Knowing the ROCK: Knowing TRUE Intimacy in Recovery: Part 1

David Mackey

If you attended the Every Man’s Battle Workshop (and if you haven’t you are missing out) you will recall a session on False Intimacy. It seems that those who struggle with the Battle quite often struggle with intimacy. Which are what we were created for; Intimacy with God and Intimacy with others.

In Mark 12, Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is and His answer is ‘to be intimate‘, i.e. ” to love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. To love with your whole being. Not just God but others as well (Matthew 22:39 says, ‘The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor’).

Agape (gr.); unconditional love with one’s whole being. Quite often, those who give themselves over to acting out become great avoiders of true intimacy. Truth is, those who act out, very often never experienced intimacy as a child, nor with a spouse or a friend and certainly not with God. Sexual impurity can trick us into numbing even the need to have intimacy with a real person. Acting out can somehow, for very fleeting moments, seem fulfilling’ it is false but an effective numbing agent for our true intimacy needs.

So, one might ask, what is true intimacy and how does one develop real and true intimacy? I’m glad you asked. There is not a simple and easy answer. There is no formula or 3 step process toward developing intimacy’it is quite mysterious. But a simple definition, someone once said, was that intimacy is just that’In-to-me-see. That’s a pretty good definition because intimacy does involve seeing into each other. Seeing each others whole being and allowing another to see within us. It has many facets but God has offered us an intimate relationship with Him and with others. He has given us glimpses, through His Word, of what that intimacy can be like.

This is the first of five articles examining some of the facets of intimacy. We will not come close to exhausting this subject but will focus on David and some of what made up his intimate relationship with God. Especially as one reads his Psalms, it is pretty clear that David knew God intimately. God told Samuel that David was a ”man after my own heart.’ The Psalms are full of emotion with David speaking to God from his heart, soul, mind, and strength. Throughout those Psalms David commonly uses phrases and the same word pictures repeatedly. These pictures seem to include some common facets of INTIMACY.

Specifically we will look at Psalm 31:1-5. Throughout the Psalms, David repeatedly mentions knowing God as his ROCK, as his REFUGE, and as his FORTRESS. I suppose we all have some idea what they might mean but David seems to have a lot to say in these word pictures. David uses them interchangeably throughout the Psalms, as in verse 2 when he says: ‘‘ be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress’‘ In further study we will find that David also uses these words repeatedly to connect with some of the In-To-Me-See aspects of intimacy.

That’s where we are going! Discovering what it is to know God as our rock, refuge and fortress. To have intimate relationship with God and in turn learn how to be in intimate relationship with others. Scary thought isn’t it. Inviting our Holy God to see in us and looking back toward Him. To look in the face of Jesus, inviting Him to see within us. It is joyous mystery’though scary nonetheless. Especially for those of us who, in our acting out, ran and hid from just such a prospect. It is not much less scary to do the same with another person who we can see standing beside us. Is it possible that prospect is even more terrifying? For so long, we have run and hid in our acting out.

Listen, my friend and brother in the Battle! God invites us to know Him and be known by Him at the Rock of Refuge. A stronghold and fortress that provides safety. These things are terrifying because we have not yet experienced them. Trust God; He invites us to rest with others on the safe Rock and Fortress of Refuge with Him.

One more thing. If you are already fighting in the Battle, you likely have already begun to taste of true intimacy. You have begun to find safety and protection in God’s forgiveness and acceptance. If you have an accountability partner, someone you told about your struggle, a group you attend, or a band of brothers, then you have begun to taste of intimacy in those relationships. And Our Holy God offers us even more! Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

When Doubt Invades The Heart

Bob Damrau

There are two universal qualities that are foundational to this week’s topic. First, every man having been made in God’s image and likeness is a person of dignity.  Then God spoke to Adam and said, ‘Every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat(Genesis 2:16-17). Adam then made a character choice. Today, it is our’s.

Second, every man since Adam (except one) is a person of depravity, i.e., we sometimes make wrong choices. The third chapter of Genesis informs us that ‘he ate.’ When Adam saw his wife being deceived and that she broke God’s law he had no confidence that the goodness of God would resolve the mess Eve had created. After all, forgiveness was never required up to that point in time. So, Adam attempted to solve this new problem by joining his wife in sin. Eve doubted that God was good. Adam doubted that God was good enough. That active disposition to abuse freedom in a self-centered manner has been passed along to you and me.

VERTICAL DOUBT

A client once said to me, ‘God seems far away.’ This man had lost his job and his house. His wife’s physical health was deteriorating and his own emotional health was marked by depression. Antidepressant medication didn’t seem to help. He doubted God and was angry at Him because of what he perceived as His mistreatment of him. All this, in his eyes, deprived his life of meaning.

When we perceive God as malevolent and unpredictable’despite everything His revelation in the Lord Jesus tells us’we can become sick in mind, emotions and body. When the trials of life seem to strengthen our doubts, we tend to take control in an effort to make up for what is thought to be God’s lack of goodness or greatness. We shift our trust from Him to someone or something less.

