Category Archives: Identity in Christ

A Multi Part Series about Faith (and politics)

Due to many of the concerns  of mine and many human behaviors I have observed over the last 10 -15 years in the evangelical and political world I felt a multi-part, complex blog discussion was in order.   Yes you heard me right … this topic is going to be about both faith and politics.     Primarily I hope it is concerned with how faith and politics intersect and how the current  social landscape does not reflect the Jesus that I see in scripture.  My prayer and hope is that this topic speaks especially to evangelicals in the political world so that WE can be effective in His Kingdom to go out and make disciples of all nations.

And even though I do have my own biases, I want to keep those to a minimum in this discussion.  My hope is that like any good Gospel and Jesus centric sermon would do ….. that this discussion will convict both the perpetrator as much as the victim, the democrat as much as the republican, the liberal as much as the conservative, and the elder brother as much as the younger brother.  My prayer is that I can mostly put down my own biases and skews in life and talk to all sides and all people. In the end I hope you can hear the Good News about Jesus — that He died while we were still sinners so we can have TRUE FREEDOM!

This series starts with one basic premise I see that has reached an epidemic high in the current social and political landscape.    That our current culture embraces shame and criticism of others as a primary social tool to win.  Shame, I contend, since the fall in the garden is the primary tool that the serpent used to bend Adam and Eve toward sin.  And it is the primary tool that evil continues to use to keep entire cultures of people in isolation and propagating sin!  Todays social and political landscape continues to use shame as a tool to get on “top” of the other side. Also, this seems to be just as true in the Christian world as it is outside the Christian world.  It is just as true of democratic elites as is the republican elites, just as true of the political right as it is of the left.

Shame wants you to believe  it only shows up in big and grand ways.  However, it normally shows up in a persons face, subtle glances, and body language. It shows up in covert ways in our facebook posts and tweets.  Since we know as Christians it not right to be shameful people we submerge our shaming tactics into passive aggressive tendencies.  It shows up in a glance of disapproval and our  body language as much as our words when talking to a person we disagree with.  Shaming tactics are ubiquitous.  They are so engrained in our culture that we no longer see our tactics as shame.  We are not even aware of these shaming tactics.  We just see them as being right.  And in the Christian world many are in denial that our use of “truth”  often does not reflect both the position and posture of Jesus Christ toward a sinful world.  It does not reflect the Jesus that I see and read about in scripture!

This topic will have the following parts to it.  As I complete each part I will provide hypertext links to each part in this BLOG.

  1.  Truth — What is it?
  2. Genesis – Our Starting Point of Truth
  3. Gods Plan — Relationship and Community
  4. Establishing the moral vision of the New Testament and Jesus
  5. True Freedom — What does it look like?
  6. Application for Today

 

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Truth: How do we use it?

As a Christian I strongly believe in Truth!  I believe Gods word is absolute truth.  At the same time I have observed what I see as an abuse of truth in many Christians. 

I believe this abuse of truth falls into one of 2 categories.  The first is when we use truth to gain power over another person or another group. Basically, we use truth see ourselves as better than another person or group. 

The other is when we use truth as a shield.  This kind of TRUTH abuse is when we like to talk about truth but we do not use it to get “wooden” with our own sins, thoughts, and feelings. We talk truth as a way of avoiding discussing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings about ourselves.  We use truth as  a very clever way of changing the subject so we do not have to look at our own sin.

So what does this look like in reality.  Years ago, my wife and I sat down with a couple we were good friends with.  This couple was struggling with some issues the husband was struggling with.  One of the things we knew about this couple was that this couple had  very black and white, all or nothing, legalistic way of thinking. This was especially true of the wife…. but also true of him.  This couple was at their best when they could look out their windows and talk about how BAD other people were and how BAD other groups were.  Well , what do you think occurs when legalistic, black or white thinking finally meets the sin inside the walls of a marriage instead of outside the walls of the marriage,,,, well, you get FIREWORKS!  I vividly remember when we sat down with them and  her strong and incorrect use of  the word “TRUTH!” at her husband as a way of belittling her husband.  She was using TRUTH as a form of a power play.   Oddly, right before she did this she told us how she was calm she was because she had the “fruit of the spirit” working in her.  As she said this her body language was anything except full of the fruit of the spirit.  This was her way of using truth as a shield to deflect everything away from her.  In one conversation with this couple they had used TRUTH both as a shield and as a power play.

