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: June 2015

Dads and Chivalry

Dads recently celebrated Father’s Day.  Father’s Day,however,  has lost some of its punch because culture is unsure about “manliness.”  It’s tough being a dad when our manhood is under attack.   Jonathan Last in an article about fatherhood, observed, “….fatherhood is the wellspring of a quality critically important to our culture: manliness”.   One characteristic that unifies the various expressions of manliness is “chivalry,” seen as an act of sacrifice against one’s interest, even risking life itself.  Last suggests, “that manliness is chivalry, and chivalry is the impulse to seek honor by protecting the weak and the innocent.  What you have described is the essence of fatherhood. …Fatherhood isn’t just manliness.  It’s the purest form of the good side of manliness.” I agree!

Fatherhood has suffered because of the poor modeling of manliness in our culture.  Dads living chivalrously can help restore a positive image of manliness.  Dad, you can be a hero. When I was raising three children I thought of my role as being committed and responsible before the Lord, not necessarily chivalrous. The words  of Malachi 4:5-6 were always motivation for me.  “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.  He will turn to hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”  Turning our hearts to our children, giving them our full attention is chivalrous.  Here’s some suggestions in living out chivalry with your kids.

First, Dad is a servant to his family.  Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” (Mark 10:44).  This means that our interest, desires and preferences are secondary to our wife and children.  It was difficult for me at times to surrender my ego needs for the sake of my family.  Manly chivalry is displayed when we sacrifice for our family.

Secondly, Dad is the leader of the family.  He leads his family by example; he initiates.  He is not silent or passive.  Our wives and children appreciate a consistent, faithful walk with the Lord, through the good and bad times.  Dad is practicing chivalry when he is willing to stand up for what is right and points the way consistently by his example.   He sets the spiritual tone for the family by his presence.  When I was not always consistent or present,  I would have to humble myself before my family, admitting that I was being a poor example.

Thirdly, Dad is the protector of his family.  We hear little about spiritually protecting our children.  Men, I can’t tell you how important your heart-felt prayer for your family are in the spiritual realm.  Your family is under attack.  Your prayers are vital for building the walls of spiritual protection for your family.  Picture ministering angels fighting for your family.   Don’t give up crying out to God.  Ask for discernment on how to fight spiritually for your family.

Fourthly Dad is the priest of his family.  Men, let my say with great conviction – “no one can take your place as father”.  Your children have only one father – YOU.  “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them.  Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master” (Eph 6:4 – Message).  Your family is a “domestic” church.  You are ordained as priest.  What you model in word and deed has lasting impact on your kids.  Please take this to heart.  God will bless your “leaning” into this role.

Fixing a Broken Heart

Judy and I recently attended a memorial service for “Skee” (Lloyd) Green.  He had been married to Judy’s cousin, Nancy. Skee became active when I became pastor of Bethany Lutheran in Remer, Mn.  He was then in his early 70’s and had not been active in a church.  He started attending every Sunday and came to know the Lord.  He was one of my biggest encouragements.  It was a joy to watch Skee grow in his relationship with Jesus.  Skee was soft-spoken, but sincere, so I know when he talked of his growing faith in Jesus it was real.

Skee was a fix-it-guy.  People would bring him broken parts from mechanical devices of every sort. His specialty was welding and shaping metal   People thought he could fix almost anything.  But Skee would say the one thing he could not fix, was “a broken heart.”  When I heard of that comment, I know I had to write a blog about the broken hearts of men. Healing of my broken heart has been a significant part of my journey. I have felt a called to be involved in the healing of the hearts of men, because I watched my aging father die of a broken heart.

Men tend to be fixers. But when it comes to matter of the heart, we can not find a fix.  Why?  Jeremiah helps us understand. “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out….[But God] gets to the heart of the human.  I get to the root of things.  I treat them as they really are, and not as they pretend to be.” (Jer. 17:9-10  – Message).  Our sins separate us from God, others and ourselves. This brings real pain.  We can not mend the fragmentation. We pretend to be competent, while living with a broken heart.  We do a lot of pretending to dull the pain.

Only God can fix or  heal a broken heart.  The Psalmist tells us, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps.34:18).  “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps 147:3). What God looks for is the surrender or the sacrifice of a broken heart. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps 51:17).  We sacrifice by giving God all the broken pieces of our heart.  We trust him to put it back together.  Our heart is his to heal.

