Advice For Christians Using Social Media

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”Colossians 3:17 

Millions of people around the world are using some type of social media ( i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Google+, tumblr, Instagram). It is a quick and easy form of communication and if used properly can be a positive and productive mode of socialization. For believers it can also be an excellent platform for sharing the gospel! Christians are encouraged to be like Jesus, living a life consistent with their new life in Christ. Paul says we are to do everything, whether in word or deed, in the name of the Lord Jesus. Our Christian identity changes things and that should be reflected in everything we do and say. This should give us a different perspective on life. If we are living for the glory of God, passionate about knowing him and making him known, then everything in our lives should reflect that passion, even something as simple as how we use social media. Through my experience using and posting on various social media platforms and blogs over the past thirteen years I want to share with you some advice for Christians using social media.

Be Intentional: Think through why you want to use social media. Will you be using it as a means of networking with new people you wouldn’t normally connect with or to keep in touch with friends, acquaintances and family? Are you going to use it for staying informed about real-world events or as a platform for learning new things? Will you use it to market yourself or your business, or to keep others informed about your life? As a believer do you use it as a witnessing tool or a means of encouraging and building up one another? Are you using it to do all of the above? Thinking through your reason for using social media is the first step in becoming more successful at communicating and connecting with others. With your goals in mind you will be more likely to think about what you are posting (content), to whom you are posting (audience) and why you are posting (purpose). This not only improves the quality of your posts or status updates, it also benefits your audience thereby giving meaning to your posts. Regardless of your goal, the fact that you are using social media indicates that you are looking to connect with people in some way, yet if your posts are causing people to hit the ‘unfollow’ button the chances are you haven’t been intentional about reaching your audience.

Being intentional will mean you have to do more work. You may have to tag and group your friends to be more effective at posting different things for different audiences. You may have to spend a couple hours going through your privacy, posting, and notification settings to tweak your social media to be used the way you want. You may have to spend more time with your posts and status updates. You may have to use third party software to post to multiple social media sites at once or schedule future postings to be sent out at more convenient times. To that end, how often you post and when you post is just as important as what you post. Timing is everything. Post multiple times a day in rapid succession, machine gun style, and you annoy the people you are trying to reach. Post at the wrong time of the day and you miss the people you are trying to reach. Using a program like buffer or hootsuite allows you to pre-schedule posting times. This can help you become more consistent in posting to multiple social media platforms, and more effective by posting at the right times. If you are using social media, have a goal in mind and be intentional about reaching that goal.

Be Relational: Remember the main point of social media is to be social; it’s all about communication. You’ve heard it said “communication is a two-way street”, keep that in mind if you are the one doing all the talking. So don’t be the silent assassin sneaking in a couple times a day to drop an announcement or status update on your peeps, rather be relational: ask questions, like posts, tag friends, share links, and comment on status updates or other content people post. Engage with your audience and they will be more likely to engage with you. The reality is if you are using a persnickety social media program like Facebook you need to understand it favors activity. Facebook uses an algorithm that takes into account how social you are and this determines what you see on your news feed and how many other people see your status update on their newsfeed. If you are not relational on Facebook chances are when you finally get around to posting something very few people actually see it.

Be Careful: Regardless of your privacy settings you must always assume that anything you post on social media could be read, copied, downloaded, or reposted by anyone at any time. Rick Warren says “Social media is instant, global, and permanent.” When you click ‘post’ you cannot take it back. Don’t assume that your ability to delete a post or a comment will make it go away completely. Regardless of how fast you are, before you can delete it someone has already seen it. In addition, many social media users have their social media set up to send text notifications or e-mails when a comment has been made; once that e-mail notification with your comment has been sent, it doesn’t matter how many times you click the delete button they are still going to see it and have a permanent copy of it in their e-mail. Part of being intentional is being careful. Think about what you are posting and its implications or consequences before you hit the post button. Ask yourself “could this easily be misinterpreted or taken out of context” or “will this be offensive?” If you are not intending to offend or confuse your audience then consider revising it, posting something different, or not posting at all.

Along the same lines don’t be naive, not everyone using social media has pure motives. Use caution and common sense when posting personal information and photographs (unless of course you are ok with someone absconding with your flat screen TV while you are three hundred miles away posting status updates on vacation). The truth is we ought to use caution when posting, not only for our safety but also to guard our character. Christians can easily damage their witness, reputation, friendships and integrity with a single click of a button by posting the wrong things on social media. This leads me to my next point…be real.

Be Real: If you are going to mark “Christian” in your public profile then you should realize the implication is that you know Christ and because you know Christ you are choosing to be like Christ in your life. This relationship with Jesus should shape who you are. Contrary to the way some see themselves on the internet, social media is not your alter ego. If the title ‘Christian’ has no meaning and does not have any bearing on your life choices, stop using the title. In other words, be real. In the same way, if you are a Christian and you do wish to live intentionally for Christ, don’t use social media to pretend to be something you are not. Don’t use social media to create your ‘ideal’ life or the life you wish you had. You don’t have to look like you have a perfect life void of problems in order to be a good Christian.

