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: January 2016

Dr. Omalu

I have not been to see the movie “Concussion,” but as a NFL fan, I have  read several reviews.  As many of you know the movie tells the story of how one medical Doctor was able to expose the hidden damage done to NFL football players due to concussions.  When Dr. Bennet  Omalu, a Nigerian physician, published his findings in a prestigious medical journal, he expected the NFL to be grateful.  Rather than gratitude the NFL went after the Doctor both personally and professionally, causing much harm to his career and reputation.  But his strong faith motivated him to press on.  He prayed “Lord God Almighty, if this is not of your will, if I am on the wrong side, I pray you’d reveal it to me.”  Interestingly, Omalu’s full name in his native Ibo language means “he who knows, must speak.”

“He who knows, must speak,” seems to me  an appropriate challenge for  men who read this blog.  I thought of I Peter 3:14, “Don’t  fear what they fear; don’t be disturbed.  Sanctify the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always by ready to make a reply to anyone who asks you to explain the hope that is in you.  Do it, though, with gentleness and respect.” (Wright).  Another translation reads, “give a quiet and reverent answer” (Phillips).  The Message tells us to speak, “with the utmost courtesy.”

We live in a time when being  a witness for the Lord Jesus is not an easy proposition, especially if you happen to be a white evangelical male. In general, God talk is fine, but there is less tolerance in speaking the name of Jesus. The cultural narrative has become decidedly negative towards any expression of Jesus as Lord.  However, due to our cultural confusion and ignorance  of the gospel story, a clear, positive and convincing witness of the name of Jesus is more imperative then ever.  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). It is my contention that a witness of the Lord Jesus expressed in “gentleness and respect,” showing genuine courtesy can make an impact in the lives of a doubting culture. But be warned –  our witness as men who are sincere followers of Jesus will have limited influence if it is not done in a respectful  and reverent manner

This does not mean that we should shy away from bearing witness to Jesus. But we will need to continually monitor the attitude and spirit in which we speak of Jesus.  For as the Phillips translation puts it, “You need neither fear  men’s threats nor worry about them; simply concentrate on being completely devoted to Christ in your hearts.”  In all encounters be devoted to Jesus.  So my encouragement to the readers of this blog is to simply be themselves as followers of Jesus.  Each will have a  unique story to tell about the presence  of Jesus in their lives.  Above all else, do not  shy away from speaking about Jesus.  When you are asked, speak of Jesus. “Always be ready to make a reply to anyone who asks you to explain the hope that is in you.”  Simply tell the story of Jesus presence in your life.

Let every man today be encouraged in their personal witness.  Through all the negativity you will face as a follower of Jesus, simply focus on Jesus as Lord, and speak of Him.  He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  This we know; so we must speak of the name of Jesus.

“Not Being Enough”

Fear is an emotion men have been conditioned to avoid when it involves intimacy in personal relationships.  Men become silent and flee, becoming passive for fear of failing, especially in relation to the feminine.   The fear of “not being enough” can  cause men to stiffen up in defensiveness, because of  the insecurity and inadequacy of  relating poorly.  Men hold back for fear of not connecting.   Larry Crabb maintains that, “Men generally live without a clear vision for what masculine movement into life  – especially how relationships – would look like.”  We  prefer getting on with life by doing something, rather then entering into the reality of our relational life.

Recently my wife and I have been going through a “course adjustment” in our 50 year old marriage pilgrimage.  Judy has been taking more intuitive, while I have been responding rather poorly. It has been a hard reality  for me to admit.  I prayed that I might reconnect with my bride, who I could tell was becoming frustrated with me.  In a recent conversation at the Sunday dinner table, Judy asked me the question, “What are you afraid of ?”  Of course, I denied I was fearful.  But later in the afternoon on a prayer walk, I sense she was asking the right question.  I was afraid.

So at a later time of sharing with Judy I was able to admit I was fearful of being out of control.  Our marriage is like a dance.  Judy was now practicing some new moves,  changing our familiar rhythm.  I know this was right for her and our marriage, but I was not adjusting very well.  I did not like the new rhythm that would mean learning new moves.  It is hard for me to change.  I have always felt that one of my strengths in our marriage, was  being a “relational guy.”  I can lean into intimacy, while handling anything that my wife had to offer.  But not in our present dance.  I had to admit I was failing to learn the new steps of the  dance.

Something happened after  my confession.  Afterwards, I was surprised by the freedom I felt in my spirit.  For several weeks prior to this incident, I was not a very “happy camper” spiritually.  I entertained negative toward  my wonderful bride.  I spent a great deal of time justifying my “cold shoulder” approach to the new dance moves.  I wanted to push Judy away, rather then enter into the intimacy of our unique marriage dance.   We are back in rhythm, trying out of new emotional moves.  I know I will stumble, but I have a new freedom in knowing its ok to stumble as I learn the new moves.

I share this with the wildmen of this blog because of the learning that occurred for me.  It is this.  I had to admit to my wife, my weakness in being able to accompany her in the new moves she felt were important to improve our dance.  I had to come to the realize that I was failing in the intimacy of our dance.  It was especially hard for me, because I thought our dance was just fine.  Hear me when I say – God helps us on our weakness.  There is not a man reading this blog, who does not feel helpless and faltering at times in the intimacy of marriage.  So let’s man up and ask for God mercy to help us in our weakness, as we lean into that intimacy of the dance. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is make perfect in weakness” ( II Cor 12:9).

