Monday, December 18, 2006

Kingdom Friends: That’s How The Light Gets In

Week 5: Hide In Plain Sight- Nakedness

Intimacy. Nakedness. Openness. Transparency. What is it about those words that scare us so much?

For some of us we feel shame at the prospect of self-revelation. Others of us recall inapproprate expressions of nakedness and react by blaming.

Why do we feel like we can’t really turn to someone and open up? Turn to your neighbor and discuss this for a minute or 10.

Where is it that we can fulfill the desire of being accepted for who we are if we are not willing to express ourselves from where we are?

Are you, am I, willing to search after God and let him develop in you an intimate relationship that accepts you for who you are with your mask removed?

Are you willing to seek after someone and develop a similar relationship?

What stops us from expressing intimacy with those around us?

Are we afraid of rejection? Is it a fear of being exposed for not having it all together?

We don’t have it all together!

Genesis 2

Proverbs 28:9
Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.

"A man leaves all kinds of footprints . . . Some you can see. . . others are invisible, like the prints he leaves across other people's lives." Margaret Runbeck

Mature love, mature friendship is better than young love or puppy love, any infatuation. It burns slower and longer. It’s deeper and less about the surface of things.

“Am I willing to start right now to do something I have been avoiding?”

Way too often, we slide into a black and white mindset of thinking and believing that we are either in control or out of control in our relationships, both with God and friends. It seems to require more integrated and internalized wisdom than you or I can muster to accept into our DNA that most of life occurs in the “not in control” zone.

The final score in a hockey game results from each team putting the puck in the net. Yet the entire game is played in the not in control space in between and behind the nets. It’s the game, not the score that makes it worth watching.

Are we willing to release control to God? Secretly we all want to live the movie ‘Click’. Instead we release our friends to become ‘surgeons of the soul’. When we give up control we enter into the humility and nakedness zone.

Relationships approached outside of humility can be comfortable, affirming, convenient, rewarding, even stimulating, but they can never be characterized by transparency and weakness --- the kind of weakness Paul said he embraced so that the power of Christ could dwell in him. (2 Cor. 11:30; 12:9) Outside of humility we judge ourselves. Outside of humility we judge others, filtering their words and mannerisms through our own understanding and even through the limitations we see in their lives. We deny ourselves depth of relationship --- access to the loaves and the fishes that others have, that the Father would multiply for us. When we approach relationships outside of humility and transparency, if we do see the loaves and fishes that others have we think them small and inadequate, insufficient, yet with such smallness Jesus fed more than 5,000 people. (Matt. 14)

Depth of relationship means speaking the truth in humility and love --- not just about God and about other people, but about ourselves. This relational transparency is what James was describing when he wrote:

James 5:16
Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.

James was not speaking of ceremonial confession or suggesting we should hang our heads and be self-deprecating when we sin. He was talking about living our lives in transparency and humility, before God, and before each other. It is from such soil that hearing hearts and depth of relationship spring. Kevin Avram

That’s what Adam and Eve had been in the Garden. Living in transparency and humility with the Father.

This is not a common practice, but I believe an active process in the lives of Kingdom friends.

Anybody here have any sexual issues? Difficulties with intimacy? Premarital sex or pornography issues? Any other temptations? We have two options in these cases: we surrender to the temptations and difficulties, becoming enslaved; or we go for just plain discipline, fleeing, gritting our teeth all the while saying, ‘yup, the abundant God life, for sure.’

God intends we find healing and relief from these and other crushing burdens in our life. God is the healer but He often uses people as the intermediaries.

Otherwise we’re left with stunted growth:
Have you ever had a season where you’re a mess, emotionally, spiritually, maybe immature, and impatient, perhaps doubtful of God, doubtful of your calling; literally a wreck.

If you look back at that period of your life, perhaps you’re embarrassed. you hope people forget what you wree like then and instead think of you in your finer moments. you hope that people understand that you’ve learned a lot and matured.

Sometimes people won’t do that for you- they keep you stuck in their own mind in your painful past because they were hurt. But when we’re honest, we realize we do the same things to others. we keep people "stuck" in our own mind, defining them by their worst moment, allowing little room for growth, and characterizing all their actions by their worst moments. it's easier that way; we can write people off, or say bad stuff about them, or mentally attack them based upon this ungracious, self-righteous labeling. We get a hardening of the categories as it were.

In truth, though, we never move past the recognition we are broken people in need of God’s grace- we just lose the hang-up over saying that!

We believe in God - such as it is, we have faith because certain things happened to us once and go on happening. We work and goof off, we love and dream, we have wonderful times and awful times, are cruelly hurt and hurt others cruelly, get scared stiff and ache with desire, do all such human things as these. And if our faith is not mainly window dressing or a rabbits foot or fire insurance, it is because it grows out of precisely this rich compost.