In addition, don’t hide behind the keyboard. Some have this uncanny ability to speak with reckless abandon when they are on the internet. This is another form of duplicity that makes you out to be something you are not. In other words, don’t say anything on social media that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.

Be Sensible: After becoming president in 1949, Harry S. Truman would warn his staff about the pressure of the job and the criticism they might receive saying, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” In other words, don’t take on the job if you are unwilling to face the pressure. This is good advice for the social media arena as well. There is no doubt that social media has it’s pitfalls and at some point there could be a considerable amount of criticism, disagreement, or conflict concerning something you’ve posted or said. It is important that you are mature enough to handle this kind of pressure or stress. Keep this in mind, if you are going to put your voice out there you need to be able to take criticism and respond appropriately, even if it means not responding at all (mishandling conflict is often much worse than simply not responding to it). If there is a need to respond you must be frank and humble. If you cannot handle this kind of pressure you should seriously consider avoiding social media all together, or at the very least be intentional about what you post to avoid posting things that will inevitably lead to pressure you know you cannot handle.

Another social media faux pas that needs to be addressed, especially for Christians, is using social media to whine or complain. While it may be ok to post on a bad experience you’ve had or to elicit discussion on something you are frustrated with, it is not always ok to vent about all of your personal problems for the whole world to know. Not only will it damage your character, a constant stream of whining or complaining will result in your friends hitting the ‘unfollow’ button faster than you can say, “Jack Robinson.”

Be Affirming: Johnny Mercer tells us in his 1944 hit song, “you got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, but don’t mess with mister inbetween.” Obviously we cannot always eliminate the negative and sometimes we shouldn’t, yet a good rule of thumb is to avoid harsh criticism, frequent complaints, and passive aggressive, sarcastic statements that focus on the negative. Don’t get me wrong, I am not touting the popularized teaching of “positive thinking” or saying that it is wrong to ever be negative or critical; what I am saying is this should not become your modus operandi. We must use discernment.

Social media allows people to get a glimpse into your thought life and as Christians even our thoughts should be brought into submission to Christ (2 Cor 10:5, Phil 4:8). When using social media people tend to lose their boundaries, which means what you post can be quite revealing. What is going on in your head is most likely what is being lived out in your life. Jonathan Edwards says, “The ideas and images in men’s minds are the invisible powers that constantly govern them”. So Paul tells us not to conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). A renewed mind will be able to do what Paul says in Philippians 4:8; it will think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. These Godly qualities should characterize the children of God, both in their thoughts and actions. The author of Hebrews says we ought to think about ways to stir one another up in love and good works and encourage one another; we need to seriously consider how to do this (Heb 10:24). Even something as ordinary as posting on social media can serve in some way to encourage and build others up or at the very least affirm our faith.

Remember, the world is watching!  In our words and deeds I pray that we will be “…blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…” (Phillipians 2:15-16). If you use social media, use it for the glory of God; let your light shine.

Is Divorce The Key To Happiness?

Let’s start by pointing out that divorce can be a difficult and painful subject to discuss from a personal point of view because people in the midst of divorce, or those seriously considering it, are often times irrational and emotionally out of control.  However, the subject of divorce from a spiritual and Biblical perspective is quite clear and simple to discuss. But that’s the rub. Does someone who is in the midst of this situation really care what God’s word says?

Sometimes when we are unhappy, caught up in sin, and out of control we can allow ourselves to get wrapped up in lies, so much so that we attempt to convince ourselves and others around us that we are right and justified in the decisions we make, no matter how misguided those decisions may be. What can make a man turn from the truth and embrace a lie? What can make an otherwise rational Christian become bitter and indifferent to God’s word?  What can make us twist Scripture to make it say what we want it to say and embrace the things God calls sin all the while claiming God’s acceptance of our rebellion? And how can we ever convince ourselves that these things will make us happy or that God just wants us to be happy?

Marriage was instituted and founded by God when he created Adam and Eve.  He created them “male and female” – Gen. 1:27 and said that the two shall become one flesh.  This bond of becoming “one flesh” was never meant to be broken.  Jesus affirms this in the New Testament when he quotes Genesis 1 to the Pharisee asking about divorce and responds with this statement, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  What God has joined together, let no man separate” – Matthew 19:6. The two became one flesh in marriage, but God joined the couple together.  From the beginning of time God designed marriage to be a union between man and woman and thereby ordained the concept of two people becoming one flesh and the idea that this union should not be broken.  How is it that we can convince ourselves that at some point in our lives God, for the sake of our happiness, wants us to divide this “one flesh” union?

Marriage is a vow and covenant between the man and the woman with God as the witness.  This is made clear in the Book of Malachi.  God refused to accept the offerings of the people because he was standing firm as a witness against husbands who were being unfaithful to their wives.  You might find it interesting that these men refused to remain faithful to their marriage covenant and yet they still expected God to remain faithful to them. They even ask the question “Why isn’t God accepting our offerings?” God’s response is found in  Malachi 2:14 “Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. I believe the marriage covenant is linked to our spiritual well-being and when this covenant is threatened or broken it disrupts our spiritual life.  However, I also have to take into account the idea that a broken relationship with Christ is likely a factor in the marital problems to begin with.  Malachi’s emphasis on the faithless husband is just one of the numerous symptoms of a people who already had a broken relationship with God.

