signing up for a three month plan.The Weight of Two Worlds

They started the workout plan and spent time together each week. After just a few sessions, Ronnie started asking about church. They discovered a shared background, growing up in the same denomination. They talked about God. Shawn knew about Jesus, but didn’t trust him. He asked Ronnie questions, and Ronnie preached the gospel during the workouts. One day Ronnie told him, “You give me a good sweat, and I’ll teach you about Jesus.”

As the three months drew to a close, Ronnie pressed on Shawn’s life more and more. The hard questions sometimes rubbed Shawn the wrong way, but he could not stay away. After Ronnie completed the plan they stayed in touch, and Shawn and Amber began attending The Austin Stone Community Church. Amber was a Christian, and she was happy to have a church they could go to together.

After almost three years of dating, Shawn and Amber got engaged. They signed up for the Nearly & Newlywed class at the Stone. They met other people and began to form friendships. God was drawing them closer to himself, but Shawn was still living his double life, seeking approval and happiness in other women. He could see his two worlds bearing down on each other.The Weight of Two Worlds

That’s when Shawn found himself walking around his apartment complex late one night, caught between what he knew was right and what he wanted. He thought about the sex and the greed. He thought about his bride-to-be. He thought about the paths that he could take. He had to choose.

After that night, God continued to pull Shawn into his arms. Shawn started fighting his sin. Shawn confessed his sins to God, but not to Amber. They joined a missional community, and Shawn began meeting with two of the guys in a weekly Life Transformation Group. In June of 2011, Shawn and Amber were married.

His struggle continued and the weight of his two worlds increased in the first few months of their new marriage. One day at lunch with one of his LTG guys, Shawn’s strength failed, and his two worlds finally crashed into each other. “I confessed these things to God,” Shawn began. “Do I really need to ask forgiveness from my wife?”

His friend did not hesitate. “You need to talk to your wife.”

After this Shawn was on a date with Amber and he could not fight the conviction of the Spirit anymore. “All the way up until the moment that the words crossed my lips, I was fighting it with all my being,” Shawn says. Shawn started tentatively, asking Amber, if there were things in his past he hadn’t told her about, would she want to know?The Weight of Two Worlds

Amber remembers thinking, God calls us to be completely transparent with each other, so as much as it is going to hurt, I want to know. She told him that, and they left the restaurant. “Even on the drive after, I was like, ‘No, this is not going to happen. I can’t do it,’” Shawn says. When they got home, Shawn finally yielded. “I fought it, and then I just gave up and let it out.” He told his wife about his past, about his infidelity. In this act of confession to his Lord and his wife, Shawn knew he was reborn. For the first time, his burden started to lessen.

But, it was a soul-wrenching moment. As he confessed, Shawn remembers being scared, but knowing God was there with him. “It was the most humiliating experience I’ve ever had,” Shawn recalls. “It was an experience beyond myself, it was beyond me that the words came out of my mouth.” He was terrified of what would happen next.

Amber’s reaction was not what he expected. “I remember hugging him, because he was crying hard,” she says. “I feel like God gave me the strength to get through it. Christ gave me the backbone and strength to listen to him.”

For the next several days, they continued to talk about his confession, and Shawn recounted his past further. It was hard, but not without hope. “All I wanted was for him to be guilt-free, and completely free of everything,” says Amber. “When he confessed that, as much as I was sad and hurt, I remember feeling joy too. Finally, he was allowing himself to be vulnerable to Christ.” After several days of conversation, it was all on the table and the healing could begin.The Weight of Two Worlds

The next year was not easy. Shawn and Amber immediately brought a mature couple into their struggle. Shawn opened up further to the men in his LTG and they responded with encouragement. During that year Shawn struggled with his sin, seeing victory and failure both. He started to understand the weight of his sin. But he also started to truly understand the grace of God.

It was grace that defeated his shame, and removed the weight of sin from Shawn’s shoulders. It is grace that’s restoring Shawn and Amber’s marriage to something greater than it ever was. “I see that he loves Jesus,” Amber says. “I’m grateful for everything God has brought us through.”

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Within 24 hours, they agreed that Jake needed to go to rehab. Tuesday, the Harrisons were on a plane to Florida to a facility that would take Jake.

The plane ride was terrible. The two-hour drive to the center was terrible. They got lost. They fought. But by Wednesday, Jake was in rehab, awakening to the truth of God’s love—that through Christ, Jake and Rebecca had the rest they so desperately needed.

October 20, 2010 was the first day Jake went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and the first day he admitted he’s an alcoholic.

Jake spent 37 days in rehab. At the end, the director of the program looked at the 10 recovering addicts and told them half would be back. To this day, Jake is one of two who never used again. “It’s all glory to God,” Jake says. “It’s nothing I’ve done.”

