Every month, The Forgiveness Foundation Christian Ministries publishes a horrific, real life tragedy involving murder. Often, we publish more than one. In most of these horrific tragedies, there is a common event that occurs prior to the murder: the consumption of a mind altering, behavior changing, rational thinking suppressor, more commonly known as alcohol.
Since alcohol is known to affect a person’s ability to think rationally and act responsibly, many defendants will argue that they should be granted leniency because they were unable to think and act rationally at the time of the crime. This attitude is often developed at an early age due to the glorification of drinking and its related actions, without consequences, in movies and television shows.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, however, some organizations prefer to call it Alcohol Responsibility Month. Awareness seeks to inform people about the dangers of something, in this case, alcohol. Responsibility forces people to become accountable for their actions. Awareness is a rather passive word; it allows people to speak in hypotheticals and say, “Not me!” Responsibility is aggressive and personal! It forces people to look at themselves and their actions. Both Awareness and Responsibility are important!
Alcohol Awareness Month has been around since 1987, and it has significantly reduced the number of fatalities from drunk driving and underage drinking. It has also increased conversations between parents and kids about alcohol! Yet, we want these numbers to fall even farther! In order to do that, we need to teach Responsibility!
Barring rare exceptions, each individual chooses to drink alcohol, knowing that it will inhibit decision making skills and could possibly lead to events that could change their life forever. That is the choice you make! Therefore, whatever happens next, is your responsibility. Is it really fair to argue that you are not fault for a crime, or cannot be held fully responsible, because you had chosen to inhibit your ability to make decisions? Is it fair to put yourself on the same level as those who have a documented mental illness, over which they have not control, that inhibits their ability to make decisions, when you are the one who chose to put yourself in that position? Is that really what we want to teach the next generation? That they do not have to be responsible for their actions? Is it!?
Have you ever had a bottle of beer? A glass of wine? A shot of liquor? Did it result in you doing something abnormal? Reckless? Stupid? Perhaps you laughed about it later, thinking of that time as fun indulgence - no lasting harm. But are you sure? No lasting harm, are you sure?
Throughout the years, alcohol has become a staple on college campus, and it is becoming increasingly common among high schoolers as well. Many hold the opinion - whether admitted or not - that what happens in high school and/or college stays in high school and/or college. Yet, the damage caused by excessive use, or even one night of overuse, can haunt a person forever! Especially in the age of social media! Even mild or infrequent use can impact emotional stability, finances, your career, family, friends, and co-workers.
Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father's nakedness. (Genesis 9:20-23, ESV)
Through the consumption of alcohol, Noah behaved in a manner in which he would not have normally engaged. The consequence of his action was not limited to himself, but affected his children, their offspring, and, eventually, the entire nation of Israel. We can never be sure of how our actions, although seemingly innocent at the time, may affect others, or how far the consequences may spread.
Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, with over 100,000 deaths from alcohol-related causes each year. Approximately 30 people die every day from a motor vehicle crash involving an impaired driver. That is one needless death every 51 minutes! And alcohol use among teens (where it is illegal!) kill more people each year than all illegal drugs combined! Thirty-six percent of those in prison were drinking or had consumed alcohol prior to the offense for which they have been convicted. Are you still laughing?
Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters. And the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father. He did not know when she lay down or when she arose.
The next day, the firstborn said to the younger, “Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let us make him drink wine tonight also. Then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” So they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day. (Genesis 19:30-38, ESV)
Lot also behaved abnormally after drinking. Like Noah, his actions also led to lasting consequences for his offspring and the nation of Israel. Drinking excessively also put him in the position to be taken advantage of - sexually. A frightening correlation that is all too common.
Drinking alcohol lowers a person’s inhibition and decision making skills. It can also make an individual more aggressive and violent. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately half of sexual assault cases involve alcohol (the NIAAA does note that it is difficult to collect exact figures on the relation between alcohol and sexual assault). Nearly 700,000 college students (ages 18-24) are assaulted each year. Of those assaulted, nearly 100,000 are sexual, including being raped.