The Bible tells us to be imitators of Christ and to have the same mind as Christ.  It says husbands should love their wives like Christ loves the church and the Bible speaks often of marriage being a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church.  In the metaphor, Jesus is understood to be the groom and the church is His bride.  If we are to be imitators of Christ as the Bible says, then the relationship of Jesus Christ to the church becomes our example for the marriage relationship.  Jesus is faithful to his bride, the church, even though the church is a whore who is continually unfaithful to him.  He was faithful to the point of death.  That’s the example we are to follow.

Divorce is a sin.  It’s wrong.  It’s outside of God’s will.  It’s selfish, self-seeking, and does not honor God.  It was not meant to be.  Even Jesus says in Matthew 19 – “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” He goes on to say that anyone who divorces his or her wife and marries another woman commits adultery.

Jesus gives only one reason for divorce, sexual immorality.  This, however, is not a command nor is it meant to be used as an excuse for divorce.  Divorce is allowed in this case but is not desired by God nor required by Him.  In fact, if Jesus is our example then forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration of the marriage should always be the first option.  Even though the church is unfaithful to Christ and he could rightfully “divorce” her, he chooses to pursue his bride instead, seeking reunion.

These are the things I know to be true because I believe the Bible to be true. The problem still lies in the question, do Christians in this situation really care about what the Bible says or what God thinks?  Does the urgency of their present situation trump the authority of Scripture?  Does our culture’s acceptance of divorce as a common practice make the Bible’s teachings on divorce a moot point?  The obvious answer is no.  Yet is that how we live?  It’s unfortunate that divorce is rampant within the Christian community.

Part of the problem may be that we get caught up in the lie that says “I need to start thinking about me and caring for myself and doing what makes me happy.”  When we come to the point where we believe life is about us and our own enjoyment then I must assume that Jesus is no longer in the picture, since he would teach and live the exact opposite.  Jesus says that in order for us to follow him we must take up our cross and deny ourselves.  Paul says in Romans that we are to sacrifice ourselves daily as our spiritual worship.  Denying ourselves and sacrificing ourselves is the opposite of living for our own happiness and pleasure.

That’s the truth, plain and simple.  So why can’t we just call it what it is?  If someone is going to get a divorce then why do we need to sugar coat it, look over it, and make it ok when it isn’t? It’s sin, let’s call it what it is.  But in the same respect, staying “married” in name only just because it’s something you’re supposed to do and then avidly chasing other things or other people isn’t right either. If you are looking to do the right thing as far as God is concerned there is only one answer, follow the example of Christ.  You have to choose to passionately love your spouse and unconditionally pursue him/her regardless of his/her faults.

Giving up on Christ and seeking after your own pleasure and enjoyment is unfulfilling and you’ll never truly be happy apart from Him.  However, it is just as unfulfilling and wrong to “do” Christianity because you think it is what your supposed to do.  The only right thing in the Christian life is to passionately love Christ and unconditionally pursue Him regardless of your own sins, faults, and weaknesses, knowing that he has passionately pursued you. Christ is the key to happiness.  Divorce is just a symptom of a much deeper problem.

Be Careful Little Lips What You Drink…

The alcohol debate is beginning to build steam in Baptist churches.  Should Baptists be as strongly against alcohol or is it true to say that the Bible really doesn’t call the drinking of alcohol a sin?  Is the “sin” of alcohol nothing more than a Baptist tradition or is there something else to it?

I’ve been pondering this question myself in light of things.  I read Mark Driscoll’s book “The Radical Reformission” and pored over his chapter on alcohol, entitled “The Sin of Light Beer.”  At first I was intrigued and somewhat accepting of his view.  The second time I read it I became skeptical and now the third time I’ve considered this chapter I have come to the conclusion that his arguments are weak and his conclusions should not be trusted based on his arguments.

Driscoll’s first argument for Christian liberty in the consumption of alcohol is a story about how he studied the Biblical account of Jesus turning water into wine.  He said it convicted him of his “sin of abstinence from alcohol”.    Unfortunately he doesn’t say what part of the study convicted him.  He doesn’t explain what brought him to this conclusion.  In fact, he doesn’t give any further information whatsoever.  The reader is left to assume that the story of Jesus’ turning water into wine should lead us and convict us into believing that the consumption of alcohol is okay for believers.

His second argument is his study of church history.    Driscoll lists Martin Luther and John Calvin as references for early church reformers who took great joy in drinking.  This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone since they were fresh out of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church.  There are a lot of things Calvin and Luther did that we don’t do.  For instance, John Calvin believed “infants cannot be deprived of it [baptism] without open violation of the will of God.”  According to Calvin’s theology, we are out of the will of God for not baptizing babies.  Does that mean we need to fill the baptismal; sprinkle babies and pop open a “cold one” to celebrate?  “They did it so we can too” is not a good argument for any reasonably minded adult.

His third argument is actually an accusation.  Those dang feminists have ruined everything!  The combination of Christianity and feminism drove out the decent brewers and left us with “wimpy” beer.  The feminized church was also one of the culprits for the prohibition of alcohol.  Driscoll says, “I personally long for the return to the glory days of Christian pubs where God’s men gather to drink beer and talk theology.”