Rebecca joined Jake in Florida, and they began to rebuild their life together. They attended counseling together and separately, and Jake went to 90 meetings in 90 days. Rebecca began to deal with the pain Jake had caused her—something she’d set aside for a while, by God’s grace, to help care for Jake. She still wasn’t sure she was going to stay with him. Jake was still in touch with his mistress—a different addiction—and Jake thought he could handle it.

And at 34, he still hadn’t told anyone what his youth leader had done—not his addiction therapist, his friends in the program, or his wife. Though he had freedom from addiction for the first time in his life, this secret festered. It needed to be brought into the light, to become light, so that God could keep healing Jake’s wounds and taking on his burdens.

Even when Jake told his addiction therapist that he was bulimic and she asked point-blank if he was molested, Jake denied it. “I remember asking her why she’d ask that, and she said, ‘Well, you’re bulimic, a drug addict, an alcoholic, you had an affair, and you’ve confessed homosexual thoughts. So I figured you were molested,’” Jake shares. “Man, it was so ridiculous that I still couldn’t tell the truth.”

In late 2011, a news update about the Jerry Sandusky Penn State scandal came across the radio one day when Rebecca was driving with Jake in the car. The announcement elicited such a visceral reaction from Jake that Rebecca knew almost instantly. “It was an intuition thing,” Rebecca remembers. They rode in silence the rest of the way home. They went inside, sat on the couch, and Jake finally shared, “I was 11 or 12. It was a man at church.”

“That was all I could get out,” he remembers. “It was the first time I’d ever told anybody. It had been my secret for 20 years. It was terrifying. I thought she was going to leave me—but she just did what Rebecca does. She loved me.”

God’s ability to heal exceeds our imaginationSlowly, the Lord knit Jake and Rebecca back together. Their faith grew. They abandoned bad habits. They confessed old hurts. They had their first child, a sweet, blue-eyed girl, on August 26, 2012. Jake and Rebecca finally believed that God was loving enough and gracious enough to overcome their pain.

But they were still in Florida where it felt safe. Bit by bit, they began flying back to Austin for long weekends here and there. They never told anyone—Jake was still fearful of what would happen if he had contact with his old way of life or his mistress. God’s faithfulness and protection continued, and soon, Rebecca and Jake were ready to come back to their beloved city.

They moved back to Austin on October 20, 2012—Jake’s two-year sobriety date—and began attending The Austin Stone Community Church regularly.

Within a month, Jake and Rebecca heard Andy Kampman talk about going overseas to serve others and share the gospel. Memories of Nicaragua flooded them both, and they remembered how much joy they’d felt. That morning, both felt God wanted them to go overseas. “We’d always had a heart for it,” Rebecca remembers, “but finally, it was the right time. So we thought, Why not now?

As a next step, they joined a group at the Stone called a Goer Missional Community, or GMC, designed to train and prepare people to share the gospel overseas.

In that group, Jake and Rebecca found a community unlike any they’d ever experienced. At their first meeting, the GMC raised $2500 to help the Harrisons move into their community’s apartment complex. Their generosity and obedience to God was powerful to Rebecca and Jake. “I’d never seen Christians be that way,” Jake shares. “It was an instant family.”

Everything seemed to be working out. They were closer to God than they’d ever been, doted on their new baby girl, and their marriage grew stronger each day. They read the Bible and beamed. They knew now the joy of the psalmist who delights in God’s promise to lift his head up above his enemies and says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

But on the first day they moved into GMC housing, their beloved dog died unexpectedly, curled up on their bed. Then, Rebecca figured out that her eldest sister was doing meth regularly, often putting Rebecca’s niece, Julie, in danger. Rebecca’s sister refused help, and Rebecca had to call Child Protective Services to intervene. Then, Julie, who was 15, got pregnant by a man 10 years her senior. “I had a lot of guilt about that,” Rebecca shares. “I took her to church. I tried to save her. I felt like I failed.”

Everyone argued about what to do with the baby, including the Harrisons. Rebecca wanted to adopt the child, but Jake was worried she was falling into her habit of trying to save everyone. “That was the second biggest blow to our marriage. We fought a lot. We didn’t let God guide us,” Rebecca shares. “It’s just been so much spiritual warfare ever since we said ‘yes’ to going overseas.” While they were fighting and figuring out how to care for Julie’s infant son, Rebecca’s three-year-old nephew Isaac died suddenly in Dallas. “To come home from that funeral and have to find parents for my niece’s baby…” she pauses. “It was just two hard losses in a row.”

God’s ability to heal exceeds our imaginationWith each loss, the Harrison’s GMC wept, suffered, and prayed alongside them. One couple sat outside their door all night and prayed for them. Others buried their dog when the Harrisons couldn’t muster the strength. The GMC reminded the Harrisons of the truths from the Bible that their suffering was not in vain, that the God of the universe loves Jake, He loves Rebecca, that He is truly working all things for the good of those who love Him.

