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: August 2015

A Holy Longing

In the late 80’s many of you remember Bono of U2 singing with passion, “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” He called it, “a gospel song for the restless spirit.”  Back then I was in my late 40’s, going through a significant spiritual shift in my soul  life.  It was both renewing and unsettling.  I didn’t realize that at the time, but intuitively  I was breaking out of my “evangelical-charismatic box” so as to incorporate the “contemplative” dimension into my journey with Jesus.  Dr. James Houston, in his book “Heart’s Desire” expressed in one sentence what I was struggling to understand.  “The unsatisfied longing for God is what drives human being above all else.”

He quoted Augustine: “Longing is the heart’s treasury.  The whole life of the good Christian is a holy longing.  What you desire ardently, as yet you do not see…. God extends the longing; through longing he extends the soul, by extending it he makes room in it….So….let us long because we are to be filled…that is our life, to be exercised by longing.”  The Psalmist expressed his longing for God when he prayed, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Ps. 63:1-2).

Men, it took me a long time to acknowledge the fire of desire and longing in my soul.  Christopher West in a book entitled “Fill These Hearts” writes,  “Despite all the widespread impressions to the contrary, we must impress the truth upon our souls and allow it to settle in our bones: Christianity is the religion of desire….”  I am more convinced then ever that it is not will power, right thinking, or correct behavior that will capture the hearts of men.  It’s acknowledging, embracing, tasting, and living out of our desire for God.  After all, God put that desire there, so that we might long for fellowship with him.

Our desires, of course,  can be disordered. But beyond the distortion is a true passion for God.  We need men with fire, not men who smolder.  A strong, objective framework built on scripture, along with good orthodox teaching handed down over the years will guide and lead us.  But we have an unattended “a fire in our belly”  that needs our attention.  G. K. Chesterton observed: “And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.”  Remember John said Jesus would baptize, “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt. 3:11). Men, what will you do about your fire?

Over the years I have come into a “spacious place” (Ps 18:18) regarding to my own longing and desire for God.  I am more willing to “taste” this longing, without being fearful  of the energy and mystery of this movement in my soul. I am still learning to integrate this spiritual energy with the sexual energy I know resides within my soul.  I now know that I will never be filled, but that the longing for God will continue to be a driving force in my life.  It brings freedom and spiritual energy for the journey.

So men, my advice is to ease up on your intellectual and habitual controls, while allowing yourself to “taste” your inner longing for God.  Trust that your deepest longings are from Him.  Allow yourself to pray as the Psalmist, “All my longings lie open before you,  Lord: my sighing is not hidden from you.  My heart pound for you” (Ps. 38:9-10).

Babysitter or Father

I have recently been reading a New Testament translation by a leading New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright.  I Cor. 4:15 reads as follows, “You’ve got a thousand babysitters in Christ, I know, but you haven’t got many fathers – because I became your father in the Messiah, Jesus, through the gospel.”  When I read those words, I knew I had to write a blog for men. The word “babysitter” grabbed my attention. Earlier in I Cor 3: 1 Paul made  reference to some in the Corinthian church,  “…I couldn’t speak to you as spiritual people, but as people who were all too obviously merely human, like babies in the Messiah.”  Paul goes on the say , “I fed you with milk, not solid food, because your weren’t able to take it – and you still can’t, even now!” (I Cor 3:2)   Obviously Paul was working with some immature believers.

Men, if we are honest there are times when we prefer a babysitter to be with us on our  journey.  We don’t want solid spiritual  food offered by another mature believer.  When have you preferred a spiritual babysitter?  You want a baby sitter first of all, when you don’t want to be responsible for your behavior.  We look to an adult to sympathize with us when we are justifying our childish behavior. This leads to a second response.  We want someone to enter into our pouting.  We feel sorry for ourselves and look to others to join our “pity party.”  We’re wanting empathy for our childish behavior. Mind you, it is subtle, but it is childish.  We can make it seem so spiritual.

Thirdly, we have a preference  for a babysitter when we don’t want to face reality. We simply want someone to agree with our  immature behavior and attitude, even while we pose as a spiritual guy.  We are afraid or ashamed to face the reality of our  fallen nature.  Fourthly, we wish adults around us would just give us some easy answers to the issues of life.  We resist doing the difficult inner work of facing our”ingrained habits of sin” (Foster).   One more – we want someone to make us feel good.  We have worked  so hard at being good.  We need affirmation for our”dysfunctional” behavior as a man of God.

