Canaans Rest

Canaan’s Rest represents a quiet place “set apart” for the purpose of hearing God's voice, growing in intimacy with the Lord, and being renewed in soul and spirit.

Month: March 2010 (page 1 of 4)

April 1st

Devotions from John Ortberg’s book, The Me I Want to Be

Sometimes we want to change people but we must remember that only God can touch the deepest place of another’s soul. We may think we can intimidate, lecture, flatter, reason, cajole, reward, to get the desired behavior from another but we can’t touch the deepest part of another person. Only God can. Prayer is the closest we can come to being able to influence people at their deepest level, to be able to go with God into another person’s soul, because always between us and inner part of another person stands Jesus.  The most direct way to another person is not talking to them. It is talking to Jesus.
 When God is present we don’t have to offer up frantic prayer but let go of the controls and let God do His work.
The space between us and our enemy is the space where love can grow.  Jesus never prayed for God to remove difficult people from his life and he had many.  If God answered our prayer to remove all the difficult people in our lives, we would lose the opportunity for growth.  That doesn’t mean we lay down and take everything an insulter would say to us. Sometimes it  means confronting the person with honesty and strength, being creative and patient, and working toward reconciliation.  The persons we are dealing with are human beings and we can put ourselves in their place and try to imagine how they feel, how they’ve been treated.  We can ask what interaction becomes an opportunity for us to practice becoming the best version of myself. We actually need difficult people to practice becoming the best version of ourselves.

The way of Humility and Love

Civility in America is breaking down.  People debate the direction of our nation with a passion that at times can be expressed in anger.  This public expression of heart felt descent has always been a healthy part of our cultural fabric.  But today it seems to have boiled over to a new level.  There is talk of “hate speech” and acts of violence.  This is not good.  What keeps coming to my mind is “The Little Way” of St. Therese of Lisieux in which the Christian life is summoned up as “loving one another as I have loved you.”  Therese said, “Holiness does not consist in this or that practice but in a disposition of heart which remains always humble and little in God’s arms, but trusting to audacity in the Father’s goodness.”  So for me two important watchword words for wildmen in the days to come would “humility” and “love.” 

“The way of humility” is the way of Jesus.  “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.  He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.  Not at all.  When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human (Phil 2:5-7 The Message).  The way of humility for a wildman is willing to give it all up for Jesus and become a slave.  This is the way of greatness according to Jesus. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43).  A servant for Jesus’s sake learns to walk in humility, not in arrogance, anger, vindictiveness and rancor.  I have to remind myself of this reality often in these days.  It is the “little way”, the way of humility, in following Jesus that will bring the presence of Christ into our conflicted world

“The way of love” is learning to love the way Jesus loved.  For me that is impossible.  But we have these words from Jesus.  “A new command I give you; love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” ( John 13:34-5).   Notice that Jesus tells us to love as we have been loved.  I first of all have to receive love before I can be loving in return.  That means opening my heart to receive the love of Jesus in the deepest parts of my soul. I have to come out of hiding and allow myself to be loved.   Truly knowing that I am loved in all “my stink” gives me the God given desire to love in return.  That is how a wild man will be seen as a disciple; if we are able to love.  I have to check myself every day, sometimes often during the day.  I have judgmental attitudes, actions that are not caring, and thoughts that are not constructive of others.  My ability to love is to reminded of how I have experienced the love of God and ask for help to let that love flow from me. 

So in a day when a lot of men are taking up sides even with the church, there is a crying need for the “little way” of Theresa.  The little way of humility and love will be countercultural.  It will be misunderstood by other men.  At times you will be made fun of.  You might even be persecuated to some degree.  It was the same for Jesus.  He reminds us, “No servant is greater than his master.  If they persecuted me, they will presecute you also’ ( John 15:20).  Listen to these comforting words from The Message.  “Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me.  What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable.  You can be glad when that happens – skip like a lamb, if you like! – for even though they don’t like it, I do…..and all heaven applauds.  And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this” (Luke 22-23)

March 31

Devotions for John Ortberg’s book, The Me I Want to Be

We all need difficult people in our lives to help us grow and become the best version of ourselves.  Other people don’t create our spirit; they reveal our spirit.  If we need to develop love, then some unlovable people will be our greatest challenge. If we need to develop hope, maintaining it in the face of discouragers will make it strong. If we want to grown in our ability to confront, a hard-to-confront intimidator will give us practice.
Because God loves us and wants to shape us, He will send some difficult people our way. A sobering thought is that we may be the difficult person who God is sending to shape someone else!

