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: July 2015

The Twins Are Back

I am proudly wearing my Twins Cap again.  Our beloved Twins, after some bad years, at the writing of this blog have the third best record in the AL.  The new manager Paul Molitor has something to do with our resurgence.  A Twin Cities sport writer recently wrote, “Paul Molitor is a baseball Hall of Famer whose managerial style is defined by ‘humility'”.  Molitor says of himself, “I’ve made many mistakes along the way that I hope, with the things I’ve gone through, I can communicate those to people to help them just become better.”  He sees leadership as trying to help his players with  their skills and become better persons.  He seems to have everyone believing in themselves and each other.  That’s a definition of a team.

Molitor is an example of what humility can accomplish in relationships, even among “pampered” young millionaires.   Every man is a manger or coach to some degree because of his relationships.  Humility is a vital ingredient in these relationships.  In the moral ecology of our day, humility among leaders is in short supply.  “Over the past several decades we have built a moral ecology around the Big Me” (David Brooks).  Genuine humility is more “other” centered then “self” centered.  “In humility values others above yourselves, not looking to your own interest but each of you to the interest of the others” (Phil 2:3-4).  Others become more important than ourselves.

Men, those around you – your family, co-workers and friends know when you are interest in wanting the very best for them.  You can’t do it without humility. So what can we learn from Paul Molitor.  I see three ingredients in his comments that can be helpful for us as we “manage” our relationships.  First of all, the manager saw himself as a “flawed” man.  Having an accurate assessment of yourself makes a man secure in the presence of others.  Knowing and acknowledging your “flaws” makes you believable.   You can be open, vulnerable and present to others when you are not protecting  your secret “flaws.” Especially,teach your children,  out of your vulnerability.

Secondly, Molitor wants to pass on what he has learned through his mistakes.  Not only should we acknowledge our flaws, but also use them as visuals in telling your story.  Each of us has a story, that can breath life into others.  Don’t hide your story from others.  It is out of your weakness that your real strength is displayed before others.  Learn to boast of your weaknesses not your strengths.   Paul said, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (II Cor 11:30).  He believed his weaknesses showed God’s power. “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (II Cor 12:9). Men, vulnerability makes you believable

Thirdly,  the manager of the Twins sees his leadership not only as  helping players with their skills but also in wanted to make them better persons. Those around you, and especially those who you are responsible for, need you support and encouragement.  I assume most of the men who read this blog, are middle-aged.  You are at the point in your careers when it is time to give back.  You have climbed the tower and had some success.  But your achievements are not only about you.  Who are the persons, with whom you are to pass on what has been imparted to you.   Who has God put in your life to invest in, so that they might become a better persons.

The Old Mold is broken

In a recent online survey conducted by Hart Research Associates and covered in the Wall Street Journal, 44 percent of American men said they are finding it “harder to be a man today compared with their father’s generation.”  The most common explanation pointed to the rise of women: “Women attaining a stronger position in the workplace, a stronger position financially, and greater gender equity.”  Nearly a third conceded that as women take greater responsibility outside the home the confidence of American men is eroding.  “While the old mold in male-female relationships has been broken” observes Jeff Horwitt, “it’s clear that the new shape has yet to be set.”

Many of the advances of women has been necessary and favorable in complementing the genders.   The extreme feminist movement is another issue. My concern, however, is how Christian men respond to the new reality.  What will the “new shape” be like? My generation  lived comfortably, with minimal challenges to a patriarchy which privileged men, assuming male authority over women. while expecting their submission.  But not today.  For better or worse, Christian men are being forced to grapple with  their gender identity.  It no longer can be just assumed. It will be a continuing issue when, for example, Facebook provides more than 50 choices for gender identification.  This will only make it more confusing and contentious.

So here is some advise from someone who has struggled with his gender identity as a man.  I have had to repent and change many of my attitudes and behavior towards women. This began in my early 30’s and continues to this day.  Just ask my wife. First and foremost, settle in your heart that your identity as a man is found in God, not how others see you or how you see yourself.  Your personhood is not your creation but a gift granted to you by your heavenly father.  “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).  Let Jesus be the key to your true identity as a man.  Give him all of your broken heart.  “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3). Secure maleness begins with a healed heart.

Secondly, work out your lifestyle in relation to the contemporary gender roles. Richard Rohr give this warning. “Men’s liberation is….more difficult than women’s liberation.  Women know that they are oppressed and that in itself is the beginning of liberation.” But men have neglect to see their need for liberation from old patterns and habits.  Learn to  celebrate and rejoice in your identity as a man, while being accepting and affirming of women.  There is a complimentary, balanced way of relating to the feminine for each of us.

Thirdly, be intentional about learning the shape of your masculine soul.  For example  I am not as practical and rational. I am more feeling and intuitive then a lot of guys.  I have felt like a “misfit” in the male culture.  But over the years I have come to peace with who I am as man.  I celebrate my strengths, and have worked hard on  my “inferiors.”  “Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Rom 12:3).

