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: January 2011 (page 1 of 3)

Feb. 1st

Devotions based on James Smith book. The Good and Beautiful Community

If we have been harmed greatly it may seem impossible for us to forgive that person. We may not be in the place where we want to forgive, even when we know we should.  The community can help in such situations and can stand with us in fellowship under the cross and offer prayers.  One way the author suggests is choosing a friend who would consider setting aside time each day to pray for that person and also for us, asking God to deepen our awareness of our own forgiveness. Knowing someone else is taking on the burden is freeing in itself.
Another way if we are at the point that we are ready to forgive that person ourselves, it may be helpful to reflect on scriptures that proclaim our own forgiveness like II Cor. 5:17-19. As we are able to pray for the person we are trying to forgive, it helps us get a new awareness of him and his situation. “People who hurt others are people who are themselves hurting because they have been hurt.”  God often gives us insight as to struggles they are going through.

Another way is to reflect on the truths of Jesus sacrifice for us, as we participate in communion at our church.  The center of the Lord’s Supper is the reminder that He has reconciled the world to Himself and He is renarrating our lives. This meal is a tangible experience of that. May we go to communion with new eyes as we participate in this wonderful means of grace.

Jan.31st

Devotions based on James Smith’s book, The Good and Beautiful Community

Even though we are called to forgive there are boundaries. We are called to bear one another’s burdens but we are not called to be repeatedly harmed by someone else. There are times we must remove ourselves from persons or situations that take advantage of us or hurt us. “To forgive is not to be abused”.

We must also take care that our need to feel forgiven doesn’t disregard the hurt it can cause someone else.  For example one gal got up at a meeting and knelt before another pastor and told how she had bad feelings and anger towards him etc. It embarrassed the pastor that she did it front of the group and would have been better if she had sought him out privately. It was a private matter not public.  Sometimes it can even be malicious where someone invites another person out for coffee and then “ambushes” him to say how he has been hurt him by him but has forgiven him. If one truly forgives, he doesn’t have to be showy. How much better if he just invited the person out for coffee and deepened the friendship with healthy conversation and maybe a time of prayer together.  If we have come to the place where we have forgiven someone, let us keep it between us and the Lord. Love covers a multitude of sins! (I Peter 4:8)

Jan. 29th

Devotions from James Smith’s book The Good and Beautiful Community

A community who has been forgiven must become a community who forgives. How wonderful that His forgiveness to us is unrestricted so how can our forgiveness be restricted?  So often our inability to forgive someone else is based on our sense of justice. Maybe they haven’t asked us for forgiveness or maybe they have not “earned” it.  But is that the way we want the Lord to treat us? By His mercy or by justice?  We can’t play it both ways. We can’t ask for our rights when it comes to those who have sinned against us but then ask for mercy when it comes down to our own sin. Once we stand in the larger story of our forgiveness, we can forgive, but often takes time. We are told to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven us.” Eph. 4:2 Christ forgives through us and gives us His power to do so. Then how can we refuse to forgive someone else when we know the joy of being forgiven ourselves? And how can we refuse to forgive the one for whom Jesus has already forgiven?

Jan. 28th

Devotions based on James Smith’s book, The Good and Beautiful Community

As we practice forgiveness and reconciliation, we will find our own selves being healed. The student mentioned yesterday didn’t forgive in order to feel better but feeling better he was able to forgive.  His heart was changed by the good news that his sins were forgiven. He told James Smith that since God had forgiven him ALL of his sins, then he figured he would forgive the one who had abused him.  Isn’t it true that we have been forgiven so much more than we will ever be called on to forgive?   In Matt 18:23-27 we have the story of the king who forgave the one who owed him 10,000 talents. Yet that slave went out and had his fellow slave thrown into prison because he couldn’t pay his debt that was 600,000 times less. God is like that king and we are like the man who couldn’t pay his debt. We can never hope to earn His forgiveness. Our sins are too great and we have nothing with which to repay. The man did nothing to merit his forgiven debt and neither do we. Let us meditate on how much we have been forgiven and it will help us forgive others.

Our Security Blanket

Richard Rohr, one of my favorite writers on male spirituality, has a meditation on blind Bartimaeus in Mark 1o:46-52.  If you remember the story, Bartimaeus is desperate to get to the feet of Jesus.  He shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  He was rebuked and told to be quiet.  But he shouted all the more.  Jesus stopped and asked him what he wanted.   He said that he wanted to see.  Jesus said to him, “your faith has healed you.”  “Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”

Rohr notes that for a blind man, his cloak represents security.  “A blind man was considered cursed by God”  observed Rohr.  “Their only protection against the elements was their cloak.”  The blind man dropped his cloak.  “In doing so, he dropped all the security he had even known to follow the one named Jesus.”   I wonder what our security blankets are as men.  I suppose it will vary for each of us.  But certainly our security blanket brings us a sense of the familiar and some sense of assurance that we can protect ourselves.

Why do we have security blankets?  Isn’t part of the reason our hidden fears that we find hard to admit and face.  I know for myself when I think of my security blanket I have to acknowledge there is a little boy inside who is afraid that he will not be understood.   I especially begin to have these feelings when I am threatened or misunderstood.  These are moments when I reach for my security blanket to provide  protection from what I consider a cruel world that does not seem to understand.  This is the response of a immature boy, who has not yet grown up.  This is very hard for me to admit.  But time and time again these are my responses

What an example Bartimaeus can be to us.  He wants to see.  He is willing to give up his only security to have the opportunity to come before Jesus.  First, he had to have faith that is was going to be ok to leave his security.  Second, he wanted very badly to receive his sight.  Even when he was told to be quiet, he kept on calling out to Jesus.  Third, his cry was for mercy.  He had nothing to offer Jesus.  He was totally dependent on Jesus to help him.

