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 2014

Male-Female Complementarity

The Vatican recently sponsored an international colloquium on the complementarity  of man and woman in marriage entitled “Humanum.”  I watched the first 15-minute video produced for this event: “The Destiny of Humanity: On the Meaning of Marriage.”  I was deeply moved by the thoughtful manner in which the video presented the truth of marriage between one man and one woman  being woven into the very fabric of creation.  In the beginning, Philosopher Peter Kreeft observes:  “The masculine and feminine are cosmological.  They are not limited to humans, or even just to animals.  Every language that I know of, except English, has masculine or feminine nouns…the sun and moon, the day and night, the water and the rocks…but most today think this is a projection of our sexuality into the universe.  That makes  us strangers to the universe.  The God who invented human sexuality also invented the universe; the two fit.  It’s a much happier philosophy: we fit the nature of things.”  The complementarities of creation reaches it climax, adds N.T. Wright, “in the creation  of human beings in the image of God…an image which has male-plus-female at the heart of it.”

I came away with a some reassuring observations.   First,  I was moved to celebrate the uniqueness of my marriage to Judy, my wife.  Sometimes the complementarity of marriage has caused me frustration, because my wife is so different from me.  But this is how it is meant to be. Paul reminds us that our marriages are a mystery to be entered into, not something to figure out.  “…And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become  ‘one flesh.’  This is huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all” (Eph. 5:31-32 – The Message).  Men, don’t try to solve the mystery of your marriage. Rather, celebrate your marriage.  Ask God for grace to enter into this mystery, so you can learn from your “better half.”  God has given her to be your “helpmate.”  She is intended to be your complement. Pay attention to what God wants  to teach you through “your bride.”

Secondly, I was very encouraged to see how the complementarity of masculine and feminine is woven into all of creation.  This reality goes far beyond the gender struggles we have in our culture, the “war on Women” being one of the most ugly manifestations of culture’s distorted view.  C. C Pecknold, writing in First Things had this to say about the message of the video. “The male and female union is the universal heart of human life and existence. It has a ripple-effect on all  of humanity.  But this has a powerful corollary: new sexual ideologies will fall not simply because Christians oppose them,  but because they cannot withstand the gravity of nature, or the weight of glory given in human existence itself.”  This comment reminds me of C. S Lewis’ contention that masculinity and  femininity are rooted in God and  have  transcendent dimensions.  Men, don’t let the dominant voices of our confused culture rob you of the joy of living in a complementary relationship with your wife.

Men, I strongly encourage you to go online and watch the six videos produced for this conference  (humanum).  You will not be disappointed.  They are awe inspiring.  Share them with you wife, and children.  Be sure to view them with other men.  By the way, Rich Warren, Russell Moore, both prominent evangelicals, also spoke at  this conference.  I believe this conference will have an  impact on the church.  Praise God for the moving of His Spirit in our day.

Men and chastity

I have mentioned Dr. James Houston in previous blogs. In his book, “The Heart’s Desire,” he states that “chastity is emotional sincerity, by which we express our emotions openly, not dishonestly.  It involves how we really feel.”  Chasity is an old-fashion word that needs to be in the vocabulary of men in our day.  It involves more then sexual purity.  Chastity, “is not a deadening of the heart,” according to Ronald Rolheiser, “a stripping away of our sexuality, but a deeper maturity that lets our sexual energies flow out in a more life-giving way.”  “To tamper with the sincerity of your emotional life,” observes John MacMurry,  “is to destroy your inner integrity, to become unreal to yourself and to others, to lose the capacity of knowing what you feel.  There is nothing more destructive of all that is valuable in human life.”  A man with a healthy chaste life will reflect an ongoing integration of sexual purity and emotional integrity.

Men pride themselves in being objective, able to fix and  solve problems.  We like to be  under control. But our journey into a Christlike character involves not only ascent into greater intimacy with God, but also descent into the realities of our soul life. This I have always found to be this messy and confusing. I continue to struggle with the integration of sexual purity and emotional integrity. I know I am not alone.  Paul reflects this frustration in Romans 7.  “I realize that I don’t have what it takes.  I can will it, but I can’t do it.  I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it. I decide not  to do bad, but then I do it anyway.  My decisions….don’t result in actions.  Something  has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.” (vs.18-20 – Message)  Men, we can not “fix” our inner life.  We have to welcome and embrace what is there.  Bringing  integration to our sexual energy and our emotional life is a life  long  project.

A chaste man does not live in denial of his sexuality, rather he desires to properly  channels his sexual energy, while being honest and  open about his emotional life.  Since chastity is emotional sincerity, there is no need to repress sexual desires, but accept them realistically.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  The Message puts it this way. “You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right.  Then you can see God in the outside world.”  It  was a great relief to me on my spiritual journey, when I  could stand in the light of God’s love,  knowing that I had deep sexual passions, that needed to be rightly channeled and integrated with my emotion life.  Trying to control all this energy by will power proved to be unfruitful.  What has been most helpful for me, is to live in openness and honestly before the Lord, in full recognition and acceptance of an embodied spirituality, which includes my sexual desires, while embracing my deepest desires for God and an acceptance of my emotional needs

I have struggled mightily in writing this blog.   My humble attempt on a very difficult subject could be meant for someone reading this blog.  My word to  you is this – “Desiring God while be honest  about your sexual passion as well as your emotional needs  is ‘like coming out of the closet.'”  By that I mean, men just  don’t want to talk about emotional integrity and sexual purity.