In fixing a broken heart we, of course, have to see the problem . It will be painful, but we have to face the reality of our brokenness.   The Psalmist talks of “groaning all day long.”  But then he could say, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ – and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Ps 32:5).  He depended on God’s mercy. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice.  Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy” (Ps 130:1-2).

So open your heart to the Lord.  Be honest as the Psalmist. “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in you sight” (Ps 51:3-4).   He was open about his pain. “So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within my is dismayed” (Ps. 143:4).  I have found the Jesus Prayer, based on Mark 10:47 to be helpful in my walk with the Lord – “Jesus, Son of God, be merciful to me a sinner.”  It is a daily and continual prayer on my journey.

The Fellowship of “The Crooked Timber”

David Brooks, the New York Times writer (yes, the Times), describes his spiritual journey in his new book, “The Road to Character.”  He wrote “to save my own soul,” realizing at midlife that he’d spent too much time cultivating what he called “the resume virtues”- impressive accomplishments – and too little on “the eulogy virtues”-  character strengths. He points out how careers leave many inarticulate in cultivating the inner life, leaving the deepest parts of ourselves unexplored and unstructured because we have lost our moral vocabulary.  It is easy for  us to slip into “a self-satisfied moral mediocrity.” Brooks talks about sin as the tendency to “get our loves out of order.”  He is really articulating aspects of the “wild man journey.”   To put it bluntly – we need to be “soulful men,”  living in a spiritual wasteland.

I profited much from  his discussion of “the Crooked Timber” tradition, which emphasizes our brokenness, with its awareness of and the confrontation with sin. “It was a tradition,” writes Brooks, “that demanded humility in the face of our own limitations….a tradition that held that each of us had the power to confront our own weaknesses, tackle our own sins, and that in the course of this confrontation with ourselves we build character.”  “No external conflict is as consequential,” observes Brooks, “as the inner campaign against our deficiencies.”  In other words, we are in a fight for our souls.

I’m quoting Brooks a lot; but it is good stuff.  Here is more from Brooks. “You have to surrender to something outside yourself to gain strength within yourself.  You have to conquer your desire to get what you crave.  Success leads to the greater failure, which is pride.  Failure leads to the greater success, which is humility and learning.  In order to fulfill yourself, you have to forget yourself.  In order to find yourself, you have to lose yourself.”  Brooks sounds like a spiritual director.

Now hear what  Jesus had to say  (Matt. 16:24-26  The Message).  “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead.  You’re not in the driver’s seat, I am.  Don’t run from suffering; embrace it.  Follow me and I’ll show you how.  Self-help is no help at all.  Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to find yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose your self?  What could you ever trade our soul for?”  The key to Brooks’ advice is to get out of the driver’s seat and surrender to Jesus.

Men,  join me in the fellowship of “The Crooked Timber.”  Any expression of “a self-satisfied moral mediocrity” will not stand the anti-Christian headwinds that are coming. “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made (Kant).”  In this fellowship we will fight for the souls of our brothers.   Paul said, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature…what a wretched man I am.  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Rom 7:18 & 24).  But then he could say, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom 7:25).

Brooks touches a real nerve in many of us.  We need to daily face our flawed, broken lives.  Jesus tells us, “Do you want to stand out?  Then step down.  Be a servant.  If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked  out of you.  But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty” (Matt 23:11-12 – Message).  Men who are part of “the Crooked Timber” fellowship are like AA guys – in their brokenness they know they need God.

The Collapse of Whitewashed Walls

Russell Moore suggests that we consider America not in a “Post-Christian” era, but rather as having been a “Pre-Christian” nation all along.  That thought might surprise some of you men. He refers to Soren Kierkegaard’s observation  that a nominal, civil form of Christianity is the greatest apostasy, in which pagans live thinking they are Christian.  He called this cultural expression – “Christiandom.”  Kierkegaard argued that the illusion that we are Christians in a Christian nation can be so persistent that, “it looks indeed as if introducing Christianity amounts to taking Christianity away.”  But this is what must happen for the illusion to be debunked.

Ezekiel prophesied about whitewashed walls falling. “I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundations will be laid bare” (Ezk 13:14).  Could the whitewashed wall of “Christiandom” be falling?  Isaiah prophesied a sudden collapse of the walls. “Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant” (Is.30:12).  Could it be that we will see a collapse of “Christiandom,” during which true Christianity will thrive under persecution. “The Book of Acts,” notes Moore, “like the Gospels before it, shows us that Christianity thrives when it is, as Kierkegaard put it, a sign of contradiction.”

