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: August 2014

Warriors of Light

I am not ashamed to admit it – I was moved to tears recently watching Andre Reed’s speech at his induction to the Pro Hall of Fame.  I remember his playing days, as a wide receiver, with the Buffalo Bills.  “I was known for my toughness, going across the middle, making the catch, breaking tackles,” Reed said.  “But the toughest individual I’ve ever met in my life was Jim Kelly, No. 12.”  This was nearly was 20 years after, Kelly as quarterback, had played his last game with Reed.  Kelly has lost a son and now was bravely struggling with cancer.  I lost it, crying like a baby.  I ask myself,” why?”  I guess, seeing the expression of camaraderie between men committing their best to the cause.  It’s going out and “leaving it all on the field.”

It motivates me to give my best for the cause of Christ. I want to join with other men who will spur me on to be a warrior for Jesus in the  encroaching cultural darkness, in which men are losing the battle, stumbling into confusion, alienation, despair and loneliness. Men are being wounded in the cultural wars.  Who will come to their rescue?  Men, we need to rescue our brothers out of darkness, committing ourselves to fight for their souls. The battle is between light and darkness.   Listen to Paul exhortation. “You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer.  You’re out in the open now.  The bright light of Christ makes your way plain.  So no more stumbling around.  Get on with it!  The good, the right, the true – these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours.  Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it” (Eph. 5:8-10 – Message).

In my opinion, it will be warriors of  light, who will best confront the ever encroaching darkness of godlessness in secular America.  Listen again to Paul words; “It started when God said, ‘Light up the darkness!’ and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful” (II Cor 4:4 – Message).  Image a group of men, gathered together, with their faces, unashamed, gazing upon the Lord Jesus, being filled with the wonder of  his  loving, affirming presence.

This kind of encounter will motivate men to be warriors of  light.  They  know that through thick and thin, they can say with Jeremiah, “The Lord  is with me like a mighty warrior” (Jer. 20:11).   Knowing they are loved and cared for, men will be able to stand against the invading darkness.  They will know the truth of I John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and his blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (I John 1:7).   Knowing this kind of fellowship will get men out on the field, willing to give their best for Jesus.  The primary manifestation of this kind of warrior will be a humble, loving heart that simply desire to reflect the presence of Jesus in all his affairs and relationships.  The weapons of the warfare will be those of love and humility.   Men, let’s get out on the field and leave it all out there.

Put it all on the Line

In this blog I am especially thinking of  men who has children at home.  We are all aware of how swiftly our culture is losing even the memory of the Christian story.  The story of a loving Creator God, who has entered human history, in the person of His Son,  to rescue us from our sinful condition, is a story that is openly rejected and even blasphemed.  It, therefore, becomes apparent that fathers are going to have to remember to tell the story, so our children not only remember, but also can ask the question, “How then shall we  live?”

With this in mind, I want to challenge not only fathers, but  grandfathers and single men to “remember” the story.  In Exodus 12 we read that Israel is about to flee Egypt.  God institutes the “Passover” and told them, “This is a day to remember.  Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord.  This is a law for all time” (Ex 12: 14).  Later in the chapter we read, “And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord…” (26-27)

Men, our children are increasingly going to ask, “What does this mean?” when it comes to way of Jesus.  How are we as fathers and grandfathers going to reply?   Our challenge, living in present day America, is to keep the memory of the story alive in the hearts and minds of our children.  How do we do this?  One of our greatest opportunities is at family meal time.  This thought came to me as I was reading in interview of Larry Crabb.  He observed, after consulting scholars, that the Hebrew word for “male” satar, means “one who remembers and moves.”  I thought, “Yes, a father is to remember and then show his family that he is moving  with Jesus.”  He is putting it all on the line before his family; not hiding or excusing but leading.

I realize that for some of you, gathering together at the family table for a meal is a challenge.  But I want to challenge the fathers, who read this blog, to do all you can to have a consistent pattern of your family for having a meal together.  Table fellowship, along with family devotions has been lost in many Christian homes.  During and after the meal,  the father of the house, has a golden opportunity to share the story of Jesus.  It was one of the most important practices Judy and I maintained raising our family.

Men, use the meal time to ask your kids about their day.  Show genuine interest in their lives.   Allow for discussion and dialogue.  Use these times to tell the story of Jesus.  Then, when your meal is finished have a devotional time.  Remember the story of Jesus, not only by the use of Scripture, but also by your example.  Tell what is going on in your life.  You are modeling to your children each day an example of fatherhood that will stay with them the rest of their life.  I know from my own experience as a father that it was during those family devotion that I “put it all on the line.”  Nothing in my family life, kept me more humble and dependent on the Lord, then when I had to lead in devotions after the meal.

