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: April 2015

Bullet Theology

Michael Card was in our church recently. Michael’s  music has a spiritual depth that causes the listener to  reflect on the spiritual journey.  Card is also a very good bible teacher.  While in our church in Hackensack, Mn., he conducted a bible conference on the  gospel of John.  But what impressed me most about Michael Card was his character.  He is a genuine humble man, who is able personally to connect with ordinary people. A phrase he used as stuck with me.  For a deeply held conviction, he would say, “for that I can take a bullet.”  For what would you take a bullet?  I would for the following.

First and foremost is a high view of Scripture.  Simply put –  Scripture is God’s inspired Word to us, our final authority in matters of  faith and practice.  I have never wavered in this commitment. Early in my walk with God I memorized II Tim. 3: 16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  Men, I encourage you to call into question any teaching in the church that does see Scripture as the final authority.  Let Scripture be your guide, light and compass as you navigate “the spiritual minefields” of our culture.

Secondly, the Triune  God of grace.  God has chosen to reveal himself as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, living in perfect harmony and love.  I like to visualize the activity of the Trinity as coming from the Father, through the Son, by the presence of the Holy Spirit.  God is One God, yet has expressed himself in a community of three equal persons.  C.S. Lewis calls it “The Great Dance.”  Men, we are invited to participate in this dance.  For me this makes the Trinity not a doctrine but a relational reality.  I have always told folks, “don’t mess with the Trinity and you will be OK in your view of God.”  Remember you are invited into the great dance.

Thirdly, the message of the cross.  Early in my ministry I took to heart the word of Paul, “For the message of the cross, is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Cor 1:18).  There is power in the message of the cross.  I have never tired of pointing people to the foot of the cross.  At the cross our sins are forgiven and we find deliverance and healing for our souls. Men, I simply say, “Bring your burdens to the cross and leave them there.”  I often quote I Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.'”

Finally, the beautiful summary of our faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed.  As a former Lutheran Pastor, I would lead the people weekly  in confessing  our faith by reciting the Apostles’ Creed.  We would alternate with the Nicene Creed. Yes, it could become rote. But I would often remind the congregation that in the creed we have expressed in three articles relating to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a concise expression of our faith.  You can’t go wrong if this is what you really believe about the revelation of God.  I encourage you to memorize the Apostles’ Creed.  I would take a bullet for the Apostles’ Creed – yes, every word.  The early church fought for those words.

My Favorite Feminist

Camille Paglia has been called an “anti-feminist feminist.”  “Anyone who has been following the body count of the cultural wars over the past decades,” one observer noted, “knows Paglia.”  In a recent interview she was critical of the feminist movement. “”I don’t feel that gender is sufficient to explain all of human life.  This gender myopia has become a disease, a substitute for a religion….It’s impossible that the feminist agenda can ever be the total explanation for human life.  Our problem now is that this monomania….sees everything through the lens of race, gender, or class – this is an absolute madness…gender identity has become really almost fascist.”  I agree.  The days to come, in my opinion, will see an intensification of “the gender wars.”

Remember God, the creator, has the first and final word on gender.  “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.  Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and called them man when they were created” (Genesis 5:2).   Listen to the words of philosopher Peter Kreeft: “The masculine and the feminine are cosmological.  They are not limited to humans, or even just 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.”

So how do men practice this happier philosophy, which our culture has lost?  First, Don’t let the blind rage of the extreme feminist movement and the gender wars blind you to the wonder of God ‘s design  for male and female.  Celebrate your uniqueness as masculine, created in God’s image. Learn from your elders to embrace your authentic masculine energy.  Don’t  apologize or deny who you are.  Secondly, come an honest recognition of your need to receive affirmation of your masculinity, by coming to the Father, through the Son by the Holy Spirit.  Allow yourself to be “drenched” in the love of the Father.  It is vitally important that every male follower of Jesus become secure in his masculine soul.  Thirdly, out of this sense of inner assurance embrace the feminine side of your personality. “A man who is secure in his gender identity will have a healthy masculine gender identity as well as the balance of the complementary feminine.” (Richard Rohr) Without this balance we lose the good of the masculine.  As a result many women have suffered.  Fourthly, learn to live with this balance in your life, while discerning the balance in women as well.   It is dangerous for either a man or woman to be out of balance.

A short testimony –   I have lived with an understanding of this balance in my life for over 25 years.  I have come to a healthy affirmation regarding my masculine side, while also embracing my feminine compliment.  My blend or balance is unique to me as created in the image of God.  I celebrate this uniqueness while rejoicing in how other men are different from me.  It has also helped me understand the healthy feminine, while seeing the distortions of the feminine out of balance in  women.  I close with these words from Leanne Payne who has been such a help to me.  “A culture will never become decadent in the face of a healthy, balanced masculinity.  When a nation or an entire Western culture backslides, it is the masculine which is first to decline.”

