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 2014

“Here is the Man”

These words “Here is the man.” (John 19:4)  were uttered by Pilate as he gave into the demands of the crowd wanting Jesus to be crucified.  Jesus stood with Pilate before the crowd after being flogged and mocked by Pilate’s soldiers.  He stood in humiliation, wearing a crown of thorns and a purple robe, as Pilate looked for a way to release Jesus despite the angry crowd.  Pilate said to them, “I present him to you, but I want you to know that I do not find him guilty of any crime” (John 19:4 – The Message).  Here is a real man, suffering great injustice, humiliation and finally death.

Stephen Mansfield makes this observation about Jesus the man.  “The NT presents the Son of Man as the True Man.  Jesus’ manhood subverts the manly man of the Greco-Roman world because Jesus’ manhood is one of humiliation, service, and crucifixion.  Jesus takes on the form of a slave (Phil 2:5-11).  True manhood is not measured by courage or strength but by self-sacrificial love for the other.”

Men, Jesus give us an example to follow, plus the grace and strength through the infilling of His Spirit, to carry through with a servant heart.  “This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived.  He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.  He never did one thing wrong, not once said anything amiss.  They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back.  He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right.  He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way” (I Peter 2:21-24 – The Message).

Don’t get me wrong.  We need men with courage, determination and fortitude.  But in the kind of toxic cultural environment we live in, where Christian  men either “cave in” under social pressures, or they become angry, resentful men, reacting rather than responding with love, we need a good dose of teaching on the servant heart of Jesus.  He made it very clear.  “Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.  Whoever want to be first among you must be your slave.  That is what the Son of Man has done.  He came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:42-44 – The Message)

As soldiers for Christ we need training for the real combat we will face.  Guess where you will receive your best training?  You bet – it at home with your wife and kids.  This is where we learn to be a solider, who goes into combat, having learned something about “self-sacrificial love for the other.”   So men, I tell you from a lot of personal experience, what you learn and become at home is what you will carry into the world.  Ask your heavenly Father for grace to learn your lessons as home.  Get with some other guys who see the same need.  Together cry out to God for mercy to be changed into loving warriors for him.

Just Be Held

“Just Be Held” is the title of a song from the latest CD release by “Casting Crowns.”  I played it for the guys at our last “wildman” retreat.  I try to keep up on contemporary Christian music.  The words to a lot of the songs are what I call “Fluff.”  There is no spiritual meat.  But groups like Casting Crowns have great words, that speak to real life as we journey with Jesus.  I also listen with men in mind.  There is a “male soulfulness” that men can relate to as they listen to Casting Crowns.  Another group I like is “MercyMe.”

Anyway, the refrain in the song is great.  “So when you’re on your knees /and answers seem so far away/you’re not alone/stop holding on and just be held/ Your world’s not falling apart/It”s falling into place/I’m on the throne/stop holding on.”  These words, in my opinion, speak directly to men on the journey, as  we seek to be transformed more into the likeness of Jesus.  We are not in control Remember this is an ‘inside job.”  God brings the change.  It is not about our “spiritual improvement projects.”

There are times when we are simply”holding on,” attempting to patch up and “fix” our spiritual life.  But we are encouraged to “stop holding on and just be held.”  In other words, let go, trust, and rest in the arms of our heavenly Father.  When I heard this song, it brought to mind two Psalms.  First Ps. 40:1-2, ‘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.”  We are encouraged to wait patiently, allowing  the Lord to lift us out of the pit, rather then hanging on for dear life.  He will give us a firm place to stand.

The other Psalm was Ps. 131:2, “But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with it mother, like a weaned child I am content.”  A weaned child is held in love.  Here are some more words from the song. “in the storm is where you will find me/and where you are/I’ll hold your heart/come to me/find your rest in the arms of a God who won’t let go.”  Remember men, God is with you in the midst of the storm.  It takes real trust in a loving God to believe that he holds your  heart, as you rest in his arms, during the storms of life.

My advise, which I have to practice regularly is as follows: First, from the depth of my being I cry out, “God, have mercy on me. I really need your help.”  Secondly, I hold on in simple childlike trust. I take a day at a time.  Thirdly, I thank God that he is with me and taking care of me far beyond my understanding.  Fourthly,  from this firm place, I go forth to  follow Jesus no matter what the cost.  And Fifthly, I  ask him to continually fill me with His Spirit.