The King has Returned

I could not help but write a blog about the return of LeBron James to Cleveland.  As the fans in Cleveland celebrated his return there was one sign that caught my attention  – “The King has returned.”  These were the words of an adoring follower.  I personally admire Lebron as a great basketball player as well as a fine person.  His intention about coming back to Northeast Ohio are admirable.  “I feel my calling here goes above basketball”, he said of his move to Cleveland. “I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously…I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up.”

But as a sports fan I need to keep my admiration of great athletics in perspective.  Christian author, Tim Keller warns us that the human heart is an “idol factory.”  In Ezekiel 14:3 God says of the elders of Israel, “These men have set up their idols in their hearts.” Men need to cautioned about unknowingly filling the void in their souls by admiring sports figures.  This void can only be filled with an intimate relationship with God.   Remember men, the deepest desire in your soul is for God.  Only he can fill the void.

Our culture and the sports media have given sports figure like Lebron James almost  mythical status.  All the pregame hype on TV makes them out to be almost super human.  They are talked about in words of adoration and awe.  We overlook their moral flaws and are deeply disappointment when they do not preform as expected.  As followers of Jesus we need to keep this hype in perspective.  Why?  The spiritual void in our culture that has erased a sense of the supernatural, can easily produce counterfeit worship.  We are made to adore and worship greatness.

So as a sports fan, in a climate that seems to be giving greater adulation and honor to the “super-heroes” of sports I need to keep my focus on Jesus.  The Palmist said that he would “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord” and “would seek him in his temple.” (Ps 27:4)  The Message says,  “I’ll contemplate his beauty.”  In other words, I will find myself being thrilled and caught up in the greatness of who Jesus is as Lord of my life.  As I gaze on him with my spiritual eyes, I am filled with light. “It started when God said, ‘Light up the darkness!’  and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.” (II Cor. 4:6 – The Message)

Again this blog comes as a “soul alert.”  Don’t underestimate the pull of the culture on your soul.  Football season is about to begin.  If your wife finds you absent emotionally and your kids want some of your time, it could be you have created an idol in your soul during the NFL season.  Don’t let that happen to you.  I challenge you to simply spend some time every day reading the story of Jesus in the gospels, while  gazing on him.  You will be changed.  Light will fill you with the wonder of Jesus.  You wouldn’t need all the “bells and whistles” of NFL Sunday to give you thrills.

A Scout’s Report

I shared in a recent blog about my wife’s cousin, Scott (age 56) and his courageous struggle with brain cancer.  He died recently.  I was privileged to be able to give the eulogy at his funeral.  It was a joy, even though it was Scott’s funeral, to share our journey over the the last three and a half years.  Scott’s wish was that I  give a testimony to all present at his funeral.

The morning of the service, while on  a prayer walk, I had the strong impression that I was to share as a scout.  Scott and I had explored the thin line between life and death.  I was now coming back to report that going to be with Jesus had become real for Scott; it was reality not illusion.   One of the scriptures that informed our sharing was II Cor 4:16-18, which reads in part, “We do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day…So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

I reported on three impressions.  First,  Scott kept his focus on Jesus, as he opened his heart to him.  He was so excited about what Jesus was showing him through scripture, spiritual writers and our talks.  He learned to see spiritual reality simply, yet in life changing ways as he struggled to make sense of his fight with cancer.   We talked about the work of the Holy Spirit in renewing his heart, as his body continued to deteriorate despite the aggressive cancer therapy.  I marveled at how Jesus became so real to Scott in the midst of much uncertainty regarding life and death.  Scott taught me to trust Jesus and keep my focus on him, no matter what the circumstances.

Secondly, I watched as Scott grew more confidently in the Lord despite his uncertain condition.  The hope of going to be with Jesus gave Scott an eternal horizon to view his struggle here below.   I would often say, “Scott, it not you; it is Jesus working in your heart” (Rom. 8:26).  Scott never complained or felt sorry for himself.  He even made light of his health and how it effected him.  Often he would say “How fortunate I am.”  More profoundly he would say, “either way I win.”  How privileged I was to see God at work in the soul of a man.  The words of Ps. 116:15 seemed to apply to Scott’s life near the end.  “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

Thirdly, Scott’s death was a gift that he gave not only to his family but  to all the people who knew him.  Many after the service said that Scott’s witness helped them deal with the reality of death in a whole new way.  Even in the midst of sorrow, Scott wanted his death to be a blessing.  In that sense he was giving his death away. “The final human and Christian challenge of our lives,” observes Richard Rolheiser, “is the struggle to give our death away.” Our death can be our last and greatest gift to those we love.  The question men, for each of us is this –  “How can we live now so that when we die our death may be a blessing to our family and friends?”

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