Friday, September 18, 2015

Enough! Enough! Enough Already!

There is a scourge in our culture today, and it has become an epidemic in the Huntington & Charleston, WV; Ashland, KY; and Ironton & Portsmouth, OH areas.  It has touched nearly every family in our Tri-State area in some way.  If it hasn't touched yours yet - it will!   It is the scourge of Alcohol and Drug Addiction, and it is spreading like wildfire in a parched forest.

If there was a killer virus going around, we would all be taking extreme precautions.  Awareness would be at a peak. Every preventive effort available would be employed to stamp out this virus.  We would stop at nothing to protect our families, our children, our loved ones and our neighbors from the scourge. Folks, it is far past time that we focus time, energy, awareness and resources to stop, at all cost, this plague that has already gone beyond what many of us would have ever dreamed.  

People actually joke about it.  Some are oblivious to the danger, and many are clueless.  Others think, "It can't happen to me or my family", but it does!  The entertainment industry glorifies it.  The Advertising industry glamorizes it.  It has long been fashionable for the thrill seekers to dabble with addictive substances.  It draws in the curious, the lost and hurting, and the most vulnerable among us, the children and young people in our community.

My friend, Esther Edmondson, had posted a link on social media, attributed to an Ashleigh Marie Cross.  I do not know Ms. Cross, but she hits the nail on the head with the following description of the power of addictive substances:
I destroy homes, tear families apart,take your children, and that's just the start.I'm more costly than diamonds, more costly than gold,the sorrow I bring is asight to behold,and if you need me, remember I'm easily found.I live all around you, in schools and in town.I live with the rich, I live with the poor,I live down the street, and maybe next door.My power is awesome; try me you'll see,but if you do, you may never break free.Just try me once and I might let you go,but try me twice, and I'll own your soul.When I possess you, you'll steal and you'll lie.You do what you have to just to get high.The crimes you'll commit, for my narcotic charmswill be worth the pleasure you'll feel in your arms.You'll lie to your mother; you'll steal from your dadWhen you see their tears, you should feel sad.But you'll forget your morals and how you were raised,I'll be your conscience, I'll teach you my ways.I take kids from parents, and parents from kids,I turn people from God, and separate from friends.I'll take everything from you, your looks and your pride,I'll be with you always, right by your side.You'll give up everything your family, your home,your friends, your money, then you'll be alone.I'll take and take, till you have nothing more to give.When I'm finished with you you'll be lucky to live.If you try me be warned this is no game.If given the chance, I'll drive you insane.I'll ravish your body; I'll control your mind.I'll own you completely; your soul will be mine.The nightmares I'll give you while lying in bed,the voices you'll hear from inside your head,the sweats, the shakes, the visions you'll see;I want you to know, these are all gifts from me,But then it's too late, and you'll know in your heart,that you are mine, and we shall not part.You'll regret that you tried me, they always do,but you came to me, not I to you.You knew this would happen. Many times you were told,but you challenged my power, and chose to be bold.You could have said no, and just walked away,If you could live that day over, now what would you say?I'll be your master; you will be my slave,I'll even go with you, when you go to your grave.Now that you have met me, what will you do?Will you try me or not? Its all up to you.I can bring you more misery than words can tell.Come take my hand, let me lead you to hell.
As a pastor, I am seeing the blight of substance abuse touch far too many families. Not just in parts of town that "good people don't frequent", or among those who are often described as "those people", but in your neighborhood and in my neighborhood, and yes, even in the church.  As a pastor, father and grandfather, over the past four decades I have seen far too many "good kids" and "Family men" and "Soccer Moms" fall under the control of an outside substance.  I have visited far too many jails, hospital psychiatric units, recovery centers,  and funeral homes as a result of this scourge.  I have sat with too many broken, weeping families in time of loss.  I have sat in too many courtrooms seeing kids I have watched grow up and play with my own children, stand before judges, convicted of dealing, or convicted of crimes committed in order to help finance their addictions.  I have stood by too many grave sites, opened prematurely by the scourge of substance abuse and alcohol and drug addiction.  I have seen the scourge in my own family.

It's time that we wake up and collectively cry out, "ENOUGH!"

"Just Say No" programs have a nice ring to the sound, but the epidemic is far more widespread and dangerous than slogans can solve. Passing more laws will not fix the problem.  Hiring more law enforcement personnel won't do it.  Policing alone will not solve the problem.  Building more jails will not solve the problem.  Needle exchange programs will not solve the problem, nor will laws decriminalizing certain substances help stop the epidemic. Social programs alone cannot cure the illness.

The answer is going to have to come from a power higher than ourselves, our government, our courts, and law enforcement agencies.  Critics will say that the answer I espouse is trite, outdated, and delusional, but I can tell you that the only true cure to this epidemic is through the life changing power of one who said, "Come unto me and I will give you rest...".  The one who identified Himself to the aged Apostle John as the one "who was, and is, and is to come".  The one in whom is found, "joy unspeakable and full of glory" and "peace that surpasses earthly understanding".  The answer is in the Christ who bore our sins to the Cross of Calvary, rose from the dead, and sits today at the right hand of the Sovereign God of the universe.

Scoffers today will laugh and marginalize the Christ of the Bible, but friends, I can testify from my own personal experience, to His life changing power. I have family members and friends whose lives have been transformed through the power of a risen Savior, whose chains of addiction have been broken. I submit to you today that He is the ONLY hope of cure for this epidemic, which is our own depraved nature.

Casual church "membership", nominal Christianity, good bloodlines, and giving lip service to "religion" is not efficacious in itself. Deliverance comes only through a relationship with Christ. His Lordship in our lives. A disciplined life of following Jesus and allowing His Spirit to empower us.  It involves self denial, cross bearing, and trusting completely in Him.  We've got to get the word out on this!

Sadly, the Church, His Bride, has been backward and ineffective in getting the positive message of Grace, Mercy, Forgiveness and Relationship out in an effective manner.  I pray that each of us who profess to be Christ Followers, and the congregations we make up, will go on our knees before our God in repentance, and brokenness, and rise with determination and commitment to be Ambassadors for Him - offering His help, and a human helping hand as well, for those who are suffering from addictions and substance abuse.

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