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: May 2016

Minefields

In the 1967 war, Israel wrestled control of the West Bank known as Qasr al-Yahud from Jordon. It was thought to be the traditional site where John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. But Israel mined the entire site on the banks of the Jordon River to ward off attacks from across the border.  In 1994 Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan and their border has been relatively quiet for more than 20 years.  Israel cleared part of the site in 2011, making the site a popular attraction for Christian pilgrims.  Now Israel and the Palestinians are clearing the rest of the site – about 135 acres littered with more than 3,000 antipersonnel and antitank mines and an unknown number of improvised explosive devices.  Present day pilgrims, “must pass through a ghost town of churches fenced off by menacing signs that read ‘Danger! Mines!”

I thought about the minefields in the call of John, the Baptist to submit to a baptism of repentance, which for the Christian implies death to self and  resurrection life in Jesus.   John was a prophet warning folks coming to be baptized about their insincere intentions.  “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.  Don’t just say to each other, ‘ We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’  That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.  Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees.  Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:8-9).

One of the common minefields in the contemporary church is the practice of  half-hearted repentance, involving incremental, self inducted attempts at change.  The fruit is not life producing.  There could be a sign outside churches saying, “Danger! Mines!”   It is easy for men to fall into the trap of “performance orientation” where we work hard at change, but never getting to the root of our sin nature.  We try the latest spiritual program or learn more biblical truths, but never get to the roots.

I spend years practicing “shallow” repentance.  It was a matter of admitting  I was wrong and then trying to be better.  I was into my  spiritual self improvement  mode.  I finally had to come to the point of “tasting” my sinful nature.  I could not change myself.  I had to repent even of my trying to change.  I continue to have to come to the end of myself, and let the Spirit of God change me.  Death to myself is not easy.  But it is the only way to resurrection life.

It is very dangerous, that is, it is a minefield to say “we’re safe” because we are following Jesus.  “Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees.”  Could it be that God is calling the followers of Jesus to deeper repentance in our day.  Men, in the days to come we will be tested regarding our walk with Jesus.  It will bring out of each of us, things that we have buried not wanting to bring to  repentance.  But when the ax comes to the roots,  don’t take it to mean you are unfit to be his witness.  Rather, see it as the grace of God calling you to deal with those things that go deep into your soul life.

Birth Pangs

In a recent Wed Morning Prayer Meeting, I shared about the “birth pangs” people who are involved in intercessory prayer experience.  I referred to Romans 8:22-25 from the Message: “All around us we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But it’s not only around us; it’s within us.  The Spirit of God is arousing us within.  We’re also feeling the birth pangs.  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance.  That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother.  We are enlarged in the waiting.  We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us.  But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.”

I acknowledged to the women in the prayer group that I could not identify with the birth pangs of a pregnant mother.  But I do have some sense of experiencing spiritual birth pangs and in the process being enlarged.  In this passage Paul locates our journey in the midst of a pregnant creation experiencing birth pangs.  This is a reference to the fallen nature of our world.  Our personal experience and the media make us aware of the suffering and pain in our world.  These birth pangs are in expectancy of  something greater to come. During this in-between time (the now and not yet) the Spirit is also being  aroused within us.  We feel the birth pangs as we live through a time of “great transition.”  This is an enlarging experience as we anticipate deliverance in the reign of  the kingdom of God.

Men, I experience the birth pangs of the human condition in my heart as I countenance what is happening around me.  I am being enlarged as I “grieve” in prayer.  I wonder  what will happen to our country, to my family, to loved ones.  I pray for those in leadership..  I pray that I might be an effective witness during the darkness that is descending.  Yes, I am having birth pangs.  But the encouraging aspect of this grieving is that I am being “enlarged,”  being prepared for something greater. I plan to finish strong.

How am I being enlarged?  First, in what I am beholding, the Spirit helps me carry the tension of my grieving by creating space within my soul. There is so much that is so wrong. The Holy Spirit helps give me a divine perspective, allowing me to be have a positive attitude in circumstances and with people. I  don’t want to become a negative, angry, complaining man.  Secondly, the enlarging give me the capacity to embrace the rancor, pain and negativity with a Christ like attitude.  “Put simply: we must speak with confidence and tranquility, with kindness and gentleness, so that people will begin to say of us that we speak with a ‘Galilean’ accent that sounds a lot like Jesus” (Michael Cromartie).

