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: May 2014

Standing in Your Pain

Leanne Payne, whose ministry of inner healing has been very formative in my life, uses the phrase, “stand in your pain.”  She is referring, of course, to the pain caused by our sins and the sins of others becoming lodged in our souls. John Eldredge calls them “arrows”.  As we deal with this pain, we are encouraged to look up with “the eyes of our hearts” (Eph. 1:18) and see Jesus bearing our pain in his body.  Matt 8:17 reminds us that Jesus, “took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” (Matt 8:17).   We are to stand erect, looking “up and out” to Jesus.  The danger is  to be bent in on self or looking to others for approval and affirmation.

I found this phrase most helpful for at least four reasons.  First, dealing with my pain, that is, the residue of guilt, shame, disappointment, fear, etc. is a process.  The pain indicates the cancerous affects of sin in my soul.  At first I don’t want to admit what is being exposed.  So I stand exposed in my pain.  Secondly, I have learned there is a place to go with my pain.  I can go to Jesus.  He sees, understands and is able to handle anything I bring to him.  Thirdly, not only does Jesus understand, but he took my pain into his body on the cross.  Fourthly, at the foot of the cross standing in my pain, looking up to Jesus on the cross, I can unload my awful burden unto him.

Men, listen to the way The Message puts it in Col 2:13-15, “When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God.  God brought you alive – right along with Christ.  Think  of it!  All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross.  He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the street.”  The arrest warrant for your sin has been nailed to the cross.

Men, I exhort you, after all these years of being a follower of Jesus, don’t loss your focus on the cross.  If you begin to have doubts about God love and commitment to you,  just spend some time at the cross.  There you will find love and mercy reaching out to you.  I know I cry out for  mercy often.  I am not deserving of mercy, but because of his great love and sacrifice for me on the cross, I can come as a  man in need of God mercy.  Praise God!!

There may be a man who is in a dark and lonely place as you read this blog.  I declare to you, on the authority of God’s Word, that Jesus has taken your burden unto himself.  Our part is to stand up, erect, looking to Jesus and offering this simple prayer.  It is the desperate prayer of blind Bartimaeus in his desperate situation, he had only one chance to get the attention of Jesus.  His prayer was simple, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” (Mark 10: 47)  Jesus hears such a prayer and will be with you.  You might have to keep praying it for a time.   But Jesus will be there and will carry your load.

White-knuckling religion

Men, we need as followers of Jesus to be aware of being contaminated by  “Pharisee yeast”  on our journey with Jesus.  Listen to this warning from Jesus. “Watch yourselves carefully so you don’t get contaminated with Pharisee yeast. Pharisee phoniness.  You  can’t keep your true self hidden forever; before long you’ll be exposed.  You can’t hide behind  a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known.  You can’t whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public; the day’s coming when those whispers  will be repeated all over town.” (Luke 12:2-3 – Message)

“Pharisee yeast” is found not in the culture but  in the church, in  men’s groups, and in the heart of every follower of Jesus.  You see, this yeast is really a religious spirit.  It is manifested in “the church guy” whose walk with Jesus in  mostly a “white – knuckling”  performance of  trying to be good.  How do I know?  I did it for years as a pastor.  After all, I was supposed to be on the top of my game.  “Performance orientation” as the name of my game as a “professional holy man.” On the inside I was working hard to keep on the religious mask (white-knuckling). My greatest fear was that my true face would be exposed to others.

What finally got to me, as a “niece Christian guy,” was my anger.  I had a “floating bitterness” that I inflicted on my family and the church in my preaching.  My religious mask was slipping,  the more I was”white-knuckling” my walk with Jesus.  The best thing that happened to me, back there in the middle 80’s, is finding of a male “soul friend.” A “male mother” is the description Richard Rohr uses.  It is another guy who is good at listening to the movements of your soul, while loving you. It was such a relief to admit my anger to another guy, knowing that God loved me in my condition.  I could be just myself, with all my spiritual stink.

All the spiritual improvement projects that I came up with to keep my spiritual mask from falling were no longer working.  With my spiritual friend, Hal, a Methodist Pastor, I was able to begin to share my secrets.  The pressure was off. What relief there was in being honest.  I know I had to open up and give it all up to Jesus.  “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 about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me. (Matt 10:38-39 – Message)

Is there some guy reading this blog today who feels simply like a “religious shirt,’ that is, you know you are only going through the motions.   There is no substance –  it is all outward show – a shirt.  I know how you feel.  I was there at one time. I am still tempted to “play the religious game.”  What is the key?  Name your white-knuckling performing.   Relax in the presence of Jesus and another brother and let it all go.  Fall into the arms of a loving God as a wounded, insecure child.  Open your protective, fearful heart to his love.  You might need a “male mother” type guy to help you.