The God of biblical faith is the God who meets us at those moments in which for better or for worse we are being most human, most ourselves, and if we lose touch with these moments, if we don’t stop from time to time to notice what is happening to us and around us and inside us we run the tragic risk of losing touch with God too
”. Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

Oswald Chambers helps remind us we will always need Jesus Christ and His grace:

Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus, is service for Him.” Oswald Chambers

When we’re not careful, a superior attitude can creep in. I’m not so dependant on Jesus, but He’s dependent on me!

Kingdom Friends help us realize that we come as you are- not stay as you are.

It’s like showing up at a fitness gym and saying, ‘no I don’t want to work out & get in better shape. Don’t hassle me, I’m paying my fees. Can’t you tell that I don’t need to work out?’

After awhile the gym would probably ask you to leave because you’re not doing what their mission is. ‘Sorry sir, this gym is called ‘Hardcore’ for a reason. Maybe you should work out at home on the couch with the TV on. Oh, I see that you’re already doing that!’

“Do I tell the truth to myself about me?”

It’s the sad part about the show, Seinfeld. The characters don’t see their own blind spots, and the only nakedness they pursue is physical!

It is corrosive to our souls to lie and deceive others. We weren’t designed to tell a lie or live one either.

Can you envision going to a restaurant & saying, ‘no I don’t really want to eat here.’

What do you think they’d say?

Jesus did life with his disciples. That’s the stuff of Kingdom Friends. Life in the open. No control, trusting in the way of the Father. Upper room growth encounter: URGE.

John White wrote Changing on the Inside. At a conference John talked about his life, and the fact that each morning he arises, puts on his robe over his pajamas, and makes his way to his den where he prays, reads, etc. One morning the Father spoke to him plainly, telling him to stand and remove all his clothes. To get naked. Then the Father had him stand before him naked. John spoke of his absolute embarrassment, fear, and desire to cover himself, even though he was the only one in the room.

I am quite sure that in deep relationships there is nakedness of the heart. It is a relationship denied to us when we rely on our own understanding, for when we rely on our understanding we judge the other person, what they are saying, what we presume their motives to be, and the limitations we see in their lives. We can't get to the loaves and the fishes that they have, that the Father would multiply for us, and if we do see them we think them small and inadequate. Kevin Avram

Sometimes in teaching it feels like walking out of the shower with the door open, as Erwin McManus likes to quip, only it’s the soul that’s out there. A naked exposed soul.

A last word about the idea of control:
Awhile back I was in a discussion with someone over the idea of Alpha males. Dominant, controlling, opinioned, talented, respected, there are so many adjective that can be used, but antithetical to Kingdom Friends. Are there Alpha females? The women I asked said, ‘yes’.

Years back in my friendship circle there were a couple of friends guys in particular that stood out. One time I was speaking with another common friend and the two others came up in conversation, and the third friend revealed the two in question didn’t get along. I was surprised. Why not? I liked them both. His comment was they were both Alphas, and too busy fighting for recognition, so they avoided each other. I had never noticed the conflict. They both wanted to be the life of the party.

One-upmanship kills Kingdom friendships. Competition, and this isn’t necessarily in athletics. Knowledge, expertise, performance, attention, even one-upping on our brokenness!

Several years’ back there was some conflict in the church staff I was a part of. In my men’s group, this was a subject that I avoided in order to not bias them. When it finally came up, I asked a younger man what he thought. His comment was, ‘two Alpha males going at it.’ And I was one of those two males. I hadn’t really seen it that way up until then. It was his Kingdom Friendship that helped me open my eyes to that reality. In hindsight this was definitely going on.

Enter into the dark waters of relationship. It requires emotional bravery. That’s why brokenness is such an invitation, because if we’ve reached the end of our rope we are too tired to fight an Alpha battle. We realize it’s not worth it.

Who are you in competition with? In your family? At work? In CoHo? In your past?

John Eldredge writes about this in his latest book, The Way of the Wild Heart. A stage of a man is a Warrior, and we can run the risk of fighting for the sake of fighting, as opposed to finding and fighting the battle God has set for us. Eldredge challenges those of us that are getting past this stage, or older, of the need to be healed of any wounds from this stage. If we don’t we’ll fight out potential friends to the death, or seek adventure in possessions and other silly things up until our death.

Some of you may not believe me about always needing God’s grace. Listen to this:

1 Timothy 1:8-17
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Paul was near the end of his life when he wrote that. That’s nakedness. Paul’s’ life is a study in it. Will you allow God to put you through the same process? Let the Father speak to you now…

This morning i went to Tim Horton's and followed a silver car that had a pink hat in the back window. In large blue letters it had what a female dog is called printed on the hat. I wondered who drove the car and what were they like.

I ended up behind the car in the Drive-thru, and when I got to the window, the cashier said, 'Merry Christmas, your coffee was paid for by the last cuastomer.' The woman with the hat. What a God wink!

Grace comes in strange places, in strange packages...a little baby named Jesus...through broken people like you and me.


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