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: June 2013

The Good Fight

I ran across another great quote from a ways back (St John Climacus).  I thought it would be good to share it with other men.  “Let us charge into the  good fight  with joy and love without being afraid of our enemies”  In a day when a man can easily get defensive about his walk with Jesus and negative about the condition of the culture, these words are a great reminder.  It reminds me of Psalm 149:6, “May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands.”  The implication seems to be  that men going into battle needing to have a positive attitude, enabling them to praise God while in battle.  That is a great attitude to have for battle.  What is our attitude in the conflicts of our day?

Men, there is no doubt that we are in a fight.  Paul reminds Timothy to,  “Fight the good fight of the faith” (I Tim. 6:12).  The Message tells us, “This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours.  This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels” (Eph  6:11).  We are in a serious fight!!  Rev 12:12 give us a warning about the enemy that we face spiritually. “But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!  He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” (Rev. 12:13).  The enemy has a lot of energy for the fight because his time is short.  It could be that warfare against biblical Christianity is intensifying in our culture.

So how will we fight.  The quote from St John Climacus tells us we are to fight with joy and love, while not be afraid of our enemies.   I believe strongly that men can not fight spiritually as they once did when there was a Christian consensus in our culture.  Culture is no longer sympathetic nor open to biblical truth.  So a direct, confrontational approach will not work.  There are many folks who have “tuned out” religion, while still be open spiritually.  Any man who is negative, judgmental, with a critical spirit will not be heard.  He will probably do more damage then good.

So fighting a good fight will mean having a positive attitude toward others.  The enemy hates  joy and love.  When you love your enemy, you are fighting with a powerful weapon. Whoever heard of a warrior loving his opponent.    Being joyful in the battle is counter intuitive to warfare.  You can’t get more positive then being  joyful in battle.  Love and joy are so powerful because they are in such short supply in our culture   A critical and negative spirit only drives people away.  So my encouragement to each man reading this blog is to do an “attitude check.”  Ask God for grace to go into battle with praise and a heart that is joyful (positive attitude) and loving (compassionate to others).

The Slimy Pit

I have been mediating on Ps. 40 and 69 as  I have reflected on my spiritual journey this last half year.  “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted  me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand”  (Ps. 40:1-2). The Message reads,  “He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip’.  In Psalm 69, the Psalmist talks about the waters coming up to his neck  as he laments, “I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold, I have come into deep waters; the  floods engulf me” (Ps 69:2).

None of us choose to get into the pit.   But it will happen to each of us from time to time.  Usually it happens when we are confronted with a life situation that is difficult.  You will know that you are in the pit, when you can say in the words of Ps 69:2 – the Message, “Quicksand under me, swamp water over me; I’m going down for the third time.”  It is not a good feeling.  I know, I have been there recently.  So what can I briefly share with men that will help them when they are “in over their heads” with no foothold, experiencing that sinking sensation.

Here are some of my thoughts.  First, don’t be the “brave solider” in denying your condition.  Men, we have to live with reality and not the illusion that this can’t happen to me.  God can only come along side a real life situation, not an illusion created by self-denial.  Do as the Psalmst; admit that you are slipping (Ps.94:18).  But don’t start to beat yourself up.  This can lead to self pity.  Yes, your weakness caused you to slip.  But God’s grace is available in our weakness.  His “power is made perfect in weakness” (II Cor 12:9), not in our strength.

Secondly, in your situation, “wait patiently for the Lord.”  This is not always easy.  In waiting you need to turn the eyes of your heart to the Lord. For  how long?  That is up to God.  How He delights in the fact that you are crying out to him from your  pit.  Cry out for mercy and grace.  Be real.  It helps when you have someone else praying with you ( I have my dear wife).  Tell him how you really feel.  Above all believe that he loves  you and will help you.

Thirdly, remember it is the Lord that will lift you up.  By faith you need to believe that your heavenly Father is going to reach down and pull you out.  No one can believe for you.  It might be humbling to admit your lack of faith.  It sure has been for me.  This is unbelief.  So confession is good for the soul.  Tell God you are going to hang on with the faith you have and wait for him to give you, “a firm place to stand.”  It is worth the wait.  You will be stronger, having been now prepared for next leg of the journey.