While these are his main arguments, Driscoll does appeal to scripture in this chapter.  His first real Biblical argument is “Drunkenness is a sin.”  Whether you are for alcohol or against it, we can all agree that drunkenness is a sin.  The Bible is clear, it is indeed a sin and it causes all sorts of problems.

The next argument is over biblical terminology.  This is the place were I start to have a major problem with Driscoll’s line of reasoning.  He takes a jab at Christians who believe certain terminology such as wine and new wine may refer to nonalcoholic beverages.  His argument is that these people who claim that the term “wine” doesn’t mean wine are the same people who believe in inerrancy, making the claim that they are contradicting themselves.  His reasoning suggests that in order to believe in inerrancy you have to believe that the term “wine” in Scripture has to refer to what we think of as wine today.

Here is why that is wrong.  If we are going with Driscoll’s line of thinking we would have to say that in order to be inerrant we must believe that the term “love” found in scripture has to mean exactly what we think of as love today.  Love is love right?  Well, no… not exactly.  The truth is we know that in Greek there are three words for this idea of love: Eros, Philia, and Agape.  In modern Greek there two more: storge and thelema. These are all different words with different meanings and yet in our English translations they are translated as love.  In order to have a greater understanding of scripture we have to discover which Greek word is being used.  This knowledge can completely change the meaning of a passage.  Driscoll makes the comment in reference to the term wine “what else could it mean, hubcap?”  Would he make the same comment for the term love?  I doubt it.

Driscoll’s argument is extremely weak in my opinion, which makes some of his final conclusions almost humorous to me.  He says “Now that we have established a flexible theology of alcohol that is more reasonable than many theologians’…”  I don’t think Driscoll actually establishes anything but his own opinion and I definitely don’t think we can pull a “flexible theology of alcohol” out of his little can of worms.  Mainly because I think the one thing lacking in his whole argument is theology.

I’m not harping on this because I hate Mark Driscoll, I actually enjoyed the book and I’m currently experiencing the joys of Vintage Jesus.  I am normally in agreement with him, but on this issue I think he has merely scraped a little dirt off a much bigger issue and tried to pull a conclusion to the issue out of thin air.  I also think that in dealing with this issue in such a haphazard way he has done exactly what Paul warns against in Romans 14:13-23.  Whether or not his conclusion is right or wrong is not the issue.  The ways in which he has presented his case is the problem and therefore his conclusion should be seriously questioned with much caution.  All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t read Driscoll’s book, jump the gun, use his chapter on alcohol as a license to drink and run to the bar.  It should simply make us study the issues a little deeper.

With that being said I would like to go back to dealing with the issue of terminology.  These are some of the theological issues I wish Driscoll would have dealt with or at least gave an honorable mention.

Much like the English translation of love could be several different words in Greek.  The English translation of wine has many different Greek and Hebrew counterparts.  In fact Yayin, Tirosh, Shekar, Asis, Chemer, Chamar, Sobe, Shemer, Nasek, Mimsak, Yeqeb, Enab, Chomets, Misteh, Oinos, Sikera, Gleukos, and Methuo could all be translated as wine in the Bible.  Do all of these words mean the exact same thing?  Not necessarily and yet when we read our English translation we read one word, “wine”.

The word Shekar is almost always translated as a “strong drink” (21 times in the Bible) or “strong wine” (1 time).  Shekar was the type of drink that was made from dates, barley, etc and it was always a curse.  This would most likely be the drink with the highest alcohol content in Scripture.  Distillation was not invented until the Middle Ages.  Wine in Biblical days could only be created by natural fermentation.  The highest content of alcohol that could be possible would have been Shekar.  Through natural fermentation the highest Shekar could have been was 11%.  Most of the time it was mixed with 1 to 3 parts water which would dilute it down to almost 2%.  Your average beer has a 3% to 6% percent alcohol content.  American wine has an alcohol content of approximately 9% to 14% which in some cases is higher than Shekar which was forbidden to drink.  Wines containing brandy increase the alcohol content to 20%.  Hard liquors also have a higher alcohol content.

Proverbs 31:4-5 “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine (Shekar) or for rulers to take strong drink (Shekar), lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.”

The only case where Shekar was actually allowed as a drink was for medicinal purposes.  Basically if you were hurting you could drink Shekar to knock yourself out.

Proverbs 31:6-7 “Give strong drink (Shekar) to the one who is perishing and wine (Shekar) to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.”

Shekar was universally condemned throughout the Bible and was only allowed for those whose suffering was too much to bear because it did intoxicate and numb the senses.  (Note:  Today we don’t need “strong wine” for medicinal purposes because of advanced technology and medicine.)