I write today to warn men of the collapse of nominal civil religion (Christiandom). The latest Pew survey makes this clear. The days of easy believism are over. Yes, we are going to have to resist the cultural headwinds in the days to come.  But my concern for myself and men who are committed to Jesus is that we do not become rigid, unloving and inflexible in our disposition.  Peter writing to Christian exiles exhorting them to, “be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble” (I Peter 3:8).  Later he reminds them, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect” (I Peter 3:15).  It is how we resist that is vital.

Willpower, determination and effort alone will not help us confront the  Christ-denying, cultural headwinds that are coming.  Willfulness is a focus on how we are doing, not what God is doing through us.  It breeds a grasping, clutching spirit, making us rigid and intolerant.  We will be more against then for. There is little evidence of compassion and love.  Let me stress this point – what will be needed are hearts that have been softened by  surrendering to the love of God.  I pray that God will raise up a whole new generation of men, who have meet God in vulnerability and surrender, thus having hearts softened by the love of God.  These will be men who are both “tough and tender,” having strength to stand, but also  able to act with humility and compassion.

Jesus is our example.  He was both compassionate and yet strong in opposing, especially  the “religious spirit” of his day.  Open your heart to Jesus and keep your spiritual gaze on him.  Learn from Jesus how to live freely and lightly.  “Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” ( Matt 11:28-9 – Message)

Boy Scouts and Water Guns

Did you know that the list of approved activities for the Boy Scouts of America makes it clear that water gun fights are not allowed because “pointing a firearm” at someone – even a “simulated” firearm is not “kind.” The BSA shooting manual clarifies, “For water balloons, use small, biodegradable balloons and fill them no larger than a ping pong ball … water guns and rubber guns must only be used to shoot at targets, and eye protection must be worn”.   By these standards, I have to confess that I must be guilty of misbehaving, because I have had both water gun fights and water balloon fights (with much larger balloons) with two of my grandsons.  But I must also admit that we had great fun!

For me, this BSA policy is example of the feminizing of the male culture. Christina Goff-Sommers in her 2001 book The War Against Boys argues that our public schools are organized to obliterate all that is masculine and establish femininity as the norm.  Boys are a “frowned-upon presence” in schools that have forgotten a simple truth: “the energy, competitiveness, and corporal daring of normal, decent males is responsible for much of what is right in the world.”  Yes, boys need guidance in their testosterone-driven activity, but they need the freedom to be boys.  Sommers observes that boys are “routinely regarded as protosexists, potential harassers and perpetrators of gender inequity, boys live under a cloud of censure.”  Young boys are being taught to disrespect masculinity and suppress it in themselves.  Today is not a good day to be a boy in America.

I, for one, grieve this. I agree that boys need to be taught the more feminine traits of kindness, sensitivity, gentleness and nurture, but they also need to learn to express genuine male instincts in a constructive manner so that they can grow to be both sensitive and strong in their God-given male energy. This is a task primarily for fathers, grandfathers, and other male models.  Personally, I have traveled down a long, winding road in a sincere attempt to integrate my masculine soul with the complementary balance of the feminine.   I am still a “broken” man seeking further healing for my soul in a culture that offers little support.  So, I have committed the last  part of my journey here below to help younger men find, nurture, and live out of their true masculine soul.

As I write this I weep, knowing the many struggles men face in our culture.  As I grew up, I had an absentee father and a dominating mother as my role models.  I had very little nurture in the ways of God as a teenager. As a feeling, intuitive young man, I always felt like a square peg that could never fit into the round masculine hole.  I have battled with deep insecurities, doubts, failures, and disappointments.  Today as I look back at how God has integrated my masculine soul, I am full of praise and thanksgiving for his grace and mercy to me.

My advice for nurturing your male soul:  First, reject the false narrative of our culture regarding maleness, and embrace your unique masculinity as a man created in the image of God. Second, study, reflect on, and incorporate the character of Jesus as your model for maleness. Third, allow Scripture to form your worldview. I must warn you again, the gender wars will intensify. Fourth, open your soul to receive healing for your wounds, especially the father wounds. Fifth, find and relate to men of godly character.  Breathe in their life.  And meet regularly with a male spiritual mentor.

© 2024 Canaan's Rest

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