Tag Archives: Faith

Without the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ …

Without the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ God’s law becomes unproductive!

Without the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ God’s law becomes behavior modification!

 

When Forgiveness is Incomplete

I was reading Matthew as  part of a Synoptics Gospel class I am taking.  One of the things my instructor said was we often we read scripture through an individual lens.   However, Matthew is meant to be read with a community lens.  In other words when Jesus is saying you to the disciples he really means Ya’ all.  In other words the community of disciples.

If you look at the bigger structure of Matthew the sermon on the mount is not commands to the disciples but they are rather an example of what Gods community should look like. Matthew went to  to clarify and fulfill Jesus purpose and mission of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.  A continual contrast of the the earthly kingdoms vs the disciples heaven on Earth continues to be contrasted in Matthew.  Then later on Matthew discusses forgiveness.

 

21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone[a] who sins against me? Seven times?”

22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven![b]

The above reference was during Jesus’ discourse to his disciples about forgiving others that are a part of our Christian community.  I can’t help but think the words of “I forgive” and going through just a “process of forgiveness” falls far short of living in an intimate community of discipleship with other Christians and far short of what I am reading in the book of Matthew.  We often neglect the nuances and balance that the Synoptic Gospels offer us, neglecting the weightier matters of scripture for a more simplistic understanding and reading of the Gospels.

For me forgiveness is finally complete when I am back in intimate relationship in the community of believers and the ones I have wronged.  Anything less is not what I read as Jesus’ message in Matthew.

 

Parenting Between Pillars

I thought I would share an e-mail I wrote to my daughter and her husband as they approach, in May, the birth of our Grandson!

Hi Kendra, Aaron,

 

As you approach a new season in life I felt the urge to share some deep thoughts with you.  The purpose of this e-mail is to describe what I would do differently if I was starting out as a new parent today.  In other words, if I could go back and re-start my parenting life with what I know today what would I do differently?  What have I learned along the way?

I was reading that a book that a friend/author wrote. He said he was talking to a songwriter and the topic they were discussing reminded him of a song titled “If the record does not have the grooves you can’t play the song”.  Your a little too young to remember vinyl records but the records had grooves on them and a needle would follow along on the grooves to play a song.  Anyhow, this is just a way of saying its difficult to parent any differently than your parents because you bring in your own pre-recorded grooves from your family of origin.  Mom brought in grooves from her family of origin and I brought in grooves from my family of origin.  The  purpose of this e-mail is to share with you the new grooves I had to learn along the way. To share with you the grooves I wish I had when I started out parenting.   Many of the grooves I had to learn the hard way. My hope is that you can start out your season of parenting with all  these grooves fully intact and you can start out parenting where I left off.

I also know that you already know much of what is below.  You are starting in a better spot than Sue and I did as parents.  However,  when the craziness of life takes over its important to remember the big picture. So give me a few paragraphs.
So for the purpose of making an important point I am calling this “Parenting between Pillars”.  The two pillars represent two ends between which we parent.


1. Parent between the Pillars of Truth and Grace

In Joshua Straub’s book Safe House he discusses a primarily Christian phenomenon that he calls the uneven house of truth.  On these pages he  says families heavy on truth and light on grace make it “emotionally unsafe” for Children to share deep thoughts and feelings. Grace gives richness and depth to Gods truth’s that truth alone can not give.

Summary Point:  Be good at truth but be great at grace.

2. Parent Between the Pillars of Time-outs and Time-Ins

As you start out parenting baby J will not have the capacity to control his own feelings, thoughts, and curiosities.  You will be responsible for him not touching the stove, not crossing  the street to pet the dog, etc.  There will be time when you may have to discipline and do time-outs. As baby J passes through the middle years, you will have to help him learn to take control and process his own thoughts and feelings.  This will be done by talking and processing thoughts and feelings together.  You may have to ask him, “I hear your feeling frustrated?  What is the thought behind that feeling?”  Thoughts lead to feelings and feelings lead to behaviors.  Be curious and ask ask more questions as he gets older … rather than just giving advice and relying on quick fixes!   As Baby J matures you will have to transition away from time outs to time-ins where you spend time processing the thoughts and feelings of Baby J. The time-ins are the times you take to talk and help Baby J learn to process thoughts,  feelings, and make sense and meaning of the world!  Help him/her write his own story of life rather than re-write one of your stories.

Summary Point: Be good at time outs (discipline) but be great at time ins.