I was listening to a podcast today by a pastor from Alabama named Zach Terry.  He described the word yayin which piqued my interest enough to start looking it up myself.  There is quite a bit of confusion and controversy over what the term yayin actually means.  I’ve heard the argument that yayin is non-fermented wine.  That doesn’t seem to be completely true since in Genesis 9:21 Noah drank yayin excessively and became drunk.  However, some believe that yayin was wine that was boiled until it became a thick syrup that could be preserved.  They could store it until they took some of the syrup and mixed it with water to make a drink.  I think yayin refers to both.  In some places it refers to fermented wine and in others it is referring to the thick syrup used to make a watered-down beverage.  There are numerous extra-biblical sources that point to this practice.  Terry points out that the Jewish Mishnah (their oral traditions) stated that the Jewish people regularly boiled wine, which was reduced to a thick consistency by heating.  Even Aristotle described the wine of Arcadia as being so thick that you had to scrape it out of the jar and dilute it with water.

Already you can see the difficulty in the interpretation of the Biblical position on wine.  You can’t just look at the word “wine” and say it means what it means, because in reality it may mean something completely different.  You must always consider translation when dealing with these passages.  No matter which way you prefer to look at yayin you still have to understand that mixed wine did exist and was common and yayin more often than not refers to this mixed wine, it was not as strong of a drink as Shekar.

Tirosh refers to “freshly expressed grape-juice in its natural condition.”  In the Authorized Version of the Bible Tirosh is translated as “new wine” eleven times and “wine” twenty-six times.  This word was not used to describe fermented wine.

The issue of whether or not alcohol should be used by a believer is a lot bigger issue than it may seem and one in which I would exhort you to do extensive and careful study.  This isn’t something to take lightly or to gloss over with some quick-witted comments or insults.  It takes a little more than pondering the story of Jesus’ turning water into wine to build a case for a biblical use of alcohol… if a reasonable case can even be made.

Sex Education Vs. Abstinence Only Education

I hate to admit it, but I watch Boston Legal.  There are a lot of different reasons why I watch this show, but the most significant reason is I like to ponder the moral, ethical, and political quandaries they bring up in many of the court cases presented on the show.  For the most part Boston Legal makes conservatives look like idiots with mad cow disease and liberals are portrayed as the most sensible, logical, and tolerant people.  Allan (played by James Spader) always takes on the role of the sensible liberal.

This week Allan took a court case involving a young teenage girl with aids who wanted to sue her school for teaching abstinence only.  She was a 15 year old girl who had sex with her boyfriend (things got out of hand she says) and then she found out that she was HIV positive from that encounter.  She felt that the school itself was most at fault and she only took a small part of the blame in this.  Her school was teaching abstinence only in order to get government grants and she thought that the school should be required to teach safe sex education and that this safe sex education would have saved her life.

The question is, was the school at fault for causing this girl to suffer with HIV.  The obvious, logical answer is NO!  Regardless of what the school teaches in regards to sex, this girl was ultimately responsible for her actions.  If she wanted to have sex then it should have been her responsibility to find out all of the facts about sex before diving into it.  First of all, sexual education is readily available to teenagers and I find it hard to believe that this 15 year old girl would have been so naive as to now know that unprotected sex spreads disease.  Secondly it is her choice and she should be held accountable for that choice, instead she was attempting to blame someone other than herself for having aids.  She didn’t blame or sue the boyfriend who gave her the disease, she sued the school.  Thirdly, if she is going to sue anyone for blame other than herself then it should have either been the boyfriend for not telling her that he had HIV or it should have been her parents.  Sexual education should be something taught in the home and these parents should have been responsible as well.

Instead she passes the blame to the school and the school is only teaching abstinence only education in order to get a government grant and so ultimately it is the evil conservative religious finantics in government who are at fault for this 15 year old girl having aids.  Give me a break.  She made the choice to have sex.  It’s her fault.  Bottom line is that we don’t want to be held responsible for our own actions.

She won the court case and the school had to pay her 750,000 because they were at fault for giving this girl aids.  Ridiculous.

Should Your Daughter Get The HPV Vaccine?

The HPV vaccine is a new vaccine approved by the FDA that is said to be 100% effective in preventing diseases that are caused by the Human papilloma virus (HPV). Don’t let this become too misleading. This vaccine only protects against four different types of HPV and therefore does not protect against all types of the virus. There are currently more than 40 types of HPV that can infect men and women. HPV is the cause of cervical cancer in women and other (less common) types of cancers. Certain types of HPV also cause genital warts in both men and women. This means that even with the HPV vaccine there is still a significant risk of cervical cancer and genital warts, diseases that will not be prevented by the HPV vaccine. This vaccine only reduces the risk, it isn’t really 100% effective. It is also less effective if you do not get all three doses (3 shots) at the right times or if you have already been exposed to HPV.

The HPV vaccine has been recommended for 11-12 year old girls, but it can be given to girls as young as 9 or as old as 26. The main goal is to get the vaccine to females before they become sexually active. The vaccine is mainly effective for girls or women who have not yet been exposed to the four different types of HPV covered by this particular vaccine. Anyone who has already been infected will not get the full benefits of the vaccine. It may still be effective for some females who have already been exposed to HPV if they have only been exposed to one or two of the four different types covered by the vaccine.

