Category Archives: intimacy

Freedom…. What is it good for?

Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭13-14‬ ESV

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.””

See it at Bible.com:

http://bible.com/59/gal.5.13-14.esv

Last night we discussed the idea of Freedom in my men’s group and we discussed Galatians 5.

For me freedom takes on some deep thoughts.  Freedom, to me,  means freedom from any forms of righteousness the world places on me.   It means spiritual, emotional, and psychological freedom!  However, those are pretty big words.

Some might be looking for Freedom from sin.  But freedom FROM anything is not really freedom in my opinion.  How do we put hands and feet on the idea of freedom and what it means to you?  Is anyone bold enough to make comments on what Freedom means for them?

Freedom… what does it mean for you?  Any takers on making comments?

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Communication 2 — Reblog Post

The following is a reblog post of a while back:

I strive very much to have a mercy narrative in how I live and behave…. especially in light of the things that have occurred and played out in my life.   Mercy and love are two words that are very interchangeable in scripture.  Mercy basically means love toward people that are strugglers and sinners.

There are two basic narrative identities at work among professing Christians. The first is what I will call the moral-performance narrative identity. These are people who in their heart of hearts say, I obey; therefore I am accepted by God. The second is what I will call the grace or mercy narrative identity. This basic operating principle is, I am accepted by God through Christ; therefore I obey.

People living their lives on the basis of these two different principles may superficially look alike. They may sit right beside one another in the church pew, both striving to obey the law of God, to pray, to give money generously, to be good family members. But they are doing so out of radically different motives, in radically different spirits, resulting in radically different personal characters.

So what do you do when these two narratives clash!  I know that I can have a form of grace-legalism; that is, I can have an unloving heart toward unloving self-righteousness ….. or pharasaism.  So what have I learned!  Well, the first thing is just love others unconditionally.  The second thing is when confronted by self righteoussness is to have strong  boundaries when it comes to your communication. Love them … yes … but these people are not the same as the people you trust in the closer circle… so dont communicate in with them the same way.  The deeper levels of communication are reserved for people you trust and have a secure track record with.   For example, I have a few close friends that have invited me into their inner circle.  These are special friends.  We talk at a deep level. We are invited into each others lives and discuss things at a very intimate level.  My wife is one of those people. I have a few other men in my life that share that same level of communication.  Communication goes beyond cliches, fact reporting, and advice-giving. Its transparent, honest, and gulp…. intimate.  Walls of performance and personal image have been torn down…. mostly!

Also this form of communication is threatening to most people and to talk to people that aren’t ready at this level is almost impossible. They will feel threatened.  You really cant invite yourself into that world unless you invite each other in. To go in uninvited means a threatening environment  for the other person.  And if you are invited in it also means you share a two-way, not a one-way street.

The thing you can do with ALL people is to have a mercy and grace narrative with them!  This is the one need and thing you can offer that is completely audience and type of person independent. This grace and mercy narrative meets the needs of all people all the time!

The parable of the pharisee and tax collector contrasts the pharasaical moral performance narrative approach with the mercy narrative of the tax collector!

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

I want to point you to the words “I fast twice a week”!    Up to this point the pharisee was only quoting old testament law about being a robber, an evil-doer, etc. Now he says he fasts twice a week.  He now has an additive to the divine will of God!  He now has something other than a grace and mercy narrative to the tax collector!  He compares his moral performance to the tax collector’s and says here look at my performance RELATIVE to him!

This is what phariseeism does it. It adds a tweak or narrative that exists outside of the Gospel based truth and adds something to the truth.   It has a close resemblance to the truth…. but its really a very evasive lie. It compares its performance to the others. The tax collector on the other hand just looks at his own heart and says “God have mercy on me a sinner”.

Today, I am thankful for the way my wife and I communicate. Sue and I are taking a marriage class and she told me last week “I cant believe how far we have come”.  It took a lot of hard work for me and Sue to get past the first three levels of communication of  (1) cliches, (2) reporting facts, and (3) giving advice.  Its deeper and more intimate and it (4) shares real needs and feelings… yes men, feelings…. and it (5) risks emotional and personal openness.

I am also thankful for the men that have invited me into their lives and that I have invited in.   Together, we strive to see the tax collector and the pharisee in all of us and says “have mercy on me, a sinner”!

A deep intimate level of communication

I strive very much to have a mercy narrative in how I live and behave…. especially in light of the things that have occurred and played out in my life.   Mercy and love are two words that are very interchangeable in scripture.  Mercy basically means love toward people that are strugglers and sinners.

There are two basic narrative identities at work among professing Christians. The first is what I will call the moral-performance narrative identity. These are people who in their heart of hearts say, I obey; therefore I am accepted by God. The second is what I will call the grace or mercy narrative identity. This basic operating principle is, I am accepted by God through Christ; therefore I obey.