“If any good came out of that,” Rebecca says, “it’s the sense of urgency we have now to see the Great Commission completed. It made me want to see the kingdom come faster.”

They decided to stay in the U.S. another year while they recovered from the losses and allow God to heal them. Since they were staying, they decided to lead a new GMC, and they scheduled their first trip to Central Asia to confirm their desire to go serve the people of that region.

Over the past year, God has taught them how to speak about their joy in Christ and to use their story to demonstrate God’s goodness and faithfulness, even in awful circumstances. It can be painful to keep reliving, but Jake shares, “If I have to make myself vulnerable so God can allow others to be free of their secrets, then great.”

Each of them sees how their story and the choices they’ve made has allowed them to love each other better, to love God more, and to bring the freedom of a relationship with Christ to nonbelievers.God’s ability to heal exceeds our imagination

“We want to share about the affair, that God is bigger than it. It’s only God who can overcome what happened to us, what I did to Rebecca,” Jake shares.

“It’s beautiful to stick by someone through the mess and be made more like Christ as a result,” adds Rebecca.

“I think that’s why I love Jesus so much—from where we started, from where I started, now we’ve got two kids, we’re moving to Central Asia,” Jake says. “We’re just normal people. And He’s using us.”

And truly, Jake and Rebecca believe, God has shown them over and over again how His timing, His wisdom, and His plans are the way to find rest for their souls.

Their second child arrived in 2015. Jake celebrated that he’s been sober five years on October 20, 2015. They plan to move to Central Asia some time in 2016.

The Harrisons know more suffering will come, even as they obey Christ’s commandment to go and make disciples of all nations. But now, they have Christ’s example to follow in their suffering—an example of entrusting all things completely to God, even to the point of death.

And in this, they find the rest that only Christ can give. It is the promise found in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

God’s ability to heal exceeds our imagination

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Even with a new bride, a vow to drink more responsibly, and a job he liked, Jake’s depression deepened. He was drinking a bottle of Jameson whiskey a day. He planned his suicide on multiple occasions. He used cocaine regularly. He had an ongoing affair. They were the darkest years of his life.

He believed in God, but he ran to the comforts and escapes of this world to ease his pain. “I wanted relief. All I wanted was some kind of relief,” he recalls.

Rebecca saw her husband’s burdens and desperately tried to take them on herself, believing she could fill the hole in Jake’s heart. On her shoulders, she’d always felt the heavy weight of others’ salvation, both eternally and temporally. She needed to fix and protect the people in her life, and she carried this savior complex into her marriage with Jake. Inevitably, this burden unraveled her to the point at which she had no fight left in her. “His final spiral down felt like eternity, but it was really just a couple months,” she remembers.

It was the summer of 2010. Rebecca knew something was up—she knew Jake’s behavior had changed—so she confronted him. Jake admitted to aspects of the truth. Yes, he’d had an affair, but he promised it was a one-time thing with someone Rebecca didn’t know. In truth, it was habitual and with a mutual acquaintance from Jake’s work.Faith is seeing the unseen and brings the deepest healing

“You’d think seeking pleasure in that avenue would be satisfying, but that affair made me more miserable than anything else,” Jake recalls. “I hated that I did it. I hated that I couldn’t stop.” He hid so many things from Rebecca that he felt like he was living a complete lie. And Rebecca was frightened for Jake’s well being. He’d call her late at night, drunk and suicidal, and she wouldn’t know where he was.

“At that point, I was just really trying to control him—to get him to go to therapy, get him to see a psychiatrist, get him on medication. It was just about fixing him, because he was so suicidal I thought he was going to kill himself and it would be a reflection on me as a wife—that my husband killed himself because I wasn’t good enough. It was shameful for me to have a husband going through this and not be able to fix him. I even tried to get him committed and took him to a psychiatrist, but he’d had a good day that day, so he seemed fine and wouldn’t share the truth, so this plan just blew up in my face,” she remembers.

“I knew he was still having an affair. I knew he was still drinking. He didn’t come home at night. I felt like if I did nothing, I was going to come home and find him dead. I couldn’t watch him just kill himself.”

Rebecca spent that summer talking to a Christian therapist, her best friend, and God. They were the only ones who knew what was going on, and they were her lifelines. “God gave me this compassion for Jake—it wasn’t humanly possible,” she remembers.

“That’s how I could stay with him, even though he continued the affair, continued to drink, continued to lie.”

But even with that compassion, she was still terrified about what was going to happen to Jake. She called her best friend sobbing one Thursday afternoon, saying that Jake had to get help or she was going to leave. She remembers telling her friend, “There’s no way he’ll choose me.”

Rebecca’s friend replied, “Our God is a God of miracles—He can do anything.” And Rebecca deemed this would necessitate a miracle. There was no way. So she prayed for a miracle.