Facing the Darkness

At a recent gathering of men at my church, the pastor asked us to quietly reflect on Jesus washing the feet of his disciples (Matt. 13:1-17). When I contemplated the thought of Jesus washing my feet, I sensed that the love of Jesus was penetrating the darkness of my soul.  This is an uncomfortable thought for me.  Psalm 112:4 tells us, “Even in darkness light dawns on the upright.”  Then during a recent small group meeting I had the vision of Jesus walking with me in my inner basement.  It was dark, but I felt safe with Jesus.  “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, the darkness is as light to you.” (Ps 139:11-12)

I have been going  through a dark time lately on my journey.  I have  learned over  the years that these “dark” or “desert” times are a normal part  of my spiritual growth.  But this latest episode seems to be  touching on areas  of my life that I thought I had already dealt with, especially as it relations to my father wounds and my mother issues.  What I am learning and I want to share with the men reading this blog is the realization that transformation of the soul  has a  spiral type movement to it  trajectory.  The light penetrates deeper.  You may think that a certain aspect of your story has been  healed and transformed.  But this may only be  the first layer exposed to the healing  light.   Trust me, there will be other  layers.  We can only handle so much light at  a time.  Our heavenly Father knows when  we are  ready for the next round of healing.

So what would I advise from my own experience?  First, keep your focus on the Lord, not on  your condition.  Accept what is happening as from the  Lord.  I  find reassurance in these words from Isaiah 42:16, “I will  lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness  into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do; I will  not forsake them.” (Is 42:16).  God will  lead you through and into the light.  But you need to go through the process of  letting him turn your darkness into light .  Secondly, find someone who you can talk  with regarding the condition of your soul.  If you are experiencing a dark time that is the result of the Lord leading you into new places of healing, you will need some reassurance that your walk with God is not “coming of the rails.”

Thirdly, keep a positive attitude to your condition as you wait  for the  clouds to part and for the sunshine to brake through.  I have to admit that  I am struggling with  keeping positive.  I don’t like the darkness of not knowing  what God is doing in my soul.  But I must remember that it is his work, done in his way and in his timing.  I need to keep my spiritual eyes and ears open to see and hear what God might be  trying to tell me.  Praise God, I am  starting to get  some insight.  It starts out rather  vague, but slowly become more clear.

I know this is a very personal blog.  But I sense it is meant for someone specifically who reads my blogs  regularly.  You are struggling in the dark.  Be assured that it is the healing light that is present, exposing the darkness.  Don’t run from  what God is doing.

The Wagon Scout

Stu Weber in his book, “The heart of a Tender Warrior,” suggests the role of  “wagon scout” for men.  In the old west, he was the guy who goes out ahead of the wagon train. He give direction.  He anticipates needs.  He helps define the route.  He is a man who gives a vision for the road ahead. As a young boy, I loved going to the Saturday afternoon matinee to watch cowboy movies.  I remember being inspired by the courage of the wagon scout as he ventured into unknown territory.  “God expects men,” says Weber, “to be providers in the most complete sense of the word…..leaders with eyes on the horizon, anticipating the perils, smelling hope in the wind, and inspiring loved one to follow.”

I make reference to the wagon scout image, because, in my humble opinion, our culture is in for some turbulent times.  Bureaucratic decay, massive public debt, an overstretched military, a political system seemingly incapable of responding to challenges are all signs of trouble.  Rod Dreher points out that, “rising hedonism, waning religious observance, ongoing break-up of the family, and a general lose of cultural coherence…..are signs of a possible Dark Age ahead.”   Law professor, Robert P George has concluded, “the day of socially acceptable Christianity are over…..It is no longer easy to be a faithful Christian….authentic witness to the truths of the Gospel.”  I think all who read this blog can agree the days ahead are uncertain.

This calls for men who can look out on the horizon, have a vision and be willing to lead.  The times call for men who have a purpose bigger then themselves.  I like the way the Message expresses Paul’s words in Philippians 3:12-14, “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made.  But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ. who has so wondrously reached out for me.  Friends, don’t get me wrong. By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus.  I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”   There you have it – that forward, outward, adventurous outlook.  Paul is off and running and not going back.  Men, don’t be intimidated by the demands of the culture.  You are called to more then just that small worldview that culture reflects.

Think of your calling as a Wagon Scout, especially at home.  Your wife and children need your leadership.  I still have that sense at my age, with Judy and I.  I keep looking out ahead.  I certainly don’t have all the details, but I have some  impressions about our future.  I can have the tendency to be fearful, uncertain and even intimidated about our future.  But I want to press on, wanting to finish strong.  I close with these words from Ps. 84:5-8 (NLT).  The words describe the pilgrimage to Jerusalem (our spiritual home). “What  joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs.  The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.”  Men, we are  to keep our eyes on the horizon as we anticipate the heavenly Jersusalem.

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