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: January 2015

Deflated Footballs & Men

I just had to write a post about the controversy surrounding the possibility of the New England Patriots being guilty of using deflating footballs in their win over the Seattle Seahawks  in the AFC championship game.  The readers of this blog know that I am a Viking fan. I try hard to keep it all in perspective, seeing  it as a diversion, rather then a preoccupation.  Besides, being somewhat conversant with Pro Football, gives me entrance into the lives of men.

But it seems that Pro football has invaded the male subculture to such a degree that some men find it to be their passion in life, becoming almost adolescent in their preoccupation, while neglecting adult responsibilities.  When Judy and I travel I listen to sports talk radio.  The sense of urgency expressed regarding sports reminds me of adolescent boys, being preoccupied with minor issues, while their real lives are put on hold till a later date. Men, sports can be a wonderful diversion, but it cannot become a major focus on our time and energy.  A large sector of the American Male culture needs to grow up  spiritually and emotionally.

I would like to offer a parody on the word “deflate” as it relates to the condition of a man’s soul.  First, God will allow a man to be “deflated.”  Men, you will have the wind knocked out of  you, bringing you to your knees. I know this from personal experience.  God used “church people” to knock a lot of “false spiritual air” out of my soul.  A biblical word for deflate would be “crucify.”  We read in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”  It is when that “old false religious self” dies that Christ enters and brings life.  Deflation first, then comes resurrection.  Have you been deflated?

Secondly, to be deflated is to be emptied.  This is good for our spiritual life, but very hard on the ego. The ego does not want to be diminished.  Our ego works full time filling us with false images of a religious self.  As we are emptied of  self, we will become thirsty and hungry for God.  Pay attention to your longing.   The Psalmist cried out, “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Ps 84:2).   Thirdly, only God can satisfy the deepest needs of the male soul.  When we get emptied, God comes to fill us with his life.  Paul prayed that we might come “to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19). Jesus tells us, “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).  So, men, accept being “deflated” as a part of your journey.

Here something more on the parody.   Remember the press conference when the coach had to give his take on the deflated football.  Well, in the background in bold letters were the words “flexball.”  That’s what God is after in our life; flexibility of heart and soul.   He wants us deflated and  emptied so that He can fill us with his Holy Spirit, who will continually be making us into who were meant to be.  “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezk. 36:26-27).

Beautiful Orthodoxy

In this post I am going to tip my theological hat.  I was motivated by the latest issue of “Christianity Today,” a magazine to which I have subscribed since the early 60’s.  I was encouraged by the commitment of CT to what  they call, “a Beautiful Orthodoxy.”  Since the days of my conversion in 1960, I have  been a “Jesus Man” and a “Man of the Book.”  However, I have had to do a lot of theological growing and stretching.  By the mercy and grace of God  at this stage of my journey, I can be a fairly open minded guy who has a strong theological center.  I have always felt at home in the “evangelical” camp, but lament that some want to define the camp too narrowly.  Having been a life long Lutheran, I have tasted the good wine of the charismatic movement and enjoyed the rich fruit of the classic spiritual tradition of the catholic tradition.  I can’t go back into a narrow “church box.”

I am motivated in this blog site to share “a Beautiful Orthodoxy,” an orthodoxy that desires to reflect the beauty of the Lord, confessing the Lordship of Jesus over all of creation and the truth claims of Scripture as the compass for godly living.  I firmly believe that the next generation is ready to receive an orthodoxy that is loving, winsome and welcoming; not judgmental, critical and  rancorous.  A Beautiful Orthodoxy is being both told and lived out in the most unassuming parts of the church today.  I fit into this camp.  I take my motivation from the words of Ps. 71:18, “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”  Men, that is why I write this blog.

Therefore, I identify with what CT had to say in its editorial comments.  “Only relatively recently has it seemed that to be winsome and loving, one must downplay truth claims.  Or that, to speak the truth in a pluralistic world, one must pick a rhetorical battle…..we aim to ensure that every ‘no!’ we imply is followed by a ‘yes!’  That as we name wrong thinking or behavior we also heartily affirm the abundant life in our true and beautiful Savior.”  Carl F. H Henry, the founding editor of CT is quoted as saying, “The evangelical task is the preaching of the gospel, in the interest of individual regeneration by the supernatural grace of God, in such a way that divine redemption can be recognized as the best solution of our problems, individual and social.”  I say amen.

So men I encourage you to embrace a beautiful orthodoxy.  How?  These are a few things I have learned over the years.  First, surrender to the love of God.  Open your soul to the beauty of God’s love for you, not grasping but welcoming.  Secondly, forsake all your self-improvement projects for making yourself spiritual, by humbly admitting your total dependence on God to change you.  Our effort only reinforces the false “religious self.”  Thirdly, let the healing word of God penetrate your soul, giving you a new vision of God, yourself and the world.  Fourthly, commit yourself to be a humble, loving follower of Jesus, one of those “tough and tender” types, who has strong convictions but also  an vulnerable hearts. Fifthly, run from the religious, Pharisaical spirit, which is so common among “church people.”