American Pie

I have to write a blog about the epic song, “American Pie” which reached the No. 1 spot on the charts back in 1972.  It is in the news recently because the lyrics were sold at auction for $1.2 million.  Don McLean has now begun to explain some of the meaning behind his song.  I was a youth director in a large suburban church in the Twin Cities in 1972.  Like so many others, in those days, I shared my  interpretation to the song as I worked with teenagers, seeking answers to their troubled lives through scripture and a relationship with Jesus,  Those were the days of the “Jesus Movement,” when we had a revival among the youth our Lutheran church

For me the most important lyrics were near the end of the song: “I went down to the sacred store/Where I’d heard the music years before/But the man there said the music wouldn’t play –  And in the streets, the children screamed/The lovers cried and the poets dreamed/But not a word was spoken/The church bells all were broken –  And the three men I admire most/The Father, Son and Holy Ghost/They caught the last train for the coast/the day the music died.”

Men, in my humble opinion these were indeed prophetic words. McLean wants people in 2015 to know that his song was not a “parlor game.”  “Basically in ‘American Pie’ things are heading in the wrong direction,” McLean wants us to know.  “It is becoming less idyllic.  I don’t know whether you consider that wrong or right, but it is a morality song in a sense.”   At almost 70, McLean believes, “There is no poetry and very little romance in anything anymore, so it is really like the last phase of  ‘American Pie,'” which ends with “This’ll be the day that I die.”  I interpret this to mean, a quiet desperation is settling into the  soul of America.

I remember well quoting II Tim 4:3-4 to those kids during our revival time.  I was a young 30 year old pastor in my first church.  I wanted them to be anchored in the word of God not popular culture.  Sadly some of those young people, who were part of the  “Jesus Movement” are no longer following Jesus. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead , to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears wants to hear.”  The Message says, “…people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food – catchy opinions that tickle their fancy.”

It could be some of  men reading this blog were part of the “Jesus Movement” back in the 70’s.  I know the song brings back a lot of memories for me.  I was blessed to be a part of a genuine revival among youth in Edina, Mn.  I will never forget those days of the sovereign move of God’s Spirit.  I also am thankful in retrospect that I believed, taught and pleaded with the kids to stay true to God’s Word.  Over forty years later, I say again, “keep your heart open to Jesus and the truth of his Word. Scripture is your anchor, compass and light during these times.  I often quoted Is 55:11 as a promise to which we can cling. “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  Thank you Jesus, for helping me to cling to your word all these years.  Amen

Closed Doors & The Risen Christ

I am preaching for my pastor next Sunday ( first Sunday after Easter).  The text is  20:19-23.  Working with the text, I sensed I should write a blog about men and our “closed doors.”  Jesus appears to his disciples on the evening of the resurrection.  “The doors (were) locked for fear of the Jewish leaders.”   But in spite of the locked doors, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!'”  The disciples are confused, disappointed, and  fearful that they would be taking away by the Roman authorities. But here Jesus is standing right in their midst.  After showing them his hands and side the disciples were “overjoyed.”  His small band of followers went from being afraid to being overjoyed.  Realizing Jesus was present, the disciples began to change in their attitude.

We all develop “closed doors” to our inner life when we are afraid.  It’s natural to protect ourselves from hurt and misunderstanding, by barricading ourselves in what we imagine to be a “safe and secure” space.  Fear prompt us to behave in way that hinder healthy relationships with God and others.  We form restrictive boundaries as we become more cautious and suspicious.  We limit our interactions by avoidance or compulsion.  Other notice we are more vigilant and guarded.  In the process we become more controlling in our relationships.  Our fear can come from within, rather then from outside circumstances. We don’t realize that Jesus is actually present even behind our “closed doors.”

An observation made by David Benner has been of  great help to me .  “(1)  fear occurs when the human spirit is afraid of itself, (2) fear is often a substitute for guilt, and (3) guilt always results in an inhibition to love.”  I was afraid of myself.  I feared the “anger” in my heart.  My anger self was an enemy because I could not admit the angry stored in my heart.  I inflicted on my family and congregation with a kind of “floating bitterness.  My spiritual friend at the time, asked me how I felt when I was anger.  My immediate response was “guilty.”  He helped reassure me that my anger was a natural response to life.  It was what I did with that anger that mattered. Because I was harboring unresolved anger  I could not believe God loved me. I felt guilty. Therefore, I was on a “treadmill” of trying to win God’s approval, while feeling a guilt deserving of punishment.  What emotions are do you harbor that make you fearful of yourself?

I could accept that I was an “angry” man.  I did not have to pretend to be a synthetic, caring person.  I slowly was able to stop “performing” for the Lord, while becoming more authentic and honest.  The realization that I was afraid of my own emotions, broke a “log-jam” of other hidden emotions that I could not accept.  It was liberating to understand at the heart level, that God loved me in all my vulnerability and shame.  His unconditional love for someone such as me has become the “spiritual mantra” of my journey ever since.

Men, don’t allow yourself to get barricaded  behind closed doors. Like me, when you allow yourself to admit those emotions inside that make you fearful of yourself, you will feel like a child who needing to be held in reassurance and love.  That is exactly what Jesus does for you.  He will receive you in your fearful, wounded, broken condition and bring you to the Father.  There, as a frightened child,  you can rest in the father’s love.  Remember Jesus words, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:4).

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