Men, these are some of the reasons why I look for a babysitter.  How about you?  It will vary due to personality, background and life story.  We all need spiritual fathers in the faith.  Who has been a father for you?  It could be for a short time, during a critical period of your journey or someone who has traveled with you for a long time.  Spiritual fathers are mature, caring men who have been on the journey longer then you, whom you allow to speak into your life.  A spiritual father, first of all, will know how to give affirmation,  encouraging you, while giving you honest feed back. He will know when to be “soft” and when to be “hard.”  He will  secondly, be in your life to bring needed correction. He will be used to lovingly point out your “flaws.”

Thirdly, he will act as your confessor and stand with you when the times are tough. He will love you at your worst while hearing you confess your “spiritual junk.”  Fourthly, he will defend you and speak well of you when you feel the most vulnerable and broken.  That kind of spiritual father is rare, but will be much need in the days to come. Finally, a spiritual father, will help fill “the hole” in your male soul.  Only a spiritual father can do this for a younger man.  Rohr calls them “male mothers.”

Men’s Emotions and Church

Randy Stinson, executive director of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has observed, “The current feminization of Christianity reflects a larger trend in pop culture where women are pushed to be more masculine and men are pushed to be more feminine.”  He lamented that men are being  marginalized,  becoming passive,while being pushed to the side.  “Men,” he contends, “should not be made to feel that having a relationship with Christ mean that you have to check your masculinity at the door.”  Stinson maintains, “Men generally do not verbalize all their feelings….Men do relate differently, but they shouldn’t have to change all that in order to be a success in the local church.”

I take exception to his last comments.  While I agree with the notion of feminization being a problem in the church (I have written about this issue), I firmly believe that the church needs to be a place where men can explore their emotion life. “Men need to rediscover and accept, not deny and repress, their own range of feelings.” (Rohr)  The church should be in the forefront in helping with emotional intelligence, being a safe place for men to gain a healthy view of a  “male mode of feeling.”

Men are fragmented, confused, and even frightened by their emotions.  This is a reality that needs to be embraced, not brushed aside as feminine or the evidence of weakness.  Men have for too long been taught to be detached from their emotions. The testimony of Scripture is that we are “embodied souls,” every bit an emotional being as women. Just read the Psalms with an open heart.  For example – “All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you” (Ps. 38:9).

What is needed are churches in which the male leadership, lives out a life that demonstrated an integration of heart and mind.  But in so many cases those in leadership have never done their own”inner work.”  The emotional life is held in suspect as a dangerous place to visit.  This is a false narrative that has caused many men to leave the church because they receive little help in the integration of their emotional life with every day relationships, especially at home.

It is far to easy for men to hide behind the stereotype of having to control of their emotions.  That is exactly the problem.  Many men dutifully come to church full of emotions that they have tried for years to hide. The church has not been seen as a place where men can  gather to talk about and process their emotional life.  The evangelical church, far to often, has taught men to stay in their heads, thinking about God, while trying to be “good.”

I realize that some of my readers will not appreciate my  commentary on men’s emotions and the church. But I contend that there are men who are tired of playing the game of “having it all” together.  They are ready for the inner journey that is so vital for Christian maturity. Men, we have to do this deep and painful work of cleansing our souls, without the nurture of our wives.  This is a man thing.  We have to do it for ourselves, so that we can be secure in our maleness, allowing ourselves to be there for our wives and children.  I exhort you not to look to your wife for  your healing.  This needs to come from a “band of brothers” who will fight for each other’s soul.  I strongly encourage you to find a few guys who will join you on this journey.

The Arrows & Wounded Warriors

As biblical Christians we are being told that we have lost the “cultural war.”  This will continue to be debated for some time. One certainty, however, is that we will see more “wounded warriors” in the days to come. As good soldiers, following Jesus, we will suffer.  “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a solider gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer” (II Tim.2:3-4).  What will this suffering look like?  How will we respond to adversity?  How are we to “fight the good fight of the faith?” (I Tim.6:12)  We are told to take our stand. “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand” (Eph. 6:13). Since the days are becoming more evil, what will our stand imply.  Here are some are a few considerations on being wounded.