Men without chests

In his book, “The Abolition of Man,” C.S. Lewis was prophetic in pointing out that relativism – the idea that there are no absolute truths – would lead to the decay of morality and a lack of virtue within society.  Without a belief in universal moral laws, we fail to educate the heart and are left with intelligent men who end up behaving like animals or as Lewis puts it, “men without chests.”  He likened an ordered soul to that of  the human body: the head (reason) must rule the belly (the sensual appetites) through the chest.  Since the chest is made up of “emotions organized by trained habits into stable sentiments,” it is the bridge between the man ruled by reason and the passionate man, ruled by his appetites.

A culture with men without chests is a frightening prospect.  They are incapable of displaying such virtues as courage, honor, honesty and valor.  Lewis observes, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function.  We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise.  We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.  We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”  The lack of inner conviction and  godly passion, without a submission to the Lordship of Christ, will produce men with no chests.  They are “empty shirts.”

Men, we live in a day when the social commentary on the troubles of our culture will continue to be debated endlessly.  Everyone has their expert opinion on specific issues, always with the motive of winning more adherents to their position.  But every once in awhile someone is heard during all the debate, bringing light and clarity, born in a heart filled with passion for Christ.  They speak with conviction; firm, yet respectful, honoring other opinions, but allowing the light of gospel to shine forth.  Such a person is Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, and CEO of Samaritan’s purse.  Now you might not agree with all he has to say, but you have to admire his clear, resolute conviction about America and the need for revival.

I believe God is raising up a whole new generation of men who have chests.  They are the “tough and tender” types, who walk humbly and lovingly, yet with strong inner convictions, speaking confidently the truth of the gospel in the midst of much confusion.  They are men of virtue and honor who have won the right to speak truth by their example.  God is reassuring these men of valor, as he did the prophet Jeremiah, “Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land” (Jer. 1:18)

How do men ignite the passion to be live a virtuous life; to have a chest. We can’t produce the passion.  It  is given by Spirit of God invading our souls.  John, the baptist said Jesus would, “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”  (Matt.3:11).  My testimony after years of  inconsistency in living with passion is this simple truth.  I had to surrender first  to the love of God.  Receiving God’ s love in all my vulnerability and shame, brought motivation to serve God .  In surrender a man empties himself, so that God might invade the depths of the soul.  From that deep center comes a passion and energy to live a virtuous life.  It is all gift, to be received.  Passion for God can never be self-induced.

Bromance

Do you as a man have deep personal spiritual friendships with other men?  As I observe the next generation of men seeking to follow Jesus, I am heartened by the deep commitments men are making to stand together in what some are calling an “alien” culture. There are strong “band of brothers” forming all over this nation, meeting in small committed groups to encourage one another.  Cultural observers could accuse these groups with practicing  “Bromance.”  This is  a new  term in  our  gender confused  culture.

Stephen Marche  writing in “Esquire” maintains that the word “bro” shows an “underlying contempt for the male friendship it implies.”  Bros in his opinion are “men who get together to be idiots with one another, drink, watch sports and grunt, but never get involved in each other’s lives.”  So dominant is the preference for being machismo over that of having deep male friendships, that when two “bros” get a little too chose, popular culture has a new, sexually-charged  term for their relationship: “bromance.”  Wikipedia defines bromance as “a close non-romantic relationship between two men.”  So how do we define our committed relationships as Christian men?  Are our male friendship more then machismo and beyond bromance?  Does the love of Jesus in our hearts for other committed  brothers take us beyond bromance?  I certainly hope  so.

We read in Psalms 133: 1-2, “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!  For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that poured over Aaron’s head…”  These verses speak to the beauty and strength of deeply committed relationships between brothers.  Brotherly harmony, like the anointing oil, shows that we are dedicated to serving God wholeheartedly together.  Men, don’t let the culture define your commitment to other brothers in Christ.  Remember  we live in enemy territory.  We need help  to stand and be protected  in our day.  “By yourself you’re unprotected.  With a friend you can face the worst.  Can you round up a third?  A three-stranded rope isn’t easy snapped” (Eccl. 4:12 – Message).

At my age I am able to take a rather long, reflective view on my spiritual journey.  One of the regrets I have is not making and then keeping deep friendships with other men I have known over the years.  I envy the tight relationships my son, Kurt has made with some of his male friends.  I am now thankful for the men who have made the deliberate attempt to keep connected with me (Bill, for example).  So men I encourage you to seek out and cultivate deep, lasting male friendships in Christ.

Here are a few of the mistakes I made over the years.  First, I kept my hurt and pain to myself.  I was protecting my heart by putting on a emotional armor that was hard to penetrate.  Secondly, I didn’t take time to cultivate close male friendships.  Thirdly, I didn’t realize the strength that comes through such relationships.  Fourthly, and most important, I could not receive the  love other men wanted to show me.  When I finally came to the realization that there were a group of guys that loved me the way I was, it changed my life.  I mean that literally.  I was over 50 years of age at the time.  Men, don’t waiting that long.  Move beyond being “bros” to that of a “band of brothers,” willing to fight  for the hearts  of  your  brothers.  We alert and  attentive  to  the  “wounded warrior.”

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