HORIZONTAL DOUBT

When doubt invades the heart it affects each of us at the relational level. The fall brought about a reversal of man’s rule over the earth to the point that it fights back with thorns. Man’s task went from trimming and dressing the garden, to toiling against the soil in order to eke out an existence. Whenever we give up on this task, the impact of the reversal becomes evident. Instead of subduing the earth, we allow the environment to dictate our behaviors.

A core desire in every man is to pursue and deeply impact a woman. Coexisting with this desire is the core reality that our drive to initiate leaves us at great risk of exposing our inability to fully understand a woman. We doubt ourselves. We tend to feel inadequate. Our thoughts reflect a shameful self-image as we think, ‘I don’t have what it takes to love a woman.’ In his book, Inside Out, Dr. Larry Crabb says, ‘The problem (men face) is threatened sexuality, an inevitable consequence of moving away from God. The symptom of the problem is sinful sexual expression. The function of the symptom is to provide a counterfeit, momentary sense of maleness . . . (but) that, too, is sinful.’ It appears easier to pursue a fantasy and maintain a false intimacy, while the genuine article seems to evade us.

OVERCOMING DOUBT

There are two more universal qualities that are germane to this discussion.
First, every man is a dependent person. Our first, ever, problem is recorded in Genesis 2:18, when God, Himself, said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone.’ We need one another in order to survive in a place that can not fulfill our deepest needs. You don’t have to, nor are you required to go it alone. Get healthy and stay connected.

Second, every man is a person of duty. ‘God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it(Genesis 2:15).

We are designed to serve Someone greater than ourselves. When we do not come to grips with this characteristic, our behaviors often reflect our depravity. Some call this a worship disorder.

Until we are adequately connected to God and others, we will try to preserve our fragile self-image, but when the focus of our love is only inward, we can not adequately build the relationships our hearts long for. Love God with your whole heart and others from your heart, and doubt will diminish.

Celebrating His Attributes: The Message of Love from the Manger

Pastor Ed Grant

It was the day after Christmas. The pastor of St. John Lutheran Church approached the sanctuary from the parking lot and noticed that the beautiful, life-size nativity scene on the front lawn had an empty cr’che. He shook his head in disbelief and looked up and down the deserted road. About a block away he saw a young boy pulling a shiny red wagon with a passenger in the back: it was the baby Jesus. The pastor ran towards the boy and called out to him. When he reached the boy he asked him what he was doing with baby Jesus. The boy answered, ‘The week before Christmas I came to the manger and had a talk with baby Jesus. I promised Him that, if I got a red wagon, I’d come back and give Him a ride in it. I was just keeping my promise.’

There is a beautiful innocence about the boy’s attitude toward Jesus: He considered Jesus very approachable. As I prepared my Christmas sermon this year and considered the timeless accounts of the nativity I was profoundly touched by the message of love from the manger. I hope God refreshes your heart with a renewed sense of His love for you.

The first truth I grasped is that God comes to us whether we think we are ready or not. There is an old saying that goes ‘time and tides wait for no one.’ Surely a baby’s entrance into the world can be added to that list. No matter what we are doing when junior decides to enter the world, we stop what we’re doing and make for the hospital right away (Romans 5:8). When God reveals Himself to someone He doesn’t wait until the person feels worthy or until he has achieved some victory over the sinful aspects of his life. In fact, I have observed that He usually comes to us when life seems broken beyond repair or when we become painfully aware of our sins against Him. When we’ve exhausted every attempt to blame others for our failures and mistakes and finally accept personal responsibility, God is there to meet us.

St. Paul, who regarded himself as the ‘chief of sinners’, wrote, ‘While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ His amazing love encourages us to turn from our sins and our self-directed life and gives us hope that He is willing to forgive us, fill us, heal us, and receive us as His beloved children.

Secondly, I realized how vulnerable God made Himself when He sent His Son as a babe in the manger. More than any other creature God fashioned, babies are the most helpless creatures for the longest period of time. Feeding, dressing, cleaning – the parental responsibility list seems endless. Isn’t it amazing that God made His Son to need the care of His earthly parents? His vulnerability also means that He was susceptible to the full range of emotions and hurts we experience: rejection, betrayal, anger, surprise, laughter, joy and grief. He is still susceptible to these emotions. That’s the paradox of love: You cannot love imperfect people and open yourself to receive their love without the potential for pain. God is willing to take that risk with you!

Finally, I was deeply moved as I considered how much love a baby requires. Most babies enjoy being held, cooed at, watching adults make funny faces at them, playing peek-a-boo, hearing music, being carried around, danced with and bounced on the knee. Babies always seem to stir up the funniest reactions in people, even during Sunday worship. More than once I’ve watch a baby steal the show when a parent puts him on their shoulder during the sermon. Adults for two full rows back can’t resist waving to the baby or making faces at him!

When I think about the baby Jesus in a manger I observe a profound invitation from God to love Him back. Read that again and let it soak into your heart.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.’(1 John 5:1) God wants us to love Him by loving His most precious Son. All the love God has for you is bound up in that precious child Who would one day give His life in your place. He left the splendor and glory of heaven and came to us in a way that everyone can receive Him – even a boy with a red wagon.