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: November 2013

Unleash Your Power Within

We got a Costco advertisement recently in the mail.  They were advertising the new Intel Core Processors, that will allow you to do more with “blazing fast processing speeds and connect  confidently with built-in security.”  This will enable you to “unleash your power within.” It must mean from within your computer. Wow! What an appeal to the male ego; unleashing power,while having security. It got me to thinking about the actual “power” within the soul of a man who is a follower of Jesus.  How do we as men, unleash this inner power.  Here are some thoughts.

First realize there is spiritual power to be unleashed. Yes, it is within.  But it is God’s power.  It is resurrection power meant to live the “new life” in the Spirit.  Paul understood this when he prayed for himself, “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead” (Phil 3:10).  He prayed that the Ephesians might understand this resurrection power. “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe in him” (Eph. 1:19).  Remember Jesus said, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart” (John 7:38).  Men can easily minimize who is within them.  John reminds us that we are overcomers ” because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” ( I John 4:4)

When you become aware of  the “resurrection power,”  allow yourself to come to rest in what God is doing in your life.  Listen to The Message.  “It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself?  When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life.  With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s! (Rom 8:10-11).  When we allow God’s power to work within us, I like to say that “he begins to rearrange the furniture” to make us a new man.

It is his work – resurrection power at work. But for that to take place we have to put to death, that is, crucify the old in us.  We do this by bringing sinful patterns to the cross and allow them to die with Jesus on the cross.  This is a continual practice.  Then and only then, will the resurrection power be unleashed in our lives.  What is unleashed is the resurrection life of Jesus.  This is the new man in Christ.  It is best seen in the fruit of the Spirit.

Listen again the The Message. “But what happens when we live God’s way?  He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity.  We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.  We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely (Gal 5: 22-23).  This is an example of unleashed inner power.

Fear Not!

What would you say is the most frequent command in the bible?  N. T. Wright, a leading evangelical bible scholar, had this surprising answer. “What instruction, what order, is given, again and again, by God, by angels, by Jesus, by prophets and apostles?  What do you think – “Be good”? Be holy”?  Or, negatively, “Don’t sin”?  Don’t be immoral”?  No.  The most frequent command in the Bible is: “Don’t be afraid.”  “Fear not.”

The command to not be afraid or fearful fits well with another major biblical theme: trusting God.  As Jan Johnson has observed, “The Bible’s subtitle could be  Holy Bible: Trust me! Brennan Manning, an author who has been of help to me, has observed, “that childlike surrender in trust is the defining spirit of authentic discipleship” along with, “the need for an uncompromising trust in the love of God.” I read this quote some years ago.  It has stuck with me.  Now, 10 years later, after some maturing on the journey, I would wholeheartedly agree.

I would say that moving from mistrust to truly trusting in the love of God is similar to conversion, in that, it is on going.  I trust in Jesus more now then 10 years ago.  But I still can get caught in the grip of fear, causing me to be shaken in my trust.  I know it will be tested on the rest of my journey.  The word of Jesus to me is a challenge.  “Don’t let this throw you.  You trust God, don’t you?  Trust me.  (John 14:1- Message).

A spiritual pilgrim went to see Mother Teresa of Calcutta seeking a clear answer for the rest of his life.  He wanted her to pray for clarity.  Her answer may surprise you.  She said, “No, I will not do that.  Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.  I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust.  So I will pray that you trust God.”  Wow!  That is convicting to any man of God who is struggling with trust.  We want clarity and some kind of assurance.  Wanting clarity, we can so easily eliminate the risk of trusting in God.  We forget that the circumstance is being used to help us trust, rather take control.  It is just so hard to let go of the controls.  But there comes a time when you will just have to “jump.”

When I was going through a rough time recently the words of Psalm 143:3 became words the I hung onto as I awoke each morning, sometimes after a rather restless night. “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust me life.”  There could be a man reading this blog, who has gone into the pit of fear and worry.  I know that feeling.  My advice – pray this as a prayer.  Cling to these words and cry out for mercy.  As you do you will find strength and grace to get through the rough time you are in at present.

“I Love You”

No long ago I started reading a small book on prayer by Ronald Rolheiser, entitled  “Prayer – Our Deepest Longing.”  I was reading in the mall, while waiting for my wife.  I read the following quote.  It struck me powerfully because it said a lot about my journey in prayer. I want to share it with you  and then make a comment.  “You must  try to pray so that, in your prayer, you open yourself in such a way that sometime – perhaps not today, but sometime – you are able to hear God say to you, ‘I love you!’  These words addressed to you by God, are the most important words you will ever hear because, before you hear them, nothing is ever completely right with you, but after you hear them, something will be right in your life at a very deep level.”  I say, “Amen.”