The HPV virus can cause cancer when it causes the cells in the cervix to change. While in many cases the HPV goes away, there are some cases that it doesn’t go away and instead it continues to change the cells on a woman’s cervix. This can lead to cancer. The percentage of people who will be infected with HPV is staggering. At least 50% of all sexually active people in the United States will get HPV. That comes out to be around 6 million people. Other than the vaccine to “help” prevent it there are no current treatments for HPV.

Should your daughter get the HPV vaccine? As a youth pastor should I recommend that the parents of the teenage girls in my youth group take their daughters to get this vaccine? Where should we stand on this issue as Christians and as responsible adults?

Let me first make this very clear. The only SURE way to prevent HPV is to abstain from all sexual activity. This works 100% of the time, it protects you from all 40 different types of HPV, and it almost completely eliminates the need for an expensive vaccine that may or may not prevent diseases related to HPV. Any parent who is concerned with their teenager’s health enough to make their daughter get an expensive vaccine should equally spend as much money and time making sure their daughter remains abstinent. The HPV vaccine is not a quick fix to deal with the sexual activity of teenagers. If parents are truly concerned with the health and wellbeing of their teen and desire what is best for their teenagers spiritual life then parents need to show the same amount of concern and effort for teaching their teens to be sexually pure as they show for keeping their teens healthy. The $360 it costs for the three doses of vaccine may even be better spent on $360 worth of abstinence protection and training.

Protecting your teenager from disease is not as simple as going to get them a few shots. Parents need to be actively involved in the lives of their teens. Not only do they need to talk to their teenagers about sex and sexual purity, but also they need to establish guidelines that promote purity. Parents who allow their teenage girls or boys to be in the bedroom or basement alone with their boyfriends or girlfriends with the door closed and the light off are asking for trouble. This type of freedom promotes sexual exploration, not purity. The best way for teenagers to prevent these HPV related diseases is to remain sexually abstinent and parents they need your help! They need you to set boundaries for them. The HPV vaccine is not a boundary. It is a vaccine that helps take away the consequences of having multiple sexual partners and therefore promotes teenage sexual activity rather than prevents it. Here is the rub. The HPV vaccine does not prevent pregnancy, HIV, 36 other types of HPV, or many other STD’s. All the risks of being sexually active (including cervical cancers) are still there and yet the vaccine is offering teen girls a false sense of security. If teenagers become even more sexually active after receiving the vaccine, they are at a greater risk than they were before the vaccine was administered.

In my opinion there are only a couple reasons that the HPV vaccine should even be considered. If you are a parent who, against better judgment, doesn’t really care if your teenager is sexually active, or if you are a parent who promotes it or gives your teen the freedom necessary to be sexually active then by all means get your daughter the vaccine. If you are a parent who is certain that your teenager is sexual active despite all that you’ve done to prevent it, then you may also want to get the vaccine (however, never give up promoting abstinence and remind them of all the other risks involved.) The most legitimate reason to get the vaccine is for any future risk that could be out of the control of your teen. While abstaining from sex is the best way to prevent it, you can’t always prevent the person you are going to marry down the road from making mistakes. Even if you’ve only had one sexual partner, if the person you are with has had previous sexual partners then you are still at risk. In the case that your daughter remains sexually abstinent but then desires to marry someone who may have made a mistake early in life then it would be good for her to receive the vaccine. Remember, however, that the vaccine does not have to be administered right away. Your daughter doesn’t need the vaccine right now if she is waiting until she gets married to be sexually active. When it comes to the point of marriage then she can consider getting the vaccine. Another responsible way of dealing with the issue is promoting abstinence with your daughter and waiting until she is old enough to make the decision on her own as to whether or not she wants to get the vaccine. This could prevent the early, false sense of security that teens with the vaccine could develop which may prevent them from making a choice to be sexually active.

This remains to be a sensitive subject with a lot of different points of view. From a Christian perspective, however, the right thing to do is for parents to promote sexual purity regardless of whether or not they feel the HPV vaccine is necessary. Any parent who has a real concern for their son or daughters health and future WILL do what it takes to help their teens live sexually pure. That doesn’t mean just paying for a few shots and calling it good.

Alcohol and the SBC (Part II)

Those opposed to the Baptist stance on alcohol are saying things like this: “Alcohol is a gift from God that should be enjoyed”, “Abstinence is legalism”, “This is not a Baptist issue, its a Bible issue”, “This isn’t about Christian liberty, its about the Sufficiency of Scripture”, “The SBC needs to repent from total abstinence from alcohol”, “Abstinence from alcohol is rejecting the Biblical example of Jesus”, “Drinking alcohol is not a sin”, “Enjoying the things created by God, such as alcohol, help us to enjoy God better”, “This issue is much bigger than alcohol”, “Alcohol can be used in such a way that cheers the heart and honors God”, “teaching abstinence needlessly draws a line in the sand on doctrines and traditions not essential for unity and for proclaiming the faith”.