We are always being energized or drained by each interaction with others.  Some people are life-bringers to us and increase our energy and add to our joy. Others are life-drainers and add to our anxiety.
How do we grow through difficult relationships? More tomorrow.

March 30th

Devotions from John Ortberg’s book, The  Me I Want to Be

Our relationships with others grows deep when we are real and honest about the sin that is common to us all. When we can step into openness and stop pretending, we will find ourselves coming alive. Hiddenness is the enemy of flourishing. When someone knows the embarrassing, humiliating truth about us and still accepts us we come alive.

We don’t’ need people to give advice and solve our problems so much as we need someone who can touch our wounds with a tender hand,  sit with us in silence, who can stay with us in our hour of grief  and who cares for us.

“To be fully known and fully loved is the most healing gift one human being can give another.” Pretending cuts us off from the flow of the Spirit.   We are all forgiven, recovering sinners, and no one can be secure in a relationship if they are loved only because they are smart, pretty, strong or successful. Confession, connectedness to each other and to God, brings healing.

“In a community gathered around a cross, there is no room for pedestals.”  Our churches should be a place where everyone can bring their baggage and brokenness and be loved without pretending!

March 29th

 Devotions from John Ortberg’s book, The Me I Want to Be 
We were designed to flourish in connectedness.  Connectedness brings gifts. 

Who are the life-giving people around us?  Who are the ones who notice us? Who know what we love and fear? Who do little things with great love? 

Mother Teresa used to say, do little things with great love. If you can’t do them with great love, do them with a little love. If you can’t do them with a little love, do them anyway.
We need love to live.  The author said, “I have never known anyone who failed at love yet succeeded at life. I have never known anyone who succeeded at love yet failed at life.” 

Every moment is an opportunity to practice a gesture of love.
In the circle of connectedness we learn what a good thing joy is.  Joyful people make us come alive.  Joy gives strength and helps us persevere. It is contagious. Joy is the Velcro that makes relationships stick.

Happiness travels like ripples on a pond.

“The joy of the Lord is our strength.”

March 27th

Devotions from John Ortberg’s book The Me I Want To Me.

As the body is nourished by food so our souls are nourished by others.

More than we realize, we are shaped by people and they bring us much encouragement.  What distinguishes happy people from others less happy is the presence of rich, deep, joy-producing, life-changing, meaningful relationships.

We flourish when our souls are nourished in the love of God and other people.

When we are loved we become more our real self. “Love brings the power to become the Me I want to be. Loving people are literally life-givers. That is connectedness.”

When we live in isolation, we can become self-absorbed, selfish, and may give in to discouragement.  People who are socially disconnected are between 2 and 5 times more likely to die from any cause than those who have close ties to friends and family. 

Not only do we suffer when we live in disconnectedness from others, but others who God places around us get cheated out of love God intended us to give them.

March 26th

Devotions from John Ortberg’s book, The Me I Want to Be

There is a unique way in which we experience the presence of the Lord when we are alone.  God wants to give us a sanctuary , a place where we can be ourselves before Him.  Abraham Kuyper wrote about the similarity between the structure of our individual life and that of the tabernacle in the O.T.  There was the outer court, where everyone had access. We have an outer court, the part everyone sees of us. Like when we work, shop, play etc.  The inner chamber is where we allow only certain people to enter such as close friends or family. We decide who we let in. Then there is a very small carefully guarded place deep inside that is most sacred. There is only room for one person and God.

All of us have one of these places inside of us where only God is allowed.  Our soul is alone with God.
Jesus prayed when His life was crowded and draining, when he face important choices, when he was sad, when He needed strength for his work, when he faced insurmountable things etc..  When He prayed things happened. The Spirit invites us to pray and is alongside us helping us by praying in us and for us.  HE knows us far better than we know ourselves. He keeps us present before God.  We don’t have to have fancy words for He is there!

We are free to pray in ways that will best help us live in the joyful awareness of God’s presence.   We can use candles, a verse, and anything that helps us know we are meeting with our very best friend. “In prayer- in the presence of God- we come closest to being fully ourselves.”