First, establish your calling as a warrior.  Paul reminded young Timothy of his calling. “The prophetic word that was directed to you prepared us for this.  All those prayers are coming together now so you will do this well, fearless in your struggle, keeping a firm grip on your faith and on yourself.  After all, this is a fight we’re in” (I Tim 1:18 – Message).  I believe many men reading this blog will receive a prophetic call to be a warrior.  Your time has come. You are being called to stand.  The call will be different for every man.  My exhortation is to be obedient to this call.  You have been prepared to stand in your present life circumstance.  God will lead you to other warriors.  They will be unmistakable in their resolve to be faithful to their “commanding officer.”

Secondly expect to take some arrows.  “Look, the wicked bend their bows, they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart” (Ps. 11:2).  The warfare will be deceptive but intense.  Be ready for the arrows.  “Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from that noisy crowd of evildoers.  They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their words like deadly arrows. They shoot from ambush at the innocent man; they shoot at him suddenly, without fear” (Ps 64:2-4).  I call this being “broad-sided.”  Elsewhere the Psalmist said he will not fear, “the arrow that flies by day” (Ps 91: 5). Are you ready to  take the arrows?  Jesus said we are blessed when the arrows come. “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man” (Matt. 5:22).

Thirdly, prepare yourself for having a wounded heart.  I am not talking about physical wounds, although that might be true for some  warriors in the days to come.  Rather, I am referring to the pain of betrayal, disappointment, slander, and rejection that will come from some who are close to you.  Jesus warned of this. “You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put you some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me” (Luke 21:16-17).

Fourthly, find healing for your heart, by doing your inner soul work.  Be honest, open and transparent about your inner wounds.  Ps 51 helps us greatly in this process.  David was honest, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight'” (Ps 51:4).  Find another brother to pray about your healing, and then go an help another “wounded warrior.”  There will be many needing your help.

The Pope and Burger King

On Pope Francis’ recent trip to South America he made a visit to Bolivia. While there he used a Burger King as a sacristy and a location to store the chair he sat on during the mass, along with other items used during the Mass.  His attendants asked for Burger King’s help because  it was an appropriate place near the site of the open door Mass and it had closed for the event.   Afterwords, Burger King put out a facebook post which read, “Welcome Pope Francis, thank you for choosing the restaurant BK Cristo as your sacristy.  Burger King receives you with open arms.”  Another post had a picture of the Pope beneath the Burger King logo with these words, “There are visits that don’t just bring joy to your spirit but also feed it”

I see this story of the Burger King as a parable to help “church people” think outside our “church box.”   Pope Francis has gained many admirers in the Protestant church,while he has confounded members of his own church.  But one thing is unmistakable; he has brought media attention to his views and agenda.  It should not be surprising that the Pope broke “out of the box” and was found using the BK before his Mass.  So here are three learnings from the Pope’s use of the BK

First, the BK was used as his Sacristy.  A Sacristy in special room set aside for the priest to prepare for Mass. The Pope saw the BK as a sacristy for his use before his outdoor Mass.  He  acted outside “the religious box.” The more comfortable you are in your walk with Jesus the more seamless it will become, enabling you to be outside the religious box of performance and posturing.   Paul said of himself, “Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized – whoever.  I didn’t take on their way of life.  I kept my bearing in Christ” (I Cor 9:19-22 – Message)

Secondly, the Pope being photographed under the logo of a BK, was for  some religious folks almost sacrilegious.  But not for the Pope.  He was free enough in his spirit to be seen dressed in his liturgical  robes under the familiar sign of a BK.  Are we free to let our light shine wherever we are.  Or do we restrict our witness in public.   Jesus tells us, “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God colors in the world.  God is not a secret to be kept.  We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.  If I make you a light-bearer, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you?  I’m putting you on a light stand.  Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine! (Matt 5:14-15 – Message)

Thirdly, can a BK freely feed the spirit.  Of course not!  This is an example of wishful thinking, hoping that some of the Pope’s spiritual influence can be used to promote business at BK.  A visit to BK might bring joy, but it will not likely feed our spirit.  But the point is – the Pope’s visit got folks at the BK and other pilgrims to think in religious terms about the condition of their soul. “Be gracious in your speech.  The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out” (Col 4:6 – Message).

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