Addicted – Days 4 & 5

[I’m kicking coffee to the curb! Follow the journey Day 1, Day 2, Day 3]

Stick around the coffee-drinking world long enough and you will inevitably run into plenty coffee-via-intravenous-drip related humor. Case in point:

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There is a whole “drug culture” around being a coffee fiend. People know their different types of beans and their different roasts, they know how they like it brewed — french press, drip, espresso, etc. Coffee is a big deal to those who love it.

If anyone ever dared suggest I drink less (just ask my wife), I would scoff and suggest that said party had lost their mind! Often I would think, “If they just tried it they’d love it and be hooked and we could drink coffee together!”

If you’re a coffee drinker, you know you’ve had those thoughts about your non-coffee-drinking friends, too.

But again I circle back to this idea of being “addicted to Jesus.” The metaphor only goes so far, but this is one place where it is pertinent.

As Christians, do we desire Jesus in a way that cuts right to our heart? “Jesus on IV,” so to speak?

As believers, do we know Jesus the way we know coffee (or sports, or fashion, or _____ for that matter)?

As people that claim to know Jesus, do we have a passion for everyone we meet to just get a taste of the goodness, love and grace given to us by our father in Heaven? So much so that we just want to find ways to introduce people to that love? Do we desire everyone around us to engage in relationship with Him, certain that it would make all the difference in the world to them?

That’s what addicts do.

Here’s where the metaphor falls apart. Drug addictions are ways to escape reality. Being in relationship with Jesus is the most true expression of reality in the universe (after all, when a guy says he’s God, predicts his resurrection from the grave and then DOES IT, his words kind of carry a little weight).

Caffeine Journal

  • Day: 4-5
  • Intake: One Cup of Tea in the morning. THAT WAS IT! (roughly 50mg Caffeine)
  • Symptoms: Gone. Felt great with even more energy than normal.
  • Weakness: I tried both mornings to put off the cup of tea, but by mid-morning, I really missed it. There is a certain amount of habit and routine here on top of the caffeine issue.
  • In A Word: Hope

[Photo Credit: Dusty J via Compfight cc]

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Addicted – Day 3

[I’m kicking caffeine to the curb. Follow along Day 1 Day 2]

Friday was day three of this journey. It was the best day yet. I had one cup of *gasp* coffee in the morning, at the insistence of a neighbor that had me into his home. How do you say no to that?

But that was it. Pretty good energy the remainder of the day, no headaches, although I hydrated like crazy!

The result: when you do the things your body was designed to do, you feel better!

The same is true of our spiritual formation (maturation): When we do the things we were designed to do, God’s blessings will follow.

At the risk of oversimplifying, we were designed to have a relationship with our creator. Diving headlong into this claim is a bit more ambitious a task than I care to take on here on the blog, but for a primer, read Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Matthew 6:33, Mark 12:30, and John 17:22-24. God designed us to seek him, to be in intimate relationship with him.

Coffee isn’t where we were designed to glean energy. As a result, seeking energy in the wrong places led to headaches and, ironically, depleted energy.

In the same way, we often seek to feed our spirit in places that are not designed for maximum fulfillment. We elevate things in our life to the place that is meant for God to the point of dependency. We let it all ride on our job, our family, our marriage, our fitness, and our spiritual happiness is determined day to day by how well those things fulfill our expectations.

None of those things (kinda like coffee) are bad in and of themselves, but they were never meant to have that much riding on them (again, like coffee). They are good things, but as many pastors have said before me, When a Good thing becomes a “God” thing, that’s a bad thing.

When we depend on other things to give us what a relationship with our Creator was meant to fulfill, we will be left feeling spiritually ill more often than not.

Caffeine Journal

  • Day: 3
  • Intake: 1 Cup of coffee (roughly 80-100mg of Caffeine)
  • Symptoms: Largely absent!
  • Weakness: I REALLY wanted an evening cup of something (anything!) in the afternoon/evening
  • In A Word: Progress

Have you ever quit an addiction? Share your story below!

Photo Credit: dsevilla via Compfight cc

Addicted – Day 2

[This is day 2 in a post about me kicking caffeine to the curb. Read the journey from the beginning.]

Today was MILES better than yesterday

But it was still pretty rough.

Today I was a substitute teacher in a gym class and it served as a great reminder that when we depend on the things that naturally create energy (such as exercise, in this case), it has a tendency to snowball in a cascade of positive effects.

Sure I had some headaches today, but they were not as bad and I didn’t notice them nearly as much.

That being said, I was a grouch today.

