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 2015

The Spartans and March Madness

The Michigan State Spartans is going to the final four!!!. Many of you know I am a Michigan State fan, since Tom Izzo, like me, is a native UPer (native to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan).  State was not expected to get this far in the tournament, especially after the Wisconsin loss.   Izzo said the Louiville win was one of his most satisfying victories.  After the game, I was quite emotional.  I wondered way.  I went for a pray walk.  This is what I sensed the Lord telling me to say.  You be the judge regarding my discernment.

Could the Spartan victory be a spiritual metaphor for the readers of this blog.  March Madness is a yearly sports event the captures the male imagination. Not only do we enjoy watching the furious competition, but we love to predict who will be winners.  Based on strengths, weaknesses, and sheer hunches men fill out their brackets.  I believe God is calling men to harness their competitive nature into the great spiritual battle that is being waged in our nation.  God wants to capture the imagination of  “tough and tender” warriors to become involved.  Where are the strong, courageous, loving men?  “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.  For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it lingers, wait for it will certainly come and will not delay” (Hab 2 2-3).  Here is an application of the metaphor

“How much do you want it?’  The teams that win, “let’s it all out on the floor.”  There is no second chance. Teams work through the adversity.  Men get caught up in the intensity of the games. But what about spiritual adversity?  This is not a time to pamper male egos with a “soft message” of enculturation to a society becoming ever hostile to the message of Jesus.  How many men have fallen asleep?   God is calling out  committed men to band together in small ‘”teams”  to make a difference right where they live. Ordinary men concerned for their families and communities. My advise: find or form your team.  But be warned, there will be adversity.  The days ahead will not be for the men who “sits on the bench.”   Jesus warned, “Because of the increase of wickedness the love of most will grow cold” (Matt 24:12).  But victory is ahead.  He promised, ” Everyone will hate you because of me.  But not a hair of your head will perish.  Stand firm, and you will win life” Luke 21: 18-19).

How about coach Izzo?  After the loss to Wisconsin, he had this to say to his critics.  “I’m going to coach my team for now – not for the media, not for recruiting.  I’m going to coach it for what’s right and what’s wrong.”  I admire coach Izzo.  He know how to motivate his team.  He connects with his players.  He get the best out of them at the right time (March madness).  Men, Jesus know what time it is and how get the best out of us.  He will see us through  as we follow his lead. We are to give  our very hearts to him. Are you willing to trust Jesus with you life or are you asleep at the end of the bench?   Jesus warned us: “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come” (Mark 13:7).  “Everyone will hate you because of me,” Jesus tells us, “but the one who stand firm to the end will be saved” (Mk 13:13).

Is Chivalry dead?

Recently I read an article in National Review on line entitled “Being nice to women is a sign of sexism.”  “If you’re a man who smiles at women and makes an effort to be kind to them, you’re probably an ‘insidious’ and ‘treacherous’ sexist,” according to a study conducted by researchers from Northeastern University in Boston. What has been thought of as acts of chivalry are now considered signs of “benevolent sexism.”  “Sexism can appear very friendly and very welcoming but it really is acting like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”  The study suggested that “sexism can consciously or unconsciously cloak itself in friendliness.”  “Gestures of good faith,” professor Judith Hill believes, “may entice women to accept the status quo in society because sexism literally looks welcoming, appealing, and harmless.”  Is chivalry a danger for women in our society?

As I wrote in my last blog, men are confused about how they are to behave towards women. The opinions of this study only add to the confusion.  I can not imagine how confused a young men must feel in our culture when they  desire to act in godly manner  to the opposite sex.  If we are ever to get the relationship between men and women right we have to go back  to the beginning, to the Creator, who made male and female in his image.  We read in Genesis 2:18, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.'”  Adam had no “suitable companion.”  “So God put him to sleep and took a rib out of him. God then used the rib that he had taken from the Man to make Woman and presented her to the Man” (Gen 2:22 – Message).

