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: December 2015

Spiritual Bypassing

I spent years practicing what one spiritual writer called “spiritual bypassing.” In looking for a quick spiritual fix, I would  bypass or simply ignore want was going on in my soul.  I lived on the surface, in my head,  dependent on my thoughts and feelings, while dealing superficial with what was going on at the center.  My walk with God was not based on reality  but rather my image of a spiritual man.  I was trying to be good, while on the inside I was living like a “brute” spiritually.  “When my heart was grieved, and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a brute before you” (Ps 73:21-22).  I lived in spiritual flight from my weaknesses, shame and sin.

It is natural to want to stay on the surface. We are familiar with our own thoughts and experience.  They give us some  control and understanding of our journey.  Richard Rohr observes that men, “move comfortably in the outer world of things with their heads, which is used as their control tower.” This is only an illusion of the real. Only God who sees things as they really are can show us true reality.  Paul reminds us that, “the reality…is found in Christ” (Col 2:17), not our projections.  A vital transition on the spiritual journey is the transition men make  when they begin to define themselves from the center rather then the circumference, or the surface of things.    Men can get trapped in the comfort zone of their small egos, thinking they understand objective reality.

The Desert Fathers, who gave us such vivid descriptions of the life of the  soul, insisted that before we can ascend to God, we must first descend into our souls, that is  our real life.  Saint Anthony said, “The way to ascend to God is to descend into our own reality.”  They saw the story of Jacob’s ladder in Gen 28 as embodying this spiritual truth.  “He [Jacob] had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it” (v 12).  We may  resist the descent for fear of facing our untamed passions and desires.  They can not be harnessed to fit our image of a spiritual man.

I am learning not to resist, but rather descend  into my soul to encounter the good and the bad.  Jesus waits at the center.  The Desert Fathers counsel us to “climb down into our passions.”  They tell us,  “Dive away from sin into yourself and then you will find steps on which you can climb up.”  In other words, you can’t bypass your soul life.  I still have difficulty accepting  that God is closer to me than my own thoughts. His presence is incomprehensible. Incredibly, this also means that if I commit a sin, I sin in God, for He sees and knows all.  That is very freeing and liberating.  For me it has meant that I can accept my sinful behavior, while desiring to be more like Jesus.  I don’t have to hide and live in shame.  I am totally known by God, yet loved unconditionally.

So my advise men – don’t be afraid of the inner journey.  Remember descent comes before ascent.  Jesus tells us, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matt 23:12).  Henri Nouwen  calls this “downward mobility.”  I am learning to taste that the Lord is good, while still dealing with the darkness within.

Don’t be a male victim

Here is an insightful definition of a victim from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.  “Defining yourself as a victim is a denial of what makes us human.  We see ourselves as objects, not subjects.  We become done-to; passive, not active.  Blame bars the path to responsibility. The victim, ascribing his condition to others, locates the cause of his situation outside himself, thus rendering himself incapable of breaking free from his self-created trap.” Men, don’t allow the cultural narrative of maleness as a liability, cause you to doubt the reality of your masculine soul,  rendering  you passive and silent, unable to break free from a “self-created trap.”  Don’t allow the angry feminist voices intimidate you, pushing you into a neutral  corner, feeling unable to act on your god given instincts  as a man.  We need to stand and fight with the weapons of love and humility.  There are too many men suffering in silence.  They need to be rescued one by one.  Here are four  observations.

First,  accept opposition as a normal in our gender confused culture. An anti-male narrative is now the accepted norm.  We accept the challenge of wanting to change the narrative of  men as  stupid, refusing to be a “male victim.”  We lament the fact that a spiritual alive masculine soul is alien in our culture. We humbly acknowledge that men have failed badly in the past, but we refuse to become passive. “Don’t give the opposition a second thought.  Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, our Master.  Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy” ( I Peter 3:1516 – Message).  Take up the mantle of a godly man and get into the fight.   Find other guys who are engaged.

Secondly, join the growing army of men who are coming alive in the Spirit, having tasted the energy and strength of their masculine soul.  Men, God is raising up a new generation of godly men, who are finding healing for their masculine soul in the name of Jesus. “Deep longings lie dormant in the unawakened soul,” observes Larry Crabb. “Souls stay asleep in order to avoid feeling pain and facing failure.  But an alive and sustaining sense of purpose that survives the inevitable disappointments and tragedies of life is available to every person who wakes up to discover his or her gendered center.”  This army of men refuses to allow themselves to be defined by the feminist narrative.

Thirdly, this new army of men refuse to be intimated. They are willing to take responsibility for  not only their failures, but the failure of the past generation. Women have done their soul work, more faithfully  then men.  They have been liberated in some positive ways.  Men today are being forced to ask questions that are new in their relationship to women, acknowledging the need for a new accommodation between men and women in our culture.  In this new realignment of roles, responsibilities and even identity, men need to be humble and open minded.  But we will not become victims. With the masculine energy that is released through surrender and obedience to the Lord Jesus, men are willing to risk misunderstanding and rejection to stand firm in the Lord

Finally, in finding our masculine soul, there is a desire for men today, to be supportive of women in finding their feminine soul.  “The fullness of being human…lies not only in the male or only the female but in the communion of male and female” (Mauro Meuzzi).  Remember a secure man in Jesus, is not threatened by the feminine.