People living their lives on the basis of these two different principles may superficially look alike. They may sit right beside one another in the church pew, both striving to obey the law of God, to pray, to give money generously, to be good family members. But they are doing so out of radically different motives, in radically different spirits, resulting in radically different personal characters.

So what do you do when these two narratives clash!  I know that I can have a form of grace-legalism; that is, I can have an unloving heart toward unloving self-righteousness ….. or pharasaism.  So what have I learned!  Well, the first thing is just love others unconditionally.  The second thing is when confronted by self righteoussness is to have strong  boundaries when it comes to your communication. Love them … yes … but these people are not the same as the people you trust in the closer circle… so dont communicate in with them the same way.  The deeper levels of communication are reserved for people you trust and have a secure track record with.   For example, I have a few close friends that have invited me into their inner circle.  These are special friends.  We talk at a deep level. We are invited into each others lives and discuss things at a very intimate level.  My wife is one of those people. I have a few other men in my life that share that same level of communication.  Communication goes beyond cliches, fact reporting, and advice-giving. Its transparent, honest, and gulp…. intimate.  Walls of performance and personal image have been torn down…. mostly!

Also this form of communication is threatening to most people and to talk to people that aren’t ready at this level is almost impossible. They will feel threatened.  You really cant invite yourself into that world unless you invite each other in. To go in uninvited means a threatening environment  for the other person.  And if you are invited in it also means you share a two-way, not a one-way street.

The thing you can do with ALL people is to have a mercy and grace narrative with them!  This is the one need and thing you can offer that is completely audience and type of person independent. This grace and mercy narrative meets the needs of all people all the time!

The parable of the pharisee and tax collector contrasts the pharasaical moral performance narrative approach with the mercy narrative of the tax collector!

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

I want to point you to the words “I fast twice a week”!    Up to this point the pharisee was only quoting old testament law about being a robber, an evil-doer, etc. Now he says he fasts twice a week.  He now has an additive to the divine will of God!  He now has something other than a grace and mercy narrative to the tax collector!  He compares his moral performance to the tax collector’s and says here look at my performance RELATIVE to him!

This is what phariseeism does it. It adds a tweak or narrative that exists outside of the Gospel based truth and adds something to the truth.   It has a close resemblance to the truth…. but its really a very evasive lie. It compares its performance to the others. The tax collector on the other hand just looks at his own heart and says “God have mercy on me a sinner”.

Today, I am thankful for the way my wife and I communicate. Sue and I are taking a marriage class and she told me last week “I cant believe how far we have come”.  It took a lot of hard work for me and Sue to get past the first three levels of communication of  (1) cliches, (2) reporting facts, and (3) giving advice.  Its deeper and more intimate and it (4) shares real needs and feelings… yes men, feelings…. and it (5) risks emotional and personal openness.

I am also thankful for the men that have invited me into their lives and that I have invited in.   Together, we strive to see the tax collector and the pharisee in all of us and says “have mercy on me, a sinner”!

 

Intimacy: Joy, Peace, and Love and facing the pain of our past

One of the reasons I proclaim so boldly the centrality of the Gospel is that this centrality is a truth and worldview that is spoken in scripture that  gives me a compass   for my understanding of other  scriptural truths.  Another way of saying this is that this  centrality of the gospel world view of scripture allows me to see “true north” even in the midst of my struggles and sin.  Practically speaking this has had a major impact on me and my wife when confronted by major difficulties.

As I look back I see a lot of people placed in my path (by God I assume) that have spoken  to me as mentors.   All the way back to Pastor Johnson, Steve P., Pastor Heining, my friend Bill, my time on a pastoral search committee, my time at Bridgewood Church, and most recently my time at Lifeprint church… as well as several other people  where I was reminded this world is a battlefield.   All of these people and situations have shaped and refined this worldview of mine …. or maybe better said my God-view.

I admittedly have also been shaped by  a broken friendship where I observed some erroneous worldviews or ways of seeing God over multiple years.  I realize now that I need to have just as strong a boundaries against erroneous views of God as I do erroneous living.

Keeping the gospel centric helps me maintain a proper compass (or  god-view) and has resulted in several things in my life:

  • It has resulted in putting down the “performance paradigm” in how I approach God and I strive now to live “heart to heart” with God
  • It has resulted in assisting me in learning (and continuing to learn) the discipline of transparency in how I live and communicate with God, my wife,  and other men.   You would not believe some of the conversations I have had with my wife and in small groups of men.  It comes from doing my best to put down any religious posturing or religious or worldly verneers. I now strive to live heart to heart with  God, my wife,  and other people.
  • It has helped to me to face the pain of my childhood teen and pre-teen years and to face the pain my sin has caused to other people. IT has allowed me to feel the real of my pain and sin history.
  • It has resulted in a spiritual, emotional, and physical intimacy with my wife
  • It has resulted in joy and peace while learning to live in the “it is finished” of the cross
  • It has caused me to want to take action on some topics I am passionate about
  • It has given me the strength and vision to have better boundaries in relationships.   Whether its on the internet or at work I keep better boundaries in relationships … but I  also protect my spiritual boundaries and  well being as I have learned that not everyone’s opinion is allowed in the inner circle.    It allows me to hold my tongue when I am being bombarded by religious people that, in my opinion, have a poor compass or poor orientation to the Gospel and ultimately to  not allow the self righteous attitude of the pharisees to creep into my thinkology.  As it is said… “a little yeast works it way through the whole dough” so its best to not even engage the yeast of the pharisees.
  • Maybe most importantly the centrality of the Gospel (sometimes called having a theology of the cross) drives a passionate, thought consuming vision for me in my approach to life, people, and my career

Those that have made decisions to come to grips with their sin and their pain in the past are the ones I trust in the inner circle.  Those people that have learned to put down their religious or irreligious shields and denials they use to cope with life and are learning to stop avoiding the painful realities of the past are people that should be in leadership.  By putting  down our shields and facing our sin and our “pain” history people can learn to quit medicating themselves on worldly addictions or self righteous pharasaism.

By facing our pain and sin and a true reality of ourselves we learn to trust in the only true source of love in our lives … Jesus Christ.  And from this love we can extend true love to others.    By keeping the gospel message pf Christ central we can finally boldly confront  our pain and sin and start learning to live heart to heart with God and other people.  This ultimately, I believe, creates a joy, peace, and love that surpasses all understanding.

Intimacy: Don’t manage your problems

I have come to the conclusion that I can NOT manage my problems.  This is why I so boldly proclaim the centrality of the gospel.    I had a friend once that was having some issues and, in my opinion, was trying to manage his wife  as they dealt with their issues.  I have also tried to manage my problems and my sin.  Its a lost cause that will have varying degrees of effectivity.  The gospel message tells us:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ and Jesus’ purpose on the cross tell us …
We are more sinful and weak than we ever cared to admit and (why Jesus had to die for me) …
We are more loved and accepted than we ever dared to hope (why Jesus was glad to die for me).

In the odd economy of the cross there is no room for pride to exist.  We are ALL sinners and fall short of the glory of God. This knowledge allows men and husbands and  wives to quit “managing” their problems and to lay down their issues in front of each other (and in front of the cross)  and start talking turkey.  To start learning the skills of real intimacy and being transparent in a real way to each other if we deeply understand the complete and total depravity of man.

Also, if your wife or a group of men can also share this vulnerable intimacy this has a doubling effect as we share our sins and concerns in an open way.

A deep understanding of the gospel allows you to “feel the real” without being crushed by your own sin  because Jesus said “It is finished”.  A healthy person has learned to feel the real and to see the pain and suffering in his/her life and he/she can still live in the bold freedom of the cross.

In Christ,

JS

Real Intimacy

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 ourselves. People can spend years in Bible Study and still not be closer to Christ and understand the Gospel message any better than they did previously. We have a tendency to use scripture fore getting over bumps in life as opposed to drawing into more intimate relationships with God and the important people around us.

In the book of Genesis, before the fall of man, scripture says we were naked and unashamed. We had an intimate trust relationship with each other and God. After the fall of man, without the Gospel true intimacy to God, Christ, and each other is impossible. We can not achieve the intimate relationships we were designed by God to have without the Gospel message. Without the gospel, we will feel the need to portray some level of worthiness or holiness around each other. We cant discuss our true limitations, our shortcomings, Continue reading

Intimacy: Connecting with others that are acting in line with the Truth of the Gospel

If you read my vision statement one of my main themes is intimacy and taking risks in our relationships with others.  In his excellent book “Living the Truth,” Keith Ablow has this to say:

Love everyone, but trust those connected to truth. While everyone is worthy of your concern and empathy … only those who have recognized the source of their suffering, examined it, and grown from it are trustworthy. This is because putting down one’s shields, looking in the mirror, and facing the early complicated chapters of one’s life story is the only way to feel pain and grow beyond it. People who continue to deny their suffering, insisting all is well with them and always has been, can draw you into highly charged, unresolved dramas recycled from their past. And those unresolved dramas can contaminate any story you try to write with them. How do you recognize those who are trustworthy? Look at how much they rely on shield strategies to get through life. Do they drink excessively, ceaselessly pursue fame or riches, use drugs to get through life, gamble, take inordinate risks, change the topic constantly to avoid addressing anything emotional?

[I would add to this list] Do they rely on excessive religiosity, and spiritualize every situation?] Do they say everything’s ‘great’ for them now, that they have the ‘ideal marriage’ or ‘perfect children’ or Continue reading