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: May 2015

Lighting Your Own Fire

In Isaiah 50:10-11 we read,”Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.  But now, all of you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze.  This is what you shall receive from my hand: you will lie down in torment.”  I reference this passage because in the days to come godly men will be found building their own fires, providing them torches, to navigate through the spiritual confusion and uncertainty that is descending on our culture. But it will not be enough.

We are experiencing in our culture not just a moral decline, but what Rod Dreher calls a “cosmological shift.”  – “the idea that people are the sum of their desires and that marriage has no intrinsic purpose or definition – amount to a total shift in the way our culture looks at human persons.”  I do not see the “gay marriage issue” as a hot bottom issue to argue about, but rather see it as part of a culminating slide of our society into moral and spiritual uncertainty.  We have lost the cultural battle. Now we need to “prepare a culture of resistance for the church.” Some call it the beginning of a new “dark age.”  Isaiah 59:10 describes it well. “Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes.  At midnight we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.”

Men will be tempted to build their own fires, by embracing the  familiar and comfortable, especially in times of uncertainty and confusion.  Men will fearfully avoid giving up their ego strength, investing in their particular spiritual improvement projects.  This kind of cultural spirituality will not prevail.  Remember we are moving into a Post-Christian Era in our nation.  Men of God we will have to learn to act and behave differently.  “The Male narrative” in the past (patriarchy) has been that men need to be strong and in control.  But not today.  Generally speaking, men are descending from their privileged position in culture, while women are ascending.

Men, I exhort you not to “build” a fire but rather “tend” the fire that is already within you.  John promised that Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire.  Jesus, “will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.  He’s going to clean house – make a clean sweep of your lives.  He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned” (Luke 3:17-18  – Message).  God’s fire brings a “spiritual house cleaning.” So don’t dampen “the fire of the Spirit” (I Thess. 5:19) but rather “fan into flame the gift of God” (II Tim 1:6). Tend the fire within you and let God do his work.

Here’s some advise on tending the fire.  First and foremost, cultivate the awareness of the presence of the Spirit within you.  Do this by gazing upon the Lord Jesus.  Keep your focus on him.   Second, trust the fire  of the Spirit within you, irregardless of what you experience or your circumstances.  It will not die out. Thirdly, be vigilant with your soul.  Confess and repent of that which would dampen the fire.  Fourthly, commit to walk with other men whose hearts are ignited by the fire. Fifthly, embrace the light given you for each step of the journey. You will be an overcomer, since “God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29).

Footwashing and men

In our men’s Bible study at church we were recently studying the foot washing incident (John 13:1-17) in the life of Jesus with his disciples. Since this was their last night together, Jesus wanted to make a lasting impact on his disciples, so he washes their feet.  He was able to do such a lowly act  because we read  in verses 3-4, “Jesus knew that the Father, had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.”  He was secure in who he was.  Also the implication of verse 1 is that in washing feet he was showing love for his disciples.  Men, the more secure we are in Christ, the more likely we have the heart of a servant.  Servanthood will be the mark of a man of God in the days to come.

Peter strongly objects to having his master do the work of a lowly slave, “You’re not going to wash my feet – ever” (v 8 – Message).  While honoring Jesus, Peter was lacking the humility needed to be a  follower of Jesus. Peter expresses a willfulness found in pride – not being able to receive. Can you imagine how humbling it was for Peter to have the Son of God wash his feet.  How would you have responded? He had to learn to humbly receive from God.  Men, we all have to come to the place where we can humbly receive from God in all of our brokenness. Our effort in trying to make ourselves presentable is to no avail.  It is all grace.  Just sit there and receive like Peter.  It is hard. But it will change you as a man.  It takes a humble spirit to receive God’s unconditional love.

Peter had to learn this lesson before he could lead.  Jesus tells his disciples, “I’ve laid a pattern for you.” (v 14 – Message).  If Jesus, who is their teacher and Lord  washes their feet, then the disciples ought to humbly do the same.  Jesus is helping them see the vital aspect of servanthood; not just in word but also in deed.   Jesus reminds Peter, “A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer.  If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it – and live a blessed life” (v 16-7 – Message).  Later in his First Letter, Peter was probably reflecting on this incident when he tells us, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because ‘God opposes the proud, but give grace to the humble'” ( I Peter 5:5).  Then we are told to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God that we might be lifted up.

Peter was learning what humble submission meant.  It would help him to return to Jesus after his miserable failure in denying his Lord.  I too, fail my Lord.  I have to admit with Paul,”For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing” (Rom 7:19).  I am a spiritual work in progress.  But like Peter I also am learning to trust the love of Jesus for me.  Jesus has not literally washed my feet, but I have learned to receive God’s love for me in all my shame and vulnerability.  Men, my testimony to you is this – real freedom from my sinful self, comes when I learn to humbly submit to Jesus and receive his love for me.

