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 2013

Like a weaned Child

I am in the rehab portion of my recovering from hip replacement surgery.  I had a pastor tell me years ago, that when you are put in bed it is similar to going into God’s “school house”.  I sure have been experiencing the reality of being taught by God.  It is not what one would choose, but rather a circumstance in which God is wanting to get my attention.  I am sure that some of you have experienced this kind of schooling, or at least someone who is near and dear to you. I want to share a verse that has become one that I have been clinging to in my situation.  It is from Ps. 131:1-2.  “My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.  But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.”

There have been some rough nights for me.  I have had fear, uncertainty and many “what ifs” that have flooded my mind.  I have not slept well because my focus is on my problems and the future with an artificial hip.  I share this with the men who read this blog, as a kind of confession.  I thought it would be good for you to know that I still have my struggles as a follower of Jesus.

One night as  I was reading this passage, I simply pictured my heavenly Father carrying me in his arms.  I did what I could to calm and quiet myself like a weaned child before my Father.  I have kept that image now for several days.  I would literally pray a prayer something like this.  “Father, I come to you as your child. I give my whole circumstance to you.  It is in your care. I surrender it all to you.  Thank you, for watching over me.”  This imagery has helped me to come to rest in my circumstances.  As long as my focus is on my heavenly Father,  I stay “above water” as it were.  Just on the edges of consciousness, all the ‘what ifs” dwell.  But in simple childlike faith I keep my focus on Jesus

Men, I hope my immediate story of  having to cry out to God can be an encouragement to some one who is reading this blog.  There will be times when you feel overwhelmed in your situations.  Two vital things I have been learning these last couple days.  First, Al get your focus off yourself.  Worry will not help you.   Secondly, by faith and the trust that comes with that faith, literally cry out to Jesus for help.  Remember blind Bartimaeus, who was desperate for help.  He prayed “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” I hope my vulnerability with my rehab from hip surgery can be of some help to a man ready this blog.  I close with Paul’s word to the Philippians in 4:6-7 from the message.  These have really helped my keep my focus. “Don’t fret or worry.  Instead of worrying, pray.  Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.  Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.  It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

Pope Francis

This monk up in the North Woods has been laid low.  Last Thursday (7th) I had a hip replacement on my left hip.  It was about time.  Now for the recover process.  So my blogs will be much shorter.  It takes me time to think through what I want to say.  I don’t want to slow down in getting something out each week.  For any man who reads this blog, I want you to know that I am committed this work.  I did not choose this avenue of ministry.  For me it is a calling.  As long as I know there are a few men out there who benefit from this blog, I will stay motivated.

Any way, this last week I was able to take in the election of the new Catholic Pope, Pope Francis.  I considered this to have been a special time for myself, as I entered into the life of the Catholic Church.  You, men must know that I am not Catholic with some concerns and questions about doctrine. Yet I have, however, tasted deeply of the spiritual life of the Catholic spiritual tradition.  I am not one of those evangelicals who completely “writes off” the Catholic Church.  We can learn from each other.  I think in the days to come we will need each other to combat the rapid rise of ” hostile secularism.”

As some of you may recall, I believe God is calling men to “fight the good fight of faith” in new ways.  I have said that we are to wage subversive warfare with the weapon of love and humility.  The Way of Jesus is a minority path, opposed in our cultural environment.  With that in mind here are four observations I have taken away regarding Pope Francis that relates to the subversive battle we are waging.   First, the pope is a sincere follower of Jesus.  He has already said that “Jesus in head of the church.  Second, this pope is a humble man.  He lived in a small apartment and took the bus to work. Thirdly, he is also a simple man.  He took the name “Francis” for Saint Francis of Assisi.  Fourthly, Pope Francis has a heart for the poor.   This is counter-cultural and subversive.   We will be hearing a lot more about this pope in the days to come.

Finnish Toilet paper

Men, I just have to write a blog about this story I read this morning (4/4/13), reported by Reuters about the controversy regarding Finnish toilet paper.  My ancestry on both sides is Finnish, so when I read this story about Finnish toilet paper, I know that I would have do a blog. I warn you in advance, I am not neutral in this controversy.  Of course, some of what I have to say can be taken in jest.

It seems that a Finnish toilet paper maker, Metsa Tissue, removed quotes from the Bible, after protests from some Norwegian church leaders.  They only realized their mistake after they received feedback from quotes picked out from Facebook submissions.  In wanting to convey messages of love, the company accidentally included these words from Jesus: “For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”  “People like to read small, happy messages while sitting on the toilet,” said a company spokesperson.  “The vast majority of the feedback has been positive.  Our intention was to spread love and joy, not religious messages.” Well, some Norwegian clergy did not like the idea.  They objected to the way scripture verses had been used. The Bishop of Tunsberg had this to say: “This is bad taste and shows lack of respect.  Bible verses do not belong on a roll of toilet paper”.