3. Parent between the Pillars of Emotional Safety and Curiosity

Even when discipline is necessary it will be important for him to feel emotionally safe.  As a young child it will be necessary to discipline at times.  But even discipline, when done right, will allow for the child to feel that home is emotionally safe. This emotionally safe attachment to a parent  will allow your child to curiously explore the world and to grow into the child God intended him/her to be.

Summary Point: A child with a safe attachment to  parents and home  will result in a child that is emotionally safe and able to curiously explore the world without fear.

 

4. Parent between the Pillars of a Narrow Funnel and Wide Funnel

A narrow funnel represents being restrictive and a wide funnel represents giving freedom.  As a young child it will be important to not allow him/her access to a hot stove, sharp objects, etc. Your funnel must be narrow and restrictive to make sure the child is safe.  As a child matures its your responsibility to let them go and let them grow.  Some parents make the mistake of being too restrictive for too long.  Then when kids older they get rebellious.  Others make the mistake of allowing too much freedom too young. Then when they are out of control they have to reign them in and make the wide funnel narrow and more restrictive.  Making the funnel narrow  once it has been wide is hard process for a parent.   They have given too much freedom before the children had enough self control to handle those freedoms.

As your child grows it will be important to give age appropriate freedoms.  You can give them those freedoms when they have the self control to handle those freedoms. The funnel moves from narrow to wide, age appropriately.

Summary Point: Be good at narrow funnel but be wise at wide funnel


5. Parent between the Pillars of Old School and New School
Today’s world has brought in a lot of new complexity.  We had great parenting traditions in the past…. but there are things going on today that are completely different than what Mom and I had deal with in parenting you.  For example, you are a part of the first generation that has been online and plugged in wherever they go.  Cyber threats to children are real today.  In the next few years you will be hearing more about things like facebook addictions, gaming addictions, online gambling addictions,  porn addictions, and a gamut of new things that have not been named yet.  I am going to encourage you to be on the front end of this and learn as much about it as you can before Baby J is born.  It will be important for you to find strategic times to put the screens down for intentional and real relationship building. Josh Straub in his book recommends parents of the 21st century have  an e-nuptual going into parenting,   In other words agree on how you, as a family, handle screen time.  Be intentional about moments to put the screens down and do uninterrupted relationship.  Be realistic.
I actually have purchased you an e-Christmas present that you can view online. Here is a link to several short videos (5-10 min each) from Josh Straub on creating a screen balanced family.  ( http://www.joshuastraub.com/the-screen-balanced-family-videos : Access Code XXXXXXX ).  Also his workbook can be downloaded here:   No LINK.   Josh is passionate about helping new parents parent in the 21st century.
Whatever e-nuptual you and Aaron agree on Mom and I plan on following suit at our home as well.  So in in a way your e-nuptual will also be starting a new method of parenting for all the subsequent Spadino/Johnson kids, grand kids,  and great grand kids to follow.

Summary Point:  Screen time in today’s world can not be avoided, but we must have real relationship to flourish!

6. Parent with a divine and healthy priority system
This one might be the most important and difficult one to do!
Even though I believe in the goal of having a child that is safely attached to parents and emotionally safe…. that idea alone can lead to child centered parenting.  As Baby J matures it will be easy for you to make Baby J the center of life and decision making.  As time goes on it will be easy to lose sight of important aspects of your faith, marriage, .and no longer have time for spiritual and emotional self care. The speed of life takes over!  It will be important at times to refocus and recenter your thinking around Christ and re-establish a divine and healthy priority system.
Christ is first, marriage, children third.  I am going to encourage you to put children third on the list.  In today’s world you need to beware of child-centered parenting where we place children at the center of the household.  Children need to feel  safe and like they are an important aspect of a family… not be the center of it.
Scripture also gives two greatest commandments: (1) Love God, and (2) Love others as you love yourself. Notice the word yourself.  You are included toward the top of the list of people to love. So take time for self care and take care of yourself spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Find moments to make yourself a priority.  Take time for emotional self-care.  As you inevitably and at times let go of this priority system take some time and re-sync your marriage and re-establish spiritual and emotional priorities to stay healthy.  Your children  will thank you for it!
 
Summary Point: Beware of child centered parenting and making your children and marriage an idol!   Establish and continuously re-establish the divine and healthy priority system of scripture in marriage and parenting. Christ, marriage (self included),  children.
I love you guys, I know you both will make great parents!