Microaggresion

I was alerted to the word “microaggresion” by Eric Metaxas over at “Breakpoint.”  He writes, “If you’ve never heard the term “mircoaggresion” consider yourself fortunate.  But you’re going to need to be familiar with the concept because it lies at the heart of the explosion of political correctness in the public square.”  In the 70’s the term was used mostly  in race relations.  But now it has cross over into the larger culture, referring to perceived slights by any “socially marginalized group,”  which has grown to include women and sexual minorities as well. Microaggresion is being used to silent Christians in matters of sexual ethics.  Much as been made of New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, who wrote that it is not enough that gays and lesbians are legally protected from actual discrimination, but that we need to eliminate any form of disapproval.

Men, we all need to be fully aware of how rapidly our religious freedom and liberty is be eroded.  The ultimate goal would be to silence the voice of  committed Christians, who believe the very foundations of our culture are at stake, if gay marriage becomes the norm in our nation.  Honest dialogue or descent is being called into question.  I write with a passion to reach younger men.   Your simple witness as a committed husband and father can be a vital witness.  Richard Rohr said it well: “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.”  So, as Charles Colson, so famously asked, “How Shall We Then Live?”

Here are a few suggestions.  First, come to a clear, firm and confident interpretation of Scripture on the “gay” issue.  For me, it starts with Scripture.  I cannot justify the gay lifestyle with Scripture.  So come to your own conviction.  There are a variety of view among Christian folks.  Secondly, do what you need to do, to become secure in your own sexuality.  That might mean a journey inward to receive inner healing for your masculine soul.  Many men cannot think clearly on this issue, while responding in  love towards  opponents because of their own sexual insecurities.  Thirdly, determine in your heart to act lovingly to all who do not agree with you.  There is no greater “black mark” in the gender wars for Christians, then when we act without compassion towards those in the gay lifestyle.

Fourthly, as “the Gender Wars” descend upon us, I beg you, don’t flee into some supposedly safe place, emotionally and spiritually. This will only produce a  man who is passive, silent, and dulled into become a sickly, weak man.  We desperately need examples of  healthy maleness.  What is needed more then ever are men who live ordinary lives with their families, in their community and churches, and at work, modeling the life style of a man who in his heart is both a “lion” and  a “lamb.”  We read in Revelation 5 that John saw Jesus as “lamb, looking as if it has been slain” (6).  He was also told to look at, “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David (who) has triumphed” (5).  What is needed are men who can be both “the lion” and “the lamb.”  This comes as men surrender to the Lordship of Jesus.

One final thought.  We read of the lamb again in  Rev. 12:11, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”  Men let us see ourselves of followers of the lamb, embracing the “crucified life.”

When it’s hard to “Man Up”

“Man up” to me means taking responsibility for my actions, words and attitude. But at times I want to run from my responsibility in my most important relationship, that is, with my wife. Recently, I had to admit to myself that I was “pushing my wife away” emotionally.  I did not want to “man up.” I realize that part of  becoming one flesh with my wife, means I carry the awareness of her  in the deepest part of my inner life.  Scripture exhorts husbands, “to love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself” (Eph 6:28).   Since I am an “embodied soul” my wife’s presence resides within me.   But there are times when I want to push her out of that inner space.  Can any men relate to this “pushing away.”  So what did I do?

Well, if I am to love my wife as my own body, I have to admit, embrace and deal with what is going on emotionally regarding my wife. It was harmful. I am reminded, “”No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it” (Eph. 5:29 – Message). My wife is a wonderful helpmate. But there are times I just want to push her away.  I know it is wrong, but I still do it.  Why?  Obviously it is because I am reacting to her. So I had to “man up” and tell my wife what was going on in my heart, in that  inner space where she abides, since we are “one flesh.” Jesus tells me, “they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matt 19:6).  No being honest, while pushing her away puts real strain on that “oneness.”

My pushing her away, confuses my wife.  She wonders what she has done wrong.  “Why is he seem so distant and out of reach.” she wonders .  My withdrawal cause her to act in kind.  Soon there is an emotional gap between us.  A wife can become insecure, causing her to respond inappropriately. The gap grows, becoming deeper and wider, if it is not repaired.  This is when I have to “man up.”  I need to reach out across the gap, by humbling myself and telling my wife what going on in my soul.

I am to love my wife the way Jesus loved the church, Listen to how the Message puts it (Eph 5:25-28). “Husbands, go all out in your love for our wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – a love marked by giving, not getting.  Christ’s love makes the church whole.  His words evoke her beauty.  Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk radiant with holiness.  And that is how husbands ought to love their wives.  They’re really doing themselves a favor – since they’re already ‘one’ in marriage.”  Wow!  These words are convicting to me.  Words like “go all out” and “giving.”  My words should invoke the beauty I see in my wife.  This includes more than physical beauty.  All I do and say should be done with the intent of bringing the best out of my wife.  My love is meant to promote wholeness and holiness in “my bride.”

This is a tall order that husbands can never fullfill.  It is meant to keep us humble and totally dependent on the Lord. Remember  we do ourselves a favor in loving our wives since we are “one” in marriage.  We are told, “Husbands provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing” (Eph 5:27 – Message).  I am learning to “cherish” my wife, by caring for her.

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