OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA “My childhood was miserable. I lived in constant terror because my dad would come home drunk and beat me and my mom – often he would sexually abuse me and then not even remember what happened.” The story is all too familiar. It is a problem of epidemic proportion throughout the world. Yet there are no truth-in-advertising regulations requiring that the symptoms of intoxication be listed on the label. Rather, multi-billion dollar corporations who produce the poison scrub their image by sponsoring super bowl ads, building stadiums and theme parks, and courting lawmakers so they can distract us from noticing that their products contribute to more violence and death each year than do all of the mass murderers in America’s history put together.

Several years ago, the World Health Organization issued this warning: “Alcohol causes nearly 4 percent of deaths worldwide, more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence… The harmful use of alcohol is a global problem which compromises both individual and social development. It results in 2.5 million deaths each year. Alcohol is the world’s third largest risk factor for premature mortality, disability and loss of health; it is the leading risk factor in the Western Pacific and the Americas and the second largest in Europe. Alcohol is associated with many serious social and developmental issues, including violence, child neglect and abuse, and absenteeism in the workplace. It also causes harm far beyond the physical and psychological health of the drinker. It harms the well-being and health of people around the drinker. An intoxicated person can harm others or put them at risk of traffic accidents or violent behavior, or negatively affect co-workers, relatives, friends or strangers. Thus, the impact of the harmful use of alcohol reaches deep into society.” (2011 Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health)

This is how the Bible describes people who are bound by alcohol. “Who has anguish? Who has sorrow? Who is always fighting? Who is always complaining? Who has unnecessary bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns, trying out new drinks. Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is, how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down. For in the end it bites like a poisonous snake; it stings like a viper. You will see hallucinations, and you will say crazy things. You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea, clinging to a swaying mast. And you will say, ‘They hit me, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t even know it when they beat me up. When will I wake up so I can look for another drink?’” (Proverbs 23:29-35 NLT)

WHO is a secular organization that warns of the incredible social and financial devastation that results from alcohol usage? Ministers, health care workers and social workers see the emotional, social and spiritual fallout from alcohol abuse on a daily basis. As a nation we have attempted to tame this snake through prohibition. The truth is that people will continue to get bitten by this viper until they are personally freed from its hold. You may have been bitten by dependency on alcohol or by the abuse perpetrated by someone under the influence. Either way, there are solutions. Millions of people have learned how to let God set them free. At first this viper seems impossible to overcome, but there are many people who have been there and done that who are happy to help others find a path to recovery or healing. Stop the hurting. Learn to avoid the snake bite. Call someone today.

 

Wouldn’t Trade Ya

In fiction, Tom Sawyer was crafty enough to get his comrades to give him their treasures for a chance to help whitewash his Aunt Polly’s fence. In history, Dutch colonist Peter Minuit was credited with purchasing the island of Manhattan from the Native Americans in exchange for traded goods valued at 60 guilders in 1626. Both of these transactions turned out to be great deals. In real life, many readers may have first entered the marketplace of bargaining when they pulled something out of their lunch box, turned to a classmate and said, “Trade ya.”

To oversimplify life, everything is a trade out. We give our time and skills to our employer for a paycheck. We give time and commitment to our friends and family in order to be a part of their lives. We pledge monthly payments for the use of a house or a car. We take the time and effort to shower in order to enjoy good hygiene. We adjust our diet in hopes of maintaining good health. We trade.

Then, usually through painful experiences, we learn that there are those who are eager to swindle us … to get us to make a bad trade. We find out there are no free lunches and that you get what you pay for. We learn the odds are against us when it comes to things like carnival games, cheap furniture and the lottery. In short, wise people learn when to not make the trade.

Life affords all of us some things that are too valuable to trade. They are priceless things that we can all attain and hold on to no matter our culture, economic status, intellect or abilities. They are so prized that the enemy of our souls makes it his business to steal and to destroy these assets. Using tools such as the world system, jealousy, fear, public opinion and peer pressure, the enemy will try to get us to trade:
• Real, fulfilling intimacy for cheap sex
• Character for popularity
• A sound mind and healthy brain for drugs and alcohol
• Truth for a convenient philosophy
• Selflessness for narcissism
• A genuine relationship with God for religion

But, as the greatest teacher who ever lived once said, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26 NLT) I am reminded of all the important things I have been given and that only I can trade away. I will savor the best things in life; things like integrity, morality, civility, community and honesty. Whenever I perceive that something or someone is bidding for these treasures, I will stiffen my resolve and respond, “I wouldn’t trade ya – not for the whole world.”

 

John Hanson and his wife, Carolyn, reside in Thompson, CT where he has served as the Bishop (Lead Pastor) of Acts II Ministries since 1196. He attended two years at Jackson College of Ministries and then earned a B.S. in Special Education and Elementary Education, graduating summa cum laude from Texas State University. He has served as a teacher, principal, associate pastor, pastor, district presbyter and district superintendent. He has written several books and blogs.

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