I almost weep as I read these words.  Men, don’t give up on your personal prayer time with God.  Personal prayer is not a task or a necessary duty, but primarily a relationship with the one who loves you.  Your heavenly Father longs for a relationship  with you.  He longs to share his heart with you.  Don’t be afraid.  He wants us to come to him in all our shame, vulnerability and insecurity.  He wants you to be yourself.  He wants you to know that you are loved just as you are, in all your stink.  Be honest.  Pray and  let God know what is really going on in your soul, not what you think God would like to see inside of you.

I want to quote Rolheiser on this point, because I think it will help men in their struggle with making prayer a real experience.  “What God is asking is that we bring our helplessness, weaknesses, imperfections, and sin constantly to him, that we talk with him, and that we never hide from him.  God is a good parent.  He understands that we will make mistakes and disappoint him and ourselves.  What God asks is simply that we come home, that we share our lives with him, that we let him help us in those ways in which we are powerless to help ourselves.”

As it says in the earlier quote, at some point on the journey you will hear the voice of God saying “I love you.”  Don’t give up.  Just keep showing up each day.  The day will come when you will know in your heart that you are truly loved by your heavenly Father.  Then everything changes.   In a lot of ways you are still the same person, with all the same struggles with your imperfections.  But one thing has changed.  You know you are loved.  Men, I can share from my own journey –  that changes everything.  So again I say.  Don’t stop showing up and sharing your heart with God.  If you get worried about not doing it right, remember the word of a holy peasant who, when asked to share his secret to deep prayer, said simply, “I just look at God, and I let God look at me.”  It’s that simple.  Men don’t make it complicated.  Stay at the heart level and it will come to you.

The Two-Minute Drill

I read an article about John Croyle, who played for “Bear” Bryant at Alabama and became an All-American defensive end.  He has written a book entitled, “The Two-Minute Drill to Manhood: A Proven Game Plan for Raising Sons.”  He has worked for years with abused, neglected and abandoned boys at his Big Oak Ranch.  The lessons he has learned working with hurting boys is the foundation for his book on parenting.  “We are rising a generation of boys who don’t know what real manhood looks like,” Croyle observes.  “Our girls have no idea what to look for in a husband.”  He wants to change these perceptions.

He himself had to ask the question,” What do you want to teach your son about manhood?”  The result were a set of seven life principles based on the acrostic M-A-N-H-O-O-D, which stands for “Master, Ask and Listen, Never Compromise, Handle Responsibility, One Purpose, One Body, Don’t Ever, Ever, Ever Give Up.”  Croyle, as a former football player, visualizes parenting as a two minute drill, with time winding down on our time to parent our children.  Croyle expressed confidence in his parenting experience as summed up in the Two Minute Drill.  “If you apply the seven aspects from this book, you will raise a thoroughbred.”  “Twenty years from now,” Croyle said, “I want young men to come up to me and say, ‘Thanks, my dad read your book and it changed our relationship and helped to make me who I am today.””

I want to make two comments about the article.  The first is about boys not knowing what real manhood looks like.  Like many of you, I enjoy watching football on TV.  It seems each years the depiction of men become even more uncouth, demeaning and just plain silly.  I watch the ads for the sit-coms about men, wondering what are boys really learning about grown men acting so irresponsibly, while being laughed at.  And the ads – they make men seem like men who have not grown up, especially in those beer ads.  We are fighting a perception of manhood, based on cultural norm that has little regard for the model of manhood found in scripture.  We can only change that one by one, as we go about being a godly father and husband.  This will make you truly counterculture in your lifestyle.

Secondly, the idea that time is running out.  We have only so much time to have a real impact on our sons.  We should not take this lightly.  “It is never too late to be a great parent,” Croyle suggests.  “Unless you or your child is in the grave, you still have time.”  I say “amen” to this observation.  When we were raising our children, I used to visualize the window of opportunity, which lasted till our child left home.  After that our influence would diminish.  So men I plead with you not to put off doing what you need to do as a Dad.  You still have time to be an influence.  As a matter of fact, your example and influence will go on for many years.  I find that to be true with all three children in their 40’s.  I still cry out for mercy and wisdom on a daily basis to be the dad God wants me to be.  It is a challenge.  But remember that as we lean into the challenge, God will give you the grace.  There is no grace, however, when you “bail-out.”  At 72, I do not intend to “bail out.”

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