Alcohol is a gift from God: Where in the world do they get this? Well 1 Timothy 4:4 says “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” This was in reference to foods when false teachers like some Gnostics required strict abstinence from certain things including marriage and food. While this verse does not refer to alcohol at all and while it does not call alcohol a gift from God, it does make it clear that everything created by God is good. Of course, it could be argued that alcohol or “strong drink” may not necessarily be one of those created things that are considered good. What do I mean by that? Well, humans have a way of not only abusing things, but we tend to take many of God’s “good” creations and mix them together to turn them into bad things. For example, you are not going to find many people who think that aluminum foil, charcoal lighter fluid, epson salts, gasoline, mineral spirits, batteries, table salt, coffee filters, towels, napkins, pots, pans, bowls, jars, sports drinking bottles, pressure cooker, stove top range, oven, microwave, grill, ice tea jars, drink dispensers, and gasoline cans with tubing are from the devil. In fact many of these are good, useful products that we use every single day. And yet these are all key ingredients and products used in the making of methamphetamine one of the most dangerous and addicting drugs on the street. Is methamphetamine a good gift created by God for his people? I think the answer is a definitive no! Trees are good. Man comes up with a way to take trees, make paper, print pictures and the next thing you know we have a porn magazine. Are porn magazines good gifts created by God for his people? Again the answer is no. We are good at screwing a lot of things up and so to say that modern day alcohol is simply a good gift from God is a stretch and a half if you ask me.

To require abstinence is legalism Ok, here is a shocker… I’m not going to disagree with this argument quite as strongly as some would suspect, cause I myself feel that to force total abstinence in the church is legalistic.  However, if it is the position of the church but not a forced requirement then I’m more on board.  Baptist churches should urge their members to oppose alcohol but really can’t force the issue. Many of those that oppose this abstinence of alcohol are looking at this as a pharisaical action of the church that is forcing un-biblical issues upon its people. I disagree completely with this. The Pharisees were guilty of creating their own laws and calling them biblical and enforcing these laws as if God himself was the author and creator of them, such as washing your hands before eating. If Baptist churches were to adopt an amendment that declared drinking alcohol in any moderation a sin and began to enforce it as law upon the people, I believe that would be legalism. But for the leadership of the church to say that we oppose alcohol and urge the church members to support legislation that curbs the use of it in our nation and to urge churches to educate people on the dangers of the use of alcohol because of the well known and proven facts of its destruction of both people and families is not at all legalism.

This is not a Baptist issue, its a Bible issue Of course its a Baptist issue. It’s been a Baptist issue for years and years and continues to be one. Yes it is that dreaded word, tradition. Why are those opposed trying to make this a Biblical issue? Because they believe that the Bible condones drinking alcohol and they believe that it is un-biblical and sinful for a group of people to oppose something that the Bible says is ok.  Is it wrong to oppose something simply because it is destructive? I don’t think it is.

The SBC needs to repent from total abstinence from alcohol Is abstaining from something a sin? Is declaring that as a group we oppose alcohol a sin? I’m not buying this one. I believe that it is a worthy goal to abstain from something that is destructive. Now some might say, “why don’t we have resolutions against eating and things of that nature?” Well, maybe because you haven’t brought one up yet. Honestly, do I think the SBC should have a resolution on gluttony? Yeah, I would vote for that. Should we talk about the dangers of certain foods and urge churches to battle obesity? Yes. Same principle, its to help curb the destructive forces of things that are hurting the people around us.

Abstinence from alcohol is rejecting the Biblical example of Jesus If we decided to abstain from alcohol then we are rejecting Christ’s example and not following in his footsteps by drinking wine. That is kind of like saying since I don’t like to eat fish or unleavened bread then I am rejecting Christ’s Biblical examples of eating fish and unleavened bread. Since I didn’t attempt to raise aunt Bertha from the dead then I am rejecting Christ’s Biblical example of raising people from the dead. When Christ drank wine, was he really doing so to give us an example and to tell us that we should go and do likewise or was he just thirsty? Maybe the disciples ran out of quarters or the coke got stuck in the soda machine so they just had to settle for wine. Or maybe that is all they had to drink. Was the wine mixed with water? Was it a pure hard drink? Is it even possible to know the answer to this question? No. If it is impossible to know exactly what this drink was then how can we truly say that our wine today is similar? The other question I have is what does this say about other alcohol that isn’t wine? The Bible doesn’t speak to all of the other types of alcohol and yet I’ve read several arguments that believe believers are Biblically sanctioned to drink any kind of alcohol. I’ve not seen the passage that says drink Bud Light in moderation.

Drinking alcohol is not a sin Agreed. Well, for the most part. I believe that drinking wine in moderation without other influences is not condemned in the Bible. However, drinking other alcoholic beverages is really an argument from silence. The other thing is, many times people drink for the wrong reasons, which I believe can also be sinful.

This issue is much bigger than alcohol I think this issue has become much bigger than its original intent. Now it seems to be something to fuss over, something to argue about, something else to use to bash the conservative leadership, and the people in the middle of it arguing are the same people who are saying that we are spending too much time arguing about it rather than reaching people for Jesus. Doesn’t make much sense to me.

“Alcohol is on TV, in Magazines, at Wal-Mart, at the ball park, and SBCer’s will have to abstain from all of these things if they are choosing to totally oppose alcohol.” Yet again, I don’t see how the fact that we can’t avoid alcohol because its in everything we do in America makes it ok then to support it instead. The limited ability of people to not buy, look at, touch, or even get near something that is influenced by alcohol is not a valid reason for the support of it.  I think if giving up my personal free choice to drink wine will help curb the abuse then there is no question about what I will do. Will abuse go away all together? No. But it could help.