Warriors of the Light

Camille Paglia, the anti-feminist feminist, in a recent widely quoted interview expressed the belief that the rise of transgenderism in the West is a symptom of decadence and cultural collapse.  “Nothing,” she observed, “better defines the decadence of the West to the jihadists than our toleration of open homosexuality and this transgender mania now.”  Her concern is how we are defining ourselves to the world.  In her studies she has found, “… that history is cyclic, and everywhere in the world you find this pattern in ancient times: that as a culture begins to decline, you have an efflorescence of transgender phenomena.  That is a symptom of cultural collapse.”

Her comments suggest to me  that men reading this blog should consider themselves as cultural warriors by being “warrior of the light.”  I first heard that phrase, many years ago, in a song by Phil Discroll.  We are told in Roman 13 to put on the armor of light.  “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  The night is nearly over, the day is almost here.  So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (vs. 11-12).  When a confirmed secularist warns us of a cultural collapse, I would  suggest that we have been living in darkness.  But the promise is that day is almost here.

We are to “wake up” from our slumber by putting off the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  One of the tactics of the enemy is to create  spiritual darkness,  blinding us to the realities screaming at us through the daily headlines we read about and see on TV.  “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” ( II Cor 4:4).  But we are to live as children of the light. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light…” ( II Cor 5:8).  As darkness has descended on our culture, the light of the gospel shines brighter. “Let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5).

So men, let us rise up as “Warriors of the Light” knowing that God is working in the darkness.  A war is being waged between light and darkness.  Economics, politics and education will not win this battle.  As wildmen we see the battle as  between Jesus who is the light of the world and the one who Jesus called “the prince of darkness.”  Jesus has invaded enemy territory  –  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).  Culture is blind to this epic battle.  But as warriors behind enemy lines we are engaged in this battle.

Therefore, we put on the “armor of light.”  I suggest that this means we intentionally live in the presence of Jesus in our daily lifestyle.  We practice an outward, upward posture of beholding the Lord’s presence.  “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek” (Ps 27:8).  Above all else, we keep our gaze on Jesus.  “Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face.  And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him” (II Cor. 3:18 – Message). Men transformed by the light are warriors in the darkness.

Self-identification

Brendan O”Neill has observed that “Self-identification is one of the most notable developments of the 21st century so far.”  The New York times calls 2015, “the year we obsessed over identity,” noting our nation is “in the midst of a great cultural identity migration.”  The phrase, “I identify as…” speaks to a crisis in character.  In past individuals were.  “I am a man.”  There was a certainty about identity.  Today individuals identify as something.  “I identify as a man.” “It speaks to a shift from being to passing through; from a clear sense of presence in the world to a feeling of transience; from identities that were rooted, to identities that are tentative, insecure, questionable.”  Identity has become unstable, open to change. Feeling have become the reality.  The result is, ” a minimal self,” who out of insecurity expects validation and acceptance from society.  “Self-identifiers claim words wound, that individuals are vulnerable, and that their ‘mental safety’ is threatened by those who question their right to exist.”

Men, the new phenomena of identity-making is a crisis in the meaning of  personhood, leading to a great uncertainty about being fully alive and fully human.  As  wild men, who are fully alive to their masculine souls, we can  offer an alternative  to the alienated, subjective identity-making that is creating a quiet despair in our  culture  – “Who really am I.”  Let us rise up as an army of men, who have solid identities in Christ, and present a positive example to a lost culture.  “What we are facing in the 21st century,” warns O’Neill,  “is the very serious situation where all the objective underpinnings of human identity has frayed or died.”  Here are a few reminders of your identity as a man in Christ.

First, understand that personhood is a gift given by a  relational  God, who desires  relationship.  Our identity is given by God addressing us as his  “beloved.” It is bestowed by a loving God. “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26).  God who exists in relationship, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, created each of us, endowing us with a  unique individuality as persons.  When God is absent from the cultural narrative there is no valid basis for being addressed as persons. We are left to create our own identity.  So celebrate your uniqueness, by coming to know your unique personhood as a man.  Along with the Psalmist praise God:  “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I  know it” (Ps 139: 14 NLT).  Resist self-making, by allowing your heavenly Father  to love you into becoming a person, fully alive and human..

Secondly, accept the reality of our “flawed nature” with its tendency to live independently of God. Our sin causes us to be separated from God as well as from ourselves. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.” (Isaiah 53:6).  We live as individuals in separation, not persons in relationship. We have wandered into the far country, living as orphans away from home, with no sense of identity or place.  But our loving, heavenly Father calls us home, affirming our identity as men.

Thirdly, our culture has lost the story of relational homecoming.  With the lack of identity comes the sense of homelessness; a kind of wandering in a desert of relational weightlessness.  We have the unique opportunity to share the story of our coming home to the Father, who identifies us as his children. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who live in loving community, invite us into this relationship.  We are called home into a perfect loving community.

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