A Rebel Act

Kurt Schlichter caught my attention with an article he wrote about men entitled, “Being a man and having a traditional family is a rebel act.”  He writes: “being a man – not merely bearing the physical accoutrements of maleness but actually being a man – is a rebel act.  By being man, you reject the role the liberal elite has prepared for you, that of a weak, confused manchild unfit to be sovereign over your own destiny.  Taking care of your family yourself repudiates them…..Raising your children as strong, independent, Americans instead of spoiled, crybullying snowflakes, repudiated them.  Just being normal repudiates them.”

It occurred to me that “the Wildman journey” is a rebel act.  I would like to suggest four attitudes that would be considered rebellious in our gender confused culture. A fully alive, fully awakened and fully human male will be a  threat.   My suggestions relate to Christian husbands and fathers. I hope these suggestions cause you to rise up in your spirit, helping you  to break free from the “male box” our culture has imposed on men, sending many into a lonely, confused silence.  Let us shout with the Psalmist, “We have escape like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare  has been broken and we have escaped” (Ps. 124:7).

First, God has made men to be an initiator.  A man who has found his male voice will be considered a rebel. In the beginning God took Adam and “put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15).  Later, Eve came along to be a “suitable helper.”  It is definitely a rebel act to assume responsibility, taking the initiative in leading  your family.  Men, the “buck” stops with us not our wives. In taking the initiative we give direction, order, purpose and orientation to our family. To “move out” in  loving, humble servanthood within your family takes courage and faith.

Secondly, it is a rebel act to be “a one woman man.”  Men, we are to cherish our wives.  “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.  A loving doe, a graceful deer – may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love” (Prov. 5:18-19).  We have eyes only for the one who is our bride.  In a sensuous culture we say with Job, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” (Job 31:1).  We do not objectify the feminine, but rather celebrate the feminine as a compliment to our masculine.  We rejoice in the unique difference.

Thirdly, it is a rebel act to say that your most important task after cherishing your wife, is to be a good Dad.  Yes, we have a career along with other important outside committments.  But our children have only one father.  Being a dad will keep you humble.  There is no real measure of success.  The odds at stacked against being a God-fearing Father, who wants his children to follow Jesus.  This kind of dad is swimming up stream, with little cultural encouragement. But God sees what is done in secret.

Fourthly, it is a rebel act to believe that the influence  of a “tough and tender” masculinity soul is vital for the survival of our culture.  By his example, a Wildman desires to be an influence on other men in a  gender confused culture.  He is  committed to passing on to younger men a godly example, perpetuating a quiet revolt against the culture.  We take as our watchword I Cor. 16:13 -14, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

“God isn’t fixing this”

The response in  the New York Daily News, to the tragic shootings  recently in San Bernardino, Cal., seems almost blasphemes.  The headlines declared “God isn’t fixing this.”  What arrogance and presumption. They gave a round-up of responses from the various candidates and then gave this assessment: “Prayers aren’t working.” What spiritual blindness.  That prompted a new social media debate called “prayer shaming.”  Emma Green of the Atlantic saw it as: “Anger about the shooting was turned not toward the perpetrator or perpetrators…..but at those who offered prayers.”  She offers this chilling commentary: “There’s  a clear claim being made here, and one with an edge: Democrats care about doing something and taking action while Republicans waste time offering meaningless prayers.  These two reactions, policy-making and praying, are portrayed as mutually exclusive, coming from totally contrasting worldviews.”

When a writer at the New York Times twits: “Dear ‘thought and prayers’ people: Please shut up and slink away.  You are the problem, and everyone know it,” it seems to me that we have come a cultural moment, when the voices wanting to silence the public witness of a biblical faith will become more vocal. Men, we need to stand together in this cultural moment.  “Stand united, singular in vision, contending ….not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition.  Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against” (Phil 1:27-8 – The message). Here are a few reflections.

First, before you do or  say anything, submit to Jesus and his kingdom. Before any political or cultural allegiance, be a humble follower of Jesus. In Rev. 5:10 we read: “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” We are reassured in Col 1:17 that, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Then pray as Jesus taught us to pray:, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Be deeply grateful to be part of Jesus’ kingdom reign is this world since Jesus  has declared, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18).   Men, submit yourself under the reign of King Jesus.

Secondly, act and speak with conviction and compassion, but first be a man of prayer.  Don’t minimize your prayers as a follower of Jesus.  Cry out  for God to be merciful.  The Psalms are full of such prayers, as the psalmist call out to Almighty God.  “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.  I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble (Ps 142:1-2). Turn to the Lord and pray, “Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved” (Ps 80:19).

Thirdly, pray that God will give you a heart that is loving, yet firm in conviction (tough and tender). Refuse to be a victim.  Anticipate darker days, but be determined to “walk in the light of the Lord ( Isaiah 2:5). The cultural conflict will only get worse – be prepared but not alarmed..  As David French observed, the attack on “thoughts and prayers”  is a convergence of anti-Christian bigotry and the impulse to shame and silence a Christian witness. Pray to be strong hearted as you take the arrows of accusation that will come.  Embrace the words of Jesus in Luke 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way the persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

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