Manna Burgers

Having worked with men’s groups for many years, I have learned to identify three levels of conversation among Christian brothers.  First there is the general “guy talk”.  Men are most comfortable at this level. Wes Yoder suggests that the perfect conversation for men can be summed up in eight words, “Can you believe the weather at that game?”  The second is “God talk.”  This is generally “safe” objective talk about spiritual matters   The third is “soul talk.”  This conversation goes to the hurt and pain inside.  Men need to learn to do soul talk.

Christian men living in a post-Christian America can develop a “critical spirit,”  as they lament the lack of support for a biblical worldview in a culture,  with a growing  anti-Christian bias.  It is easy to fall into whining.  It very well could be that we, like the people of Israel, are traveling through a wilderness.  We can not ask the culture to do for us, what we as believers have to do for ourselves.  God’s presence will go with us and he will provide for our needs, as he did for the people of Israel.

Every morning God miraculously provided manna as food.  But we read,  “the riffraff among the people had a craving and soon they had the People of Israel whining, ‘Why can’t we have meat? We ate fish in Egypt – and got it free! – to say nothing of the cucumbers and melons, the leeks and onions and garlic.  But nothing tastes good out here; all we get is manna, manna, manna.'” (Numbers 11: 4-6 – The Message)  Years ago, Keith Green wrote a song about the whining of the people Israel as they complained about “manna burgers” every day.  They took their eyes off of God’s presence among them and whined about his provision for the journey.  They wanted to go back to the way it used to be in Egypt.  They were still cultural enslaved to life in Egypt.  How enslaved can we be to the culture?

Men, don’t let your fellowship with other brothers allow a critical spirit to develop, giving you license to whine about how bad the culture  is becoming.  Yes, we need to be a salt and light in a dark world, but we are not going to get the culture to “dance to our tune.” We have to take a long look at our own life ( soul talk).  Our character formation is what matters.  Men need to challenge each other with the question, “Am I becoming more of who Jesus wants me to be in the culture?”  We need to see what a great opportunity we have to be lights in a darkening cultural environment.

What will that look like.  Recently I read this description of Jesus.  Jesus Christ modeled authentic manhood by, ” joyful responsibility, humble service, and courageous leadership.”  We have the opportunity to reflect these three qualities to the world.  Jesus cautions us when he says, “If you don’t go all the way with me, through think 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 about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.” (Matt 10: 38-39 – The Message).  In looking to Jesus and not the culture, we will  find our true self.

A Soul Alert

For many years I have known that my call has been to minister to “the soul life” of men.  The “care of souls” has defined much of what motivates me in men’s ministry.   I started using the word “soul” intentionally, when others were shying away from “soul talk.”  So I was thrilled to see a bestselling author like John Ortberg, talking about soul in his new book “Soul Keeping.”

Ortberg compares the soul to a car.  “If you want to care for your car, you  have to know what the parts do.”  You need to look at what is under the hood.  We not only have a soul but we are a soul; we are “embodied souls“.  Genesis 2:7 reminds us that God, “formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life.  The Man came alive – a living soul.” – The Message).  The soul observes Ortberg, “is what holds us all together, what connects our will and our minds, our bodies and connects us to God.”  A healthy soul is whole and integrated, connected to God, at peace with God, with himself and with others.  To have an unhealthy soul  is to live in denial with what is going on inside.  “One of the worst parts about having an unhealthy soul is we’re able to keep ourselves from seeing how unhealthy it is,” observes Ortberg.

Men, how is the health of your soul?  This comes to you as a “soul alert.  From  my experience  men need to  become “soulful”, not neglecting their souls, but listening to what the soul has to tell them.   Men naturally want to stay in “the control tower” of reason and control.  But remember the soul is the deepest part of who we are –  a mystery to befriend rather than neglect.  It is shy, needing to be welcomed into awareness.  Soul  is the most personal term we have to describe our life with God.  Eugene Peterson reminds us that “soul has given way to ‘self’ as the term of choice to designate who and what we are.  Self is the soul minus God.”  A lot of “self talk” needs to be replace with “soul talk.”

So, men here are some tips on being more soulful, while maintain a healthy soul.  1) Ask for grace to accept what is going on in your soul, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  This is the real you.  Hiding is unhealthy.  2) Admit your  neglect of your inner life – living in illusions not reality.  3) Admit your fear of listening to your soul.  It takes courage to see what is really in your “tank.” A lot has been stored there waiting to come into the light.  4)  Have courage to face the pain .  You need to “get to” and “through” the pain.  5) Keep your eyes on Jesus, to find help in  separating the good from the bad.  You might need a “spiritual friend.”

Remember this comes to you as a “soul alert.”    Most men are uncomfortable with “soul talk.”  I am asking each of you to consider the healthy of your soul.  It is your center.  Don’t neglect it. “And what do you benefit if you gain to whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matt 16:26)

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