One final thought.  Often these blogs are too short to explain what is on my heart.  My three points might not give much clarity.  But if you keep reading or look back at previous blogs, you will sense my passion for helping men to live out of their true masculine soul, while  discovering and embracing the feminine which bring balance to our masculinity.  The masculine out of balance has been the source of much pain in relationships for many years.

Coming Home

In the beginning of his book entitled “Coming Home” (1993), Richard Foster wrote, “Today the heart of God is an open wound of love.  He aches over our distance and preoccupation.  He mourns that we do not draw near to him.  He grieves that we have forgotten him.  He weeps over our obsession with muchness and manyness.  He longs for our presence.  And he is inviting you – and me – to come home, to come home to where we belong, to come home to that for which we were created.”

Men, in the “encroaching darkness” descending on our nation, Jesus is calling us home.  “At that time I will bring you home” (Zeph. 3:20). Our  journey home will be one of walking in the light as we keep our gaze on Jesus. Isaiah exhorts us to “walk in the light of the Lord” (Is 2:5).  Take comfort in God’s promise as we walk in the darkness.  “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth”  (Is. 42:16).  God will not fail us. “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light” (Ps 18:28).  From experience, David could  declare, “even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you” (Ps 139:12).  God is in control of both the light and the darkness. “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things” (Is. 45:7).

We all can get caught in the encroaching darkness. “We long for light but sink into darkness, long for brightness, but stumble through the night.  Like the blind, we inch along a wall, groping eyeless in the dark.  We shuffle our way in broad daylight, like the dead, but somehow walking” (Is. 59:9-10).  But gazing upon Jesus helps us focus on the “inner light”, since the light shines in our hearts. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (II Cor. 4:6).

So men, I encourage you in the spiritual posture of always coming home, by keeping your gaze on Jesus, the light. “You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer.  You’re out in the open now.  The bright light of Christ makes your way plain.  So no more stumbling around.  Get on with it!  The good, the right, the true – these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours.  Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it” (Eph. 5: 8-10).  Jesus reminds us that he is the light of the world.  “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Here are a few simple suggestions about coming home to the light.  First, don’t fear the darkness, no matter what.  The light of Jesus is greater.  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5). Secondly, enhance the light by meditating on Scripture.  “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Ps. 119:105)  Thirdly, spend time in quiet gazing upon Jesus, the light. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (Ps 105:4).  Fourthly, make confession of the darkness in your life. “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth” (I John 1:8).

Learning to Lament

I agree with the following comments regarding the recent decision of the Supreme Court to declare same-sex as a constitutional right. ” [It]will have wide-ranging and perilous consequences for the stability of families and for freedom of religion” (Russell Moore).  We are being asked to “walk away from millennia of history and the reality of human nature” (Tony Perkins).  Scripture warns us about losing touch with realiity.  “And so I insist – and God backs me up on this – that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd.  They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore.  Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion” (Eph. 4:17-19).  This is what is happening in America!

So what can a man do?  Let me suggest the prayers of lament or complaint. As I to grapple with the rapidly changing moral climate in culture, I need a means to deal with my frustration that can boil over into anger. The Psalms give me the language of lament.  More then half of the psalms are laments.  “The lament psalms teach us to pray our inner conflicts and contradictions….they give us permission to shake our fist at God one moment and break into doxology  the next” (Foster). One of my favorites is Ps. 13.  It begins with, “How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?”  It ends with. “I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me”. (Other favorites – Ps. 5, 25, 35, 41, 56,  141 and 143)

Here are four way these Psalms can help you.  First, they help you handle your emotion baggage.  God know better then you, what is going on in your soul. So get it up and out.  Don’t let negative emotions take away your peace and confidence during the coming darkness.  The Spirit helps with our inner struggles.  “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Rom 8:26).   Men, God can handle your frustrations, anger, and disappointment.  Get it out through lament.

Secondly, getting your emotions out by means of the Psalms of lament, enables you to sort out those emotions with language borrowed from the Psalmist.   I want to warn you that in the days to come  men will face a very a strong headwind of  anti-Christian bias, that will test our endurance and character.  Jesus warned us, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:12-13).  You will be tested not only mentally but also emotionally.

Thirdly, having identified your emotions in the psalms,  you can pray the Psalm back to God as a prayer.  For example, you can rest in the Lord, knowing that he will content for me. “Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.  Take up shield and armor; arise and come to my aid” (Ps 35:1-2).  What relief –  God will fight on your behalf against all odds.

Fourthly, and most importantly, you can close on a positive note rather then complaint.  “For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life” (Ps.56:13).  I don’t know about you, but I need this promise.  In the midst of the encroaching darkness, I am able to walk in “light of life.”

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