Men and Tears

At one of my recent “wildman” retreats, a young man came rather distort, due to the emotional strain of being the caregiver for his wife following her surgery.  He shared the discomfort he felt in shedding tears due to his emotional stress. In displaying  tears, he felt like a failure in the care of his wife.  I know this would be a teaching moment for all of us.  I even enlisted the assistance of my wife, in being able to avail a feminine perspective.  My point was, “tears can be good, as long as they are not shared in self-pity or used manipulatively.”

Douglas Wilson makes this observation about the masculine in our culture.  “We live in a feminist and effeminate culture.  Because of this, at best, as a people we are uneasy with masculinity and with increasingly regularity, whenever it manages to appear somehow, we call for someone to do something about it.”  This is certainly the case with masculine emotions. “What do you do with a crying man?”   Men are constantly been challenged to be more sensitive and nurturing, but when they struggle with their tender side there is little help.  As I have said in the past, I say it again, men are going to have to work out their emotional life with other men.

I want to say loudly and clearly to every “suffering” man out there; “tears are not a sign of weakness.” Not only have we not seen the “healthy” expression of tears shed by our fathers and other male role models, but the strong feminist sentiment almost demands that men  bury their real feelings.  Hear me, men – your wife does not see your shedding of tears as weakness, as long as you are owning your condition.  It actually draws her closer to you, because it bring you to the heart level, where she can sense your companionship.  Your wife needs to know your heart, not the coldness of your “stiff upper lip.”

Listen men, your tears during emotional stress are like an “emotional  release” that needs to be expressed.  It is important to your emotional and psychological well being  that you find relief.  Tears are part of the answer.  I can testify to the healthy expression of tears.  I don’t like that I have to cry.  But when I feel them coming I no longer hold back, even in front of my wife.  It brings relief, perspective, and a sense of peace in the midst of an emotional storm.

The Psalms will gives us a biblical perspective.  Look up “tears.”  Listen to David in Psalm 6. “My soul is in deep anguish.  How long, Lord, how long?…I am worn out from my groaning.  All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.  My eyes grow weak with sorrow;…..for the Lord has heard my weeping” (Ps 6: 3,6-7, & 8).  If you need to get used to crying, do it is secret; just you and a lovingly heavenly Father, who is waiting to hold you.  Men, just learn to let it go.  He will hold you and bring comfort if you can be real.  Remember you are his child. Twila Paris used to sing “the warrior is a child.”  Do yourself a favor and be a man. Let the emotional steam out by having a good cry, especially with your wife.

Men and intimidation

I start with a quote from Matt 10.  “Don’t be intimidated.  Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are.  So don’t hesitate to go public now.  Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies.  There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being.  Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life – body and soul – in his hands….Stand up for me against world opinion, and I’ll stand up for you before my Father in heaven.  If you turn tail and run, do you think I’ll stand up for you before my Father in heaven…..If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me.  If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself.  But if you forget yourself and look to me, you’ll find  both yourself and me.” (Matt 10:26-8, 32, 38-39 – The Message)

Men, take note of the bold print.  Jesus is asking us to stand with him in a culture with eroding Christian values, producing an increasing  negative posture to a healthy masculine presence.  If our priorities are  self-concern,self image, self  gratification and self-preservation (Albert Haase) we will never know who we are as men, according to Jesus.  But if we are a committed follower of Jesus, we will know our true identity and his presence in our lives.  If you are a Christian man, you don’t want to be “hollowed out,” running on a empty spiritual tank, trying to make it as a believer.  I guarantee you that you will be intimidated, turn tail and run, being bluffed into silence.  You don’t want to be a casualty of the cultural wars.

I confess to you men, that I am not a natural fighter, the kind of warrior that looks for a fight and wants to be aggressive with his witness.  I have been a people pleaser most of my life.  I am not comfortable with confronting, nor do I enjoy arguing.   But having walked with Jesus for over 50 years, coming to love him more as I age, I am determined in the Lord, not to be intimidated.  We have gone to far in our culture.  We are losing our voice in the public square. What we desperately need are a “few good men” in every church and community who will not be intimated, but stand for Jesus when the occasion arises.  I want to influence as many young men as I can.

So what is a man to do?  First be clear and certain about your commitment to Jesus.  Give your heart and soul to him.  Second, each of us has a “sphere of influence” to be a witness. Be faithful in your vineyard.  Thirdly, follow Jesus example of wanting to be a servant to all.  Fourth, humbly, lovingly give your witness for the Lord when it is called for.  Fourthly, let your story be his story of redemption in your life, allowing the focus to be on God’s love, mercy and kindness in your life.   Oh, God raise up a new generation of warriors who will stand and fight with the weapons of humility and love.

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