That night, she went home and gave Jake the ultimatum: pick your lifestyle, or pick me.Faith is seeing the unseen and brings the deepest healing

And he didn’t pick Rebecca. Jake packed up his things, left for his alcohol-and-drug-fueled weekend at ACL and a final fling with his mistress, and prepared himself to confront the youth leader who was, in Jake’s eyes, the root of all this evil—his alcoholism, his drug addiction, his affair, and his deep, deep pain.

He’d given up. He was so entrenched in shame that he couldn’t imagine God would ever want him. He remembers, “I didn’t want to be accepted back into God’s embrace. I wanted to die. I’d do a lot of cocaine and feel my heart and just beg it to please, just, stop.”

When Jake finally got back after ACL to his 1991 Buick La Sabre, isolated in the center of an empty parking lot outside BJ’s Brewhouse, he was ready to do what it took to end his pain. And then his car wouldn’t start.

Phoneless, he walked fifteen minutes to his wife’s grandmother, hoping to find Rebecca there. To her knowledge, Jake had planned to go visit his father in Florida. Rebecca opened the door to find the last person she expected. Head down, Jake asked for her help with the car. She paused, and then replied, “The only way I’ll help you is if you come to church with me.”

Hung over and out of options, Jake agreed. They fought the zoo of traffic and arrived, finding seats eight rows up in the back bleachers at Austin High School where The Austin Stone Community Church holds Sunday services. Jeff Mangum was teaching a sermon called “Faith Is: Seeing the Unseen,” and it seemed to Jake that God had orchestrated the whole universe so that he could hear this sermon at that exact moment.Faith is seeing the unseen and brings the deepest healing

Tears poured down Jake’s cheeks. People around him passed him tissues and squeezed his arm in comfort. Jake remembers so clearly, “I felt like God was in the building right there with me. Everything that Jeff said…”—he sighs—“It’s hard to explain. Jeff said that our God is going to push you to the edge where you have no other choice but to rely on Him—that it’ll feel like you’re falling, and He’ll catch you. I needed to rely on someone way bigger than me. That sermon couldn’t have been meant for anybody else but me. And it just crushed me. I felt like I could reach out and touch God, and He said, ‘Dude, just stop. Stop running, stop doing everything. Let Me help you.’ And I remember just crying. I bawled.”

“The snotty kind,” Rebecca interjects, laughing.

Filling his lungs with air, Jake remembers, “That was the most relief I ever had in my life.”

Here was that turning point they had thought was coming in 2007. And here it was, coming with the full force of God’s power and love in their lives. The Harrisons began to feel their burdens lighten, unaware that God’s plan for them was still very much in progress.

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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I recently read an article about three conversations parents should have with their kids this year.  In this order:

  1. Making smart choices about sex.
  2. Building healthy relationships.
  3. Avoiding smoking, drugs, and alcohol.

We find it interesting that the author thinks that teens should avoid smoking, drugs, and alcohol but not sex.

No wonder parents often find it difficult to discuss avoiding sexual behavior with their teens.

Parents are given messages that their teens should avoid drugs, alcohol, and smoking but not sexual activity.  In most surveys parents overwhelmingly state that they feel teens should avoid sexual activity until adulthood, preferably until marriage.  Studies have proven that delaying sexual debut into adulthood results in consistent and correct use of birth control and fewer sexual partners over a lifetime, which results in less STD exposure.

We find it odd that a great emphasis is placed on avoiding smoking, drugs, and alcohol, which can carry physical risks, but not on avoiding sexual activity, which carries physical, emotional, and relational consequences that can last a lifetime.  We really don’t buy the standard answer that teens are going to have sex anyway.  That really doesn’t hold up with the Center for Disease Control’s 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey that stated that 35% of teens drank some alcohol, 1 in 5 high school students currently use tobacco, and on average 55% of teens are NOT engaging in sexual activity, but of teens that are engaging in sexual activity, 1 in 4 has a sexually transmitted disease.

Shouldn’t the same emphasis be placed on avoiding sexual behavior in teens, as is placed on avoiding drugs, alcohol, and tobacco?

Image: Listen Hard

Image: Listen Hard

Parents, we completely understand talking about avoiding drugs, alcohol, and tobacco is much easier than talking about avoiding sex.  Many parents, because of past choices, feel like they cannot talk with their kids about sexual activity.

Let’s reframe that; if you used to smoke you probably have no problem talking to your kids about not smoking and why you quit.

Sex really shouldn’t be any different.

We can hear your voices, “But it is!!”  We know, trust us, WE KNOW!

That is why I’m Waiting offers parent classes that teaches effective communication, teaching decision making, adolescent brain development, AND healthy relationships.

So we did agree on one of the writer’s three points.