Paul said to the Church at Corinth, “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)

When the Bible talks about fasting, the moral of the story is this: it is a good practice in learning to resist the desires your body has. It teaches you to say no to one of your most natural instincts (food), so that you can more easily say no to the things you desire that you are smart enough to know aren’t good for you. Dependence on Jesus for that resolve strengthens your faith in him in the tougher times.

Fasting is about “making your body your slave” instead of being enslaved to the desires of your body.

What’s more, it’s about finding JOY in that process.

The joy is where I struggled today.

Grateful for another opportunity tomorrow!

Caffeine Journal

  • Day: 2
  • Intake: 1 Cup of tea in the morning and one in the afternoon (roughly 100mg total)
  • Symptoms: VERY tired, and later in the day, headaches
  • Weakness: That 2:30 feeling
  • In A Word: (ok, in a phrase) Just Keep Swimming.

Photo Credit: Martin Gommel via Compfight cc

Addicted – Day 1

Sweet, serendipitous irony.

Monday, I tweeted this:

Now, on Wednesday, I am trying to get off coffee.

My foot tastes great, by the way. The following series will be my thoughts as I detox from America’s most socially acceptable addiction.

Where did this come from?

On Monday, everything was as usual. I loved coffee (don’t get me wrong, I still do). My morning routine would typically involve half a pot of coffee, followed by a cup of tea in the afternoon and, often times, one at night. I take in a lo-o-ot of caffeine (roughly 750mg daily. Compare that to a Mayo Clinic study saying anything over 500mg/day can cause health issues. Yikes). I love my morning cup.

But lately I’ve been getting some headaches. Bad ones. They come pretty suddenly, and they seem to happen pretty commonly on days when I drive – and brew an extra couple of cups for a travel mug.

So Monday I’m joking about how great coffee is and Tuesday I am suffering what is yet another headache and wondering what could be the culprit.

By this morning – Wednesday –  I was ready to swear it off forever.

This afternoon was rough. I was foggy, I was groggy and I was simply positive that any sudden movements would cause my head to split open. At some point, nausea started in and I felt like I was going to throw up. This sure sounds like drug detox to me.

So here we are.

Let’s be honest

Ok, a little perspective, here. There is nothing wrong with coffee. In fact there have been many studies showing its benefits when used in moderation. Not only that, I’m not driving a vehicle in an “altered” state and caffeine doesn’t fall under any kind of list of dangerous chemicals. I am able to write this in my right state of mind. I’m not a druggy, and I am confident beyond doubt that those suffering from “real” addictions and experiencing “real” detox and withdrawal symptoms have it far, far, far worse than I. The last thing I would want to do is trivialize those people’s stories.

But what I am feeling is real and medically proven, nonetheless. Today has been miserable (on a physical level). And somewhere in the daze of feeling like my head is going to explode and reflecting on the dependency my body has built up to this substance, I had a thought:

What if we were addicted to Christ the way we get addicted to other things?

Before you push back at “addiction” and “Christ” being in the same sentence, think about it.

I depend on coffee. Coffee is among the first thing my mind is thinking about when I get up. I don’t see the world clearly (at least I don’t feel I do some days) until I have applied coffee. When I don’t get it, it feels like there is something seriously awry in my day. I crave it until I can find a way to fit it into the schedule. It’s built into the fabric of my life. It is one of the few areas where I have enough foresight to predict running out, sure to make provisions so that my coffee habit doesn’t get compromised.

So it should be with our relationships with Jesus. This is the idea I hope to flesh out over the next several days.

Caffeine Journal:

  • Day: 1
  • Intake: 2 cups of tea, one black tea, one white. I also had about 130mg in a couple of Excedrin.
  • Symptoms: Killer headache, Nausea (but no vomit – YAY!), drowsiness, lethargy, general unpleasant demeanor.
  • Weakness: Afternoon. I was trying to go cold-turkey. Bad idea. The afternoon brought tea and medicine to ease pain.
  • In A Word: Mack (as in, “I feel like I’ve been hit by a Mack Truck.”)

I could use some camaraderie here. Have you ever given up caffeine? Share your experience below.

[Photo Credit: Stirling Noyes via Compfight cc]

Killing My Praise

Has something that you see all the time ever caught your attention in a new way? The beauty of your wife’s face? The message hidden below the surface of your favorite movie? That stop sign at the end of your street that you always roll through until the morning when a police car is sitting on the cross street?

Me too. It happened to me today.

Throughout the Bible there is a phrase repeated over and over (or something like it):

Sacrifice of Praise.