March 25th

Devotions from John Ortberg’s book, The Me I Want to Be

“The one pair of eyes into which you can never gaze is your own.”  There are parts of ourselves we will never see without a mirror or outside help.  In one sense we know ourselves better than anyone in the world as we have access to our inner thoughts and feelings. But in another way we know ourselves worse than anyone else since we rationalize, justify our behavior, and may not know we are even doing it.  “There is a me I cannot see.”
  We deceive ourselves and claim too much credit and too little blame. Our memories are usually in favor of our egos.   Apart from the flow of the Spirit, we can’t even see our sin. The Psalmist wrote “Who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults?”   We are insensitive and don’t know the truth about ourselves. But God will help reveal to us the truth that we are able to handle. Our job is simply to listen and to respond. God can give us enough grace, strength, and truth to overcome our distorted vision. Left to ourselves we often call evil good and good evil. Guilt is not our enemy. Sin, which blocks our lives, is the enemy. The Spirit will often bring a sense of conviction, and when He does, the best response is not to suppress our guilt but to admit it.  Let us allow our thoughts and responses to be guided by the Spirit.  What a wonderful word to our hearts when we hear the word FORGIVEN

March 24

Devotions from John Ortberg’s book, The Me I Want to Be

Sin is a word not often thought about seriously in our day. But sin is a deadly force to us because it takes us out of the flow of the Spirit.  Sin keeps us from becoming the person God wants us to become. All other challenges face us from the outside. Sin works its way inside, strangling our soul.  Our particular sin doesn’t look quite the same in anyone else as it does is us. Our sin pattern is unique to us.
Temptation rarely begins by trying to get us to do something that is 180 degrees in the opposite direction of our values. It is something more subtle that just pulls us a few degrees off course. But it is enough to disrupt the flow of the Spirit in our lives.  Our life has a signature sin which is based on certain patterns, relationships, temperaments, and gifts that are unique to us.  Certain temptations may be appealing to me but not especially to you.  “WE also live in a spiritual environment and leave a sin footprint, which damages our spiritual environment.”

The area of our gifts and passions indicate the areas of our vulnerability. Extroverts who can encourage others are prone to gossip. Good listeners may be passive enablers. People who love to learn are tempted to feel superior etc.

It is good for us to know our signature pattern of sin because we are most vulnerable when we lack self-awareness. Otherwise we go around taking the speck out of our brother’s eye when we have a log in our own.  Knowing our own sin pattern also helps us know what we need most to become spiritually alive. And knowing other people’s patterns can help us live in community better for we are more patient with them.

When we know ourselves and each other, we can walk in love and be free to be the best version of ourselves – God’s hand-signed version of ourselves!

Lessons from the Road

Judy and I are just back from a two week trip to Florida.  We spent two weeks in the car touring the South.  We are good traveling companions, but there where a few times when there was tension between us.  Where to go, but to do, and when to go.  We had to make decisions.  At times I did not like the tension.  I came to realize that I was wanting my own way.  It was hard for me to admit how selfish and controlling I still can be with my wife.  I was reminded of I Cor 13:4-5, “Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged” (NLT).   As I read these words, I realize that I have failed to “love test” with my wife. 

But guess what.  I am learning to accept this reality.  In my mind I want so bad to be a “real spiritual” man.  But still in my heart and actions I am far from the ideal.  This only proves that I am still in the process of being changed.  In my growth as a man I will not be able to skip some the steps that God has for me.  I can easily pat myself on the back and think I am moving right along.  But God has his way of keeping me humble before him and before my wife.  But I am learning to take it as a man.  Yes, Al you have failed to be what you though you had become. But the reality is that you are not where you think you are.  That’s ok.  As long as I can admit my failure and humbly accept reality. 

I guess two things brought me down to earth these last two weeks.  The first is the way I handled our discussions on where to go, when to go and how to go.  I did not leave room for more imput from Judy.  When it did not go my way, I did not like it at times.  When Judy pointed that out to me, it made me defensive.  But I have grown in the sense that I can accept that in my life and move on.  The second factor as just a simply revelation that came to me one day while waiting in line at McDonald’s.  I was impatient and inwardly critical of what I thought was slow service.  I realized how judgment and critical I was.  So much for being really spiritually mature.  I accepted the insight with the prayer  that I can learn to yield more of my old patterns to the work of God in my heart

I mention these examples from my own life as an encouragement to the “wild men” who are reading this blog.  You are going to fail.  You are going to fall from the pedestal you have placed yourself on.  You will need to face reality.  This is a natural part of growth.  Like me, don’t be to hard on yourself.  Accept the grace of God in your life.  Yield those patterns of the false self to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.  Don’t see each failure as an either/or situation.  Failure in one area does not mean defeat.  It only means that God is lovingly slowing you that you need to be dependant on him for any meaningful change in your life.  Again it comes to letting go rather then hanging on.

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