The company which regularly features witty quotes, poetry or  philosophical messages, said it would continue the product line but with more stringent vetting.  So the question becomes, “should scripture be found on toilet paper?” So here is my take on this controversy, as someone who is rather proud of his Finnish heritage.  I hope some of you Norwegians out there will side with me.  First, the whole idea is great.  What a great way to get a man’s attention. You have a captive audience.   A man sitting there, needs something to do.  Why not take a chance that a scripture reference would give him something positive to think about.  Who knows, some guy in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, or Finland could come out of the “john” thinking some positive thoughts about himself and the world he is going back to encounter.   It sure is worth a try.

My second thought has to do with asking “why the controversy?”  I just don’t get why a bishop in the Lutheran Church of Norway would be offended by a guy reading a scripture passage in the “john.”  This has nothing to do with “bad taste” or “lack of respect.”  The bishop should know that the Word of God might be offensive to a guy sitting in the “john.”   It has all to do with the Word of God being able to speak to another searching soul.  Of course, the bishop might be influenced by what a NY Times article  about religion in the Nordic countries called “benign indifference.”  Religion was more about being nice.  “Jesus was a nice man who taught some nice things.”  Well, bishop, I’m sorry, the way of Jesus is not about being only nice.  It is about conversion and change.  It confronts us with our sinful self. I have one more thought on this “gem” of a story.

I don’t think the Metsa Tissue company should back down.  I agree, “people like to read  small, happy messages while sitting on the toilet.”  There is no better way to spread a message of “love and joy” then to share a something about “the Good News” of Jesus and his kingdom.   So my encouragement to the folks in the land of my ancestors is to go for it.  Keep preaching the gospel through small pieces of toilet paper, that can reach a captive audience in the “john.”  Who knows, some lonely, searching man might see the light right there in the dark shadows of a “john” somewhere in Finland.

I am a Pilgrim

“I am a pilgrim who is beginning the last part of his pilgrimage.”  These were words uttered by Pope Benedict as he gave his last benediction as pope.  Our national consciousness has been occupied recently by the sudden resignation of a reigning pope.  This has not happened in 600 years.  As an evangelical protestant, I have always admired Pope Benedict.  As many of my generation, I grew up in a culture that was very anti-catholic.  But as I matured and grew in my walk with Jesus, I came to an appreciation of the rich spiritual tradition of the Catholic church.  I have tasted the “spiritual fruit” of the Roman Catholic spiritual vineyard, without having to belong to the vineyard (Catholic Church).  Pope Benedict was a very astute theologian who was deeply concerned about the secularization of the West.  Much of what he had to say was misconstrued by the media.  He was a man of personal humility and sincerity.

I want to draw attention to the Pope’s thought of being a pilgrim, along with his last Twit.  First, being a pilgrim, reminds me of  Paul’s words  in Phil. 3:20-21.  “But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”  The Pope is an elderly man, who carried the enormous weight of leading the Catholic church during some difficult years.  He is a very private and reflective man.  In obedience to the Lord, he took up the task of pope.  But in my opinion, it was never about power and status, but giving himself as a servant.  That is why in humility he could give it all up.  He wants to go into a hidden life of prayer and study.

Men, there is a profound lesson to learn from the resigning of this pope.  The journey that you and I are on is a pilgrimage; we are only passing through.  I have reminded people many times in sermons that everything in this world will one day “go up in smoke.”  The pope in his final words has  humbly reminded us that we are pilgrims.  We  have our eyes on a better place.  Like Abraham we are “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:10).  This world is not our home.  “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come” (Heb 13:14).  So men, don’t ever get too tied down to this life.  I know, I take great comfort in knowing there is much more waiting for me on the other side.  Don’t lose sight of your heavenly home.

Many of you probably are aware that the pope began to twit not too long ago.  He address was @pontifix.  He got a lot of attention, both good and down right ugly.  Well, his last twit was as follows: “Thank you for your love and support.  May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the center of your life.”  Wow!  Here is an 83 year old man, who in my opinion, was showing the wear and tear of his office, twitting about joy.  It reminds me of the apostle Paul, when he wrote from prison, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5).  We experience joy, in my understanding, when we embrace our uniqueness as a man and live in that freedom.

I appreciate the pope’s words to focus on Jesus.  If there is one things that continues to be on my heart as I write this blog, it is the burden of men finding  joy by putting Jesus at the center of their lives.  If there is a man ready this blog today, struggling with making Jesus the center of your life, I implore you, in the word of AA, “let go” of your old self, and embrace the life of Jesus that is already present with you.  You will find freedom from old self, resulting in joy.  I can testify to this reality.  Listen to Paul encouragement to you. “Christ has set us free to live a free life.  So take you stand!  Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you” Gal 5:1 – The Message).

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