Unfortunately the alcohol abusers in our churches today are not hearing anything other than this continued support for the drinking of alcohol. Sure, they may hear someone say now and then that the Bible says abuse of alcohol is a sin, but the thing they keep coming back to over and over again is “drinking is not a sin, drinking is not a sin”. People who are caught up in this stuff do not need to hear that it is ok for them to drink, they need people who are willing to stand with them in helping them abstain from the very thing destroying their lives. It’s kinda hard to help out your buddy who is an alcoholic when your chugging a beer.

I think in this case we should look back at a few things Paul had to say. He reminds us that we are free, but we shouldn’t use that freedom to indulge ourselves. And of course there is all that stuff he says about disputable matters too…

Alcohol and the SBC

It is true that the Bible says nothing about alcohol consumption being a sin. Many Southern Baptist are still against the use of alcohol even though the use of it isn’t a sin. Many of those who oppose it do so because of its destructive nature, not because of what the Bible says about it. There are many Biblical warnings which are clear and indisputable references of alcohol. The truth is alcohol is dangerous, destructive, and it has a tendency to kill people, so most Southern Baptist are resolved in saying that we should oppose something that destroys human life rather than values it.

The Baptist opposition to alcohol is upsetting to some people.  Is it the fact that we would openly oppose something that isn’t necessarily considered a sin in of itself?  What is so bad about refraining from something that has the proven potential to destroy?

What’s next? Will we say that we are resolved to oppose smoking pot and making meth in our church basements and will a group of people stand up and say, “The Bible doesn’t say that smoking pot or making meth is a sin, so you are all a bunch of dumb legalists for making such a resolution.”

Another argument that I continue to hear is that people who oppose the consumption of alcoholic beverages must abstain from not only drinking alcohol, but from going to the ball park, going to wal-mart, or anything else that comes close to supporting or being supported by the alcohol industry.  It seems to me that the assumption many people are making here is that to be opposed to something means that you can’t be around it and that you can’t be a part of things that may correlate with the said opposition. If you think about this logically then you will have to conclude that things that you cannot keep from being around are things that you cannot be opposed to which makes no sense. Alcohol is such a part of the American culture that it becomes impossible to avoid. It’s at Wal-Mart, its at the gas stations, the advertising is on billboards, and unless we live in a bubble, there is no way to escape the influence of alcohol on our society. Since it is impossible for us to not be exposed to such things, does that mean we should be accepting of them instead? Since there is no way to go to a Cardinals game without supporting Anheuser-Busch in some way, does that mean that I should no longer be opposed to Alcohol consumption if I want to go see a ball game? Is it really dumb for us to say we are totally opposed to the consumption of alcohol because it harms families and destroys lives? I don’t think it is. I’m opposed to pornography and yet every time I drive down I-44 I have to see pornography being advertised. If I am going to oppose pornography and the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and viewing of pornography does that mean I have to not drive down I-44 and does that mean that I have to avoid movies that may somehow support the porn industry and gas stations that sell it and any business or industry that might support it or get support from it in some way or another? And if there is no way to avoid it all together should I just shut up about it and not say that I am opposed to it? Should I instead be accepting of the pornography industry? We could even make the same argument for sin. Should Southern Baptists not be totally opposed to sin, since we cannot avoid it or abstain from it? I don’t think Southern Baptists are dumb because they oppose sin and yet live around it, in it, support it, and even do it sometimes. After-all, the opposite of opposing sin is accepting it.

All that to say this, I agree that the consumption of alcohol and its relation to the Bible is ambiguous and disputable. What is not disputable is the overwhelming evidence of what alcohol has done to families and people. The number of people killed every year in alcohol related deaths is astounding, and the number of abused children and women who are beaten because of alcohol is astronomical. My own family can be included in that assessment since I come from a long line of men who are alcohol abusers. I’ve seen first hand what alcohol can do. I know that it consumed my father, that it consumed his father, and that for generations of men in my family it has been a destructive force. I can honestly say that I am not going to consume alcohol and I believe that it is wise for me to refrain. Am I saying it is a sin? No. But I do wonder, is it not better for Southern Baptists to give up a freedom and abstain from alcohol rather than risking their own lives and the lives of others by drinking alcohol. It only takes one mistake to ruin a life forever.

We should actively do what is necessary to value human life and morality. To oppose drinking, for me, is the right thing to do. I am not saying that it is sinful, I am not saying that the Bible condemns it, but I am saying that it is unwise.  Paul reminds us that all things are permissible but not beneficial.  This is one of those things that is permissible, but is not really beneficial.

I could go on and on about this issue and I could probably give a thousand more reasons why drinking alcohol is unwise. I could go into the influence it has on teens, the reasons it is used by people, and the elements of temptations that it imposes on its Christian users. I could talk about its impairment and its general effect on the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of the individual users. I could come up with story after story of lives that have been destroyed by alcohol abuse, but really none of that is the point. What concerns me is that I believe life is far more important than a simple beverage preference.