I Love You,

Dad

SCOTUS Decision: Right or Wrong

So in the aftermath of the landmark SCOTUS decision I find myself in a very lonely spot. First, I want to say I recognize that the LGBT community has been marginalized and often completely rejected.  This absolute rejection should never be trivialized…. it is real and I have seen it firsthand.  The Christian world has made a spectacle of homosexuals for many years.  As a Christian I apologize for that … and I fear that many people look at Christians and say “if that’s what being a Christian is, I don’t want anything to do with that”.

On the other hand I believe that both the biblical and biological definition of marriage and family will always be one man and one woman.  A legal redefinition will never change that.

So I often find myself — not being able to take the side of my Christian family — and I can not take the side of the LGBT community.  A very lonely spot indeed.

I also believe this is a time where the GOSPEL message of Christ will shine more than ever.  Rather than put my own words on my unique stance I will defer to people smarter and wiser than me:

Even though SCOTUS has legally redefined Marriage… God’s definition of Marriage will remain the same. The biblical and the biological story both confirm one man and one woman as the design for Marriage and Family. As Pastor Bill Bohline said today ….”Christianity should always be counter-cultural.”  I believe the Gospel will shine more brightly in light of the SCOTUS decision made on Friday.

I think Tim Keller says it best.

“All problems, personal or social come from a failure to use the gospel (“The Good News”)  in a radical way, to get “in line with the truth of  the gospel” (Gal.2:14). All pathologies in the church and all its ineffectiveness comes from a failure to use the gospel in  a radical way. We believe that if the gospel is expounded and applied in its fullness in any church, that church will look very unique. People will find both moral conviction yet compassion and flexibility.

For example, gays are used to being  “bashed” and hated or completely accepted. They never see anything else. The cultural elites of either liberal or  conservative sides are alike in their unwillingness to befriend or live with or respect or worship with the poor. They are  alike in separating themselves increasingly from the rest of society.”

WD40 and the 3 Narratives People live by

Do I have a Grace and Mercy “narrative” in how I live my life… or do I have performance narrative or self preservation narrative.

Performance narrative … always trying to win, look good. Can be subtle, Today many people have a moral performance narrative. Performance narrative says if I obey and do good I am acceptable. It does not see its own sin but looks at the sin of others,

Self preservation narrative says I need to protect myself from pain and hurt because its not safe (emotionally safe). A person with a self preservation narrative says no matter what I do I will get hurt again. Self preservation narrative does not have emotional safety.

Grace and Mercy Narrative is like wd40. When you pour wd40 on a something “stuck” it soaks deeply into the joint. You never see the wd40 but it makes everything in the joint operate more smoothly. A grace and mercy narrative makes relationships operate more smoothly. It is the wd40 of relationships. Unlike a performance narrative it says I am acceptable, therefore I want to obey and do good. Unlike self preservation narrative it allows me to explore thoughts and feelings safely and gives me the opportunity to grow and change in a safe environment.

However, grace and mercy needs to soak deeply into a person, like wd40 does. The problem we have in todays world is grace and mercy are often understood intellectually… is is not a deeply entrenched narrative in how people live their lives. Often for grace and mercy to become a deeply entrenched “narrative” it must be gained experientially driven vs just intellectually understood.

WD40 and a Grace and Mercy Narrative

Do I have a Grace and Mercy “narrative” in how I live my life… or do I have performance narrative or self preservation narrative.

Performance narrative … always trying to win, look good. Can be subtle, Today many people have a moral performance narrative. Performance narrative says if I obey and do good I am acceptable. It does not see its own sin but looks at the sin of others,

Self preservation narrative says I need to protect myself from pain and hurt because its not safe (emotionally safe). A person with a self preservation narrative says no matter what I do I will get hurt again. Self preservation narrative does not have emotional safety.

Grace and Mercy Narrative is like wd40. When you pour wd40 on a something “stuck” it soaks deeply into the joint. You never see the wd40 but it makes everything in the joint operate more smoothly. A grace and mercy narrative makes relationships operate more smoothly. It is the wd40 of relationships. Unlike a performance narrative it says I am acceptable, therefore I want to obey and do good. Unlike self preservation narrative it allows me to explore thoughts and feelings safely and gives me the opportunity to grow and change in a safe environment.

However, grace and mercy needs to soak deeply into a person, like wd40 does. The problem we have in todays world is grace and mercy are often understood intellectually… is is not a deeply entrenched narrative in how people live their lives. Often for grace and mercy to become a deeply entrenched “narrative” it must be gained experientially driven vs just intellectually understood.