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We are continuing our energetic and informative discussion with Marvin “Merv” Mattair. It’s been inspiring to hear about the things that he is doing in his community of Madison County, FL – reaching into a youth culture and making a lasting impact in their lives.Merv Mattair

Merv is living proof that if you are faithful, God will come alongside you… and he is 100 times more faithful than we can ever imagine!

As Merv famously wrote, “You Prayed While I Played: A Message From the Once Lost Brother”, which speaks of God’s faithfulness, answered prayers, redemption and so much more.

As Merv puts it: very few young men are taught to be faithful. Instead, they are taught to “sow their royal oats”. These same young men learn to take pride in that and this sleeping around with one girl after another makes them feel like “a man”. They feel as though they are protected by using condoms, and therefore they can do whatever they want to do, however they want to do it, with whomever they want to do it with. But, the fact is that it takes a mere 21 days to form a habit. It takes less than a month of going from one party to another, sleeping with one girl than another… all in the name of having fun, before a hard-to-break-habit is formed.

Then, when this young man decides to settle down with one woman, this habit is incredibly difficult to break. Add to that the use of condoms as some sort of “sports equipment”, it makes it that much easier to tip toe out behind your woman’s back and become a professional cheater.

It never fails. We see it time and time again.

The young man says he loves his wife, but he has a habit that is incredibly difficult to deal with.

This is why Merv works so hard to nip the problem in the bud. He and his team works with young men before the habits are created. He lets them into his own life and shows them how he faithfully loves his wife and only his wife.

praying wife

Image: constrainedbylove.com

When Merv was walking in those cheatin’ player shoes, he thought he was doing right. He would cheat on his wife, then tell her he loves her, buy her flowers, ask her to forgive him… then go right back out and do it again. He was losing the fight in the ring of sin. Sticking and moving, ducking and dodging was his thing while in the ring, but nobody ever wins in that fight. Nobody.

Yet, his wife prayed for him nonstop. As Merv wrote:

“Your Sincere Prayers penetrating through the clouds,

Over several planets, & over anotha,

Until they reached Jehovah,

Then made manifested on the conscious of a lost Brotha”

She never gave up on Merv. She prayed for him constantly. She prayed, which encouraged him to pray. She prayed some more, which spurred Merv on to pray more. He didn’t stop playing around initially, but eventually, they began to pray together and he began to look into God’s Word what it meant to be a man, instead of what he had been taught growing up. Even within the context of Christian churches, he had seen men cheat on their wives. In Merv’s eyes, it’s just the way life went. Finally, he saw the hypocrisy for what it was. He recognized the calling the God had put on his life and the gift that God had given him in his wife!

As an answer to her dutiful prayers, they are married today and serving God together!

As Merv says, it’s amazing what a man can do when He decides to let go of the things of this world, stops giving into his sinful urges and allow God to transform him.

Instead of glorifying the “black-to-white” stories, I wish more time was spent in churches glorifying the stories that say, “I grew up in the same ‘hit-it-and-quit-it culture – the same fallen world – that everyone else did, but I chose to flee from temptation and not sin. I walked hard after my God everyday.”

THAT is the harder testimony.

Turning to God after years of addiction, sleeping around, alcohol and drugs… that’s the easy choice to make. But walking hard after God every single day, with temptations all around you in a culture that says to do something different than what God wants… do what YOU want, THAT’S the hard testimony.

That’s the story we need to be sharing with our kids. We need to encourage them that it is possible to follow God’s path everyday and not stray.

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Hello and welcome to Parent Like You Mean It – the podcast where we examine healthy ways to stretch yourself beyond what is comfortable or convenient and into what is intentional and purposeful in regards to raising your kids. I’m Jefferson Drexler, and just like you, I want my kids to be accepted and viewed as “normal”, without compromising an inch of their integrity and values.

Which brings me right to this week’s topic: should good Christian parents allow their kids to participate in yoga?
Family_Yoga

I have seen one article after another basically saying, “Absolutely not! It’s the ‘gateway drug’ to all things ungodly. Spiritually speaking, you may as well dance with the devil, himself (or at least Ganesha).”

On the flipside, I have spoken with several others who say, “I know the origins of yoga, but we don’t ‘go there’. We ignore every utterance of “aligning your chakra” or “centering your chi”. We don’t truly ‘empty ourselves’, because there’s simply too much on my todo list to ignore it all.”

So, what’s the right answer? Both? Neither?

I tend to view things like this from a much broader lens. Lately, my wife and I have been much less concerned about the specificities of what we are allowing into our kids’ live, and more concerned about what is being “normalized” in their lives.

In other words, we look at the things what were once outside of their day-to-day lives, or even considered “taboo”, by their understandings of our rules and family culture, that are now being questioned whether or not they should be moved into the “normal” category of life.

We easily see this in American entertainment.

Once upon a time, any “bad words” at all were kept from all television programming airing before the 11:00 news.

Then came Hill Street Blues.