Well, anyhow, I believe the question that deserves some thought today is this:

How have we used our faith and religion as either a shield or as a power play?

 

 

 

 

Shame and Blame

Sue and I do marriage rebuilders.  We facilitate a small group, share our story of brokenness and reconciliation and pray that God works through us as we do our best to make the  group a safe place for others to tell their stories.  We hope that as we try to create an environment of grace and mercy that as others tell their stories and overcome the shame of their past that Gods truth is revealed in the process and that eventually people grow and change!  The ministry also gives couples communication tools that many people are often lacking relationally.

In this ministry, we have heard and seen phenomenal stories of change. We have also seen half-hearted attempts to change, grow and reconcile marriages.

What is the difference in the two groups of people?  One of the turning points in the reconciliation process is when both sides take responsibility for “their part” of what is broken in their relationship.  They have spent too much time shaming and blaming the other person or maybe more subtly minimize their part and maximize their spouses part of the problem in their marriage.  Like I said in the last post, we have seen many reconciled marriages when each partner has taken responsibility for their part.  The Gospel (The Good News of Jesus Christ) tells us that we (ALL humans, Christian and non Christian) are ALL broken and we ALL require a savior.   However, since the original sin of Adam and Eve we have all engaged in the shame and blame game.  The blame and shame game does 2 things: (1) it minimizes how greatly I need a savior, and (2) It prevents me from taking responsibility for what I did in the breakdown of a relationship.

I was reminded of this recently, as I shared some e-mails with a friend.  If we could ever break the shame and blame game, then we can go maybe  deeper and maybe root out the deeper issues and problems  of the heart.

Until then, the way I see it, we will just keep revisiting the same problems and hurt feelings of the past.

Thats my .02c worth on this topic!

Jon

God is Good: Good Year Going in 2012

Have not had a post for a while and that has been somewhat intentional as I have several things I am juggling all the time both professionally and personally.  Just wanted to post that so far its been a good year going in 2012. My wife and I are doing well. We are doing a book called Rescue Your Love Life that uses a slot of the same language as our Marriage Rebuilders groups.    I am also nearing the end of some long term planning for a new ministry called “True North”. It is basically a mens group that will also have a  link to Marriage Rebuilders at Hosanna Church that my wife and I do.   We plan to meet at Church called Evergreen Church on the South side of the twin cities, Mn.  The start of this ministry is a prayer answered for me and its been in the planning stages for almost a year.

God is good!

 

 

The cosmic dance of life

My wife and I are taking dance lessons again.  A couple of years back we learned west coast swing.  Now we are learning a slow dance called night club 2 step.  I really like it. Not only does it give the two of us something  to do during our long winters in Minnesota, but I also love the symbology of dancing and how it is a communication style of  non verbal cues  between 2 people.  The entire dance hinges on a “connection” between 2 people.  For the dance to succeed in looking like a dance it requires some very basic skills of highly subtle communication. Once those basic skills are mastered you can move on to more “styling” in your dance.

For the dancing to start being successful it requires 2 things. First, I need to communicate the dance moves to Sue in a way she understands.   In dancing a lot of these are subtle things you do to communicate your intent.  This connection between 2 people is what makes the dance work.  If the leader gives the wrong understanding to the follower it does not look like much of a dance. If the follower back leads the dance it is not very much fun for the leader and its definitely not how dancing was designed to be like.

Second, to move on to where the dance really looks good and start making progress Sue needs to feel safe in the dance communication going on between us.  If that safety is not there she is not willing to move on to learning the next thing to make dancing even more fun.  Furthermore, A lack of safety sucks the fun right of out dancing for me and her.