Sometimes it’s called a “thanks offering,” or it may be put in other words. Because I’ve spent so much time in church, it is natural to breeze by these lines and think of Sunday gatherings. But today the question hit me:

When was the last time I sacrificed my own praise?

At this moment, I’m not talking about being the giver of praise to God, so much as being the sacrificing of people’s praises that are directed to me. Take a look at the verse that got my wheels turnin’ for more context:

Hebrews 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of Praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name.

When we confess Jesus as our savior, part of that is sacrificing our praise. It is so easy to come across as boastful, prideful, arrogant. While Paul does talk about boasting in Christ, I fear that too often we (or maybe I am the only one) boast in ourselves and try to cloak it in spirituality.

When someone praises you, do you sacrifice that praise and turn the focus on God?

Are we people who actually believe he is responsible for “every good thing?”

I mean really?

You will probably be praised for something today.

Let’s sacrifice that praise to the sustainer of life.

Men, What Do You Aspire To?

The Christian message of humility has led many men into a "ho-hum, I'm not good enough" brand of false humility. Meanwhile, the Bible's take on it is that men should actually desire and aspire to be leaders.

The Christian message of humility has led many men into a “ho-hum, I’m not good enough” brand of false humility. Meanwhile, the Bible’s take on it is that men should actually desire and aspire to be leaders.

1 Timothy 3:1 – “Here is a trustworthy saying: ‘Now if anyone sets his heart on being an elder, he desires a noble task.'”

Men, have you ever thought about being an elder in your church? Have you ever thought about helping to lead a group of Christians? Have you felt discontented with the way y0ur church is being run? Have you stopped to think that those may be biblical thoughts?

That’s right, you can desire to be an elder. In fact you can set your heart on it.

What about being humble?

Okay, so I know this may be a strange line of thought. But think about it. Why would someone set his heart on being an elder? Because it means he wants to see the church run well. He wants to see the Body of Christ exalt Christ, and be a beacon in the community. Probably 90% of suggestions pastors hear for their churches are ways that they could potentially improve their reach in their context. The church needs men in leadership that are passionate about the Church and want to see it operate in Christ’s mission faithfully. This has nothing to do with being arrogant vs. being humble. It has everything to do with your desire to see Christ glorified. If that is your goal, and not having a position of power, you need not worry about the humility question.

Do I just go to my pastor and say, “I want to be an elder?”

Perhaps. It actually might be a huge blessing to your pastor to have a candidate interested in performing the duties rather than men just filling a seat at the table. When that conversation happens, you need to be ready for the pastor to examine you before giving his blessing. The passage following the above verse lists the qualities of being an elder, and [spoiler alert!] it’s not an easy job description.

The idea in the passage is that elders live a certain kind of life in Christ. When you go to your pastor, his response shouldn’t be, “oh, really?!?” but rather, “I think you’d make a great elder!” The evidence of your candidacy comes from a life lived. You will already have authority amongst church members because of the way you are disciplined in knowing and applying God’s word. People will already come for you for advice because you seem to have the parenting thing figured out, or the marriage thing, or the financial thing. The life lived determines your authority. When you set your heart on being an elder, you set your heart on a higher standard for living. Such a standard will qualify you for eldership.

Nobility is tough

Let’s not breeze over the last part of the verse. Leading a church is a noble task. It is worthwhile. It brings with it a certain amount of favor in the eyes of men. It brings with it the opportunity to put plans into action. It also comes with a lot of responsibility.

Throughout history, when men are described as noble, it hardly ever means they took the easy road. When knights’ did noble acts, there is a high likelihood that pain, suffering and sacrifice were included. Being an elder is a noble task. It is hard. Yes, there is hard work involved and a sacrifice of time, but becoming an elder will also put the burden of other Christians’ maturity on your shoulders. That’s a heavy emotional load. Yes people may honor you, but you have a daily charge to deny the urge to let that intoxicate you. You have a call to adhere to the Bible and not culture in all situations. There is honor that comes with it, but only after great sacrifice and discipline.

Eldership is not a fast-track to having people validate you.

You don’t want the opposite

The last thing to point out here is that you don’t want the opposite end of this statement. Especially if you are a man and are reading this. You don’t want to live undisciplined. You don’t want to be greedy, or a belligerent brawler. Men have the amazing ability to think the most of themselves even when no one else does. We want to be excellent, and the life described here is an excellent way to live. Why wouldn’t you desire that? Why wouldn’t you set your heart on living a 1 Timothy 3 kind of life? Isn’t that ultimately at the heart of what manhood is?

How does your church determine its elders? Leave a comment below!