Men this is a wonderful example for us to ponder.  Like Bartimaeus we have to set aside our security blanket, whatever than may be.  It will prevent us from coming to Jesus.  Bartimaeus might have missed Jesus if he had not  throw off his blanket.  We, like Bartimaeus have to be somewhat desperate.  His prayer is one of the most heartfelt in all the gospels.  It was short and to the point.  That’s says something to us men.  Make our prayer sincere and from the heart.  Probably the greatest witness for me, as that fact the Bartimaeus believed that Jesus could help him.  So with us men.  We will not move toward Jesus till we believe he will take care of us.   We have to get up, throw off the blanket we hide behind, cry out in desperation, and come to Jesus.  He will receive us.  We will never be denied when we come in such simple, heartfelt faith.

Jan. 27th

Devotions from James Smith’s book, The Good and Beautiful Community

When we have been hurt deeply we may ask : Can I forgive?  Should I forgive? How do I forgive?  On our own we do not have the strength or capacity to forgive.  We may grit our teeth and try to do it in our own strength but we can only forgive when we know we are forgiven.  Only as we experience God’s grace and forgiveness can we can reach out and extend his grace to those who have hurt us. The author was impacted by one of his students as he saw his transformation. The abused student came to him after attempting suicide and remembered his professor’s words about God’s acceptance and unconditional love. He received God’s love and was able to renarrate his story in light of the cross. Instead of blaming himself, he was able to confront his memories and his abuser with the ability to forgive.  He was empowered to forgive because Christ had forgiven him. It was not a matter of a lot of willpower but an extension of God’s grace. When we really know that Jesus has borne all of our sins and “it is finished” we will find healing and be able to forgive too. More tomorrow

Jan. 26th

Devotions based on James Smith’s book, The Good and Beautiful Community

Christ within us is the bond of our unity. “Though we may differ on the outside, we are people indwelt by Christ and therefore we, who differ in externals, become one because of who we are internally.” As it says in I Cor. 10:16-17, We who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Communion is a visible demonstration of how we are united in the body and blood of Jesus. We belong to one another and our differences are not a hindrance but a welcome part of the Body.  Paul says we should be of one mind and united in our thinking, living in peace.   That doesn’t mean we have to let go of our ideas, opinions or doctrines. We will never agree on everything but we can and must agree on one thing: Jesus is Lord. So let us make a distinction between essentials and nonessentials and to find ways to love one another when our nonessentials differ. Love and commitment to Jesus is essential, as well as, basic teaching found in the creeds but so many other things are nonessentials. Not that they are unimportant but they should not divide us. John Wesley offered 5 ways to show love to those whom we differ in the nonessentials. 1. Treat them as companions. 2. Do not think or speak evil of them. 3. Pray for them. 4 Encourage them to do good. 5. Collaborate with them in ministry. 
Let us pray for the unity of the church and join hands with those whose hearts beat I love for Him!

Jan. 25th

Devotions based on James Smith’s book, The Good and Beautiful Community

Why do we think we must always agree on every issue in the church or it is grounds for division?  The truth is we will never get everything right and our doctrines and dogmas are not prefect.  If our hearts beats in love for Jesus, then we can join hands and walk together in fellowship.  As the church of Christ we claim one Lord, one Faith, One baptism, but there are over 30,000 Protestant denominations and many reject every other denomination but their own.  We have adopted a false narrative that says, “If you do not look like us, act like us, worship like us or think like us, we are not obligated to have fellowship with you.”   How this must grieve the Father.  Exclusion somehow makes us feel safe that we have kept the false teachers out but maybe the core of our fear is the desire to control.  “We overcome those fears by becoming people who know they are forgiven and being formed by God’s love.”  We don’t have to agree on every issue. The true narrative may be like this: If you do not look, act, worship or believe as I do, but you heart beats in love for Jesus, then regardless of our differences, we can and must have fellowship with one another.”  This allows for disagreement but not division. Our central belief is Jesus is Lord!  He unites us!

Jan. 24th

Devotions based on James Smith’s book, The Good and Beautiful Community

The success of a church is not in its size but in its love and service to the people of the community. The author gives an example of two churches. One was self focused and concerned about their image and what they could do to improve their church. The second church  was other-focused and wanted to know how they could serve others, particularly college students. They were caught up in God’s kingdom and served many meals and gave warm hugs to the students. You can guess which church thrived! Dallas Willard was speaking at a conference and told them what the single most important task of a Christian is, especially those who are in leadership. The answer was surprising. He said it was to pray for the success of their neighboring church!. He said that when we genuinely pray for the success of another church in our proximity, we are breaking the narrative of selfishness and entering into the mind of God, who is also concerned for the success of that church. It helps us connect with something bigger than ourselves; it helps us see the power of the kingdom of God.  In His kingdom we are not competing with anyone but on the same team.

Jan. 22nd

Devotions based on James Smith’s book, The Good and Beautiful Community

We often are shaped by the narratives of this world rather than His kingdom. The world is concerned with self-preservation, personal happiness, and making sure our needs are met. Even churches can be more concerned about their own success and image than focusing on serving and the well-being of others. The good and beautiful community of Jesus finds its life and power in Him, who is our teacher, source and strength. He lived for the good of others and was moved by love. He told his disciples in John 15:13 “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  He truly lived for others and we are to do the same, and to shift our focus away from ourselves onto others.

But we need balance when it comes to serving others and taking care of ourselves. We can better serve others when we are rested and grounded and not exhausted and burned out .  Let us listen to the Spirit so we have balance.

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