Those are the building blocks of dancing. Communicating  our intentions with understanding  and providing a safe environment where can grow and move on to more advanced and more fun dance moves!!  Growing with my wife is is much like dancing.   Intimacy and closeness with  my wife requires understanding and safety. Safety and understanding are the building blocks of intimacy and both, like dancing, require effort and intentionality as we take specific steps to grow together.  To communicate with understanding and safety requires some very deep roots in Gods love and mercy because, quite often it is NOT safe to communicate our shortcomings and vulnerabilitites to other sinners.  Also, we strive and work hard to protect our image of performance as a good performing employee, nice person, or moral achiever.   We communicate our strengths but.. gasp!…. never our weaknesses.   When we live up to our performance expectations we feel good about ourselves and when we don’t we feel like failures.

However, when we create an environment to safely share our weaknesses (James 5:16) and we live with the grace and mercy narrative of the cross  in how we behave toward other sinners we have the recipe for growth and change and finally have a chance at …. real intimacy.  This intimacy is not rooted in the performance and expectations of the other person but it finally has real understanding.  It loves progress but does not demand perfection.   We can put finally put down the performance achievement mask and be real with each other.

Finally, intimacy must be about something shared.  For years as Sue and I were raising the kids we seemed to be on separate missions.  Our shared lives were dismal as I became rooted in my job and she became more rooted in the children.  So what are you sharing? For Sue and I we now share workouts together, walks, devotions, a few games, some deep conversations and of course … we are trying something new …. dancing.

As we enjoy our new dancing skills I also have a vision I established about 5 years ago that I am temporarily calling for this blog topic  “the cosmic dance of life” . <—Link

Merry Christmas to you all!

Gospel Based Intimacy with God and Others

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is…
We are more sinful and weak than we ever dared to admit and…
We are more loved and accepted than we ever dared to hope.

In recent years I have been working hard at understanding my core and to not deviate far from it. In essence to try to remain in the sweet spot of Gods word. The sweet  spot to me is the Gospel message. If we don’t keep that clearly in our sites we can eventually use scripture to damage relationships as we claim obedience or attempted obedience in some judgemental way.

I want to expand on some personal reasons why I believe we as Christians need to “Keep the main thing the main thing” and continually beat the gospel message about Christ into our heads. We need to re-remind each other of the Gospel message continuously. Martin Luther says, “The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine….Most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.” (on Gal.2:14f).  The gospel might be easy to understand but it is very difficult to apply in a persons life!!!!!

What I have seen [and participated in] is that as sinners we can twist anything and everything, including scripture, in idolotrous ways and suck life out of it for Continue reading

Christian attitude: Better in private than in public

One of the things I am trying to work hard toward is to make my life the same in private as in public.  Most people put on a good external face but when the doors are closed and the shades are pulled things become a different story.   When we shut the doors our selfish side is allowed to manifest itself.  Anyhow, I don’t always do this perfectly… but things are pretty good and a lot better than they used to be.

Wouldn’t it be great if our Christian attitude was better in private and in secret than it was in public as opposed to the other way around! Our private lives and what we do in secret reflects our real heart.  What we think about when our minds are at rest reflects what we worship so lets look to Jesus — the author and perfecter of our faith.

A good understanding of the Christian doctrine of sin should allow Christians to face sin head on in front of other Christian brothers and sisters. However, partially due to our own fears and also partially due to other peoples  incorrect understanding of the depth of mans sin … confession over deeper sins is driven into the corners of Churches; this type of confession and understanding of sin and grace may not exist in some Churches.

The basic question for the Christian as we look at our own heart is always “What desire (or idol of the heart)  is functionally in place of Jesus Christ” as we live our daily lives. For many it is sex, wealth, power, alcohol, drugs, or food.  Also the idols of  image (family, religious, and self image) , preeminence, wealth and self righteousness are also potent masters of the heart.

This year is the year of the diet for me…. and its a tough one.   So far I have lost 40 lbs but in reality I have never in my life not been overweight.   I am not looking at this so Continue reading