Genesis puts the “gender wars” into proper perspective.   First, Man and woman were to have a complimentary relationship.   Paul reminds us that, “Adam was formed first, then Eve” (I Tim 2:13).  God’s intention was for Adam  to see Eve as his compliment, since she came from him.  She is his helper, not another man but a wo-man.   She is equal but different.  So lets celebrate the difference and learn to honor, respect and value woman  in thought, word and deed.  This begins with our wives. “Husbands’ ” Paul says, “ought to love their wives as their own bodies” (Eph. 5:28).  No sexism here, simply the highest regard for the feminine. Godly men are not threatened by their compliment, but rather embrace the uniqueness of the feminine

Secondly, God intended Eve to be Adam’s soul mate.  Adam in his loneliness was looking for companionship in creation.  After seeing Eve, Adam’s words, “Finally! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh,” implied something like “wow, she looks great!”  God intended that men be infatuated by the beauty of women and express it, especially to our wives.  She is captive to your genuine praise.  This is not sexism.  It’s built right into the relationship between man and woman.  Aspire to be a godly gentleman.

Thirdly, we read in Genesis 2:22 that God brought the woman to man.  Adam replied by saying, “she shall  be called, ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”  Here we see Adam taking the initiative in the relationship.  Men, don’t let the feminist agenda shame you into not taking the initiative in expressing honor and respect for the woman in your lives.  It begins with your wife.  My testimony through many years of marriage and relationship building, is that woman respond to healthy praise and respect.  Men are meant to initiate.  Women will respond in kind, if we are Christ like in our relationships.

“A Wounded Beast”

Jane Fonda in a recent interview had some choice words for men. “Man power,” she maintains is, “wounded now but there’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded beast, thrashing about, flailing its tail with the barbs on it, and a lot of people are really getting hurt badly.”  Further, “Hanoi Jane,” believes, “the most intractable problem that humanity faces is the problem of patriarchy,” which she partly blames for the rise in terrorism and the destruction of the environment.   Ms Fonda may be partly right in her observations, but as a radical feminist she is blind to the demise of a healthy masculine model needed for young men to emulate during the gender wars of our time.  Only emotionally healthy, godly men can model this, not the angry feminist protest. I  offer two observations, as one called to strongly protest the psychological and social overreach of the radical feminist movement.

First, it is true that men are wounded.  Young men have been taught to question their own masculinity, suppressing their God give instincts, while enduring “a frowned-upon presence” in society.  Men are expected to be “girly men” – less competitive and more sensitive.  As one observer put it, “In trying to empower the girls, we implicitly sent a message that the guys were not as good.  Women succeeded in creating positive new roles for themselves.  What we haven’t come up with is what a positive image of man would be.”  That is why men are wounded.  The passion of this blog is to address this wound.  Yes, Ms Fonda, I too, worry about men becoming dangerous when they are wounded.  How do we heal the wound?

Secondly, I agree that a distorted patriarchy has done much damage in our culture.   Many women have suffered because of male abuse and unhealthy dominance.  But we can’t eliminate the God given purpose for the healthy male presence and hope to improve culture.  At the heart of what it means to be a man is living selflessly,  putting one’s greatest strength at God’s disposal, while  serving others (servant leadership).  That’s healthy patriarchy!  A healthy culture needs men who out of submission to Christ, motivated by godly compassion, are willing to sacrifice by leading, providing, protecting and living transparent lives in humility and honor.   This is what healthy patriarchy provides.  Otherwise, we face the demise of our culture as it becomes more  feminized, having lost the true expression of the masculine.  Radical feminism cannot restore a benevolent patriarchy.  It has to be modeled by other men.

So how do we model a wholesome  masculinity in our culture bring healing to men and expressing a healthy patriarchy?  I have two brief comments.  First, men give your life to Jesus Christ.  When a man comes to Jesus in his brokenness and confusion, living in a culture that despises any model of patriarchy, you will find healing for your masculine soul. The more transparent and honest you are before the Lord in the company of a “band of brothers,” the more whole you will become.  Surround  yourself with other “wounded warriors.” Secondly, affirm, celebrate and emulate a healthy patriarchy.  Look to Jesus as your model. Find other older men who have “walked to walk.” (Here’s a suggestion)  Find confirmation of a godly patriarch, by asking his wife about his character.  That is the real test.

Here is a good watch word for men who emulate godly patriarchy. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love” (I Cor 16:13 ESV).

