Posts Tagged ‘evangelism’

Unlikely Teachers of Spirituality: Smoking

May 19, 2012 1 comment

When I was young and growing up, I used to think smoking was sinful. I don’t know if it was my church environment or social environment, but somehow I thought that it was a sin to smoke. When I was 17, found Jesus, and started reading Scripture, I realized my perspective was pretty delusional. So, when I turned 18, I bought a pipe and tobacco and started smoking. I have thoroughly enjoyed smoking ever since (even though at times I’ve gone years without doing so at all). Smoking has taught me a few things.

One of the most powerful lessons smoking has helped me learn is sometimes I need to take a brief break. When I am alone, I can be a high anxiety person. It’s very easy for me to worry about finances, relationships, work I need to do, God’s will, my past sins, my past, my future, my present, my safety, others’ safety, the world, helplessness, weakness, fruitlessness, inadequacy, how the paper I’m writing is going, whether I’m going to get enough sleep, etc. My brain gets cluttered a lot too. There are too many things going on in my head sometimes for me to handle. I won’t bore you with another list, but I sometimes have so many different topics going through my head at once I think I’m going crazy.* For a long time the only way I knew how to handle my anxiety and overactive mind was to just keep going and wait until it went away. Smoking taught me a much better solution.

When I started smoking on a semi-regular basis (a couple of packs a week was probably my max), when I was feeling high anxiety or was thinking about so much I couldn’t productively think about anything, I would go outside for a smoke. After doing so, I would be calm, collected, and focused. I don’t think it was the nicotine that did this. Smoking provided an alternative activity from whatever I was doing, it helped me escape from my life and mind temporarily so that I could come back to my life and mind in a better condition to do so. During my cigarette, I would simply pray and bring my troubles before God, ask him to deal with them, then recenter on Him, His kingdom, what is really important, and what matters in light of the truth that God is king. When I would re-enter the reality of my circumstances, I was much more ready to deal with those circumstances like a new creation should.

Smoking has helped me converse with people. Many conversations with people I’ve never met have sprung up over cigarettes. It’s more comfortable to talk to people you don’t know when you’re both smoking because you both have an alternate activity and if the conversation is awkward, it only has to last a couple of minutes because there is an easy out. I’ve shared about who God is and my relationship with Jesus with more people who do not yet know him while smoking than in any other circumstance. Smoking can create a space for conversation that is inviting and unintimidating.

Smoking helps me learn the art of being with someone without talking to them. Sometimes, when people are tired of life, broken in spirit, and hopeless in heart, there just isn’t much to say. There aren’t any right questions to ask. They know the truth, they just don’t feel it right now, and they need someone to be with them and be available for them, but they don’t need anyone to talk to them. Smoking provides an alternative activity which facilitates a comfortable environment to sit with someone in silence for their solace.

Things I should probably say regarding some of the things in this series…

If you’re a follower of Jesus and you’re addicted to smoking (or anything), then you’re living in chains when Jesus wants you to be free. If you’re smoking a lot and it is damaging to your health, you aren’t setting yourself up well for being at your best to serve God in the future – the same goes if you’re eating ice cream all the time or living in lethargic inactivity. If you’re having a few drinks, that’s one thing, if you’re getting drunk or going out for attention from the opposite sex, you’re misrepresenting God. The point is there are points at which these activities, like most other activities, become a detriment rather than a complement to one’s relationship with Jesus.

*I’m sure I’m not alone in this.


Simply Church: Mission

January 26, 2012 4 comments

There is a lot to say about the mission of the church family in the world. My friend @nate_ray probably has much more to say on this than I do. Again I’m going to limit my focus and zoom in on the mission of the church from a family perspective.

Our family is full of Love. Our Father is Love itself. He has breathed Himself into us, and now we are full of love. Our Father’s love is so big though. He loves to pour out His love on His children. He loves his children loving each other and watching them grow up to look more and more like Him. But it’s not enough for Him. Our Dad wants His family to grow. There’s enough love for everyone.

His first son, Jesus, charged his disciples, who were both his friends and his brothers, to go into the world and teach people to honor YHWH their Father they way that Jesus honored the Father. Jesus makes it clear elsewhere that those who do the will of his Father are his brothers and thereby also have YHWH as their Dad (this is also quite clear in the Jewish tradition that those of the covenant who live by the covenant have YHWH as their Father). Jesus tells us to go out and help people from all nations live and act in a way that makes them sons and daughters of YHWH.

