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Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
June 22, 2011

A devotional I didn’t want to write
I need to begin this morning’s devotional with an apology. I like to write on encouraging news stories whenever I can, knowing that most of you open the essay early in the morning in search of a good word from God for the day. This devotional is unfortunately not about good news, but if you’ll read it anyway you’ll find great news in the bad news.

Two health-related stories shocked me when I read them today. The first is a report on Time’s website that 69% of people who abuse painkillers like Vicotin get them from friends, family or dealers. According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, the author of the study, the number is even higher among 18-to-25-year-olds: 77% get them exclusively from non-medical sources, only 23% from doctors.

The second story relates to cigarette smoking, the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarettes kill 443,000 Americans a year. The smoking rate has been cut from 42% in 1965 to 20% today, but progress has stalled.

The New York Times reports that federal health officials are now changing their strategy. Yesterday they released their final selection of nine graphic warning labels to cover the top half of cigarette packages. Beginning next year, the campaign will constitute the first major change to those warnings in more than 25 years.

Imagine the label, “Warning: Smoking can kill you,” beneath the picture of a corpse on an autopsy table. To me, the most graphic new warning pictures a man holding a cigarette in his tobacco-stained fingers, blowing smoke through a tracheotomy opening in his neck. The shock you just felt is intended.

Here’s my question: why did the Archives of Internal Medicine publish its report? Why are federal health officials planning to release such graphic cigarette warnings? Neither is making money from their efforts or running for public office. Health officials are already facing opposition from the cigarette industry. I assume that both issued their warnings because they felt it was their duty to do so.

As a father, I know the feeling. It is always easier to overlook our children’s bad behavior than to punish it. Good news is much more fun to deliver than bad. I would rather be writing this morning about a dog who won a beauty contest than painkillers and cigarettes. But I sense the Spirit making a point through this devotional: “the Lord disciplines those he loves” (Hebrews 12:6). Our Father loves us enough to convict us of our sins and use their consequences to help us grow into the men and women he intends us to be. Is he disciplining you in some way today?

Your Father accepts you just as you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way.

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