Not Even Once

If you haven’t heard lately, the latest actually troubling news concerning a drug epidemic is taking place in lower income white families with the advent of increased use of opioids. The things about these drugs is that they are usually prescription, meaning that drugs typically used to control pain are being found and used or traded from inside the house. You know, that old horror movie chestnut: “It’s coming from inside the house!” I don’t write this to create more fear, only awareness that there is an issue. Also to point out that most families do not store these medications properly. Opioids are highly addicting and have caused many problems for those simply wanting to ease chronic pain who end up needing more and more of these substances to achieve the same effect.

I’m not particularly at risk for this issue because of my deathly allergy to codeine, which is an opiate. Having my respiratory system nearly fail again is not high on my list of things to do today… or any day for that matter. So, literally, between my asthma and opiate avoidance, my personal list of drugs I could use recreationally is short… meaning there’s nothing on the list.

That said, I had a thought the other day, about drugs and sin. No, probably not the thought that you just had about how drugs lead to sin or vice versa. More like how sin behaves like a drug. See, sin has this effect of deteriorating our humanity. Sure, it’s not very noticeable at first, but the effects become more pronounced over time. Small lapses of morality pick up steam usually. The picture I always seemed to have growing up was that sin was making holes in the lifeboat to heaven, and only Jesus could fix it. But what if sin had much more immediate, and destructive effects.

The first 11 chapters of Genesis show clearly the dehumanizing effects of sin, and how humanity sank further and further into its own self-glorification and away from God’s order. Romans 1-2 use the context of Genesis 1-11 to┬ádetail how God’s created order is disrupted by sin, how truth and morality become distorted and confused. As sin eats away at how God created us, we can see an analogy in how hard some drugs are on the human body. The body ages, cracks, scars, and decays as the drugs take their toll. Sin twists our perspective, damages relationships, and drives us away from God.

And we all have taken sin. We’ve all fallen short of reflecting God’s glory, we have all given over our loyalty and authority to objects or people instead of God, and we have all felt the sting and decay of sin that leads to destruction. And this is where the new life of Jesus changes everything. God restores us by granting us the life to come now in anticipation of the age to come when God will restore all of His creation. We become truly what we were made to be: the image of God reflecting praise to God and God’s glory and order into the world.

Have you had a conversation with your kids about making wise choices with medication and drugs? How do you model the life to come in the way you forgive, apologize, and show love to your family and others? What does it mean to you to be a restored, complete human made in God’s image for a purpose?

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5 Tips for Scam Dodging

I was recently listening to one of my podcasts when the topic of scams became the topic of conversation. Reply All, an internet culture podcast, decided to report on a particular scam in the form of a website that claimed to help people find lost items left in New York City taxis. In truth, this website was, and still is, a scam that requires money to list the item on their database, in order to let that information sit uselessly on the internet. These individuals would often have their phone numbers listed, leaving them vulnerable to future scam calls. (Link to the episode at the bottom.)

Now, the best advice I have to give is to fact-check everything. Scams depend on the individual to be in a state of panic or desperation – which impedes thorough thought because our “fight or flight” instinct has inserted itself into the situation. People who end up scammed are quality folks, generally well-rounded, and often feel like they would never end up at the wrong end of one… until it happens. Here are a few tips to avoid scams:

Stay Calm, Fear Is a Weapon Against You

Scam artists are trained to keep you confused, worried, afraid, and alone. Many scam calls will attempt to hurry you along in order to keep you from having time to think through the situation. Scam websites will be vague enough to keep you guessing without giving any solid information. If you are not given time to think, or solid answers to questions, consider the possibility that you may be in the midst of a scam. The more calm you can be, and the quicker you can seek help, the better off you will be, as someone else you trust who is outside the situation may be able to keep a clear head.

The Government Won’t Call You

As a general rule, government agencies, such as the IRS, prefer to communicate through letters. If they have something they’d like to discuss, you’ll get a letter in the mail informing you of the situation and then leaving your response up to you.

If You Receive a Threat, Hang Up Immediately

If you do receive a call that purports to be a government agency, and in response to your reasonable questions the caller then proceeds to threaten you with police or other action, get off of the phone. Often times these calls will require you to not mention the situation to anyone or there will be legal action. Unless you are under previous direct orders from a trusted official not to speak about a pending case, this is not true – you are allowed to seek help. And, truly, if you begin feeling scared, get off the phone and get to somewhere you feel safe.

Google Adwords Don’t Mean a Website Is Trustworthy

If you are searching for help with something you desperately need, don’t always be so hasty as to click the very first website you come to. Scam websites also have the ability to pay Google to have their website (according to search terms likely to be entered) listed at the top of the results pile. Google is continually working to evaluate websites using their service, but some can and do slip through the net, no pun intended. Be aware and double check the website’s credentials by scanning each page for red flags and disclaimers.

Teach Your Children To Think While They’re Young

This may seem like an adult problem, but kids can be scammed as well. Teaching your children to watch for signs of being lied to and misled can help them to avoid fraud and scams. Teaching them to be willing to ask others for help – to not always “handle it themselves” will keep them from becoming isolated. Teaching them to ask good questions will help them to evaluate decisions well. Teaching them to be wise about who they trust will give them the ability to choose not to give their trust naively to others.

Have you ever been affected by a scam? How did you feel during the experience? How did you feel after you discovered the scam? What steps did you take to prevent future problems? What conversations can you have with your children to help them better evaluate situations?

Reply All Episode 76 Lost in a Cab (Some Explicit Language in angry response to these scams.)