Hill Street Blues

Hill Street broke ground by showing an intense gunfight where an officer was caught saying “Son of a Bitch” by New York news cameras.

Suddenly, it was normal for “bad words” to be aired in the 10:00 time slot.

It didn’t take long at all before you started hearing more and more previously banned swearing in the 9:00 slot, and even earlier. Now, with hundreds more channels available 24 hours a day, you never know what words you’ll hear as you flip from the Disney channel, through Nickelodeon, past Cartoon Network and into Esquire or AMC.

And no one cares.

It’s become normal.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that all channels should be censored. I’m merely pointing out that what was once taboo in American broadcasting has been redefined as normal.

The same thing applies in movies in regards to language, violence, and partial nudity. I mean, when I was a boy, there wasn’t even a separation of full nudity and partial nudity. If clothing were removed from where they once were, the movie got an R rating. If they kept their underwear on, it got a PG rating. Now, with the advent of PG-13, the lines are blurring and different standards for what is considered “normal” is ever changing.

Combining these two situations, where it was once racy to see married couple Frank Furillo and Joyce Davenport merely talking about their day while in bed (again, Hill Street Blues, after 10:00) – now the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is primetime and promoted like it’s the Super Bowl.

All this to say, there has been a shift in what broadcasting companies and television viewers determine as “normal”.

So, what does this have to do with yoga?

Well, firstly, let’s look at what yoga is “normally” defined as: It’s exercise and core muscle toning through a variety of stretches and poses. Under that normal definition, I see it as totally harmless. Good for you and your kids.

But, wait! There’s more!

It’s really no secret that yoga is derived from an ancient spiritual discipline deeply rooted in Hinduism. It’s traditional poses and origins all point to Hindu gods, rituals, and ideology. One technique that often accompanies the stretching and poses is mentally emptying oneself in order to center and balance oneself.

Very Hindu.

So, as Bible-believing Christians, do you want that to be a part of your weekly fitness diet? Or, if you would forgive yet another metaphor, can your diet consist of fast food, so long as you don’t partake of the fries, shakes and soda? In other words, can your fitness diet consist of yoga, without the “focusing your id”, “cleansing your aura”, or “bowing before Ganesha”?

Most people would answer yes!

However, then there are those who point to yoga’s origins and protest, insisting that its very foundation is steeped in Hinduism, so therefore has no part in a Christian household.

That’s a tough argument, assuming consistency is a priority in your life. Especially since so many of our Christmas and Easter traditions are steeped in paganism and other non-Christian practices.

You’re wondering why I’m on the fence.

Here’s the deal: I believe that the Bible is very clear on having no other gods but the Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the God Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father, hallowed be Thy name” to. That’s the only God – no exception.

Therefore, if the yoga you are working out to hints to any acceptance (or normalization) of another god – run!

Don’t make even the acceptance that there are other gods “normal” in your workout routines, much less in your household.

Likewise, the Bible tells us that we should fill our lives with the Holy Spirit. How does this look? I believe “being filled with the Holy Spirit” is evidenced by your life showing examples of what the Bible calls the “fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Therefore, anything that instructs us to “empty ourselves”, or “empty your mind” runs against this Biblical teaching. We’re not created to be empty. We are meant to be filled!

So, my bottom line on yoga is this – if you work out at home, at a studio, at the beach, at a park… wherever, and you do it in such a matter that doesn’t “normalize” what the Bible clearly defines as out of bounds – stretch away!

However, if your instructor, or studio, or video, or app brings anything into the mix that God wants us to avoid, not in a harmful way, but in a neutral or even helpful way… run!

And my main point is this – I’ve been using television, movies and yoga as simple illustrations of a larger issue facing parents today.

The major question is: What are you “normalizing” in your house? What are the areas that you know were once considered taboo, but because of a shifting culture outside your home’s walls, are now considered “normal”? These things may or may not be harmful to you and your kids, but I guarantee that once they are accepted as normal, they take residence in your home and change the direction of your home’s moral compass.

It’s inevitable.

Am I saying that all television is bad and only hell-bound families subscribe to HBO? Absolutely not!! I am saying that if you allow your kids to watch certain programming because everyone else is, the next level of “questionable shows” will be queued up much sooner than you think. Therefore, maybe you should even reconsider what you and your spouse view as “normal” things to be watching.

Am I saying that Godly homes never have any alcohol except rubbing alcohol and Nyquil?

Absolutely not!! I am saying that the Bible is very clear on not getting drunk. If you want a beer or two at a backyard barbecue, knock one back! If you enjoy a fine glass of Georges Latour or even two-buck-chuck with your steak, swirl and sip away! But if you’re drinking for the purpose of getting buzzed, much less loaded… run!

(You know, now that I think about it, there seems to be a common thread here… maybe we should all just take up running!)