Abandoned and Fatherless

In the soul of many men is a “willed aloneness” in which men feel separated from God, from others, and from even themselves. Men can get wrapped up in their “self-referencing self” – drifting through life like an orphan… alone, abandoned, and afraid.  A quiet despair reveals men who feel fatherless, lost in the rush and complexity of modern life where relationships are sacrificed on the altar of self-importance, success, and efficiency.  The story of a three-year-old boy crying in his bedroom on a cold, stormy night reflects this sense of abandonment:  “Daddy,” the boy cried, “talk to me!  I’m afraid because it’s so dark.”  His father answers him from another room: “What good would that do? You can’t see me.”  “That doesn’t matter, Daddy,” replies the child. “When you talk, it gets light.”  Like this child, men who live self-enclosed lives long for the reassurance of God’s presence. Lonely men need to be fathered by their heavenly Father.

Jesus had one mission in his work on earth: to do the will of his Father. A part of that work was to bring us back to our Father. He said, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19).  Jesus’ intention was to please his Father. “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgement is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me” (John 5:30).

Jesus promised not to leave us orphaned: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18).  He said He is the way.  “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  Men, if we keep our focus on Jesus, committed and surrendered to Him, He will lead us back to our heavenly Father. We can stand in the presence of our Father without condemnation, with Jesus as our mediator.  Paul reminds us, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).  So as we read in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

In his high priestly prayer from John 17, Jesus prays to His Father: “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world” (v. 6). “I pray for them,” states Jesus.  “I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours” (v. 9).  These words should assure us that Jesus is attentive to our sense of abandonment.  At the end of this prayer Jesus makes a most profound promise that should be a bedrock conviction for all followers of Jesus. “I have made you known to them and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (v. 26).

Men, take verse 26 to heart. Jesus promises to make the Father known to us. There is no need to feel orphaned and fatherless. Even more inspiring is Jesus’ assurance that the very love the Father had for him might be in us along with the very presence of Jesus.  So again I say, keep your focus on Jesus.  He will bring you back to the Father and His Father’s love for you.  Let yourself be “fathered by God.”

A New Stirring

Recently Judy and I hosted a “wildman Saturday.”  This group has been meeting for over seven years.  It has caused me to often ask the Lord, “What do you want to do among these men?”  Within the last year I began to wonder if the group should disband.  But in the last few times, there has been a new stirring of the Spirit.   I wonder, is there a “new stirring” occurring among committed men in our culture, hidden from public awareness, but becoming a leaven for renewal, where men are planted in their communities and churches. A good watch word for these men would be I Cor 16:13-14, “Be on guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.  Do everything in love.”

I want to share some of these “wonderings” in this blog.  First, and foremost, experiencing the love of God.  I John 4:19 tells us, “We love because He first loved us” (4:19).  This is what God does within us.  He loves us that we might love Him, through the love he has for us.  Nothing is more important than for men to be secure at the center, knowing they are love for who they are; men who have been  fathered by God. Secondly, having a contemplative posture before God.  Men are desiring to know the abiding presence of the Lord in a “dry and thirsty land.”  It is reassuring to know of other men who have a hunger and passion to know God beyond “God talk.”  “Soul talk” is prominent among these men.   Thirdly, men are sharing with vulnerability their stories of faith, the good, the bad and the ugly, among themselves.  Hearing the honest stories of other brothers, helps in learning to articulate “the Good News” over and against the dominant cultural narrative.

Fourthly, men are gathering to share  their experiences of living in “occupied territory.”   They don’t want to talk about ideas or programs. They want to know how other men are doing on the battle field.  Much of the sharing comes from “wounded  warriors.”  How do we, “Fight the good fight of faith” ( I Tim. 6:12) in a foreign land? The Fifth wondering has to do with discernment.  Men feel alone and isolated on the journey.  The blare of opinions, along with empty promises for the future, cause men to wonder if they should simply go into “coast” rather than stand for the right.  There is a deep need for discernment regarding the moral and spiritual condition of our culture viewed through the lens of the presence of God’s kingdom in our midst.

I wonder if God is not raising up “watchmen” in strategic locations all across our land.  These are men who feel a deep stirring in their souls that our culture is coming under judgment. These men need to be encouraged that God is speaking to their hearts. “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak, and give them warning from me” (Ezk. 33:7).  God is placing men on the walls of the culture, to give warning to the church.  He is raising men up in the spirit of Elijah.  “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:16).  “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill” (Joel 2:1).  A watchmen warns of a coming danger.  Are we already seeing the signs of God’s judgement?

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