Radical Growth in Grace

If there is not radical growth in humble love toward everyone (even your enemies), you don’t really know you are a SINNER saved by grace. If there is not radical, concrete growth in confidence and joy (even in difficulties) you don’t really know you are a sinner saved by GRACE. — Tim Keller

Sue and I do a Marriage Rebuilder ministry at our Church. I also facilitate a mens group called True North.  In both groups we have couples and men struggling with some difficult issues.  My goal as a facilitator is make these groups a safe place where couples and men can engage in James 5:16 (confess your sins and pray for each other for healing).

Sometimes in order to grow in life it means going backward in life and making amends with the people you have hurt.  This means taking a risk because the other side can spew out “condemnation” toward you when you try to restore the relationship.  You may never have the relationship totally restored but God will always honor honesty.. even when other people don’t or when other people condemn you for your actions. Unfortunately its not always safe to take risks with some people but that is why there is risk involved I guess!

As I write this I think of a time last summer when I was planning a new ministry at Grace Church. As I was walking out someone from my past was in the SUV picking up her kids.  As she saw me she waved at me and smiled.  Later that day she sent me an e-mail apologizing for having a critical, condemning spirit of me.  You see us and this couple have a broken relationship that started when they found out about my sin about 10 years ago and even though we spoke no words as I walked out the door she continued to hold things against me.  I appreciate her e-mail and apology  but wonder if the root of this critical, condemning spirit  is also the same root and reason  of why every other friend relationship ( a total of 5 broken relationships)  I share with them is also broken…. and also why it plays out so prevalently in their own rocky marriage.

My prayer for them is at some point they can go backward someday and maybe even reconcile those broken relationships with family and friends as opposed to just moving forward and leaving all the relational carnage behind. I believe growth would occur on both sides if they can shine the True North of the Gospel message of Christ on those relationships!

The way its been working …. for me at least…. is that the depth of the my understanding of the Gospel, grace, and mercy increases as I work the Gospel out in a community of people. Not just a community of people that have all the same ideas but a community of people that have different ideas, sins,  and agendas than mine.

If there is not radical growth in humble love toward everyone (even your enemies), you don’t really know you are a SINNER saved by grace. If there is not radical, concrete growth in confidence and joy (even in difficulties) you don’t really know you are a sinner saved by GRACE. — Tim Keller

My .02c for the day!

A New Reality

I was listening to Bill Bohline preach on Acts a few weeks back.  He discussed 4 general steps that the bible discusses.

  1. We were created in Gods Image
  2. The fall: We sinned
  3. Christ Came:  He loves us and  came to save and rescue us
  4. Restoration: Living in the restoration and the victory of the Cross.

Point 1 is generally assumed. Bill said quite often Churches are stuck in points 2 or point 3.  The legallist will stay stuck in point 2 wanting to remind people of their sin.   Usually, understanding well the new covenant of grace but living functionally in the old covenant of the law.  The antinomian will stay stuck on point 3  only wanting to talk about unconditional love and Gods Grace and the new covenant … always forgetting about sin.  As I have discussed in previous posts…. the 2 errors of the Gospel are those 2 extremes.  Staying stuck on point 2 or 3 both miss opportunities for change and growth in the Gospel message of grace toward sinners.

As is the case for many Martin Luther  purists …. we pride ourselves in having the proper biblical  distinction between law and gospel and keeping the “bullseye” in front of us!

Bill then  made a very good point.  He said churches don’t always tell the rest of the story.    They don’t often show the rest of the story where Jesus has restored and his people are living in freedom and the victory of the cross …. and to be  bold people who  share their stories while helping others overcoming their brokenness.  We just don’t live in the victory of the cross!  In our religiosity we continue to live in bondage!  The victory of the Gospel is where we should live!  The victory of the cross  slowly rewrites our story into Gods story!

Why did this come to mind…. well, I had an interesting thing happen to me a month back and came to some enlightening observations about myself …. but mostly I had some God moments where I saw God writing a different story of me than what I was trying to write for myself.

I have mentioned on previous posts about some friends that have a long line of broken relationships. He was/is  a good friend of mine for the last 35 years.  I was the only person from his side of friends that was invited to their wedding.  I am fairly certain they no longer have a relationship with his brothers.  Also, as I said they have other broken relationships of his friends before marriage.  I am sure there are others I am not aware of as well.  These conflicts normally started from a tension with her religious legalism and then later on him coming to rescue and protect her in the conflict.

Well,   a few years back, in a time after my sin and transgressions… it came to light that he was struggling with some pretty deep issues.   However, in her fear based world she no Continue reading