Our mission as a church is to invite people into the family. Because of the great love we have from our Father and for each other, we want the family to expand. A family that has YHWH as their Father will want to and pursue expansion. The beautiful part of what our older brother has done is that he has already taken care of all of the adoption papers for everyone, making a way for all to become a part of the family. We literally can invite anyone into our family. Our Dad will lovingly adopt them because our older brother Jesus will vouch for them. And if Dad wants them, who are we to reject them? The only response is to embrace them as if they are both long lost and brand new siblings. They belong here as much as we do, and they always have.

Sometimes people reject being in the family. Sometimes people reject the family because they’d rather be independent and live in their own house with their own rules. Sometimes people reject the family because the family is dysfunctional. In our world, sometimes the family looks more like a fascist government than an incubator of love. The family can be closed off rather than invitational, or the family may become very particular about who it invites to become a part of it. The outside perception of the family is often that this family is replete with judgmental hypocrites rather than transforming lovers. Whether or not people choose to be adopted by Dad, we should at least have a family that is appealing to those without one.

Creating a family worth being in is one of the reasons why being like Dad is so important. We have to get rid of those areas in our lives, minds, hearts, and souls that run contrary to who our Father is and replace them with attributes that reflect him. Getting rid of those areas is not just for self betterment. We’re not that focused on ourselves. We work out our salvation because that’s what it means to love. The more like Jesus and Dad we are, the better we are at being in relationship. Sin keeps us from loving Dad well, loving each other well, and loving the world into adoption well. One of the reasons sin in our family is so unacceptable is because we then display to the world a family that they don’t really want to join.

When this family is reflecting its Father, it’s difficult to imagine others not wanting to be adopted. This family is where the kingdom of heaven reigns on earth, where what is wrong with the world is set right and where what is right with the world is amplified. In YHWH’s new covenant family… The wounded find healing. The homeless find home. The friendless find friends. The mourning find a shoulder to cry on. The hopeless find hope. The loveless love. The hungry food. The dirty are cleansed. The sinful are transformed. The broken are put back together. The lame walk. The blind see. The slave is freed. The joyful have brothers and sisters to rejoice with. Race, socioeconomic status, country of origin, biological family history, past sins, present issues, gender, and everything else are irrelevant. All who would give up the way of their old family to put on the way of YHWH’s family are welcome to join us and discover life that is truly life. This is the good news that we proclaim to expand the family.

For My Stuck Friends: The World Is Watching

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:11-12

As we learned previously, we have been made into a holy priesthood of believers whose job it is to proclaim God’s goodness to the world. This wonderful and marvelous task of ours makes the way we live all the more important. Just as God is holy, we are to be holy. Just as Jesus is good, we are to be good. As God is worthy of all honor and glory, we are to live honorably. Our lives need to reflect the message that we are preaching, because the world is watching.

If we are grossly misrepresenting Jesus to those who do not yet know him, then how can we expect them to see him? We can’t. Out of love for those around us we need to abstain from the passions of the flesh. We have to live honorably among those that haven’t met the risen Messiah yet. The world doesn’t respond well to those who claim Jesus’ power and live under the power of sin. What good is one that saves from sin if those who claim to be saved still insist on being stuck in it? The world that doesn’t know Jesus would say not much good at all. And they would be right.

I’ve heard people say things about being a Christian like, “I’m not less sinful than anyone else, just forgiven.” Part of the point of that is that Christians should be humble and honest in their interactions with the ones that don’t know Jesus, and that point is well made. But part of it is just bologna. Forgiveness is only part of the message of Jesus. It’s only a small portion of what he offers. Other important parts are salvation from sin, entrance into his holy priesthood, and ransom payment that our captivity would cease. These parts involve true freedom from sin and real transformation of character. It is through this sort of goodness with which Jesus Messiah blesses us so that the world will “glorify God on the day of visitation.” The world isn’t going to glorify God because we’re forgiven and they’re not.

Now, as with all of my difficult words (which are more directed at myself than anyone), do not be discouraged! Don’t get down about your lack of transformation, but rather, embrace your forgiveness through the blood of Jesus. And thank God for it! Then, embrace your calling to be priests, letting the past suffice for doing what is of the world and living a life of meaning in all circumstances because you have been ransomed by his precious blood.* Do not let words exhorting transformation to drive you to shame, but rather to joy in forgiveness and to live in the breathtaking calling we have received. Be transformed because the world around you needs to be transformed too. When you live freed, they will want the freedom you have to offer through Messiah Jesus.

*It’s all wonderfully connected…

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