Anyway, the same thing can be said about medicinal marijuana, recreational pot, trashy entertainment, horror flicks, fifty-shades of whatever books… the list goes on and on. Ask yourself what you consider “normal”, what you consider “out of bounds” and how do these boundaries measure up against what Scripture says?

I’m not saying we should all be monks. I am saying that we need to be perpetually on guard to what is being defined as “normal” in the lives of our family and continually discuss with our kids what the Bible says about filling our minds and our bodies with such things.

That is how my wife and I Parent Like We Mean It!

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Comedian Jeffrey Jena, one of my closest friends on the planet, joins the show as we reminisce about our hazy early days in stand up comedy – which leads directly to memory loss due to getting older and frying brain cells when we were younger.
You see, where some people have problems remembering things and simply blame it on a “senior moment”, Jeffrey and I know that there are entire sections of our cranium that were burned out at a Led Zeppelin concert in the mid-70’s.
But how does this affect people who tell jokes for a living?
What happens to the jokes that no one gets?
It’s all very scientific, really. The joke continues its motion without anything impeding its progress until it gets dissolved into the ions of the atmosphere. It thin reaches the ears and mind of someone who does get the joke.
Which explains the homeless guy on the corner who randomly breaks out in uncontrollable laughter.
See? Science. Even in a faith-based podcast!
Jeffrey chalks up his approach to things to his Jesuit education where he was taught to doubt everything: Buddhism, Hinduism, Marxism, Islam…everything. Sadly, this often leads to the top students doubting their own faith and the Jesuit teachers end up creating agnostic or atheist students.
It was this process of doubting everything that kept Jeffrey from attending any church whatsoever for many years until he met his wife who was attending a Methodist church in California. At the time, he simply found it easier to go along in order to get along, so he dutifully sat in the pews from week to week.
That was until the pastor cornered and confronted him after a Sunday service.
“You’re not buying any of this are you?” the pastor asked.
It was then that Jeffrey honestly faced his doubts.
The pastor then replied, “Do you think that God wants you to leave your brain outside when you come into church? Bring your doubts in. If I’m preaching and something I say doesn’t make sense, stand up and ask right then and there and I’ll answer your questions to the best of my ability.”
It was his pastor’s openness and teaching and Jeffrey’s wife’s patience and encouragement that helped guide him back into the Good Shepherd’s flock.
But it was a different set of circumstances that paved Jeffrey’s road toward sobriety. Long before he had even met his wife, he found himself at death’s doorstep after a three-day binge on booze and coke that almost got his attention. But that wasn’t enough. It wasn’t until he spent an evening in the Raleigh drunk tank that he realized he didn’t want to be like his cellmates anymore.
While in a recovery program, Jeffrey realized that his own major personal fault was lying. Even to the point of being able to lie to himself. In fact, when he stopped drinking and drugs, he had simply moved his compulsive addiction to gambling and continued to lie to himself that he was clean.
So, then it took a few bouts with a compulsive gambling addiction for him to realize that his underlying, deep, true problems were character flaws that could only be cleaned out with divine help. So, it was his relationship with Christ that finally helped him thoroughly examine his life and understand who he was behaving like compared to who God had created him to be.
Once clean, and after fighting alongside his wife in her long battle against breast cancer, they were told that they could never have children of their own. There was simply too much damage done to her body from several rounds of chemo and multiple surgeries. But, sometimes God knows better than doctors and adoption agencies.
You can imagine their surprise when the pregnancy test stick showed positive when she was the ripe age of 44!
Therefore, Jeffrey truly looks at his son as a “Miracle Boy”! He’s a straight-A student, which only proves that there’s something miraculous about him, considering who the boy’s dad is.
This, even though Jeffrey used to be a fifth-grade teacher. 40 years ago, he taught in Houston, but was blown away that despite the best efforts of the teachers, discovered that he was teaching ten and eleven-year-olds who couldn’t read at all – not just below grade level, but AT ALL.
That’s what drove him from a “real job” and into comedy.

For more about Jeffrey’s story, his comedy or just to drop him a line, check out www.JeffreyJena.com or you can connect with him on Facebook or Twitter @JeffreyJena

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Let’s start out with some stats:

  • On a per capita basis, the group that’s leading in increased incidents of sexually transmitted disease is the 10 to 14-year-old age group.
  • In 1970, less than 5% of all 15-year-old girls had had sex. By 1988 that number rose to 25%. Current estimates say that 20% of our high schoolers graduate with their virginity.
  • Of those who have had sex, 30% of them have it once and then don’t do it again. Another 30% have had four partners or more by the time they finish high school.
  • The number one group for sexually transmitted disease (which is three times higher than the general population) are 16 to 20-year-olds.
  • 2/3 of all sexually transmitted disease is in 25-year-olds or younger.
  • Currently one in seven teenagers have a sexually transmitted disease of some kind.
  • Just 20 years ago, there were just four primary diseases out there, now there are 32.
  • One in four Americans will have a sexually transmitted disease by the time they are 55.
  • 14% of all AIDS cases were contracted while the patient was a teenager.
  • One in ever 500 college students have tested HIV positive.
  • It wasn’t that long ago that they said secondary smoke wouldn’t hurt you, and at the same time they told us that we could not get AIDS heterosexually. Then they told us that we cannot get it through saliva, yet OSHA requires that nurses wear a double gown, double gloves, gauze mask, and plastic shield whenever they are handling AIDS suspected saliva samples.
  • Married partners using condoms every time they have sex, where one of them is HIV positive – both will be infected within 18 months.
  • Across America, more affairs take place at age 50, than at any other age in marriage.
  • The number one problem facing retirement communities in the U.S. is infidelity.

The bottom line is that, whether you’re young, middle aged or old, single, married or about to get married, one question seems to abound when it comes to sex, kissing, hugging, flirting and innuendo:  “How far is too far?”

So, let’s start with Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 6:12:

“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial.  ‘I have the right to do anything’ – but I will not be mastered by anything.”

With this in mind, think about when you were young (four-years-old or so) and your parents wouldn’t let you run into traffic. You thought they were trying to spoil your fun, but really they simply didn’t want you to get hurt.

Likewise, there are a few “don’ts” in the Bible.

One of them is “Don’t murder”. If I shoot and murder a guy, I’m a murderer. No two ways about it. Now, if I shoot and murder the same guy at the exact same time another person aims and shoots the same guy (unlikely situation, but follow me), then we are both murderers. It doesn’t matter how much money or influence each of us may have, doesn’t matter how old or young we may be, or who our families are… we’re both murderers.

Other “don’ts” include: don’t steal, don’t lie, and don’t go after your neighbor’s stuff. This all coincides with our actual laws and cultural laws today.

But, here’s another “don’t” in the Bible: Don’t have sex with somebody that you’re not married to. Now, unlike murder, this one isn’t against the law – in fact it’s widely considered a badge of honor if you do it in our culture. The Bible doesn’t say, “if you’ve dated the person 20 times, or if you really love each other, or if you’re very mature…” If the Word of God is important to you, none of these rationale mean anything. The Bible is very clear: don’t do it.

Yet, everyone asks, at some point in their lives, “How far can I go before it becomes sin?”

So, point number one is: It all depends on how you ask. If you ask from the positive – “God, what’s going to glorify You in this relationship tonight?” you will hear His voice and guidance. On the contrary, if you ask from the negative – “God, how bad can I be and still be okay?” your motive is revealed as self-serving, God’s not in it and you won’t hear from Him. Therefore, always ask wanting to know God’s heart and God’s will, not to justify your own agenda.

Point number two points to the verse we looked at earlier: 1 Corinthians 6:12. There are some sins that are absolute: don’t have sex with someone you’re not married to. That’s it. Absolute. If the Bible says I can’t do it, then I can’t do it. But Paul then says that if the Bible doesn’t mention it, I can do it – unless it takes mastery over me. Then it’s off limits. There can only be one slave/one master, and I need to be enslaved to God’s will. I can’t also be enslaved to my desire for sex, making out, heavy petting, or whatever else may enslave me. So questions like whether or not to kiss, how long to kiss, how to kiss, the same for hugging, hand holding, or anything else – there’s no hard and fast rule, but when it becomes a master over you, you’ve gone too far. You’ll know it when you experience it, and it’s different for different people. But if it masters you, it’s a sin because God is no longer mastering your thoughts, intentions and actions.

So, if you’re dating, save yourself a ton of grief. If all you have going for you is a physical relationship, bail right away. Because if making out, sex and other things physical are at the foundation of your relationship, you will get hurt down the line.

Thirdly, you may have to start from the vantage point of your weaker brother or sister – AND BE CONTENT WITH THAT! In other words, you may have to limit your behavior to what would be appropriate for your weaker brother or sister in Christ. If an R-rated movie would cause them to stumble, you need to honor that. If it’s okay for you to drink alcohol, but not for them, then you need to abstain. And, even in the confines of a married couple’s bedroom, if there are things that make one spouse uncomfortable, then the other spouse should not force that behavior or action upon them. It’s the world that says “Lighten up!” but it’s the Bible that instructs us to adjust our behavior for our brother or sister and be content.

Finally, when you touch a person, who is not your spouse, with the intent to arouse them as opposed to simply express Godly affection, it just became sin. Not when that touch evolves into actual intercourse and an affair, but way back in the beginning when you flirted the first time.

So, to sum up, here are the four principles to dating:

  1. Ask from a positive.
  2. If it masters you, it’s a sin.
  3. You may have to start from the vantage point of your weaker brother or sister – AND BE CONTENT.
  4. When you touch someone with the intent to arouse, it just became sin.

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