Furthermore, Paul reminds us of the work of the Holy Spirit during this time of enlarging.  “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along.  If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter.  He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.  He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.  That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is working into something good” (Romans 8:22-25 – Message).

The Sempiternal Orgiast

This name comes from church historian Carl R. Trueman.  “The sempiternal orgiast [is] the one who lives for the pleasure of the moment.”  Trueman goes on to say, “Once the end of human existence was identified with happiness and happiness came to be identified with pleasure and pleasure came to be identified primarily with sexual gratification, the game was up for history. For the sempiternal orgiast has no need for history for he has no time – no past and no future, just the intensify of the pleasure of the present moment.”

With the rise of the sempiternal orgiast mentality, Trueman  maintains we no longer have a culture, but rather an anti-culture.  “If we define [culture] as the elaborate structures and materials built into the very fabric of society for the refinement and transmission of its beliefs and its forms of life from generation to generation, connecting past, present, and future,” Trueman contends,” then we really have none.”  We no longer have a culture to engage with the hope of reform.  If the West is now an anti-culture, the church will need to provide the culture.

Why say all this in a blog for men?  Because if there is a real possibility that we have lost not only “the cultural wars” but also culture itself, then the wildmen of this blog will  need to become “a resistance movement” in our society.  Some observers now refer to a church being in “exile” in America or visualize a “Babylonian captivity.”  Peter when writing his first letter addressed the believers as “exiles” living in “Babylon.” I maintain that we are not to flee from our society but  rather infiltrate society with a “subversive spirituality.”  What is called for is a new perspective on how to live out the gospel in America.  What will be asked of men in our day?

Certainly we must prepare ourselves, our families and our churches for greater opposition to the kingdom reign of Jesus.  An anti-culture in which no God is allowed to reign supreme will revolt at the words of Jesus in Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”  Submission to such a God in America today will bring opposition resulting in suffering.

Near the end of his first letter Peter gave this encouragement, “You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world.  So keep a firm grip on the faith.  The suffering won’t last forever.  It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ – eternal and glorious plans they are! – will have you put together and on your feet for good.  He gets the last word; yes he does” (I Pet 5:11-12 – Message).  Men who have a deep sense of calling to follow Jesus are beginning  to prepare themselves to resist, while living within our fallen culture.  What are some characteristics of men in a resistance movement?

I  suggest three characteristics. First, they will be resistance fighters.  As “followers of the Lamb” they will be strong, courageous, but also loving and humble.  They will resist by being humble, loving followers of Jesus, no matter the cost.  Secondly, they will be defenders. They will fight with, “the praise of God in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands” (Ps 149:6).  And thirdly, they will be protectors.  Living a life of integrity they will protect their families and churches from the lies of the enemy.  “The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping.  Keep your guard up” (I Peter 5:8 – Message).

The Gender Wars and The Election

We now know that it will be Donald against Hillary in a battle of the distorted masculine and feminine in the Presidential race. I am wading into the “muddy waters” of the presidential race, to offer the following observation.  The gender wars that will occur will be intense and down right disgraceful.  For the wild men of this blog, I want to purpose that the next six months can be a blessing rather than curse.  Why?  It will bring into sharp contrast the images of a broken masculine and feminine and the hope offered in a biblical view of a secure  masculine  that also embraces a healthy feminine.  Both candidates will display a deeply distorted  masculine or feminine, while attacking the other out of their brokenness.

Leanne Payne, (I have mentioned her often) both in her seminars and books has been instrumental in the healing of my masculine soul.  She made this prophetic statement in her book, “Crisis in Masculinity.”  “A crisis in masculinity is always a crisis in truth.  It is a crisis in powerlessness of the feminine virtues: the good, the beautiful, and the just, in a culture or in an individual.  A culture will never become decadent in the face of a healthy, balanced masculinity.  When a nation or an entire Western culture backslides, it is the masculine which is the first to decline.”  My suggestion –  remember this quote.

