Second-hand smoke

cigarette-300x224It is quite possible to know a lot about God and very little of God.

Sometimes I ask questions I should not ask. Especially with married couples. The mild version of the conversation usually starts with, “Do you still kiss?” I remember being at a conference where I met a cheerful and outgoing couple, when the question popped out of my mouth. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but on this occasion the raw approach blew up in my face. The couple squirmed, closed their mouths, looked at each other, then looked right back at me with a sadness you could cut with a knife. Their silence said it all. No. We do not kiss. We are not intimate. We are not happy.

Ever notice how the Bible describes the intimacy between and man and a woman? “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived…” (Genesis 4:1) Something deep within us longs to be known.


Marriage is not just about marriage. The apostle Paul lifts the veil on the subject: “This mystery is profound, but I’m saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32) It’s not like God needed an object lesson to illustrate our relationship with him so he settled for marriage. Marriage was created as a sign of the gospel.

Which brings us back to the problem with so much Christianity. It’s like a travel agent selling time shares for a property she’s never seen. Or a vegan waiter pushing pork chops he’s never tasted. The pictures look good and the food smells great, but the experience is second-hand. Far too much of our Christianity is like second-hand smoke.

I spoke with a man last week who came away from a debate with a Christian group. He could not out-talk the Christians. He did not out-think the Christians. And yet, as I debriefed with him after his encounter, he ended with these words: “I just don’t want to be like them.” They did not smell like Jesus.

Ever notice you start to smell like the people you spend time with?

This is a call to reclaim intimacy. Look at what David wrote: “The intimate friendship of the Lord is reserved for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.” (Psalm 25:14) His response? “My eyes are ever towards the Lord.” (25:15)

Far too many believers are bored with their relationship with God. Like spiritual pornographers, they attend religious gatherings to watch other people encounter God, while they themselves are lifeless and dull. Wearied by the “duties” associated with “serving” God.

Maybe the accusation is true. Perhaps the faith of too many Christians is only inferential; it is the result of deductions. You can have right theology and to do right mission and to live a right life and tell your friends all the right facts about God, and yet know very little of God.

I can promise you this. There’s more.

Stop treating the Bible like a brochure to a land you’ll visit when you die.

And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God…” (John 17:3)

Maybe the gospel is better than an invitation to go to heaven when you die. Of course that’s true. But, if you have ears to hear, you can start going to heaven before you die. Don’t let this day end before you encounter the living God.


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Thoughts on Second-hand smoke

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