Seeking His Face

I have been reflecting on a quote from St Augustine. “Christ has gone from our sight, so that we should return to our heart and find Him there.”  There are times in our spiritual journey when we the presence of God seems to deminish.  The familiar ways in which we felt or understood God’s presence is absent.  It become a dry time, when the “lights” seem to go out.  This is normal for all growing believers.  The question becomes, “How do I practice my walk with the Lord, when He seems absent.”  Here I think Augustine’s quote can help

Remember, when you open your heart to the Lord Jesus, He comes and abides in your heart.  You have fellowship with him.  “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (I John 1:7). The light of his presence comes into your heart.  “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ make his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (II Cor 4:6).  Notice the light within you gives you an awareness of the face of Christ.  The light within you is constant.  It does not change with regards to your outward sense of God’s presence.  God is not absent.  The problem is our awareness of his presence.

This is when “seeking His face,” that is, the face of Jesus becomes a vital practice.  The Psalmist prayed, “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’  Your face, Lord, I will seek” (Ps 27:8).  He also said, “My eyes are even on the Lord” (Ps 25:15), implying it was a continuous habit, which was very intentional when he states, “I have sought our face with all my heart” (Ps. 119:58).  The Psalmist is speaking, of course,  about his spiritual eyes.  As he pays attention to his inner life, he will fix his eyes on Jesus, no matter what might be the  conditions in his actual life. This becomes an act of faith.

So I encourage men reading this blog, to cultivate the practice of seeking the face of Christ in your daily life.  He is present within you.  Actually he waits for your fellowship.  Make it a matter of your will, to turn our spiritual eyes, the eyes of your heart, unto Jesus who dwells within.  Thomas Kelly put it this way, “The religious person is forever bringing all affairs of the first level down into the Light, holding them there in the Presence, reseeing them and the whole of the world of people and things in a new and overturning way, and responding to them in spontaneous, incisive, and simple ways of love and faith.”

A New Legalism

Not long ago, Dr. Anthony Bradley of the Kings College in New York wrote a blog entitled “The New Legalism.”  He had written on Facebook the following, “Being a ‘radical,’ ‘missional’ Christian is slowly becoming the ‘new legalism.’  We need more ordinary God and people lovers (Matt 22:36-40).”  His blog was in response to all the comments he received from his observation.  In his blog, Bradley suggested that many young Christians are smothered with a new legalism: “many young adults feel ashamed if they ‘settle’ into ordinary jobs, get married early and start families, live in small towns or as I Thess 4:11 says, ‘aspire to live quietly and to mind [their] affairs, and to work with [their] hands.”

This got me to thinking about the men who read this blog.  My sense is that most of you are dads, who work hard to provide for your families.  You go about your daily tasks, which often seem rather mundane.  You are committed to your wife and kids.  You don’t have a lot of time of extra time.  Yet you still desire to make a difference in your community.  So you are involved in your local church, or maybe volunteer in your community.  You might even find time to be in a small group with some other guys.

Maybe there are men reading this blog today who are being motivated by shame-driven pressure to be more radical and missional. You live an invisible ordinary life, wanting to make a difference in your family, community and church and you wonder if you are radical enough for Jesus. There is a tendency with men to compare our commitment with other men.  As a result you might be discouraged with your spiritual journey and a good candidate for spiritual  “burn out.”

I want to strongly speak a good word for being an “ordinary Christian man.”  The evangelical culture has traditionally placed an emphasis on doing the right thing and thinking the right thoughts.  There needs to be more thought given to simply “being.”  In my early 50’s I came to the realization that my focus was more on what I was doing for God, then what He was doing through me. I saw that my being with Jesus was more important then working for Jesus.  To much of my walk was about  Al and how “spiritual” he thought he was. I had to come peace that being “an ordinary Christian,” living for Jesus right in my everyday circumstances, was God’s will for me.

So men, take heart.  Being “ordinary,” that is, living a dedicated, domestic life as a husband and father, is a high calling.  Your faithful witness will impact not only your family, but other men in our community and church.  I say that a man who commits himself to be a “humble, loving follower Jesus” within his family, is doing a radical thing.  Why? Because this does not come natural to men, nor is it modeled well in our churches.  Remember God’s exhortation to us as husbands and fathers. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her (Eph 6:25).  This means giving up yourself for your wife, as Jesus gave himself for you.  Then the word about being a father.  “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).  That can be a full time job for a dad.

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