Mona Charen in her column said it well.  “The greatest failures of the past genearation concern men, women, and sex – and there could not be two more awful representatives of what has gone wrong than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.”  Men, get ready for a distorted national conversation about  sex and gender. Without a biblical perspective the discussion is void of the truth.  Clinton will use accusations of sexism for her advantage  as the champion of radical feminism.  “The masculinity of Trump,” states David French, “is exactly the caricatured, counterfeit masculinity of the feminist fever dream.  It takes the full energy of manhood and devotes it to sex, money and power.  It’s posturing masquerading as toughness and anger drained of bravery.”

So how shall we as men respond in the coming days.  First and foremost, celebrate your God given gender identity as a man.  Receive these words from your heavenly Father, “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life” (Mark 1:11 – Message). Your unique masculine soul is a gift from God. Don’t be a confused, angry man; rejoice in your maleness.

Secondly, don’t throw Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton “under the bus.”  They are only  products of our confused culture. It will take much grace and long suffering to see beyond what will be portrayed on TV, the internet, and social media so as to be able to embrace and  live out a healthy countercultural expression of the masculine.

Thirdly, be very intention about your witness to angry, confused men.  “The angry man needs to grow up, to put away childish things, and to see that every moment that Trump commands the national stage is another contribution to feminism’s ultimate triumph “(French).

Fourthly, weep for our nation.  I mean this literally.  “The family, the cradle of new life and the font of civil society, is in jeopardy in unprecedented ways, as our society increasingly disregards basic facts of human existence.” (George Weigel). Men need to be protector not predator.

Fifthly, use the gender war  as an opportunity to show men of all ages a better way.  Men are being told to shun their masculinity and live a “de-gendered life.”  Many….men are left confused, aimless, and of the angry.  They simply can’t and won’t conform to a genderless society” (French).

Becoming a Lover of God

I have a passion for men live in the spiritual freedom  of “receiving the love of God.” It is similar to being held in our heavenly Father’s  loving arms.  I identify with the  Palmist, when he declares, “We’re not keeping this to ourselves, we’re passing it along to the next generation.”  Recently I have been reading a book by James K. A. Smith, which  explores persons  as lovers of God.  He makes reference to I John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.”  “Even our disordered loves,” states Smith, “bear a backhanded witness to the fact that we are made in God’s image.”

He quotes Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar,  “After a mother has smiled at her child for many days and weeks, she finally receives her child’s smile in response.  She has awakened love in the heart of her child, and as the child awakens to love, it also awakens to knowledge…..the seeds of love lies dormant within us as the image of God.  But just as no child can be awakened to love without being loved, so too no human heart can come to an understanding of God without the free gift of his grace – in the image of his Son.”  The mother evoking a child’s smile models God’s initiative in the incarnation, smiling on us in love, allowing us to love him in return.

Our part is to move out of ourselves and look into the face of Jesus.  We prayer with the Palmist, “My heart says of you, “Seek his face!’  Your face, Lord, I will seek” (Ps 27:8).  “Jesus is the smile of God.” (Smith)  With Paul we can say, “All of us, without any veil on our faces, gaze at the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, and so are being changed into the same image, from glory to glory, just as you’d except from the Lord, the spirit.” (II Cor.  3:18).  We come to know that “the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5: 8).  Gazing upon Jesus, we become aware of his presence within our hearts.

As a result, God’s spirit awakens love in our hearts.  As a mother radiates love to the child, so God radiates love to us allowing us to respond to his love. It is not the result of our effort or worthiness.  Rather it is God’s loving kindness.  “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 God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (I Cor. 4:6).

Secondly, we gain knowledge of the love of God.  In coming to experience the love of God, we  come to the knowledge of God’s love for us.  But first we must receive this love, just as a child learns to respond to the loving gaze of the mother.  It is the gaze that bring the awareness of love, not our understanding or effort in being presentable.  What relief to know that God loves us in our guilt and shame.

Thirdly, God meets us in our incapacity, giving us the capacity to love. In God first loving us, we see the gracious initiative of God   granting the grace that allows us to love him in return.

Fourthly, our journey in Christ becomes one of surrender to the love  rather than the dutiful obligation.  Out heavenly Father desires that our intentions to serve him come from willing, joyful hearts.  Duty can be short lived, while willingness can endure because of the awareness of God’s favor.

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