April has been proclaimed both Alcohol Awareness Month (http://www.niaaa.nih.gov) and Sexual Assault Awareness Month (http://www.nsvrc.org/saam). Organizations for both use this month to increase public awareness and understanding. Part of achieving that goal is encouraging parents to talk early and often with children. The dangers of alcohol present to everyone who consumes alcohol: first time drinkers and life-long alcoholics.
Sexual assault can occur to anyone: male or female. It is important that everyone understands what constitutes sexual assault, especially if alcohol is involved, as state laws may vary. All should be aware of situations that may place a person at greater risk for sexual assault and what to do if it should occur to them, someone they know, or if they witness it.
This month, we at The Forgiveness Foundation Christian Ministries, encourage you ensure that you and your children are familiar with the laws governing alcohol use and sexual assault in the state you live. Examine your lives. Are your actions harming others? Start the education and awareness now! We also ask that you pray for those whose lives have been changed forever due to alcohol and/or sexual assault.
Do you volunteer? Are you joyful?
In 1974, President Nixon, through executive order, proclaimed one week in April as National Volunteer Week, a week to celebrate and recognize the efforts of all individuals who volunteer. Since then, every year, each president has issued a proclamation during National Volunteer Week, this year falling between April 12-18, 2015. Due to raising awareness, the number of individuals who volunteer through the United States has increased. National Volunteer Week has also expanded into an entire month! That’s right, April is National Volunteer Month!
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” (2 Corinthians 9:7-9, ESV)
As Christians, we should desire to give of our selves and serve others as we are able. We should serve because we want to, not because we must. God can see into our hearts and see our attitude of service.
Part of having a desire to serve comes from serving in a manner that we enjoy! If you love being around children, consider volunteering for nursery duty! Do you
enjoy showing your creative side? Volunteer to help with decorations! Perhaps you enjoy working with your hands - find a local Habitat for Humanity or community project near you! There are endless options for volunteering, you just have to look for them! You may just find something you love and share God’s love in the process!
This month, consider activities you enjoy doing. Look for volunteer activities which are similar. Then act! Sign up to volunteer! If you are unsure, try something new! You never know what passion you may discover and how the Lord can work through you!
And [Jesus] took a child and put him in the midst of [the disciples], and taking him into his arms, [Jesus] says,"Whoever received one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me."(Mark 9:36-37, ESV)
Jesus loved children! Not many descriptions are given of Jesus with children, but we cannot doubt that He loved children. And He still does! He views all of us His children and He loves all of us.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. In July of 1982, the first Child Abuse Prevention Week was held. The following year, President Ronald Reagan declared April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Over 30 years later, we still recognize April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Sadly, not all share Jesus' love of children. Instead of extending hands of love, hands are extended in anger, frustration, and hatred. Each year, there are over 3 million reports of child abuse in the United States. These reports often include more than one child, doubling the actual number of abused children. Even worse, five children die every day from abuse-related deaths. The effects of abuse on a child can last a lifetime. Approximately 14 percent of men and 36 percent of women in prison in the United States were abused as children. Abused children are also 30 percent more likely to commit violent crimes and become dependent on drugs and/or alcohol.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed in the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (Psalms 127: 3-5, ESV)
Children are just one of the many expressions of God’s love and blessing for us. Parents are to raise their children in a manner that is pleasing to God – teaching them about Him and directing them to seek Him with all the heart, mind and soul. Children are to be loved and cherished. Children blossom as adults sharing God’s love with everyone they encounter and demonstrate God’s love through every task in which they engage. A child conceived in love! A child raised with love! Produces an adult equipped to live life that shares love planting the seeds of love that continue producing love for generation after generation.
This month, pray for all the children who suffer from abuse. Pray for the safety of all children who are abused and that they may come to find safety in Jesus Christ. Pray for the abusers, that they will change their wicked ways. Pray for understanding, that all may understand why children are so important to the Lord. What can be learned from them?